Lisa Zwikl joins Dave as the new Co-Host of the Agency Balance podcast. Lisa and Dave talk about what they have seen so far in 2023 with inbound and outbound sales, what clients look for in hiring and agency. They also share what guests we will be having on season 2.
Lisa Zwikl, CSO SmartAcre, Inc. | LinkedIn
From developing award-winning marketing programs to strategically planning activities for two (two and under!) boys, Lisa Zwikl is a strategist at heart. As SmartAcre’s Chief Strategy Officer, Lisa empowers teams to listen to clients, understand goals, and bring campaigns to life, using the right mix of data and passion to drive decisions. Lisa has worked with clients from the Department of Defense to SaaS start-ups to drive recognition, results, and revenue. Lisa holds an Advertising & PR degree from Penn State University.
David Snyder, CEO SmartAcre, Inc. | LinkedIn
I live my life with the simple rule of ‘Always Be Caring’. Born in Eastern PA, David’s background is in marketing and technology, specifically agency management. His passions include self improvement, automotive design, collecting sports cards and memorabilia. A father of two teenage boys. David is married for 21 years. David is the CEO at SmartAcre, Inc. a marketing technology company.
Welcome to Season Two of the agency balance. I’m your co host, David Snyder. And I’m with Lisa Zwikl are the other co hosts of agency balance. We’re so excited to be bringing you season two season one was great.If you haven’t watched it, listen to it yet, please check us out on Apple, Spotify and YouTube. So in season one, Lisa, we talked a lot about personal balance. And that’s still gonna focus right Yeah.
But this year, we want to talk about some of the unique things that you experienced in an agency setting that unique balance between the agency and client relationship, things like managing a team and a professional service industry, putting them first while being mindful of the client hitting goals together, there’s so much to cover that really is unique to agency life. I want to dive into that a little bit more this season.
Yeah, I’m super pumped for that. And I think, you know, I reflected a lot back back on2022 versus this year, and so much has changed, not just for us, right? But like, what’s what’s happening in the world.So much has changed year over year. And I think if you look at time, that always happens. But I think there’s been some big differences, you know, year over year. And I want to just jump right into that and talk to our audience about about things that we’ve seen from, from a strategy and goals perspective, from a tactics, how tactics have shifted, what have we seen from the way that companies are investing and pulling back or holding some of their budget, or maybe they’re spending in other areas where they haven’t spent before and just share some of the things that I’ve seen during the sales conversation, I’m doing probably two or three sales calls a day prospecting, as well as inbound and outbound.So I want to share some of the things that I’ve seen. But let’s start with strategy. You know, you lead up the strategy for smart acre as Chief Strategy Officer, what have you seen, that is different? Or maybe the same for from a strategy perspective? And that’s maybe a negative too.
Yeah, I mean, one of my favorite things about agency life is that you get to experience so many different clients. And for us, in b2b, we work with a lot of similar industries, from manufacturing, to tech to cybersecurity, but still you have so many unique things across those different clients. I’ve been reflecting on my journey at SmartAcre, because June is nine years, I’ve been here for nine years, and thinking of some of the things that I’ve learned over time. And like MQL, none of our clients describe it the same exact way.So having that unique experience, you do get to see what’s working and what’s not.But you get to see some consistencies and strategically, one of the things that I don’t know if if it’s because of tools like chat, GPT, or the ability to produce content and a quicker way in some cases, but it seems like a lot of our clients are leaning into the idea of let’s not try to just do a lot of things quickly. But let’s try to do it right, let’s try to tell our story in a unique way. Let’s make sure that we’re extracting voices from our customers from our internal thought leaders, so we can really have a unique position in the market. I think that’s really important because as we’re in a down economy, and clients are being challenged to do more with less really doing it in a smart way. makes so much sense. Yeah. And I’m glad that we’re seeing that trend and that our clients are receptive to that idea when we when we bring it up and we start to really focus on quality and positioning and things like if you are running a lot of marketing right now or have a big budget on let’s get your website right and really differentiate you from others in your industry.
Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that I’ve definitely seen organizations that you know, maybe they’re maybe they’re great on sales like manufacturing has across the board has been booked up, the other probably still playing catch up. So they don’t maybe necessarily need more inbound leads right now. But what they’re focused on is operations while they have this, this downtime, so I’ve been seeing that where they’re like, Hey, let’s get our let’s get our connections, right, let’s get our back end, right. Let’s get things sinking and talking, let’s redo our website. And all that plays into, you know, the positioning of who you are. I think no matter what, no matter I think every year you should be looking at your positioning and your voice and in responding because look, look what happened. Right. And it’s kind of ties back to what we talked a lot about last season where it was like Oh, Okay, we’re in the office, we’re not in the office, we’re at home or at hybrid. And now everything kind of feels like it’s back to normal. But it’s a different normal, very different normal. Yeah, I think it’s different. And even who I,I visited more clients in the last few months, than all of last year, and they’re getting more kind of back to like, hey,yeah, we’re, we kind of want to be in the office every day. And especially from like a service perspective, like they’ve seen the value of coming coming back to the office. So yeah, that’s, that’s interesting, I think. If you’re, if you’re not looking at how your ideal customer profile, how they’re buying, like, if you’re not looking and seeing how that has changed, shame on you, because it absolutely has changed, it changed for smart acre, it changed for, for us we saw behavior change, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, paying attention to that being using the tools that you have at your fingertips, I think that’s another thing that AI is having an influence on the market is not to say you can’t use AI to produce some quality content, it’s pretty amazing the things that it can do between, you know, Photoshop and expanding images to crack your blog posts or social content.But one of the things that I think is really impactful is using those tools to really understand your audience more and understand the landscape more and build out ICPs and personas by using that data that’s available and doing it in just a faster way. And by having conversations with your customers and learning about what’s changing in their world and how they’re going to market.It helps you reposition and tighten up your own messaging as well.
Yeah, you know, it goes hand in hand. But with strategy, there’s budget conversations.And you know, I think, I think what snuck up on a lot of people were going into the end of the year, everything was kind of like, hey, everything’s rolling, we’ll just keep upping the budgets up in the budgets and then like something collect, right, I think that the economy for sure. And then you couple that with a lot of companies, especially in the tech tech side laying off, and then they’re like, like you said, having to do more with less. So what I definitely seen companies rethink the way that they’re budgeting, they’re not necessarily, you know, budgeting everything the same way, at least, at least for us, we kind of are in the I would call like mid market space is kind of where our target is, you know, in some enterprise, but I think companies are, at least in this first quarters and going into second quarter, they they’ve pulled back, right? They’ve they’ve kind of hold back, they’re still doing things. But they’ve kind of pulled back and now they’re maybe loosening up the purse strings at the midpoint of the year. And they’re thinking about Alright, how do I spend this because I might lose it. So that that changes your strategy, at least from an agency perspective, what we’re talking about is, you know, you have to balance and think about Alright, arena start out as an a specific engagement, a fixed engagement with a project? Or is there still an opportunity to grow into something that’s more recurring, or, or what so I think for for us, what we’ve done is, from a budget perspective, try to make sure that we’re really flexible.I’m always about removing any hesitation in the sales process, like remove the disruptors, or always have something that you can kind of fall back on. Okay, okay. If they asked for this, if they asked for, hey, a shorter term, or a reduction in price, ask for something else in return. It’s something that I learned a long time ago in sales is if the prospect is asking you something, especially on like,on the budget, like, hey, we can’t spend this but we can spend this I’m like, okay, but we need to also, you know, get accelerated payment upfront or asked for something else. This a good tactic that I’ve that I’ve learned, especially like on the budget negotiation side.
Yeah, definitely. And I think that that’s important for agency, client relationships, the sale we had smart speaker, we always talk about the entire customer experience, and that first interaction, it sets the tone for what an entire relationship is like. I love the balance between client relationships because we do a great job of it. But I’m sure that there are some clients that have had relationships with agencies that have drained them and they’ve been challenging and they’ve had to manage them and there is friction. So from that beginning point in the sales process, by creating that experience and eliminating friction, it’s to how we also operate in everything else that we’re doing and it’s it so important to understand, what are the challenges for this client that we’re working with?How can we alleviate them, and you have to have a line in the sand, right, that erodes balance for your team. But by really grasping what they’re asking for, and why they’re asking for it from the sales conversation to managing a project for them,it helps you find that balance and have a great relationship.
