Tips and Tools for Digital Marketing Agencies: Interview with Joshua Bretag

Tips and Tools for Digital Marketing Agencies: Interview with Joshua Bretag

Written by: Zach Johnson

Time for another installment of our new series, that will soon become a podcast. We’re giving you tips and tools that will compliment FunnelDash and help you run your digital marketing agencies successfully.

Tips-and-Tools-for-Digital-Marketing-Agencies---Interview-with-Joshua-Bretag.jpgRecently, Charles Kirkland had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Bretag, a marketer who has worked with some of the top startups in the world. If you’re just starting out, there are some great lessons to learn here. If you’re an experienced digital marketing agency owner, you’ll find some phenomenal information as well.

As always, we recommend that you start your potential client’s journey, and track their campaign successes, with FunnelDash. Click on the button below to get your 14-day free trial.

Now, enjoy discovering one marketer's journey from 18-year old newbie to one of the most respected agency owners out there.

Charles K.:  Hey, hey, hey, this is Charles Kirkland. Welcome back to another exciting episode. I've got a very, very special guest. I've got Josh from Cubatica.

Dude, how are you doing?

Josh: Yeah, not too bad, mate.

Charles K.: Now, for those of you that don't know Josh is from Australia. Josh, what part of Australia are you from?

Josh: Sydney. Originally from the country, a place called Wagga Wagga, which is like the middle of nowhere.

Charles K.: Wow! I've learned something today. Like, I mean how far is that from Sydney?

Josh: Ah, six hours, so it ... like if you go through main population areas of Australia there's Sydney and Melbourne.

Josh: Take a peek half way in between, you'll find a place called Wagga Wagga of about 60,000 people.

Charles K.: Dude, I mean, 60,000 people is not the middle of nowhere. That's a lot of people.

Josh: For us, that's the middle of nowhere.

Charles K.: (Laughs) Man, that's exciting.

For those of you that don't know Josh, his client list is more like the Who's Who of Who's doing things that are cool. So, dude, tell us exactly who some of your clients are. If you, you know, if you can't divulge them, not a problem, but who are some of your well known clients?

Josh: Some of the well-known ones are more over in the U.K. and some of the biggest start-ups there so we did work with or we still do work with an education company that sells children's book, so they have done, I think, what we thought last if it was still around 2 or 2.5 million books and now they are into like ... And that's with now selling one book at a time.

Now they're into seven or eight ... I think up to ten product lines possibly now. I'm looking at it yesterday because I just got another e-mail from them. They literally launched like four product runs in the last two months, which is just bonkers.

Then also, we have Simba Sleep, which is like a mattress in the box sort of thing. So, we have a couple of big competitors in that but we've got some really good success for them over the last year or so.

We took over their account. We were spending small, like four figures a month and we grew their accounts to seven figures per month. In terms of ad spend and also in terms of revenue coming into the business at times, so we went from absolutely nowhere and just went crazy with it, which is probably one of our best success stories and probably one of the most high-trajectory gross that we've seen and then also to one of the biggest start-ups across the globe or across the world, which we can't really mention due to NDA's but, you know, if you think like one of the top ten, we're probably helping them out.

Charles K.: Sweet.

Well, first of all, let's put the brakes on here. Now, there is one thing to say "Yeah, I got a client. They spend $100,000" ... There's one thing to take over an account already doing $100,000, but, dude, you're taking a client from like virtually chicken pocket change to seven figures. Now this is a monthly spend, correct?

Josh: Yeah.

Charles K.: Okay. So, guys, I want you to understand that ... First of all, let me explain how difficult this is for the average person.

First of all, to take a client from, you know, let's just say a small couple thousand dollars ad spend to seven figures ... This is not the type of thing where you just crank up Ad Words. You know what? Let's create a few campaigns. This is a lot of strategy.

Also, it's a lot of work, I will tell you hands down there is no such thing as "Well, we created a campaign and we forgot it". But, that is the reality of this. I mean, when you're talking ... That is the level of agency that he runs.

So, if you think you can say “Josh, I've got a thousand dollars and if you can make it work, I'll hire you.” That is not the type of clients he has. Very high-end start-ups, very well-funded companies. And the truth of the matter is this is something to keep in mind. You're spending money for companies that are looking at it from a long-term standpoint.

