How to Be More Innovative and Your Make Agency Team Happier
Have you ever asked your team what they don’t want to do anymore? What would your employees eliminate, if they could? One agency owner started asking these important questions and unlocked rapid growth by implementing their ideas and truly innovating processes. For his agency, niching down and adopting innovation as an agency value made all the difference. He discusses how he implemented those changes and the 5 big questions you need to ask your team.
Josh Webber is the co-founder of Big Red Jelly, an agency focused on digital branding, web design, and development. His team helps businesses focus on all the steps a business should complete before working on advertising and marketing.
Although his agency is five years old, Josh has been in the agency world since graduating college, working at several agencies around the country. As is often the case, his agency started as a full-service digital marketing agency. The decision to niche down came after the pandemic. This marked a point where his team started to focus on what they did best: branding. The decision led to exponential growth for his agency. He now shares how focusing on innovation and making the jump to niche down changed everything.
In this interview, we’ll discuss:
- How to make innovation a top value at your agency.
- Why innovation can also mean simplifying processes.
- How to get a fresh perspective to bring new ideas.
Sponsors and Resources
E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
Overcoming Hard Times By Niching Down
For Josh’s agency, the two years leading up to the pandemic were years of slow and organic growth. Once Covid hit, more than a third of their clients had to close shop and were unable to pay invoices. It seemed as good a time as any to do something they’ve been discussing for a while and niche down. Josh had been listening to several experts talk about the importance of niching down and owning your niche. Ultimately, they pulled the trigger and it was the best decision they have ever made. In fact, their finances started to improve almost immediately.
If anything, Josh only regrets waiting so long to do it. Luckily, he was able to turn the regret into creating a culture of innovation within the agency. Innovation is probably at the heart of most agencies’ mission and vision. What’s actually hard is clearly defining it with actions.
There is a gap between how many agencies place innovation as one of their top values and how it’s actually one of the lowest when it comes to seeing this investment take place. Most agency owners want to be innovative but fail at “how”.
How Can You Find and Implement Innovation Within Your Agency?
In the agency world, you’re either moving forward or going backward. What can you do to make sure you’re always moving forward? Josh and his team organized a vision meeting where they defined innovation for their agency. They started by “abolishing” some terms like “that’s just the way it is” and “this is how it’s always been”. By doing this, they started recreating their culture.
The concept of innovation in the agency space is usually attached to creative roles, which is a mistake. Anyone can innovate and it’s the youngest people on the team who usually bring a completely unique perspective. So, step one for Josh’s team was deciding that innovation would be a huge part of the agency moving forward. Secondly, they focused on meetings, processes, and implementing tactics to ensure this.
Making huge changes in the agency is never easy and some team members may not be on board. In Josh’s case, about 30% of the team weren’t accepting of the changes. It was his opportunity to see who was willing to be part of an agency transformation. There will always be people who don’t like change. However, in the digital marketing space you have to be innovating and changing or you will be left behind.
5 Questions to Kickoff Innovation in Your Agency
After defining innovation and bringing ideas to implement it, the team next focused on what they could remove from their processes. The idea was to get employees talking about things they were tired of doing and it was a big success. You can become so inflated with processes and SOPs the question “what can we remove?” brings a lot of suggestions. This helped Josh see innovation doesn’t have to be adding more and more. It can also be about removing what no longer serves a purpose for the agency.
In advance of the meeting, Josh sent his team some questions to get them thinking about what should be eliminated:
- What would you like to do more of?
- What would you like to do less of?
- Is there something that has always confused you?
- Is there something that you have always disagreed with?
- What do you think could be removed that would lead to better results?
The exercise led to a lot of ideas which, Josh admits, were spot on. It can be hard to hear because some of the things your team wants to eliminate might be things you put into place. But that is what innovation is all about — change and growth.
Next, they focused on questions about the leadership and the founders. Does X do something that distracts you? You’ll need to have thick skin to listen to what your team has to say, but it’s a great exercise.
How Masterminds Can Help Get a Fresh Perspective on Your Agency
Those meetings were such a success they turned into an annual event for his agency. Every year they organized meetings to tackle: how can we renew? What can we change? What can we add? And the second half focuses on what they can remove and simplify. The big takeaway has been simplicity. These meetings have helped his agency build its culture of innovation and allow its team to bring their own perspective.
More recently, they are focused on the importance of getting external motivation outside of the agency. It’s about maybe finding a peer group or mastermind and learning from someone with a new perspective. Oftentimes, it’s the agency owner who gets to experience these things, but they are trying to come up with ways for employees to also have these experiences.
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