Running any business is hard, but running a digital marketing agency can be especially challenging. With fast-paced technological advancements happening every day, the industry is constantly changing and evolving. Every day, there is a new trend that you need to catch up to. Whether it is social media, PPC ad campaigns, or website design, there is always something new that you can do. Although the dynamic environment of this industry is rich with potential and growth opportunities, surviving and thriving can sometimes be difficult.
The goal of every business is to grow, not just stay functional. However, growth can mean different things for different people or agencies, depending upon their values, vision, and mission.
Growth has some standard identifying features, such as:
- Long-standing clients
- Increased ROI and regular profits
- Increasing opportunities to expand
- Happy employees
If your business shows any of the above signs, you are ready for the next big step — scaling your agency.
What does scaling mean?
People often use the word growth and scaling interchangeably. However, scaling differs from growth. Growth is about expanding your resources, both people and investment capital, and, as a result, increasing your revenue. In contrast to growth, scaling is about getting a substantial increase in revenue without a proportionate increase in resources.
What are the benefits of scaling your agency?
- Increase your chances for growth: Growth is a milestone that every business aspires towards, and scaling is the first step to reach there. Scaling helps you increase your revenue, some of which you can reinvest to grow your business. It also allows you to expand your services.
- Improve your efficiency: Scaling works because it is based on well-planned maneuvers and alternative plans if something goes wrong. It means you need to be on your A-game at all times. And when that happens, your efficiency skyrockets.
- Portfolio expansion: When you scale your business, you can provide better services to your customers. It helps you get more customers and business in the long haul.
- Increases your chances of survival: Scaling not only helps you grow in a favorable situation but gives you the means to stay afloat when the industry takes a downturn. It helps you create reserves of funds which are essential to survive in challenging times.
- Competitive edge: Scaling your agency prepares you for the competition in your industry. It also increases your chance of emerging as a winner in every situation. Scaling gives you the essential tools and know-how to beat the experienced competitors in your field.
What are the challenges to scaling your agency?
Scaling your agency has multiple benefits, but it is not without challenges. Most industries face these challenges and give up quickly. Here are some common challenges agencies face when they scale their business.
- High churn rates: Scaling is a dynamic process wherein you gain and lose clients frequently. This situation can leave you in a fix where you often have more employees than you require. You may have to hire and fire more often than you like, which can be bad for your reputation. It also makes it harder to find skilled workers who often prioritize job security and stability in the work environment.
- Low-profit margins: Scaling isn’t as expensive as growth, but it still requires a substantial investment. Most digital marketing agencies have a profit margin of about 11 to 15 percent, which is way too little to think about growth and expansion.
- Lack of quality talent: Scaling requires more people, and in a creative field like digital marketing, you need to find people with varied skill-sets. You also need to retain your existing employees, which can be difficult when your competition can poach them with better offers. As an employer, you need to maintain transparency, conduct fair wage practices and provide additional benefits like health care programs to ensure that your employees stay.
What are the strategies you can apply to scale your agency?
As an agency, it’s challenging to run the regular course of business and develop innovative ideas to scale simultaneously. Here are a few tried and tested tips to help your agency scale like a pro.
- Grow your network
Networking is essential in any business, but more so for digital marketing agencies as it relies heavily on trust and credibility. If you are sticking to a limited number of clients, it will be an impossible feat to scale your business. Therefore, you need to focus on expanding your network. A few simple ways to do that are:
- Identify your niche: During your business, you must have identified an industry for which you can deliver the best services. It can be consumer products, healthcare, and financial services or professionals like lawyers and real estate agents. Narrow down to your niche and try to create a standing for yourself in that industry.
- Don’t ignore the local business: It is easier to earn trust and credibility in the local market as people often know you personally. You can easily get recommendations and referrals, which can expedite the networking process.
- Improve your sales pitch: Simply having people who know you and your agency isn’t enough. You need to get clients and close deals. Therefore, you need to focus on improving your sales pitch with high-quality case studies, success stories, and world-class research and analytics.
- Improve your marketing strategies
For all the marketing tactics digital agencies give to their clients, they often forget to implement them for their own business and, as a result, struggle to get more clients. You need to avoid making that mistake and improve on your inbound and outbound marketing tactics.
- Inbound marketing: As the name suggests, inbound marketing is all about getting your client to come to you by targeting a specific audience interested in your services. It can include using platforms like:
- Email marketing: It allows you to promote your content and reach out to potential customers in a cost-efficient manner. Email marketing has a 4400% ROI. And by adding personalization to your emails, you can boost its potential even more.
- SEO: No one in digital marketing is unaware of the benefits of SEO. It is still the single most powerful tool when it comes to generating organic leads and traffic. But ranking your websites for choice keywords won’t cut it. You need to incorporate new strategies like visual and voice search for your SEO and you can use these best SEO tools that saves you from tedious keyword research and data analysis.
- Content marketing: Generating unique, value-adding, and engaging content is one of the most effective ways to reach your clients. Focus on creating a diverse range, including videos, blogs, and infographics to promote them on multiple platforms.
- Social media: Use the immense reach of social media to reach out to as many potential leads as possible. Use both paid and organic methods to increase the number of leads generated through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
- Outbound marketing
Outbound marketing is all about actively seeking clients rather than waiting for them to come to you. Although less effective than inbound marketing techniques, it still has the potential to get you fool-proof leads.
- Sales calls and emails: It involves calling potential clients and informing them about your services and how they can benefit from them.
- Commercials: Using advertisement platforms with a mass reach like TV, radio, and newspapers to advertise yourself.
3. Update your pricing strategy
Pricing plays a vital role in the scaling of your agency. Often agencies end up charging way less than their actual cost and incur heavy losses to attract clients. On the flip side, keeping the prices way up than the market rate can lead to loss of clients and a freeze on increasing the number of clients.
