How to Effectively Scale your Marketing Agency

In this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast we interview Gray MacKenzie, the founder of ZenPilot, an agency that helps digital agencies find the structure and the process needed for them to operate, scale, and grow effectively.

Gray shares practical insights on how you can structure your digital agency to produce results consistently, and how to develop a process that would help you improve the quality, consistency, or efficiency of your client services delivery and agency operations.

He shares tips on the major process-inclined pain points, biggest mistakes, and how to go about solving them.

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Show Notes:

0:05 – Podcast intro

0:41 – Dr. Weisz shares the best solution for documenting standard operating procedures, Sweet Process, highlighting a 14-day free trial.

1:35 – The guest speaker, Gray MacKenzie, is introduced.

2:10 – The guest talks about how he and his business partner, Andrew Dymski, started their digital agency, GuavaBox.

3:57 – Mr. MacKenzie talks about the biggest mistakes they made when they first started their agency.

6:50 – The guest speaker shares ways you can set up a process that would help strengthen the delivery of your service as a service-based company.

7:45 – The speaker shares a story of how they worked with a web agency to help strengthen their deliverables and make the quality of their work standard despite the designer or developer working on it.

8:48 – Mr. MacKenzie talks on how to optimize your processes as an agency to get better results when working with varying client’s needs.

10:15 – The speaker gives more advice on creating processes as an agency.

11:07 – The guest speaks on the challenges he faced with setting pricing when he first started his agency and how he resolved it.

12:08 – The guest gives advice on the questions every agency should ask themselves during the sales process that would help with systemization.

13:05 – Mr. MacKenzie speaks on which is better: having a game plan or using direct sales when trying to acquire customers.

14:44 – The guest speaker talks about when an agency should use dire sales for client acquisition.

18:20 – Mr. MacKenzie shares some of the tools companies should be using for task management during their onboarding process.

21:55 – Mr. MacKenzie shares some of the tools for his agency.

23:33 – The guest speaker shares his thoughts on call tracking tools like

24:40 – Mr. MacKenzie shares the next step an agency should take after the sales and onboarding processes.

25:59 – Mr. MacKenzie speaks on what “inbound” means to him.

26:56 – The guest talks on how frequently you should meet/talk to your clients.

29:30 – The guest talks on what to do and what not to do at the offboarding process and the end of a client’s journey.

32:45 – Mr. MacKenzie shares why agencies don’t have strong processes.

33:35 – Mr. MacKenzie talks on the services they offer at his agency, ZenPilot, and how they get consistent success.

35:26 – Mr. MacKenzie shares last words on tools and strategies and also shares the most important thing to keep in mind as an agency owner.

37:08 – Outro

Guest Profile:

Gray MacKenzie is the founder and CEO of ZenPiliot

Gray MacKenzie is the founder and CEO of ZenPiliot, an agency and consulting business that trains and gives digital agencies the structure they need to grow fast and sustainably. ZenPilot has helped over 1,300 agencies grow sustainably.

He is also the founder of GuavaBox, a company that helps B2B tech and SaaS companies build a better growth strategy.

Work aside, Mr. MacKenzie is the head baseball coach at Hickory High School.

Transcript of this Interview:

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Before I introduce today’s guest, this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess and, Gray, you can relate to this. If you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and it’s maybe the 10th time you’ve spent explaining it, there’s probably a better way I imagine. So there is a better way SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. And I was talking to Owen, the founder, universities use it, banks use it, hospitals use it, but I didn’t realize first responder government agencies use it in life or death situations. And this is just a side comment, I’m like, "We should talk about that, Owen. That’s big." So you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time, so you can focus on growing your business. They do have a free trial, 14 day trial, with no credit card required., sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T process.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Today I’m excited. Gray MacKenzie is CEO of ZenPilot. Gray, you’re the perfect person to talk about this stuff, right? They give digital agencies the structure they need to grow quickly and sustainably, and they’ve helped over 1,600 agencies grow over the past 10 years. He’s experienced these pain points, these challenges. As he’s founder of GuavaBox, and they help B2B tech and SAS companies build a better growth strategy. And so you can check it at or And Gray, thanks for joining me.

