Can You Continue to Scale Your Agency While Staying Lean?
Do you think that growing and scaling your agency means always going for more in every aspect? Will Russell is the founder and CEO of Russell Marketing, an agency focused on product launch marketing, crowdfunding, e-commerce, and Amazon. Through his experience with his agency, he created a five-step launch process meant to enable anyone to validate and pursue an idea in an affordable manner without taking a massive amount of risk. In this episode, he’ll talk about how to prepare for the launch, why you should never ask family and friends what they think about your idea, and how he approaches the idea of scaling his agency while staying lean.
3 Golden Nuggets
- Pursuing an idea. There are no guarantees when it comes to ideas. If there were, major brands like Apple wouldn’t launch products that fail. This is why Will’s process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas, but not everyone has the right feedback. Preferably don’t lose time asking your family and friends if your idea is good. You won’t know for sure until you start selling. Sometimes the market will tell you that the idea is not good, Will’s system is all about preparing as much as you can and anticipate some of the possible hurdles.
- The five-step process. The mistakes made when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way can be very costly. This five-step system was created to avoid those mistakes. 1. Validation, which is understanding how a product resonates in the market. 2. Build an audience, 3. Engage your audience, a key here will be resolving sales objections by trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the launch, 4. Focus on audience conversion, 5. Scale and optimize.
- Not more but better. Something that really describes Will’s philosophy and the direction he wanted to take with his agency is “the goal should not be more, the goal should be better” and how he wanted to continue to scale his business while staying lean. This applies to pretty much everything. From the number of clients you have, the number of employees you need, and the number of hours you’re working to get your agency to the next level. The answer doesn’t always have to be more, more, more. Sometimes we should ask ourselves how we could work better or smarter.
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.
Continue to Scale Your Agency While Staying Lean With this 5-Step Process for a Successful Launch
Jason: [00:00:00] What’s up, agency owners? I’m excited to have another amazing guest in the masterclass. We’re going to talk about the five-step launch system that you can follow for yourself or for your clients. We’re going to talk about how Will’s actually grown and scaled his agency while staying lean. And having a lifestyle that he’s always wanted, where you have the freedom to pick and choose to do the things that you love doing rather than being forced to do everything.
So let’s go ahead and get into the episode.
Hey, Will! Welcome to the show.
Will: [00:00:39] Hey, Jason. Thank you for having me, pleasure.
Jason: [00:00:42] Well, um, thanks for coming on. Uh, tell us who you are and what do you do?
Will: [00:00:48] Absolutely. My name’s Will Russell. I’m the founder of a launch marketing agency, Russell Marketing. We specialize in product launches, idea launches, uh, such as crowdfunding, Amazon, e-commerce, and so on.
Essentially we have a five-step system that we, we bring to our clients and help them successfully launch their, their big ideas.
Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. Well, let’s go ahead. And, um, you know, before we kind of jump into it, how did you start the agency and why?
Will: [00:01:21] I used to… About six years ago, I, I was working at an organization and the organization relocated. That would have meant a kind of a 19-minute commute, either way for me.
And that was not what I wanted to be doing. You know, my, I created this business and I wanted to always wanted to have a lifestyle or life outside of work. And so three hours every day commuting wasn’t my cup of tea. So I decided if there was ever a time to pursue something myself, then, then that was it.
I went ahead, just kicked it off with some freelancing work. So, if, if the business was viable, if I could start bringing in clients like that and. And it was able to, and we successfully just continue taking steps since then really.
Jason: [00:02:07] Very cool. Well, let’s go ahead and jump into kind of the five-step launch process.
Uh, tell us a little bit about that and walk us through it.
Will: [00:02:17] Absolutely. So this five-step launch process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas. In my early work as a freelancer, I saw how costly mistakes can be when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way.
And so what I did is I created this five-step system, which if follows like a recipe, uh, should enable anyone to validate and pursue their idea in a, in an affordable manner. Without taking a massive amount of risk. I’m a pretty risk-averse person and my, my processes and my in my business, uh… reflect that.
So the, the system is, as I say, five steps. We start with validation. Validation is short period, which I’m sure many of your listeners know, know well. You know, product market fit. Understanding how this product, how this idea resonates in the market. Steps two and steps three a then a curve between the validation period and the actual launch.
And it’s all about acquiring prospective customers and getting them excited. Getting them ready to buy. And essentially a key is resolving sales objections. If you’re launching a new product, you’re not going to know what those sales objections are until you actually start selling. So this prelaunch period is really about trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the, of the launch.
