Grow Your Agency Business with Troy Dean

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In this LMScast episode, Troy discuss the journey as an entrepreneur and how he has remained focused on helping agency owners start, grow, and scale their businesses.

Troy Dean is an entrepreneur and business coach known for his expertise in helping agency owners start, grow, and scale their businesses. He is the owner of Agency Mavericks. Troy gained popularity through his podcast, WP Elevation.

He points out that coaching offers individualized guidance and aids people in adapting the knowledge from online courses to their particular circumstances.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy, Troy argues, adding that his coaching and training are tailored to the needs of agency owners. He stresses how crucial it is to comprehend the client’s conversion event and build a plan from there. He also says that while he has standardised several elements of his coaching, such lead generation, the precise focus may change based on the demands and stage of the client’s business.

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Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. State of the end, I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMSCast. I’m joined by a special guest. His name is Troy Dean. He’s from agency I’ve been following Troy since, I think it was 2012. I got a funny, funny story for you, Troy. I was, uh, Listening to one of your older podcast, WP Elevation. As I moved my family across the country, I, I had recently left Alaska where I used to run sled dogs and do a bunch of stuff up there, and I was wanting to start an online business and, uh, work remotely, and I kind of fell into the agency thing and building sites for clients.

And you had this series, it was like 62 tips or 87 tips or something. What, what was it called?

Troy Dean: 101. Ways to Elevate Yourself and Demand Higher Fees.

Chris Badgett: Okay, so, so go back in time to that moment and picture me with a U-Haul truck driving across the United States, early days of podcasting, and I’m taking the download and I was just, I mean, you helped me in so many ways.

A lot of my, my journey into products started as at agency and, uh, just, just the clarity of thought, the tactics, the tips, your excitement, the strategies. Um, you just had a big impact on me, and, and I know you’ve impacted so many people. And over the years I’ve just watched you stay focused on helping agencies start, grow, and scale.

How have you remained focused? A lot of entrepreneurs get the a, d, d thing going or jump to the next opportunity? And I know your business has evolved, but how have you stayed true to the agency owner as an avatar?

Troy Dean: Oh, you make all sorts of assumptions there, Chris. Okay. Um, I get distracted every day, man.

Um, I think it was. I think it was just out of, you know, when you, you know, when you try something enough times, you know, like the saying, you try something and expect the different results. The definition of madness according to Albert Einstein, well, you have to learn that, right? You can’t just, otherwise it’s just a cerebral exercise.

You, you understand it theoretically, but you have to learn it. And so I, I learn, I’ve been distracted a lot. I’ve tried many different things and I. What I’ve noticed is that every time I double down and, and just focus on the core business, we grow and every time we go through a, you know, every time we hit a speed hump, it’s usually because I’m distracted and I’m off doing something else.

So I. Um, I think, and I think in the early days what happened is I came from agency land doing client services, which is really hard business model by the way, and I’m sure we’re gonna talk about that. But, uh, I, I started coaching accidentally and I started getting a lot of gratitude emails and messages from people, like similar to what, how you just opened the, the show.

Like, you know, you’ve really impacted me. And, and I just was getting that from a lot more. People than I was in the agency. Just because the business model, right? Coaching or online course business model, you can just reach a lot more people. So I was just getting a lot more positive feedback. And I don’t know if you know the five love languages, but um, back then it wasn’t a thing.

But I’ve since learned that my love language is words of affirmation, right? So someone tells, someone says something nice about me with words from their mouth that I can understand and I’m in, I’m hooked. Like they’re gonna be my best friend. Send me gifts, massage my feet, all that kind of stuff. Not interested, just doesn’t resonate with me.

So I was getting this feedback from people and it was, it just became a drug and I just became really hooked on it. And then, yeah, over the years I’ve become really distracted, but now fortunately, I have a team. And a CEO in place, which means it doesn’t matter if I get distracted anymore because you know, the, the bus is being driven by other people who, who are very, who are much better at and much more disciplined than me because I think I do have the a, d d thing.

I do wanna go off on tangents and explore other things, but you eventually, you learn. If I like, consistency is the secret. It’s really boring. But that is the secret. Like if you remember that guy that started that podcast and quit after a few episodes, no, exactly. No one does. Right? So you remember the guy that, you remember John Lee Douma, cuz he did like, you know, eight podcasts a week for a hundred years.

Everyone remembers him because he just did it consistently. Right? Love him or hate him. You just, you have to take your hat off for the consistency so that it’s super boring. Consistency, but that’s, that’s the secret.

Chris Badgett: I know you’re mostly focused on coaching these days, but like the trifecta of courses, coaching and community, how did tell, tell us a little more about the, you know, the, the focus on coaching and how you’ve kind of experimented and, and are active in those different, uh, methodologies.

Troy Dean: It is, it is the. Trifecta, really. Um, and we still, I mean, our website, we still talk a lot about coaching community and courses. The thing, I think what happened is we grew a pretty good online course. Pieces, were multiple seven figures just doing online courses with no coaching. And I got bored because I, I ne again, I needed like the feedback.

Yeah, I needed the feedback. And so I wasn’t talking to any of our customers except like in a Facebook group. I wanted to interact with customers more on a more one-on-one. And really dig in and help them. And I could also see that there were people who were coming in and consuming our courses and then leaving the ecosystem.

