3 Pillars to Fill Your Pipeline and Grow Beyond the $3-Million Mark

By Jason Swenk on December 22, 2021

After working for big agencies for part of her career, Josy Amann decided that starting her own business and getting rid of the commute would align more with her plans to have a family, so she co-founded Media Matters Worldwide. Today, her agency is an experienced, independent media strategy, planning, buying, and analytics partner that has grown beyond the eight-figure mark. In her interview with Jason, she talked about the “scrappy” first years of starting an agency, how she realized they needed layers and strategy to beyond the 3-million mark, and the three pillars to build your pipeline.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Learning to implement layers. They were a very linear organization for a long time and that worked well for them, but growing their business beyond the 2 million mark required a leadership team, as Josy realized, she calls this “putting layers in place”. Josy and her partner needed to get out of the business to run the business, and their leadership team was pivotal for that. So, when they first started the business, for example, they used to have an analytics lead. Now they have someone that minds the data, an analytic storyteller, and someone that does all the business intelligence and dashboarding. It is more expensive this way, but it definitely improves the level of the service they are able to provide.
  2. More clients or bigger clients? Once they were ready for growth, Josy knew it was important to have a growth strategy. You want to grow, but how are you going to attract bigger clients? Bigger clients bring the bigger dollars. “You can use the same team that you have built for a client half its size and really scale the agency,” she says. Some agency owners focus on having more clients at that point. That’s valid, but you may end up adding a ton of people and having less profit. And when it came to getting those bigger clients, Josy had some names in mind, but also industries. Her agency has grown while remaining wide, with half of their clients being B2B and the other half B2C, and that has allowed them to ride through difficult times while exploring new industries.
  3. The pillars of building your pipeline. First of all, put your money where your mouth is. Do all the lead generation run, retargeting campaigns, LinkedIn, etc. Run on all the lead gen sites that are out there so that when people search for an agency they can find you. The second pillar, something that people don’t talk about enough, is identify similar culture-like creative agencies, marketing agencies, and marketing consultants that you can take time and really build relationships with and be there for each other over time. And finally, get serious about PR and hire a PR agency and get out there, do things like this and be on panels and write articles and really be more involved in the ad community.

Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Today’s episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team’s paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.


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What Are The Pillars of Building Your Pipeline & Attracting Bigger Clients?

Jason: [00:00:00] What’s up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and have another amazing episode coming from an amazing agency owner that’s grown her agency to well over eight-figures. And we’re going to talk about how she’s done it. So let’s go ahead and get into the show.

Hey, Josie. Welcome to the show.

Josy: [00:00:24] Thanks, Jason. Nice to see you.

Jason: [00:00:26] Yeah, you too. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Josy: [00:00:31] I am Josy Amann. I’m one of the co-founders of Media Matters Worldwide, and I started the business with a business partner, Taji Zaminasli.

Jason: [00:00:40] Awesome. And are you guys still business partners?

Josy: [00:00:42] We sure are, since 2005.

Jason: [00:00:44] That’s amazing.

Josy: [00:00:46] We’ve been working, talking every day for over 20 years. I feel very blessed. Very lucky.

Jason: [00:00:53] Well, tell us, how did you get started? I’m always curious why people, like, where were you accidental? Did you guys have a mission to do? How’d you guys start?

Josy: [00:01:02] I, you know, I, we both had worked at the big agencies. That’s how we got our start right out of college. We’ve always been in media. That was, that was the beginning.

And then I think it was 28, we were working at an agency together. That’s how we met. We were working at a performance agency and I said, how are we ever going to work at this pace and commute and all of these things and have a family? Like I knew I wanted to have a family, had just gotten married, at 26 I knew that was on the horizon. So that was a big piece of kind of the thought around starting our own agency.

We also had really unique backgrounds in that Taji was in buying and broadcast. And I was in planning. We just had very different backgrounds that came together. So we knew we could create a holistic solution for a media company.

Jason: [00:01:51] Awesome. And what was it like the first couple of years? Now you’re where a lot of the listeners are wanting to be right now. You guys have an independent agency that’s doing really well, it’s growing. But obviously, it didn’t start that way.

Josy: [00:02:08] Yeah. The scrappy days, right? Uh, so Taji and I both, when we started the agency, we didn’t, we didn’t raise money. We didn’t have any… we weren’t like trust fund babies or anything like that. It was all kind of bootstrap.