Step four is once the launch occurs, you build your prospective customer audience. Now you’ve got to convert them. So we’re going to focus on converting them into customers. And step five in this system is scale. So most folks, when they’re launching, we’ll have a call launch period, and I’ll go with our clients is to scale as high as possible as many units sold as much revenue, whatever that goal is… As possible during that, uh, during that footstep scale, during that pre-order period.
So we’ll set and done. That, that five-step system can usually take around four or five months. And coming out at the end of it, a client has, uh, early customers, early adopters, uh, engaged communities around their product and knock on wood, they’ll be ready for a real ramp up on their e-commerce.
Jason: [00:04:39] That’s awesome. I love it. I love how simple it is and I love, um, you know, the step number two, kind of around overcoming objections. Uh, yeah. Like I totally agree with you, you can’t overcome objections until you’ve actually tried to sell and exactly convert people, uh, to figure that out. Cause everybody, like I remember, you know, I, I did many, many companies and came up with many dumb ideas.
And I remember telling people, like, hey, this is idea, what do you think? They’re like, we love it. And then you get to, you know, selling it and like no one buys it. I remember doing this one thing. It’s when I did a lot of triathlons. And I just thought of like, as gag gift, I was like this beer trainer.
It was like a helmet with a big, uh, little, like, like a wire that hangs a beer out in front of you that you never could reach… it was the dumbest thing.
Will: [00:05:37] Yeah. I mean, it’s little funny, it’s funny that… It’s obviously, it’s impossible to predict. Otherwise, you know, apple and Google wouldn’t launch products that fail. You can’t predict them.
However, there are a lot of things you can do to really understand, uh, the potential of an idea well before you have to invest. And so a lot of folks do come to me like you might have, have with, with your idea, which was kind of, you know, kind of unusual…
Jason: [00:06:07] You can say it’s stupid.
Will: [00:06:11] And, and… they’ve been told by their family and friends. Oh yeah, I would definitely buy this. But there’s a great book called The Mom Test. I can’t remember the author but, you know, you don’t ask your family and friends. If your idea is good, you got to get it into the market and got to get that feedback. And sometimes you get told by the market your idea sucks.
And that sucks. Uh, but in my opinion, it’s better to find that out before you’ve invested thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars in pursuing it.
Jason: [00:06:45] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it’s easy, unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business.
Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team’s paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto’s help, you can offer benefits like 401k’s health insurance, workers’ comp, and a lot more. And because you’re a smart agency masterclass listener, you’re going to get three months free once you run your first payroll.
Yeah, there, there was one situation where a company came to me that was starting out and they’re like, hey, we’re going to… We want to develop this little, this book and this little elf that sits on the shelf. And, uh, and I was like, no, that’s a dumb idea. And then every Christmas I’ve been doing it.
Will: [00:08:10] Yeah. Elf, exactly. You, you… the strangest things can unexpectedly take off. Uh, so it’s an interesting business to be in launches because you do see, you see some products you think a slam dunks face some really big objections and vice versa. So it’s all about, it’s all about what the data’s telling us. Uh, and that’s what the system focuses on.
Jason: [00:08:32] Exactly. Well, let’s switch focus a little bit. Um, how have you been able to build a lean team and keep scaling the agency?
Will: [00:08:41] Yeah, that was a particular goal of mine in the last couple of years. This year more so. You know, over the… I think most agency owners will they’ll grow.
And the solution to growing is okay, I need to hire more, bring in more team members. So we got to eight or nine and of last year, middle of last year. And I was having spending more time in meetings and check-ins, and I, then I, then I wanted to frankly, and, and, and what I’m… How I’m looking to live ,y life is a key guide of the business.
So I didn’t want to live my life in meetings with, with the team. And so I said, okay, no more hiring. What are we going to do this year to grow without hiring? And that, I think a lot of the answers aren’t surprising to people when we talk about productizing your services and making everything as systematic as possible.
Uh, we talk about, uh, avoiding scope creep by really understanding and allocating kind of time allowances or bandwidth allowances for each, each role in the business and which role in the system. Uh, we talk about… Having a great lead pipeline so you can pick and choose the higher value leads that come in.
But as essentially too, I think you, you really set that goal hiring is such an easy solution to increasing revenue. And so while you might know, you know, the key, the key ways to avoid that and to grow while staying lean. When you actually force yourself to enact it, and you really start seeing the details and specificities for your business rather than the generic kind of best practices of doing so.