We started doing exit interviews back in 2017. We’re like, oh, what? What’s going on? Why are you leaving? Like, how, you know? And they’re like, well, we just need more help. And your business model’s not set up to help us. It’s like a do-it-yourself model. And we need more help. And they had, they all had the same questions they needed because the thing about online courses is online courses are essentially information.

The good online courses are information with insight Coaching is information with personalized insight to help you apply the information in the course to your specific situation. And that was what? Um, really got me jazzed in, in towards the end of 2017. And so we launched coaching programs in 2018 and now, you know, 95% of our revenue is coaching and our courses really are just there.

Um, we, we kind of consider ourselves as librarians. Now our job is to kind of connect our clients with the right resources. And so we put together trainings. We package ’em up, we put ’em out as courses, but really they’re just there for our coaching clients to, to reference when they need it.

Chris Badgett: So how, you know, like not all agency owners the same, like what are some common ways that, like, it’s not one size fits all where, you know, you start the coaching maybe in a different way or with a different focus?

Troy Dean: Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s f it’s, you know, it’s interesting because we’ve actually streamlined, um, what we do and who we talk to and our avatar a bit over the last couple of years. So I think of, I think of. And this is something I talk to our agency owners a lot about. I think of what we do or what agencies do, if you can really chunk everything down into like Lego blocks, right?

So let me give you an example. I’ve still got a handful of private clients outside the agency space that I coach just for fun and it kind of keeps my hands dirty. And one of the things I don’t do, like, there’s a lot that I don’t do. I don’t do seo, I don’t do, I don’t run ads, you know, I don’t actually do anything.

I just coach. But in terms of like. You know, if they need a lot of help with ads or seo, I’ll connect them with a, with a partner. But what I do is I help them with the strategy and typically speaking, one of the first things I’ll look at is what is, what is their conversion event like, what are they aiming for, right?

If it’s a per an online purchase, or it might be a sign up, or it might be, you know, working with a client. Who wanted applications from speakers for one of their conferences. So their conversion event was like submissions. So I, I look at like, how do they measure success and then I work backwards. And so one of the things that I think I’m particularly good at is lead capture, whether it’s for sales, recruits, applications, whatever, it’s, and so lead capture is fairly well standardized in my world.

Like I could do it fairly easily. I’ve got my preferred set of tools. We use Convert Box for the actual popups and stuff. We can integrate into whatever CRM we use. I’ve got a framework for like the offer in a, in a pop-up. I’ve got a framework for like the thing that you deliver. So I’ve got all that stuff standardized, and a client might need that in the first couple of months of working with me.

They might not need it until, you know, 12 months. So it’s, but it’s a, it’s a product that I’ve got on the shelf. It’s a Lego block that I can pull in whenever I need to. Same with coaching. Like we have things that we help agency owners with, but someone might not need it now, right? They might need, so we had a client join one of our masterminds who was already multiple seven figures and he’s like, do not teach me how to get clients or generate leads.

I need to grow my team and fix my processes so I’ve got extra capacity before we take on any more clients. So with that particular agency owner, it was a very different journey, right? But. So we, we say that it’s customized, but it’s templated because if that client comes in and needs to hire staff, we have, we have a, we have like dozens of templates from job scorecards, job ads, rec, whole recruitment pipeline built out and click up.

We have, you know, meeting agendas. We have, uh, interview questions. All that’s built out. We might not give that to a client until they’re in their third year with us, because what they need right now is to grow their recurring revenue and fix their processes. So it just depends on where the client is. Now, having said that, over the last sort of 18 months to two years, we’ve really kind of honed in on.

What we want to do is everyone who comes into our world, we put them through our sales training first to help them grow their recurring revenue, and 95% of our agency owners go through that first, grow their recurring revenue. Then we can talk about team and processes. Very rarely we have someone now turn up that’s like, I don’t need the sales training, just get me into the team building stuff.

But. You know, that that’s the, that’s the exception, not the rule. So I think the answer to the question is, if you standardize the way that you deliver value, and then think of everything you do instead of like, Hey, we build websites which is really ambiguous and really vague and really hard to understand and it’s, there’s nothing concrete in that.

Um, if you say, you know, what we do is these, you know, eight things. That might mean that we end up doing a lot of work on your website, but we don’t just build websites. What we do is these eight things that actually move individual needles within the business and solve specific problems. Standardize the way you deliver it, and then find clients who, and, and, and get them a quick win.

Like if you get a client a quick win, they think you’re a magician and they’ll basically do whatever you tell them to. Right. And so just one other example, if you’re doing, if you’re in the branding game and you’re building brands for clients, doing, you know, logos, interfaces, whatever, standardize the way you deliver a brand book or a brand guide, like have your Canva templates built out or whoever, whatever you do.

And so, well, the first thing we’re gonna do is fix your brand and get consistency across all the channels before we worry about SEO or doing that kind of stuff, and have that standardized, and then just pull that off the shelf when the client needs it.

Chris Badgett: That’s super cool. We, we kind of have two audiences here.

We have like the course creator coach, and we have the agency who supports that industry. Mm-hmm. So we’re, we’re kind of in the course creator coach mode right now, and we’re gonna, uh, flip entirely to the agency in a second. But a couple more questions. Um, do I understand it right? You have other coaches that work inside your organization as well?

So like, how do you get to a point where, mm-hmm. It’s not dependent on the founder for delivering coaching and your, your, your, your system here. And I, I’ve also experienced, you, you do a great job with, um, uh, assistants and other people in your organizations. I think you said you had a CEO as well. Yeah. So like, yeah.

