4 Things You Need to Overcome to Grow Your Digital Agency with Gray MacKenzie | Ep #85

By Jason Swenk on October 22, 2015

Are you growing your digital agency the best way or are you facing hurdles you need to overcome and don’t know the best techniques to overcome them?

In this episode we cover:

  • The most common challenge a new digital agency faces, and what to do about it.
  • 4 traits you might have that are standing in your own way of growing your digital agency.
  • How to find the clarity you need to grow and scale your marketing agency.


Today’s guest, Gray MacKenzie, and his partner started their Inbound Agency out of their college dorm room five years ago. As Seniors on the Grove City College Lacrosse team, they created a website and social campaign for the team. Their marketing efforts off the field coincided with on-field success and they realized the skills they had used for on something “just for fun” had the potential for much more. And thus, GuavaBox was born.

In their first year, Gray says they weren’t really all in and had a shot gun approach to the business. One big challenge they ran into as young entrepreneurs, fresh out of college was their lack of experience. It seemed clients trusted them for their technical skills but not for consulting and business building strategy. They were doing a lot of tactical work but not much more… This was covered in last week’s podcast about the 5 levels of agency service. Check it out here.

They spent those first years doing a lot of hands-on work while trying to build a reputation and educating clients about strategy. Gray says it was this learning curve that made them realize that in order to build a sustaining business for themselves with positive cash flow, they needed 2 things: bigger clients and retainers. But those two things don’t come without some obstacles along the way…

“There are 4 BIG things causing the challenges most agencies face”

Gray knows first hand the many challenges a startup Inbound Agency faces because he’s faced them ALL. Over the years he’s discovered there are 4 underlying reasons why most startup agency owners stand in their own way of growing and scaling.

4 Traits Standing in the Way of Growing Your Digital Agency:

1. Lack of Confidence – If you aren’t convinced in the potential for your ideas to succeed, how can you sell them to your prospects and clients? Be your own best case study. Self-test before you roll out a strategy and document the success so you can use the data as evidence.

2. Lack of Focus – When you aren’t clear about exactly what your agency’s specialty is (and what it isn’t) it’s easy to lose focus. Many of us want to be everything to everyone (or most things to most people). But learning to say “no” to one thing opens you up to being able to say “yes” to something else. Choose to focus on one type of client, one industry, one core service and do really, really well at it. Know who you won’t work with and what you won’t do. Then, stick to it.

3. Lack of Balance – It’s easy to think that working harder will make you more money, but it’s not a long-term fix. Working tons of hours doesn’t make you successful and it doesn’t help you build a solid foundation for yourself or your team. Putting in tons of hours can’t last forever – everyone needs a work/life balance.

4. Lack of Efficiency – We tend to gravitate towards tasks that are easy rather than those that are more challenging. Often times it’s the difficult or time-consuming tasks that have the most impact on growing your business. Be aware of how you’re spending your time and be honest with yourself as whether what you’re doing is the most efficient and effective way to spend it. If you need some pointers to get you on the right track, check out my post about Productivity and download my Productivity Funnel.

You’ll be amazed at the clarity you discover when you identify and work through these weaknesses.

In fact, it was a moment of clarity that brought the guys at GuavaBox to the decision to develop project management software for Inbound Agencies. Two years ago, they realized their agency was really struggling with a process for managing deliverables. After trying every sort of technology out there, they developed DoInbound, which is software for Inbound Agencies to track and manage inbound marketing campaigns.

Growing Your Digital Agency

Growing your digital agency is no easy process but I hope this helps and gives you the tips you need. However, if not I am here to help. I have more than likely experienced all if not most of the different struggles an agency owner experiences through my own experience and I can help you from what I learned. I have covered many topics from what to do with your sales processes to improve them, how you can increase your agency profit margins or how you can build authority for your agency.

I have the best ways for your business to stop losing money on projects, how performance-based pricing models can be the best strategy for your agency and why including remote teams or freelancers in your team can be beneficial in the long run.

Learn more about my career as well as tips, tricks and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

Find more from my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my YouTube channel. There you will find advice from myself and other agency experts.

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