Digital Marketing Strategy: Fueling Ad Agency New Business with Michael Gass

Do you run a marketing agency and want more new business?

Are you getting frustrated with outbound prospecting strategies that just aren’t working like they used to?

mike-gass-caricatureWould you like to create an inbound marketing system that provided you with a steady flow of new qualified leads?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are going to love the step by step new business development strategy that my guest and I talk about in interview.

In this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Michael Gass, the man behind Fuel Lines, a blog that has been ranked among the top 100 marketing blogs in the world by Ad Age’s Power 150.

When you listen to this interview, you are going to hear Michael and I talk about:

  • the #1 mistake that 99% of agencies make when it comes to new business
  • why they make this mistake and a risk free way to avoid it
  • several examples of how Michael’s clients used his advice to land new accounts they otherwise never would have
  • how Michael has used his own advice to build his own firm (and he’s never made a single cold call to do it)
  • how social media plays a role in Michael’s strategy
  • the 5 steps that you need to take to get started
  • Michael’s favorite tool for building a large, targeted Twitter following in just 60 days
  • Michael’s favorite tool for scheduling his social media activities
  • how much time per day you should spending on social media
  • the specific activities you should be using social media for
  • how to effectively network online, so you can run your business from anywhere in the world you like

And so much more…

Be sure to check out many more of Michael’s Twitter strategies in his generous guest post.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

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Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:



Dyrsmid: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas

Podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast for

business owners and marketers who want to better learn how to learn online

marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their business

and the way that we do that is we bring expert guests onto the show to

share with us precisely what is working for them in their businesses.And my guest today is a fellow by the name of Michael Gass. He is an

international new business consultant to advertising, digital media, and PR

agencies and since 2007, he has led in the use of social media and content

marketing strategies to make agency new business easier. He’s the founder

of Fuel Lines, which has been rated among the top 100 marketing blogs in

the world according to Ad Agencies Power 150.Michael, thank you so much for making some time to come here and be a

guest on the Bright Ideas Podcast.Michael

Gass: I’m glad to, Trent.Trent: So, for the folks have not yet heard of you, I’m sure you’ve

probably got a little bit better of an introduction than what I just

rattled off, so maybe you could just tell us a little bit about who you are

and what it is that you do.Michael: I’ve been in business development my entire advertising career

and I had the bright idea of starting my own consultancy, but little did I

know that I was doing it on the verge of a great recession. Most agencies

that I worked with, there was a commonality of problems. They had a very

difficult time with positioning. Positioning, in my opinion is the

foundation of your business and they never used the tools that they

recommended their clients to use. It was almost as if promoting their

agency, they lost their marketing line [sounds like 02:10] and I had

always preached that they needed to have an identifiable target in a narrow

niche so that they could stand out among the competition.

So when I started my consultancy, I put into practice what I’d been

preaching and so if you look at my website, Fuel Lines, it’s very specific

for ‘ad agency and business development.’

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And so when I started my consultancy, I had three kids in

college, my wife works for a large law firm as a comptroller, so she’s a

bean counter and my entrepreneurial spirit just didn’t mesh well with my

wife’s, so I was under a bit of pressure to generate new business quickly

but I had a few problems. My entire advertising career had only been spent

in two markets: Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama and outside

of that two-state area, those two markets, I really didn’t have much

awareness and so I was going to have to be able to build that quickly.

Then, I also live in a suburb of Birmingham, which, it’s called

Alabaster, Alabama, and I could only imagine that being on my business card

and how difficult it would be to build new business for myself with clients

like in New York and San Francisco and other more creative markets, but I

jumped into social media. I went back as if I were in grad school and put

in the nights and the weekends and there was really no mentor for me, but I

had a clear objective, a very clear target.

And I think it was my fourth client was on the west coast, in Costa

Mesa, California and I really saw the potential of social media, so I just

dedicated myself to it. Most agencies didn’t get into social media until

2010 and then when they jumped in, they literally jumped in, there was no

strategy, there was no plan, there was no target audience. The same

problems that they had offline, they continued to bring that with them

online and instead of really seeing the potential of social media, being

able to take their networking and referral for new business to a whole new

arena, most continue to be plagued with problems of generating any kind of

new business success.

Trent: So would it be fair to say that the success of your consultancy

is the byproduct of employing the strategies that you’re attempting to

teach your clients to implement?

