Running a Modern Agency

by Will Francis

Posted on Jan 13, 2023

On the first episode of this bright new year, host Will Francis welcomes Rhoan Morgan to the show. Rhoan is founder and CEO of the MarTech agency DemandLab, host of Revenue Rebels podcast..

Working in marketing over several decades, Rhoan recounts how agency services, and life, have changed - to the point where things couldn't really be better! She offers insights into working with clients in a data-driven age, how to start and run your own agency while maintaining the right focus for your offerings, getting referrals, why awards and industry-recognition are so important (for clients), looking after your staff through training and benefits, as well as tips on how to deal with an agency from the other side.

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“Saying no is actually one of the most important things you have to learn because the agency will die unless you are quite specific and focused about what briefs you take on” Rhoan Morgan

Podcast transcript

Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. I'm your host, Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Rhoan Morgan, all about running and working with marketing agencies. Rhoan is the CEO and co-founder of DemandLab, an agency she launched in 2009 in response to the new opportunities technology was bringing to the marketing landscape. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, she's an award-winning digital marketing professional. She's the co-author of "Change Agents, The Radical Role of Tomorrow's CMO," host of the "Revenue Rebels" podcast, and she publishes an award-winning monthly column for CMSWire. Rhoan, welcome to the podcast.
Rhoan: Thank you. I'm very happy to be joining you today, Will. Thanks for inviting me.
Will: It's great to have you. We've not really had a guest like you really, you know, and had a chance to talk to someone about growing an agency. It's something I know a lot of people aspire to do, and I'll try and kind of, you know, get those insights out of you as we go, I suppose. So what's it like to run an agency in 2023?
Rhoan: So, we started this work in 2009 as an agency. I had been already working in this space for quite a while, and a tremendous amount has changed, obviously, since then. I was actually reflecting on when I first started to work in marketing, it was in...I almost said 2000. It was actually in 1990. It was very analog. We were working for film studios. It was an internship. It was an agency, amazing place that I was working. And what a tremendous, incredible like light year change from when I started in this space till today when we're looking at machine learning and artificial intelligence, and, you know, of course, what DemandLab has grown in, which is automation, marketing automation integrated with CRM, integrated with content marketing, you know, systems, etc.
So going into 2023, it is incredibly exciting because we know that technologies advances are not gonna slow down. And so, there are more opportunities than ever to do some really incredible work in marketing if you can marry things like the creativity and the strategy with the technology.
Will: Did you ever watch "Mad Men?"
Rhoan: Of course. Twice.
Will: You know, the depiction of an agency in "Mad Men." So if anyone doesn't know "Mad Men," it was that very popular American drama serialized over a number of seasons followed an ad agency and the people that worked there. And so you've got the planning department, the account management, you've got the copywriters and the creatives, and the creative director, Don Draper, and you've got the business side of things. You know, you've got those classic kind of agency departments and roles, and if you go into a lot of agencies today, they're still present, right? How is the structure of your agency different than that? Or is it? Is it just the same?
Rhoan: So, there are many different types of agencies. And I think that we are probably more like the Mad Men Agency in the terms that we are focused deeply...they were focused deeply on ads, right? They were ad people. We're focused deeply on marketing automation, CRM, and the ancillary tools that support marketing, sales, customer success. So the whole sort of revenue cycle.
And so we are structured with a client success strategists, and we call them strategists specifically because they are actually developing strategy with our clients. They're not just account executives looking to write the next SOW. We've got project management who's all around, you know, internally keeping us organized. And then we have, you know, within the delivery team, we've got MarTech Solution architects and experts and specialists who are all at different levels of their professional journey in terms of experience. So, it's actually similar, whereas other agencies are maybe much more broad. They're doing social, PPC, graphic design, communications, PR. So, they're at the top of the T, and we're more of a deep T in terms of our specialization. And so, I think the structure is actually very similar to the "Mad Men" sort of space where it's all about the focus there.
Will: For someone going into marketing today, are they focused on creative skills like copywriting and ideation, idea development? Or does everyone need to be a bit more technical? Is the whole discipline becoming more technical and requiring of us more technical skills, do you think?
