Does Your Digital Agency Have a Plan for Success?

By Jason Swenk on September 30, 2020

What will it take for your agency to be successful? Do you think it’s landing one big, game-changing client? Are you impatiently waiting for your big-break that’s going to put your agency on the map? It’s hard to be patient, but understanding the importance of planning and focusing on the basics lead to success.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What’s the key to longevity for your agency?
  • Does your agency have a business plan for success?
  • 3 basic industry principles you need.

I talked to Tom Sullivan, the president and co-owner of Lead Marketing Agency. Tom and his partner started Lead about twelve years ago. At the time, they were both working for another agency, and they were the two guys who were a bit more data and media-oriented than the rest of the agency. So they decided to start their own agency, originally focused on certain aspects of the business. Twelve years later, they have a full-service agency that employs a team of 20 people. Tom is on the show to talk about the importance of being patient while growing your agency.

What’s the Key to Longevity for Your Agency?

You likely share the dream of nearly every agency owner: landing the big deal which allows you the freedom to do whatever you want with your agency. However — while it is entirely possible you will do that — Tom says there is an importance to being patient. “Everyone wants to hurry up and get there,” he tells me. “We are so impatient as a society. Be patient. Owning a business sounds cool, but there is going to be failure. Impatience makes it difficult to get through the hard times.”

These days, Facebook gives us everyone’s highlight reel of their best moments. It’s easy to compare your success to someone else’s, but it isn’t fair to you. It’s easy to get caught up in these advertisements for marketers, promising to show you the secret to earning six-figures in ten days. Those offerings are not rooted in the reality of the industry though. The reality, as Tom explains, is time gives you the opportunity to focus on the fundamentals of your business, hire a team, and learn enough to know you don’t know everything. There is always more to learn.

Does Your Agency Have a Business Plan?

Another thing patience buys you is the opportunity to create a business plan, and to develop actionable goals to help you enact that plan. Additionally, Tom encourages, you should develop ways to measure yourself in order to determine if you’re following the path you’ve set for yourself. Then you can decide how you need to adjust your plan to fit your vision. “Understand the percentage you want and why you picked that percentage,” Tom says. Figure out how many inquiries it will take to generate the leads that will convert to sales and enable you to accomplish your goal.

Tom warns, however, to watch out for the pitfalls of working in a service-related industry. A lot of times, marketing agencies get so caught up in taking orders and servicing people it gets wrapped up in the business plan. This causes the agency to become order-takers and blurs the line between serving and succeeding.

3 Basic Agency Business Principles You Need

While you’re being patient and learning more about the industry, Tom encourages new digital agency owners to also remember the basics of business: Work hard, and do what you can to improve a little bit each day. Some of the suggestions he offers include:

  • Hire the right people. Lead Marketing Agency is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan — a place that Tom describes as less than a Mecca of creative talent. However, when it came time to hire a team, Tom and his partner looked for people who had experience from marketing agencies in big cities such as New York. They wanted people to bring to the agency experiences that they, themselves, did not have.
  • Don’t represent yourself to clients as bigger than you are. Remember there are things many clients prefer about working for a smaller agency. If your digital agency is small, use it to your advantage rather than blindly pursuing clients whose needs are larger than your ability.
  • Keep learning and keep focusing on your own path, which is unlikely to be exactly like anyone else’s. And it’s okay to be different. The agency world is filled with niches and specialties and there is no one true path to reaching success. There’s only hard work, time, and the ability to trust your skillset. Tom and his team have a motto that keeps them focused and inspired: “Be good, don’t suck. Every day.”

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