Episode 51 Rob Cairns and Jan Koch Discuss the WP Agency Sum...
Hey everybody, I'm Rob Cairns, CEO and Chief creator of amazing ideas stunning digital marketing.com. Today I'm interviewing my good friend Jan Koch. Jan n is from Germany and is creating are hosting the WP agency summit starting next week. So he and I thought we'd sit down and discuss some, discuss some agency pitfalls and running your agency, and more to try and help you the agency owner. It was a pleasure to finally sit down with Dan, we've talked a long, long time on social media, mostly on Facebook. And he's an all around good guy. Please note that around the 10 minute mark, we had a little bit of audio problems with this podcast, one recording the life of doing transatlantic communication, so it's not all perfect sometimes. So it's a little bit of editing in the middle. Please bear with us. And sit back and enjoy. Dan and I in this fascinating chat. morning, everybody. Robert Cairns. Here. I'm here with my good friend Jan Koch. Hope I get that right. And how are you today?
I'm doing really well. Thanks for having me. Yeah, my pleasure.
So one of the things that you're doing right now, and we'll get into later is you're working on this really cool WP agency summit that runs from December 6 to the 16th. It's online. We'll get to a link later. But basically, if you sign up now, it's still free as of 10 minutes ago, right?
So yeah, and it will be free.
Yep. Yeah. So we want to get people involved. But before we get there, um, tell me a little bit about yourself. What's your background? What are you doing in a WordPress community? Etc.
Absolutely. So I'm a 30 years old from Germany. I started working with WordPress in 2012, I think when I was straight out of studying business informatics, and back then I was working as a business consultant, I was employed, and started my business on the side working with WordPress, building sites, all that like these random stuff, building random websites for people I knew, that eventually turned into us full time self employment for the past six years. And what I do in that full time employment was I was building websites, I was helping agencies to work more efficiently. I've built a global client base in the meantime. So in my city, we have 50,000 residents here. Probably 10 of those know what WordPress is. Yeah. So it's really, nobody really understands the potential of doing global business here. So I'm fortunate enough to be in the position that I have somewhat made a name for myself and the WordPress community. Some people know me that are important. That's, that's good for me. Um, yeah, I've done that by running a virtual summit in 2015, which was free and really well perceived. And now I'm doing it again, to help WPA agency owners, scale their businesses and basically break out of these dreaded feast and famine cycles that we all know too. Well. Oh, do we?
Do we ever? I mean, mmm, we'll get to that, because that's something I really want to talk about today. It's funny when you mentioned a global business, because I'm in Toronto, as you as you may or may not know. And I and I, typically 10% of my revenue comes out to the city, I live in the rest of the scope. So yeah, I mean, I'm a lot in the same position. And before we got on this interview, we were talking about how we've all met friends, because zoom calls and we've all talked with across Twitter, and Facebook, and we and you and I talk pretty frequently and in a multitude of Facebook groups, your own and several others, and we become friends that way. And that's the power of being online and the power the internet for all the good things it does not just, you know, we're lucky. So let's get into the summit a little bit. Let's dive into it. Why Why does summit besides the feast or famine cycle, which we know is a big problem in the agency community.