Rhoan: So, when I think about the marriage of the creativity and the strategic thinking around marketing and how technology supports that, I see that as a very positive feedback loop. So as humans, we are, I think, for the most part, innately creative in whatever realm that might be. There is creativity just flowing. As marketers, we go into marketing because we're creative and because we're excited about the potential of sort of expanding the creative thinking and connecting with people, and how do we use our creativity to engage with folks? So, I actually see that the fact we are using digital platforms as a tool is very important, but we need to stay very connected to the creative edge and side of our profession.
Now, I do think something that's interesting today is that you might need two different people to support an initiative, the technologist, the one that's in their coding, the one that gets how data works, the one who can work in the system, and the other person who is developing what we're gonna run through the technology to ultimately reach our audience. And that can be the content, and that can also be the journey that's created. So that's creative, strategic thinking. So, I think it's a really unicorn to have that in one person, but I think that it's a really special combination when you develop a team that brings these skills together, and they're all working towards that same vision.
Will: No, I agree. I mean, I'd definitely be the first person to say that creativity and strategy play a very similar role as they did in the "Mad Men" era. You know, people respond to good ideas. If you've got a really fancy way of getting that idea in front of someone, technologically great, but unless it's a good idea, it just won't land. So end of story, really, you know. So, let's just think more about agencies and how they work today as well. I mean, at what point are clients realizing they need an agency? At what point are they reaching out to you? What kind of problem do they have?
Rhoan: You know, we have people that reach out to us, and probably every other agency would, I bet, have the same experience. One, they don't know how to use the technology to its fullest capacity, right? So, oftentimes you'll have a company of our team members used to say, they're using this very big, expensive, expansive marketing automation platform, which is really a Ferrari-style, and they're using it just to like, run to the market and pick up, you know, bananas in the afternoon or something, where it's like you could just use your scooter for that. So, you know, let's really get as much as we can out of the system. And so they're making a big investment. They had a vision of a really incredible customer experience, customer journey but they don't have the skills internally yet to make the magic happen. So that's one.
Another is integrations. They bring in multiple systems. They've got a pretty complex martech stack that maybe isn't integrated well. It's not serving their customers or clients in the way that they need it to. It's not helping them be as competitive as they could be. They see their competition doing more exciting things. So, you know, they want to bring all of their systems together, and really create something special for their audiences. And sometimes it's just they don't have enough people to get the work done. And so, you know, those are probably the three kind of biggest categories of why they're coming to us. They need more muscle to get things out the door. And these are massive organizations that have global field marketing teams, global sales teams that are trying to do hundreds of different types of campaigns a month minimum, you know. And so, they just need to get a lot out the door. That's more quantity, right?
Will: That's true, isn't it? Similarly, my agency, we had really big clients who had endless resource really internally, and really could have done, it seemed, could have done any of the stuff we were doing for them, but they wanted to hand off some things to an external agency knowing that that agency would be contractually obliged to come back in two weeks or a month or whenever with some stuff that they'd done, and they knew it would get done. And they knew it would get done with a fresh pair of eyes, with, you know, very high quality creative expertise, etc. Because you're right, those internal teams at these big companies, they just got...they're spinning 100 plates at the same time, and perhaps worried that, you know, a certain campaign just won't be done well and at all or on time. So, thinking back to your earlier years growing the agency, in those earlier days, what would've been your dream brief?
Rhoan: Probably what we're doing today, honestly. You know, we actually have an article around this, I think on our website somewhere, but there's the...and I might have mentioned it to you one time earlier, where there's a photograph that I took at a 2016 Marketo Summit. And it was a stat, I think it was from "The Economist," and I believe that it said something like 86% of CMOs believe that by 2020 they will own the entire customer experience. And I took that picture, and I was so inspired by that.
And so, from the earliest days, it has been for me, when we first started DemandLab, and it was me doing the services, it is how do we push the envelope? How do we get the most we can out of the platform, out of the data? Which is, you know, leveraged by the platform, and really create an experience that moves our clients' audiences? And we're doing that today. So I think that is it really. But, you know, what that means is integration these days too, right? That is...
Will: Between client and agency or...?
Rhoan: Well, that's another thing. I'm a fan of integration.
Will: We'll come onto that.
Rhoan: Yeah. But I'm talking just about systems, and also on the client side teams. So, breaking down the silos. At that time, 2009, 2010, people were writing books and blog articles about sales and marketing, you know, misalignment. What's wild is that that still exists today, but we love breaking down those walls by leveraging technology and data. But so, yeah, my dream brief, I'm thrilled to say we're living it. I'm living the dream.
