On the 232nd episode of The Copywriter Club podcast, we’ve got Marcus McNeill. Marcus is the co-founder and CEO of Magic based in Boulder, Colorado. He works with purpose-driven companies who seek global impact and change around both the country and world. He’s helped leaders such as Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra spread their missions and messages across the globe. You may want to grab a notepad right away because this episode is full of insights you won’t want to miss. In this episode, we discussed:
• How a conscious-based life can radically shift perspective.
• Why learning from Deepak Chopra became the greatest catalyst to vulnerability and openness.
• The secret to going from monkey mind to observing thoughts with confidence
• How an agency helped in decriminalizing magic mushrooms. – and the key marketing components needed to make such an impact.
• How to create multiple avatars for one campaign and nail their personal values to make an impact.
• The ingredients behind asking people to change their buyer behavior and trust a new brand. Is it possible?
• Where copywriters are getting their customer avatars wrong and why they should spend more time in the research.
• How copywriters have the power to truly make an impact and difference around the world.
• What you need to know before starting an agency and what should come first.
• The reality of growing a business – why it’s okay to take a step back, so you can take two steps forward.
• 3 ways you can gain clients and close sales like it’s nothin’.
• How to maximize customer experience and become a partner with your client.
• The client comes first, right? Think again, when your team is connected and nurtured, great work follows.
• The truth about combining business and wellness. Can the two coexist?
• Why small impact matters and how it can be the first magic step.
This episode might leave you thinking about impact and copywriting in a whole new light. To hear it, click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript. And of course, you should subscribe with your favorite podcast app to ensure you never miss an episode.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Our Event for Copywriters
The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Rob: If you’re a longtime fan of this podcast, or I guess any other podcast, you’ve probably had the experience of listening to a guest share their story and what they learned, and then had to reach for a pen and paper to capture the ideas that they’re sharing, so that they don’t get lost, or so that you don’t forget them. Maybe you’ve even had to pull off the road as you were driving, or tell your kids to be quiet so that you don’t miss something that you could use in your business.
That’s exactly how we felt more than a handful of times in this interview. Our guest for the 232nd episode of the Copywriter Club Podcast is Marcus McNeill, the founder of Magic. And as we spoke to Marcus, we found ourselves taking more notes than usual, trying to capture the wisdom that he shared about building his business. Fair warning, you might want to grab a pen and a notebook, or pull off to the side of the road, as you listen to this episode.
Kira: Before we share our interview with Marcus, this is the last week for a while that this podcast is brought to you by TCC, Not in Real Life, our event for copywriters and other smart marketers. And the reason for that? Well, it’s just about the last week you can get a ticket for our event, which happens April 7th through the 9th. If you want to learn firsthand from experts like Joanna Wiebe, Todd Brown, Jereshia Hawk, Joel Klettke, Eman Ishmael, and so many more. You need to get your ticket today. To do that, visit thecopywriterclub.com/tccirl-1. There’s also a link to that information page in the show notes of this episode.
Rob: So, hit pause now to get your ticket, and then jump back into our interview with Marcus McNeill, which begins with us asking Marcus why and how he started Magic Agency.
Marcus: So, starting Magic, I would recommend going back a little bit further back. When I was in my early 20s, I was working in the corporate world and I absolutely hated it. So, I packed up all of my possessions and a crappy Honda Accord with no air conditioning and barely even operated, and drove from Texas to California in hopes of the California dream, living by the beach and all that. Serendipitously, although I’m a Texas raised kid and had never been exposed to yoga or meditation, or consciousness teachings of any kind, I got a job working with Deepak Chopra. I’m not sure if you guys know who he is, but he’s a relatively famous spiritual teacher.
He teaches primordial sound meditation and just general spirituality. I learned those consciousness tools from him and it changed my life. It rocked my world. It changed everything. I was, at a very young age, responsible for launching marketing campaigns to promote his teachings, and for whatever reason, that led to more opportunities being the voice behind luminaries. I was working with the names of Eckhart Tolle, and later Byron Katie, and Kim Eng, and Marianne Williamson, and spiritual centers and spiritual organizations preaching things that really had a huge impact on my life.
They allowed me to get myself out of panic mode and come back to a place of centeredness and balance, and confidence in myself, which was something I struggled with for many years. Anyways, I became addicted to the world of digital marketing because I was 23 something years old, and was serving hundreds of millions of impressions of messages, of people who I truly admired, who were doing amazing things in the world. Every conversion was a conversion into somebody’s personal development. We were converting them into a better way of being in the world, and that was extremely rewarding.
From that, I started working in Agency Land, first as a copywriter, then as a strategist and account manager, and then later, quickly after, I became the Director of Strategy, running strategy for all of the clients at that particular company, and all of them were purpose driven. And I wanted to do more and I wanted to do it better. So, the typical freelance story that many of you could probably relate with is that I started out doing freelance gigs with small little companies in town, and then over a couple of months, I had a business that was too big to manage on my own, so I hired a team.
Then once I hired a team, we called ourselves an agency, and then we grew bigger than I thought we would, or bigger than I ever intended we would, and that’s what brought me to where I am today. I started Magic three and a half years ago with my co-founder, Gareth. Today, we have 35 team members. We focus on scaling the customer acquisition and the impact of organizations that are elevating consciousness, and enhancing health and wellbeing, and reversing climate change. That’s where we like to play. That’s what gets us inspired. So, that’s a bit about how I joined the world of digital marketing and why I started an agency.
Rob: So, I have a feeling that this question may take us in a different direction than what I was originally thinking we would be talking about, but listening to you talk about your experience and where you’ve been, I’m wondering about the consciousness tools that you’re talking about, as tools to use in business. Are there… we could probably spend a whole hour talking about this, maybe even more, but are there two or three things that you’ve learned from experts like Deepak, Marianne Williamson, that are applicable in business in ways that maybe we haven’t thought of before?
Marcus: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I would say that, ultimately, Deepak’s teachings were a catalyst for growth in my life, spiritually, and that led me all kinds of different directions. That led me to experimenting with psychedelic healing. That led me to going to festivals and, and Burning Man, and going to yoga retreats and all kinds of things. So, if there’s anything that I would take away that, I’ve applied to business, it wouldn’t necessarily be a sitting practice in meditation, but it would be the vulnerability and openness that creates in yourself, which gives you greater capacity to be a great leader, because you can see that in others and help guide them into a greater version of themselves.
Kira: So, maybe this question ties into what you just shared, but you mentioned that you experienced this boost of confidence, confidence with yourself, from working with these leaders. You mentioned some of the tools that you use, but what really worked? What practices worked on a daily basis to help boost your confidence during that time? Especially for copywriters who are listening, who maybe are struggling with confidence and they know that’s holding them back, what is something, or a couple of things they could try in their everyday?
Marcus: Yeah, that’s a good question. I noticed this because when I started meditating, I realized that I have this Negative Nancy inside my skull, that’s always telling me why I’m wrong or why I’m bad, or why I’m not good enough, and I feel like that is a common ailment. Most people can relate to that. They call it the monkey mind. When I started meditating, I would detach from my thinking, and a better word for that is I would observe my thinking.
