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A Quick Interview with Agency Guru Drew Mclellan

Updated on March 31, 2021

3 Min Read
Drew Mclellan

Drew Mclellan’s name is a big one in the marketing world. As one of the world’s top branding and marketing professionals (according to AdAge’s Top 150 index), his years of experience culminated in the now 25-year old Mclellan Marketing Group, as well as the Agency Management Institute. He is also the author of the books Sell with Authority, and 99.3 Random Acts of Marketing.

We’re delighted to have Drew on this installment of Agency Gurus, as he discusses his agencies, how to handle difficult clients, and more. Strap in!

Cloudways: Thanks for being with us, Drew! Can you start by telling us a little about your journey as you found these?

Drew: I started MMG in 1995 because I could not find an agency I wanted to work at. So I decided to start my own. We’re now 26 years old and very sustainable and profitable. I bought AMI (didn’t create it from scratch) in 2010 and have completely revamped it to what it is today.

Cloudways: You’ve talked about how one of the biggest mistakes agency owners make when it comes to drumming up a new business is to rely almost entirely on referrals instead of actively prospecting. What kinds of processes and systems should agencies develop for sustainable stable cash flow?

Drew: Agencies need to know exactly who they are (their areas of genius) and exactly who their sweet spot client is. Then, they can build a very systemized program to attract those prospects and get them to ask the agency to take them on as a client. I wrote an entire book (Sell with Authority) outlining what every agency should do.

Cloudways: As a staunch advocate of storytelling as a marketing method, what would you say elevates content to the level of storytelling as opposed to simply marketing?

Drew: I think marketing becomes storytelling when it gets personal — to both the storyteller and the person hearing the story.

Cloudways: In your experience, what is the most common mistake that agency owners make when it comes to selling a website to potential clients?

Drew: Their estimates and timelines are grossly inaccurate and unrealistic.

Cloudways: In all your years of experience, you must have come across some intensely difficult clients. When do you decide it’s time to fire an unreasonable client?

Drew: Clients are difficult for many reasons. Sometimes, it is our fault. We don’t communicate well.  We don’t understand their pressures. We have to remember that our job is to make their lives and job easier. But if a client is truly disrespectful or you can’t help them succeed, it may be time to say goodbye.

Cloudways: On a podcast last year, you mentioned how it’s a mistake for brands to slow down their marketing efforts during a recession or downturn. Can you talk a little about why that is, as well as what brands with limited marketing budgets can do to ensure they don’t lose market share?

Drew: You can never catch up if you take your foot off the gas. People can gain so much ground when the market is quiet. Even if you don’t have a big budget — you can connect with current customers. You can be active on social. You can send emails. There’s always some way you can serve your audience/be helpful which is the most effective marketing there is.

Cloudways: Do you think agencies should spend more time and effort focusing on high-ticket clients? How can they go about securing such clients in a sustainable way?

Drew: I think every agency needs to understand what size (AGI) client they can delight. There are definitely clients that are too small for our agency but there are also clients who are too big. Agencies should target clients who are about 5% of their overall AGI.

Cloudways: Over the years, you’ve mastered creating and strategizing content. How do you think agencies can create cohesive content strategies with processes, tools and systems that manage to be detail-oriented while simultaneously looking at the big picture?

Drew: This is tough to answer in a way that will actually be beneficial to agencies in a few sentences. My book Sell with Authority is 200+ pages of instruction on how to do this. But, in a few sentences.

You need to decide on your position of authority – what can you teach/be super helpful on?

You need to study your audience to make sure they want to learn what you can teach

You need to choose a primary channel that will allow you to create big, meaty content (a book, a weekly podcast, a piece of annual research, etc). We call it cornerstone content

You need to have a strategy of atomizing your cornerstone content into cobblestones that lead to your cornerstone (enough content for the year)

You need to begin to build a community of learners. A subset of those learners will become prospects and clients

Thanks for the insights, Drew!

You can connect with Drew on his Linkedin here.

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Arsalan Sajid

Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!


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