Michael: It is, because I always put into practice and I refine it. I’ve

been able to do this one-on-one with about 135-plus agencies, not only in

the United States but also in the UK. I’ve been to London to work with

client groups there. I’m going to Hong Kong in September, just did

workshops across Canada back in the fall, but I’ve put into practice and

refined this system that agencies then can implement and get up to speed

pretty quickly.

Trent: So when did you start Fuel Lines?

Michael: Right at the end of 2007.

Trent: Okay.

Michael: And I think I’d written 50 blog posts and never gotten a

comment back and was wondering if anybody was even reading it. When I got

my first comment, I wanted to frame the thing, almost like your first

dollar bill.

Trent: Yeah.

Michael: And I continued to write and then I started using a number of

the other social media platforms to help propagate the material and also to

build a community. I have now probably on two Twitter accounts, Michael

Gass and Fuel Lines, over 104,000 Twitter followers, which generates more

traffic to my site than probably any other tool.

My site’s highly-optimized for search engine optimization. I was very

pragmatic with my SEO strategy that I felt like no matter what Google did

to the algorithms, they remain true to one purpose and that’s to help

people find what they’re looking for. So almost in every blog post that I

write, I had ad agency new business incorporated in the post title. That

identified the content with the audience and so the traffic that I generate

is just highly-targeted traffic and then the overall theme for my blog, you

know, is just naturally optimized for search, so I rank in that first

position with ‘ad agency new business’ in Google Search and I tend to

dominate the first three to four pages in Google Search.

And then my newsletter goes out to about 33,000 ad agency

professionals. I use Google+ I incorporate Facebook. It’s a blend of both

personal and professional, but it’s the place that people really get to

know me well. And usually, I’m a new business hunter from way back, so I

wasn’t afraid of cold calling. It didn’t really tie my stomach in knots or

anything like that, but social media’s so efficient that I don’t have to

chase new business nor does a client that’s properly positioned.

You’re positioned in a way to be strategically found with such an

appeal and certain calls to action that it creates that engagement with a

prospective client audience and the fuel for it, the beauty of it, the fuel

for all of it is ‘what enriches me professionally?’ And it’s my own

customized continuing education program.

Trent: So, help me to understand, there’s some things here that I want

to get straight so that the listeners really understand why this is going

to be such an important interview for them to listen to. You mentioned to

me in our pre-show discussion that there is a really big mistake that

virtually every agency you’ve ever run across makes. Then there’s a cascade

of errors that happen after that mistake. Can you talk about that first big

mistake that they’re making?

Michael: I think one of the biggest mistakes is that they’re trying to

lead with brick-and-mortar and they’re also trying to use social media for

promoting their credentials, capabilities, and case studies. All of those

things should reside on the website and the website is their on line

brochure. Most agencies that I work with, they’re in a perpetual state of

redesigning their website. It’s like they can’t quite ever get there. If

they’d just let it be that online brochure, what I prefer to do in social

media is lead with, like the agency principals, the owners of the agency

and create a presence to a very narrow niche audience, much narrower than

they’ve ever dreamed possible, and that we fish away from the boat. In

other words, we don’t incorporate the blog site into the branding of the


It allows us to have room to breathe and grow and to keep a much more

narrowed focus and it doesn’t create any complications. Most agencies, they

show their diversity as a form of strength but, to prospective clients,

it’s a weakness.

Trent: Yeah.

Michael: Because that’s the way all of them look, but when you create

this blog, you can create something very specific and very targeted. I’ve

got an agency in Louisville, Kentucky, as an example, they’ve had a long-

standing client Kroger they wanted to leverage their expertise in working

with them for such a long period of time, but they had to do it in a

similar category without, you know, hurting the relationship that they had

with Kroger and they also wanted to grow their creative because they placed

a lot of media on behalf of Kroger but a lot of the creative work had

fallen to other agencies.

So we created a blog around the two agency principals, Scott Kuhn,

who was the CEO, and Dave Carter, who’s a partner and also a creative

director, and we call it ‘’ and it’s all about creating

great grand openings, so it leveraged a good portion of their expertise to

multi-unit retailers.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: The blog lives off-site and then it features the both of them

and sets them apart as these new store-starting gurus. That allows them to

work with clients even that have an agency of record but they want this

particular expertise.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And then, you know, we do connect back to the agency, but the

agency is more in the background. We want them to connect with Scott and

Dave first and they can actually go in even as consultants as a part of

their service line.