Instead of controlling me and being me, then I became just the observer, which means that the thoughts were more like a flowing stream and I wouldn’t cling on to them so much, and then they would dissipate and I would feel a bit more quiet. So, that was my experience. I had an extremely low self-esteem. I was picked on all through elementary school, middle school, high school, and didn’t really come into my own until I was maybe 23, 24 years old. So, confidence was always something that I struggled with, and this was something that made a difference for me.
Rob: Yeah. I have a feeling that we’ll come back to this, maybe as a theme, as we talk about the different things that you’ve done in your career, but yeah. Tell us a little bit more about Magic and the work that you guys are doing ongoing. I know we got kind of the cliff notes version, but having a team of 35 people working together, just help us understand that environment just a little bit, and what you guys are doing on a day-to-day basis.
Marcus: Yeah, good question. I set out on a path and, and the reason I even wanted to create Magic is so that I could build the most bad-ass elite conscious marketing team that I possibly could, and convert traditionally trained, direct response marketers into messaging light workers of sorts. I wanted to apply those amazing skillsets towards missions that really matter. So, what we do on a daily basis is work extremely hard to really grow these organizations. Some of them are political in nature. Some of them are traditional businesses. Some of them are at the intersection of where our skill sets really come in handy, like online courses and e-commerce, and all that, but what I’m most excited about is the origin of these companies, and what they stand for.
A couple of examples. We worked with an organization called Decriminalize Denver back in May of 2018, and they were on a quest to decriminalize magic mushrooms, otherwise known as psilocybin mushrooms, which are hallucinogenic naturally occurring mushrooms in nature that have tremendous healing properties, that the scientific community has been privy to for decades, and it’s just now coming to the public awareness. We launched a donor acquisition and awareness campaign, mostly on Facebook and Instagram, with a shoestring budget. The result of that is we became the first city in the United States to ever decriminalize magic mushrooms for personal use and possession. That was incredibly meaningful in my life.
That’s not I’ve got the big, “Oh, my god, I did the multimillion dollar launch. I scaled the company 10X. I took this company from small to over a hundred million dollar…” Yeah, sure. I’ve got all those stories, but that one is the one that I’m most proud of because we were the underdog and we won, and that forever changed the political landscape, and you’ve seen a domino effect of other organizations across the country that are following suit, which is opening up our ability to heal our collective consciousness in an industry that has not seen any innovation in 60 years, which is mental health. So, we’re helping to heal the mental health pandemic in our country.
Kira: Okay, so many questions just about this. Let’s just start with how you did it through that campaign on a shoestring budget, how you were able to accomplish something so huge. What did it take or what were some key ingredients that made that a success?
Marcus: One of the key ingredients is that we were losing… we were willing to lose money on something that we believed in. So, I didn’t make any money on that campaign. I actually lost money paying my team to execute. That was number one, sacrifice. Number two was our approach. We conducted customer research… I guess you could call it donor or voter research in this particular case… to identify what the skepticism are, what the fears are, what are the judgments that people are having about this particular substance, that have originated from way back in the 60s with the whole drug war that is still going on today.
So, we broke down our audience into three core categories based on political leaning. We had a Republican avatar, we had a Democratic avatar, and we had a Libertarian avatar. Then we constructed campaigns speaking directly into the hearts of each one of those categories. That’s a fairly vague way of splitting up a campaign, but we did get a bit more granular inside the account. In general, though, and for explanation purpose, the Democratic campaign was all about your right to heal. This should not be an illegal substance because people can use it at their own discretion to heal the ailments that they are suffering from.
There’s evidence that magic mushrooms help with PTSD and depression, and anxiety, and a whole host of other things. The conservative angle was all about the pride of America and the pride behind our armed forces, because our armed forces are going overseas and fighting our wars, and coming back with PTSD, and mushrooms should be something that they should be allowed to try for their PTSD. How can somebody be allowed to fight in our Wars, but not have the freedom to choose their own healing, right? So, that was all about our patriotism and supporting our veterans. Veterans have very, very high suicide rates.
Something like 30 veterans kill themselves on a daily basis. So, that is something that can be prevented with this substance. Then the libertarian route was you should be able to do whatever you want, as long as it’s not harming anybody else. This is a naturally occurring plant that can grow in your backyard, and if you eat it, then you can go on your own journey, but as long as you’re not driving a vehicle or harming somebody, then you should be able to do this. That was, in general, the focus of our messaging. We also used video content and storytelling, and many other methods that I’m sure your listeners are familiar with.
Kira: Okay. So, before we move away from psilocybin, can you share… I mean, you mentioned that that case was huge and there was a ripple effect. Can you just also give us an update on where things stand right now, legally, at least across the U.S., with psilocybin?
Marcus: Right. Things are bubbling up. There’s an organization called Decriminalize Nature that has successfully decriminalized all entheogens in several cities. Santa Cruz soon followed, Oakland soon followed. Then there were initiatives that popped up in the entire state of California and in Oregon for medical use, and Washington D.C. decriminalized as well, and we’re looking at a potential campaign, Colorado statewide, in 2022. So, it’s a similar path that cannabis followed. Now, cannabis has been becoming more and more decriminalized, and more and more legalized over time in more and more States%, and that’s the pathway that I see for psychedelics, but we shouldn’t confuse the two because the substances are quite different and need to be respected as such.
Rob: So, I’m really Interested in how you identified the avatars for each of these. It’s fascinating to me that in each case, you’re identifying the positive feelings and connecting it with something that people are feeling strongly about. Is that the same approach that you take with all of your clients, or is that unique to the political world where you might have parties that are, in some ways, diametrically opposed to each other?
Marcus: Well, we had a unique advantage because we had boots on the ground. In order to even get on the ballot, we needed to collect somewhere in the ballpark, I want to say of 65,000 signatures. So, I was chatting with the signature gatherers and asking them how their conversations were going. What are the people like who are signing right away? What are the people like who are asking questions and are engaged, and what are the people like who completely hate what you’re doing and are scared of it?
I want to know everything. Then we could create those avatars based on the real interactions they were having in the street. So, that’s not our usual approach because we don’t usually have people talking to the general public on the street, but anytime we approach a new brand, the very first thing that we absolutely need to establish… that most agencies miss, that too many copywriters miss… is empathy.
Truly looking into that other person’s eyes, and seeing and empathizing with their situation, and not passing judgment on it or not operating as if your perspective is popular, or running your own personal biases, or any of that. It’s starting with an open mind and curiosity, and going on a fact finding mission that is going to inform everything you do. Oftentimes, we try to work quickly, and quickly is the death of quality in many cases. I mean, look at all of the copywriting grades and you’ll see that they have an extensive research process. So, we do as well.
Rob: Yeah. Maybe, could you us through how you would apply that to a second client then, one that’s maybe less political, but maybe still in that consciousness realm or maybe even outside of that realm?
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So, we have a client in the coffee industry and they’ve completely invented coffee. They’ve reinvented it, I should say. Many of you might be thinking, “Well, I drink coffee every day. It didn’t need to be reinvented,” and that’s exactly my point. We have this new product that we are bringing to the marketplace, and luckily, people are absolutely loving it and they’re adoring it. We first need to find out what somebody needs to believe in order to try this completely new method of drinking coffee, because they’ve been going to Starbucks for 20 years, or they’ve been drinking ground coffee, or they like their espresso just how they like it, or they use a Keurig or whatever.