Will: Wow. That's great. I'm glad to hear it. I mean, when I ran my agency, I stuck by the rule of three Fs. I stole it off a friend who also still runs an agency in London. And fame, fun, and fortune. I don't know if this is a widely known thing, but it has to tick. You know, every brief that lands on desk has to tick at least two of those. I mean, if you were being a real purist about it, you'd say all three, but in the real world, two. You know, it either has to make you famous, you know, be a piece of work that you can basically be a calling card to get more work. It's gonna be lots of fun. So it will inspire the team, you know, push people to learn new things and be something that feels like a real challenge we can all surmount together in a fun way. And fortune. The client's gonna pay us properly for it, you know, and it's gonna impact the bottom line of the agency. And I always said, you know, if it ticks two of those boxes, then my ears are open. You know, I'll certainly take it on kind of thing. Consider it anyway.
Because I think that's one of the big challenges when you start an agency. I remember when I started mine, I mean, literally, if someone had come and said, you know, "Do you do shampoo carpets?" I probably would've said, "Yeah, we can do. I'll just hire a machine and come around and do it," you know. You kind of...well, I was, anyway. You are terrible at saying no. And you quickly realize in that first year or two that saying no is actually one of the most important things you have to learn because the agency will die unless you are quite specific and focused about what briefs you take on, I think.
Rhoan: We actually had a client that we worked with for years. We actually worked with them through two or three acquisitions. So, their team just continued to bring us along as they were being, you know, acquired into larger and larger companies. And we had such a wonderful relationship with them and I still do. One woman has moved on, she's a CMO of a new company, and we have continued to work with her at that company. But they asked us if we could design their booth for an event, and also the CD cover for what they were handing out. And normally, I would've said no at this point, but we were so close with them and had worked with them for so long, we were just like, "Well, we're gonna make it work. We're gonna do that for them."
But yes, being able to say no, I think that's actually a real milestone of an agency. When you get to the point where you can say, "That's not for us," that's huge.
Will: It's good point.
Rhoan: And I feel you. We were there doing crazy things in the...and you know, it was like a client that said, "Hey, could you do our PPC?" "Sure, we can figure that out. We'll make it work," you know. And we were successful, but then we realized, "Why are we doing this? No, we need to stay focused on where we are exceptionally talented, and where we can drive the most value for our clients."
So, today we have people...we had a prospect that came and said, "I'm looking for somebody that can do everything you're doing with Marketo and Salesforce, and these things, but also, all of our graphic design and all of our PPC, and some of our PR," some mix like that. And I just said, you know, "We are not that company for you." We love working with people that are exceptionally talented in these other spaces because we can partner with them and make you really successful, but we have decided to be very focused in this area.
Will: It's true, isn't it? So it's a good point that it really is like a milestone. I'll tell you another thing that I struggled with running an agency is new business. Because what would happen, the really big work all came through referrals. It was all through the black book, like your friend that you mentioned that went on to be CMO somewhere else. That's where all the best work came from. I found when I proactively went out and did really big new business pushes, you are like really pushing uphill and you get to the top of the hill and it's just, you know, the stone you're pushing is just a tiny pebble at the end of it anyway. And yet you sit there at your desk one day having lunch and an absolute meteorite falls in your lap, like a massive piece of work. And they don't want you to pitch, they've just been recommended. So they already love you before they've talked to you, and you just want a meeting to get the project started. I never quite got my head around the asymmetry of that, how easy referred work was to get and how hard, like just cold new business was to push as an agency. How do you reconcile that?
Rhoan: Eighty percent of our growth, the number used to be much higher actually, is through referrals, and those are... You know, I have a story. It was last year we got a new client, and this was somebody who reached out to me, who we had worked with probably five, six, seven years ago. And at that point, she was an intern in a client's marketing team. And now she was a marketing manager with her own budget. And so she reached out saying, "I really wanna work with you guys. As soon as I got this promotion I told my boss I wanna work with DemandLab." And that was like a goosebump moment for me. And I'm sure you've experienced those sorts of things because it is the reputation that follows you everywhere, and that's how you get the referrals.
So, I was thrilled to work with her and her team. But we also, we do have a business development process. We do demand generation, we use Marketo ourselves, you know, and Salesforce and plenty of other platforms that are integrated. We're working through that, but the truth is most of our clients are coming through referrals or past clients, new company.
