Episode 80: Kelly Campbell, Agency Growth Consultant and Thrive Podcast Host

In this episode, host Jodi Katz shifts the focus from beauty to media in a new mini-series called Podcasters We Love. Up at the mic is Kelly Campbell, an agency growth consultant and host of Thrive, a podcast that covers topics unique to creative, media and tech agencies. As a former agency owner herself, Kelly shares her own journey from business owner to consultant, the origins of Thrive and the story behind it’s fast-track to success.

This episode is part of our Podcasters We Love series.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzWelcome back to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. This episode is part of our miniseries called Podcasters We Love. I'm now fascinated by podcasting since I'm in that mix and it is sort of the communications wild west, so this is an opportunity for me and our audience to get to know other podcasters. This week's episode features Kelly Campbell. She's a host of the Thrive podcast. It's a podcast designed to help agencies grow. So no doubt, after I sat down with Kelly, I wanted to hire her to consult with me to help me grow. She's a really fascinating story, and we talk a lot about how she started and why she started podcasting. So I think anyone who's curious about the podcasting landscape will be really interested in Kelly's episode, so I hope you enjoy the show.

Hey everybody. Welcome back toWHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. Today's a special episode of our mini series called Podcasters We Love, and I'm sitting with Kelly Campbell, she's the host of the Thrive podcast. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Kelly CampbellThanks so much, Jodi. I'm excited to be here.
Jodi KatzI'm so excited to be here too, and I was a guest on your show a few weeks ago and that will air soon.
Kelly CampbellThat'll air soon. Yeah, at the end of September. I'm excited about that.
Jodi KatzAnd we're talking everything podcasting today. And let's just start at the beginning because I think the origin stories of how people got into this business is fascinating. Why did you start a pod?
Kelly CampbellSo Thrive, your agency resource, really started out after I sold my digital agency, I had that for 14 and a half years. When I sold that, I was like, "What am I going to do now? I'm totally unemployable. So I became an agency growth consultant and I thought, well, what better way to add value to the creative media and tech agencies that I was working with for those that maybe weren't ready for a consultant, but they just had specific questions. I would bring other guests on biweekly, and we would just chat and really dive very deeply, I didn't want to make it abroad show because there's so many of those out there. So I wanted to dive really deeply into specific topics that agency owners, that are top of mind for them. So it started out for me, I think, as creating valuable content, but then obviously, also kind of a marketing tool because I got to chat a little bit about what I did and how I helped agencies. But that obviously wasn't the theme of the show.

So that's kind of how it got started. And then I would say after about 18 episodes, it wasn't even a full year, I attracted a sponsor, which was great because they were looking to add really insightful content to their audience, which happened to be the same audience as mine, creative agency leaders. And so they approached me, and said, "We love what you're doing. Can we put our name behind it?" And because they gave me that creative license, and I was talking to the same demographic they gave me full carte blanche of what I wanted to do with the show, I said sure. So it turned into an additional revenue stream, but that wasn't the original idea for it.
Jodi KatzThat's the dream though.
Kelly CampbellTotally. I never thought it would happen in less than a year though.
Jodi KatzThat is really amazing. Can we go way back though? So you had a business for 14 years and sold it. Why did you sell it?
Kelly CampbellI sold it because the universe was telling me that I needed to do something bigger, and I loved my agency. It really was my life, but I also thought that there was something a little detrimental about that, being so young. When I sold it, I was 36, and I had had it since I was 22. So I just felt like at that point, I wanted to be doing higher level thinking. I wanted to be more of that consultative person who would come in and help other agencies to kind of scale up and look at what they were doing right and wrong, and it just felt like a really, really good fit for me. So circumstances happened where I had two different offers to purchase the agency within 30 days.