There are so many other ways that you can drink coffee. How can we get them to completely buy into our new way, and either completely abandoned or partially abandon their routine. So, a big ask. We’re asking them to completely change their behavior, and for coffee drinkers, this is something that they cherish. So, what we wanted to discover is how people are using the product who are, one, super enjoying it, loving it, and those who are loving it a bit less. So, we surveyed a couple of different groups of people. We surveyed folks who have purchased the product once and did not purchase again, because we want to find out why. Is it a pricing thing? Is it a quality thing? Is it taste? Is it… whatever. Do they prefer another method?
We also wanted to understand why people are subscribing gung-ho and dropping everything they’ve been doing in the past. A third group that we wanted to uncover… we have this spoon add on, because it only takes one tablespoon of this highly concentrated coffee in order to make a full cup. So, we were offering the spoon as a freebie in the first box, and we wanted to understand how people are using it, why people were using it, if it made sense to use it, what we could price it at, where they were storing it… all that kind of stuff. So, by really taking ourselves into the demographics, the psychographics and the user experience, or the experience of the product user, we could understand what types of messaging we should approach them with and exactly what audience segments we should be going after.
And also which ones to not go after, because we know that this is a premium product and it’s not for everybody. In general, in a very, very short answer to a long-winded answer, is getting on the phone and surveying people face to face, which it gives you really strong qualitative data, but not a lot of quantity. We interviewed about 10 people, which is not enough of a statistically significant sample size to draw conclusions from. So, we also sent a survey to a few thousand people. Then we compiled the results and created customer avatars out of them.
Rob: I find this really fascinating because so many marketing experts, going back to Eugene Schwartz, talk about how you can’t actually change behavior, that you need to fit your product into the mass desires that are already out there. You’re basically saying, “Hey, we’ve got a product that’s going to require a change of behavior, a complete reset of a market mindset,” and doing that seems not just fascinating, but really, really difficult.
Marcus: Exactly. It’s a coffee subscription. Have you ever heard of a coffee subscription?
Rob: I’ve heard of some of the cups subscriptions, or did Keurig used to do a subscription where they would send you a machine, and then you were signed up for stuff like that, but I have not heard of anything since then.
Marcus: That was exactly my awareness about coffee subscriptions before I met this brand. Since it’s a premium product, I wanted to draw something relative to their mind, that they could compare it with. So, what’s another premium beverage delivery that’s common? Well, wine. Joining a wine club. So, I wanted to create this as a wine club for coffee, where you get special edition, limited batch brews, and you get it scheduled delivery every month, and occasionally, there will be random gifts. So, not only was it about changing how people drink coffee. It was changing… providing this monthly experience that felt like you have this inside our membership with the product. Anyways, that’s another example of how we would conduct customer research.
Kira: When it comes to customer avatars, where do you feel like most copywriters, or a lot of copywriters go wrong, or don’t go deep enough, or miss the mark? Maybe because they just don’t have that experience yet, or maybe it’s where you, in the past, missed the mark, but have changed and evolved over time.
Marcus: Yeah. It’s interesting because if you’re a freelancer, and you take on a new contract, you don’t get a training period. If you’re an agency and you bring on a new client, you don’t get a training period like you would if you’re a new employee for a new company. You have to hit the ground, you have to quickly get an idea of what needs to be done, and you have to impress them, the client, quickly. Which oftentimes, that rush of pleasing a new account will completely degrade or eliminate the research process. So, yeah, I think that we’re just caught in a bit of a trap there. You have to plead your case early on, why taking a couple of weeks just to get acclimated to a new brand is going to be worthwhile to the client on the other side.
Kira: Let’s stop and interrupt Marcus for a moment to go adjust a little bit deeper on a couple of things. So, Rob, what stood out to you from this part of the conversation?
Rob: There are a couple of things that Marcus said that just… they were the writer downers. At the very beginning, he mentioned that when he’s thinking of conversions, he’s thinking of converting people to a better way of being in the world. I know he was specifically talking about the projects that he was working on at that point in his career, but it hit me that that’s exactly what conversion should be. If we’re doing our jobs correctly, we are helping people realize a better version of themselves, or a better way of being in the world. So, I love that phrasing that he used.
Kira: Yeah. There was so much that stood out in this part of the conversation. For me, it was really the proof that, as copywriters, as marketers, we can create such a big impact in the world. Oftentimes, well, I do struggle with am I doing enough as a copywriter, to work on the many problems we have globally? I think Marcus is such a great example, and what he’s built with Magic, about how you can make a difference. It might mean some projects don’t quite land as much income for your agency, but it gives you the tools you need to really do this great work, and he’s proof of that.
Rob: Yeah, and when you think about making a difference in the world, there are so many different ways to do that. I think that’s one of the things that Marcus has done really well, is identifying his niche… elite consciousness, marketing team. That’s what he’s built, and bringing together people that… he’s talking about creating light workers out of direct response marketers, and if that kind of phrasing doesn’t ring true for you, then you’re not part of the group that Marcus is going to serve, but for those that do like that kind of phrasing, he’s exactly the right person to be working with. The fact that he’s been able to drill down and create a niche there for what he offers, I think is just another way that he’s helped himself succeed.
Kira: Yeah, and a lot of this conversation was almost proof, again, that this is what’s possible. You don’t have to do the same things. You don’t have to follow his path, but look what is possible for us as copywriters. I think the speed of his growth with this agency is incredible. He mentioned three years… he’s grown the agency over three years and he has 35 team members, and they’re quickly growing. So, just to even know that that type of growth is possible in three years, just… such a reminder of what we can all do in three years, in two years, in one year. When you’re really focused and clear about your mission, you can really accomplish so much in that time, if that’s what you’re interested in.
Rob: Yeah, and related to that, Marcus was talking about not being afraid to lose money on something that you believe in, and going all in on his mission and that focus. He talked about losing money, but really, what he’s talking about is making an investment in something that he believes in. Obviously, we’ve talked about the different ways that people can invest in their business, but investing in your clients, investing in the successes that you want to see with nonprofits, or with your community. Those are other ways to invest in something that he’s done really well.
Kira: And something else he mentioned was just the power of what he’s done with his research, especially for one of the promotions he shared with us where his team was out there collecting signatures and talking to people, and had boots on the ground. I think it was just a reminder, too, that even as copywriters, we’re not necessarily out there knocking on doors, collecting signatures, but we all are capable of scheduling interviews and still having those conversations. So, I know that’s a part of what a lot of us do. It’s not strange to have a customer interview on a video chat, but it was just a reminder to me that we can do more of that. Why limit it to four conversations? Why not have 10 or 20 to collect that data, and just have a much stronger message and campaign?