Will: And I think that's okay. I think at the time, that worried me because it wasn't predictable. You're like, "Well, what if next year no one happens to feel like referring us?" You know, it just seems so...I mean, it's like counting on the weather or, you know, something like a's very, such a natural organic thing, isn't it? Referrals. So counting on it can be scary, but then it just does seem to happen year after year, doesn't it? And as you go on further in time, obviously, it becomes more reliable, I suppose.
Rhoan: I think that as the agency grows too, I do think that is fine early years for sure. As the agency grows, my recommendation would be to start to really consider incorporating strategies around partnerships and speaking, doing, you know, giving talks wherever you can, that as we grew became a really important part of our approach and our process. Of course, we just came out of a couple of years where that was nearly a live presentation was impossible...
Will: But even PR.
Rhoan: You're right. Will, actually I was just about to say, you know, I remember when we were hiring our first salesperson, and I'm really proud to say that she's actually now a consultant for another marketing automation platform. She does HubSpot consulting. She's a wonderful person. I was so thrilled to bring her on board, and she was great while she was here. But I was talking to an advisor when I was getting ready to hire her, and I was saying, we're bringing on our first, you know, business development rep who's gonna help me because I'm the salesperson. I'm still even at our size, the one that's coming in and having the conversations and working through, you know, the strategic thinking of what will this engagement look like and where are we providing value, etc.
And he said, "You know, what you might wanna do though is take that money in that you're going to pay her in salary and commission, etc., and just sponsor events and get PR." And at that stage, maybe that would've been a better use of funds, I don't really know. But I do think that as an agency grows, you do have different opportunities for, you know, getting those net new logos. And it's a matter of, it's not about doing sort of typical demand generation, you know, especially as an agency, it's really around the thought leadership and the brand work.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. So, thinking about that, what do you think about awards?
Rhoan: I love awards. I think awards are very cool. And what I love about awards honestly, is that from our perspective, and if you look at our website, we haven't submitted any awards for ourselves in a long time. The best thing about awards in terms of an agency... So, we're not an ad agency that's looking to get the accolades and, you know, some special awards for a commercial that went out and that, you know, changed the world or whatever. For us, it's about awards for our clients.
So when we're working, because we're very much in the background, we're on the operations side, we're, you know, developing strategic use of technology to get the content out to reach and engage an audience. So it's a bit deeper inside of an organization. When we do awards, we do it for our clients, and that's what's thrilling. I think awards are great for also smaller agencies, and they're fantastic personal brand sort of amplifiers.
Will: Hello. A quick reminder from me that if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars and case studies to toolkits, and more real life insights from the world of digital marketing? Head to game. Sign up for free. Now back to the podcast. Okay, so thinking about the agency client relationship, you recently wrote on the DemandLab blog about four keys to successful agency relationships.
Rhoan: You know, we've been around for a long time, as we've already talked about, and we have had really successful relationships that have lasted years. And then we've had others where we're like, "This wasn't the best romance we've had." And I think that's actually what my blog is even alluding to, like creating, you know, the relationship of your dreams or whatever. But I think that there are a lot of signs that kind of come as you even start through the sales process, and I bet you saw this with your agency where you're like, "Is this a good mutual fit?" And I think that when you're at earlier stages and you just want to take any client you can so you can get the work, and you can like create some case studies hopefully, and you're less choosy.
But I think that one of the most important things around a good relationship is being selective. And so that goes both ways. And as an agency, we also have to be selective to make sure that we are going into...and we have the luxury of doing this now after so many years, and at our size to ensure that we're going into an engagement where we know that we can provide value and make our clients successful, see their success and share their success internally. So we care a lot about that. I also would say one of the most important things, and I think I talked about this in the article, is trust. When I'm in an early conversation with somebody who might be a client of ours and I feel like there's a lack of trust, usually, that's because they've worked with an agency and been burned, unfortunately.
So I know that we can turn that around for them, and we can show them the other side, you know, the potential, but there has to be a mutual trust also. And the reason for that is because we need to have transparency. We need to be able to get into their systems and look at their data. They need to trust us when we say, "This part isn't working, this is how it needs to be changed." And if they don't trust, you know, then it's very difficult to move forward. Also, you know, a client needs to understand what they actually need. So when they come to the conversation, sometimes they don't, we can help them clarify that, what is it that they're really looking for or need? Because sometimes it's just too confusing. But if we can develop a clarity around, what are we trying to achieve together, from there, we can actually develop, how will we measure our success?
