This episode sees Pia Silva outline the fundamentals of how best to build an agency that brings you financial freedom via her highly profitable and succinct No BS Agency Model!
About Pia Silva
Pia Silva is a partner and brand strategist at Worstofall Design where they build entire brands via 1-3 day intensives. She’s also the founder of No BS Agency Mastery where she helps small branding agencies increase profits and freedom without hiring employees. She’s a TEDx speaker, a Forbes contributor, the podcast host of NO BS AGENCY PODCAST, plus the author of Badass Your Brand.
Points of Interest…
- How Pia Devised the No BS Agency Model 2:13
- No BS Agency Model Fundamentals 5:21
- Client Concerns Around No BS Agency Model 10:16
- No BS Agency Model Pricing 12:53
- De-risking The No BS Agency Model 14:57
How Pia Devised the No BS Agency Model
By way of some context; Pia and her team at Worstofall Design work with one-to-three person service businesses, essentially building entire brands in one-to-three-day intensives.
Such is the profitability of operating agencies of this size in this way, I’m keen to dig into Pia’s No BS model. Firstly, however, I’d like to find out how she got into this space in the first place. How did she land on such an intensive concept of brand building in what could be deemed an outlandish way?
“It was an organic process… Myself and my husband were freelance graphic designers back in 2011. When we were seeking clients, we did all the things agencies usually do. So, we tried to get bigger clients, hired employees, got an office. Then, we tried getting bigger projects to pay for all this overhead!”
Sound familiar? Assuming it does, the next portion of Pia’s story will also invariably ring true; all of said overhead landed her and her husband Steve in debt approximately three years into the business. Maxed out on credit cards and zero cash in the bank, Pia knew they had to make a pivot in order to make ends meet – which involved letting their staff go.
The only reason they hired the employees was to facilitate landing bigger clients and therefore gain more flexibility and freedom in their working lives. Then, they realized they could have that without going the big agency route. How? By meeting the needs of the small budger clients who actually wanted to work with them, as opposed to squandering resources chasing larger clients. This lightbulb moment came via Pia’s business mentor, who asked a simple question…
“‘What could you sell them for $3,000?’ I said ‘I could sell them a day of my time.’ Steve and I can do a lot of stuff in a day if they would take it. So, it became this little offering on the side – which I wouldn’t inform clients of unless they were a perfect fit.”
No BS Agency Model Fundamentals
There are A LOT of benefits to offering your time/expertise in this manner, namely…
- You can make a lot of money in a short time span
- Clients learn a lot via these intensives
- Once the intensive is done, you are done!
In other words, you don’t have all the back-and-forth BS that tends to come with long-term projects. In fact, one of the fundamentals of operating in this way includes writing zero proposals. How? Well, Pia works within a packaged productized model comprising of three different options – small, medium, and large.
“The reason we don’t do proposals is because we only have these three offerings. What we do instead is sell something that I call a Lead Product. Our lead product is a brand shrink. “
Instead of bogging the prospective CLIENTS down in the details of discovery and strategy, you’re providing them with this lead product solving a problem the client knows they have. In turn, this builds trust, builds authority, while optimizing the client experience. The alternative is trying to educate your prospective client about branding – which is not a good use of anyone’s time…
In Pia’s experience, when this lead product is sold well, a client’s price sensitivity usually goes out the window. Why? Because you’re offering them a game-changer by way of one-to-three day INTENSIVES.
“You’ve shown them the solution and that you’re the only person to do it. Pitch the project at your price based on the deliverables and they’ll be more inclined to say ‘Yes’. Then, you have this productized service. This leads to a really tight process that you do every single time because you’re working with the same type of clients on similar projects.”
Therefore, you can really hone in on it and make it crisp and efficient. That’s when the profit starts materializing (because you’re spending less time and charging more money). With more profit coming in, you can start reinvesting this extra money into building your AUTHORITY in your chosen space. Doing that obliterates your price ceiling.
So, to clarify, the three fundamentals of the No BS Agency Model could be summarized thusly: Clients, Intensives, and Authority.
Client Concerns Around No BS Agency Model
I’m sure Pia gets lots of pushback when initially proposing this idea to agency owners/creatives that haven’t encountered or considered this concept before. Therefore, I’m keen to hear what some of those initial fears may look like when clients met with this radically different way of looking at their business…
“There’s the classic fear that people have with niching, or focusing in general, which is – ‘I’m going to get bored’ or ‘I’m going to leave money on the table.’ Also, people just don’t get how how we could possibly do this in such a short period of time.”