Rob: Yeah, or 65,000, like Marcus did. That would be the dream data collection system. As I was thinking, too, about the research that we mostly do as copywriters, or that we often do as copywriters, versus what Marcus did in the examples that he shared, is oftentimes, when we conduct research, we’re looking for the things that confirm what we already believe about our product, the thing that we’re selling. We’re not always honest about looking for the thing that our customers bring to the table. I thought that really comes out well when he’s talking about some of the legalization efforts and talking to different political parties who will all come to the issue with very different beliefs, very different belief systems and using research to establish empathy, which is really the whole reason to do research, is to figure out, okay, where are my customers today?
My potential clients, what do they believe and how do I reach them where they are, as opposed to, again, just confirming what we already believe about the things that we sell and trying to encourage people to come over to the way that we think. Okay. Let’s go back to our interview with Marcus and talk a little bit more about what it takes to build a 35 person marketing agency. While we’re talking about doing things in an agency, I wonder if you could share some of the things that are our difficulties in starting and ramping up an agency. From this side, it feels really easy. It’s like, well, you just raise your prices, and hire people to come and work for you, but knowing several people who have started agencies and then backed out of it, even when they felt like they were having some success, clearly there’s a lot of complexity that goes on with that. Will you open our eyes a little bit to that?
Marcus: Yeah. You are right. Anytime I hear somebody wants to create an agency, I try to talk them out of it because many agency owners fall into the E-Myth. I’m sure you guys are familiar with the E-Myth. If you like copywriting, and that’s what you like, be a copywriter. Don’t just be an agency on her because you can make a little more money. Truly be honest with yourself about whether that’s what you want or not, because if you step into business ownership then, and if you want to grow a business…
If you just want to cruise at a certain level, you might be able to do that fairly quickly, but if you want to grow a business, prepare for baptism by fire in all aspects of your life. You’re going to learn the ins and outs of HR, and legal and finance, business development, sales, client success, operations, taxes, everything. You’re going to have to know everything, or hire an expert to know it for you. It is the most challenging, stressful, difficult endeavor I’ve ever taken on in my life. It’s made me a better business person. It’s been very rewarding, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Kira: Okay, and less excited about starting an agency with Rob right now. Less and less excited, but what do you… I mean, what are maybe a couple of things that you wish you had known before starting it, that maybe just would have helped you grasp things faster beyond just like, hey, this is going to be really hard? This is not easy, but what else specifically should we be thinking about, and considering before jumping into it?
Marcus: I don’t necessarily mean to discourage people from starting an agency, but if I am, it’s probably not meant to be for them. I would say team first is the number one thing that… I know this now. I’ve known this for a long time, but I wish I truly would have understood that from day one. When you have an agency, your business is your people. You are not producing a product. You have a marketing team, you have a copywriting team, and prioritizing them and their mental health, and their happiness and their fulfillment, and creating an incentive structure that supports their commitment to your company, profit sharing, things like equity, things like that should be a primary focus from the very beginning, because you will invest so much time and energy, and financial resources into training, even if they’re an expert, that losing them just comes at quite a cost.
And also, if your team is happy, then you will survive the hard times. We just went through a pandemic. We’re going through the iOS 14 rollout. I don’t know if you guys have heard about this. I’m sure you have. Massive data loss. It’s basically the digital marketing version of a pandemic. Nobody’s in danger, by any means, but it’s unprecedented in our world. There will be endless curve balls, and as long as your team is unified and supports each other, and believes in what you are doing, there’s nothing you can’t get through. It doesn’t matter if you lose your biggest clients. It doesn’t matter if you need to pivot. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pandemic. You’ll make it through. We doubled the size of our company during the pandemic, because we came together as a team. So, that’s number one, is your team is everything.
Kira: So, for listeners who are still excited… they’re like, “Okay, I still want to build an agency,” what are some of the initial hires they should think about in the early days when they’re like, “Okay, do I need the project manager and then a couple of junior copywriters? Do I need a copy chief first?” What is the beginning structure over the first few years when you can’t bring on a dozen or so people?
Marcus: Right. For me, the first year was all about delighting our clients, if we could get that down, and that was the foundation we were going to build upon. So, we focused so, so hard on service delivery. That was everything to us, was delivering excellence in our services. I would say, if you are looking to grow an agency, like you really want to grow… I’m talking you want to grow to 50 employees, 100 employees, 500 employees… hire an HR team early, because if you are savvy with sales, and if you delight your clients, they will refer you happily to other clients, and closing them is so easy usually, as long as they’re a good fit, that you need to be able to handle your demand.
Because I am the sole sales person in my company. I’ve tried to build sales teams multiple times, but I can’t do it because we close too many deals too quickly, and my HR team can’t keep up, because any time I close a new deal, they may have to hire anywhere between two to five people. So, if I close one deal, they have to close two to five. So, it has been absolutely pivotal to have that as a core competency, because we embedded our culture code in our HR department and they know the soft things to look for.
Then over time, they started to refine their approach for finding the technical skill matches as well in a way that you can do that on the cheap. So, we have a full-time salaried American born HR leader, and then we utilize a fantastic team in the Philippines to do our recruiting for us to the tune of… I want to say like $12 an hour per person. So, it’s an incredible bargain and they’ve been just an integral part of our culture as well. So, it’s allowed us to, to be able to handle our own demand.
Rob: Marcus, will you break down what your team looks like? How many are… Do you have designers, and copywriters and programmers? What does that breakdown look like if the 35 employees?
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So, we have five or six copywriters, five or six graphic designers, four account managers. They’re responsible… they’re the main point of contact for the client. They’re responsible for strategy and success. We have three project managers. That’s the account managers’ sidekick. They handle detail hunting and administrative work, and communication, which allows our account managers to sit back and think more strategically.
We have a copywriting director, who’s fantastic. You know her. Her name’s Jonnie. We have two creative directors who are responsible for guiding the design team. We have web developers, analytics developers, IT specialists, media managers for every major platform. See if I’m missing anybody. Our C-suite is just two people. We’re building a board of advisors. I think that’s the gist of it. I might be missing a couple of positions, but maybe that’s helpful.
Rob: Okay. Yeah, no, that’s very meaningful, just to get a picture of all of the tasks and the different things that people are doing. Then another question I have about this is talk a little bit about your financial philosophy. The reason I ask this is because having been in the agency world myself and having lots of friends there, we know that sometimes it’s a little precarious. The loss of a client can mean layoffs across a team. So, do you have a rainy day fund that to keep things going for two to three months as you try to replace clients? Is that something that you don’t worry too much about? What does that look like?
Marcus: That’s a great question. So, we do have a rainy day fund. I would recommend having six months of operational expenses saved up. So, for my company, it costs anywhere between $150,000 to $200,000 a month to keep the lights on and keep everybody paid, and that fluctuates because we do work with contractors. So, by that measure, we would want to have $150,000 in our savings account, and we don’t yet, but we’re building up to that, making good progress. Yeah, I would say it always stings when you lose a client, especially a big one. Especially a big one you care about, but you can’t take it personally because churn is such a natural part of the business for so many reasons.
Clients can be transient and only need you for a brief period until they hire in-house. You could try your damnedest and there’s not a product market fit. You could do everything you can, and they just still don’t perceive it as good enough. Some things are just out of your control and you should always expect churn. If you have a couple of clients that are too big to lose, then you need to even out the balance of your client portfolio to avoid key client risk. So, it’s not always possible. For example, I was running a presidential campaign. We were running a presidential campaign at one time for Marianne Williamson, who’s a spiritual teacher. And at the time, she was 50% of our revenue, because we were churning and burning.