This is not ... You know Bob needs a million eyeballs for the launch of his video game. This is ... You need to produce positive bottom line results for a company and be able to do that at seven figures at scale is huge. So, that means you know what you're doing.

So, tell me about this. Now, how did you get started because, I mean, I'm excited. I want to know how did you ... How did you graduate to seven figure accounts? So tell me about this.

Josh: So, I started out, which is pretty funny, like a standard rags-to-riches kind of story, which I kind of hate it but I find it funny at the same time because you hear of the internet marketing space and you hear it plastered in your face. Um, and like, well actually, you know, that was me surprisingly enough.

So, perhaps I started out from Wagga Wagga, you know eighteen year old kid who thinking he knows everything about the world. Just fresh out of high school heading off to a place called Adelaide, which is like thirteen hours away from Wagga Wagga so like in another state completely.

Moved across, you know, barely any money in the bank account, you know, thinking out here, I want to get away from my parents. They're driving me nuts. I want to get out. I want to have my own life, have my own freedom ... You know, all the stupid stuff we do when we're young.

I started working three jobs as a waiter, barista, night club, those sorts of kind of gigs. While also studying at the same time, so I was studying international hotel and restaurant management diploma or ... No Bachelor's ... Had a Bachelor ... Was doing that and then basically these jobs pay like $15.00 per hour and I'm like this course is like $70,000 - $80,000 over like four years and I'm like ... You know I'm going to pay this off.

There's no scholarship. There's no financial aid. We have a thing called like that they help you in Australia, which it wasn't like that school wasn't recognized for it so you couldn't get help from the government. There wasn't anyone.

I got a scholarship for like one-tenth of the cost, which was like, you know, that's helpful, awesome. But, you know, like that's still like $70k you still gotta pay them so it's like $70k on $15 per hour over four years and I did the calculations, you know, plus paying for rent, plus paying for bills, plus pay for everything else.

This just isn't going to work, so from there it became "Okay, how else can I make money without having to work stupid ridiculous hours" cause we're doing like 60 or 70 hours a week plus study on top of that just to keep everything above board and, you know, running. I was literally living down to the last dollar week on week even the deficit some of the weeks and thank God, my partner supported me through all that. Thank God so much for that.

So, basically, what happened was I started learning about SEO. I started learning about online marketing. I started learning about the advertising. I was one of those, you know, con pain in the ass scammy affiliate people doing affiliate marketing and stuff.

When I look back on it now, I just laugh and just go some of the people just get conned going into their industry and into the whole marketing sort of a game. So, what happened was I started learning pay-per-click and building websites and also doing SEO at a base level for a couple of smaller kind of agency teams so, like you know, people would pay me pittance.

But it was more than I was getting paid as a chef so it was like $20 or $21, $22 per hour. Then, also, too, I was doing work for restaurants, basically trying to get them booked out on like Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, which were like their dead nights, so when I started out on a Sunday or Friday night, we'd do 1,500 or 2,000 plates of food. Whereas on a Tuesday to a Thursday night you'd do luckily maybe 300 so it was like a complete difference.

So, I worked on the restaurants and on the side, helping out with marketing. I got them lots of traffic and lots of people through the door running like pay-per-click ads, SEO campaigns, local targeting, drop mails, you know, putting out flyers, the whole works.

Any sort of guerilla marketing tactic you can possibly think of I was kind of testing out or trying to do it. I was just absorbing information, just trying to implement it going. You know I needed to make money, pay off this debt and get it off my head.

And then, from there, what happened was I started getting referrals from other people. A lot of people just noticed like how do you get your night club packed on a Tuesday night? This guy here ... He's just working his butt off and he's managed to do this ... I don't know how he done it but he's done it.

I kept getting referrals that sort of way and kept it going up. I was doing websites for like $500. I was doing marketing campaigns at $250 per month thinking that's like I'm charging way too much. I don't know any better until I came to the realization, you know, I was 23, 24, that you know there's guys charging $100k, $150k, $200k for a website.

Others seem to get a lot better skill sets and also two staff on hand and pretty looking agencies and that sort of stuff and the big-name clients and all this but that really put it in context. I was just scraping the bottom ... Pretty much, literally, the bottom of the bucket.