I think that’s super huge.You touched on something there with when you’re when you’re selecting an agency, and you’ve you’ve gotten burned before. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re not on the agency side, and you’re on the client side, and you’re looking to hire an agency, there’s certain questions that you should be asking the agency, because the worst thing you want to happen have happened is have that same type of agency again, yeah. So trying to understand what do you really need, if you’re, if you’re I need I need a lead generation company, I lead a lead and demand gen. Agency, I need a web tech company, I need a martech driven agency. There’s a lot of differences there. And you know, as smart acre, that’s something that we found where it’s like, we were blending some of that right. And I think we still do. But we even started to put this on our our website of some of the things that we’re good at some of the things maybe we’re not a good fit for, what what have you seen? What can you share? Because you’re in the sales process? Like what what can you share, from your perspective of some good questions that a client or a potential client should ask us?Oh, I
love that. This is a good question. And something that we do try to be really transparent about to eliminate any objections or questions up front, we tried to share them during our initial discovery conversation. But you’re right,sometimes whether you’re new to working with an agency, or if you’ve been burned in the past,it is important to have really smart questions. So I love just having that focus of exactly what that support looks like and understanding from the agency.What happens if that changes,right, especially now that’s one thing that we’re seeing is even when we start conversations with prospects, a couple of weeks later, they might say, actually,my scope changed, or I need this instead. And it’s important to understand how does the agency handle that? Do they have the staff to handle that? Do they?Does it change their hourly rate? Or the budget? Are they going to be frustrated by that is going to create friction on the other end? So that’s an important question to ask is just as as things shift, on my end, how will you continue to support me? Who will I be working with? What does that look like? Understanding the team structure that’s typically a unique part of an agency. Will I have a main point of contact?Will I have specialists will I have leadership involvement,that’s all important to understand. And even getting to meet some of the team members,because we like to make sure that our team jives with the people that they’re working with, and that we really get to know each other and have a personal relationship. So I wouldn’t has hesitate to ask during the sales process. Can I meet my main point of contact? I get to know them a little bit.think that that’s important.What else? What I don’t know,you can probably think of some you probably want them to bite your tongue.
No. I mean, if I think it’s just like reporting comes up a lot. Yes, that’s a good one. Like, like, how are you going to report back success?Like, show examples, obviously,you know, hiring an agency that has the right skills are great,but if they have industry experience, as well, so ask them, you know, like, what type of industry experience do they have? These most likely they’re trying to be, they’re trying to stay in their lanes to like, if they’re a b2b agency, and they’re delivering b2b services,they have no place probably in the b2c if ask them. Yeah. So I think that’s really important,too, because that’s going to help with acceleration that’s going to help them get up to speed faster, because they know the industry. That’s a good one.And just Yeah, reporting and like, what is their reporting structure? How does that differ than the current reporting structure that you have? Does that like when they roll that into what you’re already doing?Because most likely, the reporting that you have internally is, you know, whether if it’s like in Salesforce, for example, it’s going to contain other things that maybe your board or leadership is one is going to see on your side, but it may not be what the agency is going to deliver on. So I think reporting structure is really important, too.
Yeah, that’s a good one. I think. Also understanding time investment involved. That’s one common thing that we try to make really clear when we’re talking about a project we say it’s typically our onboarding is a5050 commitment, but really,what you put in is what you’re going to get out of it. So understanding if you’re onboarding someone that will work with you on a monthly basis or if it’s something like a one same project, what is the time that you need for me to be successful going into that conversation, I think is really important. And knowing how long other clients stick around, we always give references, we always let our prospects talk to our current clients. I think the longevity of both clients and agency resources churring can be a common thing in agency setting because of the the fast pace of retaining people. But that’s another thing I think is fair to ask, how long does your team typically stay with you? How long do your clients typically stay with you?