Gray MacKenzie: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on Jeremy.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: When we were chatting, you are really good in talking about systemizing, systemizing businesses, systemizing an agency and fine tuning the different aspects. So I figured maybe you could just walk people through, because you kind of start from the beginning, it’s like client journey… Well, even at GuavaBox you start before that. There’s an inbound lead. What’s the process for that? Then you have the client come to you, they’re not a client yet. Then you take them through the client journey, deliver the experience and then beyond. So I don’t know if you want to start in the inbound phase, because I don’t know if there’s a specific company or agency that you walk this process through.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah, yeah. We can definitely tackle some of those different pieces. So this all kind of stemmed from our experience at GuavaBox, which myself, my business partner, Andrew Dymski, we started from our college dorm rooms, going back through college days, best friends since freshman year. We didn’t want the fun to end senior year, so we thought we’d start a company together. I think it’s just one of the rare stories I’ve heard where the business was really born out of a desire to keep working together instead of, "Hey, we’ve got a good idea. Maybe we should partner up."

Gray MacKenzie: So we had had a bunch of other experiences that kind of led into the marketing and agency space. And I think we made every mistake you could make at GuavaBox. So basically for the first year, year and a half, we were digital yes-men, whatever someone said they needed done on the internet I said we can absolutely figure out how to do that. "Pay us something and we’ll get it done." It was enough to make a business happen, we got to experience and learn a lot of different things, but it was a horrible way to deliver a good experience to customers and ultimately create results or scale it with any type of profit margin.

Gray MacKenzie: What were the biggest mistakes you made?

Gray MacKenzie: Well, I feel like any business is a series of obstacles that you get over. First, you got to figure out how to sell something and then you’ve got to figure out how to deliver it and then how to sell it at scale and deliver it at scale. And those are all accompanied with their own problems. But the biggest mistake we made was not choosing anywhere to start. Not say, "Hey, here’s a problem that we’re going to tackle, we’re going to solve this, and we’re going to figure out if we can solve that if we’re any good at it." And then once we’ve, not necessarily mastered and become total experts in that, but once we’ve got that down, then we’ve kind of earned the right to move on to the next thing that we want to try and solve and the next service we might want to experiment with.

Gray MacKenzie: Instead, it was very much, we’d talk to one person who needs a website, someone else needs an app developed, someone else needs video production, someone else needs SEO or a Facebook page created, back when companies were paying just to have someone create their page. And we did all these disparate services. And that was the biggest thing. It was just lack of focus around who we really were and what we were doing.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So that was one big one, focusing on a problem. Do you still have agencies come to you with those issues or they pass that one?

Gray MacKenzie: Most of the time at this point, I talk to a lot of agency owners who are still at that point in business. Most of the agencies who are actively engaging us and we’re working with are normally 10 to 50 person agencies. And they’re past the point where they’ve gotten some area, will very often find that even if they’re delivering the same service, it’s being delivered differently each time, whether they still have too many services. But usually they’ve got some sense of, "Okay, we’re clearly better at this," kind of what their area of expertise is by the time that we’re actively working with them.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So it’s like a focus issue.

Gray MacKenzie: I think a lot of it is focus.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s a systems issue and a focus issue.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. I think find a costly pain that a common group of people have and figure out if you’ve got the expertise to solve that well for them.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Talk about that where you went in and they had the exact same service and it was being delivered two separate ways.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah, I feel like this happens on almost every client engagement. What we hear all the time is, "Hey, we’ve got some clients who absolutely love us and some clients who can’t wait to be done with us," and it really depends what team internally. So if we take a web agency or an inbound agency, if we get assigned to one strategist in one team, we have a great experience. If we get assigned to someone else, it’s like you’re working with two different agencies depending on who gets assigned to it.

Gray MacKenzie: And the problem there is there’s just not enough structure around how, as an agency, we’re going to deliver things across the board. And that’s the main pain point that we run into. We’re working with a web agency right now, who’s going through that exact same thing. They’ve got a handful of developers who are really strong, one designer who’s really strong. And depending on which designer you happen to get, and also which project manager you happen to get, that determines the success of the project.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s tough with a service business. You are getting people, but what you’re coming in is helping how do you set up a process so that it makes it less likely to happen?

