How to Transition from Execution to Paid Strategy

By Jason Swenk on April 20, 2020

Have you found your agency in a place where all you do is execute? Are you looking to change the way you do things and provide more value to your clients? Almost anyone can execute but strategy is where your differentiation lies. When you position your agency as the expert, you’re able to charge for strategy and see more stable growth.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to go from just execution to paid strategy.
  • 2 Ways to choose the right clients to work with.
  • Why you don’t always have to declare a niche.

Today, I sat down with Kevin Kelly, president and founder of Big Buzz Marketing Group, a full-service, integrative digital agency based out of New York City. Kevin comes to us with a ton of marketing experience (his agency started before Google). Today he talks about how you can position your agency so clients come to you to create their strategy and when it’s okay to be a full-service agency.

How to Go From Just Execution to Paid Strategy

When it comes to digital agencies, there are a million and one agencies perfectly good at doing what their clients ask. Work on my SEO — sure, no problem. Create a website — done. But when you simply execute, clients view you as a commodity.  When it comes to separating yourself from the pack and putting your agency in a position to grow, it’s a good idea to be able to offer clients a service that makes your agency different.

What does this mean? It means looking at why your clients want something, rather than just doing. The ultimate goal is to have clients come to you with a problem you can solve, rather than a project you can do. So how do you make this transition?

  • Don’t be afraid to fail. In the beginning, it might be hard to make the leap to focusing more on strategy. The best thing you can do is just try and keep learning.
  • Consider expanding your services. One of the easiest ways for clients to see you as a strategist is if you look ahead to see what they need and offer to do it for them. For example, if your client wants you to build a webpage, consider discussing how you can market that website, even if that’s a service you don’t usually offer.
  • Look for opportunities to grow. There’s always some new technology or tool that can transform what you can provide to your clients. Be on the lookout for ways you can evolve and grow to expand your offerings.

2 Ways to Choose the Right Client to Work With

Some clients aren’t looking for a strategist. And some clients don’t know they are looking for a strategist. So how do you find the clients that will help you grow in this new role?

  1. Change the way you approach things. While we’d all like to be the agency of record, the truth is many agencies are jockeying for the exact same position. Many clients work with multiple agencies that handle various aspects of the business. Take a look at what you offer and consider what you can do so your client doesn’t need all these agencies. How can you position it so you’re the lead agency?
  2. Foster your relationships. Kevin says many of his agency clients actually came out of failed pitches. While it may be instinct to lick your wounds and forget about the prospect who turned down your pitch, it’s never a bad idea to build on that relationship. Chances are, you put a lot of time into developing that pitch. There is value in reaching back out to see if they’re happy with the results or to pitch new ideas.

Why You Don’t Always Have to Declare a Niche

This one may come as a bit of a surprise. You’ve heard me say so many times, you must declare a niche. But Kevin has found tremendous success as a full-service agency. So what’s the secret to his success? It’s all about choosing the right clients. If you’re a smaller agency, you’re not going to be able to compete with the larger agencies who do everything for anyone. So it doesn’t make sense to copy their strategies. Know who your target is and what you can provide to them.

Big Buzz works with national and regional companies that have between $2 million and $10 million in revenue. They don’t take on just any client. They only work with clients they can guarantee success.  While it’s usually a good idea to pick your niche, if you know your target and implement steps to choose the right clients, you just might be able to pull it off.

If you’re running an agency, you should always be looking for opportunities to provide value that is unique to your agency. At the end of the day, it’s going to be your point of view that sets you apart. When you can get to a point where clients come to you with problems, rather than a checklist, then you’re in a position where your clients are more likely to see the value in your services.

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