Yep. Yeah, for sure. So we talked about strategy, we talked about budgets, talked about, you know, some of the questions that you you should be asking, from a tactical perspective, like, what have you seen the differences from kind of a year ago, to fast forwarding to where we are today, like some of the tactics that you’ve seen in a marketing and sales driven agency that that supported? Like, what what has changed? Other than, like,chat, you know, automation, like AI? Is that it like is that the big one? I mean,
it’s, it’s huge, and it’s influencing so many different things from like revenue operations, to how you’re tactically executing everything,I mean, even many paid programs,now, you can accelerate them by leveraging AI to optimize things for you. So that that has been an influence. The thing that I think has been a challenge as marketers is there just as there’s more and more and more to keep up with, and I think that allows for some bad marketing to sneak out into the world. So by really leveraging experts in those platforms, it will help you get so much more out of them than just trying to make it work on your own. I mean, we’re in tools all the time, like HubSpot. And things change so frequently, that if you’re not in there, getting your hands dirty on a daily basis, you’re going to quickly fall behind and miss opportunities to improve your revenue operations, improve your campaigns, accelerate what you’re doing. Yeah.
What, like, so there’s a lot has changed. You know, we’re like we talked about you don’t talk about tools there. But like, from like a set it and forget it approach. Like, we’re not we don’t necessarily do that. But like, should companies be like thinking that like how far out? I guess that’s really my question is like, how far out? Can companies be planning from like, a content calendar perspective?
That’s a good question.And I’d probably, I’m sure it varies, I would probably have different answers for different clients that I’m speaking to.But I think it’s always important to plan ahead, as long as you’re flexible in your plan and measuring and using data to pivot and be agile. But there’s so much that you can do to set yourself up for success that you should do that, and then you can layer on other things on top of that.
Yeah. So from this, like the sales side, I’ve seen it that comes up a lot. So like,some common, I get that comes up as like a common question in the sales process, or it’s, they’re,they’re asking, like, you know,how far can you plan out? You know, and I always say, yeah, it of course, it varies. You know,there’s, there’s kind of evergreen stuff that we that you should be pushing out there. But like real time, like, don’t just follow that plan, you should be,you know, communicating in real time, as well as things, you know, change and adapt,especially like if you’re, if you’re producing something, you know, you have examples, you know, say like, if you’re a manufacturer, and you’re producing something, and it’s a new, a new product for the first time, like talk about that shirt, share that, share that from your perspective. And I think, you know, we’ve seen content that is very real and authentic, that comes from an iPhone versus a really polished,you know, clip sometimes I just saw it, you know, so you know,Ryan Reynolds is of course, of course, and so one of his companies, you know, this meant like that. Are you familiar with that? No. Well, so he has like this little his his company, and it’s like, finance wallet type thing or whatever. But the point is, like, look at some of his content out there. His he is, so he’s using his face. And so he gets attention immediately on social media because he’s beautiful. But the, the videos they’re pushing out on social media, he’s using that kind of like, like, horrible cut out,like green screen effects that you use, like on filters, like on Instagram and Tiktok and stuff like that, like on the on the actual, like, commercial,but, like moves around. Like they’re moving and it’s like cut really bad and it looks like a teenager put it together. But it’s, it’s good.
It’s different. It’s authentic. It’s yeah, it fits
with like, where where somebody is going to consume that. If it’s so polished,somebody’s gonna look right by it. Even I’ve seen LinkedIn work the same way to like think content that is so polished.Like, I think you still have to do it right. But if it’s so polished, sometimes it just gets looked looked right past, right,
it’s getting so much harder to stand out. And being authentic, trying different things. I think it’s so, so important. But in terms of planning, I mean, strategies in my vein, so I think it is important to have a plan. But also with strategy. I think it can get so overcomplicated sometimes where it’s like, we need to have this big strategy and know every single piece of the puzzle. But in reality, it’s really only do this with our clients, it’s really important to constantly have the conversation, at least on a quarterly basis of what is the role of marketing right now?What do we need to accomplish?Is it to hit a revenue goal? Is it to drive awareness? Is it to focus on this product? Is it to stand out? And by getting really clear on what is the role of marketing right now, it helps you be strategic in that moment and take that plan and adapt it to achieve your goals?