And, again, they can do that even if a client has an agency of

record. Many of those clients are really accustomed to hiring a consultant

to come in, and then it gets them out there, we can build awareness around

that blog very quickly. People want to work with other people that they

know, trust and like, so the media is all about people and Scott and Dave

won’t to appeal to everybody, but those that they have created an appeal

for, it’s a very strong appeal.

Trent: So, the big mistake, if I’m understanding this correctly, is

that agencies do not pick a specific, they don’t pick a narrow-enough niche

and the reason that they don’t do that is they’re scared that they’re going

to lose out, if they focus too much on, say, being the expert store-

starter, they’re going to lose out on the people that would want other

things that didn’t have to do with being a store-starter.

So you’re saying you can leave your agency or one approach is you can

leave your agency website, your ‘online brochure,’ to be the place where

you display all your case studies and it’s not so much focused on what

niche and then you go and start a separate property for the niche that you

really, really, really want to gain a lot of traction in. Am I

understanding that correctly?

Michael: Yes, that’s exactly it.

Trent: Is it–

Michael: And to give you an example, the very first client that I worked

with, an agency here in Birmingham called Holland + Holland, this is a very

typical agency. We’re sitting around the room and I’m asking how they’re

different from all the other agencies in town and they tell me, you know,

they have great creative. I tell them ‘Great creative is not a point of

differentiation; it’s an expectation.’ Then it’s like ‘Well, we’re

strategic,’ as if nobody else in Birmingham, no other agency is strategic.

And then it’s like ‘Well, we’re fun to work with, we’ve got great

chemistry.’ And I said, ‘So, I’m a company in the Midwest, I’m going to fly

over hundreds of other agencies that look and sound just like you? That

just doesn’t make sense.’ So we narrowed it down to the point that

Stephanie Holland, who was the president, also served as creative director

and I asked the question ‘How many other female creative directors are

there in Birmingham?’ And, at that time, there weren’t any.

So we started looking at that and doing a little bit of research and

we were amazed to discover that 97% of all creative directors in the

country are male and only 3% female. That was our ‘Ah-ha’ moment.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: But we also learned that 85% of all brand purchases are made

primarily by women. We learned that they brought more product from Home

Depot and Lowe’s than did men. They bought more consumer electronics from

places like Radio Shack than men. Women bought more NBA and NFL apparel

than men did. Women bought more hamburgers than men.

And our education was that the women is the purchasing agent

primarily for the family. No, the problem we had, we were going to use this

in a positioning and Stephanie was very nervous about it because, through

her 25 years, she worked mostly with male advertisers and she did not like

working with women. And so we had a problem with how we were going to do

this without hurting our particular target group that she had success with

in the past, and utilize this positioning in a way that would be beneficial

and remain true to who she was.

So we came up with a blog and it’s called She-conomy, and you’ll

notice when you go to the URL that the target group is very specific:

it’s ‘A guy’s guide to marketing to women,’ so those male advertisers, and

Stephanie was in very early on. This agency had never been in a national

pitch in their 25-year history. We couldn’t even get the Birmingham News to

do a write-up on their anniversary.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: It was like, ‘That’s really like no news’, but Stephanie’s been

written up by ‘Forbes’ twice, she’s been mentioned in the ‘Wall Street

Journal’, she’s been interviewed by NPR radio. She called me not too long

ago with some success after she’d been in three national pitches and the

positioning really put them on the map. You’d go to the website, there

wasn’t any hint on this narrowed positioning, but the blog site lived off-


When they wanted to look under the hood and see if their perception

matched up with Stephanie’s expertise, they’d then go to the website. But

when she called me back in January of last year, she said ‘You’ll never

guess where I am.’ And then she said ‘I’m in California. I’ve just been

hired as a consultant to work with Porsche.’

These are things that had never happened to that agency before. That

narrowed positioning helped put them on the map. Now, if she were to do the

same thing today, she’d be kind of late to the game, so it would be her

expertise in marketing to women maybe for high-end real estate or some

other niche. But she was in very early and now she’s willing to incorporate

a lot of what she learned and much more confident to be able to incorporate

that into the branding of the agency as a whole, even to the point of

renaming the agency ‘The She-conomy Agency.’

Trent: So why bother putting the blog off-site? I mean, it seems to me

like almost semantics whether it’s at or whether it’s at,

what is their URL, What’s the difference?

