Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results as of August 15th

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In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past week and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed the last post, you can find it combined with the July income report here.

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business.

Sound good? Let’s get into it.

Key Activities Since Last Update

During the past two weeks, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. I created a new documented prospecting system for our target accounts
  2. I created a new LinkedIn group
  3. I wrote a new eBook for our target accounts
  4. I decided to move Groove’s blog from WordPress to HubSpot’s COS

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

New Prospecting System

Ever since getting back from Boston, I have been uber-focused on creating a better prospecting system for our Target100 accounts. The goal of the new system was to create a consistent 7 step process that was specific to what we are selling and who we are targeting. If you’d like to learn how to create a system like this, just purchase my Best Buyer Formula…because that is the exact process that I’m following.

Here’s an overview of what the process looks like for each target account.

Step 1: We use HubSpot’s Signals Insight to easily get their email address.

Step 2: I send them a LinkedIn connection request so that I can invite them to participate in the LinkedIn group that I created.

Now that we have their contact information and have made a connection request, we send an email.

Touch 1: The first email we send asks them a question that has nothing to do with our trying to sell them anything. In our case, we are asking them about something called an MDF program. MDF stands for Marketing Development Funds, and as each of these company is a Value Added Reseller for a large technology company, they all know what MDF is. When they reply, thanks to their email signature, in most cases, I now have their direct line.

Touch 2: When they reply, and many do, we either invite them to do a pre-interview for my podcast (if their site rocks), or, if their site/blog sucks, we offer one tip to improve conversions and ask them if they might be interested in hearing more ideas. If they say yes, I call them immediately. (HubSpot’s signals app alerts me via my phone to when they are reading my email.)

Touch 3: If they haven’t yet responded to my contact attempts, I send them another email with links to two blog posts on how to blog properly. I then follow up this email with a call and will leave voicemail if they don’t answer.

Touch 4 & 5: If they still haven’t responded, I will call twice more, but will not leave a message. I will also send an email at this point that either shares some more content, has a link to our new eBook landing page, or I will follow the advice in this post.

Touch 6: For this touch, I send them a link to a website diagnostics report that will score their site from a marketing perspective. I will also call to follow up this email and I will leave voicemail if they don’t answer.

Touch 7: This is my final attempt to get in touch with them. In this last email, I ask for their permission to close their file. I will also call them one last time.

Subject: Permission to close your file

Hi Name,

I’m writing to follow up on my voicemail. Typcially, when I haven’t heard back from a prospecct after a 6 or 7 attempts, it means they are really busy or aren’t interested. If you aren’t interested, do I have permission to close your file?

If you are still interested, what do you recommend as a next step?

Thanks for your help.

Why 7 Calls?

The reason I make this number of contact attempts is because a study by Leads 360 told me to. As you can see, 6 or 7 attempts is what is needed.


My LinkedIn Group

About a week ago, I interviewed Josh Turner from LinkedSelling and during the interview (not yet published), he shared with me a case study for one of his clients. When I looked at the LinkedIn group that he created for them, it was quite active.

An active group is very beneficial for the group owner because with an active group, you have an engaged audience. Over the next few months, I’ll be curating content and stimulating discussion in my new group, as well as inviting every single one of my target account prospects to join it. The fact that I have a group just gives me another reason to email them that is not selling related.

New Lead Magnet

So far, all the lead magnets (eBooks that we offer for download) that we use at Groove were originally written by HubSpot and then rebranded with our branding. HubSpot allows partners to do this, so it’s a huge time saver.

Now that we are targeting the VARs of this large technology company with our outreach program, I realized that we needed a new eBook (lead magnet) that was written specifically for them.

Rather than write it from scratch, all I did was find past blog posts that would resonate with them and then use the content (with some tweaking) from these blog posts to produce the eBook. Total time invested to create it was only a few hours.

Moving Our Blog to HubSpot COS

In the past, I was against having my blog on HubSpot’s COS platform. The thinking was that I wanted to “own” the platform that all of my content resides on (WordPress).

After seeing data that told me that page load speeds on HubSpot’s COS were 2x as fast as WordPress, I started to reconsider my position. I then learned that by using the COS, I will gain access to additional features (smart content) and better reporting. I also learned that, should I ever want to, I can easily export all my content back to WordPress with a mouse click or two.

As of this writing, we are only a few days away from having the transition completed. I would have moved the entire site, but, that was going to be too costly, and, at least for my pages, I REALLY like the Enfold theme that I’m using. The advanced content layout editor is just KILLER.

Traffic & Leads

We’ve started to look at our traffic in much more detail in our monthly traffic reports. Our new dashboards are pretty impressive!

You can find all the details in our detailed July traffic report.

Additional Resources

What Questions Do You Have?

If you have questions about this post, or anything to do with marketing, please leave them in the comments down below. That way, I can look at the most commonly asked questions and write detailed blog posts on these topics in the future. If you don’t ask questions, it’s much harder for me to come up with ideas to write about, so please don’t be shy!

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

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Paige Cambell

Key Insights Into Buying or Selling a Marketing Agency with Paige Campbell

Paige Campbell on buying or selling a business

Paige Campbell is the CEO of Grady Britton, a mid-sized advertising and marketing agency in Portland, OR. Grady Britton has been in business for over 40 years.

Paige started as an employee and, along with her business partner, ended up buying the firm from the prior owner. Subsequently, Paige and her partner went on to buy two more agencies.

Whether you are buying or selling a business, or hoping to in the future, you are going to find great insights when you listen to this interview.

Listen now and you’ll hear Paige and I talk about:

  • (01:10)  Introduction
  • (06:35)  How did you make the transition from employee to owner?
  • (09:30)  Why didn’t you want to become an owner originally?
  • (16:30)  Please tell me about the next agency you bought.
  • (21:00)  What advise would you give potential agency sellers about starting to market their firm?
  • (24:00)  What terms are reasonable to expect as a seller?
  • (29:00)  What did the due diligence look like?
  • (34:00)  What advice would you give to the seller when surprises come up in due diligence?
  • (37:00)  How involved was your attorney in the process?

Resources Mentioned

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.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


Hey there bright idea hunters, welcome back to episode number 147 of the Bright Ideas podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you are an entrepreneur and you’re looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, increase conversions and ultimately your profits; well my friends you are in the right place.
And the way that we do that is we bring on experts and we get them to share with us exactly what they did to become successful. No theories, no puffery just, “Hey here’s what I accomplished and here’s how I did it step by step by step.

This episode of course is absolutely no different.

However in this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Paige Campbell. And she is the CEO of a marketing agency by the name of Grady Britton.

We did this interview because Paige first of all was an employee of Grady Britton and along with her business partner ended up buying the firm from the prior owners because it is a very old firm; it’s been around for about 40 years.

And then subsequent to that, they went on to buy two more agencies.
The focus of this interview is whether you are looking to get bought or whether to buy, you are going to find great insights when you listen to the conversation that Paige and I have. We talk about how to get that conversation with potential buyers started as a seller in a way that does not show weakness, because that would obviously negatively impact your negotiation position.

We talk about what the buyer looks for in the due diligence process. We talked about what are the realistic expectations of the seller in terms of exit and the terms of the deal; how it is going to be structured. If you haven’t sold before, it is not all about price, the terms of payment are often times more important than the price.
For example, I’ll give you a billion dollars for your firm but I am going to be you one dollar per year over a billion years. That wouldn’t be a very good deal even though the price sounded really high.

So this is really going to be a very interesting interview for you if you are thinking of selling or if you are thinking of buying. But before we get to it just a quick announcement; I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me, “What are all the tools that you use to run your business?”

I have a list of those tools that you can get to at and as that URL name would suggest to you, when you use one of the affiliate links on that page, and I get a little commission from whoever’s software that you are buying, I give you the opportunity to choose from one of my paid products and I am going to give it to you for free as a bonus as a thank you for using my affiliate link.

So with that said please join me in welcoming Paige to the show. Oh and I should say that in this episode we had two technical glitches that I have never had in a hundred and ninety some interviews; two technical glitches so apologies in advance for the conversation being interrupted not once but twice due to these technical glitches.

Hi Paige welcome to the show.

Thanks Trent

It is a pleasure to have you on. We are going to talk about all sorts of interesting things here today with respect to the acquisition of other agencies, and my hope is that the folks listening to this, whether they’re looking to buy an agency or whether they are looking to sell their agency are going to learn all sorts of interesting things from the buyers perspective and that’s being you because you have bought two agencies.

But before we get into any of that, I would like to give an opportunity to introduce yourself to my audience, so that they know who they are listening to and give them some context for all the great stuff that we are about to hear.
So please tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Paige Campbell and I am the president of an advertising and marketing agency in Portland Oregon. The agency’s name is Grady Britton, and we have agencies that have been in business for the last forty years actually it is our forty year anniversary this year and has transitioned over the decades to be a brand focused agency. We do a lot of content development, social work, as well as digital campaigns for clients in the Pacific North West mostly with a national presents.

Ok, so either you weren’t the founder or you are the youngest sounding seventy five year old I have ever heard of.

Yeah it is true, not the founder, I am neither Grady nor Britton both of those names have since retired. I began purchasing the agency from the original founder who was Frank Grady about five or six years ago now and then became the president three years ago. I have a business partner Andy Askren who is our Chief Creative Officer and also owns sixty percent of the company with myself.

Okay so let’s delve into a couple of details. Just roughly, what size is your company? How many people work there?

The agency has 21 people, so midsized in the Portland market.

And what size customer do you guys deal with?

A huge range; on the larger side we work with a couple of customers. One being a large ship manufacturer that will remain to be unspoken, and the Portland *inaudible* on the B2B side is probably our largest account.

On the consumer national side we work with, clients I would say fifty to two hundred million dollars, it really depends on the industry. We do a lot of travel destinations marketing, food and beverage, and industrial B2B work.

There is going to be some people listening to this who maybe work for an agency and would like to own one one day and I know that in our pre-interview I discovered that at one point you didn’t want to become an owner but eventually did.

So do you want to tell us a little bit about how you went from being an employee of this agency to being an owner? Let’s spend a little time on that and then I want to spend more time, probably the bulk of our time on how you have purchased two other agencies because there are quite a number of details that I want to get into in that part of the conversation.

Okay sure, I had worked in the agency business prior to working at *inaudible*, four other agencies and worked my way up in the business from receptionist as my first job at an agency and was director of client services at Grady Britton.

At the time my predecessor Frank Grady, he was doing succession planning and he had a couple of options to be purchased himself or grow the agency to a certain size that would be more attractive to an outside party or to sell the agency to a team within or an individual within.

When he first asked myself and two other people here if they were interested in joining together and purchasing the agency my business partners said yes very enthusiastically but this has always been something that they wanted to do. Whereas I at the exact same moment said no I would ever be interested in doing this.

I think at the time it seemed a little bit overwhelming to me and I did not know the first thing about running an agency, and I had just never envisioned that for myself and so I was real quick to say no.
Thankfully I had two people, my partner now and also my predecessor who were very patient with me and gave me a lot of time to explore the notion and we had an ongoing conversation and I did some work myself, personal work to figure out if this was what I wanted.

I tried to make and educated and smart decision and eventually I came to the conclusion that I was committed to this industry, and I was not going anywhere, and eventually I would probably tire of being a director of client services and I’d be looking for something more challenging. So I came to the conclusion that the next step for me would be ownership and why not? Here I have this opportunity and it’s remarkable and there is a reason that that exists and I should probably go for it.

So did you initially say no because you thought it would be too risky to become an owner?

Yes, absolutely

Let’s hang out on that one for a second because I think that is something that people would like to hear. Why did you think it was risky and as you made the transition and changed your mind and of course became an owner, did those fears end up being real or were they just fear?


Yeah there is a little bit of all of that and what actually happened; I am definitely a conservative person by nature especially financially. For me it was incredibly risky. I am also a single mom and so most of my livelihood is in the equity of my home for example and I was in the case of putting a down payment down on the agency and such great payments and so on and I was going to become personally liable.

This is also in 2007 pre recession but as we moved forward and actually deal became more realistic and it was going to happen and I was coming to terms with that and also speaking with the PR-director who is now my partner and we were determining if we would be good business partners. There were a lot of things going on at the same time.

But the financial risk was paramount for me and I think what ended up happening in my mind was I played the game of it was like a mortgage and if I can get over the fact of the large amount then I felt I’m going to be strapped to for four years; treating it like a mortgage, every time I make a payment I am putting equity into something; then it did not seem as large and terrifying.

