6 Steps to a 6-Figure Agency
What is it about a 6-figure income?
Other than the fact that it’s a necessary stepping stone on the way to a 7-figure business?
You may have seen a headline on my site that says that I teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to build 7-figure digital marketing agencies that they can run from their laptop.
Here is a quick glossary of sorts for those out of the loop..
- 6-Figure Agency: An agency that produces $100,000 or more per year in sales.
- 7-figure Agency: An agency that produces $1 million or more per year in sales.
That’s what my website says—and it’s true. Nearly a dozen of my students have gone on to build 7-figure agencies, just like my own agency. Not to mention the others who hit the 6-figure level.
These are recent college grads facing unrewarding entry-level work. They are mothers and fathers who have just been laid off and have kids to feed. They are cubicle jockeys beaten down by corporate culture and desperate to escape the rat race.
Building a 7-figure agency literally changes their life, replacing scarcity with abundance, replaces constant anxiety with the first easy breath of fresh air many of them have breathed in decades.
But when I get to talk to prospective students one-on-one, and they hear me talk about building a 7-figure agency, nearly all of them say the same thing:
“Wow… I would be happy with just 6 figures!”
What is it about 6 figures?
Let me back up. My name is Dylan Ogline. I’m 31 years old as of this writing. My company, Ogline Digital, does over $1 million in sales every year. I have fewer than ten clients, and all of them happily pay me big monthly fees. My expenses are tiny by comparison.
I have a team of around five remote employees that I rarely hear from—they know their jobs and they do them without hand-holding.The bigger my accounts get, the less work I have to put in to maintain each of them. This frees up my time to travel the world for months on end, hit the gym or trails, play hockey, or kick back in my home base of Orlando with my girlfriend and two dogs.
How did I make all of this happen?
I was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania. My earliest memories are of freezing my nuts off in the winter, packed into sweaters and under blankets because the house I lived in was old and heating bills were insane.
I think that’s where my will to financial freedom was born. I didn’t dream of Lamborghinis or private jets—all I cared about was fucking heat! I wanted to feel empowered to turn on the furnace whenever I damn well pleased. Modest goals, but they were my own.
Fortunately, my older brother left a copy of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, PoorDad lying around, fueling the furnace of ambition in my freezing chest. With Kiyosaki and his “Rich Dad” as my spiritual mentor, I started my first business when I was fourteen. I reached out to a European supplier and arranged an importation deal on sophisticated European cell phones, which were rare in the pre-smartphone era.
The supplier had no idea he was doing business with a teenager. I then flipped the phones on eBay. It was all working perfectly until my credit card processor discovered my age and shut me down.
Having tasted the thrill of entrepreneurship, I dropped out of high school and began a long process of trial and error ... until I cracked the digital marketing code, and Ogline Digital was born.
My family thinks I’m crazy. They’re not wage slaves exhorting me to get a “real job,” mind you. I come from a family of business owners. But they’re older, a bit more conservative and products of an era where the way to run a business was to work 80 hours a week in hopes of making an extra $500 in revenue; to operate massive offices full of employees to micromanage so you can break their spirits; to work harder, rather than working smarter.
But they still think that my 7-figure agency is a fluke.
It’s not a fluke. It’s a sustainable, repeatable business model that is not even close to market saturation. My students replicate my success like clockwork.
In that spirit, I offer you six core principles to get you started on the road to quitting your day job and joining the digital nomad class—a life short on stress, long on freedom.
These steps are a crash course in how to work smarter, not harder. Each of these steps is powerful in its own right … but when you combine all six, their effects compound. The whole process gets easier. It’s like a big snowball rolling down a hill—it gets bigger and bigger, which causes it to roll faster, which causes it to get bigger …
That’s why my students aspire to 6-figures, but end up with seven. Once the snowball gets rolling down hill, crossing a million dollars in sales is just a matter of time. Cool, huh?
A quick note. I practice the 80/20 method in every aspect of my life. This book is short on purpose. Building an agency is not easy but it is simple, if you focus on the right things. In my training programs, this book and my business overall I try to ruthlessly cut all the unnecessary BS and focus on the truly important things.