So how do you do that?

Troy Dean: Uh, well, you know, the first thing is you gotta, like the first Simon’s an X, right? You have to start with y like Y. I’m no good to my clients if I keep coaching for, you know, another 10 years I’ve been doing it for, you know, over 10 years now. I’m no good if I keep doing it for another 10 years cuz I’m just gonna get cranky.

Right. Yeah. That’s just, that’s just the nature of if you do something long enough, it’s just gonna wear you down. And so I needed my, my big why is I wanted, I want the company to be the most valuable it can be to its customers. And so I also, I’m, I’m in Australia, most of our clients, probably 60% our clients in North America.

So how do we serve those guys in time zones, right? I’m not like, I used to get up at five o’clock in the morning around coaching calls. I’m too old to do that now. I have two kids, like I wanna get up and have breakfast with ’em in the morning, get ’em off to school, all that kind of stuff. So we needed coaches in different time zones.

And so, and also eventually I got to a point where I realized I wasn’t the best person to run the company. Uh, I’m really good at creating content and that’s about it, you know, and I’m good at coaching. Um, but Emily, who was our operations manager, eventually, I said to her, you are better at running this company than I am.

You’re basically doing it anyways, so we should just pay you for it and incentivize you around net profit. And you can become the c e o and you can drive the company. And I’m the shareholder. I mentor her, I also play an active role in the business. I kind of, you know, create content, do a bit of coaching, contribute to marketing.

Um, but eventually the plan is for me just to create content and be the shareholder I. And, uh, Emily and the coaches, you know, and the, and the team do everything. And so the way that we do it is I spend a lot of time documenting how I think. How do you do that? Well, yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, you, I spend a lot of time creating Loom videos and voice messages to the other coaches.

They asked me questions. This particular client stuck with this, and really, like in a, in, in, in, if you’re an agency, Everything kind of comes down to two categories, right? There are two categories of problems that your clients have. They either have a traffic problem or a conversion problem. And I if then, now that’s, if you are building front facing marketing websites, if you’re building like, you know, internal LMSs for large corporate corporations to like implement change management or something in their org in their organization, then you know, you’ve probably got like an attention problem and an engagement problem.

You could probably break it down to those two buckets, right? So how do we get attention or how do we drive traffic? How do we convert or how do we get engagement? Every problem can basically come down to one of those two categories, and then it’s just a matter of. Again, having those assets on the, on the, on the shelf.

So when someone comes into our world and they’re, and they’re like, well, the problem is, let me give you an example. The problem is, you know, we just get referrals and the referrals are starting to dry up. It’s like, cool. So have you ever done any proactive lead gen? We have a series of questions we ask ’em.

You ever done any proactive lead gen? No. Okay. Why not? Well, because, you know, I dunno how. Okay, cool. So before you do lead gen, we need to make sure you’ve got a good offer to go out to the market. Then we’re gonna do some lead gen. We’re gonna practice doing lead gen, and then we generate leads. We’re gonna get ’em on a call and we’re gonna convert ’em into some kind of paid discovery or, you know, get ’em in as a, as a client.

So there’s probably only about. Half a dozen things that we can help a client with in that process. And then the rest of it is just like digging into why they’re stuck. Now the training, by the way, we’ve done, like we’ve doc that’s done, that’s in the library. So the coach just says, you just gotta go and do this training here.

It’s gonna teach you how to, you know, run ads and get leads, or you can do this training here, it’s gonna teach you how to write your offer. Or we do this training here, it’s gonna teach you how to recruit a project manager, right. And then they come back with questions. The coaches dig in and figure out where they’re stuck, offer insights from their own experience, and then occasionally come back to me and say, Hey, I’m stuck here.

This client needs this. And then say, I basically coach the coaches how to coach the clients. Does that make sense?

Chris Badgett: Yeah, it does. Yeah. That’s that’s

Troy Dean: awesome. And, and eventually you get to a point where it’s like the coaches end up coaching me. Like I learned from the coaches and I’m like, oh, that’s good.

You know? And we also surround ourselves with training. Like we’ve got the training from Mind Valley, we’ve got training from UP coach. We like, we constantly are learning how to be better coaches. Um, and you know Simon Bowen? Yeah, I, Simon Bowen very well. I.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, I’m in, uh, I’ve met him through a program called SAS Academy with Dan Martel and his, uh, his training really resonated with me.

Got me really systems thinking and the visual models and everything, but yeah. Yeah, yeah. There’s always so much room to to level up. It’s never done.

Troy Dean: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Never done. That’s right. And. Um, and, and I think one of the challenges is that as business owners and entrepreneurs, is that we believe we are the best people for the job.

We believe that no one can do it as good as us. Right? And entrepreneurs are really good generalists. Mm-hmm. Right? Entrepreneurs. You can’t stay a specialist as an entrepreneur. It’s actually counterintuitive, right? It won’t, it won’t work. You have to become a really great generalist as an entrepreneur, cuz you have to understand every part of the business and how it all works together.

And so at some point you have to realize, Generalists are, are really bad at doing the job. So you need to hire specialists. Yeah. Um, that’s it. And, and, and specialists, CFOs, specialists, operations specialists, CEOs, specialists, whatever, designers, developers, marketers. Copywriters, you know, chat, g p t, um, chat, g p t’s a way better copywriter than I’ll ever be.

