Questions

What would you tell your younger self about starting a digital agency?

Wanting to hear from digital marketing agency gurus out there. Folks who have started and run successful digital agencies. If you could coach your younger self and your younger self was starting an agency from scratch and gaining clients was NOT an issue, what would say to focus on to grow the business as fast as possible, but grow it well? In other words, what are the pitfalls someone without your experience should avoid and what are the shortcuts someone with your expertise would take to grow fast, but still manage clients and provide a great product and great service? Example thoughts would be: 1. Who should be the first real hire? 2. Are there any aspects of digital marketing that should be either avoided altogether or should only be added once a good foundation is set? (i.e. web design/development) 3. What is the best but fair way to secure recurring income while providing value worthy of it? 4. Would you start with outsourcing to India or the Phillipines et al. and if so, what positions are best outsourced to these locations? 5. What are other ways to make sure clients feel taken care of even if you may not yet have the full staff just yet to manage everything on point? So, if you have advice (from legit experience) on how to growth hack a digital agency, l really would love to do a call with you, so whatcha got? :)

4answers

I worked from a home office for 8 years before getting an office and hiring w2 employees. I wish I had focused more on systems earlier because I would have more quickly realized that I do not need a centralized office with employees that work in the same building. Though 75% of us work under the same roof, the way we communicate is the same way we would if everybody was located across the world.


Answered 4 years ago

I love this question!

As a former Googler and Digital Marketing Specialist with my own company, I hope I can offer you some insights.

Finding clients is no issue for me and I'm luckily in a situation of having more demand than I can handle. I love it this way because I can much better plan the business and really dedicate my time to work with clients I consider a good fit and are really ambitious to grow.
The most important aspect to focus on here for growth is to deliver highest quality work and dedicate to 110% excellence. Make exceeding your customer's expectation you highest priority. Everything else will follow.

Wanting to hear from digital marketing agency gurus out there. Folks who have started and run successful digital agencies.

If you could coach your younger self and your younger self was starting an agency from scratch and gaining clients was NOT an issue, what would say to focus on to grow the business as fast as possible, but grow it well?

In other words, what are the pitfalls someone without your experience should avoid and what are the shortcuts someone with your expertise would take to grow fast, but still manage clients and provide a great product and great service?

1. Who should be the first real hire?
--> A virtual assistant. You can't do everything your own and this person will be crucial in freeing you of time-consuming tasks that add little value to your work or clients.

2. Are there any aspects of digital marketing that should be either avoided altogether or should only be added once a good foundation is set? (i.e. web design/development)
Focus on one area in the beginning: e.g. Google AdWords/Analytics setup/optimization/management. Don't do all at once. I see a lot of agencies offering a ton of products but not really doing them well because of a lack of focus. Once you have a solid business and customer base, I'd advise you to start of with partnerships and collaborations for other areas of digital marketing. If that goes well, then consider hiring a person in this specific area.

3. What is the best but fair way to secure recurring income while providing value worthy of it?
Depends a lot on what you offer. However, if you offer high quality work, you will always have customers running to you. Monthly management is definitely worth it, but make sure you do it well and really offer concrete action steps and not just a look at the account once a month.

4. Would you start with outsourcing to India or the Phillipines et al. and if so, what positions are best outsourced to these locations?
No, I hired my first employee from Kenya. India and Phillippines are stereotypes and it is very hard to find someone that understands you, can communicate well, has a good level of English, and is reliable. There is 200 countries in the world - look outside of the typical suspects and you will find very valuable gems and talent.
Positions to be outsourced: can be pretty much everything, from a VA, to a webdesign VA, account manager VA, etc.
Also think about your company's focus - if your focus is also outside the US, you might want to invest in hiring a person part-time in your potential target market.

5. What are other ways to make sure clients feel taken care of even if you may not yet have the full staff just yet to manage everything on point?
Communication. Communication. Communication. Super important. Plus, if something goes wrong or not as expected, tell them. Nobody expects you to be perfect but to find a solution to a challenge/problem.
Create your own list of clients and a system - how often do you catch up with them? Make notes of personal preferences or hobbies - include small talk and show interest in their personality.

