James Schramko, founder of Super Fast Business, has spent the last decade in the digital marketing space and has bought and sold more businesses than we can count.
His advice has helped our host Ralph 3x his business. In this episode, he shares his wisdom by talking about his transition into agency owner, the best way for businesses to work collaboratively with their agency, and how to create multiple income streams.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN:
- James’ story from BMW sales associate to business owner making $300,000 per year
- The pros and cons of owning a marketing agency
- When you should hire a Facebook ad agency to run your ads and when you should hire an in-house Facebook expert
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
Thanks for joining us this week. Want to subscribe to The Perpetual Traffic Podcast? Connect with us on iTunes and leave us a review.
(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Darren Clark: Hey, guys. It’s Darren here, the producer of the show. We’ll continue with Perpetual Traffic in just a second, but first I just want to say this episode is brought to you by Business Lunch with Roland Frasier. Now, just imagine how much more successful you would be if you could have lunch every week with people like Richard Branson, or Rachel Hollis. Well, now you can. This is your official invitation to join us for lunch. Tomorrow is the amazing Sarah Blakely, billionaire, entrepreneur, out of the box thinker, and founder of Spanx.
Sarah Blakely: It came to me while I was sitting in traffic in Atlanta. I had been racking my brain, and literally I just saw the word Spanx come across the dashboard in my mind. I pulled off the side of the road, I wrote it down. I went home that night, and I went on USPTO.gov, which was a website I spent a lot of time on, and trademarked it with my credit card for $150. At the last second that I was hitting send to trademark it, I backspaced the K and the S, and I put an X.
Darren Clark: So we’d love for you to join us tomorrow with Sarah Blakely on Business Lunch with Roland Frazier, on Apple Podcasts. Alright, back to you guys.
Darren Clark: You’re listening to Perpetual Traffic.
Molly Pittman: Hello, everybody and welcome to episode 188 of Perpetual Traffic. I have my wonderful co-host Ralph Burns with me today. Ralph, how is it going?
Ralph Burns: Very good. How are you, Molly?
Molly Pittman: Great, awesome, glad to be here with you today. We also have a really special guest today, and I don’t say that lightly. The guest that Ralph and I decided to bring on this episode is a mentor of mine, and someone that I’ve looked up to in our industry for a long time. His name is James Schramko. James has SuperFastBusiness.com. James also has Silver Circle, which is a high performance coaching program that I’ve been a part of for a couple of months now, and the coaching that I’ve received from James has completely changed my business. It’s a big reason that you see Molly back teaching again. It’s why I will be releasing a book this year, and it’s why I’m making a lot of the business decisions that I’ve made over the past three to four months.
Molly Pittman: This is going to be a really special episode. We’re going to touch on this industry. James has had so much experience in digital marketing in the last 10 to 15 years. We’re going to talk about how all of this has evolved, what that means for you. So, James, so pumped to have you on. Thanks for being here.
James Schramko: This is a real privilege. Thank you, Molly and Ralph.
Ralph Burns: Yeah, and not to pump up your tires even more, but as of this month, I’ll be actually benefiting from James’ tutelage once again [crosstalk 00:02:49] coached myself, and former business partner for quite some time, and I always go back to one specific piece of advice, I’m gonna leave this as an open loop, that was the most brilliant thing that he ever said to me, and it came true this past year, and it’s actually tripled my business, not only my profitability and sales, but also happiness and everything that goes along with running a successful business.
Ralph Burns: So, James is a super smart guy. Definitely check him out, at the very least, at SuperFastBusiness.com. Subscribe to his podcast, which I’m a big fan of, as well. Obviously, in his high level mastermind here with me and Molly, this is going to be a pretty good year in 2019. So, happy to have you on, man.
Molly Pittman: Team Silver Circle here.
Ralph Burns: Yeah, that’s it.
James Schramko: I’m just here going bright red.
Molly Pittman: It’s early there in Sydney. James, so I read your book Work Less, Make More, and I got to learn your story in the first couple of chapters. Will you tell us how you landed here, back in the BMW day. I think it was BMW. But I love your story. It shows you what, this industry, what kind of lifestyle it can give you.
James Schramko: Yeah, well gosh, the BMW phase lasted two years. That was my first sales job. I was an expectant father, had to double my income. I was 24 years old. I went out and got a sales job, and I came first in the whole country within a year of joining that job, through sheer determination and a good study of sales books. Then I switched to Mercedes-Benz for the rest of my career. I went through that sales curve. I repeated my results there, and then I got promoted through to sales manager.