Right? So you need to, you need a hire specialist and, and become the, the best generalist you can be as an entrepreneur and a business owner. Because the other thing is, is that as a coach, my job is to pr. My job is to maximize the value of my client’s company, and sometimes that means protecting my client’s company.

From my client’s, poor management of that company. Right. That’s wise. Yeah. So I’d be like, well Chris, my job is to maximize the value of LifterLMS. And I gotta tell you, you are doing a really bad job at running LifterLMS right now. Even though you are the shareholder and you are the ceo, I kind of have to protect you, the shareholder from yourself as the manager.

Right, right. You know what I mean? Yeah. That’s why we also have coaches that coach the coach, my c e o, and myself through the same kind of thing, like protect us from ruining the company because we dunno what we’re doing and we’re trying to figure it out and we need some help.

Chris Badgett: One more coaching question for you.

How do you build trust? Because if you’re gonna develop that kind of relationship with a, uh, an owner, they gotta trust you, especially if you’re gonna give ’em some, um, constructive criticism and whatnot. So how do you kind of get that rapport and that trust going?

Troy Dean: It’s a really good question. Um, I do it, we do it.

I largely do it through content. So the, like I, we have people that have joined the. You know, pro one of our programs and then get on a call. And you know, I say this humbly, but they’re kind of like, oh my God, I can’t believe I’m hanging out with you. I listen to your podcast all the time and watch your videos all the time.

And so content is a great, like if you publish videos instantly, you’re on authority, right? Like it’s just because, not because most people won’t do it, most people won’t publish videos because of some kind of fear of whatever, right? In fact, most people won’t do anything because of some kind of fear.

Because they’re stuck in their own shit in their head, right? So if you just publish videos, you just publish your thoughts and I think video is the most powerful format you, you’re an instant authority. Like it’s really easy to become an authority, just publish a bunch of videos and retarget them, and repost them and share them.

And people are like, oh, well you are clearly the expert because otherwise, Why else would you be publishing yourself on the internet talking about learning management systems if you weren’t an expert at it? Like, no one’s deliberately gonna throw themselves under a bus. Right? You know what I mean? So now, so the, the fastest way to grow authority is to just, doesn’t matter how much, you know, just start publishing videos about what you know, because even if you know a tiny bit, you know more than 99.99% of the people on the planet about that thing.

So just start publishing your thoughts on the internet and you become an authority very quickly. That’s how we build trust and, and then through case studies and testimonials and social proof

Chris Badgett: transitioning to the agency owner. You out there listening that has an agency I noticed on agency, you mentioned imposter syndrome, which is kind of what you’re talking about there.

Mm-hmm. How, how do you. Help agency owners overcome imposter syndrome, or where does it show up for them?

Troy Dean: Everyone, the minute their eyes open in the morning. By the way, everyone experiences imposter syndrome, right? It’s a part of being a human being. In fact, we ran an event in Melbourne in 2019 and I had a friend of mine who was a psychologist, come up on stage and talk to a room full of people, and I asked her that question.

I said, Talk to, you know, like explain imposter syndrome. And she said, well, the first thing you gotta understand is that the only people that don’t experience imposter syndrome are psychopaths and liars, right? So if someone says they’ve never experienced imposter syndrome, run fast and don’t do business with them, uh, imposter syndrome comes up in, you know, I’ve seen people completely sabotage their own sales process because they don’t feel like they can deliver the work.

Even though they’ve got, even though the evidence would prove otherwise, they’ve got like, you know, years of history of delivering great work for great clients, but they won’t take a sales call because they’re nervous then because they think the client’s too big or has a profile or has a podcast or, um, and they don’t think they can deliver the work.

So imposter syndrome manifests in a whole bunch of different ways. And this is true for coaching as well. Cause I think there’s a lot of overlap between agency and coaching. I think the smart agencies are essentially coaches. They probably just don’t know it. You know what I mean? Business coaches. Yeah.

Um, and, and the way that I, the way that we help them overcome imposter syndrome is a couple of things. First of all, just acknowledge that it’s a thing. Right. It, it’s okay. It’s, we just normalize it. It’s perfectly fine. I share a lot of my, I, you know, have had a, a, a bit of a journey with my own mental health issues and I share that with publicly and I talk about that all the time.

Just as a way of normalizing. It’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with it, you know? Um, and then we get them to take small actions. We get them to take bite size chunks and get small actions because, The more competent they become at something, the more confident they become and the more likely they are to try something a bit more daring next time.

And so there’s this great analogy as that. You know, in your personal growth or your professional development, there are two ladders that you’re climbing at the same time. One is the confidence ladder and one is the confidence ladder. And you’ve got a foot on each ladder. So imagine that, right? Visualize that.

It’s really hard to climb one ladder without the other, cuz eventually a legs are gonna get too far apart. So our job as coaches and mentors is to help them grow the confidence ladder so that they, their competence ladder can keep up. So they’re more likely to try something. They try it, they achieve something, they get competent.

Then their confidence grows. They have to grow the confidence ladder themselves because they’re the ones that have to take action. But we help them grow the confidence ladder by let, by supporting them and letting them know that there are other people that have done this. There are frameworks and what we call scaffolding that we can put in place around them to make sure if they do slip, it’s not gonna be too far and it’s not gonna hurt.

