Lessons Learned From My Business In 2022

How has your year been in 2022?  I hope it has been a good one despite all the craziness going on in the world?  In today's podcast I'm going to share with you the “good, bad and ugly” of my own personal year.  I'm going to talk about things that works well for me and activities that didn't so work well.  I’ll share some of the changes I made and some of the trends I'm seeing in the agency world. 

Time Stamp

[01:45] A high level overview of my year - how I achieve in 4 days what I used to do in 5 days

[04:06] My offering - don’t diversify if the market gets tough.  How I narrowed down my offering to just 3 ‘products’

[05:10] How I changed the revenue model for my signature programme, The Self-Running Agency Implementation

[06:30] How we split our time across 3 pots

[06:53] How I have got more efficient in creating content (via batching)

[07:44] Doubling down on my email marketing (as you should be!) using the 80/20 rule

[08:47] 2022 was a year of simplification and consolidation

[10:38] Why I never rely on referrals (and you shouldn't either!) - especially in a recession

[11:50] A few things that didn’t work well for me - overcomplicating processes does not result in stronger outcomes

[12:58] Facebook and Google Ads haven't worked for me!

[14:25] The importance of learning from your mistakes

[14:45] Trends in the agency world in 2022

[15:30] Keep investing in your marketing in 2023

[17:22] Don’t rely on one source (e.g. referrals) for all your new business


“The more niched and specialist you are the easy it is to attract ideal clients.” - Rob Da Costa
“Never rely solely on referrals for your new business.” - Rob Da Costa
““Consider how you can repurpose content rather than creating lots of new content.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

"I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode." If that sounds like you, please consider the rating and review my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — to move towards a Self-Running Agency.
How to leave a review on Apple Podcasts

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select "Write a Review." Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I'm adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you're not subscribed, there's a good chance you'll miss out. 

 Full Episode Transcription

How has your year been in 2022? I hope it's been a good one, despite all the craziness in the world. Now in today's podcast, I'm going to share with you the good, the bad and the ugly of my own personal year. I'm going to talk about the things that worked well for me and activities that didn't work so well. I'll share some of the changes that I made in my business and also some of the wider trends I'm seeing in the agency world. I hope you find this not only interesting but also insightful when it comes to planning your year.

So let's begin and get going and talk about 2022. I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator podcast as someone who has stood in your shoes, having started to grow and sold my own agency and just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guest's experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. This is a bit of a self-indulgent episode because I want to share with you the highs and lows of my year in 2022, including what worked for me and what didn't work so well, in the hope that my experience will inspire you in terms of your planning as we move forward into 2023.

So I'm going to break this down into four or five areas. So first of all, I want to give you a high-level overview of my year. Then I want to talk to you about how I evolved my offering and how that might inspire you. Then I want to talk to you about my marketing and what worked and what didn't work. And then, I want to wrap this up by sharing with you some trends I'm seeing in the agency sector in the past year, both with clients I've worked with and, more broadly, in the agency market as a whole.

So let's jump in by starting off with a high-level overview of my year. So, first of all, my revenues have been pretty consistent over the past 3 to 5 years, which I'm pleased about, especially since I now work a four-day week. So basically, I've managed to condense what I used to do in five days, Monday to Friday, into working four days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then on a Friday, I focus on a personal project. Now, this has only worked because I know exactly what I'm going to do with that fifth day.

I've tried this before, and I've recorded an episode on this before, which I'll put in the show notes. But I've tried working a four-day week before where I'm thinking, Okay, on Friday, I'll do my chores. I'll go to the gym and all that kind of stuff. And, of course, they invariably work encroaches on it. And clients say, "Can we book a call on Friday?" And, of course, because you don't really have anything planned, you say yes. So then suddenly, your fifth day that you plan to keep free has been eaten up with client work.

So the way my four-day week works are that Monday to Thursday, I focus on the cost of coaching and serving my clients and my marketing and building new content. And then, on Friday, I focus on a personal project, which is my YouTube channel, which isn't connected to coaching at all. It's much more to do with my travels and experiences, and I spend a day editing videos, uploading them to YouTube, and creating all the social posts ready to go live on a Sunday. And as I said, the only way I've made this work is by ensuring that I know exactly what I'm going to do with that fifth day.