Indeed, the presumption may be that the service you’re offering is somehow cheap or templated – which is, in fact, the complete opposite of what Pia provides. The work isn’t itself isn’t being repeated for each client; rather the necessary processes and frameworks.
Side note: our Agency Profit Toolkit is a one stop shop for you to be able to outline some of these crucial profitability numbers to a potential buyer. Spreadsheets, templates and training videos, you name it, it’s all in the toolkit. Grab yours free at the link below:
No BS Agency Model Pricing
Digging into some of the nuances of this agency model, we bring our focus to pricing. What is the price anchored to? And how does the pricing conversation happen with the clients?
“I believe pricing should be based on what you need the price to be in order to live the life you want. The way I help people price their services is through something I created called the Freedom Calculator.”
How does this work? Well, Pia starts by asking the following questions in order to gauge Your Baseline:
- What does it cost to run my business?
- How much does it cost to live my life?
- Where does my revenue need to be?
Having calculated your taxes on top of your baseline, you then start adding things in, such as:
- What would I like to have in my life?
- How much do I want to spend on the business?
- Are there future investments I want to make?
These answers will result in another number, which Pia refer to as “Your Better Goal.” From there, you can project more and essentially add items to your basket for future fruition/use.
“We use this tool to then backwards into our price points. So, let’s say you decide you need two weeks off; you need to make all of your revenue from working with clients less than 50% of your time. I call it the 50, 25, 25 Rule to Profit and Freedom.“
In other words, if you are a small service business, 50% of your time or less should be with clients generating income, so that you have another 50% of your time to split between working on your business, marketing, sales, etc. That should leave you with the remaining 25% to live life like the freedom flexible entrepreneur that you always wanted to be! If you don’t schedule that in – pricing your services in order to support that life – then you will never have that life.
De-risking The No BS Agency Model
So, Pia has established that pricing, in terms of, from the creatives/agency owner’s perspective is being reverse engineered from a lifestyle POV. Then, from the client’s perspective, the pricing is tied to outcome; their personalized brand being delivered to them in a short timeframe.
Therefore, at this juncture, you would expect someone to say “Well, what if I can’t create the brand in one-to-three days, or the client wants a million revisions?” What part of the execution allows you to de-risk the No BS Agency Model and not let it devolve into the endless revision cycle complete with the dreaded Scope Creep, etc?
As with everything, Pia’s process has evolved significantly over the last seven years. When they started, it really was akin to a VIP day as they looked for ways to increase value…
“Then we increased the scope of the project and the deliverables. That’s how we ended up with our 2 Day intensives. Subsequently, we started doing some pre-work, or we’d get the basic concept and start with the presentation of that. Today, we build the entire brand and the website to completion before they come in. So they have paid in full and we have finished the project.”
In short, Pia et al take the client through the process over that one or two days where they onboard the client to their new brand. They take the client through ‘Magic Hour’, which is a very deliberate presentation process that effectively brings them to the water to drink… By the time they see the brand, it’s essentially the only brand that it could be.
Should little tweaks be required, they are part of the onsite approval process. This results in the client’s new site and brand going live the following day, which is so exciting and energizing for the client.
You can make a lot of money, and find freedom doing what you love, WITHOUT having to hire employees and grow a big agency. If any of you reading have seen my Pricing Quadrant episode, you’ll be aware that you can mature service offerings – which is akin to what is happening here.
Have a value conversation on the price. Bring the client’s focus not on the time spent on the service, rather the beneficial outcomes and deliverables ***I expand on this from 18:14*** In short, the evolution of this process goes from a model that requires you to share more risks with the client to eventually starting to arbitrage more value as you tie the scope to more nebulous things like outcomes.
Additionally, try position your business and your offer in a way that is Noticeable, Memorable, and Shareable. It cuts through the BS and gets people to pay attention. It sticks in their minds and it makes you and your service easy to refer to!
See more from Pia…
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.
Our next installment of #APP, on May 18th, will see Marcel chat with Shaun Clark. Our previous blog – Episode 85 with Tim Kilroy – can be viewed here…
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Agency Profitability Tool Kit
If you’re looking for more resources to help you improve your agency’s profitability, check out the Agency Profitability Tool Kit. It’s full of templates and checklists used when consulting clients. This helps them improve profitability by over 100% in under 60 days.