This answer got now much longer than I even expected but I hope it helps and offers valuable insights.
Feel free to set up a call - I'd be happy if picking my brain supports your growth and expertise. ;)


Answered 4 years ago

Hi. great question!
I've owned and run a digital marketing agency since 2007. In it's current format it's focused on Adwords and I've a team who run it day to day, with me in a managerial / hands-off / advisory role. Catching up with them on key projects once a week.
Since 2007 we've done a bit of everything, bar web design (dabbled but so totally different from delivering ongoing marketing activity that I'm glad we never really got into it. And by "totally different" I mean the sales funnel, the delivery, the skills, the client involvement - everything!).
We've now drilled it down to Adwords because it's core skill that only a few people have. and it's what we've always done really well for clients.
So to properly start answering your qs:
- don't bill by the hour - fixed fee, monthly retainers are all good. Very few businesses are doing well with commission - the only time I've done it everyone ended up annoyed.
- first real hire - someone who can do the stuff you (a) don't want to do anymore (b) that it's not worth your time to do (c) solves a problem. So it all depends on YOU, what YOU want to do, and what your clients need.
- but - day one - outsource your bookkeeping (dealing with the money, and chasing it in - it's not very expensive, it means it will happen, AND (most importantly) it means you get focus your relationship with teh client on building great results, they don't see you as the guy who shouts at them when they don't pay up on time.
- I'm a big advocate of going to an expert. It's now very hard to be up to date on pracitcal application of all the marketing methods (a full time job in itself) so focus on what you're/ your team are good at. I personally would avoid "SEO"(whatever that means these days), and site dev unless you're going to specialise in one of Shopify / wordpress etc
- recurring income - first step, chose a service to deliver that plays into a recurring model. ie we do adwords because it needs to be optimised every month, and all our clients are on a set monthly fee under a 12 month+ contract. Graphic design does not give you this!
- personally I wouldn't really outsource anything that's delivered for your clients. Apart from admin-y stuff. The occasional research project on Upwork, phone answering, and graphic design bits if you really have to. The core skill/service you're delivering should be delivered by your team - otherwise you're just selling project management...
- to keep clients happy. As soon as they sign send them a physical gift (book / wine / chocs etc) it's going to be a while before they see results so a tangible thing really helps! Do what you promise you will - if you say they'll get a report each month, give them a report each month. Have regular catch ups (every month or so) on the phone / online calls etc. Meet F2F when you need to / every 12months, more often if they're spending more!!
A little bit of a brain dump but I Hope that helps!


Answered 4 years ago

Get started faster on whatever you want to do and don't wait until everything is perfect.

I am not trying to sell you on calling me. Really, I am pretty busy with my businesses and consulting. However, I need more info before I could have a greater impact in helping you.

Ask, Ask, Ask, then Ask again.

Bonus:
Here is $10,000 worth of information for free and in a nutshell.

Concentrate on the 3 M's. There are actually 7, but 3 will do for now. These are Market, Message, and Media. They come in that order.

Who is your target market (customer, clients, buyers, users, etc.)?
Tailor your laser focused message for this target market.
What is the best media mix to get your message to that market?

Here's what you do...first, make it an offer that is so incredible that they cannot resist. Secondly, do all the work for them. Make it so easy to make the purchase now that they can do it virtually without effort. Thirdly, give them an incentive to act right now. Fourthly, offer an almost unbelievable guarantee. Fifth, offer a bonus for acting now. There are many other incredible steps, but these steps should help the novice to the professional sell anything.

Whether you are selling B2B or B2C, you have to focus on selling to only one person. You can actually sell to one person at a time while selling to millions at a time. They are one and the same. Don't get off track, what we call digital marketing selling is just selling in print. And that has not changed since Cluade Hopkins wrote "Scientific Advertising." Really long before he wrote the book.

The secret to success: I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with some of the biggest names in business, celebrities, actors, entrepreneurs, business people, and companies from startup to billion dollar operations. The number one reason for their success is doing what they know and love while doing it in new, creative, and innovative ways.

Ask, Ask, Ask. Have thick skin and learn from each "mistake." In a short while, the market will tell you what you need to do and who and what you need to ask. But get started now even if that just means asking a contact on LinkedIn.

While you are thinking, think big and think of something at least 1% better, newer, or different. And being cheaper is not a winning strategy.

Make decisions quickly and change decisions slowly..unless you are actually going off a cliff.

Remember these two 11 letter words...persistence and consistency. They are two of the most important tools ever invented.

Treat everybody you talk to and everybody you meet (including yourself) like each is your number one million dollar customer.

Bootstrap when possible and reasonable. Read "How To Get Rich" by Felix Dennis. Or better yet just remember the camel's nose in the tent story.

However, sometimes you just need to make a deal.

Listen, in any business you have to take some chances and some risks. Make sure you don't need a license and go for it. Remember, timid business people have skinny kids. Paraphrased from Zig Ziglar.

Best of luck,
Take massive action and never give up.
Michael

Michael Irvin, MBA, RN


Answered 4 years ago

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