What happened as a result was we signed a deal and about six to seven months later the economy fell out and the agency really went through a tough time with layoffs and I had everything at stake in the business and so there was no choice. When you are in that situation there is literally no choice and you just work like you have never worked before and you dig in and do everything that you can.

And so my partner and I were both in that situation and had a lot to lose and the mental strength of not allowing that to happen. So, here we are today and the agency is thriving and we are hiring two more people this month, we will be at 23 now and we could dig our way out and made sure that we found a way to be successful.
But yeah I think that the difficulty was certainly in the fear of the financial risk and the livelihood of my family.

So when the economy went into the tank the terms of the deal had already been negotiated and did not get re-negotiated?

Yes. When the economy went tank the deal had been signed and immediately eight months after the deal had been signed, the agency was not worth what we had signed for. We worked under that premise and the continued payments for probably two to three more years. At that time the economy was still not in recovery mode and we slightly changed the terms of the deal; resigned on that lowering our interest rate. So now the terms have been slightly modified to our benefit.

There is something that you spoke there that I am going to go back to because I went through it personally as well and I really want people to have a take away and you did what I call embracing economic pressure; in other words you buried yourself deeply in debt and with my last company I did the same thing.

I remember there was a point when I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and the company wasn’t profitable yet but it was awfully close and at that point you just can’t give up because it is your economic ruin if you do and the magical thing that happened to you and it happened to me is you dig deep in and you go to personal resources that you didn’t know you had and you get it done and in your case it worked out very well and in my case it worked out very well.

So I bring that up only because I know one of the things that people that have smaller agencies or maybe they’re even independent marketing consultants really struggle with is how do I get from being this team of one to a team of a few and it might not be the right decision for everybody and I don’t dispel financial advice on my show.

But I would just say listen to what Paige just said and what I just said about embracing debt as a form of forcing commitment on yourself and maybe that debt is used to hire some additional people to help you become more productive and get more done and stop doing everything yourself. So don’t necessarily be afraid of it.

Yes that is true and I think that I actually in the moment I honestly didn’t think of it like that I just had no choice.

Me too.

I had nothing else that was an option except digging down and figuring out how to survive out of this and I like the way that you framed it. And I did learn a ton about myself; I would not wish it upon anyone but I also wouldn’t have ever given up that experience. I know what it means to run lean now, I know how to do it and I know what indicators to watch in my business. There is really no better education.

Yes you could not have bought that one at a college. Not for any amount of money. The great thing with this is that you get your tuition back, it’s called future earnings.


Okay. So now people have a little bit of an idea of how you came to be an owner of an agency, and obviously it wasn’t a horrific experience, because you have gone out and bought two more.

Yes, as a matter of fact the acquisition was part of the strategy to get out of that place that we were. The business was changing a lot, the market was really unstable. The typical business for us would have been AOR relationships, long term contracts and such.

Those relationships worked but their budgets had moved by project basis and their internal change were being let go so I did not have projections anymore. I used to be able to look out and see at least for the quarter what I expected and to some degree for the year.

Not really having that any more, there had to be another way to stabilize the agency, and an opportunity presented itself to acquire an agency that was not fairing very well through the recession. We were not in a position of strength but we were a little bit more secure than they were.

Thankfully we have a very good reputation in town and the owners of that agency reached out to us as well as a couple of other agencies and opened up a conversation to ask if anyone was interested or able to acquire at that time. And we were interested.

The agency that offered the conversation had a nice make up of roster and talent that were very complementary to what we were doing. That was a very key thing that I know now and I should have applied that to my second acquisition that I did not. But I should have.

What was great about it was the first acquisition really complimented the services that we already had but was not duplication. At the same time they were unable to have all full internal creative teams and all full internal visual teams and they were struggling to bring a great creative product to their clients and their clients were taking note of that; whereas we had a lot of capacity for creative and digital teams in-house.

There were just a lot of places where, the puzzle pieces sit naturally together on a logistics and tactical way. On the other side of it, having a deep look at culture and what was going on at that agency and what the talent was there and to basket it with our agency. The stars really aligned nicely.

It was risky; financially we were in the thick of a recession and were looking for a way to stabilize the agency but there’s certainly acquisition cash going out the other way so, you have to figure out financially; you are buying the future there is no assets.

Let me just interrupt you for a moment. We are going to come to the financial aspect of it in a minute but there are some other details I want to dig into from both the buyer and sellers perspective, and you now have the ability to give insight into both.

So from the buyers perspective the primary reason that you wanted to acquire this agency after they approached you was because you saw some talent and capabilities that would build in very nicely with your team and your bench would get stronger as a result. Is that more or less summed up?

That is half the equation and the other half would be that I saw a client base that had long term capabilities to stabilize the agency financially.

Yes absolutely, nobody is buying just expenses they are buying for revenue as well. Now having received the phone call from an agency that was struggling a little bit, what advice would you give to other people who are thinking that they might be struggling and may want to sell their agency but do not want to come across too weak or too vulnerable when they make the call or calls to potential suitors?

So what advice would you give to that person who is trying to market their company to start conversations the right way with a firm or firms that might be interested in buying them?

Sure, I think something that is really important is start small, start with a couple of people in the industry or other peers in your city that you are friends with, that you have a relationship with, that you have competed against in respect or a couple of people that you have known in the business for a while that you can explore it with.

I think you should always come to the table with: “You know, we’re exploring a lot of options,” whether you are just tired and want out of the business, retiring or whatever the situation is, it is like “I am exploring a couple of different options in succession planning or moving this agency to the next level; one of them is acquisition, or selling and I wanted to reach out to you because I have always respected you.”

And you can approach it that way. Keep a lot of options on the table, and be open about that, so that it is an exploratory conversation and keep it that way. Then you are doing a bit of research into what is going to make the most sense for your agency, and keep your agency at the forefront of what is best for the people there or best for yourself and looking for a future match.

You are selling something that the benefit will come to you in the future too. So be really careful who you start engaging with in conversation.

Now for the two agencies that you have purchased, and forgive me if I am getting my facts astray but if I recall our pre-interview correctly, the two agencies does not include the agency that you became a principal of. You’ve bought two more since then?


Okay. So the second one did they approach you as well or did you approach them?

On the second one, they did approach us but they had heard out in the market that we might be looking. So that owner had heard that via a little bit of word of mouth. It was true that we were looking so he then approached us.

Okay and roughly what size were these companies in terms of number of people or revenue whatever you want to disclose.

The first agency was around ten to eleven people in house at the time we acquired them. The second agency was about the same, ten to twelve.

Okay so these are probably between a million and a million and a half dollars a year in revenue?

Yes, I believe the first one was a little bit larger than that, I’d say two and a half million. The second one was about that size yes.

So, when you have a company of that size to sell do you think that it is reasonable for the seller to expect to receive a cash payment and walk away? And if not what is the more likely outcome for them?

No I do not think it is reasonable to expect that. The buying agency and you as the seller, you are selling the future possibility there and the buyer is buying the future possibility. There is a lot of things that have to work to move those accounts and that talent to actually being profitable and becoming what the buyer is looking for and in our case stabilizing our agency to another degree. So, knowing that situation and the first one, we were not interested in putting a big cash payment out.

I think the seller knew that this was going to be a buy out over a term over a certain period of time, based on the profitability or based on the revenue generated by the clients that they were selling. So, if you are selling you should remember that there is no hard assets that anyone is benefiting from that you actually should look for and sometimes sellers stay part of the acquisition for six months or something to transition the business.

So definitely if that is going to happen that needs to be considered. The competition, negotiations and all sorts of stuff.

Did that happen in either of the two purchases or did you say, “We will pay you out over time but you don’t go to work here anymore?”

In both situations we did say that. We will buy you out over time but we want to transition the business ourselves.

In both situations we brought over the key staff that really owned the relationships. This is unique now that I think about it, but in both cases the previous owner was not interested in coming over and transitioning the business.

These two agencies; were they mostly project revenue models or did they have high levels of retainer income?

The first one was more ongoing relationship. That is relationships with their clients which is what we were mostly interested in. I don’t think if they were being project to project based we probably would not have done it. We were looking for ongoing business and that is what was attractive to us.

The second acquisition was a visual agency. They were running more on a project by project basis and we were interested in that agency for other reasons.


They had some digital capability in house that we didn’t and we were looking at building it out and have a much more robust digital arm base. They had some developing talent and capability in there that we were attracted to.

They also which was kind of unique, they did have one large ongoing digital account that they were running a substantial amount of business with every month.

In our digital arm of our agency we had been running largely project to project. And I wanted a big stabilizing account that fed into that arm within our structure instead of running project to project. I was attracted by the big piece of business and then the additional capability that it would bring to our whole department.

In either case of these two acquisitions before you make an agreement with the seller you know who their clients are, but you are not able to go and talk to the clients. So you have to take them at their word that the client relationship is intact and the terms of your agreement obviously are going to support that fact, in other words if a client goes away you are not going to pay as much.

What was it like once you made a deal and you started to tell the clients; I am assuming you would have acquired the key account managers that own those relationships and those people would have said to the folks at the clients that the company had been bought etc. Is that kind of how it went?

The first part yes, of course you can’t go and speak to the clients before but you do need to do some due diligence there so what we did was of course a meeting with the owner and presidents of the agencies and we got real serious to do the due diligence around this.

We did a lot of talking about the client relationships, about the culture of the clients, about how well they thought they would transition, about the key personnel and staff, what the client was used to, what they thought they were looking for in the future, and where they had been underserved perhaps and all of that internal work and then we interviewed each of the staff members that were in relationship with or held the relationship with those clients to see if we heard re-occurring themes and information.

And in the case of the first acquisition we did we trusted the information a lot, we trusted those account managers a lot. You could tell talking to them that they really had great relationships with these clients and we felt if we could secure them and make them feel like this was going to be a great net outcome for them to actually have their agency be acquired and come into our culture and our environment, this could be successful.

They really had great solid relationships. From hearing that information their clients were looking for things that we really could provide and this account service staff were excited at being part of an agency that could really bring a holistic viewpoint to their clients. So everything lined up.
On the second one it was a little more precarious…

Sorry, we are having a bit of a bandwidth issue here. I am not quite sure what the problem is but are you able to hear me okay?

We spoke with the owner at length again which was a similar process and gathered a bunch of information about the clients and where they were with them and then when we interviewed some of the team that worked there we heard different perspectives.

So, this really put things into question for us because we felt that the account managers were the people in the day to day and they would have better indicators of what could be possible, and we felt that the owner was a little bit out of touch with the day to day work.

And so it was really important at that point to make a decision to bring all of the account team over. Also the agency was different, running project to project they had more of a sales approach vs. an ongoing relationship management approach.

Doing a lot of websites while in digital work it was project based they would work with the client from four to six months and then move onto the next project. So, there was not as much looking out to the future, it was more of can these people continue to sell digital work across the board.

And we were just going to transition the current projects in the queue complete them under contract, maintain the large piece of business which is what we were really attracted to in the first place and then continue to sell digital work across the agency.

Okay, so they had one key client that was very desirable for you?

Yes it was just a large size of ongoing month to month digital work, and that was attractive to us because our digital team had also been running project to project and always selling that pipeline and I was attracted to that idea of having a nice big stable piece of business on a month to month retainer structure to support the time between the next big project coming in.

So what advice, when you go from letter of intent, which is like the first date of mergers and acquisitions where you say this is what I want, I’m interested, here’s the terms etc and then you go into due diligence and you uncover things that undermine your confidence or you start to realize that the person that you were about to go on the date with is a little different than you thought they were.

What advice would you give to buyers or sellers for handling the negotiation that is going to be required to alter the terms to now match the new reality? And let’s say you are the buyer, which you were so let’s give advice to sellers. So what would you say to people who were in that situation where you as the buyer now don’t want to pay as much as you said you would pay in the letter of intent because of the situation you have uncovered is different than what they told you?

I would definitely look at it from the perspective of whatever changed in respect to the future of the business. There is always a scale, from one perspective, from the buyer’s perspective. “Yes it is greatly going to effect the future of the business.”

From the sellers you have the background of knowing your clients and knowing your team and really how solid and what situations those are in. And you can make an educated re-negotiation around that.

You have the benefit of having all that knowledge and experience that the buyer doesn’t have. So they are going to not want to take as big a risk of course, and I think that you have a lot of means to assure them if you actually think that it is not posing as big a risk or threat to the future of the business as the buyer might think.