We had 15 people on that account working basically 24/7 and spending an insane amount of money, and we were getting a cut of the ad spend. So, yeah, in that particular case, we knew it was this really quick churn and burn account that lasted four or five months, and we knew we couldn’t rely on it, so we started building the business underneath to prepare us for that, when that would inevitably drop, and I think you should do that for everybody, all of your big clients. That’s how I’d approach that. Save up your money, but also don’t be afraid to spend it. When COVID hit, for example, we signed up for the PPP. We got a nice loan. We opened up a $300,000 line of credit. That was our rainy day fund at the time, and then we started saving our cash.
Kira: So, after working on this presidential campaign, which is so exciting, what are some key lessons you took away from that intense time, that have you’ve carried through to other clients from that political campaign?
Marcus: Yeah. I’d say it was unsustainable. I’m kind of crazy. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win, but I can’t ask my team to go to the same lengths that I’d be willing to go. One of the biggest challenges of having an agency is finding balance, making sure that everybody is taking care of themselves and not overworking themselves, because we are the primary revenue generating vehicle of, what, 15 or 20 companies at any given moment. So, we carry not only the financial stress of our own organization, but that of 15 others. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. It’s high stakes.
So, in order to meet that demand, we’ll have employees who aren’t even asking to, or aren’t even being asked to work 10 or 11 hour days. Now, that begs the question, how can we reinvent the agency to where that is not how we operate? What do we need to do practically in order to change that? Because I’m committed to changing that. I don’t like that paradigm. So, that was one thing that Marianne’s campaign really brought into focus for me, is wow, I have an amazing team that’s diehard and willing to do whatever it takes, just like I am, and we need to be very protective of that energy for future clients, or else we’re just going to churn and burn.
Rob: Yeah. How do you approach growth? Again, drawing on my past experience, it feels like when agencies need to grow, they’re often really slow to hire because of the churn risk, and you can very easily get out in front of an account and spend more than what’s coming in. So, when you look at the next year or two, how do you pitch your growing so that you can support, but maybe not chase the needs that come along with it?
Marcus: Yeah. I would recommend agencies growing two steps forward, one step back. So, we’ve grown in the opposite direction before. So, in the month of December, which is historically a very slow month, I closed nine new deals. That is a lot. I don’t know if you guys know, but that’s a lot.
Rob: Yeah, that’s definitely a lot.
Marcus: I knew that that would put stress on the business and I knew that the HR team would need to hire to even complete the most basic deliverables for those clients, but they were enormous opportunities. We were signing companies that had raised $30 million or were super connected in some way. All of these opportunities are just so good. I couldn’t pass them up. I sacrificed myself. I was like, okay, I’m going to take on four of these new clients, and on average, our account managers can handle two. So, I was doubling my own workload on top of being a CEO, which was a bad move. So, I sold first and then trusted that over time, we would be able to fill in the team.
That was a mistake because although we were able to hire about 10 people of the 16 people we needed, the team suffered. Everybody was overworked and everybody was stressed, and we went through a bit of a dark period where things were just really, really hard, and we’re coming out of that just now. I think a much smarter way to build the business… I’m not going to fall into that trap again… I’m telling clients that we’re putting them on a wait list and I’ll let them know when we’re free. We’re just not going to sign any more clients for a period. A better way to do it is to believe in yourself, believe in your business, have faith, trust your numbers and recruit a big team first, and then fill their capacity. I currently have seven or eight companies that are on a wait list for me.
That’s great. I know that, and if I want to go sign those companies, instead of putting stress on my existing team, we need to build out the project teams, give them a month to train and get super ready to go, and then pass them clients and gradually integrate them. What that will create is a period of time in which your numbers don’t look very good. Your profit margin will go down. Your net income will go down and you may break even. Hell, you may even lose money, but that doesn’t matter, because what you’re building towards is another level of growth. So, you just took one step back, but by doing that, you’ll be able to take two steps forward. That’s the way I think about growth. It’s a service delivery business, so it’s not like we can just scale to the moon, like it’s a software product. You have to be quite careful.
Kira: I didn’t think I was going to ask about sales, but it’s hard not to, with hearing that you closed nine deals in December and you’re the lead sales person. I would just like to hear what your approach is to sales. What works at your level when you’re talking to these companies that raised $30 million and you’re closing big contracts with them? What is your approach to sales that seems to work well and could work for freelancers?
Marcus: Totally. Yeah. I like this quote from Tony Robbins. He says you win the game of business when you provide more than everybody else. So, my approach to sales is I want to get in front of as many business owners as I can, who fit my criteria… I’m not wasting my time with tiny businesses… and provide them as much value as I possibly can. So, what I do is, I take a thoughtful look at their online assets, at their marketing campaigns, ask them thoughtful questions about what their challenges are, and then point them to help for resources, consult them, give them amazing advice and just make sure that they know that regardless of whether our financial arrangement is there or not, I’m their sounding board.
They come to me when they have any questions about iOS 14 or how to optimize, or what to look for in a new marketing hire. Whatever they need, I’m here for them, and I do more for them than anybody else well, and that builds trust. Another key item is if you’re not building your agency based on referrals, then your clients aren’t happy enough. That’s the first problem you should fix. That’s a client delivery service problem that bleeds into sales. One of my clients, who we 10X’d their business over the past year, just introduced me to two more amazing companies. And because I have the two and a half year relationship with that client, and I’ve shown tremendous growth in a business that was previously embryonic.
Then, it’ll be about a 90% to 95% close rate, if they meet our qualifications. There’s a few ways that I would approach sales, is number one, tap into your existing warm network and provide more value to them than anybody else is. Become their trusted advisor. Create content specifically for them. We created a strategy deck for how to navigate iOS 14, and I sent it to everybody I know. Secondly, delight your clients and get referrals. If you’re not getting referrals, then your clients aren’t happy enough. Then the third thing is you can get a really, really, really cheap LinkedIn prospectors to do your prospecting for you.
This isn’t something I’ve had the opportunity to do because we get too much inbound lead gen for it to make sense to hire outbound prospectors, but you can hire an agency for $1,500 bucks. They’ll promise you 20 or 30 qualified sales meetings a month. If you’re not closing at least a couple deals out of that, then you need to rethink your sales process. Then also, there are LinkedIn messaging bots that you can use, but it should not be hard to get sales in our industry, because everybody needs help with this. Even companies with great marketing departments aren’t perfect at everything. So, you might be able to find an opening in conversion rate optimization or email marketing, or get your foot in the door by just running their Facebook campaigns or whatever, but there’s something that everybody needs help with.
Rob: So, when you said that if we’re not growing our businesses through referrals, that means that our customer experience isn’t where it should be, my ears pricked up and I’d love to go maybe just a little bit deeper on that. So, you suggested some of the things that you do in this process, like the report that you created, that you sent out to everybody, but what other things do you do at Magic to make sure that that customer experience is, I guess for lack of a better word, magic?
