Lee Jackson Founder of The Agency Trail Blazer Community

On Episode 263 of the WP-Tonic podcast, Lee Jackson of The Agency Trailblazer podcast, formerly WP Innovator, and also owner of Angled Crown WordPress agency joined host Jonathan Denwood to discuss the rebrand of WP Innovator into The Agency Trailblazer Podcast.

Lee is a long time friend of the show who frequently joins the Friday round-table.

WPInnovator started as a WordPress podcast. As it grew, he noticed much of the discussion surrounded what is required to run a successful agency. Over the past year, Lee has rebranded and opened a membership model to provide private content to other agencies.

Lee had been working on a book covering this topic for the past year, and was able to reconfigure much of this information to create and launch a membership website.

The original launch of the site was for founding members only, and the official opening of the private membership will be February 16, 2018.

The two also covered what it takes to build a successful podcast. It was agreed that building an audience can be difficult. Lee recommends having guests on your podcast and work to have them promote it, too. He felt that one mistake he made was not promoting his guests enough, and is prioritizing this for the future.

Lee’s favorite thing about they interviews is that he learns from his guests. It’s like free consulting.


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Here’s A Full Transcription of Our Interview With Lee

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic show. This is episode 263. We’ve got a great friend of the show as our guest. Unfortunately, my co-host Kim can’t be with us. She’s had some bad experiences with the dentist and I can understand.

Jonathan: myself. So she’s recovering from a very expensive and painful exercise. She’ll be rejoining us next week. But we’ve got a great friend of the show coming back, Lee Jackson. Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience a little bit Lee?

Lee: Hello everyone and if you’re watching, hello everyone. Yeah, I am Lee Jackson. I am a friend of the show. I actually appear on it now and again when I’m allowed on, cause a little bit of trouble. I am very sorry about that but me and Jonathan go way back. Back when I had lots of hair, no that’s a lie. We go back a year or so and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be invited back on the show, especially now that we’ve made sure my mic’s working, because if you listen back to one of the original episodes I joined you, I think my mic was on and it just sounded tinny and terrible. And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a podcaster”. I’m talking into this and it ain’t even on.

Jonathan: It happens to all of us. It happens to all of us actually Lee. But welcome back to the show Lee. Like I say you’re always welcome and you’ve been a great panelist as well, always enjoy our discussions. To start off the show Lee. To say it’s been a busy period for you would be an understatement because you decided to totally rebrand your own podcast and also start a new community. Would you like to start off the discussion, why you decided to rebrand the podcast and what’s this new community about?

Lee: I’d love to. Okay. So, WP Innovator sounded like a great idea at the time 2 years ago because obviously, I focus on building websites with WordPress. And WordPress is and probably always will be my passion for as long as it exists. I absolutely love the platform. So, WP Innovator made sense as a name and I wanted to help agencies with WordPress and also other areas of their life. However, over 2 years of the podcast, it’s become more and more apparent that, although WordPress is still very important, there is so much information and support out there that the more important problems that people want solving are more things like time management, stress management, generating leads, growing their business, etcetera.

So if you listen to the podcast over the 2 years and I don’t suggest you go and do that now that’s quite a lot of hours but you’ll notice that WordPress seems to get less and less. It still gets mentioned. There are still some focuses. We still have guests about WordPress etcetera but a lot of the people on the show are really talking about how to manage your agency, how to upscale, how to find new sources of revenue. All stuff the agencies are really interested in as well as sole freelancers, sole traders, etcetera. So it kind of, it came to me probably a year ago that we were using the wrong name and I was too scared to change it.

Because I was like, “If I change it, I’m going to lose my best SEO. I’m going to lose this that and the other and people are going to be upset”, so I never bothered. And then, it came to the point where I wanted to launch a community. It’s kind of a long story. I’ll try and keep this short. I will keep this short for you.

When I first started my business, I wanted to solve an area of stress for agencies. That was my why, that was my mission. And that was to be the freelancer or the agency for agencies that would just take over and build the website for them and that I wouldn’t disappear, I wouldn’t go over budget. We would do it on time and we would look after our agency clients so that they didn’t have that part of the stress in their life. Through the podcast, we were recognizing that agencies have a lot more stress in their lives.