I'm really just scratching my own itch with this summit. Because when I work in my own agency, I do have the same issues everybody else has, which is constantly generation delivering projects on time, avoiding that customers delays and new content or images or coffee or what what have you that you need to fulfill the project on time, managing your staff and things like that. So I thought I might be able to leverage the connections I made over the years to learn from people who've done what I want to do and who build successful businesses. And I do have some six figure and seven figure entrepreneurs on this summit, which I'm really proud of. And basically how it came to be was I was at work in Berlin this year, where can Europe Yeah, and I talked to a few people about that idea. And one of them was x shot, the founder of Blackboard and mark here, and actually the NIH are pretty close friends, even though we never met until this June. And we chatted quite a long time about being or running a summit. And he was so convincing that I just pulled the trigger. And I got a mentor who's a friend of mine here in Germany, who's running a virtual summit every week with this team. So he has done like 35 summits or something like that. And I've invested in a training course from another friend of mine, who's an avid mamasezz says, The training is virtual summit mastery. And he's like the go to guy to run virtual summits and to learn how to run them properly. Yeah. And I've just made that decision, because I think that the community can heavily benefit from knowing what those people speaking on the summit. No,
I would agree with him. One, one thing that comes to light when you talk about that is you're continuing learning, and continually trying to get better at what you do. And, and I'm very much the same. I think that's why I resonate, talking to you so much, whether it's here, whether it's on Facebook, like we often do is we're both have that thirst for learning. I've always been like that. And I just, I'm still learning. I mean, I'm 52 and I and I learn every day. And that's kind of the key is just to get better at what you do. So I think that's really important. What would the somebody new say, oh, you're learning a little bit about it? What platform Are you using to do some
thing? It's all WordPress based occupied for the cart. So payment processing is done in thrive cart. Yep. But the site is playing WordPress. It's built with the Astra theme and Elementor then barium for the membership area, and then Active Campaign for CRM and email and stuff.
And frankly, when it comes to page builders choose your poison, right? I mean, you can choose Elementor you can choose Beaver Builder, as you know, I like to go off to grid on all of that, because you know where I go, right. I'm a I'm an Aveda guy. I happen for a long time. I mean, yeah, I think they all do the same thing to be honest with you. So
yeah, I mean, it's as if judge, choose your poison, or just pick one and stick with it and really master it. And I mean, they all get evolved, and they all get better over time. And they do somewhat of the same things. Some has elements that others don't but other than that, if you know your way around a page builder doesn't really matter which one it is.
Oh, do I love that comment? Stick with it. And master again. Isn't that the case with anything you and I do you like, find what works for you and stick with it. Don't Don't play the jumping. As our friend mutual friend vendor will call it the shiny tools syndrome. And you're laughing at me but you know, and jumped all over the place because it doesn't work. Yeah.
Yeah. I have two stories to share about that. I'm recording the summit. One is I've done a recording with Eva Delage who's running a Facebook groups in the WordPress community that have a combined I think 150,000 members,
I love him. He's awesome.
Yeah, yeah. He's a fantastic dude. Yeah. And what he's doing is he's a lifetime deal junkie.
Oh, he admits that his own words.
And in, in this recording, we talked about investing in those lifetime deals, and just basically how many tools he has collected over the past years that he is now running the business on basically zero monthly costs, because he has a lifetime deal. Yeah, truly everything.
He has a problem.
Yep. Yeah. And the other story I wanted to share As from today, I've recorded a session with net MacPherson who is running a growth agency, a data analysis agency. They do growth campaigns for e commerce retailers, north of, let's say, seven figures to nine figures a year. And what he said is that literally not not anybody but most agency owners in our space in our design development community, they can somewhat expand their service based on the tools they have at hand. So for example, when you build said, you could take a CT, a CT and Google Analytics, so Google Analytics services as well, but you have to be very aware of what you're getting into and you I have to be aware of the other edge of the sword because then you have your customers coming right back at you. And asking even more questions and demanding basically that you are able to answer all of that.
So, so true. So true. So we talked to it about your shirt, I came up with the idea wordcamp Europe, right in talking to some people and you start and you started planning? Did you kind of dive right into starting the plan and have some semblance of where you wanted to go? Or was it as it just kind of evolved itself? No, I
had, I had this idea of doing the summit in the back of my mind for one and a half years probably got I never felt the urge to pull the trigger on it. Yeah. And with those conversations I had in Berlin, I just got the feeling that the community probably wants something like this. I wouldn't say they need it, or they demanded but but so far, it's been really well received. And I'm happy that I had those compensations that I did.
Yeah, I would agree with it from pretty well received. So I gotta go to a question conversation a couple weeks ago for I went on vacation came up on Twitter. And I don't know if you caught it, but there was a whole big conversation saying our summits slash webinars really still worth it and relevant. So I got throw that one out to you. What do you think? Yeah. Yeah, I think there's so I would say to, as long as it's the right mix of people, and the right audience, right. I think that's the key is, um, we, we, one of the things agencies have is this feast or famine cycle? How, how do you propose that agency should get around that kind of thing.
