If you’ve been in the marketing business for long enough, you’ll consider starting an agency of your own. There are many benefits that make owning your own agency appealing; you’ll get to choose the rules, set your own hours, pick and choose the clients you take on, and hopefully, make a lucrative income from the agency’s profit.
However, not every person who starts a marketing agency is successful, so if you want to rise above the fold, you have to pay close attention to the growth and development strategies you employ.
How to Start Your First Marketing Agency
These tips can help you start a marketing agency with the highest probability of success:
Avoid Investing Your Own Money
First, avoid investing your own money if you can help it. Many amateur agency owners decide to form a marketing agency as a sole proprietorship or a partnership, and invest their own life savings to give the business a chance to grow. This is problematic, however, since this approach leaves you vulnerable to liability issues; plus, if the business goes under, you could be responsible for any debt you took on in the process, leading you forced to file bankruptcy in extreme cases. Instead, make sure you create a separate business entity for the agency (like an LLC or corporation), and fund the business with business loans or external investments.
Research Your Audience and Competition
Even if you feel like you’re an expert in the marketing field, it’s important to put together a business plan for your agency. That means doing your research in advance. Notably, you’ll want a better understanding of the target audience you want to have as clients, and the competition you’ll face along the way. These variables should shape what your agency eventually becomes; ideally, you’ll create an agency that’s unique enough to have minimal competition, but relevant enough to attract a sufficient number of interested clients.
Come up With a Unique Angle
There are thousands of marketing agencies and millions of talented marketers and bloggers out there. How are you going to stand out in this field? If you want a chance at becoming prominent, or developing a reputation for yourself, you’ll need some kind of unique angle. This could mean specializing in one specific type of strategy, catering to only one type of client, or just having a different image for your brand. As long as it makes you unique, it will help.
Find a Way to Get Your First Client
One of the biggest obstacles you’ll encounter in a marketing agency is landing your first client. In the later stages of your development, with a solid reputation and plenty of client acquisition strategies in place, clients may come to you naturally. But without a history of work, including portfolio pieces and testimonials, you’ll struggle to get that first deal. Improve your chances by offering attractive deals like lower prices or more thorough services.
Prioritize Client Retention
As you may already realize, client retention is far less expensive and more valuable than client acquisition, so it should be your priority, especially if you have only a few clients. There are many ways to boost client retention, but the most important strategy is to improve your communication and transparency; the more honest and supportive you are of your clients, the more likely they’ll be to stick around.
Build a Portfolio
After your first few clients come onboard, you’ll want to spend time building a portfolio. New clients will want to see evidence of your capabilities, and a portfolio on your website (or provided to prospects individually) is the best way to accomplish this. Ask your current clients for permission to share some of the work you’ve done for them in the past, and consider including them in case studies you develop in the future.
Keep Your Team Small
Marketing agencies tend to work better with small teams, both because fewer numbers of employees are less expensive and because smaller teams can communicate and preserve brand culture better. Rather than investing in new hires, consider supplementing your needs with independent contractors and other specialist marketing agencies.
Cultivate Reviews and Testimonials
Once you start gaining momentum, one of the best ways to accelerate your growth is by attracting more reviews and testimonials. Business decision makers commonly reference agency reviews and testimonials before deciding which agency to work with, so an abundance of glowingly positive reviews can have a major positive impact on your client acquisition rates.
Invest in Your Own Marketing
Many prospective clients will expect a lot from you in terms of your own marketing. As a marketing agency, you should be hypothetically doing your best work for yourself. If you don’t market yourself, or if you’re an unknown player in the industry, people might not take you seriously. That doesn’t mean you should blow your entire budget on ads, but you should have some way to show off your skills for yourself.
Too many agencies end up collapsing under the weight of their own accelerated growth. They hire dozens of new people to support the services they plan to offer, spend thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising for themselves, and get footprints in new territories prematurely. Instead, it’s typically better to grow steadily; otherwise, you may exhaust your budget and expand inefficiently. Take your time, strategize, and move forward in steps, rather than leaps.
Bonus Tip: Stay Adaptable
Finally, remember to stay adaptable. As you know from your experience in the field, the marketing industry is always changing, thanks to new trends, new technologies, and changing consumer habits. As you deal with these variables and contend with competitors in your niche, the only way you’re going to survive is by adapting to the changes. Make sure your organization stays agile and responsive to new information. This is the biggest difference between marketing agencies that fizzle out, and those that remain relevant for years—if not decades.
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