Gray MacKenzie: You’ve spoken with John Warrillow, right? Built to Sell.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yep, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gray MacKenzie: So that book, very influential to our thinking too and was like reading our journey there at the first part of that. It’s the same thing. At the end of the day, you’re scaling a services business and all services business revolve around people. The problem is when you’re not giving those people clear structure on how it happens, it’s purely reliant on how good a specific person is. And so you look at, the super common example is fast food business. How do you get the same experience out of high school kids in one city as high school kids in another city? Obviously it comes down to the process and the way that they’ve developed incredible standardization and accountability to those processes.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So in the web agency case, Gray, what did you tell them to do? Like what were some of the things they did to get that rockstar developer in that not maybe as good to get closer with the same product? What were the processes that you helped them with?

Gray MacKenzie: The first thing is how you set it up. So from a sales perspective, how are you selling this? Because in this example, we had some cases where a client would come in and they’d sell an assessment, basically site map out what needs to happen. And other cases where they’d sell the full project, so they’re selling a 50K full project without having scoped it properly. Or they’re selling a two or 3K assessment on the front end. So that lack of standardization right from the beginning is going to deliver different outcomes for people. So just standardize, say, "What are the phases of a client journey that we’re going to pull together? And also what types of projects will we take on?"

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So standardizing the sales process itself,

Gray MacKenzie: Right, yeah. If you can pull together… Obviously the more common the inputs are the more common the outcomes going to be as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to sit there just for a second. What’s your advice on that? Did you tell them, "Listen, you need to follow this process with everyone." Because I imagine some people are like, "Yeah, I just want a site," boom. And you give that say to a sales person they’re just going to sell it. As opposed to, it’s harder to say, "Hey, the processes, you need to go through our site map, you got to pay for this before you pay for it." So do you tell them they can skip around? What do you recommend?

Gray MacKenzie: I recommend not skipping around. So it really comes down to what types of projects you want to take on. As a sales person, when I’m selling, I like to use the bucket technique and basically in your initial conversation with somebody, you’re trying to feel out what the budget might be. At GuavaBox we initially did a ton of web design and web projects. And so we’d have one bucket that’s super customized, applications with complex functionality, and that’d be 80 to 120,000. And then we’d have kind of a marketing site that was pretty heavy in the 40 to 60 range. So anyways, you lay out these buckets of what people might have, you identify them, and then once you know roughly what people fall into, obviously you still need to assess whether where they think they self identity-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right, they may self identify, "I have a budget for 10,000, but I want the 120,000 customized one."

Gray MacKenzie: Right, right. But that’s an opportunity obviously to have a conversation and just reset the, "Hey, you’re not fit for us at that price point. Is that really the budget?" And then you get into figuring out what really is the budget. So basically I think as an agency, you’ve got two different ways to go and the messy middle is where a lot of agencies get stuck. You can go super custom and premium and that’s one end of the market and it’s a very expensive end. And if you’re on that end of the market, you should be charging super custom, super premium prices. The other end is obviously mass customization or very little customization.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Like a productized service, essentially.

Gray MacKenzie: Exactly.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Like, "Here’s what you get. That’s what you get."

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. And you just have to decide, I mean, there’s so many agencies who we work with who were selling customized services at productized prices. And there’s obviously no margin.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Well, it’s probably like how you were when you first started. It’s like, "Hey, will you do this? I just need these couple changes." Those couple changes turned into more and before you know it it’s totally customized. it’s a slippery slope.

Gray MacKenzie: It is. And I think the thing that we ran into is we weren’t good enough at solving one thing or known for solving one thing, that there was no reason to pay us a premium and we hadn’t done the work enough to productize it. So I don’t know how you get out. At the beginning, I don’t think you really have a choice. Like as much as my advice of, "Hey, find your expertise right away," there is a process to finding your expertise that has to happen there. So some of it’s unavoidable. The length that a lot of agencies go through is they put themselves through that challenge for a long time. I think finding that price point, if you’re on a higher tier, serving a higher to your client, you’re probably better off selling an assessment first. You’re working with a $10,000 website, you can’t charge for a $5,000 assessment and then say $10,000 straight off that backend.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. So the first is standardizing your sales process. So whatever it is, for that web development team you’re like, "Listen, you need to sell the site mapping first and then the project, or whatever they decide.