The thing that seems to move to work most of the times is that you have to similar to the summons you have to niche down, you have to be very specific about who you are helping with what, once you do that, and once you have that really good understanding of your target audience, you have multiple benefits at hand. So the one thing is, you know exactly who you need to approach. And in those conversations, what pain points you need to talk about, and what benefits you need to talk about in your conversations, you need to do that regularly. So one issue with the feast and famine is that in the times of feast, when you are overloaded with work, you neglect outreach, prospecting sales and stuff like that, because you are so tied up in getting the work done, that it is tough to do those things. And that is a that is something that you need to find a way around. So one common thing that comes up is setting like regular time blocks to do outreach and to do prospecting, just maybe 30 minutes a day, or one hour a day, or whatever works best for you and your own situation. And then the other thing that comes up often is to not go for the small projects, but have the balls have the have the confidence to take target the big project. And so solving for customers, you can add so much value to them, that it's okay for them to pay five figures to you if they have the right size of business, obviously. But if you get those bigger projects, you'll free up so much time you'll be able to, to bring better service to your customers, because you don't have like 50 people calling you but you may have two people calling you and those pay the bills. And what you then experience is enough free time to do more products and the Generate website with some additional services, then you have depending on your agency size, of course, but I would assume that 20 k a month is a pretty stable income for most of us.
Yeah, I would agree with that. I would also agree that the other way is to find some kind of reoccurring revenue modeling in Yep. I think one of the things that drives my agency is I have 150 clients on WordPress security care plans, for example. Absolutely. That's a great way. Yeah, that's just one of many ways. So what's your number one tip for an agency starting out today? do you have?
Yes, if the agency is brand new, and you have like, no experience No, no past work experience, at least no projects under your belt. Be very careful with whom you're starting to work with and you might not have the opportunity to town to turn down projects because you need the cash flow. But as soon as you can afford to turn down projects because you have a bit of cash flow. Be very careful. That you're only working with people that fit your target market. Yeah. And then, as you've said, upsell them on care plans, upsell them on additional services, like SEO, do SEO audits or whatever, so that you can slowly build up recurring revenue.
Yeah, I was finding, we talked about that. And we talked about choosing your clients, and I was in a group the other day, and one of them one of my Facebook friends, Jody Hirsch, she actually let go a client yesterday and handed them back their deposit and posted about him said, I don't want this goodbye. And yeah, and good for Jodi, I've done that in past where I've said to clients, you know, you've broken your contract, it's time for you to go somewhere else. And they and they look at you like, really? And I'm like, Yeah, I think I think it's time or I've not renewed contracts. I've just said no, like, we've, I'm in that kind of a position where you kind of pick and choose what you want. Um, yeah. And
I think that never feels good. I mean, even if you're in a position where you can afford to lose the money, I think it never feels good to turn down the project. But at some point, you just have to even if you don't have much experience, you have to trust your gut feeling. I mean, if your gut says that from the first conversations you're having with somebody, that they could be a difficult customer. They sure will be.
Yeah, yeah. And then and then there's the ones that and you and I have both dealt with them who are great customers, and they are so understanding, and they're the ones I love, you know, yeah. Let's get back to summit. So you've got talk about some of the topics that you're going to have on the summit, and highlight a couple of speakers if you could, that'd be awesome. So
we touched on a few topics of those already. One is niching down, knowing who your market is knowing who you are serving what you are doing for them. The closing keynote will be all about this, which is a Troy Dean from WP Elevation. He shares his blueprint for growth with us on the closing keynote. Then we have the recurring revenue topic. So we have a couple of speakers on each topic, obviously. So for recurring revenue, we have Kyle van deusen, from the admin bar, who's speaking about building care plans and selling care plans customers actually want. Then we do have Joe Hart from WP buffs, who is making six figures every month with maintenance so that that's the role model to me. I've been working with them on their white label plans, actually. And they're doing an amazing job. And he shares how he built that agency.