And it's interesting, really, because that's a bit about the same advice I would give someone selling their agency. I would always say to them, Know what you're gonna do next? So in a way, working a four-day week has the same approach and mentality that you need to know what you're gonna do on the day you're not working. So that's sort of an overview of my year. My revenues have been consistent. It's been a pretty good year for me. I've really enjoyed working with the clients I've worked with.

The way I'm spending my time has changed, which I'll tell you about in a moment. But I am managing to still earn the same revenue by working a four-day week. I'm not saying that at all because I want to brag. I'm just saying to you that it is entirely possible. And of course, in part, what makes that happen is by being super organised and super efficient with the four days that you are working. And when I talk about my marketing in a moment, I'll tell you a bit more about how I'm becoming really efficient with that.

So next, let's move on to talk about my offering now. I think when times get tough, a lot of people think the right thing to do is to diversify and mitigate their risk and have lots of offerings so that they can capture more of the market. Well, usually, the opposite is true because, as you know, a big fan of teaching and the more niche you are, the easier it becomes to attract clients. And in the same way, the more specialist you are with your services, the easier it becomes for you to be known as the expert for that service.

So in 2022, I really consolidated my offering, and I went from having 45 products. In fact, at one time, I had seven online courses as well as private coaching. Now I have my 1-to-1 private coaching. I have my main online programme, which is a self-running agency implementation group, and I also have one standalone course called Build Nurture Convert, which is in the email marketing course. And in the future, I may well consolidate that even further down to just my private coaching and the self-running agency now talking of the suffering agency, my group coaching programme.

I switched the revenue model from people paying a one-off fee or three payments of that fee to a monthly recurring lower payment membership. And I think that makes a point of entry much easier for people. And I'm finding, fortunately, that the retention rate is really high because I'm making sure I'm delivering great value all the time. So this year, we hit 50 members in the cell phoning Agency Implementation Group, and the goal next year is to grow that to 100 members. And the thing that I really love about the group, besides people getting to interact with other people, is realising that they are not on their own.

That there are other people who have to support them is the fact that I can impact more agency owners than ever possibly could. If I was only doing 1-to-1 coaching, a big remote, a big Y for me, a big driver is to make an impact on the world, and my group coaching programme is a way to impact more people. So I'm really excited about growing that in the next two. And on the private client side. It remained pretty consistent with about 10 to 14 private clients at any one time, and I plan to keep it at this level.

Moving into 2023 as well. Just give me a really good balance of paid client work, focusing on content for my programmes, plus obviously doing myself and marketing activities and having a decent work-life balance as well. So remember how we split our pots of time between serving our clients, the admin to run our agency and then the strategy, which is the future of your agency. So this is a business development, marketing and networking and so on, and we always want to make sure we've got the balance of those three pots, right?

And I feel like, in 2022, I have that balance pretty well. So let's move on to that marketing part, the strategy piece of the business development I said earlier about getting super efficient. And one thing that I have really focused on this year is batches as much content as I possibly can. So, for example, a podcast like this, well, I'm actually recording three podcasts in one afternoon, and I've spent some time sort of scripting them out and working at the structures in advance. But actually having my head in the game of spending an afternoon recording three podcasts and similarly with my emails, I'll try to write 3 to 4 emails in one go because my head is in that writing emails own really makes things more efficient, and I know it can be really difficult to allocate that sort of time.

But I really want to encourage you to take an approach to batch in your content because it just means you can get so much more efficient with your time now. In 2022 I really doubled down on my email marketing with a focus on providing really good quality content but also building my email list as well. And hopefully, you're on my list, and if not, why not? And I do what I tell everyone else to do here. I'm a big believer in practising what I teach, so I'm really focused on providing value 80% of the time.

My emails are about value, 20% of the time they're selling. I'm always focused on getting that balance right and really doubling down on the quality of my emails and that they are serving you and tackling some of the issues that I know you have, rather than me just wanting to write about things that I want to write about. So really doubled down on email marketing. I send one email every Tuesday. Then once a month, I send a sort of consolidation of the four or five podcasts for that month, and occasionally, if we're doing enrollment for the programme, I'll send more emails than that.