Then there’s a great commute. So that’s, you know, templates, tools, frameworks, whatever. Then there’s a whole bunch of, uh, agency owners and coaches in the community around them that help them when they fall over because they will fall over and we are there to catch them and put them back up. And I think agency owners have a similar responsibility to their client, is to let the client know.

You know, if you think about the word consulting, consulting literally means to protect the client. And so our job is to protect the client from getting into too much danger or to let them know that it’s okay, that it’s just their brain trying to protect them. They’re not in any real danger, and we’ve got these frameworks here and this social proof and this track record and this history that will support them on their journey so that they’re not.

Out there on their own that they feel well supported. So if we can help them grow their confidence, they’re more likely to try more things and therefore they’ll grow their competence and then it becomes a really nice kind of virtuous loop.

Chris Badgett: I love that. What do you think makes like a great agency entrepreneur?

Like, I mean, some people are just chasing the money, but then there’s those like really special agency owners and there’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but like what do you, what patterns have you seen in the really talented agency owners that have really spread their wings and gone far?

Troy Dean: So our most successful clients are really good at.

Uh, at sticking to their knitting, right, or staying in their wheelhouse. So the agency, the agencies, I think that struggle or the agencies are trying to do everything for everyone all the time, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Um, if you try and please everyone all the time, you end up pleasing no one because you end up just, you know, you don’t do anything very well.

You just do every, you are a bit of a hack at everything. And so the agency, um, and so when I talk about, you know, the riches are in the niches, I think the big misunderstanding with the word niche or niche is that it, it’s not your target audience, right? Your, your, your niche is, Is the way you do something or how you do something your, so like your niche is learning management systems, right?

You, you’ve figured out a way that, that you help people deliver value by posting their information up and putting learning management system and impacting their clients and their students that way. But your target audience is quite varied. Your target audience is agencies, but also course creators. And that could be like, Parenting, mental health, weight loss, business coaching, crypto, you name it, it could be any, it’s all that.

Yeah. Right? So, so your, your niche is not your target audience. Your target audience is who you are best at serving. Your niche is, is how you do it and the way that you do it. Um, so, uh, I’ve, I’ve carved out, uh, I’ve carved out a, a niche of, and a lot of people just think that your niche is a vertical. Right.

I’ll come back to target audience in a sec. Your niche is, Is, is the way that you deliver value to your clients. And every business is slightly different, right? Your target audience is who you serve, and that can be either a vertical, accountants, dentists, pregnant women, whatever it can be. Uh, Demographic.

So it could be, you know, 38 year old males who are, you know, scared of email and scared of getting fat when they hit 40. That’s a, that’s a real demographic, by the way. Mm-hmm. Or it can be psychographic and psychographic could also, a demographic could be return to work moms, that’s a great demo. Example of a demographic niche, right?

Cuz they’re roughly the same age, same, uh, stage of life. And have similar motivations. Psychographic niche is similar desires, similar fears, but demographically could look very different. They could be different age, different gender geographically could be very different in the world, but they have the same desires and fears.

Now, there’s a bit of overlap with demographic and psychographic, but the point is your target audience doesn’t have to be accountants. It could be business owners, but it could be growth-minded, abundant thinking type. A high energy business owners, right? Well, that’s kind of a very, yeah, that’s a psychographic niche.

They could be, they could be 22 year old females, they could be 50 year old males. Right. Um, it, like demographically, they’re very different, but psychographically, they are very similar. And so what you’re looking for is commonalities across your target audience to bring together an avatar, which is either a vertical demographically or psychographically similar.

And then you put together a standardized. Uh, way of delivering their value and like a productized offer that they understand, which is your, which is your niche. That’s kind of how you deliver value to them and how you help them.

Chris Badgett: You mentioned that one of the main things that almost everybody needs help with in the beginning is getting the recurring revenue engine spinning.

Mm-hmm. First to start, like I know some agencies are really focused on the project and like project pricing. What kind of things do you do to help people transition to more of a recurring revenue mindset or just embrace that? Way of thinking. So

Troy Dean: the project model is so broken. Right. And I’ll explain like as a consumer, as someone who sold projects for years and as a consumer of projects, cuz we’ve hired a lot of agencies in this business over the years.

Mm-hmm. It’s typically what happens is. You go through some kind of nurture process with someone. First of all, you’ve, you have to identify that you’ve got a problem that needs solving or you’ve, there’s an opportunity worth exploring. You reach out, you connect with someone, you get a referral, you respond to someone’s ad, whatever it is, you go through a nurture process.

You get on a call with them. Eventually you decide to hire them, you pay them whatever it is, 20 grand and do a project. And then what happens is everyone bites off more than they can chew. And everyone runs around like a headless took for three months trying to meet a deadline, right? It’s a recipe for disaster.

It very rarely works out. And I think the reason, uh, is that the time pressure is, you know, crazy and, and it w like it does work. I know a lot of people make it work. I, for me, the way I, uh, pivoted was I said, you know what? Let’s just, instead of getting, instead of you paying me 20 grand, now let’s just work together for the next 90 days and we’re gonna work on a very specific thing and I’m gonna solve a very specific problem.

So that we can dance before we get married, so to speak, and let’s get you moving in the right direction. Let’s get you some wins. Uh, I broke it down to like a two and a half to 5K a month engagement, depending on, you know, what was involved and a, at the end of that 90 days. Usually what happens is we’ve had such, we’ve got, we’ve gained such momentum and we’ve got so many wins on the board that they’re like, You’re a magician.

