Break Into a New Niche with a Strategic Agency Acquisition
Have you thought about expanding into a new industry? Ever wonder about buying another agency for their expertise and book of business? Even for an established agency, it can be difficult to break into a new space. However, a strategic agency acquisition can save a lot of time and effort. Today’s guest found an agency acquisition was the ideal way to break into another niche. In this conversation, he shares some of what he learned from his agency acquisition and some lessons learned along the way.
David Hernandez is the cofounder of Lotus 823, an integrated communications and digital market agency. This boutique agency works with some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in consumer tech and lifestyle offering to build engaging partnerships that feel like a natural extension of clients’ companies.
Historically, his agency had mostly served clients in the tech space. However, they recently expanded to the home and lifestyle industry after purchasing an agency with years of expertise and reputation in that space. Thinking back to the acquisition process, he talks about how he made the decision, the lessons learned, and the valuable partner they gained as a result.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- Using a strategic acquisition to break into a new industry.
- Lessons from acquiring an agency.
- How to run a people-first agency.
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.
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.
Building Authority to Land Bigger Agency Clients
The idea for David’s agency was born 12 years ago while he and his wife pondered the possibilities for social media. Back then, people were still trying to figure out Facebook and they could see consumers would use it to communicate with each other and brands. It would never again be just top-down marketing. That was their inspiration for building an integrated agency that focuses on public relations, communications, and digital marketing. From the start, they had the vision of being a true partner to their client’s business goals.
Like most agencies, in the first couple of years, they focused on trying to get off the ground. They had a logo, a website, no case studies, and basically just their word and prior experience to attract clients. Because of this, their first clients were innovative startup brands in the tech space who took a risk on them. They worked to get their clients’ media placements and third-party credibility through media reviews and spotlights.
That was the start and they built on that even when it took extra hours and was not profitable. Eventually, they had a body of work they could use to go for bigger brands.
Using a Strategic Acquisition to Break Into a New Niche
Several years ago, David and his partner acquired an agency specialized in the home space. They saw the growing push of the tech space into homes/lifestyles and wanted to access new opportunities to expand into a new industry.
Initially, David and Rachel (the owner of the agency he eventually acquired) met working on opposite sides of a client. While Rachel was handling the public relations side, David and his team handled social media marketing. They quickly hit it off and realized both agencies meshed really well, culturally. The idea for the acquisition grew organically and seemed like a great move for Lotus 823. Additionally, it offered the advantage of having a true expert at the helm of that initiative.
Of course, the acquisition process came with its own challenges and frustrations past the honeymoon phase. Bringing together different cultures has its challenges, even if they’re a good fit. In the end, it was a great way to accelerate access to the home/lifestyle space as opposed to them breaking down that door by themselves.
Lessons from Acquiring Another PR Agency
If he could do it all over again, David would try to understand the other agency’s processes, instead of just focusing on their results. His team didn’t realize how different their process was from what they were used to. It differed in the way both agencies measured profitability and results. There was no ill intent in it; it was just a series of details the team glossed over that led to complications later on.
It was definitely a learning process and in hindsight, David says he should have understood how the agency works from onboarding to execution. It’s the only way to know what you’re acquiring in terms of revenue vs. profitability and whether or not both teams can mesh seamlessly.
The agency they acquired was a boutique so it was more about acquiring their book of business as well as Rachel’s expertise in the space. From the beginning, they laid out the plans for her involvement and future exit. He worried the acquisition would spook clients not on long-term contracts. However, in a sense, it made it a simpler acquisition. The challenges came later on when it was time to figure out how to incorporate the acquired agency into his agency’s processes.
2 Big Misconceptions Clients Have About Public Relations
There’s usually some level of education needed for clients when it comes to understanding PR work. There are two big misconceptions most clients have:
- PR brings in sales. That’s not what PR is for. There are many other tools that can help with sales. But PR is first and foremost the best tool to create credibility and visibility for a brand. Typically, once Lotus823 gets clients on a couple of media outlets their views go up, sometimes to billions of impressions. That type of visibility helps a brand create awareness, which creates a different conversation with potential consumers who now have an emotional connection with the brand.
- Big publications are the best PR. Clients think pubs like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal are the key to unlocking PR. However, this doesn’t necessarily move the needle for every brand. It depends on their audience. Everybody wants the legitimacy of being in the New York Times. However, maybe an influencer program or tech outlet is a better fit for certain brands. When they build an influencer program, they typically look for relevancy. It’s not about the numbers. Sometimes a client will specifically want to work with celebrities. David’s team will redirect them to what actually works, which is working with creators with strong, engaged communities and a great reputation.
How to Run a People-First PR Agency
David runs a hybrid agency that offers the option of coming to the office. It’s important to him to offer flexible schedules to show they respect the team’s personal lives. The goal is to allow employees to build their work schedule into their personal life and really be present when it’s time to work.
When it comes to his agency’s culture, David strives to run a people-first agency where employees feel like their mental health is taken into account. Providing a work environment that allows for a balanced life helps you find and keep great talent.
According to David, if you find yourself managing a person too tightly, you’ve made the wrong hire. It’s a mistake that leads to mediocre output. You get transformative work when you have people you trust and who are happy working with each other.
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