When it comes to companies, growth is the name of the game. You grow or you die trying. And, unfortunately, it seems that a large portion of digital marketing and creative agencies have been working on the latter in the last 24 months.
The reason most marketing agencies don’t survive is that they don’t understand how to scale effective. They can grow, but it’s usually gradual. In other words, a 10 percent growth typically corresponds to a 7-10 percent cost increase. So despite the increase in sales, net profit remains relatively unchanged.
Scalable growth must be the goal. In other words, you need to find a way to effectively build your agency in a way that generates exponential profits. My goal in this article is to show you exactly how top dealers are doing this in today’s market.
Are these factors limiting your marketing agency’s growth?
Before diving too deeply into scaling your marketing agency, let’s take a look at some of the factors that can really limit your growth.
- Interchangeability. If someone visits your website, reads one of your emails, or visits one of your social networking sites, is that completely, undeniably, 100% unique? Or can they go online to any other random dealer’s website and find the same thing? If your online presence is interchangeable, you will never grow at the speed you desire. You must be unique.
- No decision power. Have you received any new customers interested in your services? This may be fine in the early stages of setting up an agency, but lack of caution with new customers is one of the biggest limiting factors to growth.
- Poor UX. What is your online user experience (UX) like? If it’s fraught with friction, good luck persuading top clients to work with you. They are evaluate your ability to help them build on your own online presence. If it doesn’t pass the smell test, they’re gone.
- Poor financial management. The lack of proper financial management behind the scenes can wreak havoc on your business and prevent you from achieving the kind of growth numbers you’re looking for. A good example of this is not having an emergency fund (caused by you taking all profits out of the business every month).
- Customers escalate. One of the difficult parts of running an agency is that you are responsible for so many different aspects of your client’s business. Unfortunately, the lines can get blurry and you might have to do things that you really shouldn’t be spending your time on in the first place. This is called “customer escalation”.
- Do-it-yourself mentality. Do you have a do-it-yourself mentality where you feel as if you have to do everything on your own? Again, this growth is holding back. You have to learn to outsource, delegate, and take a step back (so you can work above your business and not In it.)
Chances are, at least one of these elements is active in your agency (and it is stopping you achieve the growth you want and need). Start by defining what these element(s) are. Then move on to the next section to learn how to scale your agency easily.
5 tips to scale your marketing agency
Alright, now that we’ve discussed some of the factors that hold back agency growth, let’s take a look at a few of my favorite strategies for agency scaling.
If you’re a generalist, good luck scaling your agency. No one wants to work with a joint agency these days. You need to analyze and build your agency on a very specific and unique message.
Options for attribution include geography (New York businesses), industry (financial services), company size (500 to 2,000 employees), or even business model (Software like a service).
Once you’ve identified your niche, it’s time to develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that communicates exactly what sets you apart from the competition.
You can create a USP using any number of different recipes, but here’s a very simple and effective one:
“We help [NICHE] Complete [BIGGEST DESIRE] do not have [PAIN POINT]. ”
For example, “We help attorneys get 20 new clients a month without having to run obnoxious radio or TV ads.”
It is also helpful if you can create a name for the system or process that you use. (This is often called a “unique mechanism.”) You don’t really have to change anything about the way you do business – you just name your process. Here are some examples:
- Exposure blueprint
- Online growth system
- Digital Catalytic Process
You can include your unique mechanism in your USP. Using the example above, it would look like this: “The attorneys use our ‘Digital Catalytic Process’ to add 20 new clients a month without having to run obnoxious radio or TV ads.”
Do you see how much stronger your message would be if you reduced the segmentation, gave your mechanism a unique name, and created a separate USP?
You can save yourself a lot of time (and reduce customer escalation) by improving your referral process. More specifically, you should take this time to gather the right information and set the right expectations.
Once a client agrees to work with you, they will be asked to fill out very specific forms that give you all the pertinent information you need to help them grow. This includes things like logos, color hex codes, mission statements, value propositions, all digital assets, company history, logins and passwords for social accounts assembly, etc.
At the same time, you need to consider exactly what is included in your services and what is not. Make it clear that anything not included in your service comes with an additional monthly fee.
- Outsource the time consuming lines of the business
There are a number of elements in your customer package that are simply not time efficient for you. In other words, they take longer than they’re worth (or they’re outside your area of expertise).
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great example. Unless you have a background in SEO, it may not come naturally to you. The good news is that you can still offer these services to your customers – you just need to outsource.
With White label SEOyou can partner with an experienced SEO company on the backend and provide fully branded and personalized SEO services to your clients on the front end.
- Freelancers on Speed Dial
Part of scaling an agency is being ready for anything. While it would be nice if your business was called in a very predictable way, this is not always the case. One month you can add a customer and the next month you can add 11. You have to be ready for both situations.
Because it’s impractical (or smart) to hire more employees than you need at the moment, the best option is to have a list of trusted freelancers on speed dial who can take on contract work to help you temporarily fill the void.
- Create SOPs for everything
The first time you do something will always take the most time and cost. But if you learn to document and repeat these processes in the future, you can save time and money.
Want an easy way to organize your business and get it done where tasks can be delegated to new hires with minimal training? The trick is to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These are documents that explain how to handle a task in a series of simple steps. Whenever an employee gets promoted or quits, all you have to do is hand over the SOPs to a replacement and they can take over from there.
Execution in scaling your marketing agency
I just give you a lot of information and ideas. And with that being said, please don’t try to do all of them this week (or even this month). Instead, pick a tip and do it right away. Once you feel you’ve perfected that one, move on to another. This patient approach will eventually pay off. It may take time, but you’ll search within six to 12 months and find your agency in a much healthier place.