Gray MacKenzie: Yep.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So now they sold the project. Anything else on the selling process that would be important of the systemizing or streamlining?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah, there’s a million different components of that, but I think just finding… So obviously you get two different parts of it. Like, "What am I selling? What am I getting my sales team to sell? Are we selling a game plan or an assessment on the front end? Or are we going right to a project or a retainer?" And then obviously, "What is the actual sales process that we’re taking people through? How do they get into our sales process? How many calls do we have? What are those calls? What’s our structure around that? So that we can lead clients well. How you sell is how you train your clients, and so if you lead them super well during the sales process and you’re in control, they expect that they’re going to be led well and being told what to do during the client engagement. And if it’s the other way, where you just adapt to whatever they want, they assume that’s the way servicing is going to go as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Do you have an opinion on game plan versus direct sale? Like, every time you should always have a game plan or do you say it depends? What’s your thought on that?

Gray MacKenzie: Most of the time, I like the game plan, but it really does depend on the service set that you’re selling and the market that you’re selling into. What I’ve seen though is three direct benefits with the game plan, and we experienced this for ourselves at GuavaBox, and we’ve experienced this with hundreds of agencies working with ZenPilot. So GuavaBox, kind of real quick to backtrack in our history, we joined HubSpot’s partner program, we became an inbound agency, and that was where we started to grow ourselves through inbound and pulling a ton of traffic and leads. And then we really struggled to close trying to sell people directly to a retainer. And when we went to the game plan process, our close rate went up because the barrier to entry was significantly smaller. Our sales velocity accelerated the sales process, went from six calls to around two calls.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How many calls was your game plan? It was two?

Gray MacKenzie: Two calls. Two calls, yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It was two calls. Gotcha.

Gray MacKenzie: Yep, yep. And then the other big piece, the biggest piece, was the lifetime value went up significantly. So once people have been sold, that process is very engaging. It’s intentionally very participatory on the other side, it’s not going off into a dark room and come back with an audit result and saying, "Here’s what you need to do." And the reason is to build the buy-in and truly understand, "Are we solving the right problem or should we move forward out of this and work together?" And so the willingness to pay on the backend of that was significant higher for us versus on the front end.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It doesn’t sound like there’s a downside to doing that. Are there instances where you would say, "No, just go straight to the direct sale."

Gray MacKenzie: So if you’re super productized in what the service is, people already have a high understanding, there’s generally a lower price tag on what’s going to happen and not a ton of customization. At that point, you pretty much have a standard plan. And a common example would be a super productized service where it’s one of the "pay for all you can eat" type of services, it would be graphic design or WordPress updates or whatever. In some cases, some very specific other services have that same piece. But most of the time, if there’s an element of customization, you’re better off having the client or prospect pay to figure out what that customization should be.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That makes sense, like WordPress updates, that’s what you get. "You want me to see if you don’t have updated stuff, I’ll do an audit. Nope. You don’t have updated stuff."

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And it’s probably a lower price point too, I imagine, right?

Gray MacKenzie: Right. Yeah. The higher the price point, obviously I think there’s a huge case for selling some type of discovered product.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I would still argue, Gray, there’s probably room for like a scan. Like, you plug in your website, it scans your site somehow and it spits out all your dead plugins or something.

Gray MacKenzie: For sure.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: But I could see what you’re saying as far as there’s not much need as far as the game plan goes.

Gray MacKenzie: Right. And at that point, I guess the other piece of that is you’re not going to build a huge difference in buy-in levels from the beginning to the end. So if you’re not going to have a significant change in the ultimate willingness to pay-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The lifetime value doesn’t go up.

Gray MacKenzie: So basically your decision there is, do we close enough additional people when they go through this process first to justify having fewer people get into our sales process because of the hundred dollar barrier?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Makes sense. So look at the sales process, streamline that, look at that. So now they enter in as a client.

