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How to Get Better Buyers by Focusing on Their Problems, with Karl Sakas

I recently ran into an idea so simple and powerful that I had to interview the man behind it, consultant to agencies Karl Sakas.

I’m always on the hunt for new and better ideas regarding running a better agency or freelance business. One of my water holes is the Grow Your Agency Slack channel where I participate from time to time. It was there that I ran across Karl Sakas suggesting this simple idea. I liked the idea so much that I asked Karl for an interview so he could unpack it for us and explain what makes it so potent.

Note: I’ve taken the liberty to add some links to other posts on this blog for those wishing to learn more. These additions of mine are clearly marked as such, inside brackets and in italics.

Stop Talking About Services, Talk About Problems Instead

Jakob: This interview was inspired by something you posted in a chat room for agencies: “Consider shifting your site’s focus from Services (what you do) to the problems your prospective clients are experiencing (“Problems We Solve” or similar).” and I thought it was an insight that more agencies should learn from. Why is this so important and what are the benefits of doing so?

Karl: This is about an important mindset shift—toward putting your clients first [see being passionate about client needs (article coming soon)]. Your website and other self-marketing are merely indicators of that shift.

Specifically, focus your self-marketing on the problems you solve for clients [see value-based pricing (article coming soon)]—not the services you provide. The shift is a version of highlighting benefits (solutions to client problems) over features (how you charge money to solve those problems).

For instance, clients don’t pay for SEO or PPC because they inherently value SEM services—they buy SEM because they want leads. They don’t buy branding or video services for their own sake—they’re trying to accomplish a business goal (and often a personal goal, too) [see this post on before-during-after, BDA, as a way to analyze client goals and needs (article coming soon)].

From 2013-2017, my website primarily featured the services I provide—consulting and coaching for agencies. In 2017, I redesigned the site to focus on the problems I solved: agency business strategy, managing clients, managing teams, and attracting your ideal clients. This radically changed the sales inquiries I received—including less self-diagnosis from prospective clients.

That doesn’t mean completely eliminating the “Services” section from your website—but consider that “Services” tends to attract people who’ve already self-diagnosed their problem. They tend to be implementation-oriented, rather than clients who want strategic advice. The focus on commoditized services typically means lower profits and more frustration for you and your team. [see this post on what to consider when adopting value-based pricing as a way to avoid commoditization (article coming soon)]

More profits mean you’ll reach your financial goals sooner, and reaching your financial goals helps give you the freedom you want as an agency owner.

Agencies Need to Help Market Themselves, Not Just Their Clients

Jakob: Expanding on the previous answer, what, in your opinion, are the most common mistakes digital agencies make when it comes to marketing themselves?

Karl: Three things—lack of consistency, failure to effectively use client-facing services for themselves, and an unwillingness to be unique.

First, agencies are failing to do consistent self-marketing. If you haven’t updated your blog in over a month or posted to Twitter in a couple of days, something went wrong.

If your own marketing looks “unloved,” why should clients trust you with their marketing? Sophisticated clients may understand that agencies tend to prioritize clients’ marketing over self-marketing, but the “shoemakers kids” problem hurts you regardless.

Second, agencies often aren’t using their own services for themselves. When an agency owner asks me for ideas to market their agency, I start by asking about their target persona(s) and then ask whether the agency is using their client-facing services for self-marketing. The answer is too-frequently “No.”

How to Get in Touch With Karl

Jakob: For those interesting in learning more or working with you, how can they get in touch with you?

Karl: Visit for hundreds of free articles on agency management plus free weekly tips. My boutique consulting and coaching focuses on managing growing pains at independent agencies. For those who don’t want hands-on help, I recently launched an Agency Resource Library of tools, templates, and other time-saving resources.

This post originally appeared on the Bondsai Blog, the blog of Leancept's personal CRM, now known as Elately.

This article is available in multiple languages

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Jakob Persson
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