So when we started the agency, we said, why don’t we become a freelancing team. And we’ll become an arm of some of the bigger agencies. We’ve worked for Gyro and they did all of their media and it was a really great way to get our foot in the door and it kind of bought time so that we could get our clients of our own.

So that’s kind of how we started. Then we started getting clients of our own. Then we moved away from the agency model and that just kind of built upon itself. And as we grew and as we saved money, that’s when we started to hire. And I think that’s why it’s taken 16 years.

Jason: [00:02:55] Exactly. Overnight success in 16 years later. Looking back, especially, uh, I always talk about, it’s easy to get to the million mark by accident, or maybe even the two or maybe even the $3 million mark by accident.

But really kind of scaling it from there, you have to have the right systems or the right team member in place. What systems or teams or rolls did you feel that you needed in order to get you to the level you{re at now?

Josy: [00:03:26] Yeah, you’ve obviously done this before. I could have used your advice years ago, but by trial and error. We learned that as we grew, we needed layers.

We were a very linear organization for a long time and that served us well. And to your point, got us to the million, 2 million mark. But to grow the business, we needed more layers and also a leadership team. And that has been pivotal to our growth. So having a leadership team, having the layers, it a hundred percent key cause Taji and I needed to get off the business so we could run the business. And the leadership team has really allowed that.

Jason: [00:04:04] Yeah. What were the layers? Like, give us example of some of the layers.

Josy: [00:04:08] Yeah. So instead of where we started our business, we would just have, say like an analytics lead. Now we have someone that minds the data. We have an analytic storyteller, and then we have someone that does all the business intelligence and dashboarding.

So in ways business has become more expensive cause we need three people to do the job that one person did years ago. But the services and the level of customer service we’re able to provide. You need those layers.

Jason: [00:04:39] Yeah. And talk about a little bit about the team structure. Like, because obviously, you guys have gone through many different levels over the years, right?

From, you know, the infancy of getting the $2 million mark and so on. If you had to go back and do it over again, or if you’re chatting with someone that’s at the two or $3 million mark and they really want to excel past the eight figure mark, what would be some of the important things that you would tell them?

Josy: [00:05:08] Hm, come up with a strategy for new business because I think that’s one of the things when we really… We knew we could scale the team. We knew we were ready for growth, but how are we going to get the bigger clients? Because the bigger clients are what bring the bigger dollars. You can use the same team that you have built for a client half its size and really scale the agency.

So coming up, we came up with this marketing flywheel we called it. And really a three-pronged approach to getting new business. And I think that really started to fuel the funnel and get us in front of bigger names.

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I like that you said bigger clients because a lot of agencies, when they think of scaling, they think of, I need more clients. That’s a possibility. If you want to add a ton of people and make a lot less profit. So when you started saying I want to target bigger customers, did you get specific and going, like let’s start naming them and coming up like a hit list or did you start picking a particular market?

Josy: [00:07:10] Yeah, it was kind of twofold. Yes, definitely picking up names, but it was also thinking about industries. And we’ve always been an agency, we’ve had half of our clients, B2B and half B2C. And I feel that has given our agency strength, just the people working for, uh, the agency specifically, but it’s also given us the ability to kind of ride through difficult times.

So in COVID, for example, the beginning of COVID, we had some of our retail clients that only, they don’t even have e-commerce, shut down their stores, shut off their budget. Who was still up and running? All of our B2B clients. So that really helped us weather the storm. And we’ve learned over 16 years, you know, we’ve made it through the 2008 crisis and different ups and downs of the business through the years, that kind of balance of portfolio has always helped us.

And in the B2C realm, same thing, you know, looking at the industry, looking at what the hot challenger brands are is really key too. When you look in the FinTech space and the beauty space, they’re really changing the world of media and that’s exciting and it builds your portfolio. You’re not just doing the same same.

Jason: [00:08:20] And now you have a bigger team that you can kind of focus on multiple industries. Would you have done it different? Do you think if you picked one particular industry in the very beginning, laser focus, do you think you could have gotten to the level quicker, or are you glad that you were spread out.

Josy: [00:08:37] I’m glad we were spread out. There was a moment in time before really it was popular to be women-owned at the time, but we said, you know, why don’t we embrace kind of who we are instead of always hiding that we’re women-owned business, which we did early on. Why don’t we embrace that and focus on only, you know, women focus brands, sustainable brands, eco brands?