Yeah, yeah. What you just laid out there, it comes up in the sales process, too. So right now terms is everything like,what we’ve seen is there’s there’s some companies that want to lock in because they can’t hire. And then there’s other companies, they’re like, Well,I’m gonna still try to hire in a few months. So can I lock you in for four. So usually, what I’m trying to do is set up success,where it’s like, those goals that you’re outlining are going to be on pace for what we can achieve realistically in four months together, and then say,hey, then reevaluate it, if you’re still having trouble hiring and hiring that then you know, we can, we can talk about extending the relationship.Because that’s the way that we work, we try to make sure that it’s, it’s fair for both sides,because like, if you’re going to commit to an agency, right, that agency agency should be coming back to you with the type of service level that you would expect. So it’s kind of that and that’s why we use the word partnership, because it’s we want, we’re looking for client partners, we’re not looking to be just a vendor. And that’s another those are really other good questions, you should be asking in the sale in the if you’re selecting an agency, you know, kind of at this point of the year, you know, are you looking for just a vendor? Or are you looking for a partner,because those are two really big, those are two different things. If you just need somebody to be a hammer, and just be hitting things, then hire that vendor, and you can probably get them cheaper. If you’re looking for a strategic partner. That’s going to cost you more. And that’s different.And that’s something that you can’t hire in house. And if you tried to hire that in house, I guarantee it’s going to be a lot more expensive. It’s gonna take longer.
Yep, that’s a great point.I think oftentimes, people think agency, they’ll just come in and they’ll be able to get started.But you’re still it’s just like if you were hiring a resource there is that time commitment that’s important on both ends to really set get set up for success. Yeah.
Switching gears, totally,totally switching gears. What’s got what’s going on in your life? How many more mountains have declined since our listeners have heard?
Ah, I don’t even remember what our last conversation was.But I think want at least one.Oh, this one one. Hi. P Yes.
Do you remember the name of it?
It was I think it was withdraw. Wow. I think that’s what it was. I can it’s gonna be mad at me that I don’t remember the name of it. But
wolf jaw sounds like a like a rock band. Ladies and gentlemen, withdrawal. Yeah,something like that.
Yeah, there’s a there’s an upper and a lower. I don’t remember which one we did. I we couldn’t do both. And one day we we tried, but we had to turn around.
Yeah, I haven’t climbed any mountains. I got new tires on my car. That was like, a cool thing.
That’s really cool.
What do you get when you get like, to a certain point of your life? It’s like small things that make you excited.
Like it’s it’s so true.Yeah,
I still try to maintain balance. Like you know, for me,you know, I talked about this like in season one a lot where it was like, trying to maintain balance. If you’re watching this video on YouTube, Like you’ll see more and more of the background of the room that I’m in like, you’ve probably seen a lot more cards in this room since we last since you came over but like I still collect cards. It’s talking about a different industry like it’s it’s crazy what is happening with that that hobby because it’s it’s being like taken over by a large company. You know,they’re buying up a lot of a lot of it and it’s kind of people are complaining like it’s becoming a monopoly, you know,that they’re going to buy everything up and they can control everything. So I think my point circling that is no matter what you’re doing, if it’s a hobby Eat Like, if you love doing it, keep doing it.And then when you stop loving it, then don’t do it anymore do something else.
Yeah, I think it’s so important I love to hear when people on our team have side hustles, or there’s a few other smart acres that are trying to climb some mountains as well check checksum ranges off their list, but there’s so much you can learn for it. Like before I had kids, I was a bar three instructor totally unrelated to marketing. But there was so much I learned even just about how to ground my voice and sound more authority data versus asking questions or how to read a room and stand up there and present in an entirely different way.You know, how your body language and eye contact and all those things have such an impact? I never would have thought that doing that would impact my marketing career. But it did.Yeah, that’s
cool. I learned something recently. It’s the instead of like, you can use this in sales.So and with collecting sports cards, it’s all about like buying, selling and trading. And it’s, it helps me with some sales tactics. It really does.Because I get called out sometimes we’re like, you’ve gotta be in sales. Like cuz you’re you negotiate that deal really well. But like when somebody is pushing back on something, instead of going,Yeah, or Yes, but you should,you should hire us because we’re really good. So that but is like immediately a negative. And it allows the recipient to just come back at you versus going.Yes. And I agree with you. And we could build on that. And we can extend the relationship in six months. Now, where’s your mind going? It’s switched. It’s like, okay, now they put up a wall. It’s not allowing me to come back at it. Now. I’m building on your statement.Don’t remove that negativity from it.
Yeah. Mind blown with little, little tweaks,
little tweaks that you can that you can make. And again, I always go back to, if they’re asking for something, get something in return. It’s huge.It’s, it’s, it’s huge in that in that conversation.
