GE 147: How Jason Swenk Built His Coaching Business Into a 7-Figure Company By NOT Making Decisions Based on Money (podcast) With Jason Swenk


Jason Swenk Marketing Agency Consultant

Hey everyone, today on the show we have Jason Swenk, who teaches digital agency owners how to double their business through setting up the right systems. Jason ran a successful agency for 12 years until he sold it and now has the number one resource for agency owners who want to scale and grow their businesses. Jason actually helped me with my business, and I think he has a wonderful model!

In today’s interview we’ll be talking about how Jason built his agency into a seven figure business, the financial transaction that consisted of equity, earn-out and cash up front, and how Jason was able to transition to become the world’s largest resource for agency owners. We also discuss some of his lead generation and segmentation techniques and his policy of doing work he loves.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Jason Swenk Built His Coaching Business Into a 7-Figure Company By NOT Making Decisions Based on Money TRANSCRIPT

Episode highlights:

  • [2:32] – Earn-out is where a seller of a business will receive additional payments based on the future performance of a business.
  • [4:03] – Jason started his podcast after discovering he wasn’t meant to be an employee or an app developer. He started helping old competitors for free and realized it was a business.
  • [5:39] – He has worked in 23 countries and his business is over 7 figures. He discovered when you are making decisions on what you love as opposed to money you grow faster.
  • [6:24] – Jason’s service’s include about 60% on programs and online courses. About 40% are mastermind groups and private coaching and speaking gigs.
  • [7:56] – You can do passive income for so long, but the live mastermind groups and coaching keep us relevant.
  • [8:35] – Jason discovered that going into a business without a plan and clarity doesn’t work. You can’t say yes to everything. Have a specialization, you can’t serve everybody.
  • [9:27] – Lead generation is about knowing your audience and giving your best content to them. Once you know your audience you can find out what people want to know.
  • [11:13] – Jason breaks his lead campaigns into milestones. He figures out how the audience is engaging and then he serves content based on that.
  • [11:44] – He uses Infusionsoft for automation, and progressive profiling thank-you pages. He asks one question, then another, and the readers are tagged for an offer. Lesson learned – if someone does something to opt-in, then ask them to do something else.
  • [14:08] – Having an opt-in thank-you page that only says thank-you is wasting an opportunity to refine and target your audience.
  • [14:19] – Jason’s biggest struggle with his new agency has been focusing on quality over quantity, he even deleted about 30% of his old content.
  • [17:21] – Jason’s advice to his 25 year-old self is don’t make decisions based on money. Make decisions based on love.
  • [21:22] – Jason believes Facebook marketing is the most powerful marketing in the world right now, because of the targeting and ability to create custom audiences.

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Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.

Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Jason: Everybody thinks the point that wins the game is the most important but it's really the set up point which is the point before and it's just like that in business. People just think winning the deal is everything but it's about how you get there and how do you set it up in order to win the deal.

Announcer: Do you want to impact the world and still turn a profit then you're in the right place. Welcome to Growth Everywhere. This is the show where you'll find real conversations with real entrepreneurs. They'll share everything from their biggest struggle to the exact strategies they use on a daily basis. If you're ready for a value packed interview listen on. Here's your host Eric Siu.

Eric: Before we jumped in to today's interview if you guys could leave a review and a rating and also subscribe as well, that would be a huge help to the podcast so if you actually enjoy the content and you'd like to hear more of it please support us by leaving us a review and subscribe to the podcast as well. Thank you so much.

All right, everyone, today we have Jason Swenk who shows digital agency owners how to double their business through setting up the right system. Jason has run a successful agency for 12 years until selling it and he now has the number one resource for agency owners that want to scale and grow their business. Jason actually helps me himself and I think he has a wonderful model. Jason, how's it going?

Jason: Hey, thanks a lot. I want to clarify. I'm the number one resource in the world for agency owners voted by my wife and kids.

Eric: Cool, man. Jason, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of what you do?

