If you’ve spent any time working to consistently scale and grow your agency then you know how hard it can be.
New prospects and clients are filling the pipeline, you’re bringing in revenue, but getting to the point where your profit margins are steadily increasing month over month is another story.
So how do you do it?
The key to consistent growth is in your systems and processes.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to differentiate your agency, develop a top-notch team, put systems and processes in place, and identify creative ways to scale. You’ll learn actionable tactics that can be implemented in your business today so that your agency can experience consistent growth and predictable revenue.
Let’s get started!
Positioning: Design and Build a Lucrative Business Model
The first and most important step to being significantly profitable is nailing down your positioning strategy as an agency. Without it you’ll find your messaging unclear, your team confused, and your customers left with unrealistic expectations of you and your team.
In other words, you need to specialize. By focusing on what you do well you’ll be in a better position to deliver top-notch service and eventually your ideal customers will seek you out themselves.
It may be more work in the beginning, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It:
- Separates you from the competition
- Keeps you focused so your customers know what you do, how you do it and what that means for them
- Provides clarity on messaging, brand and content
- Guides business decisions
- Makes it easier to recruit top talent
So, where do you start?
You start by understanding your strengths. After all, you want to scale a business you love. Look at what specific problem your agency is really good at solving (one that you also enjoy doing) and specialize in that.
- Is there something innovative you can do that most of your competition doesn’t talk about?
- How do you do things differently compared to other agencies?
- Is there a specialty that is narrow enough, in demand, and isn’t taken by other agencies?
- Is there an industry you understand better than your competitors?
- Is there something about your team that makes you wildly different?
Now that you know what you excel in, learn about your clients, the ones you enjoy working with day in and day out.
Learning about your ideal customer will help you craft your positioning for a well-defined persona and force you to stay focused. Find out who they are as individuals, what their challenges are, what they value, and what frustrates them so you can pick up on general patterns of attitude and behaviour. Information like age, location, income, education level, personal interests, buying motivations, and attitudes will all help in developing a successful, customer-focused positioning strategy.
Use different sources to collect the information you need, such as research, personal interviews, and surveys of your target audience. Prospects, existing clients, or even stakeholders outside your company who know your industry can be of great help.
Maximize the Power of the Team
In any business, having good talent is important, but in a people-focused industry, the kind of talent you can attract and retain is crucial. A smart and creative talent pool isn’t just a competitive advantage; it’s a necessity. Having good talent and a well-functioning team means work gets done on time, on budget, and with minimal friction.
So, how do you achieve a well-functioning team? With a really good organizational structure.
A good team can be organized based on business goals, team hierarchy, projects, or whatever makes sense for your agency model. The goal is that your team needs to be clear on who does what and how they fit together, otherwise you’ll have things falling through gaps, people stepping on toes, or a whole team stuck because they don’t know what to do.
As your business grows, delegating ownership of tasks will become crucial, so map out your business needs, assign roles, identify gaps and go from there.
Three key takeaways for a focused, happy and frictionless team:
- Provide a clear cohesive direction for your team to work towards
- Empower your team and assign roles based on strengths and weaknesses
- Develop an organizational structure that fosters collaboration, innovation, and ownership
Systemize your Processes
In an agency, you work on multiple projects at a time and usually, tasks repeat from client to client. Instead of re-inventing the wheel on every project, develop a process. It’ll save you time, money and effort in the long-run and your agency will be able to grow all that much faster.
Everything you do should be transportable from client to client. Whether it’s onboarding a new client, writing a proposal or developing a strategy, you should have processes and templates in place and where possible, you should find ways to automate recurring tasks. Not only does this enable a unified customer experience, but it also saves your team time to work on things that will help you grow.
If you don't know how to create SOPs, the idea is to make processes as visible, simple and actionable as possible, whether that means using software-driven project templates or infographics that show the process flow in a visual way. Whatever works for your team. Make sure everyone gets into the habit of following the process early, so it becomes second nature over time.
If you’re struggling to develop a system, we’ve got you covered. Follow these steps to streamline your agency processes and workflows:
- Identify your services
The first step in streamlining processes is to review projects you’ve worked on in the past 3-6 months. Analyze which categories/services most projects fall into, identify tasks associated with each project, and review the financials.
Step 1: Categorize your projects
Step 2: Write down all tasks in a project
Step 3: Estimate the time it takes to finish the project
Step 4: Estimate the project budget and revenue
- Map out the process
This is your chance to map out exactly how projects work right now, who the stakeholders are, what their responsibilities are, and what tools are used to perform the work.
You might learn that some of your current processes aren’t optimal for growth. Review them with your team, identify ways to improve, test out new processes and implement the right ones for your agency. This is also a great time to look at all the software and tools your team uses and identify what works and what doesn’t.
- Automate the process (where possible)
Invest in tools that help you automate tedious and repetitive tasks that take up the majority of your time. Some tools we use and love that make our jobs easier are Asana for project management, Slack for communication, Agency Analytics for reporting, and PandaDoc for automating proposals, service quotations, and contracts. There are many tools out there today, so do your research and find what works best for you.
Get your team on board before making process changes and implementing new tools and software. Make sure they understand the purpose and how it will benefit them and the company. it’s best to have one central person or a small team overseeing the entire process—from planning to execution. They should understand the process and be able to communicate well while understanding the needs of each department and team member.
Continue optimizing workflows
Follow up with your team to review new workflows and identify challenges and successes. Based on feedback, optimize further by getting rid of extra steps that don’t add value. Streamline the process by making sure that all software tools integrate with each other and the flow of data is transparent and accurate.
Grow Your Agency with Partnerships and Products
Service-based businesses are difficult to scale and as an agency owner, you need to get creative. Instead of relying on clients, find ways to expand revenue streams. One way of doing this is by productizing your services. This essentially means taking the value and skills you offer as an agency and marketing them as a product delivering the same value.
For example, a web-based agency might offer a website audit for a fee or an inbound marketing agency could offer a video course for their client’s in house marketing team. It could be something as simple as converting your pricing model into a subscription-based model, where clients pay a monthly retainer for a set number of action items or results. Anything that uses your existing service and repurposes it as a tangible product will help scale your business in the long run.
Partnerships with other agencies or software providers are also a great way of diversifying revenue. A good example is using Hubspot or Marketo as a partner – you provide them with a high volume of paid subscribers, while they provide you with a consistent source of quality clients and an additional source of revenue. When partnering with SaaS companies, keep in mind you’ll be required to become well-versed in their platform, so partner with someone whose product you truly believe in.
Scaling your agency might be a difficult and overwhelming process, but in the long run, it’s worth it. You’ll be able to do what you love, service bigger and better clients, and be more profitable in the process.
The key is to focus on four key areas:
2. Invest in a team of experts
3. Process improvements
4. Powerful partnerships
Want to avoid the learning curve? We can help you get there faster with our proven agency model built for scale.