Dennis Yu

Five Magic Words to Grow Your Online Marketing Agency

Sometimes you get a piece of advice so deep, yet so obvious, that you have to stop for a minute to think about it. Thanks to Gillian Muessig, President of SEOmoz, for mentoring me on this– her five magic words a bit later…

Have you ever been approached by a prospective client that would like to do business with you, but clearly doesn’t have the money? These are “wanna-be” clients. They can’t afford to be clients but have champagne tastes on a beer budget. See if any of these sound familiar to you:

  • “We want to be business partners with you and share the risk” (translation: “We have no money”).
  • “If you deliver us the revenue, then we can pay you your fee” (translation: “We have no money”).
  • “I can get this a lot cheaper elsewhere” (translation: “We have no money”).
  • “Let’s do a trade-out of services” (translation: “We have no money”).
  • “We need to ask you some questions to qualify you” (translation: “We have no money and want to string you along for free advice in the meantime”).

If you ever hear any of this, here are the 5 magic words you say… Drum roll, please…


Repeat that to yourself three times to lock it into your head. Don’t fall into the trap of selling yourself short. You’ll regret taking on a cheap client– and not only are they the ones with the least money, but also the neediest and hardest to deal with. Our best clients pay us handsomely, treat us well, and are a joy to work with. The clients for whom we’ve made exceptions to this rule suck the life out of us and sometimes make us wonder why we’re in this business. Spare your staff the angst and remember these 5 magic words, or else you risk losing your best people, too (who can work anywhere).

Tell the prospect, firmly and politely, that you work with a select group of clients — that you work with the best in the industry and pay your people well because you have the best people. Mention that you don’t compete on being the cheapest game in town, nor are you the most expensive. If they keep pushing, hold the line — say that you’re not a discount agency and that you can refer them to other agencies that would gladly take their project.

The clients that do pass this bar are going to be businesses that are likely to be solid in their operations, have folks who appreciate value, and will rekindle the excitement that caused you to strike out on your own, to begin with. You’re being paid well enough to afford to do a good job, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your staff members look forward to working with these clients and the enthusiasm is infectious.

Bruce Clay pulled me aside at SMX Advanced last year and gave me similar advice. He said the key to getting the right clients is to “stand in the middle of the road, arms outstretched, screaming that you are the best.” Half the people will think you’re crazy and walk away. The other half will say “Gee, he really must be the best” and then hire you.

Bruce also advised asking the prospect this question, “If your child was sick, would you go for the cheapest heart surgeon or the best?” That should do it. If not, you don’t want to work with them. Their business is like their child– and when you have only one shot to do it right, they should choose the best every time, unless they have no money.

You don’t want or need to have every potential deal that’s out there. Be choosy. Would you rather have 40 clients that each pay you $1k a month in fees or 4 clients that each pay you $10k a month? If you have 4 clients, you can focus your efforts to deliver solid value, build a solid relationship, and have ongoing solid business deals — as opposed to spreading your efforts thin among the chorus of squeaky wheels that compete for your attention.

So let’s make it 6 magic words, courtesy of Gillian:


Maybe when prospective clients get a little larger, they’ll be right for you– or maybe if they’re serious about what it takes to succeed in online marketing. But remember that if you’re having a hard time with them when they haven’t even paid a dime, imagine how they’ll be when they’ve handed you a few dollars.

If you follow the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), then remember that you need only a few clients to have a great business. Don’t be afraid to cut some clients loose. They may have been right for you a couple of years ago when you were a smaller firm or just getting started. But now you’re a different company and have moved on to a different client base. You can recommend others that can do a great job.

If you like this, please let me know or send a note to Gillian thanking her for the advice she has generously given here.


Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads. He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations. You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel. You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.
I'm a member of Blitzmetrics Academy and a friend of Dennis to boot. Not only is Dennis highly intelligent and full of great and creative ideas, he's also incredibly generous with both his knowledge and his time. Success couldn't come to a better guy. Thank you for all that you do for the world, Dennis! 🙏

Michael Pacheco


Thanks 🙏 for being shining light in this industry. Love what your building for works overseas too network for jobs so innovative. Dennis helped me navigate having bad experiences with marketing agencies and doing dollar a day marketing which has helped my personal brand tremendously. Highly recommend.

Eric Skeldon

Founder at Kingdom Broker

Working with Dennis has been a delightful experience. After meeting him in 2015 I got to collaborate with him on countless occasions. His understanding for state-of-the-art marketing, his implementation, and his leadership put him into the top 0.01% of marketers and mentors.

Jan Koch

Ihr kompetenter Partner für innovative KI-Strategien.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dennis for my podcast in 2021 and since then we have maintained a friendship that grows with each interaction. I have seen Dennis' devotion to his friends and clients firsthand, and our conversations often result in us talking about how we can provide more value to the people around us. He is someone whom I can ask questions on a technical level, and look to on a personal level. If you have any hesitancy about hiring him, get over yourself and do it!

Isaac Mashman

Help scaling personal brands.

Geez, where do I start recommending Dennis? First, he is an absolutely brilliant marketer who understands where marketing is today and where it's going tomorrow. He also has an incredible passion for the International Worker community. The lessons he has taught me from his almost 20 years of experience hiring International Workers have been immense. Most importantly though. Dennis Yu is someone who wants the absolute best for you and is willing to tell you the truth. Dennis sat with me at a point in my business where I was floundering but did not want to admit it. He asked some very straight forward questions to get me to admit my issues, highlighted the issues, and then helped me create a roadmap to success.

Atiba de Souza

International Keynote Speaker | Video Content Superman | Superconnector |

Dennis, which I had the pleasure of working with is one of the most giving, honest and tell you as it is person I ever know. The knowledge this man has is remarkable and he just gives it out freely. He is not pretentious and always entertain anyone big or small in the industry always willing to help. If you ever get a golden opportunity to work with him or mentored by him say YES!. You will notr regret Dennis, which I had the pleasure of working with is one of the most giving, honest and tell you as it is person I ever know. The knowledge this man has is remarkable and he just gives it out freely. He is not pretentious and always entertain anyone big or small in the industry always willing to help. If you ever get a golden opportunity to work with him or mentored by him say YES!. You will not regret

Nixon Lee

The PR Whisperer

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