James Schramko: Then, someone … Mercedes-Benz actually asked me to go to another dealership and help grow their business properly. As a sales manager, I got promoted to general sales manager. Then for the last mission, Mercedes asked me to go to another dealership, and I was a general manager there. I had to turn it around, basically. That was the last job I had.
James Schramko: But during the last couple of years, I had this strong desire to have my own business. I’d been reading books from people like Jay Abraham. I was pretty charged up. I just didn’t know what business I would have, and I figured it would be good to learn how to build a website. So I was pulling out this long cable every night, putting the laptop there, that I purchased from the profits of my first sales training that I did for a client, so I reinvested all of the money back into the laptop.
Molly Pittman: What year was this, really quick, James? This wasn’t last year.
James Schramko: [crosstalk 00:05:29] The first domain I bought was 2005, the end of 2005.
Molly Pittman: Okay, so just to date this a bit.
James Schramko: Just to date it a bit. Things were a bit harder then. This predates Facebook groups, Facebook pages, and so forth, so it was a bit harder to build a website. There was no Wix. It was pretty challenging. But over that first … it took two and a half years ’til the point where I could match my income and then quit my job. The first major part of that was being an affiliate for a software program. I sold a lot of this software, just one product. I was getting at up to … around about $10,000 a month. Then the big master move that enabled me to quit was going to work for a couple of businesses as their internet marketing guy.
James Schramko: I had two clients who put me on a recurring retainer of $5,500 per month to do their online marketing, which meant website, AdWords, SEO, content, and reporting.
Molly Pittman: Dang. Nowadays you usually hire someone to do one of those.
James Schramko: Well, that’s one of the big changes, you know?
Molly Pittman: You do it all.
James Schramko: I was able to do all of that. Ten years ago, in Australia, it wasn’t so well-known. People weren’t up to speed. The general public weren’t using Twitter. They might have been on Facebook. We were lagging behind the United States in terms of awareness. It was a big revolution back then for me to convince the dealership to put dot com on the number plate frames on the back of the cars.
Molly Pittman: Wow.
James Schramko: To be website aware was rare, but I could see this is a huge thing. This internet thing, it’s not going away any time soon, and I put my energy into that. That was 10 and a half years ago now, I left the corporate world and had my own business. It’s been a wonderful ride since, having dabbled in affiliate marketing, information product marketing. I’ve had my forum now, Super Fast Business, the original version of that’s been going for over 10 years. Silver Circle’s nine years old. My podcast is about 10 years old.
Molly Pittman: Wow.
James Schramko: Yeah, and I had an agency there at the retail level, then subsequently, I started a wholesale level agency. We became a pretty big supplier for SEO. We had a seven figure a year SEO business, and we had a website development business. Then I sold those businesses a few years back, and I’ve concentrated these days on the coaching. In the background I build out our own properties as a publisher. These days I do revenue share deals, as well, probably starting to hear more about that. I’ve just been teaching my own members about that business model because I really like that one, as well.
Molly Pittman: Wow. You’ve done a bit.
James Schramko: Well, I think that it’s not just my experience which is the great thing, because I get to work with so many people on a daily basis. Literally, I’ve been logging in almost every day for a decade, and there’s been around about 500 members at any one time in Super Fast Business. There’s always been around about 30 members of Silver Circle. There’s a few extra at the moment. I get to see all these other businesses. I think it’s probably like your previous posting, Molly, where you got access to a bigger dataset, and you can learn faster, and learn with more leverage than if you’re just trying to do it by yourself.
Molly Pittman: Completely.
James Schramko: I’ve been the beneficiary of seeing what’s working across the best customer sample size from those groups. And of course, what doesn’t work.
Molly Pittman: Right.
Ralph Burns: Right.
Molly Pittman: And you’ve kind of been in the shadows behind a lot of big names in our industry, too, that most people probably don’t know that about you, but the insight that you’ve had into how this industry has even been built is really fascinating. But I think what attracted me most to want to work with you is your views around work-life balance, because I think in our industry, in the business world, there’s still this hustle and grind mentality. I’ve fallen susceptible to this in my career, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with. Even reading the concept of earnings per hour in your book was really fascinating to me.
Molly Pittman: But before I ask you about that, will you tell us why did you decide to leave your job? And really, this lifestyle that you preach, is this something you’ve always been passionate about? Or is that why you left your job is essentially what I’m asking you? But I just want you to speak to that, because I think that could help a lot of listeners.