Jason: I'm a husband and a father first and foremost. In 1999 I started an agency I guess back then it was a web shop and we design websites and for a number of different years we design websites and then we start transitioning to digital agency and I was lucky enough a couple of years to position it to sell it and sold it, try to figure out what to do next and now I help digital agency owners like yourself and I love it.

Eric: Great. How much did you end up selling that business for?

Jason: I tell you the valuation of the company was over 20 and then I got a lot in cash and then the rest was in earn out that we never saw.

Eric: Got it. How does that work exactly the earn out that you never saw, can you talk about that?

Jason: A lot of people don't know this, so when people go to sell a company they will kind of go through like a letter of intent and basically the letter of intent will basically tell you what they value your company for and then you have to kind of decide, is that a price that I'm willing to take and then they'll break that up into a number of different ways, equity in the new company, earn out which is basically paid for performance over a certain time period that is really hard to hit because you don't control everything, you're not the

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captain anymore and then the other part is cash upfront. I was telling people, "Be happy with the cash you get upfront," and then you can go from there and just anticipate that you're not getting an earn out.

Eric: Just to give people some context you have to have a service based business, what type of targets they expect you to hit?

Jason: It was always kind of like when they'll start going to the due diligence they'll ask you to say, they must start doing the calculations, they'll say, "All right, if we both 2 plus 2 together, it should equal 8." They'll say, "All right, you were on a runway to hit 15 million with us adding your services to it, you should be on a path to hitting 20 million." Then they'll say, "All right, that's worth this to us," and so they'll start paying you at about 2 years or in the event that the agency sold began which it was in 9 months later.

Eric: It make sense. Why did you decide to start the which is called the smart agency consulting business?

Jason: When I started the podcast was I kind of get pulled back into this. When I sold the agency I didn't know what I wanted to do next because I did it for 12 years. I mean, that's all I knew and so I thought the grass is greener on other side like every entrepreneur and it was like, "I did services for so long so I need to create this product," started creating this iPhone app that took picture of everything that you ate and gives you a visualization but I hated it and I didn't do it and so I quickly shut that off and then I work for someone for about a year as a chief innovation officer for a big financial technology and I didn't like that.

Once you're an entrepreneur you're kind of like unemployable because you think everybody knowing as smart as you for some odd reason and literally at that time I had a bunch of old competitors start reaching out to me, asking me, "How did we land this big account? How did we build the systems, how do we position the agency to be sold, for the money it did." Then I started helping him out for free and I loved it. My wife told me I should create a business out of it and I did. I'm so glad I listened to my wife.

Eric: Wonderful. How's the business going today in terms of revenues, customers and things like that.

Jason: I've helped over a thousand agency owners around the world. People have bought my stuff in over 23 countries from the last I counted. It was kind of funny I asked Stacey and said, "How many countries have we worked at?" She did the numbers and all that kind of stuff and came back with like 223. I'm like, "Oh, my God. Really?" I was like, "There's not even 223 countries." She's like, "Oh, I didn't mean to put a 2. That was a typo." The business over 7 figures which is incredible. I used to tell people, do something that you really truly love and not worry about money.

I was very fortunate when I sell the agency, I didn't really have to worry about money, making a decision based on money anymore and when I start doing that then everything else I start touching kept growing faster than it should because I was making decisions

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on what I loved and what I knew versus making money, I think that's a big mistake a lot of people don't do.

Eric: What's the break down of your service offerings?

Jason: It's literally about 60% is on programs like online courses, do it yourself programs, templates, that kind of stuff and another 40% is broken out in a couple of different ways from mastermind groups to private one-on-one coaching to kind of speaking gigs and stuff like that.

Eric: How did you go about acquiring your first few customers for this new business?

Jason: I actually started taking on one-on-one clients first so the old competitors start coming I was helping out for free and they're having huge results and then I basically said, "I can't do this for free anymore, I charge X." They said, "Yeah, okay, cool." As I started doing that I'd love it. I was like, "Well, I want to help more people out." Then I started creating basically reverse engineering what made successful at the agency and created a program and then also as I was working with kind of my private one-on-one clients I'm like, "We did this cool thing so let's kind of put this in the program."