Marcus: Yeah. First off, it all starts at the team level. I make sure that my team, each and every one of them is personally, personally excited and connected to the vision of my client. That’s first. We genuinely pour our hearts and our souls into our clients, and we care so much, and they feel that. That’s first. So, there’s the energetic side. Then there’s the practical side. We do great work. We get really clear about what their goals are and we hit them. That is the name of the game, if you are an agency. You have to define what success looks like, and ensure that their expectations are realistic. If they are, meet them and exceed them.
So, those are the first two things. If you can do those two, you’re well on your way. Clients will be thrilled. I think the third thing that’s unique that we do is I will put our money on the line for our clients. If something isn’t working as well as it needs to, I will pay for a test for something else. An example of this is with iOS 14… and Facebook really has information being less of a source of truth metric than it previously was… I thought it was time to diversify ad spend for one of my clients, but they were hesitant about trying out new channels because they were unsure whether it would work.
I said, “Well, I’ll pay for it. All you do is you fund the ad spend, I’ll pay my team to set up a Pinterest acquisition campaign, and a Snapchat acquisition campaign. If it works, great. This is what the price will be for you to extend past the first month. If it doesn’t, we’ll turn it off, but it’s no risk on you other than the ad spend, which you already have allocated in your marketing budget.” Right? Another example is we… a client wanted to test video ads, but video ads are scary because it’s this huge, expensive black hole expense. You could spend $25,000 on a video shoot and getting nothing out of it. So, it’s this big ledge, so I said, okay, we will create your video ads for you, free of charge. I’ll pay the video team. We’ll do all the storyboarding, we’ll do the conceptualization and we’ll manage the ads. We’ll deploy them.
If it works, then we’ll sign a three month contract to do more video work. Clients really appreciate that because it shows them that you’re on their team. You’re willing to do free work. You believe in your team enough that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is and send them out to do work that’s way out of scope, and the result is oftentimes it does work, and you just maximize your customer value by being generous. So, it’s just a win-win all around. I think those three things are pretty critical to ensuring that the relationship really does feel like a partnership, because nobody needs an agency. They need a partner who they can trust. So, be the partner, not the agency.
Kira: We talked about team culture, and we talked around that and how important it is to your agency, and how you get your team excited about the clients. What else are you doing to focus on the team energy levels, team culture, team building, so that your team members feel excited about their work and energized, and like they’re part of a bigger vision? Do you have specific examples of what you do on a regular basis?
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. We remind them what we’re doing. It’s so easy to get lost in the daily mundane task completion world, like checking off things in a sauna and just going through the motions. It’s so easy. So, we have to zoom people out and remind them what we’re working towards. Like, what is the company’s five-year vision? What is the 10 year vision? How do they plug into that? And we’re not just creating a vision on high and passing it down to our team. We co-create it. If they don’t feel any ownership over the vision, then they won’t feel compelled to follow it. So, that’s key. Another thing, too, is we’re pretty unconventional in our culture.
We are extremely encouraging about psychedelics. We want people to take time off for wellness. We’re working towards a four day work week, which is very unconventional in the agency world. The best thing that we can do to ensure that our culture is strong, is to spend time with one another. We have a monthly… not a monthly, sorry… a yearly retreat, which is so much fun. Everybody wears crazy costumes and we party, and we dance, and we have fun, and we celebrate all the hard work that we’ve put in over the past year. It just makes everything worth it when you see the amazing team that you built just having a blast together.
Rob: Yeah. That does sound amazing. I can imagine a lot of people listening are thinking, okay, what does it take to get a job at Magic? So, if I were a copywriter or I’m a strategist, or maybe I can do ad campaigns or whatever… When you look for an employee, what do you look for? What’s the thing that makes somebody stand out, so you say, “Absolutely, that’s the person that we want on our team.”
Marcus: Great question. So, we call them anchors. There are three anchors. These are the three most important characteristics that somebody must embody in order to be a strong culture fit and also a strong technical fit. It’s a challenge to tell you exactly what they are because they differ for every position. So, account managers, for example, need to be extremely proficient at relationship management. They need to be able to have difficult conversations. They need to be real. They need to be truthful. They need to be strategic and analytic.
Those are some of the qualities of an account manager, but I’d say as a culture overall, we look for people who believe in the power of transformation, who are on a quest to better themselves personally, and professionally, and who feel tied to our mission at a visceral level. Like, they really believe in what we’re doing. If somebody is excited about what we’re doing, that’s the starting point of the conversation. Then we start talking about the nuts and bolts, like what kinds of campaigns have you managed and what’s your experience level, and all that, but the foundation is excitement.
Kira: What does your schedule look like? I don’t even just mean like work schedule, because I mean, you’re running this big agency, and I imagine that also can be stressful. You also seem to have… like, you’ve got it together. So, what does a day look like as far as even how you integrate your own wellness and your own transformation practices into your life, so that the work doesn’t take over, and so that you’re growing, too?
Marcus: Yeah. This is such a great question. I’ll just be totally honest. I’ve been doing a really bad job at taking care of myself lately. I mentioned it’s been a bit of a dark period, the past two or three months, because I purposely overloaded the team and severely underestimated how much I did so. So, everything that happened is definitely my fault. However, the only way that I know to really, really keep yourself healthy and happy, and going, is to stop. It’s to stop. Work ourselves so hard and we care so much, that unless you really take quality, extended time completely offline to reset, then you’ll just consistently be building up. You can do the daily things, like you can have a great diet, you can meditate, you can do yoga, exercise, pray… whatever your wellness routine is, but I truly believe that there’s nothing as good as just taking time off.
I had an employee who was really struggling, and then she took three weeks off and went to Brazil. She came back like she was a new person. I’ve been struggling for the past three months. I’m about to take two weeks off and go to Costa Rica, sit with Iowasca, and I’ll come back for… I’ll transform myself from being totally tired. Like, I’m crawling on the battlefield. I’m laying there wounded. I’ve been working so hard for so long, and when I come back, I’m going to be this on fire, inspirational leader, ready to take us to the next phase of the business. Unless I take that two weeks, I’m not going to be an inspiring leader. I’m going to be a stressed out one. I think the best way to take care of yourself is to know when to stop.
Rob: Yeah. That maybe leads into one of my final questions, and that is just, how has your mindset changed over the years? As you started out as this person who was helping Deepak with marketing, and then you went through a copywriting phase, and growing into an agency, how has your approach to mindset and the things that you do get rid of the head trash, whatever changed over the years?
Marcus: There’s a reason they call entrepreneurship a journey. It’s been such a journey. When I first started, the things that would bend me out of shape, now, looking back on it three or four years later, were so minor. Where 20 of those things could happen in my day and I would be totally unshaken. And also now, I’m dealing with things that seem huge, like monstrous problems that really should be putting me out of my day. I think there’s a framework that Tony Robbins teaches, to mention him again. It’s like problem levels.
Once you advance to deeper and deeper levels within yourself, as a leader, as a business person, as a mother, as whatever, then you can begin to handle more and more. Some people can handle problem level three, some can handle problems that are as severe as six, and others are handling level 10 problems all the time, every day. So, I’ve just noticed my ability to remain in equanimity in the face of adversity so much more powerfully than I was able to three or four years ago. I think that’s the biggest change in my mindset is I’m more unstoppable. I’m more unshakable. Things still rock me, but they’re never little things.
