'There's no such thing as bad clients, just bad prospects and bad processes' - digital-preneur Jason Swenk reveals how to take your agency to next level

"There's no such thing as bad clients, just bad prospects and bad processes," remarked self-confessed digital-preneur Jason Swenk to a packed out audience at The Drum's 'Brief Encounters - New Business, New Relationships, True Love' conference.

Having saved his own digital agency from the brink of closure prior to its sale in 2011, Swenk enlightened yesterday's audience with his 12 steps to getting your agency to the next level which included thinking about who you serve, adopting an outbound strategy and producing valuable content for your target audience.

Here we share some of Swenk's top tips for agency success.

Where are you going?

Swenk's first piece of advice for agency professionals looking to improve their business was to think about where you're going. "You must have the right systems in place to get to the next level," he said.

"Growing your agency is not just about getting bigger clients, you need to be thinking about bigger profits. The way I think of it is like Google Maps. Google Maps is amazing but if you don't put in a destination, how will it know how to tell you where to go?"

Who do you serve?

Swenk explained that one of the key components of agency success is to know who you're there to serve. "There's a common fear that you don't want to scare anyone away, but very few agencies unless you are over 100 people can do everything and be a full service agency.

"You need to specialise. If you specialise then you know the clients that you serve, major brands came to my agency because we were specialists and we told clients when they weren't right for us. There is no such thing as bad clients, just bad prospects and bad processes."

Have an outbound strategy

"Waiting for people to come and find you is not scalable," said Swenk whilst recalling how his business was on the brink of collapse a number of years ago. "We had two weeks to make payroll and turn it around so we had to get out there with events, webinars and cold calling."

According to Swenk the best way to get a prospective client's attention is to solve a challenge they're facing, "If you know the biggest challenge that person is facing then it's the best way for a small agency to get in," he explained. "It's not always about more sales, it could be that person wants to make their bonus, hey we're all human. You have to remember we're people selling to people."

Convert the opportunities

There are two winners in each pitch process according to Swenk, the one who gets the account and the one who walks away first.

"You have to be willing to walk away from an account, anyone who will let you just walk away is just window shopping - they were probably never going to buy anything," he said.

"You have to figure out a client's biggest issue. So say for example a car dealership doesn't have enough people going each month and it's costing them $1m - when they go silent on you call them up in a month and ask 'did you solve that $1m problem?'

"It's an easy follow up and you need to understand that what triggers people is value and not price. The most savvy buyers are trying to get the best value, not the best price."

Diageo global design director, Jeremey Lindley also took to the stage at 'Brief Encounters - New Business, New Relationships, True Love' to share his insights into what clients are looking for.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.