Michael: Well, agencies have a number of common problems. The narrowed

niche is one, so they’re afraid to be as narrow as they need to be by

incorporating it on the website, that they’re always in this perpetual

state of redesign. You can’t get anything done.

It’s like one of my early clients, it took them three months to

design the blog header. That’s typical. Agencies tend to over-create and

so, two, when a prospective client comes to the website, they’re so

accustomed to all the BS that comes from agencies.

I was talking to a client, someone on the client-side just last week

and they were telling me how many calls they get from agencies in a week

and almost all of the conversation in those calls are focused on the agency

rather than on them the client.

Trent: Really? Wow.

Michael: And so agencies have to learn you lead with benefits and the

conversation is totally changed. It’s not about you anymore, it’s all about

the prospective client. So when we create that blog, I mean, it is all

about the prospect and it’s creating valued content that helps them with

their challenges, that provides information that they need. The blog

becomes a repository of information and, you know, they keep coming back.

The website, you know, I try to keep the IT department and the

creatives out of this project when we first launch it, because they are

usually the ones that will slow the whole process down.

Trent: Now I get it, yeah.

Michael: And so we’ll create a freebie site, a site

initially and what I do is get them to write 30 posts in 30 days.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And we’re over here concentrating on the content, they’re

learning to write for web in an inverted pyramid style where the most

important information’s at the top, where they’re not talking about being,

you know, having won best of show at this year’s ADDYs. They’re really

creating valuable content and, in the meantime, the blog becomes then that

continuing education program to kind of keep them focused and get them to

where they need to be.

I assimilate information so much quicker when I’m writing and I can

articulate it much better. So my blog then becomes kind of my own

personalized university and I even get graded. I can go to the analytics

and review posts that I’ve written to see if it really was appealing or not

and my audience tells me what they’re interested in.

So this does so many things for agencies to make new business easier,

but if you’re trying to incorporate the website, I mean, from the get-go,

you’re going to get slowed down and agencies are so much, you know, they

tend to procrastinate. That’s why I do these 30 posts in 30 days and, to

give them that challenge, when we finish with the 30th post, they then have

their own personalized system for creating content.

Trent: Mm hmm. All right, let me cover off what we’ve gone through

here so far. So, your strategy starts with, first of all, picking a

narrowly-defined niche as opposed to being a generalist. So that you have

some way of truly differentiating yourself and then you’re saying ‘Okay, go

create an off-site blog so that your IT department and your creative

department don’t slow down the process,’ Put the personality and the

knowledge and the expertise of your founders of your agency on the blog,

and talk specifically about the issues that affect the client. Do not

promote, promote, promote; instead, educate, educate, educate. Have I

summarized what we’ve talked about so far?

Michael: Yes, exactly.

Trent: All right. What next? So now I’ve got this blog, I’ve got 30

blog posts on it. I don’t imagine I’m drowning in traffic at this point in

time and I don’t imagine–

Michael: No, and, actually, we’re not wanting traffic to come to the

site while the writing is going on and developing that base of content.

I’ve found that if we get these 30 posts up, then we have enough posts

there, the new audience isn’t going to know there’s only 30 posts there or

300, so the blog has an appearance of age to it.

Trent: Right.

Michael: We’ve got this statement so that once we get that 30th post, we

get a more realistic writing schedule up of one to two posts per week. In

the meantime, we’ve built up their Twitter following using an tool like

Tweet Adder which I can use to find, say, other agencies that are in this

same niche who have the same audience.

If they’ve got a Twitter account and they’re targeted, I could follow

everybody my competition follows and everybody that follows them. We can

usually build up a following of anywhere from 500 to 1,000 new followers

per month by creating this database and initiating those followings and 20%

to 30% of those we initiate a following to will follow back.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And that then is going to be one of the ways that we’re going

to jump-start traffic to the site. We also create an e-mail newsletter

that’s made up from the blog post and usually three or four posts per

newsletter, sending it out every other week, and we’ve created this

database of e-mail addresses that will also help jump-start the traffic to

the site, and then it’s highly-optimized as we repurpose content.

I’ve had posts in circulation that I write in such an evergreen way

that are still relevant, that I’ve got a media schedule for Twitter almost

like you’d have a media schedule for print and I can look at the analytics

and pull certain posts out that aren’t trending very well any longer or

revise those.