James Schramko: Yeah, this one’s an interesting one because someone sent me an email saying, “Look, you’re earning 300 grand a year. I can’t relate to you.” And I have to sort of wind them back a bit and say, “Hang on a minute, before I was earning that, I was just like everyone else.” My first full time job as a trainee account manager in a debt collection firm, I was earning $18,500 a year, back in 1991. So I started at the absolute bottom, and I’ve never had a handout, I’ve never won the lottery, and I never got an inheritance.
James Schramko: I worked my way up as far as I could go in the business without being an owner. Every fiber in my body was telling me that being single point sensitive for my income was very dangerous. All my income was coming from one place, and it was in danger of collapse. Around that time, if you wind back the clock, you’ll see that there was a bit of a financial meltdown happening with the subprime lending crisis in the United States. I could see … I’m in the luxury segment of the market. There’s a good chance that my job would be made redundant. At the same time, through all of things that I’d learned about systems and building teams, I’d almost made my job redundant anyway. A really good leader makes his job redundant because you’ve got all the right people doing all the right things, following the systems. It’s low stress, low friction.
James Schramko: The owner could probably see that I had repaired a lot of the broken things that were there when I started that role. We turned this business around by a substantial amount, from making a loss to making a profit. I think there was more than a million dollars in profit on that bottom line that we turned it around in around about three or four years. Big businesses like that, by the way, they take a lot longer to fix, because you’ve got 70 people spread out across three locations.
James Schramko: I felt really insecure in that job. I had a mortgage. I lived in Sydney, which is expensive. I have four kids. I have six people that I’m supporting, myself and five others, so that was a big stress for me at the age that I was. I was in my mid 30s at this time. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. So, it really was an escape plan. It was how do I get paid by lots of different people, and spread my risk out. That’s the scenario I have now.
Molly Pittman: Oh my God.
James Schramko: I have at least a thousand different people paying me through various forms, whether it’s affiliate, through to direct coaching, through to large companies sending me publishing revenue. It’s spread across multiple countries and multiple currencies, so I feel much safer. Of course, never surrendering equity, never having to take a loan for my business. Being self funded and highly profitable never hurts. I’ve managed to work my way into a really solid position over that time.
James Schramko: But the main driver for me was just sheer panic that my job would disappear. I think I drove to work for the last year wondering if that would be my last day, because it was such a pressure cooker. The automotive industry is a tough industry. The previous role that I had before that one was a wild, wild ride. I was working for two owners of a business that were fighting with each other, and I somehow got snagged in the middle of that. One of them thought that I’d sided with the other, which I hadn’t, and he spat on me.
Molly Pittman: Oh my gosh.
James Schramko: He was waving a steak knife at me, and he was screaming. It’s like, I just wanted to leave the industry. I didn’t want to be that old, sad, burned out wreck of a guy in the corner who just overcooked it and stayed too long. When I see people from that industry now, a few things. They all say they get nightmares, which is interesting, like some kind of war survivor. The ones who are still there, they haven’t really changed at all in the last 10 years, which is shocking. It’s a tough industry.
Ralph Burns: Yeah, for sure, and your escape was a smart one. Sounds like you did the agency stuff, or at least the website stuff behind the scenes while you were still working.
James Schramko: Absolutely.
Ralph Burns: And then planned your escape, as opposed to cutting it off, getting fired, leaving under your own accord, and then starting something.
James Schramko: I didn’t really have the option to … I call it swinging from one vine to another. I don’t like the risk factor of letting go of the vine and swinging through the air with nothing. Some people recommend that method, but usually if you look into it, they are like a 21 year old with absolutely no possible downside.
Molly Pittman: Right.
Ralph Burns: You had five people depending upon you.
James Schramko: Yeah, I had a mortgage to pay. It was absolutely … In my mind, there really wasn’t a choice. I had a minimum amount that I needed to earn to survive. Just for context, back then, we’re talking … I think about 16 years ago, the house that I bought in Sydney was $771,500, and my loan on that was $700,000.
Ralph Burns: Oh, Jesus.
James Schramko: It was interest only.
Molly Pittman: Wow.
James Schramko: Just for context, that is for old, three bedroom bungalow in Sydney back then. So the average house price now is over … I think it’s around a million dollars. It’s not cheap. So, I was up to my neck in expenses, and I just didn’t have a choice. I had to, instead, my goal was to at least match my income before I move. As soon as I hit that, I was out. Now, the funny thing, a big part of my income back then was CPA marketing, so after I quit my job, I cranked up paid campaigns. I was spending three or four thousand dollars a day on ads across five, six, seven platforms.