What should we do next? Right now, over the period of 18 months, we might completely redo their website, but we’re not gonna try and bite it off and, and then get indigestion for three months. You know, chewing more than, you know, trying to chew more than we’ve bitten off, if you know what I mean. Um, So, and also the math for me was like, I used to, you know, I was charging between 15 and 25 a website, a, a, a project, by the way, a project’s never just a website.

It’s always like, well, there’s SEO marketing, there’s seo, there’s care plan, whatever. And I pivoted to a two and a half. Originally it was a two and a half to three k a month model. And by the way, two and a half a month is 30 grand for the year. And it’s recurring. It’s not a payment plan, it’s recurring because at any point they could decide, well, you know, after 12 months this isn’t working anymore, are we gonna end the engagement?

I like to think that when I start working with a client, it’s a probably a two to three year, you know, process because there’s never. It’s always never gonna be finished, right? There’s always work to be done, but I don’t try and bite off more than I can chew. I’m really good these days at managing everyone’s expectations and reducing the overwhelm, and just identifying the big domino that’s gonna knock over the little ones for the next 30, 60, 90 days.

Let’s just get that done. Get some runs on the board and the big projects, I just don’t do them anymore. As I said, they, they, some people make that work, but it’s just a business model. I think that’s just fraught with danger. There’s no recurring revenue in it. You’re constantly managing your PE people’s expectations.

Your team, you’re constantly burning your team to get everything done on time. It’s just a, I just don’t like that model at all.

Chris Badgett: Do you have a, like, kind of a updated take on the discovery process? So like going from like a sale to uh, oh, we’re gonna do this paid gig to figure out what we’re gonna do and then we’re gonna do the ongoing thing.

Like what does that look like in in, what’s the best advice

Troy Dean: there? Yeah, so we have a whole training that we put out, I don’t know when it was called the paid discovery method, which is. The fastest way to get new clients as an agency. In fact, we, what we teach now is how to get paid to close, right? So the traditional model we’ve, we have clients turn up on our doorstep and they’re like, I’m doing, this is a true story.

I’m doing five free strategy sessions for a client cuz some coach told me that’s what I should do. And then writing proposals and I’m converting it maybe 20%. Oh wow, that’s horrible. And I’m working till 11 o’clock at night. And by the way, my wife’s gonna have a baby in a couple of months and I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

So our model is, uh, of uh, you know, put out great content, generate leads either through referrals or some kind of proactive lead gen process. Get people on a quick call, 10, 15 minutes, qualify them. They’re either in or out. We’re either gonna play ball or we’re not. If we are, we’re gonna do paid discovery.

We just don’t call it paid discovery cuz nobody wants to pay for discovery. So we call it a digital roadmap workshop. It’s usually a two to four hour workshop. Our clients charge anywhere from, you know, 1500 to six grand depending on the client. At the end of that paid discovery workshop, there’s a whole series of questions that you can go through to ask the client again, based on the services that you’re gonna be delivering.

But at the end of that paid discovery workshop, you’ve got a master workbook with all of the documentation and all of the answers to the questions that we’ve worked through. We then go back to the client with a recommendation session, uh, you know, about a week after paid discovery. And we basically lay out the 12 month roadmap.

This is what it’s gonna look like working with us over the next 12 months. If we were to work together, we would do this, this, this, this, and this. We give them that plan so that, and we, we basically say, you can go do this yourself. You can take it to another agency, or you can hire us to help you. And at that point, we know more about their business than anyone.

They’re so invested in the relationship that the typical conversion rate’s about 75% from paid discovery into ongoing engagement. Right. So it’s a way, and that’s, that’s why we say you can get paid to close these clients because you’re getting paid to scope it out and present your proposal, which we don’t do anymore.

We present the recommendations and then a statement of work. You get paid to do all that and then close them into an ongoing recurring revenue client.

Chris Badgett: What are the primary things that have agency owners stuck? Like either barely it’s barely working out, or we’re just, we’re just kind of diminishing returns and kind of overwhelmed, like what?

What’s usually at the root of that?

Troy Dean: So I’m gonna reference a book I’m reading at the moment called The Almanac of Naval Rav, which is. Unbelievable. It’s so good, It’s good, right? It’s a basically collection of his tweets and blog posts put together by another guy. Um, he talks about the concept of radical.

He talks about the concept of accountability and, um, and that the more at risk, right, the more, the more you are willing to take risk and accept. Personal accountability, public accountability in your own personal name. The more upside there is, typically speaking, an agency, agency owner or a small business owner gets to a point where they’re making money, they’re making profit, they’re burning out, they are the bottleneck in the business.

Um, I have clients, I’ve spoken to agency owners who have been earning the same revenue for 15 years, and to me it is so obvious that they just need to hire an account director or an account strategist to take all of the phone calls and the emails from the clients so that they can free up and figure out what they actually wanna do with the business.

But they’re, they just can’t do it. They can’t, they don’t trust that anyone else is gonna do it as good as them. So they have a fear that holds them back. And they end up resenting their business. They end up burning out, then they’re no good to anyone. And so I think it’s that, you know, you need to become a new version of yourself.

If you want to go from technician manager to actual business owner, first of all, you need to stop thinking of your business as your baby, right? You need to think of it as an asset that can generate a profit for you while you sleep. Because if it’s not generating a profit for you while you sleep, then it’s not an asset.