And what we wanna be able to get to is creating a baseline. Where are you at now in terms of, let's say, engagement of your audience or a particular segment, or a particular geography? So we wanna be able to get that number because here, at least at DemandLab, we're really competitive company. And so we're trying to beat that number. Obviously, that's what we're hired for. But we need to know what we're working towards as well. So being able to create the benchmark is really important, and agreed upon success measures.
Will: Yeah. I think that's good, isn't it? It's something that doesn't happen by itself like any relationship, right? You have to put the work in, you have to think about it strategically, and it might not sound as romantic, but you do have to, you know...there's some contrivedness about it. It doesn't just happen naturally and beautifully just because it all felt great when you first had, you know...and you won the business and shook hands on it and what have you. So that is very interesting to me that.
Rhoan: You're right about that. It is like any relationship, and we are all humans, so these are relationships that we're forming. One of the things know, we have a really strong culture at DemandLab within our company, and it's been developed by the team itself. It's not something I wrote and then decided was our culture. It's something we actually developed together and we review it annually, but I would say, one of the core aspects of the team that any company is working with must be empathy. And so, if we can put ourselves into our client's shoes and understand the challenges that they're going through, it makes that relationship much easier to build. And it is natural. I think that as long as you have really good people, and we have empathy and a deep caring for the client, you should be able to go pretty far in that relationship.
Will: It's true that, isn't it? Yeah. Some people do have innate skills that lend themself to maintaining good relationships like empathy. You're absolutely right. So that sort of segues nicely into a question I wanted to ask you about how you hire, you know, the kind of people you look for. And there are two sets of skills that I think anyone has. There are the kind of innate ones that you're kind of born with or you're not. And then there's the learnable ones, like being able to use Twitter ads or something. And sometimes though, that former category gets referred to as soft skills. So thinking about the different types of skills, what do you look for in terms of innate qualities, soft skills and those kind of things?
Rhoan: Our hiring process is pretty rigorous, and that is because we're putting the marketing fate of our clients in the hands of the people that they're working with at the company, right? At DemandLab. So, we care a lot about the innate, if you will, skills, those soft skills as much as we care about the technical skills, because we don't hire people... If we hire somebody at a level where we know they're gonna need training, no problem, but if we hire them in a level where we believe they should be able to come out and begin being strategic and executing at a high level of complexity with our clients, we need that to happen. So, there are assessments and there are things like that, the technical side, but also, somebody can come to us with less technical capability and grow into, you know...and they can advance professionally.
So, those are easier things to train. We can train and there are tons of trainings out there. Tons of people have certifications that say they can use a platform. There are two things that are really important, one is, can they use it strategically? Do they understand the root of that platform, which is data? But then also on the agency side and in the way that we work, can they work with clients that have really big challenges that they need to solve? And are they flexible? I go back to empathy. I know I'm talking about that maybe a bit much, but, you know...
Will: No.
Rhoan: ...can they be very supportive of a client's challenging environment and help them do better? So it's...I don't know. I didn't articulate that very well to be honest, but I think when we're looking to hire, just to go back to exactly the hiring process. Somebody comes in, they have an initial interview, which is fit, and it's not about technology at all. It is, will they work within our environment well, within our team well...
Will: Like the chemistry meetings?
Rhoan: ...with our clients well? Exactly. Chemistry meeting. Exactly. And so if that looks good, then they'll go on and talk to the next person, then they'll talk...well, they would talk to the person that would be their manager. And then we will then have them talk to a couple of technical folks. There is an assessment to see at what level are they? But all along, and we use a talent management system. So we have notes from everybody that's interviewing.
And usually, they'll talk to five or six people, and they're looking not only for the technical fit, but really culture fit. And for us, that's trust, innovation, excellence, you know, self care, wellbeing, that sort of thing. And if there is not a strong enough culture fit, even with the technology, they will not be hired.
Will: Yeah. That's really interesting. Again, it's like the client thing, you know, knowing how to say no and being...yeah, it's the same as staff. Someone might come to you with the best skills, but if they're not gonna fit... I've definitely made that mistake. I have made that mistake in hiring people, you know, myself, hiring someone that was fantastic at a particular thing, but ultimately wasn't a good culture fit and it didn't work out.
