​​​​April 2020

Hey,  here’s what’s coming up this April for Agency Hackers members.

Obviously, we can’t do live events at the moment. Sorry – I can’t wait to restart those. So for the time being I’m bringing you the most useful case studies I can find from other agencies, to inspire you and get you thinking.

I know we’re all a bit oversaturated with “webinars” at the moment. But Agency Hackers is still pretty much the only place you can hear from actual agency leaders with useful experiences – who have nothing to sell you.

What’s coming up


Live case studies

Join timely case studies on building your pipeline and carving out a niche.

Agency leader interviews

Tune into agency leader interviews on remote teams and leading through a crisis.

Keep your team thinking with intimate mastermind calls for your marketing, client service and creative teams.


Are you sick of puking out your guts on the “feast or famine” agency rollercoaster?

Having a healthy pipeline means you can sleep at night. It means you can invest in your agency. And you can have certainty during uncertain times. Having no pipeline can mean you’re forced to do bad work for terrible people.

Today, so many agencies fall prey to a cycle of work, make money – only to find that once it’s done their pipeline is empty again.

At Pipeline, you’ll hear from agency leaders doing interesting things to keep the work flowing.

Case study #1 – Building a System That Generates Referrals

“We won a client with a £4m media budget from a lunch that cost us £1k”

⏰ Thursday 2nd April 2020, 10am
?️ https://zoom.us/j/443222658
? Get the password in the member’s area

Jim Hawker says referrals are Threepipe’s best source of new business. We’ll ask him about his system to generate a steady flow of referrals.

Referrals – yawn! They’re not exactly the sexiest new business strategy.

But at Threepipe, Jim Hawker has made referrals one of his agency’s best sources of new business.

“People think that relying on referrals is a weakness” says Jim. “But in fact, it’s a strength.”

Referrals convert much better than cold leads. They are insanely valuable… but most agencies leave them completely to chance.

That’s why at Pipeline, we will be asking Jim about his tactical approach to generating referrals. For example:

  • His “constant contact” strategy that keeps Threepipe front of mind with prospects. 
  • His agency partnering strategy that helps him reach twice the audience than before

“Last month we picked up a win from somebody who came to one of our lunches two years ago. They have a £4m media budget. That lunch cost us £1,000!”

#2 – Can mentoring your clients get you closer to them?

“Mentoring clients takes things to another level. It’s a big missed opportunity.”

⏰ Wednesday 8th April 2020, 3pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/534794202
? Get the password in the member’s area

Linsay Duncan of Your Allies says you can get much closer to your clients by mentoring them – alongside your other project work.

Here’s an idea: could you starting mentoring your clients? 

It could be a free way for you to start having longer, deeper and more profitable relationships with the people you already work with – even as you continue your regular project work.

“Agencies don’t do this – and it’s a big missed opportunity” says Linsay Duncan of Your Allies.

“The change in how clients see you is phenomenal. Conversations change. Your relationship changes. They call you up when the need first arises – not when they’ve written the brief and sent it out for tender.”

“Mentoring clients takes things to another level.”

In this conversation we will look at ways to mentor clients – so you help them professionally while you’re also helping their business.

#3 – How to bounce back – by getting into bed with PROCUREMENT

“Procurement is where the money is. Make them your friend – not your enemy”

⏰ Thursday 9th April 2020, 10.30am
?️ https://zoom.us/j/125401192
? Get the password in the member’s area

Mike Lander will show you how to make procurement your ally – not your enemy

Covid-19 will put procurement back on the agenda in a big way. What if you can get ahead of this by making procurement your ally – rather than your enemy?

Mike Lander is an ex-procurement professional and Re:signal chairman.

“In the next few weeks brands will be re-negotiating contracts” says Mike. “Buyers’ balance sheets will be decimated – and they will be looking to claw back savings from their suppliers.”

“Procurement is about to come to the fore again. But if you are prepared, you’ll be better placed to fight the battle.”

In this session Mike will show you:

  • How to make procurement your friend – so you can make them your ally instead of your enemy
  • How you can grow your relationship with procurement to the point where it becomes an ‘unfair advantage’ over other agencies.
  • How to speak the language of procurement, so you can “help them to help you”

#4 – How to partner with other agencies

⏰ Monday 20th April 2020, 3pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/384072781
? Get the password in the member’s area

Tom Jepson of Footprint Digital will show his system for making agency partnerships work

Partnering with other agencies is a great way to grow your business without adding cost.