James Schramko: One of the offers that I promoted went broke, and I ended up not getting paid for that. I lost … gosh, it was like … I can’t remember if it was 8,000, or 13,000. I think I blocked it from my memory bank. But I went into that first Christmas, six months after leaving my job, and I had run out of cash, basically. I just never got paid back for my ad spend, and I had a cashflow crunch. I remember that Christmas I wasn’t able to buy presents for my kids. It was like, wow. Looking back, it was such a crazy move, but I managed to pull it off.
James Schramko: Shortly after that, just a month or so after that, is when Super Fast Results, which was the first version of my forum, started, and I’ve been going for 10 years since. I’ve managed to build that recurring revenue aspect, and I’ve basically paid off debts and never looked back.
Ralph Burns: You started to own the race course.
James Schramko: That’s why I’m so passionate about it.
Ralph Burns: Absolutely.
James Schramko: It’s absolutely critical to not place yourself in that single point sensitive position where everything rides on something that someone else controls. If they pull the rug, it can be devastating. And you do see it a lot.
Molly Pittman: Yeah, that’s something that James always says, just for our listeners. What do you say, James?
James Schramko: It’s better to own the race course than to own the race horse. A lot of people are the race horse, and they’re on someone else’s race course. If the race course owner says, “Look, you can’t race here,” you’re out. In our world, it’s like, if you build your entire income off being a YouTube celebrity, for example, and that’s all you have, or you have a big Facebook group. Then one day, the big company doesn’t like what you’re doing, or they turn it off, or they no longer support it … Like Google Plus just getting turned off right now.
James Schramko: I remember when Google Video got switched off, and Yahoo Video. I’ve seen a lot of platforms come and go in the last 10 years, even, that don’t exist now. Back in the day, you could have been a Myspace celebrity, I suppose.
Ralph Burns: Friendster.
James Schramko: Friendster.
Molly Pittman: Completely, Friendster. And also, in terms of not only owning your traffic source, but what you said about diversifying your income, that really hit home to me a few months ago when you said that to me. That was a huge change that I’ve made in my business. Not just relying on consulting or agency work, but also getting back into teaching and selling information. Now that I look back, I do feel more stable, and more grounded, and I feel happier because of that. So, I think that’s a big takeaway for a lot of you guys out there.
Ralph Burns: I think you did it one step at a time, too. You didn’t do it all at once. You did it with two customers, or two sources, and then diversified from there. Now you have thousands of people paying you.
James Schramko: Yeah, and you know, I went too far with it. I think you can go too far with diversification. For the first couple of years, when I actually map out on my whiteboard my business interests online … So, there’s two things with diversification. One is you can go to wide. I didn’t go into shares, property, Forex, online, and all sorts of other ostrich eggs, plantations. I mainly stuck to my business lane, especially online. But within that, I still had 10 or 11 profit senders, and it was a bit too many.
James Schramko: What I have found is I’ve been able to pick my winners from the portfolio, and then zoom in on those, which is a big reason why I sold off my SEO business and my website business, not that they weren’t winners. The website business wasn’t a great business, but the SEO business was a terrific business. When I was left with just the coaching, I was really able to maximize that, and I’ve actually had more profit now with less business units than I had with more business units because of that ability to focus on them.
James Schramko: So you’ve got to be careful not to go too broad. But I certainly wouldn’t rely on just one, and that comes under the category of compromise. If you can have less compromise, you will sleep better, and you will be more confident, and you will be happier, and you will be able to … So much like the magic of tidying up, but with a business. The business units you’re involved with can spark joy, then you’re going to be really good at it, and productive, and engaged, and interested, rather than just droning it out because it’s the only thing you’ve got. No one wants to be in that position, but plenty of people never get themselves there all by themselves. It’s crazy.
Molly Pittman: Totally.
Ralph Burns: Yeah, so I mean, as a part of that journey, obviously was the transition into an agency with two very successful agencies. There’s a lot of agencies that listen to this show here and get some of their insights about how to run Facebook and Instagram ads. But you know a lot about running an agency and how to deal with customers. Obviously it was a good choice for you, because you had diversified away from just that service based business to what is currently information or coaching business.