In the case of the second acquisition that exact thing happened. There was a key talent that we were hoping to have join us with the acquisition; things were all wind-up at the last minute that creative director took another opportunity in the market and left. It was not a risk that none of the clients that the agency was servicing at the time would have jumped ship with this person; that was not what the concern was.

But that person was part of the talent that we were hoping to acquire in the transition. So the value of the company actually shifted.

Was it by a meaningful amount?

I think from the perspective of the seller yes. You bet. But the seller also agreed that we as an agency had done everything that we could to bring this person over and I think that they knew that and actually agreed with that and so I was not willing any longer to… that affected how I looked at the future quite substantially.

So now let’s assume for the purposes of our discussion that you’re getting towards the end of due diligence and the buyer and seller are pretty much in principal agreed on everything. Somebody has to paper this deal up so that you can actually get it done. Is that where you brought the attorney’s in?

Yes actually our attorney was involved from the get go from the point of the letter of intent and served as council because from that very beginning you are looking at things that you need to ask, information that you need, when are you reviewing the financial information. That needs to come up pretty early in the game and my attorney was partnered with me through all of that work.

Because you start to frame your negotiations just as that data and information comes in. You are talking about where you see risks, what makes you uncomfortable, “if we could pencil out a deal that was somewhere in this range I’d feel comfortable.” You are funnelling down to knowing that that deal is going to get the end result so I would not hesitate to get an attorney involved early on.

As you run along these things, you can get deal heat because you start looking out at the possibility of this and the possibility of that and this talent and that and you can quickly get your eye off the ball and forget what your objective was and doing the same from the beginning and having that council say “slow down” “it’s not worth it to pay this amount” to continue to provide that council and that ground in effect is very helpful.

How much did you have to spend on legal fees?

Let’s see. I can’t remember on the first one. My predecessor Frank Grady was still here and we were doing that deal together and I was already an owner but he worked that side of it. On the second one I probably spent fifteen thousand.

Okay. So really fifteen thousand of insurance to make sure, roughly how much was that deal worth?

I am not going to disclose the total. In the whole scheme of things it was very minor compared to the future benefit that we gained from that acquisition. I would easily do it again.

So well worth it.

The deal was definitely negotiated I feel… ((computer crash))

For folks that want to either buy or sell are there any books or are there any websites that you would suggest and also if they wanted to get in touch with you what is a good way for them to do that?

They can get in touch with me via my website: On the contacts page they can reach out to me via e-mail which is probably the best bet.

Can you just spell that for us?

Sure. and in regards to blogs or websites or books, you know I didn’t really rely on any of those as resources through this process I had a couple of good business peers that I relied on and I mentioned I had an attorney that counselled me and kept me grounded and just other people in the business that had done it before.
I belong to a unique group of other agency presidents so I relied on them to ask for the tactical situational stuff. “Have you ever agreed to deal that comprised to something like this,” things like that.

And it was very much the same for me. I have not bought firms, but I have sold so folks if you have questions from the seller’s perspective put it in the comments and I will be sure to answer them. I echo Paige’s comments, your legal council has been through this many times before, if you have picked the right one.

There are all sorts of entrepreneur groups that, I was in several mastermind groups and Paige has eluded that she is a member of one as well and that can be incredibly valuable. The big thing is that you really want to make sure that you talk to people that have actually done it before. Because in the scope of three quarters of an hour podcast we can talk, there are people that do workshops on this type of stuff for days.

The number and complexity of the details involved in a merger or acquisition of any kind are very, very large. Don’t let it discourage you, just go into it being aware that it takes a while.
These things do not happen overnight.

Yes, eyes wide open for sure and yes in both cases it probably took a total of a year to go through the process from the beginning to the end to actually move in and actually have people established and see the benefit of the work coming into the agency.
It is a long deal. The second one was equally as long and actually was a bit more tumultuous. Both times eyes wide open and eye on the ball. And understand that it is going to be a large part of what you do and focus on in the immediate future for sure.

And with that said with advice to sellers; if you think there is any way that you can do succession planning and sell your firm to people that already work there; speaking from personal experience. You are going to get more money because those buyers know exactly what they are buying you can get that deal done a lot quicker.
There is not nearly the same level of due diligence that is required. In my case the deal was done inside of thirty days. And I would encourage you to start planting those seeds several years in advance if you’re selling.

That is right, several years so people really understand what they are taking on and their interest, passion and commitment is there and has been tested and it is a whole different beast moving from employee to ownership and it behoves both of you to try it on a little bit as you go before the deal is done.

Alright Paige I know we are up against your hard stop now and mine as well I got to get on the phone and do another pre-interview with another founder so thank you very much for being a part of the show it has been a pleasure to have you on and I really apologise to you and the audience that you were cut off mid sentence due to my computer crash which has never, ever happened before.

Good luck to you, thank you Trent and good luck to everybody.

Great take care, bye-bye


To get to the show notes for this show go to and if you enjoyed this episode, please do me a favour and help me spread the word by going to where there is a pre-populated tweet and all you have to do is click your mouse. That is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so much for tuning in it has been my pleasure as always and I will look forward to having you back for another episode. Take care bye-bye.

About Paige Campbell

Paige Campbell has over 20 years of marketing and brand development experience, which includes building communications strategies for national and regional clients such as Xerox Network Printers, Bob’s Red Milland First Independent Bank.

In her role as President, Paige oversees the strategic team providing guidance and strategy for various accounts. She believes that creative ideas can come from anywhere and she is driven to make sure that our clients are benefiting from the best business counsel and creative strategy possible. She leads the agency with an unparalleled commitment to her team, culture and clients.


zak dabbas

From Zero to $8M: The Incredible Success Story of PunchKick Interactive

how to build a multi-million dollar company with zak dabbas

Zak Dabbas is the Founder and CEO of a very successful mobile agency called PunchKick Interactive. Currently ranked 959 on the Inc. 5000 list, they are on track this year to earn $8M.

PunchKick currently has 70 employees, is very profitable, and has most amazing and transparent culture you have ever heard of.

In this interview, you will learn how PunchKick Interactive got started and how they chose their niche. Are you looking for ideas on how to build a multi-million dollar company? Get your pen and paper ready to take pages of notes to capture the brilliant ideas shared in this interview.

Listen now and you’ll hear Zak and I talk about:

  • (04:00)  Introductions
  • (05:00)  How did you get started?
  • (08:00)  What did it mean for you to focus on mobile?
  • (10:20)  How did you target your customers?
  • (16:00)  How did you attract the talent to your team?
  • (17:30)  What is whisper talent?
  • (21:40)  What advice would you give to younger agencies?
  • (26:00)  How has transparency really helped your business?
  • (31:30)  What is the PunchKick Growth team?
  • (34:00)  How do you attract talent?
  • (39:00)  Tell me about your decision to hire salespeople?
  • (44:00)  How does your team do outreach?
  • (47:00)  What does sales team compensation look like?
  • (53:30)  What are The Hunger Games?

Resources Mentioned

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.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


Hey there bright idea hunters. Welcome back to episode 146 of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you are an entrepreneur and you are looking for proven tactics and strategies that you can implement in your business today this is the podcast to listen to. So how do we do that? How do I make good on that promise?

Well the way that I do that is I bring on other proven experts; other entrepreneurs to share the story of how they have built their organisations and in this episode you are in for a treat. My guest is a fellow by the name of Zak Dabbas who is the founder of a very very successful mobile agency called Punch Kick Interactive. They are on track this year to do eight million dollars, last year they did four million, the year before they did two million.

They are ranked number 959 on the Inc 5000 list. They’ve got 70 employees. They are very profitable and they’ve got the most amazing transparent culture that you have ever heard of. In this interview we are going to talk about how they built it, how they got started. And I am going to give you a hint; it was from sitting in his classroom in law school and realised that he did not want to be a lawyer.

And he started sending out emails. But they did something that was really smart. They picked a focus very early on, almost from day one; and made it their mission to become the leading organisation with that particular focus.
And we talked a lot about that in the interview and we talked a lot about how that affected the type of companies that they would go after, the things that they would communicate to them, how they initiated conversations and how they turned those conversations into those people becoming clients.

There is so much incredibly good stuff in this interview that I encourage you to make sure that you are sitting still when you are listening to it with a pen and paper in hand; so that you can like I did, take pages of notes as Zak pours out brilliant idea after brilliant idea and yet he is the humblest guy on the planet and was an absolute pleasure to listen to.

So with all that said we are going to welcome Zak to the show in just a minute but before we do that, very quickly, I get a lot of people sending me emails asking what tools and resources I use to run Bright Ideas and my other businesses.

You can see a list of all them at, some of them are affiliate links if you want to the affiliate link to buy those products that would be wonderful and I appreciate that very much. If you do I have some bonuses for you. That is why it is called Grab Trent’s Bonus. There are instructions there and you can send me the receipt.

Take your pick of some of my paid products that I would like to give you for free after using the affiliate link; pretty cool huh?

Okay, with that said, grab your pencil, grab your paper, sit down and please join me in welcoming Zak to the show.

Hey Zak welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me.

Yeah no problem, it is my thrill to have you here and we are going to be talking about all sorts of amazing stuff here today to do with the incredible growth of your agency, Punchkick Interactive, which I won’t spoil, we’ll get to what you have accomplished here in the last couple of years in just a moment.

But before we get into the results and all the steps that you and your team have taken to achieve those pretty incredible results, let’s have you, as I always do, introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Okay great, I am Zak Dabbas, I am the co-founder and CEO of Punchkick. And so my role in the company is really making sure that systems and processes are optimised; that everybody is really happy; that we are growing in the right direction and really keeping a clear look on what is happiness is like in our company and how people are doing and how we are growing and just being involved in a little bit of everything.

Alright, so we’ve got the head honcho on the line folks and he’s built himself a multimillion dollar company so if you are looking to do the same or you are looking for inspiration or you are looking for ideas, get your pen and paper because there is a bunch of them coming your way.

So first of all, I discovered you guys because you were on the Inc 5000. I think you told me in 2012 you did two million dollars in revenue, in 2013 you did four million dollars, here in 2014 you have already surpassed four million dollars, you think you are on track for somewhere between six and eight.

So that is pretty darn phenomenal, kudos to you for that. So folks now that you know you are listening to someone who has built something pretty incredible, let’s go back to the beginning. You told me that you started this back in 2006 while you were in law school. Is that correct?

Yup, when I started the company I was in law school and previously I was a pre med student in college. I graduated and decided medicine was not for me and thought, okay I guess law school is the next best thing. And so
I went to law school and very quickly realised that I disliked it a lot. And so one of the biggest things in my life that I should have asked myself was what did I love to do and what I enjoyed doing.

And I look back and all the parts come together but at the time I was doing a lot of freelance work with my biggest partner today Ryan Unger who is our CFO. And I was doing a lot of work with him freelancing. We were designing and developing websites and I would handle the stake hold and client relationship side of things and finding new work.

And we were doing it on the side and I got to law school and I realised I made a really really big mistake. And so at about a year and a half in of the three year program I told Ryan, “Ryan if I have to be a lawyer I am just going to kill myself, this cannot be my destiny.”

We decided to make our claim. We started Punch Kick Interactive. We turned the freelance work into this legit business and titled it Punchkick Interactive. And by that time Ryan had gone and seen a conference, a *inaudible* conference and at that conference heard a bit about mobile here and there and came back and said, “you know what Zak, mobile is the next big thing, I think we should make that our focus.”

And so we did it. And I graduated but I spent the rest of my law school experience in class firing off new business email after new business email, trying to land the kind of clients that I really wanted to work with and
I thought would help grow our business. By the time we graduated he had landed a client (he was doing the same thing) and I had landed a client.

The rest is history but I quit my job at the law firm I was working at and it was wonderful.

Alright, so let’s go back there, when you decided you were going to focus on mobile, what specifically did that mean? You were going to build mobile websites? Because you guys were like two freelancers, did any of you guys write any code? Because I know you build apps now but you probably did not back then I am guessing.

My business partner is an unbelievably strong developer. And back then, this was on 06, there was no iPhone and so back then mobile was wallpapers, screen savers and basic mobile sites (that were called WAP sites back then and had very limited functionality) and also a lot of text message campaigns.

What we did was we looked at the mobile landscape and a lot of it did not exist. We saw some opportunities for businesses to reach their audience using mobile tactics. And so when we fired up in the beginning it was all spec work. It was projects that we designed and developed, just the two of us to showcase our skill set. And that was what we had to start.

