How We Drove Over $100M in Revenue for Our Clients Without a Brand (and What We Did to Build One)

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How We Drove Over $100M in Revenue for Our Clients Without a Brand (and What We Did to Build One)

SwishDM has been in the digital marketing agency business for the best part of a decade (founded in 2014). 

But we never got around to doing any branding — or even having a set name. 

Or any kind of established branding, for that matter. 

As a matter of fact, for the past few years, our website has looked like this: 

How we got started

In a classic case of the cobbler wearing the worst shoes, we always advise our clients to take their branding and marketing seriously. Yet our agency website has been a placeholder for years and years. 
Oh, the hypocrisy! 

So how did we let this happen? 

Well, it all starts with the fact that we never intended to set up an agency in the first place. 

We actually started out as a productized service business called SEOButler (SB), selling done-for-you SEO services as products. For example, 1 x 1500-word article of search engine optimized content or 3 x Guest Posts for link-building. 

We productized services typically offered by agencies on a monthly or annual contract basis and sold them individually or as packages on an e-commerce website. 

As SB’s customer base and reputation grew, established businesses asked if we could handle all their SEO and content creation needs rather than just selling them products a-la-carte. 

Eventually, we gave in. 

We started the agency without a brand, logo, mission statement, or anything else. 

Our no-name agency’s client base snowballed. 

Aside from SB customers who’d outgrown the productized service approach, many new clients came in through referrals. 

Additionally, my brand in the digital marketing industry grew through speaking at conferences and appearing on podcasts. 

Despite having no brand or online presence, the agency landed clients with million-to-billion-dollar-plus market valuations from referrals, LinkedIn, (and even Facebook!) 

But our relationship with our most significant lead-generation funnel was about to change — forever.

Losing the magnet 

At the end of 2022, we decided to sell SEOButler to Onfolio, a US-based listed digital business consolidator. 

We spent 18 months drawing boundaries between the agency and SB in the lead-up to the sale. 

My end goal was to focus solely on the agency once the sale went through. 

But, despite the financial reward, there was a significant downside to cutting SEOButler loose.

We lost the magnet that attracted clients to our agency. 

Customer satisfaction with the quality of our productized SEO services was the primary driver of our success. 

At this point, our agency still didn’t have a brand name. 

Despite selling SB, our nameless SEO agency grew so significantly that our in-house team prioritized client projects over focusing on a rebrand. 

Amidst all this, I had a serendipitous conversation with my good friend Jarod “J-Dizzle” Spiewak. He mentioned that he had recently hired a brand consultant to spearhead a rebranding effort for his Google Ads business. 

Why couldn’t our nameless agency do the same thing?

Let’s get personal

I have always taken a deeply personal approach to my businesses. Swish, SeoButler, or any of the other companies I have founded. 

My team at Swish is (at least in one case) literally my family.

When the moment finally arrived to brand Swish, I rallied my business partners to help establish our direction. 

My business partner (and wife) Lyndsay reluctantly gave up her tenure-track college English teaching career after months of (good-natured) harassment to help lead SB and build out our content team. 

Lyndsay spent X years working on hiring and mentoring the writers at SB and became the heart and soul of the business. 

After selling SB, she joined the agency full-time to overhaul our content creation processes and level up our capabilities in terms of capacity and quality. 

My best friend’s little brother, Zeke, started out as SB’s first employee. Due to his unwavering dedication, he’s now my business partner (and best friend — sorry, Josh).

Zeke first joined SB in a customer service role in 2015 and quickly took over the role of operations manager. 

Zeke also transitioned over to Swish after we sold SB. His organizational know-how and determination have been a game changer for the agency.

With the day-to-day grind of SB in the rearview mirror, the three of us, at last, had the capacity to build a brand worthy of the agency’s world-class talent (and tangible results).

Finally, we were ready to take the next step…

Hiring a Branding Consultant

The hunt was on. 

Lyndsay and I began interviewing branding experts on Upwork, the start of an exhaustive process to find someone that “gets it.”

Many of the “seasoned branding experts” we spoke to did not understand WHAT digital marketing is AT all. 

After many painful interviews, we spoke with Leo Schwarz, a spry and charismatic Upworker with a genuine enthusiasm for understanding our brand vision. 

In our first conversation, I noticed that Leo (though based in Canada) hails from the same district of Berlin as me. Our communication styles were very much aligned.

We hired Leo immediately. 

SwishDM Brand Guidelines

Meeting with Leo multiple times a week, Zeke, Lyndsay, and I went through exercises to help him understand our work, methodology, and the overall brand identity we sought to build. 

Leo’s focus on understanding how we wanted our audience to perceive the agency particularly impressed me. 

He drilled down on what differentiates Swish from other “digital marketing” agencies.

Initially, it was a challenge for us put all of these abstract concepts into words. But we got closer and closer through structured exercises, freeform brainstorming, and wordplay.

Our previous attempts at creating a brand named SwishDM became the foundation of our conversations. We had some wonderfully crafted content and general thoughts on how we wanted to structure the website and our product offering. 

However, primarily due to the agency’s rapid growth, we lacked the internal resources to put it all together. 

Having an outsider’s perspective didn’t hurt either.

After a series of interviews, Leo developed a strategy and presented the following brand concept: 

As you can see, the concept went above and beyond, providing a logo and color palette that many design teams would deliver. Next came a detailed brand guide, laying out all the required brand elements and deliverables. 

Once completed, Leo’s style guide would become the foundational blueprint for our brand. 

Going beyond design, our mission statement and brand guide would build a foundation for new team members and company initiatives. 

Introducing the Brand

After the brainstorming sessions and structured exercises were complete, the deliverables from the roadmap began to take shape. 

This iterative phase helped us sharpen our vision for the agency’s new brand. 

Leo also created an overview with short, to-the-point statements to drive the overall mission statement home. 

With the bedrock of our brand vision firmly in place, we set out to create the necessary visual components — starting with our logo. 

Łukasz Stawiński from TDSoft provided us with numerous options. 

Everyone was drawn to Proposal 2 in internal discussions but legitimately concerned about the “Swish” letterings’ legibility — especially at smaller sizes.

After some back and forth with Leo, Lukasz presented the second iteration of logos for the brand. 

The logotype was now far more legible, and the DM icon stood out in the foreground. 

As we all worked on refining the logo, Leo created the 33-page brand guidelines that nailed the core of everything our agency does. 
And when I say detailed, I mean extremely detailed:

With the logo and branding guide finalized, things moved quickly. Nazarii from TDSoft sent webpage design mockups over.  

After multiple iterations, our collaborative process resulted in the website you’re browsing now. 

That’s the TL;DR of how we went from a “Coming Soon” page for (a mostly nonexistent) digital marketing agency brand to a fully realized identity and website from start to finish. 
I left out many nuances. And I didn’t see the value in sharing all 33 pages from the Brand guidelines with you. 

But I hope this rebranding overview helps you understand the “why” of what we do…

And the extended process we went through to communicate it to potential customers.

Having a rock-solid foundation for your brand to build on is invaluable. 

I’m excited to see how the brand evolves as SwishDB does.

But thanks to the extensive brand discovery and iteration process with our collaborators, it will be tweaks — not rebrands.

Our branding may be bedrock, but that doesn’t mean the services we offer our clients — and the processes behind them — don’t constantly evolve to support our clients. 

In digital marketing — as in life — the only thing constant is change.

Trust us as your business partner on the journey.

If you could benefit from working with an industry-leading digital marketing team to craft a bespoke marketing strategy — and execute it, get in touch with SwishDM today.

You won’t regret it.

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