And I was like, this is obviously the universe is telling me something.
Jodi KatzDoes that happen?
Kelly CampbellIt happened to me, but I actually didn't sell it to either one of those. I sold it to a third party.
Jodi KatzSo at this moment in time, when you're sort of thinking about, "What's the future hold for me," the universe puts two offers to sell your agency. Was your agency for sale?
Kelly CampbellNo, not at all. In fact, I was going through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, putting together an agency growth plan, and literally a month after graduating, that MBA-ish program, that's when I sold my agency. So no, it was not in the plan at all. But I think when you're open to things, they come.
Jodi KatzRight, but they don't come that fast usually.
Kelly CampbellWell obviously, for me it was something that I just needed to change. I was at that point where I was totally burnt out, and I knew I wanted to put my clients in good hands, but I also needed what does the next 10, 15, 20 years look like for me. My wife is 20 years older than I am and she's retiring this year, so we like to travel a lot. You can't do that when you have an agency, you can't take four or five vacations a year, the way that I was running the agency anyway. So the story just kind of unfolded for me, which was an interesting journey.
Jodi KatzI'm going to wait for the ambulance to go away. Aleni, you can cut this part out. Talking to our producer. We've been lucky to have a lot of crises in the neighborhood lately. Kinda crazy. They west or east, or it's just sitting still. It's going away.
Kelly CampbellVery slowly.
Jodi KatzYeah, that's weird. Usually comes right down on Broadway. Probably so it shakes the building. Okay, we're good. Okay Aleni, we're going back up. Okay. So you get the opportunity because you put into the universe that you need something different in your life. Your business gets sold, you make money, money you were happy with. That's amazing.
Kelly CampbellYep. I mean not enough to retire at 36 and not do anything else. And plus, I had to do something else because I would go crazy if I was just sitting at home.
Jodi KatzSo how did the idea of doing the pod, I know the pods and business development tool initially, but did someone say to you, "Hey, you should have a podcast," or were you super interested in podcasts?
Kelly CampbellSo I was interested in podcasts because in 2007, I had created another company, it was called The Holistic Option and it was an online platform, a wellness platform, kind of bridging consumers and holistic practitioners. And one of the ways that we produced content for that entity was podcasting. At that point it was just audio podcasting because 2007 video quality just wasn't that great on the user end. And that was a really, really successful venture for me because podcasting at that time, it was sort of this fad, and then I feel like it died out pretty quickly, but we were the top show in the health category on iTunes for a solid year straight.
Jodi KatzThat's amazing.
Kelly CampbellYeah. So we had a really loyal audience, and again, invited different guests on, and I was able to get pretty big guests. Um, I had Deepak Chopra's daughter on the show. I had Mayim Bialik. I still have a voice mail on my cell phone from her that I will not erase.
Jodi KatzThat's so awesome.
Kelly CampbellSo I was able to get people to come on, I don't know, but maybe because podcasting was like this cool thing at the time. And then for I would say from maybe 2010 to 2015, those five years, it just died out. I don't know what happened. And then now there's this resurgence.
Jodi KatzWhen you approached this in 2007, the technology for supporting podcasting was so different than it is now. Was it really hard to actually record the content and put it up on iTunes?
Kelly CampbellIt wasn't hard to record the content, but being that I had a development background, I had to mess with XML files, and I had to upload them to the server, and that's how iTunes would pull it out. So yeah, it was way, way more complicated than it is today. Now it's like, you publish something, there are all of these plugins for your Wordpress site, and it automatically goes to iTunes. So it's just seamless at this point.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about the format of your show. It's different than ours, we're audio only, and I think only because I didn't want to be bothered with people saying, "Well, I need hair and makeup, in my business, this is when I'm going need wardrobe, hair and makeup." And I didn't want that to get in the way of people willing to be on the show. But your format's different than ours. Tell me about your format.
Kelly CampbellYes. So I do the show from my home office. I kick my dog out and just make sure that her stuff isn't around, and I just record it through Skype. So the software that I use is Skype with another plugin called Call Recorder. It's from Ecamm tools. I think it cost me $30. I bought a really good webcam, probably costs me $65, and I had the microphone from 2007, I think it was like a snowball mike or something like that. I don't remember. So I just used that as the setup, and then what happens with the format is that when I Skype the other person as a video call, the call recorder tool automatically creates like a split screen, and that's it. And then you just export it as an MOV file, and you can open that up with QuickTime. I have a video production company that puts in the intro and the outro to the beginning of the end of the show. So I just upload the raw format to Google Drive, they grab it down, do what they need to do, and send me back a link.
Jodi KatzAnd then they make an audio file just for iTunes for you.
Kelly CampbellSo I do everything. After they give me the video file, I just open that up in QuickTime, and you can just export it literally at a click of a button, and then you have the whole audio file.
Jodi KatzRight. So what's so fascinating about what you're describing is it really is very easy. And you could just either listen, people can listen to you and take notes or Google this and figure it out. There really are no barriers to starting a pod these days.
Kelly CampbellNo. And honestly, you don't even need the microphone and the webcam. You could use whatever is built into your laptop or your desktop. The only thing that you would need if you're going to use Skype is Call Recorder, which again is $30, one time fee. So there's no barrier to entry for this. You don't have to be a technophile to do any of this. It's really, really easy.
Jodi KatzSo you talked about wanting to be really specific with your pod,. There was like a lot of kind of wide ranging pods out there, and you chose to narrow your focus. What was important about that for you?
Kelly CampbellSo I wanted agency leaders to get a ton of value, and I wanted whatever was keeping them up at 2:00 AM, I wanted us to address those specific issues on the show. So the beginning, I think for the first maybe 25 episodes, I just thought about what the things were that were on my mind as an agency owner, and I kind of carved that out and then thought about what guests might be good, and then I like to play nice in the sandbox, so I invited all my competitors on the show. So I had Karl Sakas on the show, Jason Swenk. These are all agency growth consultants all around the country. And then I just did an interview with David C. Baker, who I would say is probably the most well known, he's been doing this for 25 plus years, and he's in Nashville. So his episode is coming out right after yours.
Jodi KatzOh cool. So if you can think back to your first 25 episodes, what are some of those things that keep people up at night who run agencies?
Kelly CampbellSo which financial metrics should I be looking at that I'm not looking at? That was a show I recently did. People really want to know about business development, so we talk very specifically about growth hacking tools, techniques, should you even be doing outbound cold email? How do you warm up a cold email? So really, really specific things that can help them with, yes, growth as a broad, but really specific tools, techniques, software. So I've had a couple of people from different software companies come on and just talk about how their software is really designed for an agency, and how it helps them either bring in revenue from the standpoint of being able to use it for their clients, for the services that they deliver, or bring in new clients for them from a biz dev standpoint.
Jodi KatzSo can we talk about your sponsor now, because that's one of those thoughts.
Kelly CampbellSure. So Workamajig is the sponsor, and I had the CEO, Ron Ause, on the show, I'm going to say somewhere around episode 15, but don't quote me on that. And I had known about Workamajig when we at my agency, we're looking for sort of an all-encompassing project management, account management, CRM, the total solution. Workamajig did come up on our radar, but this was many, many, many years ago when they were still based in Flash, if you can imagine that. So that for us was a deal breaker. And over the last five years, they've gone completely to HTML5 and the platform, it's beautiful, it's seamless, it has everything. Literally everything that you need for resourcing, estimating, accounting, invoicing.

So you don't have to have Basecamp for project management, and then QuickBooks for your accounting and all of this, you can literally run the entire agency on one platform. So I had him on the show, learned a little bit about that, and then I looked into the software because I need to know about it to a very, very detailed extent because I might be recommending that to agencies that I work with that maybe have disparate software, or are not using anything right now. And then it was their marketing team that actually reached out to me and said, "Hey, we need to create content." I said, "Oh great, what does that mean? What do you want me to do? Write some blog posts?" And they're like, we don't know what we want to do. And so I said, "Well, you know what? We're talking to the same people with the podcast, why don't you just sponsor? And they were like, "We love it."
Jodi KatzThat's awesome.
Kelly CampbellThat's literally how it happened.
Jodi KatzIt makes so much sense. You're genuinely curious about their products because your clients will be. This is a perfect marriage for them.
Kelly CampbellAbsolutely. And they've been a great partner, I have to say, from beginning to end, like very collaborative. I asked them all the time for guest and topic recommendations, and it's been perfect. I am sure that there are other situations where there are sponsors where it doesn't work out so well. But for me, it's been really, really great.
Jodi KatzThat's cool. So let's talk about your expertise because you're specifically talking to people who run agencies, but why is your advice only for people who run agencies? Why couldn't your advice be beneficial for someone who owns a brand or a product or a warehouse? Why an agency?
Kelly CampbellSo it could, but I like the idea of a niche, I want to practice what I preach. So if that's what I did for almost 15 years, and I know that all of the moving parts, everything that's encompassed with running an agency, it's a little bit of a different business model. I think it's different in so many ways than just running a business where you have widgets, you're selling widgets, you have inventory. I like to stay in my lane, and I know that world so well, and there are a lot of agency owners who are kind of at that mark. I work mostly with established agency owners. So meaning that they've been in business for anywhere between five and 55 years, and they're in some type of pivotal point in the agency. Maybe they want to bring digital in, or just augment their digital capabilities. They've been relying on referrals primarily, so they're not scaling, they're hitting a revenue plateau.

So they don't know how to actually create a business development strategy that includes outbound marketing like, "Oh my god, we do this for our clients, but we don't do it for ourselves." So I think a lot of times, these agency leaders are so close to their business, so having that external perspective to say, "Hey, let me take a little inventory of what are you doing now, how are you bringing this business in. We can help mitigate a lot of risk." There are a lot of agencies that I see that 60 percent of their revenue is coming from one client. That's crazy. That's crazy. So we have to spread it out. We also have to make sure that they're not bringing on, or working with too many clients, I see that often. Between 10 and 15 clients, that's kind of where you should be at. And I know that's scary for some people because they're like, "Oh my god, I'm working with 75 active clients. What do you mean I have to cut that list in a sixth?"
Jodi KatzWhy is that the recommendation?
Kelly CampbellBecause the more that you can actually focus on what you're great at, you can level up and you can be getting higher retainers. It's a lot easier to replace a client that's accounting for five or 10 percent of your revenue, and you're just driving your team crazy. There's no way that you can be efficient doing, unless you have like a 250 person agency, which in that case, that's not my lane. I stay within kind of 10 to 100 employees. In that 10 to 100, if you're working on 75 accounts, you're driving your team crazy. Nobody's happy. You probably have some turnover. You're wondering why, and yes, you can put systems and processes in place, but I think the quality of the work is definitely going to be impacted with that many clients. And then it probably also means you don't have the ideal clients if you're just trying to scrape and get a thousand a month from this one and $3,000 from this one. You don't want to be running that rat race all the time.
Jodi KatzI'm thinking to myself right now, if we go offline and I tell you the whole story of our agency, and they tell you how many people we say no to, I wonder if that's a good or a bad thing.
Kelly CampbellIt's a great thing. I love saying no. I think it's the best thing. It means that you have really strong positioning if you're able to say no. I would say take on fewer clients, have more no conversations, and still leave the prospect with a really good taste in their mouth to say, "You know what, we're not the right agency for this, but we can refer you over to one or two other ones," and create a strategic partnership with them so that when you're referring that business, you're actually just creating a new stream of income.
Jodi KatzRight? You're saying a lot of things that make me realize that we need to take this conversation offline. So then that's my next question. The pod, I know it wasn't 100 percent business development. It was really to share your insight with a broader audience, but I do see it fueling your growth for your consulting business.
Kelly CampbellAbsolutely. Absolutely. And it's interesting because what happens a lot now, I would say literally within the last two or three months, I've gotten such an influx of people, and maybe this is because of the sponsorship because they are sending the content out to their list of, 15, 20,000 agencies across the country. So I'm getting an influx of new business and the new business is contacting me through the website or through the live chat or whatever, or email and basically saying, "I heard about you in one way or the other, whether it was through just a Google search, and I found you." SEO is part of my background. So I'm really good at that. And then they'll say, "I read some content on your website. I read how you work with agencies, and I listened to a few or watched a few of your podcasts." And what happens is they get a sense of who I am, what my personality is like, the kind of questions I ask, and I think that just the breadth and depth of what my expertise is.

So it gives them this trust or this, I don't know, this really, really good feeling to the point where they're like, "Okay, I did all my homework, now I'm contacting you to see what is this going to cost me."
Jodi KatzRight. And that's interesting because it actually probably makes them more a viable potential client for you.
Kelly CampbellThey qualify themselves. And I'm very specific about who I work with. It's like creative media, tech agencies tend to 100 employees between two and 25 million wanting to grow exponentially. If you fit within those lanes, or those criteria, and then you watch a few podcasts, and there's some kind of vibe, they're going to email me. And so I didn't anticipate it working like that. The other thing that I will say that was unexpected about the podcast was I started working with this agency. It was a social media marketing agency, and I was engaged directly with the CEO. He told the leadership team, he had a leadership team of about six. He told them about me. He told them that he was thinking about hiring me to come in and help them with some scaling, and the whole team started watching the podcasts. So the day that I walked in instead of handshakes, I got hugs because they were like, "We feel like we know you already."