So what did you build?

When we started to land work, the very first project that we ever did was actually with an agency that is still a client of ours and they were working with Intel. And Intel wanted a cool new way to reach students who were being invited to creative fares on college campuses.

And so we actually worked with this agency to create a text message campaign were you could basically get someone to opt in and then the day of the event they would get a message like, “Hey get out of bed you have an interview with Intel at eleven o’clock and here is some directions.”

Very simple stuff but back then that was very new, like this idea of customised content on your mobile device was very new and very difficult to sell. Back then I joked that we couldn’t give mobile away and most of what we did was on the education side.

And so some of the clients that we worked with at that time were just really early adopters, they really saw the potential there and so that was also part of why the company was fun; is that you would work with folks who saw that this was really new and exciting and they were willing to experiment with it.

Yeah so not being able to give something away would definitely make it difficult to attract clients and drive revenue but none the less you told me that you did a couple of hundred thousand dollars in your first year and I think your first project was for Intel. Which I think you just mentioned a moment or two ago.
Where did you go from there? What was the early focus in terms of the product or service offering?

What we realised very early on was that with something like mobile; it was really going to appeal to early adopters. And so we would shout to folks who we thought would be really open to adopting a new technology or a new way of engaging with their audience and so around that time another big client that we landed was Pearson education. Which I think is the second largest book publisher in the world. And back then they had a bunch of folks that we worked with who were responsible for creating e-learning tools.

At the time it was a stagnant industry and they wanted different ways to distinguish and separate themselves from the other book publishers and so with Pearson; around that time back in 2006 one of the first projects that we landed was actually one where you would purchase a book at a college campus and in addition to that book at no cost you would get this access to a flash card system.

And you could basically on your desktop view these digital flash cards and you could create custom decks of flash cards that had different items on them based on the chapter you where studying. And from there we created the desktop flash card system and it had a mobile component. And the mobile component was being able to take those flash cards that you created and actually import it to your mobile device.

And in 2006 this was very very new territory and actually the contact that we worked with at Pearson; at the time this launched it was tremendously successful for them and our contact was presenting it to the CEO of the company and I heard through the grapevine that she presented it to the CEO and she was promoted.

And that opened the floodgates with Pearson and so for a number of years we did a lot of really cool things with Pearson. So I guess for us what we found was that when we found the right clients; if we did really good work and we cared a lot about doing good work the rest worked itself out.

That is kind of how it happened for us.

So would it be fair to say that through using direct outreach you managed to land a couple of key clients; you did incredibly good work for them and then marketing and sales kind of looked after themselves for a while as a result of these great client relationships?

Absolutely, until recently I think I mentioned earlier it was November; we got our first official sales team together. Before that it really was word of mouth and reputation. And I think there is a lot to be said for that.
That people sometimes forget that clients just want to work with folks that make them happy and they enjoy working with. And I think for us part of what it was was I did not want to be a lawyer.

I did not want to do anything else. This was all I wanted to do and so I looked at every single client that we landed at the time as such a blessing (I guess is the only way to describe it). I was so happy that we had these relationships and I wanted us to do good work. Something else that I think maybe is worth mentioning is I am one of those people that like to think about what the future could look like and then I like to build a plan to get there.

And so even at the start of Punchkick, Ryan and I, we didn’t even have an office at the very beginning. And it was like this is what our dream office is going to look like and these are the clients that we are going to work with. And this is the kind of calibre of talent we are going to attract. We knew from day one the kind of company we were going to build and so we made decisions to get us there.

We had other project opportunities when we started Punchkick and we turned them away. So part of the growth for us on the sales side was being okay with saying this isn’t the kind of client that is going to get us in the direction we wanted to go and so we turned away projects that we didn’t think was a good fit for us.

We got a lot of interest from the adult space and we just did not want to do mobile work in the adult space. There were just a lot opportunities like that and we just stayed laser focused on the kind of clients we wanted and it served us really well.

One of the things that I know is a struggle for a lot of young agencies is getting enough profit into the bank account to be able to fund the expansion of your team and hiring the right kind of talent that you need. So how did you guys go from just being these two guys to four, eight and ten people? And obviously you are much passed that now, you are at 65 now but I want to stick around the early phase for a bit.

That was the toughest thing to deal with at the time and what I’ll say is this, if there is one thing I have learned throughout my career it is passion is equally if not more important than skill set. And what I mean by that is when you find people who are really passionate about what they do, they find a way.

There is that saying that where there is a will there is a way. It really is true. One of the things that I think we did really really well and that we still do really well today and it really makes Punchkick what Punchkick is; if you come to our office you’ll feel it; we know what a Punchkicker looks like, feels like, sounds like. It feels like a family. Even back then we couldn’t afford to grab somebody from a big five agency.

I could not poach somebody from a booming tech company but what I could do is find what we call whisper talent; which is this concept that a speaker that I saw in Argentina spoke about. He spoke about whisper talent where you find the guy who is living in his parents’ basement that has so much potential to being an unbelievable developer but maybe didn’t have a chance or maybe doesn’t have the credentials that someone else might have on paper.

We interviewed a lot of people and we found people who really believed in our vision and where we were trying to go and while they might not at the time have had years and years of experience I never doubted for one second that they would work hard and try to really provide a lot of value. Even when we were still very small we were bringing on all the talent we could and just finding exceptional talent.

And even today I have a strategist that has been here for three years and he is one of my dearest friends. When he started with us he was working in retail at Apple and I kid you not one of the things he said to me was, “I will sweep the floor at Punchkick; I just want a chance to work here.” And he actually came on in a like lead generation capacity and today he has rounded up some of the largest projects at Punchkick interactive.

So I think it is just in really smart hiring.

Now did you hire all these folks as full timers at the beginning? Did you have the cash for that or did you have to just bring them on as sub contractors and use them only when you had work for them?

It is funny that you ask that. When Punchkick first started we were working in Cleveland the first year and we were working out of my apartment and we had a number of contractors in Cleveland that we would turn to for overflow development and design and what not.

Then we moved to Chicago because we needed a bigger market. We still planned not having an office and keeping it,
I don’t want to say casual but not the big business we are today. And we ended up getting a small office for mailing purposes. It is funny how fate works, we had this small office and this office was the size of a tiny closet.

And it flooded and the land lord at the time told us: “I don’t want to repair this office; I am just going to give you a bigger unit one floor down.” And this office that we got had a really nice view; it was pretty big for us which is not saying much at the time. Ryan and I were like, “Maybe we should just buy some desks, maybe we should come to work once in a while here,” and so we started to.

And at the time we had freelancers working with us and we were like, “Hey come to the office too.” And really, I don’t want to say overnight but immediately we decided that we wanted to hire a team and so since our first office we have not used contractors. We don’t use them. Today every once in a while someone will come in for a few days to maybe pitch in on a project that is running tight but by large, even today with the 70 plus employees we have, they are all full time employees.

I found that the relationship that I could build with an employee, the long term feel of it is just invaluable for me. I never had that with a contractor. And I know some folks who run amazing businesses using contractors it just wasn’t for me. I really enjoy getting close and being friends and being in it together. So we got away from contractors as soon as we moved to Chicago and got an office going.

Okay, so what advice would you give to someone that let’s say that they are not drowning in referrals yet? They are scrapping for every deal and they are really trying to get kind of over the hump and they have got to do outreach they got to reach out; they got to figure out, “these are the companies that I want to have as clients, they do not know that I exist,” what advice would you give to that person to get conversations started; which is the hardest part with the kind of clients that would allow them to charge the rates and do the work that is necessary to create the profits necessary to grow and invest in their business?

Here is what my advice would be and I think it is going to sound a little hippy dippy but I am going to say it anyway; I don’t think that you can fake relationships and what I mean with that is if you don’t really want to work with a client that you are going after, there is someone else who does. And so I think the most important thing to do is to really ask yourself, “What kind of clients do I want, what kind of clients get me so excited, what kind of clients motivates me and inspires me to grow my business?”

Because if you think in those terms I think you would just naturally do things to get into those circles and so for us when we were starting small I wanted to be at conferences and events where the clients that we eventually landed were at because I was interested in their work. I really liked what they did in the digital space and I wanted to help them from a mobile perspective.

It was never about just revenue for me and so I think we being in touch with “What gets you excited, what just drives you?” Because then you are untouchable. You are going to want it more than anybody else and the client is going to feel it. You are going to make the kinds of decisions that make you an asset to those clients.

If you don’t feel that I think that maybe the client base isn’t right or the direction isn’t right. So for what it is worth that is what I will say, that passion, it is a clichéd word, but passion is just so important. Do you want to work with this client badly? If you do you will find a way, you’ll bump into them and you will be at events where they are at. You’ll follow them on social and congratulate them when they do something great or launch new projects.

It just happens, there is this idea that I had in my mind which is also maybe bizarre to talk about but I feel that I can make things happen. I believe that. I believe when I really want something that it just happens for me. And I know that that is because I make steps to make those things happen whether I notice it or not and so I think my advice would be to really ask yourself what drives you. What makes you really excited and go there, because you will meet people who are really excited to work with you as well.

So is this the attitude you had when you were sitting in the law class, sending out about 60 to 80 emails at a shot?

Absolutely because for me it was a matter of survival; I did not want to be a lawyer. I wanted to be in creative space. I wanted to be in digital. I looked at it that if I don’t make it with Punchkick then that is it, I am a lawyer. For the rest of my life I am going to work in a law firm. I am going to work in a culture that I don’t like, that doesn’t make me happy, it was survival for me, I wanted it so badly that I made it happen.

And I made it happen with a website and pretty much nothing else. It was a pretty lean start-up.

I agree completely with what you just said and the pragmatic side of me also says, “Yeah.” But these people, these perspective clients don’t know who you are, don’t care who you are yet and they are super busy, got a gazillion other people also trying to get a piece of their business. And there has to be some way that you are able to break through all of that noise and actually get their attention long enough for them to realise that you have all this passion and vigour.

I think part of it is the niche nature of Punchkick when we started. We were reaching out to people to talk about mobile or we were speaking at events or different technology meet ups and what not. We were speaking about mobile and it was niche and exciting and there was no one else that I knew that was doing it. I had not met others who were also working in the mobile space.

Especially not in Cleveland so I think being in a niche market, that is a huge like off, because if you look at the new technologies coming out today and these new start ups. A lot of them are started by folks with no actual experience related to the industry they are in but they see an opportunity and it is a niche and they just go with it.

And so I think that in some ways in Punchkick we always find that the clients that we work with tend to really embrace innovation and innovative thinking, they want that and that is the language we speak so we were able to get in front of those people. Starting a company today in the mobile space or particularly in the digital space, that would be really hard.

I think my advice would be if I was starting another company tomorrow I would go for something that is niche, unique and novel. That helps a lot.

Any ideas come to mind?

Oh boy, I think sensors; I love sensors and wearables. The idea of building businesses that are alive where social is being conducted on the back end and the temperature of a room is adjusting. I just love this stuff. I think sensors and wearables, these are the emerging technologies that excite me. I don’t want to think about it too much though because I will say, as cheesy as it sounds, I adore Punchkick; it is my favourite place in the world to be and that is what I wanted out of business.

I often say to myself the next business is going to be product based. Like somebody places an order and I send a gadget out and I call it a day but truly that could never be enough for me. I think some of the friendships and relationships that I have here are some of the best parts of my life.
And that is what I needed and it serves that role for me.

And you can tell by looking at your website, the about page in particular is one of the better that I have seen; conveying a feel for what your organisation is like.

Yeah, I think transparency is such a big part of who we are. I can go on a tangent on that for an hour so I don’t want to go down that road I’m sure.

I think that is a great road, we did talk about that in the pre interview; we talked about how everything is so incredibly transparent at your organisation. So let’s get a little more specific. What do you mean by transparent, transparent with your staff, transparent with your customers? Let’s talk about it.

Really it is both but I will talk about the staff side. Ryan and I are not oracles; we do not have all the answers. I never had all the answers and I think that we really try are darnest to try and really have our team understand and appreciate that. So outside of each other’s salaries currently (and even that’s not forever) there is no topic that is off limits at Punchkick.

So every single day we have a thirty minute huddle where the entire company comes together. We talk about what is going on with our clients, what new pitches are in the air, what issues we’ve got, everything is up for grabs. We have a thirty minute huddle; everybody gives a little good news in their life so we have a base line of what is top of mind for everybody.

