Building a thriving marketing agency can be thrilling. When business is flowing, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of onboarding new clients and delivering work, and lose sight of what’s next. When those projects wrap up, you start the cycle again — selling to fill your pipeline, then delivering, then selling again.
The best way out of those hills and valleys is to achieve sustainable, scalable growth through regularly tending to the marketing side of your business, and delivery. To do this well, you need a plan, you need tools, and you need repetition so you can perfect your offering to clients.
As an agency veteran who thrived in the chaos of building service businesses, here are some of my best tips for building a successful, sustainable agency or consulting practice.
Clearly define your value prop and your processes
When you’re first building an agency business it’s easy to say yes to anything a client wants. But this is a trap. Spinning your wheels on lots of new project types that may be outside your areas of expertise not only takes extra time, it can confuse your clients and prospects.
Early on, it’s critical to get specific about the types of work you can do best, and stick to it. Build a list of projects that you can confidently deliver, and get some reps in doing that work. The more you perfect your delivery process, the better you’ll be able to serve clients and define your overall value as an expert.
Once you’re confident in your niche area of expertise, you can start to share it with the world through articles, webinars, and presentations. If done well, these will become the primary marketing vehicles for your growing agency.
Nail pricing and packaging
The hardest part of scaling a service business is that it’s hard to break the “hour in, hour out” nature of the work. This is why defining your project types and services very clearly is critical, and so is ensuring that you make them easy for prospective clients to buy and understand.
“Packaging” your offering so the deliverables are clearly defined, your marketing is concise and clear, and you can repeat the project profitably is critical to ensuring your business can grow. This may take some experimentation at first to refine your messaging and your process. In the early stages, you must also track your hours and expenses carefully so you can assess if the project is priced correctly.
Automate to scale
As you build a customer list and deliver projects, you’ll need a better way to organize your business than a spreadsheet or free software. Invest in a tool that can help you manage your pipeline, communicate with customers, and ensure they get the right onboarding, follow-up and invoicing along the way.
Using automated processes to guide your customer journey will ensure you don’t forget to follow-up with leads, you don’t miss key moments to communicate during projects, and you don’t chase payments. You can automate all of this, plus send regular email newsletters and offers, with a CRM and sales and marketing automation tool like Keap.
Partner to grow
Every decision you make about who to hire, who to partner with, and what to offer can help accelerate your growth. When it comes to partnerships, there are many programs that offer certification in a method, area of expertise, or tech platform (like Keap’s Certified Partner Program).
Associating yourself with the right partner program(s) will give you many things you need when building and scaling a business, including access to knowledge and best practices, new sources of customer leads, and a community of people who are pursuing similar goals.
Building a marketing agency or services practices can be lonely. Working with the right partner can make it less overwhelming, and provide stable income and new approaches to deliver for your clients. For example, many Keap partners are able to bundle their services, like building customer journeys with automation, with Keap to provide clients with a one-stop sales and marketing hub for their business.
There is no magic formula when it comes to how to grow a marketing agency. Carefully defining your value proposition, building deliberate and profitable delivery processes, and aligning yourself with the right partners will ensure you have the work you need, and the community that will help you keep going.
About the author
Kirsten Markson is Keap’s Chief Marketing Officer. Kirsten’s career started in market research, creating a lifelong passion for data and how it can be used for positive change. She’s turned customer insights into healthy growth for Upwork, American Express, Farmer’s Insurance, and The Nature Conservancy. As CMO, Kirsten is dedicated to positioning Keap as the sales and marketing automation choice for coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs.