Finding Your Niche And Scaling Your Agency

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Marketing Podcast with Brent Weaver

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Brent Weaver. Brent is on a mission to help 10,000 digital agency owners achieve freedom in business and life by helping them own their market. Brent is the founder and CEO of uGurus, a business training, and education company dedicated to this mission. He also hosts one of the leading podcasts in the business niche—The Digital Agency Show and is the author of Get Rich in the Deep End: Commit to Your Niche, Own Your Market, and Audaciously Scale Your Agency.

Key Takeaway:

Brent Weaver is known for and on a mission to help digital agency owners own their market – whatever that may be. Too many agencies rely on word-of-mouth referrals or waste advertising dollars to grow their business. In this episode, we dive into Brent’s framework that can help you attract the right customers, establish your authority, and build a marketing engine that will help you acquire a solid, growing client base.

Questions I ask Brent Weaver:

  • [1:32] Are you all in on the idea that you must pick a niche?
  • [5:31] How do you define scale, and how does it differ from growth?
  • [7:59] In the agency world, there’s a lot of conversation around retainers versus project work — what’s your take on which path to go down?
  • [12:49] Can you dive into your 5 A framework from your book and also talk a little bit about how you see the role of content today?
  • [16:09] Can you give us a 10,000-foot view of what uGurus is and what you offer?

More About Brent Weaver:

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the Salesman Podcast, hosted by Will Barron brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network. Look, if you work in sales, wanna learn how to sell or just peek at the latest sales news. Check out the sales podcast where host will Barron helps sales professionals learn how to find buyers and in big business in effective and ethical ways. One of my favorite episodes lately, how to personalize your sales outreach at massive scale, who doesn't want to do that? Listen to the salesman podcast, wherever you get your podcast.

John Jantsch (00:48): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Brent Weaver. He's the founder and CEO of uGurus a business training and education company in digital agency space. And he also hosts one of the leading podcasts in that niche. The digital agency show he's the author of get rich in the deep end, commit to your niche, own your market and audaciously scale your agency. So Brent, welcome to the show. Awesome. Be here, John. Thanks. So did I say niche, right? What do you think? You know, I'm a ditch man, myself though, you know, it is what it is, right? I mean, I it's, it's it's maybe my Texas comes through, right. Well, you, it goes better with the riches or in the niches right. Than, uh, than in the niche. It just doesn't rhyme at all.

John Jantsch (01:38): Does it? So let's talk about that. However you, uh, pronounce it. Let's talk about cuz that, that is certainly common advice. Now I narrow down to, to a niche get really good at serving that niche. I find a lot of peoples, particularly people that are starting out or trying to grow, they get really focused on thinking, oh, I have to pick dentists or whatever it is. And you know, I have to only work with them and then they find out six months later or they hate it. So, you know, how do you, are you all in on that, obviously it's part of your ti title of your book, but are you all in on that or do you temper that in any way that that would be more helpful? I think, uh, to particularly people getting started. Yeah. I, I mean, there's definitely pros and cons to, to being a generalist versus a, a spec.

Brent Weaver (02:24): Right? I mean, obviously if we are thinking about analogies, I mean, I have a, a general practice doctor that I go see on a regular basis and it's really easy to get an appointment. I can just kind of pop in there. He kind of knows a little bit about a lot of things, but you know, when it comes to like getting heart surgery, I'm obviously not gonna go to him. And I have a, a sneaking suspicion about which one is a member of the better country club. But, but you know, I think that when it comes to agencies, if you don't, if you don't love the market or the type of business, I mean, I think it's, it's good to separate like the market from the client. I mean, if you work with 10 dentists and you realize like you just don't like seeing pictures of people's mouths, like that's totally cool.

Brent Weaver (03:02): I'm on my 13th market working with digital agencies. So this idea that you're gonna find the one, you know, the first time you go out there, I think is, is probably not a good expectation. So I think people should be willing to, to try it. But the reality is if you do work with, uh, a specific market, that's a lot more repeatable, you can build processes, you can find team members that understand what you're doing. You can create fixed offers. Yeah. There's a lot of upside to having a, a fixed market. Yeah. And I think something you said there is an important distinction. I mean, what I always kind of bristle at is when people, I work with a lot of folks starting, you know, jumping out of corporate and wanting to start an agency and they've been told you need to pick a niche.

John Jantsch (03:37): And so they, they try to, but they don't don't have the experience yet to do that. And I think what you just said, you know, a lot of times you find what you like working with. And I actually, you know, I think you can find a narrow focus in types of like within a niche types of business or types of business owners or behaviors, you know, of businesses, you know? And, and I think the that's, I think that's a key part of it, but there's no question once you find that, as you said, you know, you can a Facebook ad campaign for, you know, somebody in Milwaukee is probably gonna be just as good for somebody in Omaha. So, you know, so, and like, you know, I think it's good to also, you know, you kind of brought up the niche within a niche. Yeah, yeah.

Brent Weaver (04:19): Concept. So like one of my clients, he, he actually does focus on dentist. I don't have a lot of clients that focus on dentist, but he has 27 clients in the market. Right? Yeah. They all pay him about three grand a month. And he gets most of his clients from one Facebook group that has 38,000 members. Now I I'm, I don't know what 27 over of 38,000 is, but you know, he has a thriving business with 27, like a tiny little like sliver of the market. Right. So I think ultimately what happens when people start to focus on a market is they do find themselves drilling down even further, either through a channel or a type of client or range of clients. And I think if you are the type person that likes variety, you can also look at a horizontal market with, should be, you know, if you were, let's say an expert at Shopify stores.

Brent Weaver (05:04): Yeah. Hey, cool. We're gonna build websites for a lot of different Shopify stores. Right. It could be jewelers could be, artists could be, you know, clothing manufacturers, right. It doesn't have to just be a vertical. Yeah. I think I kinda like the variety as part of it, you get kind of bored after a while.

John Jantsch (05:19): So in the title also you have scale your agency. I run into a lot of people that confuse growth and scale, you know, and a lot of, for a lot of people, when they talk about scale, what they really just mean is getting bigger, you know, having more clients, how do you define scale first off and, and does it differ from growth?

Brent Weaver (05:38): Well, you know, that's a great question. So I think that you use that term board yeah. Earlier too, which I love. Right. So, so to me, scale is we're actually creating systems and processes that are repeatable and that we're growing the business by getting the owner out of the stuff that they're getting bored of. Right. And, and I know a lot of agency owners that are in really successful growing businesses, but man, like I have a lot of gray hair, but like they're stressed out, they're overworked, they're involved in every meeting they're involved in every client. Right. Like they have growth, which is awesome. Right. But they don't have anything that's really scalable. They're still like the wizard that's spinning all the plates. Yeah. And so I think within whether it's, it's choosing a market vertical or horizontal or a fixed offer, like you have to find that element in your business, that lowest common denominator, that atomic unit for scale.

Brent Weaver (06:31): And I don't think that's as necessary if you're just interested in growth, but if you're trying to create something really scalable and get yourself out, I, I think that you've gotta find some common denominator. And I think most people, you know, you start getting 10 team members and, you know, 25 clients or something, if you don't have those systems or processes, I mean, it's just gonna be growth will actually be a problem. Won't it? You know, I've talked to a lot of agencies, I've done a lot of field trips and, and, and site visits and hand on interviews. I mean, you know, we were at effective UI. Gosh, it, it probably seven or eight years ago. And they had, you know, 120, 130 team members. They worked with corporations across a huge myriad of the fortune 500 and fortune 5,000. They had a very diverse set of people that worked there.

Brent Weaver (07:15): Their lowest common denominator, I guess, was kind of two things. One, it was around the UI UX of, you know, these different businesses and that kind of problem solving. But the other was Deb billable hour. Like they were unapologetically focused on maximizing the billable hours that, that business sold, you know, they weren't confused on their model. They knew what their model was. They knew generally how much clients needed to spend for them to be a client of their business. And so I think that, you know, they achieved insane growth, but like, it was really complicated. They had to have a lot of really smart, a lot of really expensive salaries. And so while I saw that they, they got a lot of growth. I don't know if I would've looked at their business and said, wow, that's a really scalable system. I could see that growing to a thousand people.

Brent Weaver (07:55): Right. Yeah. Like it was impressive, but like, I don't know if I would consider that to be scale.

John Jantsch (07:59): So there in the agency world, there's a lot of conversation around retainers versus project work. I mean, where do you fall on? I'm guessing, you know, if you're gonna own your market, if you are going to, you know, brand and package your offerings, you know, you're probably going to be more towards the retainer. I mean, I, I think it depends what your goals are.

Brent Weaver (08:17): I mean, there's some pros and cons, you know, you know, usually a retainer relationship ends when there's, you know, some unhappiness with the client and vendor relationship. Right's like, retainer's ending. Yeah. What am I getting again? Who is this person we're paying? Why are they doing your credit card every month? Right. And so I think that you can, you know, there are some pluses to a project where you've got this fixed life cycle.