And I didn't really know what my skill set was worth at the time. So, what happened was I started going through a phase of learning about pricing and having to put a value on my own worth.

I started saying no to people when they were trying to basically ask for discounts and stuff and just going "No, sorry, I don't do discounts anymore. I don't do these sort of barter stuff anymore. It's just this is my price, either you accept it or you don't".

And then from there I kept growing and growing. I got really good success for a couple of clients. A small Ad Words campaign, which was actually funny ... It was like the only other Ad Words campaign we did where it was kind of set and forget and it just worked like crazy ... Like, literally, you just dumped a budget in and it worked.

Charles K.: Sweet.

Josh: That was just bald luck. I've never seen that happen before and I've never seen that happen since then and we don't touch Ad Words anymore because it just does my head in so, like, I just send it off to another agency who just always used to kick my ass at Ad Words.

So, we started focusing into like the social side and then looking at new channels because I was really interested in psychographics, demographics, the psychology of marketing.

That kind of got me really got me hooked as to why people buy, how do they buy, you know what triggers this button. How can I manipulate a person to do this? How can I convince someone to buy?

I was going to the dark side ... Like neurolinguistics programming (NLP) looking at all that sort of stuff and I was getting intrigued by it but then I realized how shocking that is because you have these massive refunds rates in like a month or a month in a half.

It's like yeah, cool. You can get this traffic in the door and you can get it all working and great and then you have like a 60% return rate on the month after and you just realize how stupid that was.

I was 25, 26, so by that stage I still didn't understand business as a whole, like a holistic thing of like, you know, just making revenue and also flattening out cash flow. Yeah, sure you can drive tons of traffic and run it out of stock but then you can't build your stock for like another three weeks, so it's like three weeks that business not getting paid so they're not going to pay your bill.

Even though you've got massive success from so quickly, you've kind of just killed them at the same time and they haven't got the skill set themselves to understand how to pre-order stuff and deal with ebbs and flows of cash flow.

And then from there, what happened was we got some success for the overseas, like in the U.K. A couple of start-ups there, which were backed by Google Ventures, and those kind of guys.

We got success for them and then Google Ventures kind of like we want you to check to everyone else that we invest into to see if you can, you know, get what's the pain point of helping these start-ups grow.

That was an introduction to 50 or 60 start-ups that are funded with like you know 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 million dollars in the coffers for free, which is just completely nuts when you think about the size of that money and how fast this company's going to grow.

So, it’s not like they aren't going to grow like 10% or 15% month to month. They want like 30, 50, 60, 100, 150, 200% growth, you know, like your own year for the next 3-4 years just to meet what their pitch to their investors, which is just bonkers but also fun.

And then from there I was 26, 27, so that's like now I had about 35-40 staff, you know, living the high life, you know, things are good, things are going great, then you know you find out, okay, you know, one of your biggest clients leaves because it’s time for them to take their stuff internal.

You didn't even realize that's what happens, and that's what happens when they get bigger cause your costs are just too high. Just makes sense to go internal so they can focus on their stuff full-time, while the new folks might like, you know, you put like maybe 40% of energy into the biggest client or 60% and then what happens is like, okay, all of a sudden you take a hit for like $20k.

That’s when you realize how much that hurts and how much you didn't really diversify your client list and your portfolio and also looking at have you got money in the bank to back out for this ebbs and flows of cash flow.

What about you know, indemnity insurance? What if someone comes to sue you? All this accounting stuff and all these things that I didn't realize that I hadn't learned properly in the last year or two and then from there having that stuff in and thinking about it properly and thinking about the businesses more holistically and trying to be more like an advisor to the businesses that come and the clients that come to us it's kind of like we will be pretty tough on them.

We had to tell some of them, “your customer service sucks so we can't advertise your product because your customer service team just can't handle the mad volume that was set. Customer service is going to cost you 5 or 10% of your sales right there because they just don't know how to reply properly or they'll take more than two days to reply to a customer.

That's just not acceptable in this day and age because that will just go to Twitter or to social media and if you piss off one person with a following of 10,000-15,000 people and bang you can see a business destroyed overnight just because of that.

The power to the consumer at the moment is absolutely insane compared to what it used to be. You can't just dictate the terms to your consumer anymore. It's more so because the consumer is now dictating the terms to you.