And then we do shout outs; which is where you can give some credit to somebody who did something above and beyond; so we got the huddle every single day and that unites us like a school of fish. I try to lead as transparently as possible meaning I don’t want someone to wonder what I am thinking. I want them to know even if it is uncomfortable. And I encourage others to be that way, so in our company, seventy almost people, you could come here and you would be able to vouch, no politics, no bureaucracy, the best ideas rise to the top.

And so we talk candidly and we give feedback really candidly. Even on the growth side of Punchkick that happens with Punchkickers. We launched something called the Punchkick Growth Team and basically every week a voluntary group of people, our first quarterly launch we had 22 people show up, we meet every Tuesday at nine in the morning and literally just come work on company growth initiatives.

So at the start of the quarter we delegate those growth initiatives out, people basically volunteer for a growth initiative that they think they can tackle. And we just grow the business together. So every week we are meeting and at the end of the quarter we just wrap up all the growth initiatives we can. It’s just like it is effortless in some ways.

I want people to know what’s going on. If we have a rocky relationship with a client I think the team should know that, if the client is ecstatic and loves what we are doing I think the team should know that. And if we are unsure about a new process or unsure about a new way of doing things I want the team to know that. That I think is our single best competitive advantage and I have seen how it can transform a company.

It is one of the things where I will meet with the folks who ask me, “How do you at this size keep the culture so strong?” And it is like to me it is easy, it’s transparency. It is also really loving your team; as weird as that sounds.

I care deeply about the people that we hire and I want them to love it at Punchkick, I want Punchkick to be the best thing that ever happened to them in their lives. I want them to stay with us forever and so I do what I can to make them happy and to take care of them and in turn they do the same back.

Just like this beautiful little utopia where you can be yourself, you can do great work and if you don’t like something you can just say it. You can just pull me into a room and yell at me and there are no repercussions.
And I think that transparency is a big part of that because I’m a human, I don’t know everything about growing a business and a lot of it I am learning as I go.

So there are only a few things that I feel good about on a day to day basis and one of those is that transparency is helping us and I know how to hire good folks. I know who makes sense at Punchkick and who is going to be happy here and when I sense something wrong I try to fix it. So people and transparency are huge.

Let’s talk about the people for a minute then, when you are running a professional services firm with as many people as you have; getting the right people on the bus is incredibly important. Let’s go back to, I think you said 2 years ago you were at seventeen people when we did the pre interview; what did your recruiting process look like back then? Where did you advertise, how did you find people? How did you interview them? What were the things you looked for?

Yeah, that is great so the interview process and then the hiring process. What would happen is I would get to a point where I knew I was managing something and we needed somebody that was better than I was to manage that thing or better than Ryan was to manage that thing. In the beginning what we did was job posts on Craig’s List, job posts on Chicago job board, nothing fancy. And we just interviewed a lot of people. So people would come in and we would meet with them.

The one thing that I feel in my life that I know is people. Most of what I do in my day to day, I feel like I am learning. Or problems are coming up and I am solving them as I go, people I know.

So folks would come in for an interview and I could just tell the excitement they had about a fast growing company, I could tell from the personality, somebody who is open and really comfortable in their own skin, funny and just light and pleasant. I used to say to myself when I interviewed somebody and I still do today, “If this person had an emergency in their life, they had a disaster happen; would I put them up in my house for a week?”

And so I used ideas like that in the background, when we interviewed we just looked for people that we thought were amazing and it worked. It really worked for us, getting the right people on the bus; that is such a struggle and the only advice that I am going to give on that that I feel okay putting out there is: ask yourself if you are a good judge of character, you align yourself with people that push you forward, that make you a better version of yourself, if the answer is yes then be on the interviews and look for those people.

If you are not good at it, if that is not your strongpoint, find someone who is. To help you on the hiring side because when you start a business, you are your people. I think that is even on our website, we are our people. Punchkick is the people and so I don’t know what could be more important than that. That would be my advice, either do it yourself or have somebody help you. Even if it is a friend, if it is a colleague, somebody who you know is just a good judge of character.

Have that person be there and even in the interview process get away from these lame questions that people ask like, “what is a trade bet?”, “what is your worst quality?” And then somebody responds, “I work so hard.” Those are not the questions you should be asking.

The questions I ask is “Why are you here today?” and “What do you love doing most in life?”, “If you could have any job here what would it be?” “Should you have been fired at one of your other jobs, what is the worst thing that you had done at another job that you think you should have been fired for?”

“What do you do for fun?” I want to get to know somebody and in fact even since our start we would have interviews happening and they would be interrupted a lot, like people would be walking in and out of the rooms and I would actually encourage that because it is a very Punchkick feel. That is how Punchkick is, you are in a room somebody walks in, they need something. It is kind of crazy all the time.

So I wanted people who could adapt to that pretty well. And even in an interview I would see somebody walk in; another Punchkicker might walk in and somebody who is being interviewed is completely thrown off, where somebody else says, “Hi”, introduces themselves. They take it in stride; those are the things we looked for.

It is kind of also on the transparency front again, letting somebody know what your business is really like because they are interviewing for the job and you are interviewing for the talent. So I think the more you can give them a sense of what it is really like the better.

So you now have a sales team that you added in November of last year. You told me that that has worked out very well for you. So I wanted to spend some time talking about the details around building a sales team and how you get them to be productive and paying for themselves. Because I know from my past business experience that was a big challenge for me and it is a big challenge for everybody.

With respect to salespeople, prior to when you decided to hire, your new clients were predominantly coming from word of mouth, would that be fair to say?

Yes, we had small periods where we hired somebody to be kind of a loan shark sales person, like kind of lone ranger. It didn’t work out and we didn’t really know what a sales team would look like. We dabbled in it but the majority, yeah. Work was coming from word of mouth, from bumping in to people at events and networking; kind of the usual.

Okay and your sales team now has how many people in it?

Our sales team now has six people.

And did you hire all six at one time or did you hire them in pairs?

Here is what we did. We had done enough sales to start to get an idea of what our strengths were in sales and how to multiply that. When Ryan and I used to sell personally I was always the guy who wanted to go out to dinner with the clients and wanted to get close with the clients; wanted to get the contract signed; I wanted to get the baby locked down; I wanted to make it happen.

Ryan was always the guy who had a million big ideas, super passionate about the technology and just brainstorming and all that. That combination worked really well for us. We called that a strategy relationship combination, strategy closer.

What we decided was, one, we needed a sales manager. We needed somebody who could come in and really be held accountable for having a sales team that was successful and providing the education whatever that team might need.

And then we hired what we called closers/mobile advisor. Let’s say an incoming lead comes in, they are the person who they are going to talk to on the phone. They are going to figure out if this is a good client for us, are we a good fit for them, what does the project look like; get that ball rolling.

And we also hired mobile analysts who are folks who do a lot of outreach. They’re looking what is going on in social and who are the movers and shakers and what is happening and they are trying to reach out to them and get meetings or keeping drip campaigns going, sending them what is going on with Punchkick and all that.

So we structured it that way.

Okay, so let’s talk about those people that do outreach, because it is a huge challenge trying to get (as I mentioned earlier in our interview) trying to get people to simply give you a piece of their attention is incredibly difficult.

So when you hired these folks, first of all, are they solely focused on outreach or do they do outreach when there is not enough leads coming from the website to keep them busy?

So when a lead comes in from the website that actually gets kicked up to the mobile advisor, that role that I told you about that gets on the phone and gets it going.

With the mobile analysts, which are the more outreach folks, those are typically people that we bring in, they are younger in their career and it is a fantastic training opportunity for them. And so what happens is they come aboard they’re doing outreach, they are learning the industry, learning about what we do and they are trying to build those relationships with the goal of transitioning to another role at Punchkick within nine to twelve months.

So it is almost like a combined training program but also providing a lot of value for us because they do outreach; which is really great for us because a lot of folks we reach out to actually do really want to learn more about Punchkick and what we’re doing and they are really happy to talk to us. That is why that’s worked I would say.

And the outreach that we they are doing, are they using social media, are they making cold calls, are they using cold email, who did you tell them to reach out to and how do they actually do it?

That is a great question, no cold phone, we don’t use that, nobody calls anybody that I can imagine. Our sales manager gets a wish list of clients that we would like to work with or folks that are doing really cool things that we would like to connect with and he’ll work with those outreach folks to come up with creative ways to reach out to them.

So it might be an email blast, it might be going to a networking event, where one of these folks are speaking and trying to get a relationship or a conversation going there. It is things like that. Let me think, I want to give you some more actual tactics because I think your listeners would benefit from that.

Social is a big part of it. If there is somebody who is doing something in mobile space or the innovation space our outreach team; these are guys and girls that really love the space and they love the tech space so they’re doing this anyway and they are reaching out and saying, “Hey this is great”, getting dialogue going.

Man, I don’t really know much more beyond that which is a testament to our sales manager I guess that I don’t have to be involved in the nitty-gritty there.

The goal of the outreach folks is to get a conversation with one of our mobile advisors. Somebody who is much more nuance and understand the mobile industry and can see what the opportunity is and go from there.

Oh okay so the mobile analyst that does the outreach is the lead generator and they pass the conversation on to the mobile advisor who is the person who qualifies the lead and make the proposal and moves them toward the saying yes?

Yes and the mobile analyst; that lead generation person will be there on those calls because that relationship is there and they want to learn and know what is going on. But yeah it is the mobile advisor, that closer role who is really looking for the opportunity and helping shape that opportunity.

I would actually love to do another interview with your sales manager if you think that would be alright?


Because I could easily so an hour long interview on everything they are doing. Please make an email introduction if you would.

Will do.

So we will shift off of the sales tactics then because we are going to cover that in a subsequent interview. Let’s talk a little bit about just what a compensation plan looks like. I know you have mentioned that you haven’t decided to go full disclosure on salaries yet, so you don’t have to go there that is fine.

So for the mobile analyst, do those folks get some kind of a base salary and then an incentive for number of conversations they start? Or how does it look?

Great question let me begin the answer by saying we never found ourselves attracted to candidates who wanted to work on a commission only structure; I don’t know what it was about those folks and more importantly I can’t live with myself doing something like that. So our lead generation folks; they come in at a base salary that is significantly higher than most lead generation folks. It’s an absolutely liveable salary and on top of that they get a commission for the meetings they set up.

The mobile advisors like the closers I mentioned they also have a highly liveable salary with commissions built in for deals they close. And the sales manager has a highly liveable salary, more of a lifetime value; a small percentage of those accounts that grow and come in as a result of that team.

There are many folks who are going to say that this is not an ideal strategy, but I never wanted a salesperson’s need to make an income to survive to trump the desire to do what is right for our company. And so I wanted folks to come in and I would say to them, “I’ll make an investment in you and I want you in turn to in turn make an investment in Punchkick and find us the kind of work and opportunities that really grow us.

I think it is the right call and I can see it both ways but I didn’t want there to be a pressure to just bring in work because I think there is such a thing as bad work. I think that you can find work or projects that are not good for your company and for the kind of team that you have. And you have to have laser focus on what makes sense for you.

All of them get a very liveable wage and commissions.

Okay, what percentage of your clients are in Chicago, the same town you’re in?

Probably less than half, maybe half or less than half.

And the folks that are on the sales team that are doing the prospecting; are they prospecting local companies or are they prospecting companies regardless of where they are because they are companies that you want to do business with.

The latter, they are prospecting companies that we want to do business with. Wherever they are.

Okay and how do you build lists of those companies? How do you figure out that is a company… You can sort of randomly stumble across them of course?

That is a good question…

And maybe I should be asking the sales manager.

Yeah because when I was involved in sales it was just like, “Who am I meeting at events and who is doing cool stuff that I want to work with and I am going to reach out to?”
Yeah that would definitely be a better question for our sales manager because I don’t really know the answer.

Alright, folks don’t worry, I’ve wrote it down; my list of questions to be asked in part two of this interview. Just make sure you listen to the second part and you will get an answer to that question.

Okay, what haven’t we talked about that, I am just kind of scanning the notes that I made in our pre interview, you really wanted to talk about culture and transparency, do you think that we have done a good enough job of that or do you think there is something else that is really important that would enrich the quality of this interview with respect to that?

Or anything is there anything that we haven’t talked about or that I haven’t asked you which you really wanted me to?

So I’m looking at this question through the lens of someone, a young entrepreneur, what I’ve learned, what I can impart that would help them. Is that the right lens to look through?

I think that is a very good lens yes, so let’s go with that one.