Brent Weaver (08:42): Yeah. And you can really create a choreographed experience for your clients in that space. What I would level it up to, without even thinking about whether a retainer is best or whether, uh, project best, I think there's different types of, of, of work that lend themselves to both. But I think as an agency, it's how do we create a killer offer? How do we make something that when we're sitting in front of a customer, it's like, it's so good. You know, it's like, it can't be refused. And so I think that should be always be the goal, right? Whether it's, you know, a, uh, a big $50,000, you know, pitch, you know, how can we remove risk for the client? How can we mitigate risks? How can we promise or show proof of results to where we're gonna really blow 'em away and just make them so excited to move forward.

Brent Weaver (09:25): And so I think once you figure out like what that offer is, and, and I think that's one of the reasons why I love people that are focused on a vertical is because we get to really understand that customer as a, you know, as they relate to the entire market, we can craft an offer. We can understand what our churn is. We can understand what our refund rates are. We can understand what our success rate is, right. We can actually look at that stuff at scale and we can create better and better offers, you know? And so I think when you get to the point where you can make an offer where you say, you know, 85 K a month, and if you're not getting, you know, if you didn't get 10 clients in the next 90 days, I'm gonna give you a hundred percent of your money back.

Brent Weaver (10:05): You know, I mean, or, and, and one of my friends, he actually even will write a check for five grand. He says, I'll give you all your money back and I'll pay you $5,000 if I don't get this result. And I think if you're gonna to that point of being able to get, create offers, like you need to know your customer, like better than they know themselves. Yeah. You need to know your processes and your results better than, you know, anybody else. And you need to be so confident to be able to offer something like that, where it's truly an offer that somebody can't refuse. So I always push people to focus more on their offer and, and also build the model that's right for you, if you will want peace of mind and you want that consistent cashflow flow, then you know, it's probably better to be on a retainer kind of model. You know, sometimes people say that that projects are easier to sell the retainers. I, I don't know.

John Jantsch (10:48): Yeah. I tell you, the model that I love is you sell a project that leads to a retainer, you know, because they, it's a lower risk, you know, it's a lower risk for them. They get to see the value, you know, they're bought in now, like they have a relationship and they're like, how can we keep working together? That that's generally the model we take, because it is, you know, somebody just meets you, you made up a pitch and you say, now it's gonna be $5,000 a month. It's like, I don't know what I'm buying. You know, I don't have, I don't have any experience of it. I mean, yeah, you got proof, you know, you got other people you've helped, but that's, to me, I think a lot of times people go for that long term retainer too fast in a lot of ways, even if that's their model.

Brent Weaver (11:24): Yeah.

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John Jantsch (12:28): So you have a framework in the book, five A's, you know, every good book has to have a free framework. I will say, when I was reading about the, kind of the layout of your framework, I was very happy to see that you were telling people they actually needed to think about content differently. That it wasn't about more content. It was about content that was strategic and it wasn't just blog posts. So I, I guess maybe a comment on kind of how you see the role of content, and then maybe we can get it into the five a yeah. Well, I think that something that should be thought about with any content is distribution. Yeah. And I look at, you know, if you are trying to get into a new market and you gave that example earlier of, you know, people leaving the corporate world and not having the experience.

Brent Weaver (13:12): And so I think a mistake that a of people make is they, they start their business and they start their agency and think, oh man, I need to do content. Right. So they create a Facebook fan page or, you know, a business page and they create their website. They start to blog on their own site. And, and in the book, I kind of talked about this garage band effect, right. It's like, imagine if the Beatles, like, they're like, all right, we're gonna, we're gonna make it big at night after night, they play in the garage, right. They just like ho people of like, come and watch. 'em obviously they were all good musicians and they had a plan, but they, you know, what made them big was they went and pitched themselves to like the local clubs, the local venues. And that's what differentiates them from like the hobbyist bands that just get, get together on Friday nights and jam and, you know, smoke weed and drink beer together and have a good time.

Brent Weaver (13:54): Right. Which there's nothing wrong with that. Right. They're probably having a really good time, but if they wanna make it big, then going out and putting yourself in front of a judge and a jury is really important. It it's so important to get that rejection. And so when you're thinking about content for your agency, I think it it's equally, if not more important to think about that distribution component, right. I've got out an idea. I have something to say and I need to go out there and find somebody who's willing to put my stuff on their plat. And I think every time you then get a blog, post published, every time you show up and do a webinar on somebody else's platform, the amount of credibility, right. The amount of refinement, right. You have to show up a little differently when it's somebody else's, you know, somebody else's stage right there, a filter, but they also have higher expectations.