But I tend to post, repurposed content from my site around the clock,

seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day, but in addition to that, the

other sources that I’m finding, conversations that I have, and the personal

status in my Twitter account that makes it, you know, very robust.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: Because it will jump-start traffic to the site, it will also

enhances search engine optimization and it will help to propel that blog

and its content in Google Search much, much faster. I actually have some

agencies that are SEO agencies that I work with and have carried them

through the same process.

We try to get everything done in that first 30 days. The next 30

days, we start jump-starting the traffic and then helping with the

engagement. As they learn many of these principles, they haven’t really

been using their social media platforms for new business and have a network

and a lot of the ones that I’m training, they’re Baby Boomers and feel like

they’ve kind of been left on the bench, but I tell them it’s real easy. All

you have to do is bring the way you network off-line online. That same

capability that you’ve developed in networking at events, at chamber

meetings is exactly how you would network online.

Trent: So in this next 60 days, then, it sounds like you’ve got people

really heavily focused on using Twitter, because you haven’t talked about

anything else yet, to continually tweet or link back to the content that is

on their site and then would be responsive to the interactions they get

from other humans on Twitter. Am I understanding that correctly?

Michael: Yes, but not just Twitter, also LinkedIn and Facebook and, you

know, but these are their personal accounts. These are not their agency

accounts that are using the agency logo that you don’t know who in the

world you’re talking to. This is that agency principal, their Facebook


When your mother wants to friend you on Facebook, you can’t turn mom

down. My mom’s 73 and I thought, you know, ‘This is going to mess up

everything’ because I thought in the beginning I would just keep everything

focused strictly for business. What I’ve found over time is to show the

personal side really makes that emotional connection and, over these six

years, I have yet to make a single cold call for any piece of new business,

for any speaking engagement, for any workshop that I’ve been enlisted to

  1. And prospective clients, when they call me, they talk to me like they

know me because they do.

Trent: Absolutely they do.

Michael: And so I’m not going through the dating process. Usually when

they call, they want to know how much is the initial engagement and then

when we get started, so it’s like in business development you’ve died and

gone to heaven. The prospect actually engages when they’re ready and you’re

not wasting time chasing business and because you’re pricing that initial

meeting, it eliminates those that just want to meet with you to glean from

your thinking without ever paying you a dime.

Trent: Mm hmm. It’s so profound and something that I really want, and

that’s one of the reasons that I’m interviewing you and people like you. I

want new agencies, small agencies, independent consultants to understand is

all those questions that people ask before they hire you, you don’t need

to answer those one-on-one. By blogging and creating videos or doing

podcasts or putting your knowledge online so that people, your target

market, can come to consume it on their time, their dime, their schedule.

When they reach out to you, you’re right, they’re already sold, they

already know you’re an expert and the beauty is that you can automate the

vast majority of that, if you’re good with sales funnels and you use things

like Infusionsoft and so forth, you can really do a good job with


But that’ll probably be a topic for another discussion because I

don’t want to hijack this interview with my thoughts on marketing

automation funnels.

So when you did this for yourself, how long did it take you before

you got your first client?

Michael: It was just a matter of months because I was that disciplined

and focused and I had a narrow focus in the very beginning. I saw a listing

from the AAAA of the business development personnel that were out there and

it was like ‘How do I break into this group and how do I propel myself to

the top of this group and really build awareness?’ When I was in that, I

think, fourth client meeting in Costa Mesa, California, I was thinking

‘What would it have taken me to do this using the traditional methods?’

And so from the get-go, I’ve never sent out any direct mail, nothing

like that. I don’t use those interruptive-type tactics. I’ve learned to

create helpful information and, you know, it’s like when I speak to groups,

agencies know that I understand their culture. They educate me, and then I

know kind of where to zero in because they educate me. I mean, it’s the

best focus group you could possibly have and when you really think you

understand what’s appealing, a lot of times I found that I had no clue

until I really got into this and then this is just kind of a, you know, we

use ‘integrated’ a lot, but this is really a complete integrated program

that feeds me as well as feeds my clients.

