Creating Relationships that Lead to a Successful Digital Agency

By Jason Swenk on July 26, 2023

Do you view your digital agency clients as a means to an end? Are you and your team taking a real interest in your clients in order to understand them as a person first? Creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency. That’s why today’s guest finds his background in accounting a helpful skill in understanding what is important to his agency clients. Budgets and bottom line are one thing, but clients want to be treated like humans. He is on the show to share the insights he has learned about client relationships, how he weaves that into the interview process, and two pivotal moments that helped him have confidence and courage as an agency owner.

Spencer Hadelman is the founder and CEO of Advantage Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing firm that provides digital and traditional media solutions. His agency has served big brand clients like the University of Berkley and Hello Kitty and also invests in multiple companies with their recent e-commerce acquisitions.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency.
  • One unique interview tactic that assesses agency employees.
  • Why you need confidence and courage to be an agency owner.



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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 and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective on the show.


Serving Agency Clients According to Their Specific Needs

Spencer describes his business as a full-service marketing firm since he believes the label “agency” scares people off sometimes. He understands clients don’t always need help in every area so his company has 3 subdivisions:

  • Digital advertising: Helping clients with search and Google campaigns, as well as paid social.
  • Traditional media: Including television ad campaigns, radio, billboards, and direct mail.
  • Content creation: Mainly content for their organic social campaigns. They also do website design, logo design, branding work, etc.

Some clients require all three services while others choose just one pillar depending on their needs. Overall, clients seem to appreciate that, depending on their strategy, they have different experts working on their marketing needs. They aren’t just pushed to one division completely. It’s great to have a different perspective from someone in a different division and in the end, it’s all about the results.

Why Human Relationships Are at the Core of Every Successful Agency

Even though Spencer majored in accounting, he credits the knowledge and skill set he got from his education as an important part of his marketing work. In fact, having those accounting skills is something he recommends to anyone wanting to own a business someday. Marketing courses and working at other agencies gave him the experience he needed to learn about the industry; however, accounting is what still helps him understand the clients’ businesses.

Working at other agencies he learned about media buying and the evolution of changing technologies. The biggest lesson he took away, however, was that clients want to be treated like humans. It’s not just about their budget and coming in focused on how much ad spend. It’s about creating long-term relationships. Whether it’s a startup or a huge brand, if clients are putting their faith in you, you need to take a human approach to it.

It was those relationships with clients that gave Spencer the push to start his agency. It seemed like a logical next step, after realizing clients didn’t really care about the agency and were more excited to work with him and his team.


A Unique Interview Tactic that Helps Assess Agency Employees

Spencer likes to prepare potential new hires for possible hostile reactions from clients. This is something he does even during their interview process. He reads their CV in front of them and shows a dismissive attitude just to see their reactions. In his opinion, it’s a good way to see how someone handles conflict and difficult situations.

To balance that with a fun work culture, he organizes outings, retreats, and contests. To help the team integrate and have fun, he comes up with different activities throughout the year. This reflects on the way the team interacts with one another and helps create strong relationships.

2 Pivotal Moments That Shaped Confidence and Courage as an Agency Owner

When Spencer started his agency, a friend offered to rent him an extra office space. Although he had planned to just work from home and not pay any rent, his friend offered him a very reasonable deal and he took it. Looking back, this helped him a lot during the early stages of his agency. He had access to a conference room where he could meet clients, which greatly helped with credibility. He also got to wake up every morning and leave the house, which helped his agency feel more like a real business even if he was one person at the time. It was such an impactful gesture that nowadays he always offers office space to that same friend.

Another pivotal moment for Spencer happened while working at another agency. He pitched some ideas to the owners of a golf resort. In the end, that client didn’t end up choosing the agency but liked his ideas. They were vocal about the opportunity to work with him outside that agency.

After quitting, he reached out to them and they talked about a project for a golf course in Wisconsin. He had never worked on that type of project but knew the sport well and had his agency experience to fall back on. It’s now one of the top five golf resorts in the country, something he helped build since its beginning.

Overall, Spencer is very proud of how it all happened because he had the confidence and courage to follow through with that client. He thinks every agency owner could benefit from trusting their abilities and taking calculated risks when someone expresses interest in working with them.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

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