On this episode of 'Inbound & Down,' co-hosts Jon Sasala, Danielle Esposito, and guest co-host Jed Morey chat with agency coach and podcaster Jason Swenk about his roots in the agency world and growing a brand focused solely on helping and educating digital agencies.
If you're an agency owner, or active in the business/marketing industry, you know the name Jason Swenk.
Swenk is an agency coach and consummate content creator, hosting two podcasts—'Smart Agency Masterclass' and 'Swenk Today.' We were humbled, and frankly, wildly excited, to sit down with him and learn about his extraordinary journey to becoming the thought leader he is today.
Out of college, Swenk began an internship at a direct mail agency, where his job was to essentially send mail all day. He recognized the opportunity for significant savings in both time and money by switching to email, and proceeded to present a business case to the CEO, who suggested he begin working in Management Information Systems (MIS).
The next hallmark in his career would come rather unexpectedly. After designing a parody website to make fun of a friend (for looking like Justin Timberlake, calling it N*SH!T), Swenk was getting web design requests, which he parlayed into a shop in 1999, dubbing it Swenk Technologies.
The client base and project prices increased throughout several years, and soon he knew it was time to scale. His niche was roughly small businesses, but that often translates to anyone willing to hire.
Through process of elimination Swenk Technologies narrowed its speciality to become a user interface (UX) shop around specific technologies. The first person he hired was a designer, which enabled him to go out and sell more deals. With more deals came more accounts to manage, so that prompted the hiring of a project manager.
Swenk’s next hire was more of a merger with a strategic partner he formed an agency called Solar Velocity with. His partner led the development, and Swenk handled the rest. The team grew, and they continued to level up over the years.
“[We] just kept growing,” he explains, “and then hired project managers, and then eventually, some of the designers that we hired became art directors and creative directors, and then VP of operations, and that kind of stuff and just tried to grow the agency within and just surround ourselves with...the culture that we had what we believed in.”
Growing a small shop into a large agency wasn't without its struggles and creative roadblocks. There were times Swenk considered quitting, and he looked for other jobs. During one of these interviews, he was asked two questions that completely changed everything: "What do you want to do every day, and what don’t you ever want to do?"
Swenk conducted an exercise in which he drew a circle on a piece of paper and wrote everything he didn’t want to do on the outside, and then put what he did want on the inside. This provided him with clarity, and triggered the realization he could accomplish what he wanted within his own agency.
“What I realized was, I wanted to create the freedom to do the stuff I wanted, that I loved in the agency in order to scale, rather than doing all the other stuff,” he says. “And I didn't have that clarity. So I was just kind of that person in a desert, walking aimlessly. And if you've ever walked in a desert, hopefully you guys don't, eventually it's just a big circle. You're leaning to one side, of what I hear, because you have no perspective of where you're going.
“And that's kind of how I felt [we] were doing,” he continues. “But then when I get that clarity, now I could have that power to say no to certain things, and everything really kind of started falling into place.”
They worked with companies such as Affinity, Microsoft, Legal Zoom, Lotus Cars, Aflac, and more. Solar Velocity lived for 12 years with more than 100 employees, until it was acquired.
Post-Agency & Today's Company
After the acquisition of Solar Velocity, Swenk’s career path took yet another turn. His previous competitors were asking him for advice, and he soon discovered that he loved providing it. The businesses he mentored were becoming successful, which instilled a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
At the suggestion of his wife, Swenk offered his newfound consulting services full-time, which essentially brings us to where he is today.
Describing his business as a "media company for agency owners" that creates resources he wishes he had while in the agency world, through podcasts, video, and more. Additionally, he runs a company called Sales Pipeline Accelerator, which finds salespeople for organizations, then manages and trains them. He has a new SaaS company on the horizon, with the goal of managing meetings and keeping employees on the same page, and plans to grow brands that fit into the overall mission of helping agencies.
We would be remiss to not discuss the podcast industry with Swenk, as he's a staple on the charts.
"I've been doing my show for almost five years now,” he explains. ”A podcast saves people time, because you can do it when you're waiting in line, you can do it while you're at your kids swim meet for eight hours.
“So you can multitask and it gives you something to do versus just watching a video,” he continues. “I just love the podcast, and audio is where everything's going."
Swenk's podcasts are top-quality, and podcasters in the marketing space and beyond can learn from his practices.
Swenk conducts content audits of his shows annually to take stock of what he has, and to ensure that what he’s put out is still correct. From there, he often redoes or unpublishes the content. It doesn't happen typically with his agency podcast, as he's strategic about the discussions he has.
"If it's a particular topic, that's one time I usually don't put them on a podcast, because that topic is going to be old later on,” he explains. “I don't want to just go over, 'Here's a Facebook hack that you need to go do now,' and then I publish it, [wait] eight months, and then it's irrelevant, right?"
Additionally, he's very intentional about his publishing strategy, with episodes of ‘Smart Agency Masterclass’ recorded months in advance. Rather than publishing them all at once, or two at a time, he deliberately releases one at a time, so that the listener has time to actually listen and digest. If two were released a week, the listener wouldn't have time to take any advice and actually execute.
From top to bottom, the Swenk brand is built around the purpose of helping people, helping agencies, and educating, at all costs. You can find both his shows, 'Smart Agency Masterclass' and 'Swenk Today' on his website.
If you're looking to reach Swenk, visit his site, learn about the different offerings, and digest his content and programs such as the Agency Playbook (that walks you through a framework he would use to recreate his agency in today's market), the Digital Agency Elite mastermind (a group for digital agency owners to strategize and share ideas), or the Digital Agency Experience (a three-day offsite in Colorado, where Swenk is located, to help you grow your agency faster).
Clearly, there is no shortage of assets and programs to explore and utilize under the Swenk brand. We'd like to thank him for what he brings to agencies like our own, every day, and for being a gracious guest and taking the time to chat with the 'Inbound & Down' team.
This Week's One Thing
- Sage recommends the podcast 'The Dream,' which discusses multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes.
- Danielle loves her pitbull Nala, who has gone through some rough times in her life, but still manages to be extremely sweet and loving.
- Jon (in true Jon fashion) loves the future; specifically that people are constantly working to solve each other's problems and pain points.
- Jed is excited that his older daughter is currently in driver's ed, and can soon get her junior license and shuttle his younger daughter the 45-second drive to school.
- Jason is excited for Top Gun 2.
- Jason Swenk
- Jason Swenk Website
- Smart Agency Masterclass
- Swenk Today
- Agency Playbook
- Digital Agency Elite
- Digital Agency Experience
- Seth Godin’s Advice on Growing Your Marketing Agency
- Swenk's podcast recommendations:
Do you have questions about agency management? Send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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