And I guess it’s my curiosity. If I don’t understand something, to

me, that’s a blog post and I’m going to do the research and it’s going to

help me stay focused and I’m looking at like how to use Google+, say, for

ad agency new business and I’m thinking like that constantly and then as I

have success and I’m able to share in more detail the specific tactics to

use and because every platform’s different, you would not post with the

same frequency, say, on Facebook that you would with Twitter, you’d turn

your audience completely off. But if you’ve got a fairly large Twitter

following, and some hate this but it’s true. It’s like a broadcast channel

and it’s about reaching frequency and if I maintain a consistency like with

my post titles and somebody’s seen a post that I’ve published before that

they’ve read, they just skip over it, it’s no big deal, but a lot of times

they’re going to see content out there that they’ve never seen before.

And in the early days, you know, if you posted–I was told that if

you posted something once, you couldn’t post it twice, like in Twitter, and

I thought ‘How stupid is that? If I post this at 11 o’clock on Thursday,

how many in my audience has actually seen that post or would see that


Trent: Very few, and that’s why it’s okay to post again.

Michael: And, you know, but I have to continue to create new content, as

well, and things change and the model changes, but this provides me a

system that I change with it so I’m not caught flat-footed or behind and I

think I’m fully engaged with most of the tools that are out there. And if

it’s something that I see that’s trending higher like Pinterest, you know,

I started a Pinterest board very early on because agencies, they were very

inquisitive of me about what other agencies looked like. They’d love to do

what I do and visit all these other agency offices.

So I thought ‘Well, I’ll create a Pinterest board’ and so when I

would do these workshops and things, I would take pictures and then others

started sharing and it’s become a global thing to where I’ve had agencies

as far away as Spain that have had a photographer to take pictures just to

post things on that board. But I saw like in my reading, and I use an RSS

Reader, which is probably the best time management tip that I could leave

the audience, it focuses in my reading all in one location, but I can also

see as I’m looking through literally thousands of articles, studies and

post the things that tend to be trending.

So when I saw Pinterest being mentioned more often, that became a

post and then I started looking ‘Well, how then can we utilize Pinterest

for new business?’ I’ve got one agency now, they’ve actually created their

website using Pinterest, which I thought was a very cool idea because it

provides them a way to showcase their work and do that almost in real-time.

Trent: Yeah.

Michael: When most agencies, you know, it’s hard to get them to get

their work up and to keep their website fresh with new things that they’ve


Trent: So, with social media, you can speak to your audience and you

can speak with your audience and what I mean by that, ‘speaking to’ is when

you’re putting a link to some of your content that is maybe on your blog or

in some other place; ‘speaking with’ is when you’re actually having a chat,

conversation back-and-forth with a specific individual who may be in your

following or may have just come to your social media presence for the first


Do you have any rules of thumb for how much time, first of all, an

agency principal or anyone who’s in charge of new business at an agency

should spend on social media per day and then, of that time, how much time

should they focus on speaking to versus speaking with their audience?

Michael: The way I developed this program was to whittle it down to an

hour or an hour-and-a-half per day.

Trent: Okay.

Michael: because most agency principals were telling me that ‘I have

people lined up to my door when I come into the office. I cannot put

anything else on my plate.’ And I fully understood, but they have to be

convinced of the benefits of social media to rearrange their schedule. But

even in that rearrangement, there’s the real world of agency life. And so I

would tell them ‘this is the hour or hour-and-a-half that you need to spend

every day to keep you, professionally, where you need to be.’

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And so the engagement part is really pretty easy. Because we

have so many tools that we can talk to a number of people almost

simultaneously and it looks like I live online, but I preach and teach that

we ought to develop our new business program that allows us to have a life

outside of advertising, and be able to spend quality time with friends and

family. I’m a big believer in that, so there are times that I unplug and

I’m not as engaged. But it’s very easy for me to come in and pick up where

I left off without any problems without spending an undue amount of time.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: And then there are other ways that I can connect with larger

groups and be more efficient with my time, such as in the webinars or these

podcasts, and continue to provide real value. I reserve time. There’s a

number of people that I help that have called on me that I knew they

weren’t a prospect but, you know, you almost have to have a pastoral spirit

of being willing to help everybody in such a way. I mean, it’s kind of

paying it forward and then it pays you back.

Trent: Mm hmm. Are you familiar with Infusionsoft? Do you use it?

Michael: I don’t.

Trent: You don’t? Okay, what you’re talking about, I just really need

to address this point because this value or this idea of time is so

precious to all of us. I really just want to take a little tangent here

because I’m such a massive advocate of making sure that you use tools, in

this case, I’m going to speak about Infusionsoft, which I use, to really

save some time and maybe, Michael, this’ll be something you’re interested

in trying for yourself.