Brent Weaver (14:39): And so I think if you're gonna approach content as a new agency, you know, and it's harder, cuz you're not gonna, like at first, it's gonna feel like you're not getting anything out there. You're like, oh man, wouldn't it just be easier if I could just tweet on my own account. Right. So you're not gonna get a lot of stuff out there, but what's gonna happen is when you do, you're gonna build audience like that. So within the first six months of launching U gurus, you know, we were a nobody. And we had a list of over 10,000 people, a hundred percent organically because we went and got articles and content published on other existing platforms that had been around for 10 years. Yeah.

John Jantsch (15:10): Yeah. I'm a huge proponent of being guests on podcasts. That, to me, that's one of the solve so many issues on top of getting your word out there and getting somebody else to say, you have something to say, it's great for SEO, just because, you know, I'm gonna promote the heck out of this episode and probably point back to you gurus.

John Jantsch (15:28): And that'll be a nice link.

Brent Weaver (15:30): And now that I have a list, right, I could promote it too. Right. I mean, which, which that happens, right. That does happen. I mean, after a while you get to build up some assets and then you get to use those assets to create partnerships and to put feature other people and to, you know, there, there is some stuff with that, but I, I always say like there's own media and there's kind of media that you rent. And when, when you first start out, I think if you go into like the rent media space, it's gonna help you build platform for yourself later. It's a really long road to build your own audience.

John Jantsch (15:58): Yeah. I've only been doing it for 30 years.

Brent Weaver (16:01): So, so just like John, right. Just putting your 30 years in and you, you too could have a platform like duct tape marketing.

John Jantsch (16:08): So let's talk a little bit about you guru. You do, you're doing, obviously you're doing consulting with agencies and helping them grow, but you also do events, pretty good size events. You have an academy there. So maybe just, uh, obviously invite people to check it out, but also kinda give a little, uh, 10,000 foot view of what you do at U Gus.

Brent Weaver (16:28): Yeah. I appreciate that. So, so we're a coaching training and community program for, or digital agencies to grow their business. We use that, you know, that market driven model that we kind of talked about with five, a framework and, you know, finding your market is kind of our baseline to help agencies scale. And we have a, a one year program it's kind of a three year vision that people sign up for a year at a time. And I always tell people, you know, it took me like took me eight years to like uncover all of the really big mistakes running an agency.

Brent Weaver (16:56): And then it took me five years to really, you know, fix accelerate and kind of grow a successful business through it. And so our vision from day one with Yu guru is always to see how can we take that? You know, that 12 year grueling, you know, experience right. And shorten it up into a much smaller learning cycle and also give you some friends and some peers to enjoy that journey with, I, I had no agency friends except for my business partner, which he was in the boat with me. Right. We had no agency friends for the really the first eight to nine years. We ran our business. I mean, I didn't know, I didn't regularly meet with, have lunch collaborate with in any meaningful way, really any other agency owner for the first eight years of my business. And it was only, and it was hard.

Brent Weaver (17:35): It was stressful. And in entrepreneurship was a lot more fun when you have friends.

John Jantsch (17:39): Yeah. Yeah, no, I think there's no qu, you know, especially the world we work in today, you know, COVID aside. I mean, people, you know, don't have offices that they go and sit in, you know, with the 20 P even if they have a team of 20 people, it can be kinda lonely. So, so having, just, as you said, somebody else who can say, well, here's the mistakes I made you, you know, maybe you can learn something from that, you know, just kind of shortens the, uh, the curve for, for sure. And it's just you, right?

Brent Weaver (18:06): That's right. That's right.

John Jantsch (18:08): All right, Brent, thanks so much for something by the duct tape marketing podcast. And hopefully we'll run into each other one of these days out there on the road.

Brent Weaver (18:13): Awesome, man. Thanks John.

John Jantsch (18:15): All right. That wraps up another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in. Feel free to share this show. Feel free to give us reviews. You know, we love those things. Also. Did you know that we had created training marketing for your team? If you've got employees, if you've got a staff member that wants to learn a marketing system, how to install that marketing system in your business, check it out. It's called the certified marketing manager program from duct tape marketing. You can find it at duct tape, and just scroll down a little and find that tab that says training for your, your team.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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