Kira: I would love to hear… because you mentioned Iowasca. For people like me who are curious, but have not tried it yet, but again, are very curious, what would be… similar to the agency… what is your advice? What should you think about, consider, questions you should answer before delving into Iowasca?
Marcus: That’s a great question. This will be my first experience sitting with Iowasca, sitting with grandmother is a synonym for it. I don’t know what to expect, but I know that I’m ready, because if you’re spiritual, then you’ll know what I’m saying. It called me. I was to a place where I was just super burnt out and I wasn’t feeling strong anymore. I was at a breaking point and I said, okay, it’s beyond time for me to go away. I need to go away. I called my friend. I’m an advisor to his company. He has a retreat center in Costa Rica, and he administers medicine journeys and medicine ceremonies. I’ve worked with him before. I previously went to Guatemala, over, and sat in this amazing yoga Shala overlooking Lake Atitlan. I smoked a toad. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. The active ingredient is 5-MeO-DMT, which was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had.
It changed my entire outlook on my life. I just know that that’s what I need right now. It’s what my soul needs, is to experience the mystical, be guided. It’s not necessarily going to be fun. There’s a potential that I could ingest this medicine and have a blissful experience, but I think there’s a much greater potential that I’ll be faced with myself, faced with my shadow, and it’ll be uncomfortable, but it’ll be an experience that will help me to heal and move forward, and be a better person, be a better boyfriend, a boss, everything that I’m doing in my life. It’s not recreational. You may hear people talking about, “Oh yeah, I ate some mushrooms. I went to a concert.” That’s not Iowasca, and also, that’s not how I recommend using mushrooms, but…
Kira: Yeah. Well, I hope we can hear and connect afterwards so we can hear about the experience. So, my final question for you is just… we’ve talked about your vision and getting the team on board with the vision, the 20 year vision, 30 year vision. Can you just share maybe a glimpse into what that is for you with Magic, and what you’re building, the bigger vision for what you’re doing in the world and what you think is possible that maybe you haven’t been able to accomplish quite yet, but it’s coming?
Marcus: What am I looking to accomplish? Well, they’re calling this the decisive decade… maybe why, with climate change… and we have so many social problems in our country and in our world. I mean, take your pick at these enormous global challenges. We just want to make a dent in solving some of them. ~So, the way that I see Magic evolving is that we will be the creative studio and the creative brain power, and the strategy of corporations and nonprofits, and political organizations and social impact movements that are looking to make an enormous difference in the masses.
I imagine that we’ll have an office in New York, we’ll have an office in L.A., we’ll have film studios and an amazing global team that’s working on tackling major, major issues. That’s where I see us going. I’ve been telling my team the storyline of, yeah, we’re practicing right now. Everything that you’re experiencing right now is a trial, so that we’re ready for our moment. I truly believe that and they can feel that I believe that. That’s what we’re moving towards. It’s like right now, yeah, you may be managing Facebook ads for a coffee brand, and yes, they have a beautiful mission, but we also have the opportunity to do things like prevent child trafficking and heal racial justice, heal the racial challenges that we’re having. I like to think that we played a part in electing a new president.
Yeah, there’s so many things that need our love and need our support. That’s one of the reasons that I’m troubled with marketers today who are overly focused on things like e-commerce conversions, because I feel like they’re missing the point. It’s like, don’t you realize that you have access to billions of people’s attention? Don’t you realize that this is the most efficient communication platform that has ever existed and that you have ability to impact real people on the other side of those devices? This is an enormous responsibility and it’s incredibly powerful. I just want to invite more marketers to understand that at a deep, deep level, and to act accordingly.
Rob: That’s a pretty good call to action to everyone who’s listening. No matter what causes you believe in, we can definitely use our powers as marketers, as copywriters, as persuaders, for good. There’s a lot more we can all be doing. Thanks, Marcus, for joining us on the podcast to share your story and so much good advice. We love the look inside Magic and what you’re doing, and just grateful for what you’ve shared. If somebody wants to connect with you or find out more about Magic, where should they go?
Marcus: Go to www.magic.agency. Drop us a note in our contact form. Apply to one of our open positions. We are hiring copywriters. So, please.
Kira: Look at that.
Marcus: Yeah, I would love to work with you. We’re hiring a number of other positions, too, so I would love to hear from you.
Rob: I think Kira just quit The Copywriter Club so she can come work for you.
Kira: I’m done. I’m done. I know my vision now.
Kira: It’s very tempting, and you would get to work with the one and only Jonnie, who has been on the podcast and we love her very much, and is so talented.
Marcus: She’s one of the most talented writers I’ve worked with.
Kira: Yes. Same.
Rob: Yeah, she’s great.
Kira: She’s amazing. So, yes, I’m sure you will have lots of interest after this podcast. Thank you very much, Marcus.
Marcus: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
Rob: So, that’s the end of our interview with Marcus McNeill. Before we wrap, I think there are a couple of other things that we’d like to touch on and maybe emphasize, and I think starting with the idea that as you’re building something bigger than you, like an agency, like what Marcus has done, your role really changes from the work that you do, say as a sole proprietor. Whether that’s copywriting or strategic work, or maybe design or something else, to this owner, CEO role, where now you’re responsible for all of the things that Marcus mentioned, making sure that your people are happy, making sure that your clients are happy…
I think it just really makes me think, as I consider what kind of business do I want? Should we build an agency? Should we not? Really understanding how that role changes, I think, can help answer those questions around is this something that we want to do moving forward? I’m talking about you and me, because we’ve also talked about building an agency, but also for anybody who’s listening and thinking, “What do I really want my business to be?” Thinking through not just the things that you’re doing, but how your role changes as your business grows.
Kira: Yeah, that’s true, and I know we talked to Jamie Jensen about it in an episode a while back about the agency she had, and how her role had changed so dramatically. She wasn’t writing as frequently at the agency that she had built because she needed to focus on other areas. I remember she mentioned that she had missed writing. She wanted to get back to that, and that was part of the reason she shut down her agency and changed her business model. But I think about that often, even with what all of us are building, whether it’s through The Copywriter Club or through whatever you’re building on your own, just what you need to do and how you need to show up does change over time.
I think Marcus is right. We need to be very… have that self-awareness to know what we ultimately want to do, knowing that it can also change over time. I think for me, as much as I love the writing aspect, I’m also very motivated by the other roles and the other hats I get to wear through The Copywriter Club, and then potentially through an agency, too, where it’s a lot more about building a team and focusing on different roles, not just the copywriter role. I also see where, for some writers, they love the copy side and don’t want to let go of that, and so it’s really important to know that before you start to change your business or grow the business.
Rob: Yeah. Did your eyebrows go up when Marcus mentioned the amount of money it takes to run a business of that size at all? Is that surprising at all?
