The SharpSpring Agency Growth Series features a curated lineup of some of the top influencers in digital marketing. We could not be more excited about the awesome group of great minds we were lucky enough to pull together for this fun and informative agency-focused series.
The free series is made up of 14 unique web sessions, all with a livestream Q&A segment, and all focused on helping agencies accelerate their growth.
Sessions feature digital marketing superstars speaking candidly about the industry topics they know best and are most passionate about. And we want to make sure to share the love – so, in addition to providing recordings of the sessions and live Q&As, we’ll also be posting key takeaways here following each session.
Here’s a look at some favorite key takeaways pulled from our recent Agency Growth Series session, “The Future of Agencies” with author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.
Seth Godin on the home run for agencies
What an agency is has changed. Now we’re dealing with this era where a lot of clients are either too busy or too afraid to learn the tech. And so the agencies – particularly small agencies – say, ‘We will be the soft tissue, we will be your interface between the mammoth Internet companies that want to take all your money and the dashboards and the tech that will help us spend your money wisely.’ And that’s needed. And it’s important, but it’s not the home run. The home run is the step after that and it’s a step after that, that is the future of agencies, which is you are spending all day, every day with a bunch of clients figuring out how to live and thrive in an ecosystem that is based on free media. And even when you’re paying for media, people have to opt into it. It’s not like you have to wait for a word from our sponsors to be all over, between ad blockers and everything else. It’s all opt-in. What that means is you have the ability to get a client to make something better and to charge them appropriately, not by the click, not by the hour, but because you created millions and millions of dollars of value, because you transformed a nonprofit. Because you helped an organization change the way they led. And you know, better to do that than almost anybody. But you have to earn a seat at the table.
Seth Godin on the difference between advertising and marketing
We’ve got to be super careful about the words. Marketing and advertising are not the same thing. They used to be, but they’re not any more. Advertising is spending money, giving it to a media company to lease someone’s attention. Marketing is every single thing we do that touches the market. And so in 1965, if you said, ‘I’m in marketing,’ basically you were saying ‘I’m in advertising’ and now if you say, ‘I’m in marketing,’ they’re like ‘how much money did Seth Godin spend on advertising in the last two years?’ Zero, because I’m not in advertising. I’m in marketing and I’m able to spread the word and cause action to happen. And if I was an agency working today, I would say, yeah, ‘We’ll spend money for you but we’re not in the business of making Google rich. We are in the business of helping our clients grow by serving their customers.’ That is what marketing is, making things better by making better things.
Seth Godin on what agencies can expect in 2021 and beyond
We know that platforms are going to change. We know that new generations use new platforms. We know that antitrust noise is going to increase, which is going to make things more fair and better for advertisers. We know that algorithmic purchasing of advertising space is going to change things. I’m not good at tactics. We just know they’re going to change. And that being resilient in the face of that change is key. On the other hand, strategy. I think the strategy has not changed in 20 years. Who wants to hear from you? What will they tell their friends? That’s it.
Seth Godin on earned attention versus hustling for attention
Many of you have gotten spam about somebody in a far off country who has put 15 million dollars in a briefcase but can’t get it out of the country. And if you’re just willing to buy it, blah, blah, blah. You know what I’m talking about… So the question is, why are there so many typos and poor grammar in that spam? Because they’ve been doing it for a long time, they could certainly afford a copy editor. And the answer is because they only want stupid people to write back. Because smart people who like back eventually will fall away and they won’t make any money from them. So the first email is a filter that says, ‘are you stupid enough to write back to this? Because if you are, you might be stupid enough to send us money.’ And the same thing is true for anybody. You can hustle for their attention. The people you most want to engage with don’t want to be hustled, and you have to earn their attention.
Seth Godin on one must-do task for agency leaders in 2021
I think you need to figure out how to spend real quality time brainstorming with people at your clients who are not in the marketing department. That you should figure out how to organize a call like this one, but with fewer people on it, where five or 10 people from a good client show up from production, from R&D, from customer service, and you take them through a somewhat rigorous form of thinking not to sell them anything, but to get mutual empathy about what everybody does. The great Tom Peters wrote about something Ike Sewell used to do with his Cadillac dealership in Texas. And Ike Sewell Cadillac was one of the biggest Cadillac dealers in America for years and years and years. And what he would do is he would have three months where the sales manager would go to run service and the service manager would go to run sales. And people say, ‘Why would you do that? The service manager isn’t good at running sales.’ He’d say, ‘yeah, but what would happen is for three months they would hear the promises or answers each one of them had been giving to our customers. And finally they developed some empathy.’