Yeah, he's really well,
yeah, yeah, absolutely. He has a robust system in place. Then we have marketing, lead generation growth hacking. So we have Kim Doyle on for content marketing. She's brilliant, a law firm.
We have Hydra to
that. Then we have net MacPherson who I've mentioned previously was running growth campaigns for 789. Figure businesses. Security is a big topic that we need to touch on when building websites, we need to make sure that they are secure. We also need to make sure that we keep our own website secure offices. So Oliver Purcell, the CEO and co founder of web arcs, is one of the speakers he's sharing. Not so much the technical aspect of security, but we talk a lot about social engineering and phishing, and how to educate your customers to not fall trap on that and how to protect your customers from themselves
basically. And while we're on that topic, not to derail your there's anybody who's interested in social engineering after the summit, there's a really good book out there called the art of deception. And it's written by a gentleman by the name of Kevin Mitnick. He was the guy who, who hacked the FBI website. And he's now believe it or not, the FBI is number one security consultant in the US. And yes, He's a legend. But just I didn't mean to derail you, but anybody who's willing, once an in depth pastor summit, go get that book. It's on my bookshelf. I've read it. I actually have an autographed copy. I met Kevin at a conference in the states many many years ago. And he is he is such a legend that his business card is a lockpick kit. Anyway, go back to the summit. I'm sorry.
No worries. I will continue with another legend from our space. Yeah, which is an extra two Dory for the mark here. And despite besides being one of the guys who talked me into doing the summit and helped me finally pull the trigger, yeah. In his interview, we talked a lot about managing websites. So with block walls, some of his clients, they manage 1000s of websites and under one Count. I, first of all, I cannot imagine what the cashflow must be like if you have 1000 websites on a on a maintenance plan. That was That must be a pretty good feeling.
I have 180. So I could tell you
we do have, I think right now it's 9596 or something like that. That's pretty good already, but 1000
Yeah, I'll take that cash flow. Oh, yep. Keep going.
Yeah, then we have Adam Sue will the creator of the tiny shield plugin who has a really good dude. And that basically sums up the broader topics when we have development, obviously, almost forgot WordPress development. So it's only a guy called Amata. Wise, who's maybe the most popular core contributor. And he's been
around a long time.
Oh, yes. And he is now I think, working with Google as a Google renowned developer. And currently, he's in Qatar doing some judgment on some sort of open source competition. And I think his open source tools are used by 1.4 million developers.
I don't I don't know him personally. But what I will say is I know his reputation. And it's, it's well, you can't you can't go that space without talking about him. There's no, there's no question.
Yeah, exactly. So I'm not is luckily agreeing to join us and to do a presentation on his power user workflows in his ID. So he actually has a course on the tool of VS code. That's what he uses to write code. He shares his workflows with us, we're just going to be amazing. I can't wait to see that. We have his wife on the pot on the summit as well. madaba tour was also a WP core contributor, she she's going to also share with us how she writes code and how to structure structures, code and stuff like that. Yeah. And then we have this guy called Susanne Patel, who, who's running mailshake, and a bunch of other six and seven figure companies. So he's going to share with us how he's growing those companies and doing marketing and content marketing and stuff like that.
I think, you know, from My take is, I know, it's a WordPress summit, but I think anybody in the marketing space should actually jump in and join us some? Because they will Yeah, I do, too. Because one of my things, and one of my agency, one of the reasons I branched out so much, so last couple years is your website is just a tool in your marketing toolbox. And there's more to that than just the website, SEO, email automation campaigns using something like Active Campaign or keep or whatever, or ConvertKit. There's podcasts, there's, you know, there's all kinds of stuff. And I think where people get caught is they, it used to be a critical web site, and you build it, and people would come, you know, the build it and they will come, that doesn't work anymore. And I think you need to drive traffic there. And I think they're driving traffic piece of something that many people forget about.
Absolutely. That's why I have Gareth stain on some, too. It was a friend of mine. He's an SEO expert from England. They actually with his agency, they build affiliate marketing sites as a service. So they really know how to drive targeted traffic because otherwise those those sites wouldn't make any money and they wouldn't make any money.
Yeah, I know what I got stung through traffic or done through SEO or done through ads. I mean, adsorbate, you're running ads. And I know you've had some issues running ads. Oh, we've all had issues running ads. Yeah.
Facebook just gets wonky.
Yeah, if I had $1. For every time I had a problem with the Facebook or Google ad, I'd be a rich man right about now. So you know, but I spend a lot of time running ads, so I feel your pain. I actually think you know, ads are funny, because a lot of groups people say oh, run ads at $5 a day. And I personally don't think that does, like I'm, I don't think $5 a day is enough for Facebook group go to figure out your algorithm. I actually tell most of my big clients, and I'm controlling right now about $10 million a year in ad spend. So I've got a little bit of ad spend in my portfolio just a bit. And I tell my bitcoins get to $1,000 faster than not. And they say Why? Because that's about what it takes for Google or Facebook to figure out where they're gonna throw your ads. So you can go back to 20 or $50 a day, but spend upfront and get to that algorithm point. And then at least you'll know because even though you target demographics or target groups or target Whatever you choose to target, it still takes time for the algorithms to work the magic. And I'd rather work them sooner than later. Kind of Yeah.
I don't have that much experience with paid traffic, but I see the same thing. So you have to you have to pay upfront, you have to invest a bit of money until you can scale. Yeah,
yeah. And that's all it's all about your scaling. I mean, the same reason why we're doing this summit. It's all about how do you scale your agency? How do you scale what you're doing? Right. So you talked about the closing keynote, husi opening keynote.
opening keynote is to jump up with Sue john will be the highlight on the first day.
Oh, good. Okay. So that's awesome. And the summit runs for eight or nine days, right? It's the sixth of the 12 or something like that.
The Yeah, six to 16? Six Sigma.
I'm sorry. Um, how do people sign up for the summit? Where should they go?
summit of us.
And I'll put a note in the show notes so people can kind of figure out and go there. before we let you go. Since you're running an agency, what are your three or four favorite tools that you use to run your agency?
enough for one to keep everybody on track? Then one of the favorite tools will become main WP.
You're going you're going there are you?
Yeah, I am actually, in the process of moving all sites over from manage WP to main WP loving it so far.
I applaud that one. I did that six months ago, because I had problems. Well, we all know manage WP is in the GoDaddy universe. And we all know what us developers think of the GoDaddy universe. So I got out of it. And I'm, I'm happier than happy. So good.
What else do you like?
We really embrace cloudways hosting with us in our agency, because it for us are just super reliable. It's easy to spin up sides to create staging and stuff like that. Yep, that is super cool. And then if I would have to pick another one that would be elemental because of the templating functionality and the integration with page builder cloud.
Yeah, yeah. I think and you and I have talked about this online offline over the years, I think you just got to kind of standardize your tools, we give people the idea. And, you know, I saw that question out there, because I was like, see what people are using. But I think it's better to master the tools that you have, instead of jumping all over the place kind of thing. And, and I think that's more important. I know in the management, I'm a clickup guy myself, and I didn't make that move lightly. That's been probably the biggest move I've made in my agency in the last year. I've managed to stay out of the slack rabbit hole somehow. I don't know how
I just, we actually really embrace like,
my problem is, you know, it's funny, I was talking to a friend of mine about messaging the other day. And I remember the days of I CQ, and MSN Messenger, oh, and Yahoo Messenger. And at least with email, we have the standard protocol across the board. And with messaging, there has never been a standard protocol, and it's worse on your phone. Because you're in Germany, so I'll bet you on your phone. You're probably using telegraph what that is that pretty?
Are you I have what what's up slack and telegram on my phone.