Rhoan: All agency owners will do that and should, that's how you figure out what is important for you. And I think that bubbles up really quickly when somebody's hired and you realize, wow, why is our process so long? And I consider it to be long and, you know, a bit difficult, but we've recently hired, I don't know, three or four people in the last few months, and all of them are like, "That was an amazing experience. I felt like I knew DemandLab. I was ready to start. I couldn't wait to start." One person even started, I think two weeks early because he was like, "Yes, let's get going." And so we've refined our process, but I think any agency that's listening to this or owner who's at earlier days, it is going to be those challenges and maybe mistakes that help guide you to creating a better system and process for your future. Well, also and listening to podcasts like yours, Will.
Will: Thank you. So, what about the role of upskilling then? And obviously, it's a matter of some interest to the DMI being an organization that helps people with that. Is that just something that every agency has to invest significantly and constantly over time? Upskilling?
Rhoan: There's no getting around that. I mean, one, you have to upskill to keep your team members engaged, right? I mean, if you want to have happy team members, they will, especially our kind of talent that is in the space of an agency that's, you know, in a technology focused, etc., there are people that want to learn. They're constant learners. And so, having a process and approach for upskilling is critical.
Will: If someone comes for a job and there's evidence of them upskilling themself, doing certified training and courses, is that important?
Rhoan: You know, we had somebody who came on board, it might have been one month ago, and he had great potential and talent, and great energy and were really excited through the hiring process. And he wasn't hired for a role to deliver in Marketo or anything like that. That's not what the role was, but during the process, he started taking the, like earliest Marketo certification training so that he could know more. And honestly, I was so impressed with somebody who was sort of, I would call a verocious learner. That he took it upon himself to do that. And it wasn't...I mean, eventually, yes, we would pay for that. We would, you know, support that and that would be part of his professional development, but that says a lot.
Will: I think that would be a key innate quality that I would look for in people as well. Not everybody's gonna be quite that keen, but some sort of thirst for, you know, self-improvement and self-learning, you know, upskilling definitely.
Rhoan: Hey, what's your professional development program look like? I love that, because that says somebody is really interested to know how can they grow here.
Will: Yes. You want people who want to grow, don't you? Not people who just wanna clock in and take the paycheck, which is tricky. You know, that's a tricky thing, because what I found is I was all up for that in my 20s and early 30s. When I had kids, that was inevitably compromised. I couldn't go home in the evenings and have that same dedication to self-learning. Perhaps I was becoming a bit more senior in my career, so I felt I could get away with it, but do you know what I mean? I think when you have a family, I think that takes a lot of the spare time away you might otherwise spend on side projects, side, you know, little kind of hacky projects where you just look around with technology. That's what I found.
Rhoan: I agree. And we have...our team members are varying ages, varying sizes of family, varying makeup of family. And so, you know, we have time allotted during the workday, not every day obviously, but during the work month, let's say, that should go towards professional development. And we track that in our project management or the time tracking system that we use. So, I can look at the end of every month and see, has everybody used their PD time? And if they haven't, I might ask why or is there a plan? Usually, there's a plan, there's a certification that they're gonna go through or whatever. And we also have to kind of, it is self-guided. We are there to support. We provide funding. Since day one with our first employee, we had professional development fund, and also a personal development fund by the way, because we think that people know, they use that money for, I don't know, acting classes, acupuncture, whatever. It's just there for them to be personally developing and being happy. But I think a company does need to carve out the time and not expect that always to be during the evening, during the weekends because yeah, people have lives. That's really important to respect.
Will: What are the top three things a listener could do right after listening to this podcast to maximize their relationship with their agency?
Rhoan: So the first thing that they could do if they have an existing agency is to ensure that they've got clear benchmarks and measurements in place. So there's clarity of what we're trying to achieve. Set up a meeting with your success strategist and make sure that they know what your plans are for 2023 or at least Q1 so that you are developing the partnership that you need with your agency and their team to help you meet your goals. And the third thing to maximize your relationship with your agency, I guess be really clear on exactly what they do and where their strengths are so that you can know exactly how you could leverage them to meet your goals. Because sometimes you might be working with an agency for one thing, but in fact there are two, three, four, five other related talents and skills that they're offering that maybe you're not aware of.