Ralph Burns: Tell us a little bit about the mindset as to why you wanted to divest those parts of your portfolio. What was it about the agency business that were the pros, the cons? I know last time I had talked to you, a couple years ago, you were thinking about doing it and hadn’t quite done it yet. So maybe take us through that part of the journey.
James Schramko: Well, agencies are … It was a little bit like my old industry in a way, where you can have a high ticket … You can get paid well with an agency, but you’re generally going to be people dependent, and you have a high intensity of customer interaction. The part that I don’t love, but I can do, and I’m good at it, is the high level customer interaction. I think you know what I’m talking about. You’re probably smiling when I talk about that.
Molly Pittman: Ralph is giggling-
Ralph Burns: I’m just laughing a little bit.
Molly Pittman: And thinking back to a conversation we just had.
James Schramko: Almost every agency you talk to, they’re going to say, it would be a great business if not for the customers.
Ralph Burns: I’m gonna stay silent on that one, because I know some of our customers listen, so anyway.
James Schramko: It’s not an easy job, purely because you’ve got to be a high level communicator, and there’s this constant requirement to balance expectations. Let me tell you if this sounds familiar. Almost everyone who wants to get help with a Facebook ad is going to believe that the Facebook ad agency is a practitioner of magic, and can turn any offer into the most amazing windfall ever, regardless of funnel, or if the offer is actually good or not, and if they have an expectation, you’ll be able to achieve it at a very low cost per lead, and that it’ll start working as soon as they sign up.
Ralph Burns: Absolutely. All true. All true, James.
James Schramko: Right?
Molly Pittman: Yeah.
James Schramko: And the reality is that it’s probably not as smooth sailing as that for the agency. You’ve got to hope that the offer’s good. They may or may not have any assets that are useful. Almost certainly, there’s an upfront learning curve which is going to result in a negative. And you’ll probably find some quick wins if you’re competent. Then the other problem is, there’s probably a lot of not that great agencies out there. You wouldn’t know if they’re good or not because your offer sucks, but if you did have a great offer, there’s a good chance you’re being burned by a bad agency, as well. Because there’s no real ability for you to know if an agency’s great or not, it’s a tough one.
James Schramko: When it comes to why would I have the agency or not, I didn’t want to end up having customer facing support at a high level because that drives up the wages bill, it drives up my job-like function of the business, and I wanted a more passive business. I wanted a more leveraged approach. I feel like I’d already done the high level stuff. I was running a sales team of 21 people. It was high energy, high wages, high awareness, and I wanted to just pull back a bit. So I ended up moving my business into a wholesale supplier, and I took a lower payment. With the SEO business, we got paid less than what our customers were selling our stuff for. But we didn’t have to deal with the end user. We just dealt with resellers who were dealing with the end user, and we had hundreds of resellers who we were dealing with over and over again.
James Schramko: So I know about me, I would much rather have a great relationship with someone on a longterm basis, than to constantly make new relationships. Now, some people love making new relationships. They love doing the direct outreach. They’re networking and rubbing belly buttons at live events, and being a rain maker, and bringing in leads. Those people probably do really well with an agency because that’s a big part of business development. I just basically cut out the bits of the business I didn’t really want or care for. It’s probably a similar reason why I’ve avoided eCommerce. I didn’t want a shed full of widgets. I didn’t want the low margin physical goods type of business. So I’ve basically carved my business around what I wanted.
James Schramko: The SEO business worked really, really well at scale. For that, I could just focus on building my team. We had quite a few people. At one point, I had 65 people in our business that were all in the Philippines. They were very great to work with. My skillset suits leadership, and it was easy to build and manage a team like that, and to get them humming along. I didn’t have the usual problems that you have in a Western business where you build up the people, and then they go and leave, and sometimes even compete with you, and poach all your customers. So this is the other downside of the high level agency model. There can be some carnage out there. A lot more energy and emotion goes into running an agency.
James Schramko: But if you position yourself well, and if you have a great agency business model, it can be a wonderful, high profit business. I coach lots of agencies, many of them you’ve probably even had on this podcast, from YouTube through to AdWords. I can see where they get joy, and where they get frustration.
Ralph Burns: So, coming from the agency side, and obviously now you hire agencies, you hire other people to do a lot of the work, in essence, for some of your businesses. What is the best way … We have a lot of people, a lot of businesses that listen to this podcast week in and week out. I’m actually amazed at some of the larger brands that actually listen to this podcast, because they have internal teams, and they’re trying to decide, “Should I work with an agency? Should I just train up my team a little bit more? Or maybe I’m at that point where I’m running my ads right now, and maybe I should hire somebody from my Google PPC, or Facebook?”