And then I have signal and, and Yahoo Messenger I used to, which is now gone. And I have Facebook Messenger too. So it's like cheeser, but telegram. The reason I mentioned telegram is it's very big in Europe, whereas in North Korea, it is in North America. It's not as big believer, but yeah, I've branched out that rabbit hole. But I But that said, I think you've got to use what's really, really works for you. And that's the key. So do you have anything else you want to add about the summit or that we haven't talked about or you'd like to?
Yeah, one thing that I would like to mention is that right now, in this pre launch phase, you can get a discount for the lifetime access. So the event itself is free. I really want to make this clear. When you sign up now it's free for the 10 days where the summit is running, you will get free access to all the sessions. Or the keynotes and interviews. And what I found is, obviously, I need to pay my own bills. And also it's a lot of content. So if you want to have lifetime access for the summit and review all the sessions and get a couple of 1000 worth of worth of bonuses, you can now sign up for 127 US dollars to get lifetime access at a pre launch discount,
which is actually a bargain for the information that you can get and receive and,
and that way is compared to other conferences. I mean, just one night in a hotel is the same price.
More than that. So I would encourage people I know when I do some that I very often do the pre launch pricing, just because if you want to go back and reference the material, or if you have to step out for a day in the middle of it all, we all have client emergencies, we have to make things run we all wish we could sit and watch the summit for six days in a row. But you know, I hate to say that doesn't happen in in my office. Right? And
me, neither would it here.
No. So that that's really good offer. Um, what are some of the bonuses that you're throwing in? Just to go through for people?
Nixon is breaking up right now I did that. Sorry. I
said, That's okay. I said, What are some of the bonuses that you're throwing in?
bonuses are Asana templates to manage your agency? Yeah, more than 10. Another bonus would be access to my own course on continuous delivery and continuous integration to speed up your coding workflows. Another bonus is getting video and audio recordings from all of these sessions. So you could listen to them on the go as well. If you like there will be q&a calls with myself and some of the speakers for people who buy. And there will be some other discounted courses and deals that I'm working on right now. So we have already secured two deals that are alone. $200 worth of discount.
That's right. Cool. And I would say to anybody the audio, the audio bonuses are well worth it because I know I do a lot of my learning while I'm working or on the go when I'm in an audio guys. So you are too Right. I mean, same here Audible for life. Yeah, yeah. Audible for life. So that check that out. If somebody needs to get a hold in house, the best way.
The best way would be actually on Facebook, or via Twitter at Im yonko.
Yeah. And, and yeah, it's pretty approachable. So if you need something, you know, reach out to him. He's genuinely a good guy, not just because he's on listening. He's and he does a lot for the community. So I think this is a great opportunity to learn and to share. And I mean, there's some some big players in the industry mentioned Troy I believe Lee Jackson's on there as well. Summer leaves on there. Anthony trend is on the director of marketing for Beaver Builder. And those who don't know, even though we live in the UK, it was actually born in Canada. Just a little tidbit. So he was born down the road from Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So anyway, it there's some really good people on there. So come out, learn from them, get to know them. I mean, I've had conversations with people like Troy and Yan and Lee over the years, so they're well worth learning. If they're gonna give you a half an hour of your time, that's a half an hour of your time well spent listening. I think that's Yeah, we can do it
doing the best to contribute here.
Yeah. Thanks, john. Yeah, have a wonderful day. And thanks for joining me.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Bye for now. Thank you for listening to the SDM Show. The show was hosted by Robert Cairns, the CEO and Chief Curator of amazing ideas stunning digital marketing.com. This podcast comes out every week. It's available on all podcast platforms. If you'd like to be a guest on this podcast, please email us at podcast at stunning digital marketing.com. If you'd like some free marketing information to your inbox, please go to stunning digital marketing comm slash free. If you'd like to find out more about the digital marketing services we provide, please go to our website at studying Digital Marketer comm we specialize in helping your business succeed. This podcast is dedicated Robert’s father Bruce Cairns. Have an amazing week. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for your stars. Make your business succeed.