Gray MacKenzie: Right.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Where do you start as far as the streamlining?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. So I really like to take it right from the very beginning, the onboarding process. And I think you’d be shocked at just the inconsistencies in onboarding process or a total lack of onboarding process. Like, "Hey, we’re going to email an intro to your account manager and then hopefully they do all the right things from there."

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Good luck.

Gray MacKenzie: Share up drive folder, set up our weekly meetings. Whatever all those touch points are, that should all not just be standardized in terms of what those are, but a lot of that can be templatized and you can save a bunch of time just in terms of, "Hey, here’s the handbook that we give to every client on the expectations when you work with us. Here’s what you can expect response time wise, if you don’t get a response, here’s who to contact next. If there’s a holiday we’re not online on holiday," all those basic things.

Gray MacKenzie: And then really it’s moving from there into, "Okay, what are each of the main phases in the delivery process?" So in a web environment, if we didn’t do a discovery project on the front end, it’s going to be the first thing once we get in there is kind of going through an intake form around goals and user journeys or user stories or site maps or all those different things, and then design preferences and design, and then in development and then implementation. And if there’s SEO and then launch process. So kind of breaking this down into what are all the individual pieces and then also what’s the transition phase between each of those? How do we streamline that? And then it’s building out, "Okay, inside each one of those phases, let’s go deep on what are all the steps that we commonly do."

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I know you geek out on tools.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So what are some of the tools? And I’ll go back to the sales stuff, what’s some of the tools you recommend, but on this phase onboarding, there’s probably a lot of task management stuff going on. What are some of the tools people should be thinking about organizing? Obviously, that’s part of what SweetProcess does. Are there any particular task management tools that you recommend?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. So I actually used SweetProcess first probably back in 2014 maybe, a super long time ago. And I absolutely love how fast and easy it is to get in and templatize stuff and the templates that you can access. The reason that we moved away from it, and the reason we recommend ClickUp, the main tool that we implement for agencies now and help them get up to speed with it, is I’m a big believer in keeping process directly where the work is actually happening. We try to build as much as to the extent possible, a single source of truth and kind of a delivery hub across the entire agency in one place there. And so some people do still take a tool like SweetProcess and say, "Hey, here’s the process and plug it in as a link to each of the tasks."

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Exactly. Yeah. I know a lot of people, they’ll use Asana or ClickUp, but they’ll use like SweetProcess to go, "Here’s the individual," because may not want to put 10 steps in that one thing in ClickUp or Asana. So, "Click on this if you have a question about it, if not check it off," or something like that.

Gray MacKenzie: There’s one potential big benefit to that, and there’s a flip side which is a potential downside, but you’ve got all your work outlined and now you realize halfway through a project that you’ve got a better way to do it and you’ve got eight other projects going on concurrently. If it’s referencing somewhere and you go [inaudible 00:20:11], everyone gets that update. If you don’t, not everyone gets that update. I’ve seen that work both ways, it’s been an asset-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. The different projects are all like, "Oh wait, we just changed this one," and that doesn’t update across all the other projects going on.

Gray MacKenzie: Right, right. So, yeah. So there’s definitely pros and cons. And ultimately what it comes down to is for as much as agencies switch different tools and as agency owners I think we’re just naturally ingrained to want to jump to whatever the shiny new tool is. And it happens all the time.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: ClickUp seems like… Is it newer?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I keep hearing more about it lately, most people use Asana or Trello or something like that. But I feel like people are talking more about ClickUp lately.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah, that’s going to continue to happen. 2017, really interesting story about kind of starting as a side project and then getting a ton of momentum end of 2017, beginning of 2018, and making a strong push and kind of in the agency ecosystem. We’re hitting the point now where not everybody coming to us has either not tried ClickUp or never heard of it before. Now we’re starting to get people who’ve had ClickUp installed for a year and they’re like, "Hey, this is kind of a mess. How do we clean this up?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Do you have to help clean that up for them?