So without further ado, here are my 6 Steps to a 6-Figure Agency.
1. Don’t Be Full Service
An older mentor of mine thinks what I do is pointless. “Marketing,” he used to inform me, “is just throwing money out the window.”
I hope nobody tells that to my clients, who pay Ogline Digital upwards of $20,000 per month … but our efforts net them 4-5x or more ROI, so they probably wouldn’t listen anyway.
If you wonder what exactly Ogline Digital does to 7-figures off less than ten clients, let me kill the suspense. It’s this - we run direct response digital advertising campaigns for our clients.
You know the sponsored content on your Facebook feed? Or the sponsored results at the top of Google search engine result pages? We do that.Most of our clients are blue collar businesses.
That’s the only service Ogline Digital offers.
Okay, that's a lie. We offer one more service, sometimes. We will redesign a client’s website if it sucks. The reason we do this is that our advertising campaigns will fail if interested potential customers click on an ad and it leads them to a shitty website. To make sure our campaigns succeed, we will design custom landing pages that convert visitors into leads for all of our clients but in some cases we will also build them a new website. But we don't come out and sell this, it's an add on.
So that’s it. One, maybe two services depending on how you look at it. And the second service only exists in support of the first one.
If you want to build a 6-figure digital marketing agency that pays lifestyle dividends, I strongly recommend that you do the same. I cannot stress this enough - offer only one service, two at the most!
The old guys in the industry think this is stupid because there’s much more to being a digital agency than advertising management and web design. There’s content marketing, viral marketing, video creation, SEO, email marketing influencer marketing … being a “digital agency” is a big umbrella. “Why,” they ask, “would you send your clients down the street if they need other digital services? Keep their money in-house!”
In my quest to build up Ogline Digital, I actually tried my hand at all of those other things. I needed money, so anything anyone asked me to do - web design, SEO, content marketing, whatever—I said “I’m your guy!” Need that powerpoint presentation made? Boom, done.
Here’s the hard lesson I learned - it’s really hard, nearly impossible in fact, to be the best at everything.
People want to work with the best. And when we talk about being the “best at digital marketing,” or “the best digital agency,” we have to address national marketing brands with fancy offices in major cities, dozens or even hundreds of employees with smiling bespectacled faces on their “About Us” page. They’ve been in business for a decade or more. They employ and richly compensate top talent in every vector.
What’s a poor solopreneur to do?
There’s a happy corollary to the hard lesson I mentioned above - impossible as it may be to become the best at everything, it is relatively easy to become the best at one thing.
I focused on direct response digital marketing because I discovered that this is what my clients needed the most help with. It was also the quickest way to deliver results, to show them that they were getting something for their money. With each client, I got a little better. Before I knew it, I was the best “digital ad guy” for my area. Now I have no doubt that Ogline Digital is the best in the world for our niche. Why? Sure we are good but also because I get very specific and only do one thing for a handful of niches.
NowI have my six or seven clients who pour money into their campaigns, confident that they will drive sales and improve their own bottomline … confident that we are the best to do what they need done.
All because I picked one thing that I knew worked, and I got really good at it. That was the foundation of everything.
Step 2. Niche Down
Doing one thing doesn't stop with just the service we offer.
Niching down is critical to the kind of business I run, and the kind of business I teach students to run. But “niching down” means different things to different people. What do I mean by niching down?
“We manage digital marketing for our clients.”
“We manage Google and Facebook ads for our clients.”
“We manage Google and Facebook ads for plumbing and heating companies.”
“We manage direct response Google and Facebook marketing campaigns for plumbing and heating companies in the Pacific Northwest.”
A plumbing and heading company in Seattle will love that pitch. There’s definitely some shit you can say to raise the buying temperature of a Seahawks fan that won’t work on a Patriots fan (NFL reference for those of you not in the know).
Look at that fourth description. It’s niched down on three difference axes:
- Service Provided in Two Areas (direct response Google and Facebook ads)
- Client Profile (plumbing heading)
- Geography (Pacific Northwest)
Remember what I said about how it’s hard to be the best at everything, but easy to become the best at one thing? Niching down by service, client, and geography enhances this effect. It’s easy as hell to become the best digital marketing companies for plumbing and heating companies in the Pacific Northwest.