And I can remember multiple times when I ran my agency. We had loads of staff and we had some very dark times and that really just continued to ignite my passion in helping agencies. So the podcast obviously started to pivot into more agency related topics. And It hit a point just late last year where I was thinking I really need to launch a community where I can support agencies. Right now, I’ve got the podcast which helps quite a few people but I have to do my day job, which is building websites for design agencies and that takes an awful lot of time and I can only help a few people.

So I can only help my 30 or so on the go clients. Beyond that, everyone else gets a bit of my free help through the podcast. Whereas, if I launched a membership model where I could load content in and do things like mastermind calls with people and offer all that sort of stuff, then that’s more of a one to many relationship where I can create a piece of content that’s going to help solve a problem that’s shared across many agencies and that can all go into a community which is paid for which will also help fund me to continue to create freaking amazing content on the podcast.

So that’s exactly what I decided to do. It was actually crystal clear. That was the final kind of nail in the coffin if that’s the right words on that idea. No, that’s definitely the wrong words. He said, “In order to build influence, you need to be seen to sell”. And that stayed with me ever since he said it. I’ve built influence with the podcast but I’m not able to grow my influence without funding it if that makes sense.

Jonathan: Just let me ask you, What do you precisely mean by that? What do you think he meant by that?

Lee: What do I think he meant by that? Well, if I’m going to build influence, I need to have confidence in what I’m saying and what I’m doing. And if I’m just offering lots of free advice and not necessarily charging for it forever, then there’s no kind of value exchange is there. I’m giving you lots of value but I’m not necessarily getting any value from you in return. If there’s some value exchanged, people are more likely to do something with what you have offered them, with that information that you’ve offered them. So, we’re seeing that the people inside of the agency trailblazer community because they’ve made an investment in themselves, they’ve done this value exchange, they are throwing themselves into the workshops and they’re throwing themselves into the growth reports and all of those sorts of things and being accountable to each other because they’ve invested in it etcetera. Does that make sense?
Jonathan: Yes.

Lee: Yeah. So, like I said, quite a long story but yes. So, it was November last year that we decided we were definitely going to do it and within a month we built everything out and we launched on the 1st of Jan with a founder offer for a couple of weeks. And we have a whole lot of members in there right now and we’re having a freaking party, which is amazing. And we’re really, really enjoying it. So, doors are going to open again on the 14th of February.

Jonathan: Oh, they are. So, am I correct that you managed to get enough content developed in a month period? I would imagine there is an enormous amount of work involved.

Lee: If you’re watching on video, look what happened. Full head of hair and then it all went. No. Yes. I was able to gather a lot of content. Now bear in mind that, I think there’s a book inside of all of us, right? You’ve probably got a book or three inside of you and you’ve probably not written it yet.

Jonathan: No. There’s no books in me.

Lee: There is definitely a book in you. I know it already. Well, most of us then let’s. There’s a book in you but this is not a pep talk. Most of us have this kind of idea for a book. And I have played around with this idea of a book for years and I started writing it over a year ago and it’s all about going back to basics with your agency and kind of setting yourself off right. So, I realized that I already had absolutely stacks worth of content for the agency reset road-map. This was like our first series of modules that we put inside the Trailblazer community. So I was able to repurpose an awful lot of the book that I had half written for the first few months of content, which was great. But also, because I’ve run a podcast for years and also I’ve got a YouTube channel where I do tons of videos etcetera, there’s lots of value that you can add to that. So, you can take some content that you created and then you can also accompany it with some further stuff, like a workbook, a checklist and other stuff that you can bundle in to add more value and that can then live inside of a paid community. So you don’t necessarily have to create tons and tons and tons of content before you launch.

You can actually re-purpose and add extra value to stuff that you’ve already done. And a lot of this was all done through the amazing advice from the membership guys. That’s Mike Morrison, a fellow WordPress enthusiast. So, if you check out The Membership Guys podcast, if you are interested in launching a membership site. They provide value upon value with regards to how to get a membership site planned, launched and out there, so phenomenal. But it was stressful at the same time. Don’t get me wrong.

Jonathan: I think it’s a fantastic decision and totally the right thing for you to do Lee. I’m really excited for you. I think, obviously because of what your agency does, it’s a natural pathway to go down really. Also, I’ve come to some conclusions about podcasting that I would like to put to you and see if you think I’m correct.