And I was like, "Wow, what a great extension of that content that I had never ever thought about," that a team could actually, because of the engagement started, or the contract was signed a month before the engagement actually started. So they had all of that time to listen to a few shows, watch a few shows, and they got a real sense of who they were going to be working with. And I was there on site, for many, many, many hours a week. So I was going to work very closely with them. They wanted to know, "Who is this chick?" And that was great for me because it broke down that barrier, that kind of awkward, when you first start, you're a consultant, they don't really know what you're there to do. So that was really unexpected and really helpful.
Jodi KatzYeah, I can imagine that's an incredible benefit. I haven't thought about that either, that this sense of familiarity goes way deeper than an article about you ever could, or a case study on your site.
Kelly CampbellSo I think that's kind of the hierarchy. You can write content, and people can get a sense of your tone and your sentiment and your thought process. You can do an audio podcast, and they get a sense of all of that plus more. And then when you do the video podcast, I think it adds this extra layer of just familiarity, and an understanding exactly what the personality, and even just facial expressions and body language and all of that. It gives them a different sensibility about working with you. So I think podcasts are great for so many different reasons, and maybe not for the reasons that most people think, you know what I mean?
Jodi KatzWhat do you think they're good for?
Kelly CampbellI think people want to hear themselves talk a lot. I do. That's why I didn't do a show that was just me talking. I wanted to bring guests on. It's how many times can I talk about different things, and I think it's great to get different perspectives and all of that. But I think most podcasts, it's one or two people that just really have a lot to say, and they look at it as a megaphone and a platform for getting their own message or their own agenda out. And I don't know that it's as valuable as it would be if you brought in another perspective.
Jodi KatzSo I'm wondering if your guests have given you feedback about the feedback they've gotten about. Let me rephrase that. Have your guests giving you feedback about the way they get feedback after being a guest on your show? Could I phrase that question more straightly? So what kind of feedback do your guests get from being on your show from their fans?
Kelly CampbellOh, from their own fans. Okay, got it. I think that I've only heard back from a few about what their own people have said, because every time there's an episode released, I get a bunch of people writing in, "I love this that he said, or she said," and so I always pass that on. But I think a couple of them have just, if they weren't entirely focused on a topic specific to agency leaders, I think being on the show, and because I focus so specifically for that niche. One of the things that I have in my head is this episode that was just released last week with Scott Jeffrey, and he's all into self-actualization and internal development.

And you're thinking, "How is this applicable to an agency leader?" But it is. And he was actually a marketing consultant, and he was dotcom startup founder many, many, many years ago. And so he went onto this path of really understanding what needs to happen for self-actualization, and we talked about self-awareness practices, and specifically for agency owners, how we can just be whirling in our heads 24 hours a day, and we have all these ideas. How do you ground yourself and how do you be more thoughtful and more mindful about your behaviors, because everybody around you, they're like children. They're just going to mimic exactly what you're putting out there. So we were talking about it from the context of being more self-aware and we called itself leadership, how self leadership can actually transform your agency or the culture of your agency, because everybody that's around you is basically feeding off of that.

And there are definitely some agency owners I've worked with that I thought that could be really interesting because they're so chaotic, and they're so disorganized and they're just running. And if you don't pause throughout the day to ground yourself, everybody else is going to feel like that's what's expected of them, is to be that chaotic, get everything done no matter the cost. And it's cause for burnout.
Jodi KatzIt's so interesting that you're saying all this, it's making me wonder how much you've actually learned from the episodes that you've done that you've added to your arsenal. It's added to your talent.
Kelly CampbellExponentially. Exponentially. And it's actually conversations like the one that I had with Scott Jeffrey, I think that are the most impactful because they are validation of the way that I've changed as a person after selling my agency.
Jodi KatzWere you the burnout, work all the time?
Kelly Campbell100 percent.
Jodi KatzSo you were chaotic. You were chaos.
Kelly CampbellI wouldn't say chaotic. I was extremely organized, but I worked six days a week, sometimes seven. I didn't prioritize my home life, I prioritized my work life. My wife liked to remind me of that often. But yeah, I wanted to make sure that I was growing the agency. But I will say the thing that I did really well in my agency was that I prioritized my team over everything else. So we were very much people over profit. I wanted to make sure everybody was comfortable, they had a great work environment. All of those things were really important to me, and if there was a client that ever crossed the boundary or spoke to one of my employees in a way that they didn't feel comfortable with, I had no qualms about removing that client from our client list because I needed the team to understand how supportive I was of them.

So even though I might've been killing myself working at the agency, I don't think I let that show. So that's probably how it played out. But internally, I was a mess. I was a mess. And so the transition from selling that agency and not having all of that and not having that responsibility of being responsible for these 12 people, for their lives, their children, their homes, their mortgages, all of that. I think I was able to actually really dive into the self actualization and self awareness, and it's been life changing.
Jodi KatzThat's awesome. So my last question for you, since you mentioned that you and your wife travel a lot is where are you going next?
Kelly CampbellSo we're on our, going on our fourth vacation on Friday. We're just going to P-town for a week, but ..
Jodi KatzWhat is P-town?
Kelly CampbellProvincetown, Massachusetts. We just got back from Florence, Sorento, and Barcelona earlier this year. Probably next year, she really wants to go to Greece, but I'm trying to get her to go back to Indonesia because that's my favorite part of the world, and we were in Thailand for two or three weeks for our honeymoon. That was seven years ago, and I've been to Bali and Singapore, and I want to get back there really badly. So the 21-hour flights are not really her cup of tea, but I think I'm going to convince her.
Jodi KatzThat's awesome. Bon voyage.
Kelly CampbellThank you.
Jodi KatzAnd thank you so much for your wisdom today.
Kelly CampbellOh, thank you for having me.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kelly. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show. Follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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