Let’s say you design a crackerjack campaign for a plumbing and heading company in Seattle. You can go to Portland and sell the exact same campaign to a plumbing and heating company there, with only slight modifications. Then sell another one in Vancouver. There’s no conflict of interest - these guys are in three different cities and aren’t competing with each other for business. On to the smaller cities we go.
We’re starting to see that snowball pick up speed down the hill. Your success becomes repeatable. Your income multiplies without multiplying your effort expended. You begin to build a track record.You can devote revenue to your own online marketing and scale up your business.
PLEASE NOTE! Just because you can dream up a niche doesn’t mean it will work. “I manage Google and Facebook ads for plumbing and heating businesses” is just an example, so don't be stupid and try to copy that. Part of the secret sauce here is that you also know a little about the industry. I teach my students to test their niche before they devote a lot of time and effort to building an agency around it. You might spend weeks or months learning to do Google ads for plumbing and heating businesses, only to discover that those businesses actually need SEO. So don’t leap before you look - test your niche!
Regardless, niching down is about to become your new best friend, because we have arrived at Step 3 ...
Step 3. Use Value Based Pricing
So, clients … what do they pay?
That’s easy. They have a budget for their advertising campaigns. We charge them 10% of their budget to run and manage the campaign for them. If they set a budget of $10,000, we invoice $1,000 for our fee and set up the $10k campaign to charge to their credit card.
I offer you a thought experiment based on my pricing model ...
Let’s say a client decides to budget $10,000 on ads in a month. Our fee is $1,000.
Let’s now say that from those ads, the client makes $80,000 in extra sales.He has a profit margin of 70%, so net is $56,000 minus $10,000. He’s thrilled. Our $1,000 fee is a drop in the bucket. So what that his return is $45,000 instead of $46,000? That’s $45,000 he didn’t have last month.
Now the client has dollar signs in his eyes. This digital marketing thing is like casino Roulette with the odds reversed - the more money he puts in, the more money he gets out. The bigger he bets, the bigger he wins.
What if he upped his ad budget to $100,000 next month? Could he add $800,000 in sales to his cash flow statement?
The answer is, probably yes. If it’s a good ad campaign, it should be scalable.
My fee on that $100,000 ad budget is $10,000 - ten times what it was last month, because the budget is ten times the size.
How much extra work do I need to expend to justify this massive raise?
I add one zero to the campaign budget in Google Adwords.
That’s it. Takes me about two minutes to 10x my income. It doesn’t even add a dime to my expenses.
What if the client found out? Would he be furious?!
Only if he’s prone to anger when he finds himself $450,000 richer. As far as he’s concerned, paying me $9,000 extra to type my “0” key one time is the best investment he ever made.
This is your introduction to value-based pricing. Most of my students are used to hourly wages, or salaries based on an expectation of butt-in-seat-at-desk time. In other words, they’re used to trading time for money.
Value-based pricing is about trading value for money, not time.
There are other ways to do this. Let’s say your service is email marketing, the bread and butter of eCommerce stores. There’s no“monthly budget” for you to mark up. But let’s say that after 100 hours of tinkering, you came up with a killer sequence that sells products like hotcakes. You charge clients $1,000 per month to run that campaign.
Now you move on to your next client. You know your business. Instead of taking 100 hours to develop the email campaign, it now takes you one hour to develop the next campaign—100x less time. So what do you charge? 100x less money? $10 per month?
Nope. Charge that same $1,000. The value is the same, even if the time it takes you to produce that value has plummeted. I'm also just randomly coming up with this email marketing service to show you that it can be applied to completely different services.
This beguiling reality of the digital agency trade is actually really hard for many of my students to grasp. They are so used to trading time for money that they actually feel bad when they discover they can work exponentially less and earn exponentially more.
Many of them fall back into old habits and start charging by the hour …or charging what they are used to thinking of their time as worth. Maybe they don’t think they deserve the big payout for such little effort.