I mean you have to play to their tune most of the time unless you've got some savvy copywriter or smart person on your customer service team that knows how to be smarter ... or not smarter but, you know, knows how to step the line between holding your ground but also to giving the customer what they want.

And then the biggest success came from actually getting recognized by the partners that we're doing advertising at General Select. Facebook was one of them. And Yahoo and then guys actually going you know hey you should now look at this team to help for the stages of start-up for this part of your business or you know this team worked on this vertical piece, you've got to go talk to them now.

It's pretty much how it came about so it’s kind of funny that it kind of started with I needed to make extra money and I wanted ... It wasn't the lack of desire, it was just out of necessity to get it started it's more so I want to work with clients that you know build awesome products that deliver good experiences to customers because if we work on products or services or anything that doesn't do that we always find that we just can't get the growth because the underlying base of the product or the business just isn't right to make it stale.

Charles K.: Dude, this is an Indie. I'm going to tell you guys this is a college MBA in starting and growing an agency. I mean, I'm going to tell you ... I'm sitting here thinking like I'm thinking man I didn't know that, I didn’t know that…

An excellent recap. You only started with I needed some extra bucks in the bank to make it to the end to literally working with the biggest of the biggest of the biggest start-ups. You've been recommended by Google Ventures.

I mean all the people that would matter are pointing to you and go "Hey, this guy in Australia is the dude to go get connected to." And those results speak for themselves dude. That's amazing.

Josh: Well, the one that always surprised me was the fact that a guy or a team over in the U.S. is recommending a guy to a U.K. company that's head of office productions that is over in Australia. Like the complete opposite time zone.

Charles K.: (Laughs) I tell you guys, this is an MBA. If you were to take this, map it out, you will literally have a game plan to go from nobody knows my name to working with the biggest businesses on the planet. This is amazing.

Now, knowing what you know now, I mean, let's face it, you are at the pinnacle ... And I've known you and I know you're going way higher than this ... But at this point, you're sitting here head and shoulders above everybody, everything you could imagine and how old are you now, by the way?

Josh: 28.

Charles K.: 28.

Josh: Going on 29.

Charles K.: Yeah, it's so funny, when you talk like 21, 22, 25, 26 ... I mean, you have so much more ahead of you.

Now, if you were starting out right knowing what you know. I mean, you already know it. You've already done it. You've already been there. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a brand new person starting an agency? How would you advise them getting their first client? What advice would you give the new agency owner?

Josh:  It all depends on their situation. Like how much money they've got in the bank, how much they want to put behind it, how many hours they've got, those sorts of things.

But, like, the big one for me was, I got conned out of ... well, I wouldn't say conned, but I was dumb enough to accept $10,000 to register a business in Australia when it cost $250. Like, I didn't know how to register a business in Australia. I was just the absolute dumbest of decisions.

So, number 1 get someone who's done it before and pay them whatever you have to like, don't pay them so much that you're going to be scraping at the end of the month to try and get your business launched because that's just going to piss that mentor off as well. Cause you can't do anything.

But, within reason, and older people are happy to mentor if you ask and especially if you want to become an intern with someone who you really look up to and who you really respect just to shadow and watch them what they do and don't follow what the gurus tell you to do. Follow what they actually doing themselves.

So, if you follow their causes and stuff it's just a rehash bullshit from 1980's. There's nothing different. It's just got a nasty spin on it for the new marketing channel that's out. You know, everything's really the same if you think about it and if you look at advertising hasn't really changed except for the platforms that you can use.

The other thing is to treat it as a business that's not like a side job. If you really want to build a business properly you've got to think about it from day 1 that you're not going to be the bottleneck. You're not going to be the person doing everything. You're not going to be the one person that should be client facing.

Sure, you can be the figurehead and stuff but you want to ... And this is one of the biggest mistakes I made and I've only realized in the last two years. I've been working in this business for nine years ... I'd say properly for five years but I've just been around for like nine years now ... is that the biggest mistake I made was that I put myself in the middle of every process. I checked everything. I made massive checklists. Everything had to go through me.

