How to Start a Successful Digital Marketing Agency - Smart Agency Masterclass: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

How to Start a Successful Digital Marketing Agency

By Jason Swenk on April 25, 2018

Do you want to start a digital marketing agency? Or, have you recently started one and want to know what it takes to become a successful digital agency? Then this is the video for you!

People are always asking me how to go from freelance to agency owner. They want to stop struggling and can grow at a faster rate as an agency. That’s why I have document the 8 systems it takes to grow a successful agency and the first 5 are in this video…


Do you know your WHY? It’s so important to dig deep, be really honest and think about why you’re starting your agency. Knowing your why can help you create your vision for your agency. Why do you need a vision? Well, it’s because you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t have a destination in mind!

The other thing you need is a clear understanding of your niche. Most agencies are hesitant to declare a niche because they’re afraid to turn down work in other areas. That’s not the case! You do not have to turn down other work, but you DO want to declare a niche so you can be viewed as a expert and leader in that category.


Most of the time, we see marketing agencies position themselves as the star of the show. Their website and all their own marketing materials tell their own story of success. It’s like they’re Batman, which leaves the client in the position of Robin (and that’s not good because no one wants to wear those green tights!).

Instead, you should position your agency is Alfred, the trusted advisor of Batman. In the position of trusted advisor you’re looked upon for advice based on your experience and expertise. The right positioning will set you up for success because it makes your client the star of the show, and your agency looked to for support and guidance.


Most agencies don’t fully understand the value of the service they’re providing. They want the work so badly they don’t clearly see the value of what they’re providing. You should always think about the client’s expectations and the results you’re going to deliver.

Another mistake is going after the big project right off the bat. It’s like proposing marriage on the first date. Instead, you want to create a service offering ladder that starts with a Foot in the Door offer. Then you can work your way up the offering ladder slowly to continually build trust and authority.


Once you have the foundational systems of 1, 2, and 3 then you can start going after your ideal clients. I like using a 3-prong prospecting strategy including: outbound, inbound, and strategic partnerships. When you have three channels for prospecting, you increase your chances of winning. And if one channel fails, you still have two others to fall back on.

  • Outbound Sales: Make a “hit list” of the clients you want to work with and start finding creative ways to go after them. Make a connection
  • Strategic Partnerships: This does not mean referral partners but instead think strategically of businesses who target your same audience. Align yourself with them to find ideal clients within your niche.
  • Inbound Sales: First, build authority within the niche, then you can build your sales funnels and market to the right people in the right place.


Make sure you qualify your prospects so you don’t waste time with the wrong ones. Think N.B.A.T.

  • N = Need : Do the client’s needs match your core service?
  • B = Budget  : What’s the budget? Can you deliver the desired results within budget?
  • A = Authority (Who has the final authority? Are you speaking directly with this person?
  • T = Timing (What’s the timing? Is the timeline reasonable? Can you achieve success?

Also, it’s key to know their 3 I’s:  Issue, Impact and Importance. What’s the issue? What impact does it have on their overall business? What’s the importance of getting the issue resolved?  When you have your prospect defining the 3 I’s they’re more likely to understand the value of your services. And you can use this information as you present your sales proposal.

So, that sums up 5 of the major systems you need for in order to start a successful digital marketing agency. If you want even more detail, or to learn more about the other systems be sure to check out the Agency Playbook, which is self guided online tools you can use to grow your agency easier and faster.

And, if you liked this video, SUBSCRIBE NOW to follow my entrepreneurial journey documented in my daily vlog.


Fresh out of college Jason was off to work for Arthur Anderson, one of the big 5 consulting firms. He quickly realized that he could never work for anyone other than himself. He decided to change direction, launch a digital agency that quickly grew to a multi-million dollar operation working with brands such as AT&T, Hitachi and Lotus Cars. After 12 years of steady growth, the agency caught the attention of bigger agencies and Jason sold it in 2012.

Now, Jason leads, a unique media company & consultancy helping marketing agencies grow & scale their agencies faster by applying the framework that he used to grow, scale and eventually sell his agency. Jason has helped over 10,000 agencies in 23 countries meet or exceed their business goals.
Jason currently hosts two shows that are available for download…

The Smart Agency Master Class podcast, new episodes every Wed and SwenkToday a daily vlog, new episodes every Mon-Thurs at

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