Lee: Pray tell.

Jonathan: Or your own insight. I think with podcasting, I mean, you can only get value if you go two directions and that’s either, select a very broad subject and accept the challenge that you’re going to be up against some very large established players and accept the level and investment in time and money that it’s going to take to establish, a podcast to a very broad audience. Or you’re going to have to focus your podcast on a very niche audience. I think a lot of podcasts are in the middle area and because it’s not a property owned by Google directly, that has some consequences with audience size and its value when it comes to SEO terms. What do you think about some of those subject statements?

Lee: Some of those statements. Well, I’m not really sure if there is a particular point. I mean, you’ve shared a few things about how you feel in podcasting. Is there a question buried in there?

Jonathan: I don’t know. What do you think Lee?

Lee: What do I think? What! All right. Well, I’m just going to say some stuff in response and hopefully, it’ll be relevant.

Jonathan: That’s what I do Lee.

Lee: Launching a podcast is actually very easy to do. Getting an audience is very hard to do. I think that’s where you’re going with this. It is actually very hard to build an audience. And I’ve actually got several other podcasts that people don’t necessarily know about and some of them get like 12 downloads a month. It’s ridiculous because it’s very hard to promote it if you don’t already have an audience. The way I built my audience and the way you’ve built your audience, which is a great way, is by getting guests on. Because when you have a guest on, they are going to promote the fact they were on the show because they’re very proud they were on the show. I’m very proud I’m on WP-Tonic right now.

I’m going to share the crap out of this for the next few weeks and my audience are going to listen to the show and hopefully, some of those people are going to stay on. So, if you are thinking of launching a podcast, you definitely want to have guests. Unless you have unlimited amounts of money and can spend on campaigns and all sorts of other things to drive traffic. One of the frustrating things about running a podcast is you don’t know who most of the people are, who are listening to your show. So we’re getting thousands of downloads a month. I’ve no idea who everyone is. Thank you for listening but I don’t know who you are, which is why I added the Facebook group.

We’ve got like 1,400 or 500 people in there now, which is phenomenal. So I do know an awful lot of the people who listen to the show and we’re able to interact with those people as well. But, yeah. I would say podcasting is, I guess is like having a TV show, isn’t it? You don’t really know who the people are who are listening. It’s really hard to monetize. It’s really hard to grow your audience as well unless you’re willing to put in the time it takes to build that up. So, the first few shows of WP Innovator, I think we had, we were having trickles of listens and it was quite demotivating for myself, seeing I had 50 downloads, which felt like a lot then but it’s still kind of stuck around that for a while until we were getting into the thousands.

Yeah. It can be. But if you can stay the course, if you can get your guests to promote you. And one thing that I’ve definitely done wrong, which is what we’re trying to rectify at the moment is, I have not purposefully promoted regularly, say for the whole week. Every single podcast that we’ve had, I’ve shared it once and that’s it. Whereas, now we’re kind of repurposing the way we share it. We’re actually making short video clips. We’re doing different types of images and we’re building up these campaigns now, so that every time we have a guest on, we will share the bejeebers out of that podcast all over the place. We will get that guest as much exposure as we can. We’ll be tagging them in with regards Twitter.

I’ve always found that’s one of the very successful ways. If you tag the person in when you’re sharing it, they’re going to see it and they’re going to re-share it again to their audience. So those sorts of things are really helpful. But the other thing is, even if your podcast doesn’t grow quickly and it does take a year or 2, there is another benefit that people don’t realize. I have learned so much from the guests. It’s like free consultancy.

It’s beautiful. I recorded a podcast just yesterday and the guy was talking about something and he was talking about making magical moments with your guests and sending them a gift when you hit specific milestones because, not guests, with your clients. And that blew my mind because I was thinking, “Yeah. They always remember the bad stuff that we did. But if we can just infuse that with some magical moments where we send them a gift and all celebrate together a particular milestone, then that’s going to change things”. And I never knew that. I hadn’t really figured that out. But a guest told me that on a podcast and now I’m going to tell everyone as if I’d thought of it and people will think I’m clever. So even if you don’t grow your podcast massively, then just suck all the value you can out of it for yourself because you’re getting lots of free consultancy from amazing people all around the world.

