Agencies around the globe have been facing challenging times. Not only is the competition fiercer than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many small companies make significant changes to their strategies.
COVID-19 has been a tough challenge for many business owners. Some where forced to scale down their operations, others managed to brave the impact while retaining their employees and customers.
What is the general state of agencies around the globe? A question the yearly report from WordStream tries to answer. Interestingly enough, half the agencies who took part in the survey can be considered small, employing between two and ten people. Most of them (55%) acquire clients through referrals, while only 20% spend money on online advertising.
Read on to find out how you can scale your agency amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
#1 Niche down your full-service agency
Many agency owners run so-called full-service agencies. They offer almost anything you’d need, from content marketing to web design. The disadvantage of running such an agency is that it’s really tough to scale. And:
- You’ll have trouble finding the ideal client because anyone who finds you will want a full-service package.
- You won’t be able to easily charge more because your value lies most likely in full-service offerings.
- You’ll regularly find yourself in situations where a client asks for a service you don’t offer, but you’ll try to please them either way.
Owners of creative agencies looking to scale their business are often afraid to niche down. In their eyes, they’ll lose potential customers by narrowing their service offering.
There are many reasons why agency owners shouldn’t be afraid to niche down. One of them is the fact that they’ll attract the right clients, which will help them scale their agency.
#2 Be specific who your ideal client is
If you’ve decided to finally niche down, you can now concentrate on a specific service and market. For instance: have you noticed that most of your clients are interested in social media graphics? Narrow down your niche, and only offer that specific type of service.
Niching down means that you won’t only reduce your number of service, but ideally also focus on specific markets. Again, take a look at your most requested social media graphics. Are they coming from many businesses in the travel industry? Then you’ve found your ideal niche: social media graphics for travel companies.
By focusing on that specific market, it’s easier to create a clear website that speaks directly to travel companies. You can attract them with your content marketing and ad spending, but also through referrals.
In a few months, you’ll be known as “the number one social media graphics producer for travel companies”, and can proudly advertise yourself as such.
#3 Don’t be afraid to outsource
The aforementioned State of the Agency report highlights that 41% of all agencies don’t outsource. There can be a variety of reasons for this decision. Many agencies will most likely keep a consistent quality over their work, while others simply don’t have the time to organize the outsourcing efforts.
In any case, agency owners shouldn’t be afraid to partner up with trusted third parties. 29% of them already outsource web development tasks, which is unsurprising. Hiring developers is one of the most expensive tasks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay in 2020 for web developers and digital designers was around $77,000. Many agencies can’t afford to have a full-time web developer, which is why they should at least think of hiring them for specific projects.
Another opportunity for outsourcing is
#4 Let your team make decisions
The sales process of an agency is often handled by the CEO (42%). While not every agency can have a dedicated sales team, the CEO should delegate the tasks more often than not.
As an agency scales, CEOs want to keep their companies’ characteristics and quality. However, they often forget that scaling is only possible with team work, and setting the right priorities.
One of they key factors when scaling an agency is to nurture client relationships. As the WordStream report shows, most agencies receive their clients through word-of-mouth. To keep this trend upwards, CEOs need to ensure that existing clients will keep recommending them. Here’s how:
- Keep an eye on your agency by checking that it’s sufficiently staffed. Hire new personnel when and where needed.
- Delegate by teaching employees tasks you no longer need to do yourself.
- Ensure that the customer experience and journey are top-notch. Ordering your services should be as seamless as changing a subscription.
Adhering to the rules mentioned above, agencies should be able to retain existing clients. This is the right strategy when it comes to scaling an agency. It’s much harder to acquire new clients than it is to keep them happy.
#5 Find new clients with re-targeting
Many agencies think that their number one challenge is getting new clients. As already mentioned, agencies should focus on retaining clients. However, to scale an agency, it also needs to acquire new customers.
One way to do that efficiently is using re-targeting campaigns. The advantage of re-targeting is the opportunity to show ads to an audience that has already visited your site. You can slowly nurture them until they convert (sign up for a trial, download an e-book, purchase a service).
Re-targeting requires a bit of trial and error before you find the right strategy. One thing to keep in mind is that the re-targeting audience already knows you. Generic ads introducing your agency won’t work in this case. As these people have left your agency website, there’s a reason they weren’t convinced. It’s your job to eliminate their prior hesitation, and steer them back to your website.
Before you start spending your advertising budget, find out where your potential clients spend their time. Are they coming through Google, Facebook, or maybe LinkedIn? All big networks have re-targeting options, but not all of them might be the best fit for your agency.
Scaling an agency during the COVID pandemic is not an impossible task. However, agencies have to plan their strategies and manage their available resources better than ever.
The aforementioned tips should help any agency looking to scale their agency in the coming months, and outpace the competition.