Will: Yeah, that's a good point that. I think sometimes when we have agency relationships, after a while, it just becomes like living with family, you know.
Rhoan: Yes.
Will: Do you know what I mean? And you just sort of, well, they're the people that do that. You don't ever kind of take a very fresh look at it, the relationship, and sometimes it's good to do that, isn't it? Take stock a bit rather than just do the monthly status meeting again. If I was gonna start my own agency tomorrow...I'm not, it's okay. I'm not gonna try and go after your clients. But if I was to start my own agency tomorrow, what three bits of advice succinctly would you have for me?
Rhoan: I would say, be clear on what you wanna deliver within technology, creative, etc.
Will: Do you mean the kind of work that you want to produce?
Rhoan: Yeah. Be clear on the work and don't divert too far from that work. Put your team members first. Don't sacrifice your team for the client work.
Will: Interesting. I feel like I might have done that at some point in the past. Well, what do you mean by that exactly?
Rhoan: Agency owners have done that because they say they don't want to say no at the early stages. So they say, yes, yes,
Will: "There's loads of money. Come on, guys."
Rhoan: And then the team is, you know, running like crazy trying to create booth designs when they should be doing something else. No, but really focus on how you're providing value to your team as a key stakeholder of this company, your firm, your agency, because they're the ones that are providing the value to your clients. And you can have all the best technology, you can have all the best frameworks, amazing methodologies for delivering, but if your team isn't happy, it will come through and your clients won't stick with you for year after year after year.
Will: That's very good advice. Two great pieces of advice. What's the third thing you'd say to me?
Rhoan: Make sure it's an area that inspires you and that you will be excited about 10 years from now.
Will: How could I find that out? How could I learn that?
Rhoan: Well, I'll tell you what, to be honest, Will, I have been passionate about marketing since I was about 15 in high school when I first learned about marketing. Then I went into graphic design for a while and then back into marketing because I realized, well, before graphic design, I wanted to be an artist. There was not gonna be any money for me for sure in that. So, becoming a digital artist and then going back into marketing because that's really what I felt passionate about and got really excited about. So I think that, don't start an agency unless you know it's something that you love and that you want to do for your life. Maybe not the agency, but that kind of work, the essence of what you're delivering.
Will: Yes. Because, you know, you're gonna be stuck with it for a while, right? So, you know, it's not a get rich quick scheme, is it? You're in for the long haul for sure.
Rhoan: No, it's definitely not a get rich quick scheme. But I think it's incredibly rewarding, you know. I mean, you were talking about kids. My daughter's 13 now. She's been a part of this business her entire life. And it's so exciting to see how that's impacted her perception of the working world or developing as a professional. So, I think it's worth it, but it's gonna be hard.
Will: So, if she says, "Mom, I wanna work in marketing," what are you gonna say to her?
Rhoan: Well, she's planning on taking DemandLab over in 10 years from now. That's her plan. But yeah, I would love it. You know, it's a really fascinating space and there are endless opportunities, and areas of marketing that people can work in. So, more power to you. Go for it.
Will: That sounds great. Wow, that would be fantastic, wouldn't it? If she took it on? It would still here in like 60 years with her daughter running it. Fantastic. Well, look, Rhoan, thank you so much. I've really enjoyed talking to you. And I feel like I've learned quite a lot and had some things crystallized for sure for me, and I'm sure our listeners will have learned lots too. Of course, I do have one more question for you. Where can people find you and connect with you online?
Rhoan: Sure. Well, obviously they can go to our website,, or of course, I'm on LinkedIn, and you just search Rhoan Morgan. I am the only one there as far as I know. R-H-O-A-N is how you spell my first name. And Morgan is the last name. I'm there.
Will: Great. Well, we will do that. Well, thanks again, Rhoan. Really appreciate it, and hope to chat to you again soon. Thanks.
Rhoan: Thank you so much. It was a great conversation. I appreciate it.
Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to Thanks for listening.

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Will Francis
Will Francis

Will Francis is a recognized authority in digital and social media, who has worked with some of the world’s most loved brands. He is the host and technical producer of the DMI podcast, Ahead of the Game and a lecturer and subject matter expert with the DMI. He appears in the media and at conferences whilst offering his own expert-led digital marketing courses where he shares his experience gained working within a social network, a global ad agency, and more recently his own digital agency.

Connect with him on Twitter (X) or LinkedIn.

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