It’s a job, and you are the boss and you are a horrible boss because you work yourself more hours than anyone else would, and you don’t pay yourself enough. And so if you think of your business as an asset that needs to generate a profit, you start thinking, who can I get to help me nurture this asset and grow this asset cuz I can’t do it on my own?

And the moment you have that realization, everything changes because that’s when you start asking who, not how? I don’t need to fix this problem. The only problem you need to fix is growing your recurring revenue, right? So that you’ve got enough profit and predictable cash flow in the business to hire the next person.

And you don’t need to, hi, you don’t need to grow a team of, you know, 20 or 30 or 40. You can get, you can grow a great lifestyle agency to seven figures with a team of, you know, 10 or less be super profitable and eventually like work a couple of days a week in it, maybe doing some sales calls or some strategy calls and have everyone else do everything else.

Chris Badgett: Do you have any, just kind of final tips on working with A C E O? Like what makes that chemistry work that you were able with your business to have somebody come in at such a high level, have it work for them and you. And over a long time horizon.

Troy Dean: So, yeah, it’s a good question. Um, I didn’t think it would ever happen.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, it seems impossible.

Troy Dean: A lot of people would say it’s just not possible. Yeah. Yeah. I’d said for years, I, you know, I can’t have anyone run this business, and so there was a, Convergence of of events. One, we had a customer who came through our programs and implemented, took massive action, was asking lots of questions, and was getting just our courses, not our coaching programs.

And then I had a sales call with her and she was just about to join our mastermind, but she was also about to have a baby. I said, look, go and have the baby first and maybe we should talk. Yeah. After the baby. She came back after she had the baby and she said, I’m gonna sell my agency. I wanna come and work with you.

And I said, okay. And so she came in and just started working with us as a contractor, managing our Facebook group, doing some content. Then she kind of moved into a marketing role, then we lost our op. So worked way up. Worked the way up. Yeah. Then we lost, lost our ops manager and so we moved Emily over to operations and she was ops manager for, I don’t know how long, like six, uh, pr, no, probably nine months.

And then what happened? I think at the end of 2021, you know, it’d been a weird couple of years. Um, I came back from holidays at the start of 2022 and I was supposed to come back to work on the 10th of January, and I remember. I was in the park with the family on the Sunday and I said to my wife, I’m gonna come back to work tomorrow.

I’m not ready. Like I just need some more time off. And I rang Emily and I said, I’m gonna come back tomorrow. I’m gonna take another couple of weeks off. So just, you know, reschedule everything in my calendar and you, you know what you’re doing. Just like do what you need to. And then when I did come back at the end of January that year was, I was like very light duties.

I just said to her, I don’t want to come back in the capacity that I was last year. I want to, you know, uh, and so she was happy just to kind of keep running it. And I think we had such, we had such an, an alignment with our vision of what, what do we want, what we wanted to do with the company, which was like, that was the number one thing.

Like I would not, I wouldn’t have, I. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable letting go of the reins and giving her more and more autonomy unless I knew that we had basically exactly the same vision. We don’t agree on everything, which is a good thing, but we have the same vision. We’re we are going to the same destination, we’re on the same train.

There’s enormous trust there. Um, and then at some point in, I think March, 2021, I rang her and I said, I don’t wanna run the company anymore. Uh, you’re much better at this than I am. Like if I never have to look at another spreadsheet again, it’ll be too soon. Like, you just, I think you should do it and I think we should make it official and make you general manager or ceo, whatever you want to be.

And she said, I wanna be CEO e o. And I said, okay, you can be c e o. Um, and so my role now is like, so I talk to Emily most days, probably two, probably three days a week. I talk to Emily, she’s in New Zealand, and. Uh, you know, she doesn’t make any massive financial decisions without me cuz I’m the shareholder and, and a board member.

But she’s got full autonomy to make, she can, you know, it’s her call. Um, she does, she knows what she needs to do and she’s got her metrics. She’s incentivized as well. So it’s in her best interest to, uh, to do a good job. And I think ultimately though, Chris, what happened is I got to a point where I re, I said to one of our coaches, Pete Perry, I said, You do not want me coming back into team meetings, making decisions because they’re gonna be the wrong decisions because I’m cooked.

I just need some time off. I’ve been doing this a long time. I need a fresh brain to come in and look at this company with fresh eyes because I’m not making good decisions anymore. And they’re, they’re, they’re just gonna, because I’m making fast decisions because I just want the problem to go away. Mm.

And so I need someone to come in who can, who, who’s actually got a bit more patience and a bit more energy to look at this, just because I’ve been doing it for a long time. So that was really the decision was the best thing for the company is for me not to run it anymore. And I was the one that identified that.

And. Pulled myself out of it.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Uh, just to kind of land the plane, looking back in the past, say 10 years to present, how is agency life different or, you know, if somebody wants to quote, build sites for clients or do a marketing agency, what’s different now from 10 years ago?

Troy Dean: The technology now is so easy, right?

Yeah. It’s. Nuts and chat. G p t has is, is, has and is going to change the game the same way that page builders change the game for web developers who are using WordPress, right? The same way that custom post types change the game. Right? That was like, Holy shit. Now we can do what? I mean, your business basically grew up because custom postops were, were were possible.

Right? Um, Elementor Comple Beaver Builder completely changed the game for WordPress. Elementor completely changed the game for WordPress. Everyone was panicking. Oh, it’s gonna put us out of a job. Everyone’s doing the same thing with Chachi Peter. It’s not gonna put you out of a job. It’s gonna make your job easier and faster.