I was the bottleneck for everything and I was getting burned out like crazy, so I was doing 80, 90, 100 hour weeks, back to back, you know, I'd be chefing in the morning from 6 am to like 5 or 6 pm in the afternoon and then from 6 pm to about 3 a.m. in the morning I'd be working on the internet business and off I'd go again back to chefing the next day and off you go.

When you're young, sure, you can probably pull it off and stuff and if you don't have a relationship, you know, if you've got a relationship - good luck keeping the relationship at the same time, but you know, business and work should never be at the cost of a friendly relationship.

Businesses come and go, money comes and goes, but you guys might want to seem like that and it took me ages to realize that too and its people who always want something that you have but they don't have and they're happy to pay for that. It's just about finding the right people that are happy to pay for that sort of stuff.

So, it's like everyone has a skill set that they're really good at and usually you start with that and then you go and build it up. The question I usually get is, “Oh, I don't know what my skill set is.”

The first thing when you're charging is just keep asking for more until someone says no. And that's kind of when you’ve reached a peak, when someone says no. You want people to push back on your pricing. If they're not pushing back on your pricing, you're seriously not charging enough. If they are accepting right away for your proposal in like two seconds, you are definitely not charging enough.

Charles K.: Guys, I want you all to take that home as a take home note. Get that tattooed on your arm next time you do a proposal. Look at it and double your price because this is the deal. If you're not charging enough, the people are just thinking "Oh yeah, man, this is a great deal". People mentally already have a price in their mind.

When you're dealing with them ... And I'm going to make up some numbers here and Josh you can tell me if I'm completely wrong but let's just say that I've got an idea and I think it is worth $10,000. You come back at $8,000 and I'm like "Oh, that's cheaper than I thought, sign the contract now."

Truth of the matter is you should be at the $12,000 and maybe negotiate down to somewhere, you know, whatever it takes, maybe remove some services, you know, do something to whittle down that price but never come in and as a side note and, Josh, you covered this earlier, and I just want to stress this. When you're working for broke clients or clients that really can't afford anything to begin with, those are the people that want to barter with you.

Those are the people that complain about your price and, I mean, if you said it was $100, it would be $100 too expensive for them. Those are the people that literally are probably the ones that take most of your time. Am I right on that or am I out of the ballpark on that one?

Josh: Um, not 100% so our best ... Our biggest paying clients are our easiest clients.

Charles K.: That's one of those things that if you're dealing with somebody and they're expecting you ... I had a client ... Well, not even a client, I didn't even take him but the guy's like "Man, my budget is unlimited." I'm like "Well, that's cool, how much have you made last month?"

"Well, we haven't made anything, but as soon as you start making money, I can pay you."

You hear that all the time and that's like when you run for the hills because they are expecting you to take care of your business or their business and you made a really good point earlier. If the business can't support the growth, they're just going to blame you and fire you for it.

So, you know, if you sell out 3,000 units and they're not prepared, you know, they can't get it in stock, man, they're just getting rid of you. They see you as the problem.

Josh: Yeah, you're the winner or you're a scapegoat.

Charles K.: Yes.

Josh: Yeah. (Laughs) You're both at the same time so if it's working or so it was the marketing manager trying to take credit and say "No, it was all me". I'm this person and so forth or if things go wrong you're the number 1 scapegoat because they don't want to get fired.

Charles K.: Absolutely, absolutely. But, dude, where can we find out more about you? Where can ... If you've got a business and you're ready to grow it and you're serious, Josh, where can we find out more about you?

Josh: Probably the best place to find out about us is which is our ad growth marketing agency and what we do and then what we focus on.

Charles K.: Sweet. Well, dude, I am super excited to get to interview you. I'm excited for your growth and it truly is a rags-to-riches story from 18 leaving home to really hitting the pinnacle of paid advertising today with some of the biggest companies on the planet.

That's an exciting journey and I can't wait to see where the next 5, 10 years, hopefully. I think I know where they hold for you. Somebody is going to buy you out and you're going to end up on some beach, somewhere, drinking lots of Coronas and riding your bike.

Josh: Uh, I don't know. I'd get too bored doing nothing.

Charles K.: (Laughs) I totally understand that. Well, guys, I'm excited to have Josh on here. Make sure you check out his website. This is Charles. Hope you enjoy it. Talk to you later and have a good one.

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