That's kind of how I started transitioning to the do-it-yourself programs and then the cool thing is a lot of people talk about in the space, you can just do this for the passive income but you can do that for so long but then you're going to become irrelevant and that's why I always take on private clients and master my group and that kind of stuff just so you can stay relevant and keep making your programs better and better because I think we've all seen people kind of rise to the top and then you're like, "Where they go?"

Eric: When service businesses come to you, agencies come to you, what are the typical problems that you see?

Jason: The biggest thing is we all get in the business by accident so like when I originally started my agency, I design a website making fun of one of my friends because he look like Justin Timberlake from NSYNC so I call Nshift so I got all these website requests but I didn't have a plan of where I wanted to go. I didn't have that clarity. I didn't have that plan of what to say no to and so one of the biggest problem I feel is people know how to do something good and then someone offers you money and then you realize you can do a business from it but then you keep going at it without a plan so you're saying yes to everything and you don't have that clarity.

Another thing is having a specialization, I think that is the second biggest mistake people make is not having a specialization and they said they serve everybody. Now when I tell people that I tell, "You're only marketing to a certain specialization and you start out there and then you can go broader." Those are really been the 2 and another part on the service based business or probably any kind of business is around building up your lead generation and generating leads. Obviously, you don't have that problem but everybody else does have that problem on lead generation and they're going about the

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wrong way because they're not helping or they're not capturing the information the right way.

Eric: What are some tips you can give around capturing information the right way because I knew you do a lot of stuff in terms of segmentation and things like that?

Jason: It's all about knowing your audience, knowing your audience's biggest challenge or desire and giving your best content to them, helping them out. I was talking to a client the other day and I was saying, "Look." He's like, "I don't know what to write about." They just start writing a boring blog that was just to like Jane Doe. I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no." What does Jane like? What does she want? I was like, "Once we know the person we're targeting, why don't we do something like, I mean, this is kind of what I do and Gary V. does and a lot of people is go and solicit people for questions but let's say don't know you exit," like on Twitter and you're like, "What's your biggest challenge, I solve it, no one answers it."

You can go to sites like Korra, you can go to Facebook communities, LinkedIn communities, find out what people are asking and then literally record yourself on like a camera and put it on YouTube, extract out the audio, create a podcast from it and then have a connection on that and then you can basically capture all these information after you provide them value. That's one of the easiest ways or one of the ones, I was talking with Tim Page about this is that he always jokes around on his webinars where they created this eBook. Everybody thinks you have to create an eBook and I think eBooks suck because they're good for leads but no one's going to digest them.

Literally, you can come up with the top tools for your industry and then list them out and just give that away as opt in to capture information. Then what I do is I take them through what I call kind of like my campaign that's broken out into milestones and what I'm doing is I'm figuring out how they're engaging with me and then I'm serving up content based on what I know about them to have them engage with me, or what I know about them. If I know they're an agency owner and they're under 300,000 in revenue I'm not going to send them to send them to a mastermind campaign, or if they're freelancer they're not going to get access to, speak to me directly. It's all about knowing your audience and capturing it.

Eric: What tools do you use for this type of segmentation and automation?

Jason: I used Infusionsoft for all my automation and then one of the things that no one's really doing other than the people that I tell now is called progressive profiling thank you pages and what I was doing before and this is what a lot of people do is I have a campaign and someone goes through a campaign or after a couple of months they're on your list. You literally send out like an e-mail saying, "Hey, which one best describes you so I can serve you better content?" Right? The response from that sucks, it's like 5%, maybe 10% on a good day and so I was like, "There's got to be a better way."

What I started doing is on my thank you pages and my opt ins I started asking one question and so I basically said, "Hey, are you an agency owner? Are you a freelancer or

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working professional entrepreneur?" And they start filling it out and then I said, "Well, let me do one more question," and I asked them their revenue for their company and so as they're selecting this they're tagged and then after they select the second one they actually go to a thank you page where it gives them an offer of something else, like their tripwire, like what Ryan and the digital marker guy say or what I call foot in the door.