Kira: Yeah, so I did… yeah. I just noted that he’s… I think he mentioned he’s paying about 200K a month to… they need to make 200K a month to cover all their expenses and to pay everyone, which is just… I’m sure to him, that’s just such a normal amount, but I know, compared to our expenses, it’s dramatically higher, and compared to most copywriters’ expenses, it’s dramatically higher. So, yeah, it’s a little intimidating, but it also shows how quickly you can mentally adjust from where you are as a solo freelancer to running this agency, and how the numbers change, but it’s also not that different, right? It’s just being able to manage those expenses and understand the cash flow. What about you? Were you surprised or was that the amount you expected?
Rob: It doesn’t surprise me, that amount, but it is one of those mind shifts that has to happen. It’s like, okay, if I am building an agency, or if I’m doing something different in my business, how much the income side needs to scale up in order to support the expenses that you have. When you have 35 employees, that’s a significant expense. So, now instead of shooting for, say, 10 grand a month or 20 grand a month, or some of those things that it’s very easy for a single proprietor to hit and to live on, now you’re talking 10X or 20X, that same amount, in order to get by with the business. It really goes, again, to that whole idea that running an agency of that scale is a significantly different kind of business, and it’s a different role. Being responsible for 35 people’s mortgages and car payments is a big responsibility. It’s the kind of thing that you’ve got to be serious about when you take it on.
Kira: Yeah, and I can feel like how that is a totally different level than where we’re at today, but I also… because I’ve experienced those mindset shifts already from back in the day when I was like, I don’t want a team. I’m lean. I don’t want to manage people, to where we are today, where I love having a team. I love growing and working with multiple people, and scaling in that way. I can see how we can get there if you want to get there, and also, the cool thing about being a copywriter, is that you get to decide and shape the business you want to build. It doesn’t have to be the 200K worth of expenses every month.
It doesn’t have to be magic at all, and you can still be really successful and profitable, and have this great thriving business as a copywriter. So, I love that Marcus was here just to show us what else is possible, and I love that he was so realistic and honest about the hard parts of it, too, that it’s not easy. I just really appreciated his ability to be vulnerable and talk about how demanding it can be, too.
Rob: One of the reasons that Marcus is so successful, I think, along with another of those nuggets that just really jumped out at me, and it’s when he said, “Hey, in order to succeed, you really have to provide more value than everyone else.” I think he was quoting Tony Robbins when he said that, but he’s obviously doing that as he builds his business. He was talking about the report that he created, and he even mentioned that if you’re not doing that thing, that makes your clients love you so much, that they’re willing to bring their friends and their acquaintances into your business, and give you referrals, then you’re actually not making your clients happy enough. I know that’s another thing that probably stood out to you, too.
Kira: It did, because it’s just such a good reminder of the importance of those referrals and yeah, if you’re not landing them, then maybe there’s something that you should reevaluate, something you could be doing more of. I also think, though, it is slightly different for an agency, and you can argue it either way, but you’re more likely to have those happy clients who are happy to send you five more clients, because they know that you’re an agency and you can handle five more clients. I do think it’s a little bit different when you’re a solopreneur, freelance copywriter.
Oftentimes, if your client really does love you… sometimes they are a little bit nervous about sending five more clients your way, because they know that you’re doing everything on your own and they don’t want to lose you, and they don’t want to bombard you and change that relationship, potentially. If you’re listening and you’re like, “Well, I’m not getting all these referrals, but my clients seem pretty happy,” there are other signs. It could just be that it’s a difference between a freelancer versus an agency, as far as those clients feel comfortable sending your way, too.
Rob: Yeah, I can see that. There’s probably a happy medium there where you want clients referring you, but if you’re going to just be a single proprietary, there’s only so many clients that you can take at a time, and I can see that a lot of clients might hesitate to make those kinds of recommendations.
Kira: They can feel that. Sometimes they can feel that and they know that, but there are other indicators, too, that your clients are happy, right? Are you getting those testimonials? Are they coming back for multiple projects? But I think it’s a really great reframe for me, just thinking about it the way that he shared it.
Rob: Yeah. I think a really big part of what Marcus is talking about is really just acting as if you are part of the client’s team, right? I don’t think he sees himself as a vendor, although he very much is a vendor for his clients, but he sees himself as a really important part of their team, bringing them ideas, bringing them things that they can try, even sometimes paying for those kinds of experiments because he believes in them so much, and that really only happens when you really believe in what your client is doing. Clearly, Marcus has built a niche where he’s able to do that, and I think that’s impressive.
Kira: And something we can all do, from that example he shared, is just be that go-to resource for a bunch of potential clients, even if they’re not ready to work with you. He was really clear that he has criteria and he only wants to get in front of the right clients. I liked that he mentioned this criteria, because it’s really… he’s talking about… he understands his niche and his audience better than anybody, but we all have criteria for multiple areas of our lives, for our relationships, for the people we spend time with personally. We should have criteria about the people we go into business with, and he knows that criteria and it’s very clear. So, he doesn’t mind investing in those relationships and being a go-to resource, and probably sharing emails and phone conversations with those people, knowing that they are the right person and they may know other right people. But if you don’t have that clarity and you don’t know the criteria, and you’re not sure about who you’re serving, that’s where it’s really hard to over-deliver and to be that go-to resource.
Rob: Yeah. I think coming back to that same idea, that’s the power of knowing your niche and attracting the clients that you can serve the best.
Kira: Yes. And again, just going back to what I was initially saying, we can all be that resource for the clients in our space. Even if you don’t want to work with 10 different clients a month, and you’re not building an agency and you can only take on two clients a month, if you’re still that go-to resource for multiple people in your niche, then you have that option of taking those projects on, and you’re the person that they come to first. You’ll always have work ahead of you, which is just good to have that wait list, too.
Rob: Well said. Yeah. Anything else that stood out to you there?
Kira: I mean, we talked a lot about team with Marcus, so I don’t think we have to add a lot to what he shared about that, but I can see when you’re at that level, how the emphasis does change from what can I do, to how can I empower the team and how do I keep the team balanced, and make sure they’re getting rest? So, I like that he covered that in detail and that he emphasized that the team is willing to work really hard, but as a leader, you have to help manage their energy and not just burn them out, because that will hurt the team, too. I liked the way he looked at it, just as far as like building the team, making sure you’re set up to do the work before you land all the work, because I always thought it was reversed. I thought you could just close all the projects, and then you just figure it out and you just hire a bunch of people, but clearly, that’s not how it works when you’re running a bigger agency.
Rob: Yeah, culture matters, and I think Mark has done a really good job of creating a culture in his agency where you need to work hard and you probably have to give your all, but the team matters, too. Being able to take time away and the rest of the things that build the culture, that keep the team together, they keep everybody working as hard as possible for the ultimate goal, he’s done a great job at that.
Kira: Okay. So, thanks to Marcus for joining us to talk about his agency, Magic. If you want to connect with Marcus, you should definitely check out the Magic website at magic.agency. Like Marcus said, they do have a few openings for copywriters and other marketers, and that could be a good fit for you.
Rob: That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. Our intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by a copywriter and songwriter, David Mutner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit Apple Podcasts and leave a review of the show, and don’t miss your last chance to get your ticket to TCC Not in Real Life. That’s our… sometimes live, but not this year… copywriter event, by visiting thecopywriterclub.com/tccirl-1. If you don’t remember that link, you can find a link to that in the show notes for this episode.
Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.