A good way to go about it is to calculate the actual cost, measure your quality levels and compare it with your competitors’ offer. You can also create packages and combos to give the best deal to your client without losing up on money. You can also offer tired solutions that can range from the most basic to advanced to meet the price range of different clients.
4. Upgrade your workflow
As you scale your business, your existing methods of working and management may end up becoming faulty. Faulty workflows and processes can severely impact your quality, productivity, and costs. Therefore, analyze the existing workflow carefully and look for bottlenecks in it. Change the process to meet increasing production rates without overburdening the employees. Use automation wherever you can to simplify and speed up the process. You can also use them to minimize the chances of error and increase your efficiency.
5. Enjoy the benefits of outsourcing over in-house work
As you scale your business, it is natural that the work pressure will increase not just on you but your staff as well. The increasing burden can lead to a downfall in quality, higher churn rates, low employee morale. An efficient way to get out of this fix is to outsource non-core activities and services that you don’t specialize in. If you fear your clients may object to outsourcing, you can choose a white label solution to outsource your work.
White label solutions can offer high-quality work and consistency that will keep your clients happy. Also, a white-label service means that it is unbranded, which allows you to brand and resell that service with your name. Therefore, your client will not know anything about third-party involvements. Some of the most well-known white label solutions in 2021 are DashClicks, Verblio, ProfitBooks, and BuildFire.
6. Build brand awareness
People like to work with names that they have heard, known, and trust. No matter how good you are at your job, any business would think twice before hiring an agency they have never heard of. To mitigate that, you need to get out there and make your brand recognizable. Here are a few ways to build your brand awareness:
- Be easy to search: Every business today will look you up online before they contact you directly. It is difficult to trust a digital marketing agency that does not appear on search engines. Optimize your website, improve your local SEO, and get yourself listed on directories like yellow pages and Google my business page to increase your online visibility. Getting your website listed also helps you to increase your SERP rankings, get relevant traffic, and increase your website’s authority.
- Use influencers: Use social media influencers and recognizable names in your industry to gain the trust of your customers. Use guest blogs, webinars, and social media lives to increase the authenticity of your brand name.
- Support causes that you believe in: Brand awareness isn’t just about telling people about the quality of your services. It is also about showing them who you are as a company and what your values are. Supporting the causes that you believe in is a great way to do that. Organize charitable donations, free workshops, and volunteer for charity work.
7. Simplify and enhance your onboarding experience
Onboarding is the place where the client makes the final decision to stay with your agency. Therefore, it must be smooth, easy to navigate, and effective. Make your onboarding process transparent and straightforward. Hide nothing from your clients. Any hidden clause or condition can put your reputation in jeopardy. It is also an excellent idea to map the activity on your onboarding page to identify areas where you can improve.
8. Don’t ignore client retention
Most agencies focus all their energies on getting new clients during the scaling process. Getting new clients is essential, so is keeping the existing ones. Here are a few tips on how to retain existing clients.
- Deliver quality services: One thing every client likes is high-quality services. They want to know that they are spending their money in the right place—the only way to ensure consistency and quality in their work. Focus on driving results that help your clients grow in their business.
- Provide package deals: Digital marketing for any business is not complete with just one service. Explain to your client why SEO needs social media and PPC campaigns and vice versa. Everything is interrelated in digital marketing. Show your client that you can deliver better results when all services are handled under the same roof.
- Focus on customer support: Your client often needs extra help to manage their digital campaigns to understand what’s going on. Go above and beyond to provide that. Also, everyone slips up once in a while. Instead of hiding that, communicate with your client and fix things before they get worse.
9. Go beyond reporting numbers
Most agencies provide their clients weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports of their campaigns and progress. These reports include a lot of numbers and jargon that clients do not know about, making the information useless to them. Instead of doing that, use advanced analytical tools like Tableau Public, Sprinkle, HubSpot, and InstaReports to create presentable reports.
Such reports are easy to understand and explain to your clients what’s going on with their campaign. It makes your job easier as they trust you more when everything is clear and transparent.
10. Learn to say no
In the bid to scale, agencies often end up agreeing to deals they later regret. You should know the clients with whom you can maintain quality, efficiency, and productivity. Stick to your niche and choose clients carefully. The right clients can help you take your business to the next level quickly.
Here are some tips for choosing the best clients:
- Don’t change your work ethics: Some clients are extremely detail-oriented and provide feedback which can sometimes be harsh. You need to be patient and accommodating and honor the contractual terms.
- Look for clients who allow creativity: Marketing is a creative field, and if your client doesn’t offer creative freedom, it will be difficult for you to put up your best work. So, choose clients who will allow you that leeway.
- Mutual respect is crucial: Work with clients who believe in your values and ideologies. It helps you find common ground and work cohesively. But you also need to respect and believe in their brand values and products they sell to create something that is honest and reaches the target audience.
- Play to your strengths: Some clients may want you to go out of your way and offer them services that you don’t do well. You should resist the temptation to agree to such expectations. It will cost you a client and your reputation in the market. Stick with clients with whom you can play to your strengths and deliver consistently high-quality services.
It’s clear that scaling isn’t an easy process. It takes constant efforts, well-planned strategies, and leveraging the opportunities that come your way. Following your plan and focusing on one goal at a time can help you grow your agency quickly and efficiently. Just put your efforts in the right direction and don’t give up when you have setbacks.
Sean Davis is a professional content developer at DashClicks, a white-label digital marketing platform for small and medium-scale agencies. He also has more than 5 years of experience as a content strategist, blogger, and digital marketer. Sean uses his expertise to spread knowledge through his writing. He is highly proficient in describing complex technical concepts with simplicity to make them widely accessible.