Now you're probably thinking, everybody listening, they're like, "What's the percentage of people going through this?" 94%. I started thinking about, I was like, "Why are they all doing this?" And it's all because they think they need to do it in order to get what they opted in for and when someone opts in they already did something that you want so ask them to do something else. I wish I learn that back in college but it's just keep them going and they'll keep doing whatever you want and then now I know way more about them. I know if it's a good lead or not because a lot of people you will put in kind of their Gmail or Hotmail, their AOL, AOL still exist, right? Then you can kind of say, "Well, they are agency owner, they just gave me a crappy e-mail probably to test me out."

Eric: Right. I think one thing that's really important to understand right here is that the way the set up your have right now is somebody opts in then I'll ask them the questions then I'll take them to what they opted in for versus what I have right now, they opt in and I will take them to the thank you page and then they have links to click. Yours is a little different, right?

Jason: Yes, exactly. I mean, so many people have a thank you page or just as thank you. Like you just wasted the biggest opportunity you probably have with them.

Eric: Right. Tell us about one struggle you face, one big struggle you face while growing this business?

Jason: One struggle. That's a wonderful question. I would probably say like when I first started I thought it was just a volumes game, I thought the more content I put out there the better I would do because if the search engines were ranked more people would see it and then I literally was like, "How do I get this out to even more people?" And so I just start producing more and more content but what I quickly realize is it's about the quality not quantity and that was the biggest struggle that I can think of when I started so what I did a couple of weeks ago is I actually started deleting content. I literally and I counted out the things, I deleted 30% of my content off my site.

I mean, some of the videos I had look like I was a Afghanistan hostage. I mean, it was horrible. I was embarrassed and we recently redesigned the site a couple of months ago and I basically broke it up into 4 categories. I don't know if you want to go down this way but I basically broke it up into 4 categories that you guys can do. The content that I was going to keep, the content that I would kind of consolidate like I found a lot of blog post and articles that we wrote that we kind of combined and make a lot better and fresher and reuse it.

Then we had content that we would like to update, update for the search engines,

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update for the different things so we started breaking out those categories and we following kind of the model that like Hubspot and Moss and a couple of those guys did and they actually seen a huge increase in their website traffic because now they're contents are more relevant. I was finding what I was deleting content. There were some post that we had out for, positions that we already filled already that we could get rid of or strategies that just don't work anymore, like if there was something that was just old, like we talked about this old technology that didn't exist, why have it? That's one of the big things it's just making sure that everything we do is quality versus just quantity.

Eric: I think what really make sense here too, I mean, I look at Pat Flynn's podcast where he talks to somebody about deleting 30% of the content and it tripled their traffic. We'll all leave that in the show notes as well but we're actually putting a blog post to get on that knowledge, to actually on how to do it and it seems like an oxymoron to begin just like, deleting content actually increases traffic but you are in effect building a better user experience which is what you're doing.

Jason: Think about it, if you send someone to just kind of crop content, they're going to get the expectations that you do crop versus sending someone to your best stuff and then too, if you send someone something irrelevant then they jump off, Google is probably going to ding you a little bit for that as well.

Eric: True. What's one piece of advice you would give to your 25-year-old self?

Jason: Don't make decisions based on money.

Eric: Can you talk about that a little bit?

Jason: So many people pick a particular market to go after based on money versus what they truly know the best or what they really love to do, so I used to think people that would say that were kind of like full of crap because I was like, "Well, you already have money. It's easy for you to do that." There's a slight few that are able to get there a lot quicker, like I mean even by doing this business. This business has grown so quick. I mean, this is a 7-figure business that I build really quick but it took a lot of struggles in the prior years in order to do that but in this one I wasn't making decisions based on money.

