Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
If you’re running a digital marketing agency, and you’re doing your job well, you’re in a good place. Your company is doing work that is in high demand, and you are in a position to grow very quickly.
Still, there are plenty of challenges in your way. Growth does not happen accidentally – it comes as a result of hard work and smart positioning. Even if you’re doing your job well, if you’re not prepared for growth when it happens, it can actually end up hurting you in the long run.
So here are 7 things you can do to not only encourage growth, but also be prepared for it when it happens.
Know Who Your Digital Marketing Agency Is
Your digital marketing agency does certain things exceptionally well—maybe better than anyone else. Identify what that is, and capitalize on it.
Too many marketing agencies try to be a “jack of all trades” in marketing, in an attempt to bring in all different kinds of clients. There is nothing particularly wrong with that… if you are a larger agency that has true specialists in every area.
A 2016 survey shows that the most important thing for marketers hiring an outside agency is “expertise in my industry.” In fact, 20% say the most important thing is “expertise in my industry, and 19% say it’s “expertise with my audience.” That means 39% of potential clients are not interested in generic marketing solutions.
Rather than try to appeal to every kind of client, truly understand who your agency is, what it does best, and what kinds of clients you work best with. In this manner, you will attract the kinds of clients you are best-equipped to understand and help.
Know Who Your Clients Are
This carries over from the previous point, however it isn’t just enough to know the industry and its audience. Just like your business has its specialties and strong points, so too do your clients.
Understanding their strengths is key to marketing them effectively, which in turn is key to earning long-term clients and repeat business. Basically, if you show your clients that you truly understand what they are about, they won’t want to go with another marketing agency and start from scratch. Clearly, it is better for them to stick with you.
If you are working in digital marketing, this is probably obvious, 101-level stuff. But sometimes it helps to stress the basics.
A 2014 survey showed that nearly 100% of large company executives consider it either “Very Important” or “Extremely Important” that their ad agency “understands their client’s business objectives.” A similar percentage stresses that it is important their agency is “Constantly thinking about their client’s needs.” In addition, 55% of those surveyed consider their ad agencies to be a “business partner equally committed to the success of their company.” So if you’re one of those ad agencies, act like it.
Okay, so you’ve established your specialties and your priorities. Great! Now what makes you different from the dozens of other agencies that do the same thing as you?
Don’t be afraid to be different. Figure out a voice, an innovation, an offering that only you can provide and focus on that. Pitch it to potential clients. Let them know that there are things you can do that they won’t get anywhere else.
In that same 2016 study referenced earlier, “New technologies” and “Fresh creativity” come in at 18% and 12% as the most important thing for an agency to have. That is 30% of clients looking to you to innovate.
Help Clients Understand What You Do
A 2016 survey of digital marketing agencies shows that 78% of respondents consider “Clients’ lack of understanding of digital marketing” to be a major challenge. Right beneath that comes “Clients expecting a high volume of work at low cost.”
Despite how important creative work is to marketing, a lot of businesses undervalue the work that digital marketing agencies do, and a big part of that is because they just don’t understand it. It’s a total black box to them, and all they see is input (money) and output (hard results).
It is not an easy process, but do your best to unpack exactly what it is that you’re helping your clients do, and how you do it. If you break it down to the building blocks of the process, clients are more likely to see the work required in each step, and that will help them justify the cost of that work.
Understand Your Capabilities – and Your Limitations
Overpromising your abilities is not going to make you any friends. Know exactly what you can do, and how fast. Calculate what that comes out to per hour.
This isn’t just about being profitable. Obviously, yes, you want to make sure you are making enough money for the time you need to put in. But it is equally important to understand when your agency is at capacity and you cannot take on any more work. Promising you can hit a deadline and missing it is far, far worse than telling your client up front that you’re swamped and will not be able to make it.
On the other hand, this is about encouraging growth, right? Rather than turn down additional work, recognize that this is a chance to grow. Maybe if you’re constantly up against the wall with your workload, it’s a good time to hire a couple new people to handle the extra work, and take on even more!
The timing on the hiring process is tricky, however. Hire too early, and you’ll incur additional costs before you have the revenue to justify it. Hire too late, and you are throwing new employees in the deep end, which will negatively affect morale and retention.
That is why you need to know exactly what your capabilities and future targets are, so you can identify the right time to expand.
Establish Your Policies Up Front
Transparency – in all facets of business – is hugely important for marketers looking to hire a digital marketing agency. Specifically, a lack of transparency in pricing is the cause of a huge rift of trust for many companies. About 60% of respondents to a Business Insider poll show that understanding how a marketing agency makes money is a major influencer in establishing trust with that agency.
That doesn’t mean you need to turn over your balance sheets to every client you work with. But it does mean you should ensure that your client knows exactly what they are paying for. This isn’t just beneficial to them, this is also an opportunity for your to explain what kinds of work are in and out of your scope. Because the general understanding of digital marketing is low, you may find yourself fielding requests for things that really aren’t in your job description.
Explaining your policies, pricing models, and processes will help your clients understand what they should and should not be requesting of you under the terms of your agreement. This will make your work with them more efficient, as well as effectively manage your clients’ expectations.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
Every marketing agency would love to nab a 6- or 7-digit contract with a huge, influential company, but that is not the best place to start if you’re trying to establish trust with a new client.
First off, a marquee client is unlikely to throw a major contract out to someone they have never worked with. But even if they would, big contracts like that don’t tend to give you a lot of creative freedom. There are going to be a number of pressures associated with bigger contracts. In other words, the more money they spend, the more the scope of the project is going to increase, and the more likely your client is to micro-manage.
Those aren’t the best conditions to try to make a good first impression. Instead, get your foot in the door with a smaller project that lines up with your specialty. That way you get a chance to shine, show off your creative chops and build trust.
Not only does that put you in better position to earn those mega contracts later, it also means there is a better chance they will trust your input and refrain from micromanaging.
As you can see, growth isn’t just about finding more clients and getting bigger as fast as you can. Your growth has to be measured and managed just like everything else.
If you focus on nurturing the relationships with your existing clients and zoning in on what you are best at, that growth will happen naturally. And when it does, you will be in prime position to take advantage of it.
February 3, 2017
February 3, 2017