Gray MacKenzie: That happens pretty commonly. It’s a super flexible software and like anything, I think your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. So it’s super flexible, it’s got the perfect hierarchy for agencies. So in that sense, it’s great. It’s just really easy to mess up when you’re initially setting it up and not getting the team to all use it on the same wavelength and with same habits.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. So we’ll go from onboarding, but let’s go back for a second because sales tools…

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Talk about that. What are some things you use?

Gray MacKenzie: Going back to our HubSpot roots, we’re still using HubSpot sales, HubSpot sales pro is what we’re using right now for our CRM.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Is that equivalent to a Pipedrive type of thing?

Gray MacKenzie: Yep. Yeah. Pipedrive is super common in the agency space. Some people are still using Zoho or we run into some larger agencies or older agencies who are still in Salesforce.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Okay. Anything else in maybe the sales call management side of things? Any softwares or tools or plugins?

Gray MacKenzie: Right now we’re largely still, there are some other interesting tools, but we’ve got a pretty basic tech stack of use Zoom for calls, which obviously has become the standard here, HubSpot from a CRM perspective, and then there’s a couple other pieces that we hook into it. Obviously you got to figure out your document signing, a lot of HubSpot has an integrated quote solution, some people use HelloSign or DocuSign. And then there’s some other like call transcription services, is one that’s been helpful, but in our own tech stack we don’t have [inaudible 00:23:14] and for most agencies simpler is working pretty well for them. A lot of them use PandaDoc or Proposify for proposals, but it’s not super complex.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I didn’t know if you saw people using like one of those call tracking things. Someone messaged me thinking about or one of those things. Any thoughts on those?

Gray MacKenzie: I think there’s potential. Gong’s going to be really interesting to watch continue to develop and see where it gets adopted. I think especially as it comes down from some larger teams to smaller teams. And I think we’re going to see the feature set of having transcriptions and having obviously NLP and AI working together to try to spit out analytics on sales team and what specific phrases or what pieces work and which other ones don’t work. I’ve seen very few… I have worked with some agencies who’ve tried to implement some of that stuff. And I think it’s really fun to set up. And I haven’t seen a team large enough to have anybody dedicated actually pay attention to the analytics on it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: They abandon it.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. In theory, and I think in practice, it’s not a knock against the tool itself. It’s just anytime you’re adopting a tool, there’s got to be someone who’s going to own it and ultimately make sure that, "Hey, we’re all going to live by the rules and follow up on it and actually use it." It’s really easy for those to fall by the wayside.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So from sales, onboarding, what would you say what’s the next phase that people enter into?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. Right away you’re into some element of implementation and here’s where it really gets specific to what service you’re providing. So if you are in a retainer business, if you’re doing inbound, I guess would be the common example, where your service set is some combination of content creation and content promotion, basically production and promotion side, and obviously analytics on the backend and strategies is kind of the underlying piece to all of that. But normally right there you’re into content production. There’s either website updates that need to get made or content assets that need to be created or web assets that need to get created. And then obviously we’ll transition into promotion.

Gray MacKenzie: So that’s where it becomes really service specific, depending on what your agency does. I’ve worked with agencies who are specific as link building for a specific industry and all they do is link building. And so it’s a really clear process. It’s a pretty easy value prop to get right away. And then another ones who are a little bit more broad, especially obviously a larger agency. Inbound I think is one of the larger… We like to think of it as like, "Hey, here’s a clean service app." But inbound means so many different things to different people.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. It does. So what does inbound mean to you?

Gray MacKenzie: Inbound to me is still around… You’ve got some way of traffic generation, which is not unusual, but obviously going back to the original premise of it, trying to be found somewhere. So largely SEO, some people partnership marketing is starting to play into it. I think it’s always comical to look back at the HubSpot history and how paid acquisition of any kind Facebook ads or whatever was outbound. And then when it was convenient and there was finally a piece of the tool to play into it, and I love HubSpot for the record, but I think to be fair, once they had a tool set that could help service it, all of a sudden Facebook ads became an inbound tactic. Once there was increased and more opportunities there and realized, "Hey, this is not going away is going to be here to stick." So I really see it get diced up by-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Depends on the service.