So we thought about going in that direction and then it just seemed too limiting from where we came from, but it actually opened up the doors. So I think just that like opening up of the universe to say, we want to go in that direction, opened up those brands for us.

Um, so, you know, whether it worked or not, but I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently because again, it’s so exciting to learn about all the different industries. And I think our people love it too. It’s constantly making you think about different audiences and how to reach them.

Jason: [00:09:29] And I think you mentioned kind of three pillars and building that pipeline, what were they, or what are they?

Josy: [00:09:36] Yeah, the first was put your money where your mouth is and do all of the lead generation run retargeting campaigns, run on LinkedIn, run on all the lead gen sites that are out there. So that when people are looking for you paid search, you’re there. Step number one. Step two is identify similar culture like creative agencies, marketing agencies, and marketing consultants that you can take time and really build relationships with and be there for each other over time.

So not just a meet and greet, but really have brainstorming sessions and really be there to help each other. That, that has brought in a lot of business as well. And then the third is really get serious about PR and hire a PR agency and get out there, do things like this and be on panels and write articles and really be more involved in the ad community.

Jason: [00:10:32] Yeah, I totally agree. And because there’s so many agencies that just depend on one channel. And you know, they look at well, we’re just relying on all the business coming on a Facebook. I’m like what is Facebook changes, right? You need all the other…

Josy: [00:10:48] What if it changes?

Jason: [00:10:50] Yeah. And I love that you built strategic partnerships too, because not many people do that and they just… You know, I get those emails all day long going, hey, you got a big audience of agencies. You send out my email. I’m like, how is that a relationship? That’s just a, it’s a transactional thing.

It’s like, Hey, why don’t you try to help someone and then become friends and then you could both take over the world together, a small part of the world?

Josy: [00:11:18] That’s business, right? I mean, that’s what it should be about, should be about relationships. It should be leaning on each other. It should be about transparency.

Jason: [00:11:25] Yeah, exactly. Well, Josy, this has been amazing. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Josy: [00:11:32] Maybe advice around, uh, we’ve been a remote agency since 2005. That’s when we started the agency, that was one of the ways that, like I said earlier, how are we going to have a family? We’re still gonna work our tails off, but taking away the commute might help. So we started a virtual agency back in 2005. Which, you know, we didn’t have all the tools we have today.

So people, I get a lot of other agency owners calling saying, how, how can you give me advice on how to kind of weather the storm and how to create this remote agency that we’ve now, you know, we’ve canceled all of our office space and now we have a remote agency. How do we fix it? Cause people aren’t super happy.

And, I would say hire people that love to work from home. And I think that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve always hired more senior people, people that don’t need handholding trailblazers. That’s created a different kind of agency culture, which we love, but hire people that really love to work from home.

Cause if they don’t, they’re never really going to embrace it.

Jason: [00:12:40] Yeah. Yeah. And I know. And when you’re a virtual agency, it really kind of takes the handcuffs off of you for finding talent because there’s amazing talent all over the world. In a lot of remote cities, we were, I was chatting with some of the mastermind members and people are like… And they’re all over the world. And, and some of were in California and New York, and they were like, are your employees coming to you asking for raises because everything’s costing more? And everyone was like, yup, yup, yup. But one person and he was in Kentucky and were like, we all need to recruit from Kentucky.

Josy: [00:13:16] Yeah. I love having our employees all over the country. It not only helps with hiring, but it also helps with times zones. We have a lot of global clients. So being able to kind of have people pinch hit early in the morning or late at night is super helpful.

Jason: [00:13:29] Yeah, it’s awesome. What’s the agency website people go and check you guys out?

Josy: [00:13:34] Oh, mediamattersww.com.

Jason: [00:13:36] Awesome. Well, everyone, if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe. Make sure you go to their website. Say a thank you to Josie for coming on and giving you guys a lot of value.

And if you guys enjoyed this and you want to be around other amazing agency owners where they’re sharing out strategies that are currently working right now and having fun and, and a lot of times it can be your shrink when things go blow up. We all need that, right? Because who else are we going to go to?

I’d love to invite all of you to go to the digitalagencyelite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind just for agency owners. We’d love for you guys to apply.

And until next time have a Swenk day.

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