I was just making decisions based on what I love and what I knew better than anything else and that's why it's grown so quick and so when I talk to a lot of clients or agency owners or whoever they're like, "Well, we want to build this software tool that does X because we want to sell it in 5 years and make a $100 million like the part I did." I'm like, "You're doing about it all the wrong way. Figuring out what you know the best and what you love doing and do that and everything else will follow." I know people that have worked with people that do it extremely well has over a million dollar business, they train stuntman for Power Rangers. I mean who picks that. Obviously, they dominated that niche, right?

Eric: I love it. Do you know how much revenue they did?

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Jason: Over a million. Stupid, right? Obviously, they didn't get into it thinking about the money, they got into it because they knew Power Rangers I guess, right?

Eric: It make sense. Cool. What's one productivity hack you can share with everyone?

Jason: I love using a calendar software for really kind of booking out my day, so whenever anybody books with me and I think you do the same thing as well is I have segments in my day where that's the only thing that I do and so I just stick to that calendar. Other things that I do would be recording my thoughts. I just started using Anchor.

Eric: Great.

Jason: I'm going to start using this with my team as well as just reaching out my audience. I'm horrible writer like Ms. [Ralph Shoe's 00:19:42] 5th grade English class did no good for me but I can speak really well and come up with ideas and then I have my team kind of do the show notes and all that kind of stuff so I guess the best productivity hack I can tell you is record that and then you might be able to turn that into multipurpose and everybody kind of follow along with what you're doing but Anchor is a pretty cool thing. It's like Twitter for audio.

Eric: I love it. I think it's great especially for people that do podcast and a lot of people are getting into podcast now too and you can actually engage with people that you like and want to talk to and so I think that's something, there's not anything out there like it right now. Great tip on that. What's one must-read book you recommend to everyone?

Jason: It's not a business book.

Eric: It doesn't have to be.

Jason: It's a tennis book and it's a Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert and the basic premise of it is if you know anything about tennis like you can go 15, 30, 40 and then game. Everybody thinks the point that wins the game is the most important but it's really the set up point which is the point before and it's just like that in business. People just think winning the deal is everything but it's about how you get there and how do you set it up in order to win the deal because if you don't set it up right, you're never going to win the deal. If you set it up right, you're actually win more deals and be in front of more people.

Eric: I love that book. I never heard of it actually. We'll drop it in the show notes but I want to dive in to one more thing about customer acquisition. I heard of you through your podcast and I guess my question right now I'm framing it is what's one unique thing you're doing right now to acquire more customers? It seems that podcast are working, what else is working?

Jason: Facebook ads.

Eric: Facebook ads.

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Jason: Yeah, Facebook marketing is the most powerful marketing tool in the world right now. It's so game changing because of the targeting that you can do and then all the other technology that works with it, so one of the most powerful things outside that I'm just targeting is your ability to create customer audiences. Let's say I have a campaign and I broken my campaign out into 4 milestones and someone's in milestone number 2 and I'm relying solely on my e-mail marketing in order to reach that person. Well, I'm only going to read 20%, right? That's usually the typical opt in on a good day but what I'm doing is I'm creating custom audiences in Facebook I'm going to apply through my campaigns that are marketing that same content I want to reach them on Facebook, that they're engaging with.

Eric: I love it. There's so much I mean, you're doing a great job with Facebook. I think a lot of people are just starting getting better soon for sure so it's something to take advantage of but, Jason, this has been great. What's the best way for our people to find you online?

Jason: Just go to my website and Swenk is spelled as SWENK, not A. I don't know in the magazine, I'm not related to Hillary.

Eric: Awesome. Jason Swenk. Make sure you check his stuff out especially if you own an agency. I can tell you, I work with him and the relationship has been great. Thank you so much, Jason.

Jason: Thanks, man.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening for this episode of Growth Everywhere. If you love what you heard be sure to head back to for today's show notes and a ton of additional resources but before you go, hit the subscribe button to avoid missing our next's ween value packed interview. Enjoy the rest of your week and remember to take action and continue growing.