The technology now, It’s so easy and so fast that y if I’ve said this at one of our events recently, everything you need to grow to seven figures or another, seven figures in your agency is right at your fingertips. It’s right there. The challenge that we have now is that agency owners, I think, are in this.

I think the, the world has kind of got to a point now where agency owners should be doing what they have, what they always should have been doing. Which is getting paid to think through the strategy for their client. That’s the most valuable thing you can do for a client is help them think, in fact, that’s why they’re paying you.

Clients are not paying you to install plugins. They don’t care about that they’re paying you because they don’t want to think about the thing because they can’t, they don’t have the knowledge. And by the way, thinking. Consumes way more energy than any other physical activity, right? The brain can uses more calories than any other part of the the body.

So thinking hurts. It’s painful, it’s exhausting. Clients pay us to think for them and to give them advice based on best practices. And so now I think more than ever, Agents, owners should be leaning into their clients and conducting regular, you know, every two weeks, conducting strategy calls and accountability calls with clients to make sure they’re on track and know that the technology and the deliverables is just easier than ever.

So understand that your real value is actually helping. Your client sink through problems and come up with solutions, and you should be getting paid for that work, not giving it away for free, and then negotiating on price for the deliverables, which is what most agencies do, um, because that’s a race to the bottom and you’re never gonna win that.

You’re never gonna win that race.

Chris Badgett: What’s in your crystal ball for the future? Uh, like kind of if you were to project way out, I we’re kind of in this chat G P T AI moment and, you know, the tools are getting cheaper, easier, whatever, but like, what’s, what’s a little further out on the horizon for the agency owner?

Troy Dean: Well, it’s interesting. I was talking to a friend of mine recently who was saying, you know, uh, AI. There are already, there are already some companies working on AI to completely replace the traditional sales development role, right? So sales development role is, is you know, the role that does outreach and qualifies people and then puts ’em on a calendar to speak with a salesperson.

Well, that can, you know, is not far away from being completely automated. Right. Um, I think the other thing that’s gonna happen is that we’re gonna end up with, unfortunately we’re gonna end up with more. Crap on the internet because everyone’s gonna be thinking they can use chat g p t to just do it themselves.

Right. So, you know, and it’s super funny at the moment to watch all these dudes selling courses on how use chat G P T, right. I’m gonna like, I reckon I could use chat g p T to write the curriculum for a course on how to use chat G P t. Sure. And write the sale. I’m gonna do it as an experiment. Just go the whole thing’s done by chat G P T.

Right. It’s just nuts. But I think we’re gonna end up with more vanilla ice cream on the internet. You know, it’s gonna be, um, and I think the opportunity is, And Seth Gordon’s been talking about this for a long time, is the opportunity then is really for us to become craftspeople, is to really spend time honing our craft and understanding what it is we do, which is not about pushing pixels around or, you know, writing code, that what we do again is, is bring some unique value to our clients and help our clients tell their story, help our clients understand what their unique value is.

And that’s the work that I think is the most valuable, the most exciting, um, and the most rewarding. And, and will also get you paid. Because if you, and I think you, I think embracing AI and chat e p t is, is, you know, you need to because it’s not gonna replace you. So I heard this great quote the other day.

Automation didn’t put accountants out of a job. Accountants who used automation put accountants out of a job, right? So if you’re an agency owner and you’re not using chat, G P T. Then you’re probably gonna be out of a job by the agencies who are using chat g P t, because they’re just gonna work. They’re just gonna be able to move faster than you.

Right? Like way faster. And so I think it’s an opportunity, I think it needs to be embraced. Um, I dunno where it’s gonna end. It’s probably just a cycle, you know, we’ve seen it happen all before. And, um, I think once the dust is settled, we’ll come back to basics, which is, you know, the one thing it can’t replace is human beings listening to each other, connecting and, and collaborating on solutions.

I think we’ve lost Chris, which is unfortunate because he’s the host

and he’s frozen. And here I am now hosting LMSCast for Chris. Lucky. I’m a podcaster. Uh, so if you’re watching this and you are live, we are live. I don’t, I’m not exactly sure where we’re live, but if you’re watching this, uh, Chris is obviously. Had a problem with the internet. He did say that, um, he was in the middle of a snowstorm, and so maybe that’s impacted his internet connection.

I don’t know. But hopefully he’ll be back soon. Um, if he’s not then, you know, uh, this has been fun. And I’ve had a, a great time chatting with Chris here on LifterLMS, on, on LMSCast. I dunno what his call to action is, but probably subscribe to the podcast, tell your friends about it. Go and check out LifterLMS if you’re in the, in the business of, uh, looking for an LMS solution.

Uh, I know Chris, we hung out at Word Camp, um, in, uh, San Diego, uh, last year and uh, it’s been fun being on the show again. Sorry that he’s, uh, he’s bounced out here. I think the snowstorm may have got the better of him. But anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’ve had a, a fun time hanging out and I look forward to, uh, doing it again sometime.

Alright, gang, I’m gonna scoot outta here. Hopefully, uh, Chris comes back soon. Um, but, uh, yeah. I’m Troy Dean from agency Thanks for having me. Bye for now.

Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMSCast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode.

And I’ve got a gift for you [email protected] slash gift. Go to Keep learning. Keep taking action, and I’ll see you. In the next episode.

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