This is the leap of faith that takes you through the looking glass, from wage slave to entrepreneur - price your services based on the value you offer, not the time you expend. Remember, free time is exactly what we’re trying to claim back with your 6-figure agency!
Think of my happy client from the thought experiment, thrilled at his ROI.He doesn’t give two shits that I added 10x to his results in two minutes before hitting the trails in Tokyo. All he cares about is that his mortgage is paid off early, his kids’ college tuition funded, his business growing to the point where he can sell it for $5 million and retire. That’s value. Will that be Visa or MasterCard?
Step 4. Learn How to Sell
This step scares the hell out of a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to.
I’ve always been outgoing, so maybe I have a leg up here … but remember, I’m lazy. I want to work smarter, not harder. I don’t want to glad hand at Chamber of Commerce events … I want to explore the street food scene of Bangkok.
Why rely on my extroversion when I could slug the odds in my favor and make things easier on myself?
Here’s what I learned … it’s 1,000 times easier to get better leads than it is to get so good at sales that you can convince anyone to buy anything.
Read that line over and over and over again.
This is where your niche becomes your best friend. The best sales advice I ever got is this: You don’t have to convince your prospect you are the best … just the best for them.
Remember our plumbing and heating in Pacific Northwest example? He will walk right past the best full-service digital agency in the world to meet the girl who only runs direct response digital marketing campaigns for heating and plumbing companies in the Pacific Northwest. The niche does more than half the work for you.
The first sale will always be the hardest. The second, third, and fourth are easy. The second best sales advice I ever got its this: Don’t chase prospects. Get prospects to chase you. It’s like dating - play hard to get.
Ogline Digital is not taking new clients right now as of me writing this book. Sorry to disappoint. But if I wanted a new client, I would turn on my Google Ad campaign to place an extensively tested ad in front of a hyper-targeted audience of business-owners in my exact niche.They will find me if their Google searches indicate that they are trying to grow their business and get more sales.
When they click on my ad, they will arrive at a landing page where I tout my success and point out that I am the best service provider in their specific industry. This is an actual headline... “We Specifically Help HVAC Companies Just Like Yours Scale & Grow With Proven Direct Response Marketing Strategies Tailored to Get You the Kind of Projects You Want. Like Clockwork and With Predictability Down to the Dollar and Day.”
There’s a scheduler app where they can book a no-obligation “strategy call”with me. The appointments appear on my calendar without costing meany extra time or human resources. It’s as predictable as turning on and off a faucet. And think of it this way, they see that headline and a landing page tailored just for them? If I get them on the phone for that strategy call, they are as good as sold. They are already interested - and ready to buy my exact service. The strategy call becomes more about me interviewing them to be my client, not me begging for the sale.
This is a whole different approach to “learning how to sell” - it’s not about public speaking, a firm handshake, or a silver-tongued ability to charm and overcome objections. It’s about getting the right service in front of the right eyes in a way that makes the value obvious. It’s about getting them so excited about your service that by the time they get on the phone with you, they’re chasing you, not the other way around.
Step 5. Get Out of Your Own Way
Once the snowball is rolling down the hill, it acquires a momentum of its own. Now it’s time to get out of your own way.
What does this mean?
It means that you can’t do everything yourself. Eventually you become the bottleneck to your own success.
You can have a 6-figure agency where you do everything … but you’ll end up like my dad, working 80 hours a week until you've had a heart attack or two.
Building a successful digital agency is an accomplishment in and of itself.But the real cheddar comes when you learn to systematize, top are down your operation and turn it into a lean, mean money-making machine.
Getting out of your own way usually entails three steps:
- Eliminate. Identify tasks you perform just to “keep busy.” Doing them does not help your business in a material way. Cut them out.
- Automate. Discover processes that can be automated using apps and funnels- for example, appointment scheduling and email follow-up. Some people delegate these tasks to assistants, but automating with subscription productivity apps is actually cheaper and way easier.
- Delegate. Low-value tasks that can’t be automated can be delegated to an assistant - often a “virtual assistant” (more accurately be described as a “remote assistant,” since this is usually a real person who lives in a foreign country, where $500/month might be a generous wage).
Many people have trouble delegating, believing that only they can “do it right.” The reality of the entrepreneur life is that even if the talent in front of you can do the job only 80% as well as you, that’s still a great hire!
And here’s a dirty secret - you’re not the best at everything. Hate to be the one to tell you this. Your remote employees might actually be better at the tasks you assign to them than you are.There’s definitely a learning curve with managing remote employees, but it’s so worth it.
Remote employees are great because you don’t have to rent an office to keep them in line. Once you get your workflow established, you might barely notice them. I’m always available for questions, but all my remote team know that the ideal relationship with me is that I forget they exist. They have the freedom to do their jobs; I have the freedom that comes from trusting them.
As the snowball picks up speed, you will find yourself earning more and more money, but having less and less to do. This may feel weird. Don’t compensate by micromanaging your employees or inventing make-work tasks to keep yourself busy.
Don’t check your campaigns every five minutes. Don’t check your email 20times a fucking day. Don’t constantly check in with your remote employees. They have jobs to do. Let them do them!
Create a “job description” for yourself. Don’t include any of the tasks you have eliminated, automated, or delegated. If you are done with your workday according to your job description, you’re done.
Take a dance lesson; go to a yoga class; take a damn walk! This is the brass ring you have been reaching for. It’s okay if it feels weird… but at least take a moment to celebrate! You have accomplished what almost no one ever does … you have gotten out of your own way!
Step 6. Add Fuel to the Fire
A successful business is like a fire. You have to have the right tinder, light a spark, produce the right chemical reactions, and presto! You have heat … or in this case, money.
Now it’s time to add fuel to that fire. You don’t have to start from scratch and build a completely different fire. You don’t need matches or tinder, bellows or a magnifying glass, a flint spark or two sticks to rub together … all that crap you needed to get the fire going in the first place. The fire is burning. All you need is more logs to throw on it to make it bigger!
This process is called scaling up. You have a marketable service …so rinse and repeat. Now that you’re out of your own way, you can serve ten clients just as easily as you can serve two.
How do you get those clients? People do it in different ways.Word-of-mouth helps. So does your track record of success in a highly-specific niche.
For me, I prefer to take my own medicine. I use paid Google ads (Facebook doesn't always work as well for B2B).
It cracks me up whenever a digital agency owner wants to charge money to run Google ads for clients, but refuses to spend money on Google ads for himself! Do you believe in your product, or don’t you?
Paid ads allow you to put your value in front of your target market for an affordable price. If your target niche is restaurateurs, you can craft an audience of no one but restaurateurs. Then you can use the principles of a successful online customer journey to funnel prospects to a landing page and a link to a scheduler app to put them on your calendar for a strategy call. Remember, don’t chase them -get them to chase you.
This might take some trial and error, a lot of A/B testing, but none of this is so hard that you can’t do it … and once it’s done, it’s done. Still, you can always outsource it or hire a remote assistant to do it for you.
So what is it about 6 figures? Why is that the Holy Grail for people who want to start an online business?
On the balcony of my Airbnb condo in Bangkok, looking out over a city full of street food and mystery that I had a month to explore, with no boss to tell me what to do or when to do it, it hit me...6-figures, 7-figures, it wasn’t about the money. It's not about financial freedom, it's about time freedom.
Consider the following:
The median income in the US is around $63,000.
Two-thirds of all Americans earn less than $100,000.
Studies place the optimal American income for emotional well-being, $95,000 for life evaluation.
Let that sink in. At 6-figures, two-thirds of Americans can replace their work income and then some. Moreover, they surpass the optimal income for both emotional well-being and life evaluation.
RichDad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki measures wealth not in money, but in time. If you stopped working tomorrow, how much time could you live on your savings or residual income?
When my students tell me they would be thrilled with 6-figures, they are not talking about making money … they are talking about reclaiming time.
…time to spend with loved ones.
…time to not spend in traffic or on commuter trains and buses.
…time to get in shape and live longer.
…time to cultivate hobbies and learn new things.
…time to travel while they are still young.
…time to volunteer and make a difference.
6-figures might not make you filthy rich … but it buys a lot of time.