OAS 26 James | Digital Marketing Agency


How does one start building a digital marketing agency and, more importantly, make it grow afterwards? James Smith has spent over eight years building his own digital agency, the Bright Idea Marketing. He has consulted for and works with companies in many industries including non-profits, law offices, car dealerships, the retail industry, syndicated magazines, health clubs, and motivational speakers. Today, he dives into utilizing Facebook and Instagram to advertise your brand. Learn the two different areas where you can niche and the four steps to create engaging ads on Facebook. On the side, James drops some knowledge bombs on getting in front of your target audience and capturing their positive response.

Listen to the podcast here:

Download the audio file here.

What It Takes To Build And Grow A Digital Marketing Agency with James Smith

I’m here with a friend of mine, entrepreneur and agency owner, James. How are you?

I’m doing awesome.

James and I are in this entrepreneurial Meetup group. We meet every month. We go through the goals of the month. We meet up the next month, see what we accomplished and what we want to work on and it’s a lot of fun. I always like connecting with people in the marketing space, agency space because I come from eCommerce although we help a lot of agency owners with FreeeUp. It’s definitely something I’m not familiar with. I’d love to hear your story, how you got set up growing an agency. We’ll dive into what running an agency is all about it. I know you have some special training for us as well.

Back in 2011, I got into website development. I used the classic Lynda.com to learn how to mess with some of the CMS out there like WordPress and Drupal. When I started doing the websites, I realized that there were only half of the steps that companies need to make money was doing a website. I built a website for them and that was done. That was the end of our relationship. They’d walk away. I’d have to go out and find another person. In addition to that, I couldn’t charge a lot because what’s the value in a website if you don’t have traffic and actual people visiting there and becoming a customer or prospect. That epiphany took me a few years to realize.

Once I found out that there’s a lot of value to bringing customers in instead of having a nice little sign, you need to be able to promote that sign so people can know who you are. I decided to transition to doing marketing. My main focus is on Facebook and Instagram marketing. There are a lot of people that say, “Facebook is dead. Instagram is the place to be or YouTube is where we need to go.” There are now two billion people on Facebook. The great thing about advertising on Facebook is you only pay whenever somebody sees an ad. Even if there were 100 people left on Facebook, you only pay for what people see. That’s been my focus. I’m getting into solving my client’s problems if they want to scale or if they’re about to go out of business. You’ve got to have customers to be able to survive as a business. I’m glad to be in the industry that I’m in. I’m able to help and scale companies that they couldn’t do before.

If you don’t niche, you’re this generic person that can’t provide much value.

Let’s talk about niche because I’ve had other agency owners on. They talk about the importance of, “I’m going to go after restaurants. I’m going to go after real estate agents.” Do you believe in that or are you going after anyone that needs marketing?

I do believe in niching. There are two different areas of which you can niche. There’s one where you can niche into a certain platform. For me, I do advertising. I niche on Facebook and Instagram. The reason I do that is every single week on Facebook, they have these bulletins for all the things that they’ve changed inside of Facebook advertising. To be able to keep up with that stuff, there’s no chance you could have three or four platforms that you’re up-to-date on. There are always going to be some cracks that some things that fall through. In the service that you provide, niching in that is important. Going a step further and niching into certain industries is as important. I have three industries that I go after.

One of them is solar. Inside of solar, there are so many nuances of what your offer should be. There’s a lot of political things going on when it comes to that. There’s a lot of a sales process that you need to make sure that you take care of. There’s so much to know about an industry. If you don’t niche, you’re this generic person that can’t provide much value. If you’re trying to grow your agency, the best advice I would give is niche down in both the services that you’re offering and the industry because you can charge five to ten times more than anybody else who’s generic. You have results. You have case studies. You can say, “This other solar company. This other plastic surgeon, that’s my client. I brought ten times the revenue that they had before.” If you have something generic, you’re talking to a dentist and you say, “I sold books on Amazon.” That doesn’t mean much to them. Niching down is important. You have the expertise and you can charge a lot more for it.

Let’s jump away from Facebook and we’ll get back to it. I know you’ve got some training. Let’s talk about that first year of growing an agency from zero to year one. What is it like? What should people be prepared for? What are some common things that you’ve had to overcome?

There are a lot of things. When you’re first starting out your business, the majority of companies out there, their biggest problem is getting customers in the door. Their second problem is being able to deliver for those clients. What I like doing is I like having experts around me to help me in case I’m not able to deliver so I can deliver. When I first started, my first year was rough. I went to networking groups, which are great. I had to pander to everybody and throw cards at everybody. I’ll be honest for a few years, I scraped by. Honestly, for a while I couldn’t afford to eat. I couldn’t afford to drive anywhere. I couldn’t afford to do a lot of things. The biggest thing I would say is to find your customers and find them as consistently as possible. “Sales cures all,” as Mark Cuban says is true.

OAS 26 James | Digital Marketing Agency
Digital Marketing Agency: The biggest problem the majority of companies have is getting customers in the door. Their second problem is being able to deliver for those clients.


Do you have any sales tips for someone? Let’s say that they are getting in front of their target audience and they’re struggling to close them.

This will go right into our training. A great sales tip is a lot of people when they’re starting out, they’re thinking about themselves. They’re worried about, “I need to pay some bills.” That’s the mindset they have going into a sales call or if you’re meeting with somebody. Your mindset is, “I’ve got to close this guy. I’ve got to get this money. I’ve got to be able to feed myself next week.” The problem is that’s not what the other person is thinking. They’re not thinking about how you need to eat. They’re thinking about how they need to eat and how they need to get and grow their business. The number one sales tip I would say is to write on a piece of paper the top three problems that you’re planning on solving for this company.