Okay so, things I have learned, I think I have covered most of it, you are the sum of your team, you are your people. And so finding the right talent is crucial. I think transparency, letting folks know what you struggle with, where business struggles are, where the pain points are and where the success is is so important.

There is a feeling when a company is really unified and people know the direction it is going, it’s such an unbelievable feeling. And I have seen other entrepreneurs and CEOs who have walls up between their teams and themselves and I don’t think it is the right way to do it. But I’m just one person.

I think being passionate about the work you do, being in an industry or running a company that makes you so excited because if you are not someone else will be. I think that’s huge.

I think that’s about it.

Well let me ask you, I’ve thought of a question that I wanted to ask you before we finish up. Have you ever heard of Verne Harnish’s Rockefeller Habits?


Okay, do you follow his… because I know you do the morning huddle, do you do quarterly and annual strategic plans?

That is a great question and that is something I would love to expand on actually if I’ve got a minute here.

You do indeed.

Okay so we do the morning huddle and then quarterly we do something that we affectionately call the hunger games where we show everybody revenue numbers, expenses, client wins, new policies at Punchkick or new benefits; things like that. So we do that every quarter, with the goal being that all of that is transparent, everyone understands the direction we are moving and so on and so forth.

You mentioned Verne Harnish and that brings up one thing that I have found to be true for myself; which is I have always believed you have to do things your own way and you have to make your own road and I mentioned to you the Punchkick growth team. It is actually working incredibly well. We have so many folks here excited about growing Punchkick; owning the growth initiative they have and that is something we have grown on our own organically here at Punchkick.

Now on to our operating system, so we have an operating system now that is really really wacky and it is working so well for us. And here is what it is. We build apps and mobile sites and we do a lot of strategy and what not but most of the projects we do, we are doing in two week sprint cycles. And so what we do is, when you are on a project, you’re part of a tribe, you are all accountable for that project.

Every two weeks the project managers mark the project sprints red or green. Meaning we delivered, everybody made good on their promises or we mark it red. Every six months Ryan and I sit down and if we were fifteen percent profitable the previous two quarters, everyone who was on a tribe that was green gets an instant raise.

We don’t have to talk, no politics, no nothing. It is instantaneous. And the goal there is to convey the message that if Punchkick is profitable and our clients are happy, that’s it, you’ll get raises forever.

And so that has worked really well for us because what we find is if a team is working together and they are on a sprint together a QA tester could say to a designer, “You owe designs on Wednesday, it is now Thursday you should not leave here until you’re done because if you do you are going to throw this whole sprint off and none of us will get a raise. Like none. We will all be dinged for this.”

And so folks are holding themselves accountable. It is not a perfect system and we just launched it last quarter and so we are working on a lot of kinks with it but it is fantastic. It’s been a breath of fresh air because the whole reality for us is the only reason we have rules and have deadlines is because we want clients to be happy and we want Punchkick to be profitable. And when we are there should be no barriers to everyone enjoying that.

And that is not something we got from a book. And so one if the things that I’ve learned; I looked at some of the questions that you sent me over and I actually panicked when I saw “what is the most recent books you read”, I don’t read business books. I feel that the answers we need are within this team. And they are within myself and they are within Ryan.

So we paid really close attention to business and we are really comfortable pivoting and creating systems and processes that work for us and we don’t feel bad about it. And that I think is really important to think about. I think entrepreneurs sometimes feel pressure like, “Oh I better use this operating system or I am going to model my business after this book.” I don’t think anyone knows your business like you do and you should go with what feels right and for us this is working incredibly well.

Interesting, very very interesting, so let me sum up what I heard you say. I think it was profound and I want to make sure that the audience understands it. You have projects that get organized into two week sprints and there is a tribe that is pulled together for that two week period at a time to work on that project.

And if things go well, at the end of the project it is going to be green. And if things don’t go well, and I am sure there is definitions of don’t go well versus go well, it gets marked as red. And over a quarter; (how many two week periods is that?) The is going to be six two week periods, so potentially somebody could be on six different tribes during a three month period or are they always on the same tribe?

They are generally on the same tribe. Our projects are pretty large here, so you will be part of a tribe on a project and you will be on it. And then yes every two weeks a sprint gets knocked out another two weeks, another sprint.

Okay, so when you get to the end of the quarter if you had a fifteen percent net profit margin during the quarter for the business overall the people who were on a sprint that got green automatically get a raise, yes?

Yes but it is actually after every two quarters so we use two quarters of that. The reason we do this is one, it is raises and I think raises four times a year might be a little scary for us. We do it twice a year. But the bigger reason actually is because if a team struggles one quarter they can work really hard the next quarter to increase profitability and kind of still save it.

So we look at the last two quarters and the average, if we were fifteen percent profitable there is instant raises. Another beautiful benefit of that that I considered but did not realise the difference that it would make a lot of companies have sales and development but they are like very siloed/segmented and don’t work closely. At Punckick we all fit together so sales and developers; we are all friends and we are all close.

And so what happens is if you are on a tribe that is delivering green every single sprint, if you are seeing what
sales are doing and they are struggling to bring in new clients or revenue, it’s in your best interest to help sales close deals. So we’ll have designers say to the sales folks, “Hey I’ve got some bandwidth, can I help you with a pitch, can I help you with a proposal, can I design some mock ups for you?”

And that has been beautiful because it gets people understanding, “I’ve got to deliver but the company also has to be profitable.” It’s freaking awesome.

Yeah no kidding; it sounds like it.

Zak you have been an absolutely fascinating guest to have on the show. I have taken several pages of notes as I have been interviewing you. And I want to thank you very much for making some time to come and chat with me and share the details to the degree that you have.

Thank you so much for having me I’m happy to speak my mind any time. So thank you very much.

No problem, and so if people would like to get a hold of you; just one, what is the one easiest way for them to do that?

Email is definitely the best way.

And do you want to tell the audience what the email address is?

Oh yeah it is

Okay, Zak well thank you again so much for being on the show, it’s been a pleasure.

Absolutely thank you.

Alright to get to the show notes for this episode go to and if you enjoyed this episode please do me a favour and help me spread the word by going to where there is a pre populated tweet awaiting the click of your mouse. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so very much for being a listener. I hope to have you back in the next episode which will be coming your way soon.

Take care, bye bye.

About Zak Dabbas

ZakDabbasZak Dabbas is the co-founder and CEO of Punchkick Interactive. A bonafide veteran of the mobile space, Zak has played a key role in the launch of integrated mobile campaigns for global brands including Harley-Davidson, Microsoft, Allstate Insurance Co., UPS, and Marriott International. Zak has overseen mobile strategy for Punchkick since its founding in 2006, and has helped the company experience massive year-over-year organic growth since its inception.



Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results Week of July 7th

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In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past week and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here (there was no post for the week of June 30th because I took most of the week off as part of the July 4th long weekend).

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business.

Sound good? Let’s get into it.

Key Activities in the Week of July 7th, 2014

During the past week, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. Since my last update, we published 16 blog posts
  2. We launched the Groove Digital Marketing Podcast
  3. We submitted a guest post to Social Media Examiner
  4. We did two more discovery calls
  5. We submitted one proposal

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

16 New Blog Posts

You can find them all here. 10 of the posts were for podcast episodes as we have now launched the Groove Digital Marketing podcast.

Why another podcast? Simple…two podcasts in iTunes doubles my chances of being found, plus, now that the podcast is such a big part of my prospecting strategy, I felt it was important for it to have the same brand name as the agency to avoid confusion.

Guest Post Submission to Social Media Examiner

SME publishes a new post every day, and virtually every single one of them is contributed by writers like myself.

The goal here is to expose our content to people that don’t yet know we exist, and SME is just one of the blogs that we are going to test to see if we can attract more of the right people. (I’m sure we’ll get traffic…but I don’t yet know if it’s the right traffic.)

After reading GrooveHQ’s post on guest blogging, I felt that this was something that I really needed to stop procrastinating on. The strategy that we are following (in terms of the landing page) is exactly the same as what GrooveHQ did.

To build relationships with higher traffic blogs, I’m extending invitations to them to be a guest on my podcast.

Two More Discovery Calls

In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a discovery call is the very first sales call that I do with a sales qualified lead (SQL).

SQL #1 is a firm that HubSpot referred to us. They are a 25 employee company up in Toronto that makes a technical product that is used by large corporations and the government. HubSpot referred them because they were looking for an agency that could assist them with ongoing content production.

SQL #2 is a 60 person accounting firm from Kansas. They didn’t fill out a form on my site. Instead, they just called me.  When they called they told me that they’d been listening to my podcast for quite a while and were convinced that I could help them to increase their lead flow in a specific niche they are targeting.

For both of the calls above, I focused on asking questions to gain an understanding of the issues that they are trying to deal with, the impact that these issues were having, and the importance of those issues relative to all the other things they are working on right now. If you would like to learn more this type of sales process, buy this book by Ian Altman. It’s worth far more than the $9.31 you’ll pay for it.

Once I was satisfied that they had issues I could help them with, I asked them to supply me with:

  • A list of their top 3 competitors
  • Their current monthly website traffic
  • The average lifetime value of a customer

I then scheduled another call with each of them so that I could give them my inbound marketing presentation, which I customize each time to include the data that they supplied to me. (We scheduled the second call while we were still on the phone for the first call.)

New Proposal Submitted

One of the people that has been a guest on my show runs a $3M company and since we recorded the episode, we’ve been talking about helping them with inbound marketing. We’ve submitted a proposal and are now waiting on the decision. If they proceed, the retainer will be at least $3,000/mo.

If all goes as planned, we should have an answer during the week of July 14th.

Traffic & Leads

Here’s a summary of this week over last.


Last week I wrote that we saw impressive gains on all KPIs in June. Here’s the summary. We saw very strong gains across all KPIs. I attribute much of these outsized gains to the webinar that we did on June 28th. I’m hoping to do another before July is over.


Marketing Agency Duel: The Race to $20,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue

Just in case you missed it in prior updates, I have challenged my friend Drew Sanocki to a marketing agency duel where we are literally going to race each other to $20,000 a month in retainer income. You can get all the details in last week’s update here.

Additional Resources

What Questions Do You Have?

If you have questions about this post, or anything to do with marketing, please leave them in the comments down below. That way, I can look at the most commonly asked questions and write detailed blog posts on these topics in the future. If you don’t ask questions, it’s much harder for me to come up with ideas to write about, so please don’t be shy!

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

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Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results Week of June 23rd

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Since writing a post about how I’m planning to grow my agency, Groove Digital Marketing, into my next 7 figure success story, the feedback I’ve received from readers has been very positive. Thank you to those of you who shared the post, commented on it, or emailed me directly. Your feedback is very encouraging.

In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past week and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here.

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business. Sound good? Here we go!

Key Activities in the Week of June 23rd, 2014

During the past week, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. We published 4 blog posts
  2. We did a discovery call with another new lead
  3. I handed prospecting off to my VA
  4. I hosted the June Marketing Agency Mastermind meeting
  5. I developed a new daily routine
  6. Ian and I held our webinar
  7. Liz and I took off for the weekend to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary!

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

4 New Blog Posts

Discovery Call with a New Lead

Yet another podcast guest has expressed interest in working with Groove to help them with their inbound marketing. This company is a very successful agency; however, content marketing has thus far not played a huge role in their success.

They’d like to change that, and so we booked a call to talk about options.

It’s too early to tell the outcome just yet; however, I’m fairly sure they are going to retain us for some kind of ongoing help with their content marketing. With that said, having had two other agencies get excited about content marketing, and then not follow through, I’m really not sure how this one will turn out.

At the end of our meeting, they told me that budget was not the issue and they were very likely to proceed in some capacity. Look for an update next week.

I Handed Off Prospecting to My VA

Since creating my Target100 list, I have been very hands on with the prospecting and have invested quite a number of hours into sending LinkedIn requests, one-off emails, and tweets.

Now that I have tested a number of strategies and found that podcast invitations seem to work the best to get conversations started, I have handed the ask off to my VA.

What a time saver!

Now, all I have to do is reply to the people who accept my invitation for a pre-interview.

Like I have said before, if you’ve not yet started a podcast, there is no better prospecting tool on the planet.

The June Mastermind Meeting

Once per month I hold an online meeting for the Bright Ideas Elite Mastermind and last week I held our most recent meeting. Our special guest was Rachel Cogar and she spent 80 minutes answering questions from myself and the other members of the group.