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And I think that there are so many little nuances like that, that play into building strong relationships with your clients being great at sales being a good marketer. I, you know, I talk about often my family life, because I have two little kids. And I tell you what, negotiating with a three year old has definitely improved my marketing, because you’re right, you can’t always say no and expect a positive outcome,one of your guests from last season J prior, they said What you resist persist. So true. So I tried to keep that frame of mind of, if I keep resisting this, it’s going to persist. But instead I can say yes. Or here’s why you need to brush your teeth. Not just you have to do it. But here’s the why behind it. Here’s what’s in it for you,kid.
Yes. And if you don’t brush your teeth, the teeth will fall out.
Exactly. Yes, I do say that because it’s not a lie, his teeth are going to fall out.
That doesn’t change. By the way, no matter how old your kids are, you know, teenagers don’t want to brush their teeth either. I know from experience.So we’re really excited to bring you some some amazing guests this season. You know, I would want to share that we have differences too. We have guests that are going to talk to you about analytics, we have guests that are going to talk to you about shooting photography and videography and using groundbreaking technology in in in video that is being used on a on the highest highest production level, what other what other guests and topics do you have in mind? Or that you can share with our audience that what they can expect for season two?
Yeah, sure. So everyone’s going to get to hear more from our smart acres, we have a few more smart acres that we’re going to involve this season.Because we do want you to get that take that perspective of agency life, hear from our people, leaders that can help answer some questions around how do you have a really strong team culture in a remote work environment, but also while it’s a challenging environment where you’re being challenged with hitting client expectations, but also maintaining balance and having that great culture. We’re going to talk more about how we manage our goals as an agency,how we manage client goals and truly make them our goals how we have a process for that and accountability. That’s a big deal. We are going to bring some clients on board so you can get a take of we can even ask them the question of what questions would you recommend someone asked what One vetting an agency, but get their perspective of what it’s like to work with a team. I’m really excited for that, because there are probably questions that we just haven’t asked them. But we’ll get to do it in this setting. So more to come on all of that these conversations,just like I mentioned was strategy, we have a plan, but it will continue to evolve as we bring on our guests and get their take of the things that they are passionate about, I want to talk about as well.
And if you have an idea,or you want to have a have us discuss a topic on the agency balance, how do you do that, hop over to our YouTube channel and drop us a comment. Anything that you would like to get a point of view on, we’re happy to answer it there. You can also check us out on agency balance.com, we put up all of our episodes there as well as past episodes. And of course, you can subscribe to us on Apple, and Spotify as well.So I’m excited for this season,it’s going to be different,you’re going to be hearing different voices, not just me hammering on, Lisa is going to be sharing the duties as CO hosts. So I’m really excited about that. I think let’s maybe we also, have you ever tried recording a podcast from high peak,
I have never done that.
I wonder how that would work.
Probably wouldn’t be ideal, they get a little windy up there
would have to use the wind filter. It’s funny that you mentioned that there’s actually AI and software that you can use we talking about that that can remove wind, that’s amazing from your, to an extent. I mean,maybe you have to get one of those like really like walkie walkie like furry animals to go over the microphone. Because because of the wind, but that maybe maybe not at a high peak maybe more recorded at different places to
Yeah, let’s be real, I need more filtering of kids screaming in the background and wind and at high peaks at this point in my life. So
anything else that you want to kind of share to kind of put a bow on for this season.
I’m also excited I you know, agency life, it it is unique. We always talk about that when we’re talking to candidates or helping our team maintain that balance. It’s,it’s for a certain person, and if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So I’m excited to peel back the curtain there and more detail because it’s there’s a lot that you can learn really quickly from being in that setting, whether it’s for you or if it’s not for you. So looking forward to it. I’m thrilled to be a co host this is this is totally new for me.
I should I gotta get one of those like named placards like printed out so you can put on your desk and be like co host. Yeah, you got or at least update your LinkedIn profile today. Okay, I’ll call host I’ll do that.
We’ll make it official and everyone would be like a co
host. That’s such a big deal. No, not really. It just means I got to do more work. All right, well, good stuff. Thank you so much for joining and thank you to our listeners. We were able to touch seven different countries in season one. Let’s beat that. Let’s go14 different countries and season two. Let’s do it.Awesome. Have a great day,everybody.