It sounds so cheesy and I used to hear that advice all the time. I was like, “That makes sense.” Seriously, write down the three things that you’re going to solve for them and bring those three things up. How do you find out what problems you’re solving for them? You ask them. When you ask them, they’ll tell you. If you’re having a conversation with somebody, “There’s a reason, Mr. Prospect, that we’re talking. Can you tell me why we’re talking?” They’ll give you some good reasons. You use that and say, “It sounds like you have X, Y, Z problem. I’ve been doing this for X amount of time so I can solve this problem for you. If you’re interested in getting this solved, here are my services, here’s my offer.” Don’t forget that the other person is there selfishly for them. Always put your mindset in their shoes, think about them and what it is that they want. That’s how you win.

I always love getting in the mind of sales because like you said, “Sales cures all.” It doesn’t even matter if you’re running an agency, if you’re a real estate agent, if you’re in business. No matter how good your product or your service is, if you can’t sell it, nothing else matters. That’s why in that first and second year, figuring out that sales process and what works for your client base is important. Let’s dive into the training. Teach us what we need to know about Facebook ads.

There are a couple of things that you need to look out for whenever you’re writing ads. I’ve heard many people say, “Ads are sales in written form.” It’s the same solving their problem and giving them a solution. There are four steps that I talk about to create a great ad on Facebook. The first one is asking yourself, “Who am I talking to?” This goes back into the niching of who you’re going after the industry. If you are going after, let’s say a dentist, you need to write down, “This is the dentist that I’m looking for, someone in this area. They have this size office,” and go very specific. Once you have an idea of what your audience is, you can start to think of, “What are the problems that they usually deal with?”

Always put your mindset in your prospect’s shoes. Think about them and what it is that they want. That’s how you win.

Maybe they’re not getting enough appointments. They’re not filling their calendar or the business owner maybe wants to step out of their ownership role and let somebody else run it while they’re off doing something else. Whatever level of customer you’re looking for, write it down so you have a great idea of what you’re looking to solve. Number two is what the problem that you’re solving for them is? Once you hone that down, figuring out those three or four points that you want to talk about that they’re dealing with.

Number three, what is the theme to start the ad? I wrote these themes that helped jumpstart all of my ads. I do this for pretty much every one of my clients. It’s basically an idea of where to start. A lot of people have struggled with, “I get the idea. I get the concept. I need to tell people that there’s this problem that I can solve. Where do I start? What’s the first line say?” I wrote these themes table to help explain. This started with one of these. It’s a couple of ideas. One of them is telling a story. When I did a lot of solar clients when I was advertising to them, there’s, “How has a Central Florida resident went solar and saved $100,000?” That’s telling a story.

That’s starting with, “There’s this cool situation that happened and this could be your situation as well.” Things like that starting with the theme help get you jumpstarted. I’m going to give one more piece of advice that’s outside of all that. When you write down the three problems that you’re solving, put that directly at the top of your ad. If somebody wants to increase their business, get very specific and say, “How would you like to grow your business by $100,000 in the next 30 days?” That is so much more impactful than saying, “Grow your business. I’ll help you grow your business.” The more specific you can get, the better. That’s another little bonus.

What else have you got?

There was one last one. That’s using imagery and video. It has something that’s interesting. If you’re going to advertise on Facebook or rather any platform for that matter, you need to have something that doesn’t look like a stock photo or stock video. We all know what that looks like. It’s overexposed. You’ve got the people shaking their hands, doing little funny little situations in the office, looking at the computer or something. Use a photo of yourself, take a picture of something that you would do. If you have an Instagram and you’re posting stuff on Instagram, take one of those photos because it feels organic. It feels real. People want to connect with you. They don’t want to connect with a generic brand.

OAS 26 James | Digital Marketing Agency
Digital Marketing Agency: If your pictures look great, people might stop for a second, but if what you say doesn’t solve that person’s problem, it’s meaningless.


What are some mistakes that you see people make?

On the other side, you are thinking that a crazy wacky picture of somebody making a weird face. I saw an ad, this kid had a pink hat on and these weird flares thing going on. He was making a weird face. Don’t mistake getting attention for getting people who are interested in it and becoming a prospect. It’s because your picture looks great, people might stop for a second. If what you say doesn’t solve that person’s problem, it’s meaningless. Don’t have pretty pictures just for pretty pictures. That’s the hook to give people one second to stop and read what you have so don’t forget that.

I love bringing people on that, doing this, running an agency, running Facebook ads. I appreciate you coming on. If people want to learn more, people are looking to understand Facebook ads better and get a copy. I know you have a more in-depth PowerPoint of this. How can they get ahold of you?

My website is BrightIdeaMarketing.com. You can find me on social media, James Smith. It’s probably better to find me through the Facebook business profile, Bright Idea Marketing. If anybody has any questions, feel free to message me over Facebook. I love helping out with this stuff. I see stuff every day.

Thanks so much for coming on.

Thanks, Nate.

Important Links:

About James Smith

OAS 26 James | Digital Marketing AgencyJames has spent over 8 years building his own Digital Agency. To date, he has worked with some of the largest companies in the world: Fortune 1,000, Inc. 500/5000 companies, etc. He helps companies find new customers on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.