Jonathan: So true. I think time is flying a little bit. So we’re going to go for our break folks and we’re going to come back and continue my great discussion with Lee Jackson. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back folks. We’re going to continue this great discussion. I totally agree with you what you said before the break about podcasting. I wasn’t being negative about it at all actually. I actually think if you go for the niche and accept you’re not going to get tens of thousands of listeners, it’s still enormously beneficial. I have to discuss the promoting side of it with you a little bit. Maybe after the podcast because I’ve done a seemingly awful job about it and I should do a much better job.

Lee: Well, on that though, I think we all have this weird kind of, there’s a word, self-sabotage. We self-sabotage ourselves all the time, don’t we? We create something of immense value every single week but there’s this inbuilt thing inside of as humans where we’re like, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to do all that sharing. Why do I have to do all that stuff?”. And we just don’t get round to it. Lo and behold 2 years later of a podcast, I’ve not been helping myself by not being purposeful about sharing the podcast, except for when I see dips or when I see stagnant growth, straight line and that. It’s actually mainly my own fault because I’ve not put the time and effort in to really schedule every episode. I owe it to my guests. They’ve given their time to be a guest on my show. I really owe it to get their message out. So, we’re really taking it seriously in 2018, which is cool.

Jonathan: That’s great. And funny enough, like you, I’ve not re-branded the show like yourself but I’ve refocused the show for 2018. I have a similar time because I’m now more focused on Learning Management Systems and Membership websites and about guests on the Wednesday show that might help that audience a little bit more. I thought it was better to focus down a little bit more myself rather than just a general WordPress audience. It’s still quite a large audience but that’s what we’re planning. And of course, with my co-host having so much knowledge in Learning Management Systems, I think it was the right choice for us to.

Lee: And you’re in a great niche there because I can think of five people who have, this week alone, either asked me or asked one of the communities that I’m in, about what is the best LMS platform etcetera. And then, you can see all the conversations going saying, “Well, it depends what you want to do”, or, “How long’s a piece of string?”, because it’s a very complicated subject.

Jonathan: Send them our way then.

Lee: to WP-Tonic.

Jonathan: Yes.

Lee: There’s so much inside of that, that you can impact and there are so many people. I mean, I know it sounds niche but one person is in public sector, training public sector people and yet they would still be able to listen to that. So that’s encouraging.

Jonathan: I’m also fascinated with your development of your community for your Facebook because I have recently started a Facebook group and I’ve done absolutely nothing with it. Absolutely zero.

Lee: I’m in it.

Jonathan: I’ve been very busy with another project, migration has started. In the WordPress community, in the kind of communities that we regularly contribute to, Facebook isn’t that normally that welcome. It’s more Twitter that a lot of my guests seem to be on in some degree. I wouldn’t say I dismissed Facebook because I’m actively involved with it. I was surprised how successful you have been utilizing Facebook. Was that something that you kind of stumbled in by accident and saw success and then channeled more of your time into? Or was it something you knew was going to really help the podcast and yourself and the Facebook group?

Lee: I think I knew from the very beginning. People talk about Facebook being just for personal. You don’t do business on Facebook. But I also knew that pretty much everyone has a Facebook account. So, if you want to reach out to the owner of a particular type of business, then everyone thinks you need to go to Twitter and LinkedIn. That’s not true. I guarantee that that lady or man who is the CEO of a company you’re going after also has a Facebook account and shows pictures of their cats and their children and their family etcetera. So I very purposefully went for Facebook. I knew they had a great community system, the group system to be able to create a great community and create conversation.

So I then just hammered the podcast all the time. I’d even throw in comments about it halfway through an interview saying, “Don’t forget to go to wpinnovator.com/group”, which would redirect them to the Facebook group. So it grew pretty rapidly. And the amount of time you spend in the group is only the same amount of time as you check your notifications on Facebook. It just depends how addicted you are. I’m basically on Facebook all day.

There’s a tab open most of the time unless I need to do some real focus and then I’ll have to close it down but I am on Facebook a lot. And it has grown very, very quickly. There’s a nice chart now because Facebook groups have a chart and recently it started to go like that, where the growth starts to speed up. So we went from like a thousand, sorry, we were in 1,000 and then we’ve shot up to nearly 500 more. So that’s 1,500 in a much shorter space of time than the past. So, as more people join, they share it with other people and more people are coming into the groups. So that’s a wonderful experience.