Rachel has built a very successful 7 figure agency that allows here to earn a very nice six figure income; all while working from home and raising her kids. Impressive!

If you’d like to apply to join our mastermind, you can do that here. It costs $179/month.

My New Daily Routine

After reading a post on Michael Hyatt’s blog about creating a daily routine, I decided that my routine needed a tune up. Since Kiana was born, I’d been sleeping in more than usual (due to a lack of sleep!) and now that she’s sleeping most of the night, I felt it was time for me to resume waking up at 5:30am.

If you’d like to see my current routine, check it out here. Over the years, many people have written to me to ask how I get so much done, and I will tell you that this routine, combined with the help of my team, is how I do it.

Ian and I Hosted Our Webinar

On June 26th, Ian and I hosted our webinar and out of 230 registrants, 90 people showed up. If you haven’t hosted a webinar before, you might be surprised to see that the “show rate” was just 39%. This is actually slightly higher than normal, as far as webinars go.

There are a number of reasons why so few show up. Some people only register so they can get access to the replay, some people’s schedules & moods change, and some people like to register for just about every webinar they are ever invited to, even though they know they probably won’t attend.

Content-wise, I thought the webinar was excellent and quite a number of people emailed afterwards to say as much. However, I think one of the mistakes that I made was to host it in the afternoon. Being as I’m such an early riser, my energy is usually much lower in the afternoon than it is in the morning.

One of the unexpected benefits of the webinar was this email:


I was able to attend a conference call last week hosted by you and Ian Altman (Discover How to Make Clients Chase You).

As you know, a banker’s services are highly commoditized. It seems that everyone has the same thing, and says the same thing. Distinction is a challenge. Regulations play a part in this, and they also limit communication avenues, and make selecting clients tricky.

Economic reports are starting to reflect what I have seen firsthand this year. I entered the year with a full pipeline comprised of walk-in clients and prospects. However, the flow quickly tapered by the end of the first quarter, and is dry now.

Now I’m in the position of being on the “hunt” for new clients to refill the pipeline, keep a steady flow, and grow my book. As I am not simply tending to walk-ins, I want to be effective by being selective. I have been spending time every day trying to get better at reaching those prospects that I believe I can best serve.

Your call was very helpful, so I have been looking for more information from you – hence my prying around on your profile. I have shared with others in my company the things I have learned from you, including the article you posted on LinkedIn, How (and why) to Define a Targeted Audience for your Marketing Campaign. Some have asked if the webinar I attended was recorded and if others could view it, so far I’ve not seen that it is available.

If you are looking for corporate clients like the bank I work for, Columbia Bank, I would be happy to do my best to make introductions.

As you might guess, I wrote back and told him that I’d love any introductions that he’d care to make. Below is the reply that I got a few minutes ago:

I am working on the bank side of things now to try to coordinate an introduction for you. Respecting your time, and the time of our folks, I want to get you to the best person possible. It may take a few days to nail this part down.

You didn’t miss anything, CB does not have a blog, at least one that I’m aware of. We do have a Twitter account, but I ‘m not sure how effectively it is being used. We actually have people assigned to “social media,” but I really believe we are missing the boat still. These are the folks I would like you to meet.

I’ll be in touch again soon.


The lesson here is this: the production and distribution of genuinely helpful content rarely goes un-rewarded, so get on it and start producing helpful content today!

Liz and I Celebrated Our 1st Wedding Anniversary

Here in Idaho, we are surround by beautiful country and to celebrate our first anniversary, Liz and I booked a cabin up at a place called Redfish Lake. We first discovered Redfish back on our honeymoon, so it was pretty cool to go back a year later.


To say that Redfish is a beautiful place is an understatement!


Traffic & Leads

Thanks to a webinar we held on June 26th, new leads this past week were up quite a bit. For the month of June overall, the increase has been huge. Look for a full report in the June traffic report.


Marketing Agency Duel: The Race to $20,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue

Just in case you missed it last week, I have challenged my friend Drew Sanocki to a marketing agency duel where we are literally going to race each other to $20,000 a month in retainer income. You can get all the details in last week’s update here.

Additional Resources

What Questions Do You Have?

If you have questions about this post, or anything to do with marketing, please leave them in the comments down below. That way, I can look at the most commonly asked questions and write detailed blog posts on these topics in the future. If you don’t ask questions, it’s much harder for me to come up with ideas to write about, so please don’t be shy!

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]


Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results Week of June 16th

how to launch a marketing agency groove weekly header
Since writing a post about how I’m planning to grow my agency, Groove Digital Marketing, into my next 7 figure success story, the feedback I’ve received from readers has been very positive. Thank you to those of you who shared the post, commented on it, or emailed me directly. Your feedback is very encouraging.

In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past week and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here.

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business. Sound good? Here we go!

Key Activities in the Week of June 16th, 2014

During the past week, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. We published 3 blog posts
  2. I met with a new prospect (the new CMO of a very large software company) and gave them a proposal
  3. I finalized the slide deck for this week’s webinar
  4. I added some more content into Groove’s funnel
  5. I developed a mind map for the Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing
  6. Liz, Kiana, and I attended the Eagle Rodeo :)
  7. My friend Drew Sanocki and I decided to launch a marketing agency duel!

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

3 New Blog Posts

Proposal Sent to a New Large Prospect

Using the LinkedIn prospecting strategy that I explained here, I was able to secure a meeting with the CMO of a large UK-based software company that is struggling to get traction in the US.

The meeting was actually in person, because, strangely enough, the CMO lives here in Boise.

When we met, I asked him to explain the marketing issues that were at the top of his list. I then asked him to explain to me the impact these issues were having on his company (this style of questioning is something we are going to cover in detail during this week’s webinar, so make sure you register).

Once I’d confirmed what his pain was, I explained to him a few ways that I thought we could work together to solve the problems. He told me that he really liked the concepts that I’d explained and asked that I sent him a proposal. As my proposal is pretty much a boiler plate, sending it out is pretty easy, so I was happy to do it.

The proposal was sent on the 16th, and on the 20th, I received an email from him that said:

Hi Trent,

The pleasure is on my side. Thanks for the documents and links. Well done. I need to review in detail while I am travelling extensively over the next two weeks. Will likely get back to you after July 4th weekend.


After receiving this email, I logged into DocSend (use this link for free access) to see how much of the proposal he’d looked at, and if it was shared with anyone else. As you can see below, he viewed 96% of the proposal and spent 1:07 on the pricing page…which is a good sign.

During our meeting, he told me that he was the sole decision maker, so it’s not a surprise that it’s not been shared with anyone else so far.


At the end of our meeting, he told me that he was most interested in starting on a retainer, so with a little luck, after July 4th, he’ll sign on for a $3,000/mo retainer.

I Finalized the Slide Deck for This Week’s Webinar

I have to say that I’m pretty stoked about this week’s webinar. Over the last year, I have learned a LOT about content marketing and my results continue to improve as a result of what I’ve learned.

In the last two weeks, in particular, I have notice the quality of inbound leads has increased quite a bit. I’m happy to say that we are now starting to generate leads from companies doing $5M+ in sales….which is exactly the type of leads we want.

I attribute this increase in lead quality to how I’m using Oktopost (affiliate link) to promote my content on LinkedIn. Here’s the video that I created last week that shows how I’m using the software. If you haven’t yet grabbed your spot for the webinar, register here before it’s full.

I Added More Content to Groove’s Marketing Funnel

While seemingly an unexciting announcement, I included it in this week’s update because I wanted to make sure you understood something about a marketing funnel.

The goal of the funnel, especially at the top of it, is to build trust, and the way to do that is with content. But you knew that already, right?

Well, here’s a tip for you: the content that you are using doesn’t all have to be yours! In fact, it’s a good idea to also curate some other people’s content in your funnel, especially if it is content that will help you to convey the point(s) you are trying to get across.

In my case, the way to do this was to find some posts on other people’s blogs that would help me to demonstrate the value of inbound marketing to my prospects. To do this, I simply wrote emails that gave brief introductions to the content along with a link.

Here’s an example:


So, the take away for you here is this: you don’t have to be the one to write every post that you use in your funnel. In fact, it’s better if you curate the work of others in addition to your own content.

The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Mind Map

Over the last few weeks as I’ve been carefully watching the leads we’ve been capturing, I have been thinking hard about ways to attract more of the right kinds of readers.

In order to do that, I have to first decide who I really want reading the Groove blog. At this point in time, my most desired type of reader is the CMO of a $5M+ technology company that isn’t yet getting very good results from their inbound marketing efforts….if they have even started, that is.

Once I know the who, I need to discover what makes these people decide to hire a company like mine. What problems are they having? What language do they use to describe these problems? Where do they look for solutions? Who already has influence over these people now?

This isn’t a step that I put enough effort into when I first launched Groove; mostly because I thought I already knew the answers to these questions.

Well, it turns out that I didn’t.


So, with that in mind, I developed the mind map below.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

There are a couple of reasons why I think this mind mapping exercise is worthwhile.

First, I’m a visual person, so seeing the problem laid out in front of my eyes helps me to think my way through it.

Second, once I have a visual representation of my plan, I can share it with others and ask for their input (please leave your questions down in the comments).

Third, when I showed this to another agency owner, she said, “Trent, that thing is awesome. You should show it to prospective clients so they really understand what it is that you are going to be doing for them.”

Liz and I Went to the Rodeo

Ok…so this has nothing at all to do with how to build a marketing agency…but we had a blast and I like to share a little bit of our personal lives with you as well, so here’s a pic of my better half :)


Traffic & Leads

Thanks to a webinar we are holding on June 26th, new leads this past week were up quite a bit.


Marketing Agency Duel: The Race to $20,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue

I’ve saved the best for last in this week’s update!

On Friday, I was on the phone with my friend Drew Sanocki, owner of Mineral, a paid search agency, and we were talking about our plans for the future.

Drew and I actually have fairly similar backgrounds. We have both founded multi-million dollar companies and sold them. We both have a new babies, and we are both growing marketing agencies.

Among the many things we discussed was our mutual desire to get to $20,000 a month in retainer income as fast as possible. I told Drew that I’d been writing these blog posts and publishing income reports and I suggested that he become a contributor to Bright Ideas so he could also write a weekly update.

He thought that was a great idea, so look for his first post soon.

Another of the things that we agreed to do was to create a “Marketing Agency Duel” so we would publicly race each other to the goal of $20,000 in monthly retainer income.

If you think this is something that you’d like to see, please be sure and tweet out this post, as well as to leave us a comment with any questions or suggestions you have on how we should run the duel.

Personally, I’m hoping to kick his butt! (and I’m sure he plans to do the same, lol!)

Here’s a podcast episode Drew and I recorded to give you more information on the duel.

Additional Resources

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]


Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results Week of June 9th

how to launch a marketing agency groove weekly header
Since writing a post about how I’m planning to grow my agency, Groove Digital Marketing, into my next 7 figure success story, the feedback I’ve received from readers has been very positive. Thank you to those of you who shared the post, commented on it, or emailed me directly. Your feedback is very encouraging.

In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past week and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here.

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business. Sound good? Here we go!

Key Activities in the Week of June 9th, 2014

During the past week, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. We published 2 blog posts (it was supposed to be 3)
  2. We received payment from our big client and started working on their project
  3. We signed another new client to a $3,000 monthly retainer
  4. Another podcast guest is looking to become a client
  5. I started using a new tool to promote content on LinkedIn
  6. I started to plan a joint webinar with a successful author
  7. I sent out 50 emails using my LinkedIn strategy and a new spreadsheet I’ve created
  8. One of our proposals didn’t get accepted (and why)

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

2 New Blog Posts

Rather than list out all the posts, just head over to Groove’s blog to have a look.

Regular readers will have noticed that we’ve reduced the number of posts that we are publishing each week. The reason for this because, according to data from Hubspot, it’s key to get to 51 posts as fast as possible. Once you do, leads generated actually go up a fair amount. In our case, that is pretty much what happened.

Going forward, our plan is to publish 3 posts per week. The only reason it was just 2 this week was due to a miscommunication on my part.

We Received a Check for $14,000

Remember the big client that I told you we landed a few weeks ago? This week we received payment and started the work.

So why am I bothering to include what appears to be such a trivial fact in my update? In my first company, I was foolish enough to start work and then invoice the client when the work was done. Then, I waited another 30+ days to get paid. From a cash flow perspective, that s-u-c-k-s.

With Groove, we bill our clients in advance. When ask by the new (big) client what are payment terms were, I told them “we bill in advance” and they both started laughing. “Seriously…what are your payment terms?” they asked again.

