Growing a marketing agency can be exciting, tough, invigorating and nerve-wracking and sometimes you can feel all of those things even before it’s time for lunch on a Monday!
While there’s generally no shortage of agency success stories out there we can all look up when we need a little inspiration, there’s not nearly as much out there in terms of the things agencies are struggling with.
In the past 6 years, at Legendary Leadgen we’ve worked with hundreds of digital marketing agencies – enough to notice some patterns at play when it comes to agency growth.
Every agency is of course different, but there’s three common themes that truly stick out – let’s dive into each one below.
Waiting for your customers to come to you
This is by far the most common agency problem – bringing in the majority of customers on referral.
In the past, I’ve heard people tell me I’m anti-referral, which isn’t true at all! I love referrals!
I just know that I don’t have full control over them, and depending on them for growth is a bad idea all around.
The upside of referrals being easy to close is outweighed by the fact that you never know when your next referral is actually going to come in. Sure, you can ask for referrals, but you can’t make anyone give you one.
Some agencies exist out there who are able to bring in 100% of their work and achieve growth all at the same time – but they are the exception and not the rule.
Agencies who aren’t satisfied with their own level of growth need to be taking their client acquisition into their own hands instead of waiting for clients to fall into their lap.
I get it though – most agencies are already so busy serving their clients, going out and finding new ones often gets swept under the rug. Compounding the problem is lots of agencies give up too soon when testing out new business development channels, and never see them through to a point of success.
Whether you try direct outreach, content marketing, paid ads or something in between, make sure to give it enough time to really work before deciding to go back to the old way of doing things.
Focused on too many things at once
I’ve seen this one so many times, I’m actually a little taken aback when I visit an agency’s website and don’t see a laundry list of services they offer.
You know the type of agency I’m talking about – the ones who are experts at everything from SEO to PPC to content writing to graphic design. Not a New York corner office agency with 250 employees either – just a standard do-it-all shop with a lean team of 10.
This leads to a host of problems, both internal and external. Internally, this can be a nightmare for actually managing the processes of – with so many different areas of “expertise”, no two clients need the same thing, and people are running around behind the scenes frantically trying to make things work.
Worse though, is by specializing in everything, as a result, you’re really specializing in nothing.
It’s difficult to become known as an agency that’s good at everything, but much easier to become well known as an agency that excels at a few key things.
This causes the first problem above to compound – even more of your work comes in on referral, because your agency isn’t known for being the go-to for any one thing. Instead, previous clients refer work to you, only reinforcing that you should be offering every service under the sun.
I understand it can be frightening trying to niche down – how will everyone who lands on your site know that you can help them with absolutely anything they may have a problem with?
This doesn’t need to happen overnight though – and you can still provide all the same services you used to offer in the meantime, just less publicly displayed.
Try to make a real effort though determine which of the services you offer are the most profitable as well as the ones that are most beneficial to your clients.
Shifting your focus to being known as the best providers available offering one of your most profitable services can be one of the best decisions you ever made – a few months from now. You just need to commit to the change long enough for it to work for you.
Not differentiating yourself from your competitors
In 2020, running an agency is a CROWDED marketplace. It seems like everyone and their mother now has a digital agency. You can probably find dozens of agencies doing the exact same things you’re doing. That’s a PROBLEM.
When there’s no clear cut differentiation between yourself and another dozen agencies, clients will choose based on other things – like who is the cheapest.
Lots of agencies think they are different than their competition, without actually being different. Examples of the things that agencies think set them apart which don’t mean as much as they think they do include:
- Our customers always come first!
- Our work is the highest quality around!
- We have x years of experience!
- We’re always willing to go the extra mile!
These things all sound nice. You’re willing to do all of them, completely. So are your competitors. These things don’t set you apart.
Here are a list of things that do set you apart in a crowded marketplace though:
- Hyperfocusing your services on a specific niche – same service as your competitors but bleedingly obvious who you do it best for
- Patenting your process – this can be as simple as applying a name to an existing process and branding it
- Take a contrarian approach to the same old advice you hear in your industry and apply it to your marketing
- Put a new and unique spin on a service everyone has come to know as “standard”, thus making it your own approach
In an age where you can barely throw a rock without hitting a digital agency, it’s essential to have something that causes people to immediately recognize you’re different.
If not, you’ll get lumped in with all the other agencies, and truly growing will become difficult.
Of course, there are hundreds of reasons why an agency’s growth could stagnate, but I’ve noticed these 3 examples as the most common ones.
Is your agency growth stagnating because of any of these three reasons?