But I think weekly is good. It's a bit like getting your favourite Netflix show every week. Well, I kind of want me to be your favourite email that you look forward to receiving every week as well. Now I think 2022 was a year of simplification and consolidation, both with my offerings in terms of my services, but also with my marketing. Because, fundamentally, I only really do two things. I write an email every Tuesday and release a podcast every Thursday. Now, in terms of promoting that content or reusing it, yes, I'll turn the podcast into a YouTube video and post it on YouTube.

I'll also have my V 18 create some social media posts to promote the podcast as well. So I'm thinking about how I can get as many ears to the podcast as possible or eyes on the YouTube channel. But basically, I'm only focused on two things and my advice to you, which is the same advice I take, is to do a few things and do them really well. Don't be seduced by shiny new objects, and the latest trendy marketing strategy that's going to come and go because the old ones are the best ones.

Email marketing is still by far the best way for Bill to put your own audience, of course, on social media. It's someone else's audience. But also, it's a way of getting people to read your content because the first thing everybody does every morning is open their email and check their emails. So if you've got a good subject line, your email is likely to be read. So I've simplified my marketing. I've stopped being distracted by shiny new objects, and I'm just really focused on those two things.

And that's what I will continue to do next year. And I have some bigger goals next year to really grow my email list, which is something that I really think you should be doing as well. Even if you haven't started your email list today, then I would really encourage you to focus on it next year because the money is in your email list. People much part of than I have told me that, and it's a strategy that I follow that really works for me. It's worth saying, actually that from a business development person effective, I really don't rely on referrals, and I don't want to rely on referrals because we have no control over the quality of those referrals or when they are going to come in and give you a really good example of this quickly is that I recently had a referral from an old client of someone that was looking for some help that was not in my sector in the agency sector.

But I kind of felt obliged to have that call with their person because I didn't want to upset the old customer. So I had to call. Yes, I felt I could help them, but they really weren't in my core sector. So it's kind of like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. So that's why I don't rely on referrals. But instead, I'm putting good content out there to get inbound inquiries coming to me. And those people are kind of self-qualified because they understand what I can do and how I can help them.

And that is a strategy that I think you should follow. And I think it becomes even more pertinent when we are in a recession and times are a bit tougher because people are much less likely to make those referrals when we are in a tough economy. So make sure that you are not just solely relying on word of mouth and referrals, but you have a proactive business. Development strategy is going to be super important, and your email list should be at the centre of that. So I want to share with you a few things that didn't work so well.

And a big one was that I worked with a consultant to support me in the September enrollment of the self-running agency. Now the consultant was really good, and I haven't got much of a bad word to say about him. We just massively missed the targets that we were aiming for. We had fairly high targets in terms of new enrollments, and we only hit about half of that number. So I think my learning from that is that we overcomplicated a lot of the process in terms of getting people to a webinar overcomplicating webinar and then a follow-up process.

So in a way, it was an interesting experiment that cost me quite a lot of money. I learned quite a few things. We did put some good things in place, but I've learned that the next enrollment I do next March will just be much simpler. And actually, if you're nurturing your email list between enrollments, then it becomes much easier just to say to people, "Hey, this is what we're doing. Do you want to come and join me?" So that is definitely one thing that didn't work so well.

And I also have to say that part of that was doing some Facebook and Google ads. And I have been spectacularly unsuccessful using Facebook ads and Google ads in the past. And sadly, this was to be the case again, even though we spent a good £1000 on it. So I'm not sure I'm not trying to say that that doesn't work. I just haven't made it work yet. And one thing I know, and a lot of Facebook ads and Google ads experts will tell you this is that you need quite a lot of money to be in the research phase to find your message and your creative and your audience.

And then you also need to go through the next phase of warming up an audience before you start trying to make your offer. So if you're ever going to do any advertising, then you really need to know that now. Obviously, some of the listeners to this podcast will be Facebook ads, Google ads, PPC experts and so on, so they'll already know this. But if you ever thought about running at yourself, just know that you need a sizable budget. And you also need this phase of testing and research of the building and warming up an audience before you start making your offer.

Even if that offer is, to download a free eBook or come to a free webinar or whatever it is, you still need to go through that phase. Otherwise, you'll just be throwing lots of money. So the Facebook advertising component of the campaign that I did for my enrollment didn't work either, so I won't be doing that again. That doesn't mean I'm not going to be doing some advertising. I just need to take a more considered, longer-term approach to it rather than a sort of short, sharp burst.