At Bright Ideas, you know, like most everyone with a website, I want

to collect an e-mail address. And so I offer a variety of different things

as an incentive for someone to give me an e-mail address, but the real

beauty of some of the tools like Infusionsoft, and I think this one does it

better than the others, which is why I use it, is you’re really able to

nurture your prospective customers and you can do it all on auto-pilot and

you can do it in such a way because you don’t want to talk to everybody the

same way. Not everyone who gives you an e-mail address is going to be

interested in the same things, has the same buying criteria, has the same

timeframe for buying.

And when you set up a really well-designed nurturing funnel in, like

I say, some marketing automation software, be it Infusionsoft or something

else, you can really let those people raise their hand all on their own,

and when I say ‘raise their hand,’ I mean metaphorically speaking, so that

your software, so that the experience they have going through your

nurturing funnel is almost completely unique to them based upon the forms

that they fill out and the links that they click and the pieces of content

that they consume and so forth.

So, again, I don’t want to go on for too long, but if you feel as

though you’d love to be able to put a level of automation into that pre-

sales, into that nurturing, I really encourage that you start to go and

take a study of marketing automation tools and, in particular, go and have

a look at Infusionsoft. Because I just came back from a conference over the

weekend and their success stories were just amazing, absolutely amazing.

Michael: And, you know, a thing with most agencies, like with my

practice, I can only handle so many clients, so it’s not like I need a mass

group and of course I’m not selling software, so it’s totally different as

to how that engagement operates and I’m giving attention to those

prospective clients.

And the same is true of many agencies. A lot of agencies I work with,

they need four or five good, qualified pieces of new business per year and

if it’s much beyond that, they wouldn’t really be able to handle it, but

this gives you a way to really work with those qualified candidates on a

more personal basis, to get them where they need to be and develop that

relationship, which I think is just very [inaudible 43:50] and there’s ways

to do that.

I know that Copyblogger and others, they got a good system of, like

with your additional landing pages and specific offers that carry those

prospective clients deeper into the engagement, with them, they have a lot

of that automated and I think all of that is excellent and great. I use

automated tools such as HootSuite Pro that allows me to maintain a good

engagement not only for me, but I can also help with my new clients to kind

of get their accounts where they need to be and to help them to grow but,

again, I can have so many conversations going on simultaneously that it

helps and [inaudible 44:47] social hub [sounds like 44:48] which helps

repurpose content back, through the TweetAdder program that I mentioned and

a number of tools that are out there that, you know, make the time

management in particular…

Trent: A lot easier.

Michael: …so much less than you’d think you’d need to spend. In the

beginning, I think they have to be educated and they have to have a sense

of how these various platforms operate and it’s hard to do that just with

theory alone, you’ve got to do it by engaging. Once they really understand

them, then they can utilize other tools that would simplify that engagement


Trent: All right, so let me summarize where I think we’ve come from

and where we’re at and then you can ask and let me know if I’m missing

anything. So, step number one is you really need to pick a very specific

niche, something that is narrow enough that you can really and truly have

some differentiating factors so that people are going to have a compelling

reason to want to choose you.

The next thing to do to gain traction is create an off-site blog and

then write 30 posts in 30 days and then start to use the social media

platforms that are out there to draw attention to the content that you’ve

created, as well as to engage the people that are coming to consume that


Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about yet that you feel

we should before we wrap up?

Michael: Well, to simplify it further, the outline that I use in the

positioning discussion with most agencies is just kind of looking backwards

and seeing how it works so well to facilitate a discussion to get that blog

where it needed to be. I would say start at They can always

export that information to a design site. You know, once creative have done

what they needed to do, but it’s a five-minute process, but let it live on, follow this outline to facilitate your own discussions, and

the first is identifying kind of that target audience.

You have to have it as clearly defined as if you went to a list

broker and you’ve given them the parameters to come up with a list. And if

you have a hard time articulating it to a list broker, you’re not clear

enough yet. So identify the target audience. The second is that descriptor

statement, it’s the subtitle of the blog. Which you only have so many

seconds to let somebody know that this is something for them and it needs

to be not very creative but very plain. Like ‘A Guy’s Guide to Marketing to

Women,’ ‘Fueling Ad Agency New Business’, something that’s specific which

states the purpose that connects the blog to the particular target group

and then something creative and clever for the title, that hopefully you

can also purchase the URL that would tie-in.