But like many great ideas, it’s easier said than one.

Footprint Digital’s Tom Jepson has partnering down to a fine art. He has a proper system and a process for working with other agencies to create win-win partnerships that actually pay off.

  • How do you find an agency to partner with?
  • How do you ensure you have a shared vision and culture?
  • What does a robust working agreement look like?
  • How do you make sure you do actually refer work to one another?
  • What’s the process for revenue sharing and pricing?

#5 – How to build your pipeline with email

“You can build a system to reach anyone you like”

⏰ Thursday 2nd April 2020, 4pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/933533478
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Hey – this is me, Ian Harris . I’ve built Agency Hackers by sending a LOT of cold emails. I’ll show you how to do this in a way that works – without being spammy.

Question: what’s the simplest, most effective way to reach new clients? Answer: email.

I’m Ian Harris – and when I started Agency Hackers two years ago I knew hardly anybody in the agency world.

That is because I have sent a lot of cold emails. No Facebook. No Twitter. No paid adverts. Almost no LinkedIn. Literally just sending cold emails to some of the busiest people in London.

And it worked! In this session I’ll show you – live – how you can do the same to grow your audience in your industry.

I am building a new audience in another vertical, so I’ll use that as a live case study.

  • How do you find people’s email address? How do you get in touch with them?
  • What do you say in your email to make them actually happy to hear from you?
  • How do you do this without being “spammy”?

Email is a brilliant way to grow your agency – IF you get it right. Come prepared to take notes because I do think this will be useful.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Today, having a clear agency niche could be the difference between knocking on doors and fighting for scraps – and having work and candidates come to you.

A few months ago it was enough to have a strong USP and a decent set of values. Today, the world has changed. You need to be recognised in your industry as the undisputed leader in your field.

You will meet agencies that have defined and conquered their patches – and are reaping the rewards that come with it. 

#1 – “Suddenly, We Started Hearing ‘Yes’ Instead of Hearing ‘No’.”

Having a strong niche “completely changes the dynamic”

⏰ Wednesday 15th April 2020, 2pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/862869324
? Get the password in the member’s area

At Lyndon’s agency Future Present, PowerPoint design is all they do. He says this razor-sharp niche is an unfair advantage over the traditional agency model.

Lyndon Nicholson started a creative agency doing a little bit of everything. But he kept hitting walls.

Each time he wanted to work with a new client, they’d say: “Sorry, you aren’t on our preferred supplier list.”

Then one day he got a call from somebody at a big cosmetics company: “I need a PowerPoint presentation done urgently – can you help me?”

“We already pitched to you” replied Lyndon. “You said we weren’t on the preferred supplier list!”

“Actually, we don’t HAVE a preferred supplier list for presentations” they said.

That’s when the penny dropped. Lyndon realised there was a huge opportunity to get in via the back door with big companies if they specialised in something nobody else was doing.

Lyndon decided that his agency would JUST do PowerPoint. Suddenly, life was good.

“We kept getting yeses whereas previously we were getting nos. Now, people ring up and want to buy there and then, pretty much on the phone.

“They’ll say: ‘I’ve got a presentation in three weeks, and it currently looks awful. It’s one of the most important presentations of my professional career, and I really need your help!’”

“It completely changes the dynamic of how agencies typically sell.”

At King of the Hill we will be talking to Lyndon – and exploring the other winning niches that agencies have found.

#2 – Having a strong niche makes everything easier

“When we pitch it’s a piece of cake”

⏰ Thursday 16th April 2020, 3pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/185435735
? Get the password in the member’s area

Note: Rich and Dan (below) are appearing on the same webinar. That’s why the times are the same!

Rich Strachan from 3SidedCube says that business is better – and life is easier – since they found their focus in ‘tech for good’

When Rich Strachan took over 3SidedCube he refocused around one idea: “tech for good”. 

“I noticed that whenever we were doing worthwhile stuff, everybody was excited. But when we were doing fintech stuff – everything felt harder.”

Richard reports that while going all-in on one niche is daunting – “You think: won’t we lose out on other stuff?” – knowing your focus makes life much easier.

“When we pitch it’s a piece of cake. We know exactly what we’re talking about, and we don’t have to make any of it up. We’re not learning a script. It’s actually what we believe.”

Rich says that sticking to your knitting can force you to focus on recurring revenue.

“When you have a niche, people approach you with all kinds of unsuitable stuff. You need to be able to turn that down – otherwise you will be constantly doing that stuff”

“For us that means having  that means we’ve got to have the financials secure. That’s why a key financial metric for us is recurring revenue. Because we’re not constantly chasing new business, we can be selective.”

#3 – How having a focus helps you move up the food chain

“We work with people higher up the funnel, who aren’t reactive to being given budget”

⏰ Thursday 16th April 2020, 3pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/185435735
? Get the password in the member’s area

Note: Dan and Rich (above) are appearing on the same webinar. That’s why the times are the same!

Dan Archer will tell the story of how Freestyle pivoted from agency to digital product studio

Last year, Freestyle realised that what got them ‘here’ wouldn’t get them ‘there’.

“Doing campaigns for mid-level marketing managers didn’t feel safe enough for the future.”

So they decided to stop being an agency – and start being a digital product studio that brings “clarity to complexity”. 

“Before, we were broad and wide. We were doing creative campaigns, SEO, PPC, – we even had a PR line at one point” says Dan. Now we are a digital product studio. We help people identify what an overarching customer experience looks like, find the friction points within it – and help them deploy new products, services and platforms that underpin it.”

Now they’ve moved up the food chain: working with CMOs at the top of the organisation.

“We work with people higher up the funnel, who aren’t reactive to being given budget” says Dan. “It’s more stable, too. Before, we did campaign-based projects. You’d work with them for a 12 week period and then it would drop off. Now it’s a more sustained two or three year roadmap.”

We will ask Dan how you plan and execute a shift like this:

  • How do you pull off a pivot?
  • What do you tell the team?
  • How do you bring everyone along?

Live Masterclasses

#1. How do you lead during a crisis?

⏰ Monday 6th April 2020, 2pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/763768692
? Get the password in the member’s area

Crisis-king turned agency strategist Alastair Dryburgh will share the principles of leading your agency through a crisis

For years, Alastair Dryburgh was a heavyweight “turnaround specialist” – parachuting into crisis-stricken companies .

“Managing during a crisis is a completely different approach to management” says Alastair. “It’s a different style to the way you run operations normally.

For example, crisis managers never have more than three priorities. So if you are good at identifying priorities and sticking to them, you have a great chance of getting through this. 

Alastair is running a live masterclass where he will describe the management principles of leading your agency through and out of a crisis.

#2. Making Remote Work Work

⏰ Tuesday 7th April 2020, 2.30pm
?️ https://zoom.us/j/806564356
? Get the password in the member’s area

Well, looks like you’re a remote agency now – whether you like it or not. At the moment you’re probably managing. But once the novelty wears off, what are the checks, balances and processes you will need to thrive, not just cope?

Join this masterclass to meet several agency owners who have been remote-first for years by choice.

  • Tamara Littleton of Social Element built a global business of 200+ people, predominantly through a remote working model.
  • David Wain-Heapy and Bachir Smahi of Best Response Media have built a global team over the last few years.
  • Danny Bull of CI.Diginut was one of the first to turn remote teams into a competitive advantage – with one of his best employees working full time from a small Welsh village. Danny will share his findings on making a distributed team work.

“Being British gets you through the door”

How to grow and staff an American office

⏰ Thursday 23rd April 2020, 12pm
?️ https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81786358693
? Get the password in the member’s area

Yorkshireman Nik Entwistle’s branding firm Agency AK is succeeding in America. He’ll tell you about his experience cracking America, and how finding clients might be easier than you’d think – but finding good staff stateside could be much harder.

In 2014, Nik Entwistle – founder of branding and design agency Agency TK – was introduced to a famous spaceflight company in California.

Nik signed them on as a client and leased an office in LA. Everything was set for Agency TK’s American expansion!

But back in Yorkshire a few weeks later, Nik got an email: one of the client’s spaceships had crashed, killing a pilot. The project was on hold and their contract was cancelled.

But that wasn’t the end of Agency TK’s US adventure…

Because touring LA, Nik had been struck how the town was full of people keen to work with a “London agency”. Pounding Wiltshire Boulevard, he was able to quickly sweep up major brands like Johnson&Johnson, Sketchers and Sony.

“Being British gets you through the door” says Nik. “There is a definite cachet of having a British agency.”

American Dream or American Nightmare?

⏰ Monday 27 April 2020, 1pm
?️ https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85804745971
? Get the password in the member’s area

Waypoint Partners’ Miles Welch will give you an overview of the US opportunity – and show you the pitfalls to avoid

What are some things you need to think about when you are expanding to America?

Waypoint Partners’ Miles Welch has seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to succeeding Stateside. He is here to give us an overview of the agency landscape in America.

Miles will show you:

  • How to choose the right proposition and products.
  • Should you buy, merge, strike a partnership – or grow organically?
  • What are the potential pitfalls? From poor cultural fit to management distraction. 

If you are thinking of making a go of America, this is an important talk. Take notes!


“Wait until you have clients knocking on your door”

Do America – but wait until they come to you, say Jake

⏰ Tuesday 28th April 2020, 11am
?️  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83575654858
? Get the password in the member’s area

Made Media’s Jake Grimley will be sharing his advice on how to start and grow an American business.

Jake Grimley’s Made Media opened a Brooklyn office 5 years ago, and soon 60% of their revenue was coming from the USA.

His advice? Take the government’s export advice with a pinch of salt.

“UK Trade & Investment are helpful, but they kind of have the narrative backwards. They tell you to identify a territory, establish your trademark and commission a report into the viability of the market. The problem is – you need a huge pile of cash to do it that way.”

Made Media builds web apps for arts venues like the Royal Albert Hall and NYC’s Lincoln Theatre. He says it’s may be wiser to wait for the phone to start ringing before you set up shop. “You need to have some clients first – you don’t want to head out there on a fishing expedition.”

Jake is coming to Make It In America to help answer your questions about succeeding in America.

1. There’s a big wage disparity between NY and London. You’ll pay more for staff there – especially digital people, who are being courted by all kinds of startups.

2. Clients work long hours – and often expect you to do the same. “You get emails from clients over Thanksgiving. It shows how committed they are to their jobs. When you combine the time difference with the fact they are working to 10pm, you really need to manage expectations around availability.”

3. You need the right person on the ground. Jake will talk about putting the right people in the right positions, so your USA office can succeed.

We’ll also be asking Jake to share his wisdom about:

  • How do you manage what your team are doing when they’re on the other side of Atlantic?
  • What are the little things you do that will annoy Americans?
  • All the boring technical details – from tax trade across borders to setting up a US bank account

“We are 25% more productive than we were before.”

⏰ Wednesday 29 April 2020, 2pm
?️ https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81786358693
? Get the password in the member’s area

Thing were great at Blue Wren – they were winning more and more work, and hiring more and more people.

But then an important project blew up in their face. “It was because we didn’t have a robust enough processes” says founder Michael Lough.

To rescue the project, they had to throw a third of their team at it for four months – at their own cost.

“This lack of clear process also meant our ability to scale was restricted because we were not operating efficiently – we were just hiring more people the more work we won.”

Founder Michael Lough will talk about what they learned about solid processes, what they have changed and what difference it has made.

“There is a happy ending” says Michael. “Now we are around 25% more productive than before.”

Michael will talk about what they did, and share some practical pointers for you to consider when it comes to making processes work for you.

The magic of retainers

⏰ Wednesday 30 April 2020, 3pm
?️  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82712221872
? Get the password in the member’s area

You know the scene in ‘Wallace and Gromit – The Wrong Trousers’ where Gromit is furiously laying train track? That’s how Daniel Westlake felt in his agency Cursor.

“That’s what my job turned into. My job was just to lay out more and more track. However hard we worked, it felt like a train I couldn’t get off. It was making me not want to expand the business.”

“The solution was to pivot away from projects and work on a retained process” says Daniel.

“Now, we are 100% retained. We don’t work on projects.”

In this session, Daniel will be talking about how he pulled off a shift to retainers – what it means for your people and what it means for your clients, your marketing and your sanity.

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