Gray MacKenzie: It does.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I guess for you, for inbound, let’s say you’re doing whatever, paid traffic or something like that. What frequency do you then continually meet with the client? I bet you get that question a lot. "Okay. Now we’re in the implementation. How frequently should you continuously meet with them?"

Gray MacKenzie: I look to base this one off of, as the first metric to look at, what is the retainer price tag? Because obviously you don’t have a whole lot of margin if someone’s paying you $2,000 a month to be on weekly meetings, that burns through the budget pretty quickly. If someone’s paying 10 grand a month, that’s a different story and you probably should be on weekly meetings with them. So most agencies, we set them up on either a weekly or biweekly cadence. There’s very few who will go on a monthly cadence. And that’s typically a super productized service at a relatively low price end.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So let’s say monthly, what would be an equivalent retainer price? I know it doesn’t all fit into the same bucket, but…

Gray MacKenzie: Just to go back to the frequency question too, if you’re at $5,000 a month or higher as an agency, generally clients are looking for a weekly call, or it makes sense to be on a weekly call with them. If you’re below that, biweekly is generally fine.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. So implementation and what would you say comes after that?

Gray MacKenzie: There’s going to be some continuation. So in an inbound example, it’s pretty common to take an inbound agency and try and dice up the client journey into three separate components, where on the first side we’ve got the game plan, whatever that strategic discovery project is, then we’ve got an implementation phase or building the engine, all the content pieces that they’re going to need, and then on the backend is the retainer where it’s like, "Okay, now that we’ve built the engine, we need to fuel this with our ongoing campaigns." And so we’ve got one price. We’ll say we do a game plan of $5,000, an implementation project somewhere between 20 and $60,000, depending on what all we’re getting into, and that’s maybe over the course of two months, three months, and then we’re into a retainer, which is ongoing 90 day initiatives billed monthly at, whatever, $5,000 a month.

Gray MacKenzie: So at that point, once your initial assets are built, then it’s fueling that with a specific campaign. So we’re pointing to a specific content offer, we’re driving traffic from somewhere, we’re nurturing them in a specific way, and then we’re adjusting as we need to from there.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So that kind of takes to the end of the client journey, but maybe one step beyond that is what are some of the processes you recommend as far as an exit? We don’t like to think about that, but clients either maybe they’re not a good fit or for whatever reason grow out of you or it’s not a good experience, so what’s some of the processes involved in that piece?

Gray MacKenzie: So assuming someone was a client and they’re exiting for whatever reason, I don’t worry too much about building or prioritizing building out a process for when someone’s not a good fit. I do think that that’s helpful to have. More frequently what’s going to happen is someone may have been a good fit and for whatever reason they have outgrown that or have taken it inside or they made some other move.

Gray MacKenzie: So to me, the big pieces are what is that offboarding process? So there should be a checklist every time we off-board where we’ve handed over all the assets that we owe them, we never want someone to come back six months later and say, "Hey, can you get me all that stuff?" And no one can find it and the person who is the account manager has gone, and even though they’re not paying us actively, we still look dumb for not having anything in place. So handing over whatever needs to be handed over, terminating access, wrapping up billing, archiving their work in our project management system, ending the deal in our CRM, whatever we need to do. All that kind of stuff should be built.

Gray MacKenzie: In addition to that, I think you need to have on your account dashboard of all your accounts, a marker for what’s the end date with people so you’re able to calculate how long you’re retaining the average client. And you also want to have some commentary, basically a post-mortem, what went wrong here? What caused the relationship to terminate? Set a primary reason for why that terminated and then kind of wrap that up. And what that leads to at scale is the ability to go back and say we retain the average client for 11 months, when they leave the number one reason that they don’t stick with us is product market fit or is they were dissatisfied with the relationship with the strategist. And that data starts to become an asset for you to determine where we need to tighten things up or fix things.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Oh, that’s super important to go back to the point in whether it’s the sales process or onboarding process or implementation where that issue came about.