Molly Pittman: Yeah, or should I hire someone in house?
Ralph Burns: Yeah.
Molly Pittman: I get this question all the time.
James Schramko: Well, if you’re gonna hire in house, you definitely need to have them really well trained, so that’s where courses like Molly’s come into it. That’s the big deal. It’s a constant question that I get asked, too. I believe you probably can bring in house, but it is definitely harder in some ways.
Molly Pittman: Yeah, it’s a lot of risk.
James Schramko: And it’s also become more specialized. If you go back 10 years … Ralph, you said this. I was able to handle all those things myself. These days, you need a Facebook person, and an AdWords person, and a YouTube person, and an Instagram person, in a way, because each of those platforms, if you know what you’re doing, you can really maximize it. Even in my business, I’ve got one guy who’s mostly good at Facebook, and of course, a little Instagram off to the side there. That’s where he mainly focuses. Now, if you’ve got a great offer running on Facebook, and then you want to … you max it out, or you can’t go much further with it, then you might want to talk to someone who’s a YouTube expert, and because of all their industry knowledge and the data sets they’ve seen, they’ll probably get you much bigger wins than you could achieve by yourself. You might get there, but it might take a long time.
James Schramko: Really, it comes back to the, is this something I want to learn how to do, or is it something we need to find a who? You know? Who instead of how. If you do hire in house, that is a tricky one because generally if someone’s very, very good, then they don’t need you. They’re probably already doing their own thing. They could start to want to become a teacher, or run their own products. Usually, the really good agencies, that’s the other challenge. They start out cheap, and they can get quite good. Then they get this referral word of mouth because they’re the ones that are good, and all the other ones are bad. Then they get booked out solid. Then you can’t speak to the primary person anymore, and now they become less accessible, and they get more expensive. Then they usually price themselves out of your bracket.
James Schramko: There’s different tiers of agency, not to borrow too much of your brand name, Ralph, there, but when I think of agencies, I’m often trying to match an agency to a client’s level of business, because there’s some agencies that you’re not ready to talk to unless you’re already doing a certain amount of volume, and you’ve got an offer that converts, because they can just cherry pick from the absolute best clients in the world. Then there’s ones who are just starting out, and they will take you on, but they’re maybe not that good, or there’s a little bit of unknown. So, it is a mine field, for sure.
James Schramko: And if you do go down the route of hiring someone, or having an intern and training them up, how long is it until they go off and venture out into the world on their own? That’s what I call the Western way. That’s a very typical path for a Western business person.
Ralph Burns: So, if a business does make the decision, okay, this is something that I do want to outsource. I want to get an agency to do this. Either I’m sick of doing it myself, or my internal team, I want them doing other things. You’ve obviously dealt with a wide variety of types of customers in the businesses that you’ve had, a lot with very defined scopes of work, and others like websites which could be incredible scope creep, which is always a risk that you run as an agency.
Ralph Burns: From your perspective as an agency owner, and now as a business owner, always a business owner, of course, but what’s the best way for a company to work with an agency? What sort of mindset do you have to have, aside from the one that you had said before, which is totally unrealistic, that we joked about? But from that perspective, I find that is actually a conversation we have a lot when we have discovery calls, when people are trying to decide, should I hire Chair 11 or not. We always try and help them make the right decision, but from your perspective, what’s the best way to set a company up for success when they first hire an agency?
James Schramko: It’s a similar conversation I have to people when they’re looking to hire a team, because that’s a conversation I have all the time. I do a lot of tuning to help the customer be a realistic buyer, to spec out their job quite well, to get a sense of referrals, to know where the good source is, to start to eliminate a lot of wasted energy and time. So firstly is to chop out bad choices.
James Schramko: Who would be a good agency for them to consider working with? I would go down the referral route. I’d want to know from people, who’s good, and it’s pretty easy to get a feedback these days. When you do find the ones, it’s good to shoot for the ones who may not even accept you, because usually they’ll … at least they’re referral might be worth something, as to where they’ll refer you off to if you’re not ready yet. But try and have everything ready that you can to be a good client.
James Schramko: You know that an agency is going to want to know about what you actually sell, what sort of funnel you have in place, if you’ve got any sort of analytics or conversion metrics. What’s the result you’re looking for? Are you trying to get more followers? Are you trying to build authority? Do you want to actually make sales? How long does it take for you to break even? Do you have backend offers? All of these things could help an agency plan better for you.