Then, the key words, these aren’t necessarily the most popular terms

but the ones that you can realistically put into every post title that

would identify, you know, the content and the audience. It could be even a

made-up word. We’re working with an agency in Toronto that came up with

‘Mosh-pit marketing,’ which is how to grow brands through music, so not

something that people might necessarily be searching for, but a term that

they could own like Cause branding [sounds like 48:44] was, maybe five or

six years ago that now they have conferences and there’s a lot of material

around cause branding that wasn’t even a definable term five or six years


But the key words in every post title. Then, come up with 12 to 14

categories and these are navigation categories for the reader to be able to

navigate the content, but it also guides the writing and it needs to be as

plain as like ‘Advertising marketing,’ ‘Social media marketing,’ ‘Public

relations’ ‘Media,’ ‘Point-of-purchase’. whatever is then specific to your

target group. But if you kind of do that with that outline and facilitate

that discussion, not get hung-up anywhere, it’s like, you can’t move an 18-

wheeler sitting still, but if you can get it to move just a mile or two an

hour, you can move the thing and that’s what I tell them in this. You can

always go back and make revisions, but you want to keep progressing.

Most of the time in that outline, I’ve been very surprised that

almost everybody nails it because they kind of know where they need to be,

They’ve just been afraid to step out and do it. Once they create this, say

if it didn’t work at all, they’ve not risked anything and they don’t

necessarily have to link from the website to the blog, as they’ve done from

the blog to the website.

Trent: Mm hmm.

Michael: So it really does eliminate a lot of risk and allows you to go

in and to have some success. I think agency principals, when they’ve had

success with a positioning, then they’re more adapted and ready to drive

that stake into the ground and declare this is who we are, and this is who

our best prospects are.

Trent: Terrific. Well, Michael, I want to thank you very much, oh, I’m

sorry wait a minute. I’ve got my lightning round questions to do, three

real quick questions and then we will wrap-up. What are you most excited

about for 2013?

Michael: The opportunities internationally. You know, from Alabaster,

Alabama to Hong Kong this year, it just amazes me at how far our reach can

be and I’m just now, I think, seeing more and more of that. And it’s so

exciting when you go to these other groups in completely other cultures and

you work with agencies and they’ve got the same problems and so that’s

really exciting for me, is the international community and I’m able to

converse with people as if they were next door to me here in Alabaster.

Trent: Mm hmm. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. What about your favorite

business book?

Michael: The one that was most helpful to me very early on was Tim

Williams’ book ‘Take a Stand for Your Brand’ and it got me thinking in a

completely different light and I just conducted a webinar for Tim just last

week and he’s been my mentor and it’s been very cool to be able to now work

with him. But on agency branding, that’s kind of like the Bible and if an

agency principal has not read the book, I would encourage them to do so.

Trent: Okay, and the easiest way for people to get in touch with you?

Just give one way, if you could, what is that one way?

Michael: If they can just remember, that’ll get them to

my blog site and then that has all the content, information, and ways to

connect with me on the various social media platforms and whatever is their

preferred platform of engagement and I’d be glad to follow-up with them.

Trent: All right, Michael, thank you so much for making time to come

here on the Bright Ideas Podcast and share your ideas on how ad agencies

should be building new business.

Michael: Trent, you just do such a great job with the interviews and I

think I’m always nervous when I’m on your end, but you’re always just so

cool and collected and you do such a great job and I appreciate you and the

resources that you provide.

Trent: Well, thank you very much for the kind words. It’s a lot of fun

to do and when I get feedback like what you’ve just given me, it just

motivates me to keep on doing more of it.

All right, to get the show notes from this episode, go to and when you do, I’ll include all the links we’ve talked

about plus some other valuable resources to help you grow your business.

And if you’re listening to this on the fly, please text ‘TRENT’ to

585858 and I will give you some very special information, as well, so that

you don’t have to wait till you get back to your computer to access

everything that you need.

All right, thanks very much and I’ll see you in the next episode.

About Michael Gass

mike-gass-caricatureMichael Gass is an international new business consultant to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies. Since 2007 he has led in the use of social media and content marketing strategies to make agency new business EASIER.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines, which has been rated among the top 100 marketing blogs in the world, according to Ad Age’s Power 150.  You can reach Michael at