Seth Godin on mass appeal
I was a VP at Yahoo! In 1999 and the homepage of Yahoo! was the homepage of the Internet. It was the number one seen thing on the Internet and it was sold out. The ad, the banner at the top was sold out a year and a half in advance. And the people who bought that banner didn’t want clicks and they didn’t want data. They just wanted to be able to tell people they bought the Internet. They got everybody. Marketers care about mass. That’s a mistake. It’s foolish to pay extra for a Super Bowl ad to reach people you don’t care about, but people do. The Internet is the first popular medium since newspapers that wasn’t invented for marketers, and that isn’t a mass medium. You cannot reach as many people on the Internet in one day as you can reach with a Super Bowl ad. It’s impossible. There’s no homepage. Can’t do it. It’s a micro medium. It is a million little tiny media. It is not one giant one. And it is better at that than anything that has ever existed. So if you want to reach left-handed Spanish-speaking jugglers, you can do that. Can’t do that anywhere else. And so the acceleration is, marketers are finally understanding, mass is gone. There will never again be another Heinz ketchup. There will never again be another Kraft Single. Gone forever. What we have instead is the long tail and we live on the long tail and you got to figure out where you want to stick out. That’s the key lesson. There are like three big ideas, and this is marketing. One of them is the smallest viable audience. Stop looking for the biggest possible audience and start embracing the smallest viable one instead.
Seth Godin on getting noticed on social media
I don’t work for Twitter and I don’t work for Facebook. And most of the people who are busy competing for attention there are actually the product. They’re not the customer. I think being noticed is way overrated. It is enormously unimportant. You need to be trusted by the smallest viable audience. You need to give the smallest viable audience something to talk about. So the entire growth of my blog, which has never once had a blog post that won the Internet, never once had (unintelligible), is simple. I write blog posts so that my readers, who will benefit from sharing them, will share them, not because they like me, but because they will benefit if someone in their office reads it and they go, ‘see, see.’ And I learned that when I wrote for ‘Fast Company,’ I wrote more words for ‘Fast Company’ than almost anybody. And my goal was to write a column that people would Xerox and put into the other people’s mailboxes. And that’s different than saying, ‘how can I be controversial inside of Twitter so people will notice me?’ Being noticed doesn’t help you.
Seth Godin on how agencies get better
It’s so hard to be a small business, particularly a small agency, there’s a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone. As someone pointed out, that many of the people on this call, if you switch the logos on their websites, wouldn’t change very much. That the pressure on you is to say, ‘If you need an agency, I’m an agency.’ And that’s not how you get better, the first rule is this. You’re going to get better by getting better clients, better clients, demand more, pay on time, talk about you more, challenge you more and listen to you better. You get better clients not by getting bigger. You get better clients not by getting cheaper. You get better clients by being the kind of agency that better clients like. And that means being specific, not general. Number two taking the advice of the smallest viable audience is key.
Seth Godin on fear of the future
There are two ways we can think about fear. If you are trying to maintain the status quo, you should be really afraid. Because the world is absolutely crazy and this is the most stable it’s ever going to be again, the marketing world, the algorithmic world, the AI. You know, GPT-3 can write a blog post almost like me. Like, the first two paragraphs, they had me going and then, ‘Oh you lost the thread.’ But anything a computer can do well, now it can do really well in two or three years. So if you’re hoping to hang on and keep the status quo as it is, you should be really afraid. On the other hand, as my friend Brian Koppelman says, fear could be your fuel. And if you can gain the resilience to not need the status quo to stay the same, then something is right around the corner. You know, in oceans around the world, surfers go and they have no idea what the surf is going to be like. A great surfer who won a world championship and I’ve just forgotten his name, bought some inland farmland in California. Flooded it, but first he put a train track in. This is a true story. Kelly Slater put a train track in and put a train on the train track with a snowplow in front of it. And this train pushes the water and makes a perfect wave every time. And he built grandstands and put in cameras. It’s perfect surfing. And you know what? A lot of surfers don’t want it because the point of surfing is you’re not exactly sure what the next wave is going to be. That’s why it’s surfing. So. I’m not afraid, I am certain that this is all going to be different in three years, certain that the rules are going to be different, the interactions are going to be different, the expectations are going to be different. The audiences are going to be different. If you’re afraid of that, it’s because you’re holding on to something. I’m saying, ‘Wow, that’ll be interesting.’
Seth Godin on asking the question that hasn’t been asked
So in 1993, a guy in my company named Mark Hurst showed me this thing called the World Wide Web. And I’m like, ‘This is stupid. The World Wide Web. It’s like Prodigy, but with no business model. We’re in the email business.’ And I lost nine months of competitive time because I was sure I knew what the question was and I wasn’t asking, ‘Wait, what would that mean if this happened?’ And it’s all around us, right? What does it mean if our competitors are building out multiple stores? What does it mean if drop shipping is growing faster? What does it mean if generic everything is right around the corner? Asking these questions for 20 minutes a day opens our eyes to what is possible, because either you’re going to be on the cutting edge exploring what’s possible and getting paid appropriately, or you’re going to be in the tail edge without a lot of resilience, whiplashed by all the change that’s out there.
If you’re looking to watch Seth’s full-length Agency Growth Series session, you can find the recording on our website right now!
And, if you missed any of our previous Agency Growth Series sessions, you can easily check them all out right here: