Hopefully, you’ve read my last article about the things that I’ve learned in 15 years of owning a creative agency. While that first installment focused on the core values of your agency such as cash flow, point of difference, values, and culture, this next article hones in on agency growth and sustainability. We’ve all been through the ups and downs of agency life, from too much work to get done with little resources, to a surplus of time. What I’ve learned is that you always have to be developing business, gaining leads, and continually increasing the top of the funnel. At the end of the day, this is what drives your planning for staff, resources, the need for freelance help. It also allows your team to share in the success of the agency if you have a profit-sharing/goals and incentives program in place (tip: you should). Here are the next five tips in the series to help support your agency:
6.) Owner Needs To Be #1 Business Developer
Who has the most stake in the agency? The owner, of course. The main priority of the owner should be working on the business, not in the business. Over the years, I was fortunate enough to be awarded business based on our work product and relationships, but that alone will not allow you to scale your agency, only maintain it. If you want to increase your profit into the 15%-20% range, business development remains the key in unlocking the ability to scale. The owner of the business needs to be the leader when it comes to business development and frankly it needs to be their #1 priority. As a creative, I fought this role for a very long time, but since then, I have embraced it. We have been able to fill the pipeline faster and top line revenue has increased significantly. The business owner tends to have the most passion and knowledge about his or her company, as a result, they are the best for selling the company’s products or services. The business owner also tends to have the long lasting relationships and connections. Don’t wait like I did, start today.
7.) Invest In SEO + PPC
You could have the best agency website out there, but is it really doing anything if people aren’t finding it? More than ever, company high-ups are doing their due diligence and research, “shopping” the web for the best agency fit. We were firm believers in SEO for the past 8 years and have seen plenty of leads come through these efforts. SEO has been a huge part in creating inbound leads for the agency, and we can measure the ROI very quickly and effectively. Only recently have we decided to do PPC, I was always skeptical about service based businesses getting any traction through PPC, but I have learned that a thoughtful campaign with appropriate keywords and modifier keywords will weed out the suspects from the prospects.
8.) Don’t Sit Back and Wait
Taking a proactive approach is key. Go out there and get it. Referrals are only one source of business development, albeit a great one. This is only one of the tools you should have in the box, and the only way to keep them all sharp is by using them. An arsenal of sales tools, such as email drip campaigns, traditional print/direct mail, and the aforementioned SEO and PPC are easy implementations that you could see results from. Additionally, look at current and past clients. What more could you be doing for them? What improvements/supplements could you make to the word you have done? Continually get people interested in working with you based on strengths in the your space. For us, it has been especially the active consumer.
9.) Treat Your Agency With The Same Importance As Your Client
It’s easy to push your projects to the side and simply focus on your paying clients, but that never allowed me to get our agency initiatives completed. Follow the same process you would if your agency was the client. Make a schedule, deliverables, and project plan and stay on track with it. Hold your team accountable for it the same way you would if it were a client project. Your team does a great job of completing client projects on time and on budget––expect the same out of agency projects.
10.) Make A Marketing Plan, Revisit It, and Update It
We all do a great job of marketing for our clients, but few agencies do a great job of doing it for themselves. Why is this? It’s probably because you don’t have a marketing plan in place. The tip here? Make one. Companies that want to grow outline the path, and that usually includes a marketing plan. Set initiatives, reasons for them, expected budget, and ROI. Start with 90 days. Then, revisit it and update it. What worked? What didn’t work? What do you need to be doing more of? What do you need to be doing less of? These questions are easy to answer if there is a plan in place and data collected from said plan.
Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series coming after the New Year!
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