James Schramko: It’s also good to not have like 15 decision makers, or a board that you have to go and ask permission for, even if you do take on an agency. This thing used to astound me. This one blew me away. People would buy services, and then not even tell us what website we’re working on for SEO, or they’d order a website, and never give us the answers to a brief. It got so amazing-
Molly Pittman: Customers forget that they have to do a little work, too.
James Schramko: Sometimes. That’s it. If you hire a copywriter, or you hire a team member, or you bring on an agency, they’re going to want things from you, and it would behoove you to be prepared for that because the more you can assist them, and guide them … Even with my Facebook helper, we create a folder, and that’s where we have to put assets. We need to give them stuff that would help them to do their job. If you hire someone, and then you tie their hands behind their back, then what can you expect?
Ralph Burns: Not a whole lot. [crosstalk 00:34:13] just from personal perspective.
James Schramko: [crosstalk 00:34:13] A lot of agencies are a retainer model. The key to retainer retention is being able to deliver results, so I’d be asking myself, if I’m going to get this agency, am I committed to delivering them everything they need from me to get the result that I expect?
Ralph Burns: Absolutely. It’s astounding to me, sometimes people will come on as customers for us, and they will pay, and then they just won’t want to actually start. It’s like they’ve made the decision, okay, I hired an agency, and then I’ll start at some point. We actually have customers right now that have paid us two, three months ago. We’re still trying to get them to their onboarding call, which is amazing to me. But anyway, sometimes that’s the way that it is. That probably doesn’t portend a favorable outcome if we’re starting off in that direction.
James Schramko: No. At some point, it’ll be a request to stop, and in the worst case, it’ll be a request for a refund for the unused portion. It got to a point where we used to ask for information before we let people order. We would have them fill out information, and then they could purchase. At least we had enough information to get started.
Molly Pittman: To do your job.
James Schramko: That was a big change for us.
Ralph Burns: I think one of the things that you said is to think about an agency as if you were hiring a new hire.
Molly Pittman: Yes.
Ralph Burns: You need to bring them into the fold. You need to train them. You need to give them the resources to be successful. It’s the same kind of thing. I think when people have a tendency to look at agencies as very different, oh that’s a different business, I’m not going to treat it the same way. When in fact, you’re still dealing with human beings at the end of the day. You still have your customer success manager, who is the front facing person in the agency that deals with the CMO, or whoever the contact is. It’s still … It’s a teamwork relationship.
Ralph Burns: Obviously, the agency is doing the heavy lifting, but especially in those first 90 days or so. We just find that is the critical part to set everything up for success. If the communication isn’t there, that does not bode well. Thankfully, we’ve got a pretty good process in place to screen that out, but that is 100% a commonality that we see, for sure.
James Schramko: If the buyer switched from a done for you mindset to a done with you mindset, then that would solve a lot of the challenges.
Ralph Burns: [crosstalk 00:36:29]
James Schramko: And of course the agency can do plenty of education in that marketing phase. The indoctrination, training that client how to be a great client would be good. But now, you can just send them to this podcast. So you’re sort of-
Molly Pittman: You must listen to episode 188 before you join.
Ralph Burns: We’ve actually had customers … We’re talking about the troublesome ones from that initial engagement phase, and we typically will engage people with a three, four month engagement, prove ourselves, and then let’s figure out if we want to get married from there. But the ones who come to us and say how can I be a great customer, I think probably a handful have asked that, and they’re customers that stayed on with us for years, and years, and years, if not are current customers to this day, where they really did think about it as a partnership.
Ralph Burns: I’m not just pushing this off to you and forgetting about it. You do need assets, you do need my input, you do need my buy in. We look at it as a team. I think when you set it up that way, there’s a lot of success that comes out of it. As opposed to an adversarial, hey, I’m paying you every single month. You better produce results, or else.
James Schramko: The other thing you can do is you can actually give your audience an example of what a good customer is. A reason why kids don’t get A papers at school is their teacher never showed them an A paper, so they don’t even know what it looks like. The other day, I was actually cooking something with my wife, and we were trying to cook a particular item that I’ve never actually seen before, which made it hilarious, our conversation. I’m trying to work to a result that I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be. That just made me realize how I’m put in this position where it’s kind of remarkable if I actually end up with anything like what it’s supposed to be.