So those are two things that didn't work so well and you know what? At the end of the day, we always just need to do the things that we do. If they don't work, make sure we take some key learnings and some key takeaways from those situations so that we do things differently in the future. And that's definitely the case for me in this launch. Okay, in the last part of the podcast, I want to talk about some of the trends that I have seen with my audience and, more generally, in the agency world.

And for some of the guests I've had on my podcast in 2022. One of the things I've seen is that there is more willingness and desire for a lot of agencies to move away from selling on price to taking a more value pricing approach and really digging in to understand what the clients are trying to achieve and then building a programme, a scope of work and a fee that is based much more on that outcome and then assessing it as the project goes along. So I definitely think more people are coming around to the idea of value pricing, which gets a big thumbs up from me.

I think people just need to get out of their comfort zone regarding selling time and realise that there are other ways of doing it as well now. Obviously, a lot of agencies are worried about a recession, and they're worried about high inflation. But my message has always been to keep promoting the value of what you do and be seen as the expert consultant from the very first conversation you have so that you are totally indispensable to your clients when they might be worried about costs. And they're looking at cutting budgets.

So my advice to you is to keep investing in your marketing. Don't be afraid of putting yourselves out there, because if you cut back because you think your customers have less money to spend, then, of course, you create yourself fulfilling the prophecy of losing business. And please don't cut your prices at the moment. That is not the way to retain clients. The way to retain clients is to make sure that you are delivering consistent value to them now or similarly. No, I think more agencies are coming around to the idea of itching, and they are working out their niche.

They understand that if they want to be seen as the expert and not the generalist, then they need to have a clear niche, and that means that it becomes easier for them to attract the right clients, charge fair fees and do great work. I've also learned this year that people really value being part of a community, even if it's just so that they can take comfort in knowing that others are facing the same challenges that they face and that they don't feel like they are alone.

And, of course, that's the beauty of my group itself, running the Agency Implementation group. But of course, there are many other programmes out there and networks where you can be part of it. So I think more people are recognising that, and they are finding their own community to get support and help and advice from; I think more people are realising that they need to focus on margin. That's the smart number to focus on and they're being more mindful about measuring their margins. So they're hitting a sort of 20 to 40% margin and they're not being busy, falls over-servicing clients and making sort of 10% or fewer margins on the work that they deliver for their clients.

And the last trend that I've seen that kind of touches upon the point I made earlier is that more agencies are recognising the danger of just relying on one source for their new business. So they are diversifying that so many times. People tell me that they get all of their business through referrals and word of mouth, and I've already told you why that's a bad idea. So people, I think, now are doubling down more on their marketing. They're practising what they do for their clients for themselves, although there is still a long way to go with that.

But they are recognising that if they can do outbound marketing, they're going to generate inbound inquiries. And that is the best kind of lead that you're ever going to have. It's been an interesting year in terms of resourcing. Post-pandemic people have learned that we don't always have to have people in the office. They don't have to be full-time employees. They can be based all over the place. They can be part-timers. I can have a mix of freelancers and in-house staff. I think another thing that people are coming around to is understanding that when they work with freelancers, they need to treat them as much as possible like an employee, and do reviews and give feedback and all of that stuff so that the freelancer really feels part of the team.

So I hope you can relate to some of those trends. And if there are any learnings in, there are things that you want to implement, please do. And I hope this whole episode has been food for thought for you and getting you thinking a little bit as we head into 2023 about where your focus needs to be and tackling some of the challenges that will be coming our way head-on and taking the right action to cope with those challenges. So I hope you found today's episode as useful as ever.

If you did enjoy the episode, please consider leaving a review on apple podcasts. There's a little video I've posted in the show notes showing you how to do that because it's not always that simple. And, of course, share this episode with your colleagues, and I will be back with you in the new year for Season four of the Agency Accelerator podcast. There won't be a podcast for the next couple of weeks. I want us all, including me, to enjoy our Christmas break. I really hope that you are able to step away from your business and relax with your friends and family and come back in 2023 with renewed energy and enthusiasm and focus for us all to have an amazing year.

So I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and I will see you in 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}