Gray MacKenzie: For sure. Yeah. And we find super commonly looked at three main reasons when we run this or we go back and survey an agency’s past clients that results are one of the pieces that cause churn, we rarely see that the biggest reason someone loses clients is because they goofed something big up. Usually you’re able to recover if you goof something big up. More commonly, it’s the consistent kind of drip, drip, drip, like, "You got this wrong, or this was late, or this was late over and over." And it leads to distrust, ultimately, that the agency’s trying or the team is invested or that your specific account manager is trying or has your back or is on your side as a client.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Anything else, Gray, to point out in this customer client journey?

Gray MacKenzie: No, I think we’ve covered a lot of different things. I think it largely comes down to, I guess I would say the main reason I think most agencies don’t have strong processes established, is because they’re not focused because they’re doing so many different things. And so there’s no way I’m going to look at an agency who’s got 300 different processes that need to get done. Like, anytime I see it I just go, "I understand why you don’t have anything documented because who would want to tackle this problem?" And when you boil it down, you probably have, realistically, you got 20, 30 core processes that you’re running over and over. And so it’s just a prioritization exercise to say, "Okay, here’s what we’re good at. Here’s what we’re going to get down first," and go from there.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So Gray, ZenPilot, you’ll help people and walk them through, talk about the services you provide at ZenPilot.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. So we follow the same methodology. Regardless of what we’re doing, we’re helping digital agencies, one, understand what they need to build. So what does that client journey look like? What are the processes that power that or should power that? And assessing where they at, what’s their tech stack? What should they be using? Then, two, is designing or starting to implement now that we’ve got an idea of what needs to get built, two is actually building that. And so that’s a combination of often tech implementation, setting up [inaudible 00:34:12]…

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So you will actually do some of the implementation also?

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. And we don’t…

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You’re a glutton for punishment. No, I’m just kidding.

Gray MacKenzie: We are. We certainly get the most consistent success when we go in and we’re leading their team through it and training them to set it up and use it. So we have a pre-built install, like, "Hey, here’s the way." 90% of agencies should be using the platform and setting things up, here’s a bunch of prebuilt templates to use as a starting point, but then you need to go in and figure out, "Okay, what are the 20% of things that are unique to our agency?"

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And sometimes people will have you walk them through it and sometimes they’ll just have at it themselves.

Gray MacKenzie: Yeah. So we’ve got a couple of different tiers of service depending on where the agency is and what they’re looking for. Sometimes we’ll go in and set it up ourselves along with them and sometimes they’ll go through the methodology, we’ve taken all our curriculum and training so that we’re on the same page internally as a team from an implementation perspective, and we’ve packaged that up to sell on its own program, ClickUp For Agencies as a program as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Love it. I want to point people towards your website and check out more. You can go to, you can go to Any last strategies or tools that you want to mention?

Gray MacKenzie: I don’t have any other tools. I think it’s easy to get lost. I do think from a high level, like mapping out the system is probably 80% of the battle. I’m a huge ClickUp advocate, but when you look at the largest agencies out there and we’ve worked with a number of 10 million plus a year agencies, there’s agencies using ClickUp, there’s agencies using Teamwork, still agencies using Basecamp, or Jira, or Asana or whatever. Clearly the tool’s not the one thing it’s what’s the system? Do we have a documented process for how we do this stuff? And we all operate with healthy habits off the same shared expectations.

Gray MacKenzie: So I think that’d be the one encouragement is I think all those tools are fine. It’s 80/20, like there’s 20%, there is some benefit to having a better tool, but most of it comes from, "Hey, let’s just think about what we’re doing right now."

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Actually putting a system in place.

Gray MacKenzie: Right, right.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Because plenty of people have those tools and they just don’t use them.

Gray MacKenzie: Yep, yep. Really it’s easy to not prioritize that because there’s so many other fires that happen on a day to day basis. So that needs to get prioritized at some point. And if it’s working with a third party, whether it’s in pilot or another consultant to help, I think that’s a helpful push for people, or just taking the time and dedicating someone to own it internally and building it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yep. Gray, this was awesome. I appreciate it. Everyone check out more episodes, check out the websites and have a great day.

Gray MacKenzie: Thanks, Jeremy.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question, do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up, go to, sweet like candy and process like Go now to sweet and sign up for your risk-free 14 day trial.

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