“We bill in advance.”

They still didn’t believe me. So I repeated it again and they said, “ok.”

My point is this: if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Getting paid after the work is done is very risky, especially if you have staff or sub-contractors to pay before hand. Most people bill after the work is done because they are too chicken to ask a new client for the money up front.

Just ask. You have nothing to lose and a LOT to gain.

We Signed a $3,000/mo Retainer Client

On Tuesday, we received a $3,000 payment from another new client. This client found our content some time ago and has been steadily consuming it ever since. On May 30th, they completed the web form for our Bottom of Funnel offer (a free consultation to talk about our Inbound Marketing Game Plan). On June 5th, when we talked, they told me that they’d really been enjoying my podcast, and knew that we could help them to solve their challenges.

Given that they already knew so much about us (thanks to our content), the first scoping call was like a conversation with someone I knew well, and a day or two later, their order came in. First phase is to create their Inbound Marketing Game Plan. Once that is done, we are going to set them up on HubSpot (they are also using Infusionsoft, thanks seeing a lot of my content on it), and once that is done, we’ll be helping them to publish and promote their blog posts.

My Podcast Strikes Again!

A few weeks ago I recorded an interview with a CEO who expressed interest in becoming a client. Since then, we’ve exchanged a few emails and I’ve told them how much it costs. He emailed me again to schedule a time for his team and I to talk about it more next week. With a little luck, when I write next week’s update, we’ll have yet another client.

The New Tool I’m Using for Promoting Content to LinkedIn Groups

Last week I started using a new tool called Oktopost to promote my content on LinkedIn. So far, I’ve found the tool to be excellent for a number of reasons:

  • It has features that no other tool (that I know of) has
  • I can connect more than one LinkedIn profile
  • I can pre-schedule my shares
  • The analytics on which post and which groups are producing traffic is EXCELLENT

In the video below, I give you a very brief overview of the app. If you like what you see, go sign up for a free 30 day trial (affiliate link) and Valerie from Oktopost will reach out to you to give you a one-on-one training session.

I Started to Plan a Webinar with a Past Podcast Guest

One of my past guests is a very smart guy by the name of Ian Altman. Ian is the author of a VERY good book called Same Side Selling that I have found to be among the most helpful books on the topics of sales that I have ever read. I strongly recommend you get it.

Given that Ian is a sales guy and I’m a marketing guy with two decades of sales experience, we get along pretty well. About a week or so ago, I reached out to Ian to ask him if he’d like to do a webinar together as a lead generator. He was immediately on board and our webinar is scheduled for June 26th at 3pm EST. Click here to register.

The reason for a joint webinar is this: two minds are better than one, plus, Ian and I will each benefit from getting exposure to each other’s audience. If you haven’t yet done a joint webinar, or even a solo webinar, what are you waiting for? Just ask someone you respect.

LinkedIn + Pocasting for Lead Generation

In my last few updates, I’ve talked a lot about how I’m using LinkedIn for lead generation. As I have been using the platform, I have been continually tweaking my approach and think I have finally figured out the combination of minimum effort / maximum results.

When I originally started using LinkedIn, I wrote a detailed post about what I was doing here. Since then, the only significant change that I’ve made is that I no longer email the top 4 execs in a company. Now, I just sent a connection request to the CMO. Then, when that request is accepted, I sent them another email (via LinkedIn) to invite them to speak to me about being a guest on my podcast.

Below is a screenshot of the spreadsheet I used to track all my activity. It’s not glorious by any stretch; however, as I explained last week, this isn’t really a scalable activity, so the spreadsheet need not be anything super fancy.

As you can see in the 3rd column (called Person #1), once the person has accepted my LinkedIn connection request, I change the color of the cell with their name in it to green. I then send them a LinkedIn email to invite them onto my podcast.

The subject line of that email is: I’d like to talk to you about being a guest on my podcast.

The body of the email says:

I’m in the process of producing a podcast series to talk with marketing executives about what types of digital marketing strategies are working best for tech companies and would like to talk to you about being a guest on my show.

If you are interested, all we’d need to do is arrange a chat for about 10 minutes to see if you’d be a good fit for the show. Interested?

– Trent Dyrsmid

PS. There is no charge to be a guest. Show info:

So far, 21% of the people I invite say yes to a pre-interview.

You will also notice a few columns titled, Touch 1, Touch 2, Touch 3, etc… (there are a total of 6 touches). The reason for this is because I want a visual way of reminding myself when I last contact them and what I said (indicated by color code)


The real goal here is to get on the phone with a CMO with the least amount of effort. The podcast invitation paves the way for that. When they reply and say they’d like to be considered as a guest, I do a 15 minute phone call with them to do the “pre-interview” and during this interview, I’m easily able to qualify them as a good prospect or not.

This is by far the best cold email strategy that I have ever tried. If you don’t yet have a podcast, get one. If you don’t know how to get started, read this post.

Once the interview is recorded, I get it transcribed and attach all that text to the post. When I was doing 3+ interviews a week, this got too expensive, so I stopped getting the transcriptions. However, now that I’m producing fewer episodes, I plan to resume posting the transcription…plus, I’m going to have our content manager chop up the transcription into several blog posts. I may also created some ebooks, and maybe even some paid products with all the content that is produced by these interviews.

Voila…high quality original content at a very low cost.

The Proposal That Didn’t Get Accepted

I first wrote about this opportunity here. Thanks to DocSend, I was able to see that my prospect spent quite a bit of time reading my proposal.

When someone spends a lot of time reading it, that is generally a pretty good sign, so why did I get an email that said:


I hope your weekend went well.

Thanks for the proposal, I really appreciate it and the time you spent with Jennifer and I on Friday. We are however, in a holding pattern right now concerning the Hubspot decision. We are still looking at several particulars before we move ahead with that decision. So, for now we will pass on using your services. Once things change I’ll revisit the proposal and let you know if/when we are ready to move forward.

All the best,

When I received this email, I was really shocked. I thought for sure we had the deal.

I wanted to know what happened, so I picked up the phone and called them. Turns out a buyer has emerged for the company, so all spending on new initiatives has been put on hold! Drat.

At least I know what we “would” have got the deal (unless the buyer isn’t being honest with me about the M&A talks…which I don’t think is the case).

Traffic & Leads


Additional Resources

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

Agency Veteran Drew McLellan on How to Increase Agency Profitability

Are you a new agency owner? Do you have an agency that’s been around a while but isn’t growing?

In today’s episode I interview Drew McLellan. Drew has owned a marketing agency for almost 20 years, and has revenue of over $2.5 million per year. He is also the founder of the Agency Management Institute which advises other small and medium size agencies on how to increase profitability.

Drew McLellanDrew has found that many agency owners start out because they are really good at a particular marketing craft. Once they go from being a practitioner to an owner, they find themselves swimming in waters of overwhelm dealing with all the things they don’t know.  Listen in for powerful advice on growing a successful agency by focusing on the mechanics of the business.

We finish off the interview talking about how to crowd source books which can be a huge boon to your business.

Listen now and you’ll hear Drew and I talk about:

  • (03:00) Introduction
  • (05:00) What type of agencies do you work with?
  • (07:00) What advice would you give to new agency owners?
  • (12:00) How should a solo agency owner make the the transition to team building?
  • (16:00) Should agencies focus more on inbound or outbound?
  • (27:30) Why is having processes so important for agency owners?
  • (33:00) How does one crowd source a book?
  • (39:00) How many authors contributed to each book?

Resources Mentioned

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.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

About Drew McLellan

Drew McLellan has worked in advertising for 25+ years and started his own agency, McLellan Marketing Group in 1995 after a five-year stint at Y&R.

He also owns and runs Agency Management Institute (AMI), which offers agency management training, consulting and facilitates agency owner peer networks for small to mid sized agencies (advertising, digital, marketing, media and PR) so they can increase their AGI by at least 25%, attract better clients and employees and best of all — exceed the agency owner’s life/financial goals.

Drew’s agency was a member of the organization for years before Drew acquired AMI and began to run it full-time.

He launched his agency’s blog in 2006 and it has been on the AdAge Top 150 from the list’s inception. His first book, 99.3 Random Acts of Marketing, was published in 2003 and Drew and Australian marketer Gavin Heaton created the Age of Conversation series of crowdsourced books in 2007. To date, the AOC series has raised over $50,000 for charity. Drew launched the AMR blog in 2012 and hopes it will be a great resource to agency leaders.

Drew’s often interviewed/quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.”

When he’s not hanging out with agency owners/staff, Drew spends time with his family and pondering why the Dodgers can’t seem to get back to the World Series.

Drew has a Master’s Degree from the University of Minnesota but alas, he cannot remember their fight song.


Groove Digital Marketing Agency: Key Activities and Results for May 26th to June 6th

how to launch a marketing agency groove weekly header
Since writing a post about how I’m planning to grow my agency, Groove Digital Marketing, into my next 7 figure success story, the feedback I’ve received from readers has been very positive. Thank you to those of you who shared the post, commented on it, or emailed me directly. Your feedback was very encouraging.

In today’s post, as promised, I’m going to give you a look over my shoulder for the past two weeks (I was just too swamped to write last week’s post) and share with you what I did, as well as the results we achieved. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here.

As always, my hope is that my transparency with you can be the fuel you need to achieve similar results in your own business. Sound good? Here we go!

Key Activities in the Weeks of May 26th and June 2nd, 2014

During the past two weeks, here’s a summary of what happened:

  1. We published 10 blog posts
  2. I began to pro-actively use LinkedIn to prospect for large clients
  3. Met with a new prospect (from LinkedIn)
  4. Sent proposal with DocSend (very cool new tool!)
  5. Target 100 direct mail update

Now that you’ve seen – at a high level – what the key activities were, let’s dive into some details.

10 New Blog Posts

Rather than list out all 10 posts, just head over to Groove’s blog to have a look.

LinkedIn for Lead Generation

In this post, I go into detail on how I’m using LinkedIn to prospect and promote my content in a non-scalable way. Why am I doing something that doesn’t scale? Well, as Paul Graham wrote here, when you are just starting out, you need to focus on activities that allow you to have one-on-one conversations with actual prospective customers.

The reason that this is so important is because you need to get the real-time feedback on what you are saying (your sales message), so that, later on, when you make use of more automated marketing systems, you already know that your message is on point.

Plus, as good as Inbound Marketing is, you can seriously speed up your results with some direct outreach. Most of what I describe in the post is handled by my VA. I simply deal with the replies as they come in.

I’m happy to say that this particular strategy has yielded results pretty quickly. Of the 59 people on my suspect list so far, 25% of them accepted my connection request, and 20% of those people replied to my email. One of them, the CMO of a 50 person company, bought me lunch today – and it looks like they might sign up as a client within a week or so.

My next step is to send the proposal that they’ve asked me for. Normally, I’d do up a proposal in a PDF and send it over and wait. Now, thanks to DocSend, I can get a LOT more insight as to what is happening with my proposal once I send it.

Gains Valuable Insight into Who Read My Proposal Thanks To DocSend

One of the things I hate most about sending a proposal is that I can never get much information on who is looking at it, how often or how long they spend looking at it, and who else they send it to.

Thanks to DocSend, that problem is over!

With Docsend, you don’t send a PDF attachment. Instead, I sent a DocSend link. DocSend provides analytics, feedback, and control for documents you send. You’ll get to see how much time each person looked at each page and who it was forwarded to. You can also update and restrict access to your documents at any time, even after you’ve sent it.

For a free account, and to skip the beta line, use the referral code ‘groove’ at (it’s free)

Direct Mail Update

My direct mail campaign was a total flop. Aside from the two calls that I got in the first week, I have not received a single response to the campaign. I even did a test run of 20 follow up calls. I never got one live person, left 20 messages, and never heard back.

I’m sure that if I hammered away on the phone and made hundreds of calls, I would have got through…and maybe even landed a client…but I HATE cold calling, so I didn’t do it.

Traffic & Leads


What’s Coming Next Week?

In next week’s update, I plan to:

  • Share the results of my prospecting and a spreadsheet I’ve built to track and manage my outreach
  • Share a new tools that I’ve found for helping me get more eyeballs on my content on LinkedIn

Additional Resources

Now What?

If you liked this post and want future updates on our progress with how to start a marketing agency, just click the image below. If you’d like to get even more help and surround yourself with other agency owners, be sure and check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite, which is my mastermind group for entrepreneurs running marketing agencies.