Jonathan: So, how do you balance in your own mind what goes on in the Facebook, in the public to your new community and offering unique content that will only be available to the members? Where’s that balance line or it’s always a flow? You’re always making that judgment.

Lee: Well, it’s quite easy. I mean, there’s two things that I always want to make sure that I do. In the WP Innovator Facebook group, I always want to be there. I love the community. I want to add value in there all the time. I don’t want them to necessarily be forgotten. And everyone knows that when I launched Agency Trailblazer, WP Innovator Facebook group is one of my biggest sources of learning because there are some great people in there and they help me with my business. I network in there. I’ve got suppliers from there. I’ve got clients from there etcetera and so have other people. There’s kind of two main differences about the paid community.

The paid community is where we also share a lot of our financial goals and personal information about our businesses so that we can be accountable to each other and help each other out and that sort of information that, we wouldn’t want our clients accidentally stumbling on, on a Facebook group etcetera. There’s that. And then, the way I add value with regards to the content that I create, is that I’ve got the free podcasts. So everyone can access the free podcast and the videos that I do. We have courses, well, workshops, short workshops. nothing too big and long, not like 30 modules etcetera.

But we have short courses that we create specifically for the Agency Trailblazer community and we might do a snippet of that for free to the public to give them at least the basics. And then, if people want to deep dive, that’s where they go into the community. And along with those pieces of content will be extra things like downloads, worksheets, checklists or anything else to kind of help prompt the learning or help people take action. So that’s what lives inside of the community. So it kind of enables us to create content for both streams very easily.

One of the other cool things we’ve started doing as well is we’ve created kind of an on-demand service. So, our Agency Trailblazers can actually listen to several shows in advance because obviously, we’re releasing a show every single week but we batch those shows. So we’ve already got four episodes in the batch, which means you can go Netflix stylee into Agency Trailblazer and go on binge on four of the upcoming episodes that aren’t even live yet. So there’s lots of other ways that we can just help people who are supporting Agency Trailblazer get extra value from it.

Jonathan: Sounds great. We’re coming into the actual podcast part of the show. Hopefully, Lee will agree to stay on for like 10, 15 minutes for our bonus content. We can drink more whiskey there. But before we wrap. Yeah, exactly. Before we wrap it up, would you like to tell the listeners how they can see, listen of the best of what you produce and get what the best areas are Lee?

Lee: To get in touch is to go to AgencyTrailblazer.com. You can access the podcast. You can see my cheesy video. It tells you about the community and we’re all about falling in love with your agency again. And I would just say, don’t even bother trying to join the group because it isn’t open until February the 14th, which is Valentine’s Day, which is the best time for you to fall in love with your agency. Go and enjoy the free podcasts. There are some amazing guests on there that will really help. And go and join the free community that we have. And if that’s all you ever do for the rest of your life, wonderful. Come and be a part of the community. It’s WPtinnovator.com/group. I’m in there all the time. I like to make new friends. So feel free to add me on Facebook. Unless you have a freaky picture of you, I don’t know, with a knife or something, I might not accept the friend request. But otherwise, you know add me as a friend and why not, let’s all get to know each other and network and be cool.

Jonathan: And I would highly endorse that folks. Lee’s given myself some personal advice. And I’m sure any agency who is not totally happy with the direction they’re going would get great value in joining Lee’s program. And I personally would heavily endorse that you should consider it and join his community because . . .

Lee: I’ll drink to that.

Jonathan: Yeah, that is great. Folks, if you need to get a hold of me, it’s really easy. Go to the WP-Tonic website. There’s a load of content on there. My co-host is going to be writing regularly on the WP website about Learning Management Systems. Some of you are also got a host of new articles that are going to be published during this year about helping you with specific problems with Learning Management Systems. And we will delve in with WordPress, Learning Management Systems, Membership in the coming podcast because that’s what interests me. So that’s what I’m going to be talking about. So we’re going to see you next week when we’re going to have a guest that’s doing something amazing with WordPress. We’ll see you next week. Bye.


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