James Schramko: If you could show someone the perfect result … and a good way for an agency to do that would be with case studies. Do some case studies or demonstrations of success stories, and show what made it successful, and train your prospects as, what these people brought to the table. They brought to the table a fantastic offer. They had some great assets in place. They had someone on their team who was able to communicate quickly and adapt as the campaign unfolded. And they were very clear about what their goals were, and what the metrics needed to be. And you were able to work together to achieve that outcome. That’s a nice training piece to help other people-
Molly Pittman: That’s brilliant.
James Schramko: Fit into the right way of doing things.
Ralph Burns: Yeah.
Molly Pittman: Totally.
Ralph Burns: That’s a great idea. Super helpful.
Molly Pittman: Well, awesome, Schramko. This has been amazing. We appreciate you coming on so much. Any last things you want to say, or words of wisdom?
James Schramko: Gosh, if left unchecked, we could probably talk for the next few months.
Ralph Burns: Quite possible.
Molly Pittman: I just want to hear you tell stories.
Ralph Burns: I know.
James Schramko: That’s really the point. It’s a changing game. I’d say that my main thing would be just be super comfortable with change, because that’s the thing that we know is going to continue to happen. Don’t get so fixed or locked into something that you have to invest further into sunk cost. Be willing and able to adapt as the changes happen, because what you’re doing now is probably not what you’re going to be doing in the future.
James Schramko: Some things don’t change too much. I’ve been lucky to pick some core things. I went really well with the membership. I knew that podcasting would be good for the long haul. I think we’re moving into a really interesting phase of AI, and that’s going to change things more than anything that’s come before it. So if I was an agency, I’d be thinking about how AI might be incorporated into the mix. Over time, it will become important. I imagine that’s the trend. And of course, follow the parts of the business that make you the most happy and excited, because you’ll be really, really good at it, and stop trying to do stuff that gets you down.
Molly Pittman: Wow.
Ralph Burns: Well, said. And I think listeners of this podcast, if they’ve listened to any of the 187 episodes prior to this, the reason why Facebook gives us so much material to talk about every week … because it is constantly changing.
James Schramko: Yeah.
Ralph Burns: And it’s going to change even more in the next six months, from what it looks like. This is interesting. We were at a mastermind. We were talking to [inaudible 00:40:47], who’s been on this podcast many times. He kept waxing about 2017, about how great of a year it was for advertising. It’s like, it doesn’t matter. That’s in the past. And he realized that it doesn’t matter what he did in 2017, or 2018. It’s all about what you’re going to be doing now, because the platform is constantly changing. Everything, business is changing.
Ralph Burns: If you have that mindset that what you’ve done in the past, it does not necessarily equal the future … and I’m starting to sound like Tony Robbins, more like anybody else here. But the point is that the past is prologue, for sure.
James Schramko: I think I was … I don’t know when they started, but I have a feeling I was running Facebook ads somewhere around 2008.
Ralph Burns: Yep, that’s when they started.
Molly Pittman: Wow.
James Schramko: Yeah, I was on there at the very beginning. I imagine it’s changed a lot since then. But I can tell you-
Ralph Burns: Just a little bit.
James Schramko: My eyes just glaze over when I even look at that advertising thing. I don’t touch it, and that’s a big thing over time. The change for me was to get the hell away from that stuff. I’m not the technician anymore. It’s too specialized. It’s too high level. That’s why you bring in help. It’s recognizing when you shouldn’t go near the dashboard. Get one layer away from it.
Molly Pittman: Completely. There are a lot of people, their time is best used elsewhere. Well, James, you are our Buddha.
James Schramko: You guys make me smile, so it was great.
Ralph Burns: The Ozzy Buddha. Wow.
Molly Pittman: So, we’ll have you back to see if these predictions come true.
James Schramko: Is that because I’m bald and fat, or for some other reason?
Ralph Burns: You look slimmer than you ever have. I don’t know what you’re doing down there.
Molly Pittman: Right?
James Schramko: I just surf a lot, Ralph.
Ralph Burns: Just lots of surfing. That’s good.
Molly Pittman: Alright, guys, well check James out at SuperFastBusiness.com if you would like high performance coaching with James, and to get to talk to him one on one about your business. I can’t emphasize the value of that and how much it’s changed mine. Definitely check out Silver Circle. And again, James, thank you so much for coming on, and we can’t wait to have you back.
James Schramko: Thanks so much.
Darren Clark: You’ve been listening to Perpetual Traffic. For more information, and to get the resources mentioned in this episode, visit DigitalMarketer.com/podcast. Thank you for listening.
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