Jason: [00:10:31] I hit my mute button.
Will: [00:10:32] Yeah. Do you know… I listened to, I listened to Seth Godin’s… the podcast you did with him a while back. I listened that recently before this show and he said something that I felt really tied into our philosophy around that. And he said, the goal should not be more, the goal should be better. And he was speaking about that with regards to the type of people you work with I think, the clients.
But I think that applies to pretty much everything. You know what, whether it’s the, how many hours we’re working a week or the value we’re providing. It’s not necessarily always do more, do more, do more, but it’s how can we do it better? And that’s a good, uh, philosophy to work off of when we scaling, uh, leaning too.
Jason: [00:11:17] Well, it’s also doing it better and then doing it your way, right? I talk to so many agencies that they have goals of going, you know, like a lot of agencies on our mastermind. They go I want to go from 3 million to over eight figures. I’m like, well, why? And a lot of them have issues with saying that they just go, I don’t, it’s just a number. It’s, it’s a goal. Like, well, what if your goal was to do it better, to do it more efficiently where you actually can create more time for yourself, right?
Like in the pre-show we were talking about how you work maybe 20 hours, and then you spend a lot of work on your nonprofit and it’s about how can you create the right systems, have the right people- because you have to have people, um, in this business in order to be able to pick and choose and do the things that you love. Like, you know… In this business, you know, the, you have to figure out what is like Dean Jackson says, like you’re the cow, all you do is produce the milk.
So what is the milk? I don’t need to produce the cheese. I don’t need to sell the cheese. Those that’s what other people can actually do.
Will: [00:12:34] Yeah, absolutely. That does saying I think applies to, uh, being a generalist versus a specialist, a lot of agencies early, early on, myself included, try to do a lot of things and quickly realize you can’t do that well.
So focus on a couple of things that we do really well. And that is limiting when you have people coming to you saying, well, we need SEO help. Uh, we’ve got a lot of money to spend on SEO. I mean a lot of money sounds, sounds good in the sense that it gives me safety net protection. But we don’t do SEO. So, so, and we’ve got to stick with that and we want to be the best that the launch system we do have.
And so, yeah, I completely agree with that.
Jason: [00:13:19] And I look at it as kind of, when you start out, you have to try everything and you have to figure out what are you really good at? It’s kind of like, you know, in sports, you know, you got to try basketball and football and soccer and tennis, swimming, whatever it is. And then by the time you get toward the end of your high school and you’re wanting to go to college, well, you have your sport.
Um, that’s kind of how it was with me. That’s kinda how it’s going with our kids. It’s like try everything and then see what you really like, what you’re good at, what you don’t like. Do more of the good stuff.
Will: [00:13:55] Yeah. And from an agency standpoint, I do remember early on one of the… The key things I was looking for is what, what marketing can, uh, or what service offering can quickly show results.
Because there’s especially early on, if you have no credibility and no case studies, you can have a hard time with sales. So SEO is a long-term game. It might be a long time before we have that evidence. But paid ads, which are a big piece of our launch system, I can get results tomorrow and I can have a case study tomorrow that shows that results.
So that was a big piece of it. You know, what can we do to build that foundation of credibility as quickly as possible, so that did direct or choose of services.
Jason: [00:14:37] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, this, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Will: [00:14:45] No, I guess the, the main thing I often like to leave people with is, is just to focus on the validation… Is kind of what you pointed out, Jason, why, you know. A lot of people come to me and I’m sure a lot of folks are coming to your listeners with, with ideas, with things to pursue. Uh, but understanding the why and, and validating that is the right thing to pursue saves a lot of heartache money and time in the end.
And it’s been a well worthwhile focus for us. So it’s always something I lean on others to consider.
Jason: [00:15:18] Awesome. And what’s agency website people can go and check you out?
Jason: [00:15:26] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out. Russell,uh, Will, thank you for so much for coming on.
And, uh, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners that can really see the things that you’re not able to see and be able to open your eyes to things you may not have heard of. So you can grow and scale faster and really get to the point where you can pick and choose to do the things you love while your agency’s scaling, which is really pretty cool.
I’d love to invite all of you to go to the digitalagencyelite.com. It’s our exclusive mastermind for really experienced agency owners that want to be transparent and share what’s working Go there now and, uh, and meet the, meet the other members there. There’s a great video where the, you can check out the members, but go to digital agencyelite.com.
And until next time have a Swenk day.