How a Three-Generation Agency Has Grown for 50 Years

By Jason Swenk on July 27, 2020

Does your current agency business strategy support long term sustainability? Are you looking for some simple strategies to be a more effective leader? It probably comes as no surprise the two issues often go hand-in-hand.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • 3 elements to any successful agency.
  • What is the key to agency client retention?
  • How to be a more effective agency leader.

Today I had an informative talk with Ryan Cote, digital services director at Ballantine, a direct mail and digital marketing agency founded by his great-uncle over 50 years ago. Ryan’s here to share how his family’s agency has sustained success for over five decades, and how he has become a better leader.

3 Elements to Any Successful Agency

If you want to know the secret to success, there’s no better place to start than with an agency that’s been around since the mid-1960s. During a time in which many agencies have started and failed, Ballentine has not only survived, they’ve thrived.

I asked Ryan why he thinks his family’s agency has been so successful. His answer — it all begins with the basics:

  1. Always look for sales. As agency owners, we have a tendency to back off from bringing in new sales when business is good. But we often experience lulls where we have to catch up to find new clients and replace some that have left. Constantly sell and bring on new clients.
  2. Keep your current clients happy. Ryan says his team is always revising their onboarding strategy to make sure clients get the attention they need. In order to retain clients, make sure you’re giving them the attention they deserve.
  3. Start with leadership. As your agency begins to grow, the way you treat your team can make a big difference. For some people, leadership comes naturally. For others, it doesn’t. Take the time to make sure you have the right leaders in the right places.

What is the Key to Agency Client Retention?

Many agency owners make the mistake of thinking converting leads is the secret to rapid growth. The truth is, you have to focus on your current clients first. It’s far easier and cheaper to retain existing clients than to keep finding new ones. The number one key to client retention is communication.

There’s no quicker way to lose a client than to make them feel neglected. Make time to show your current clients you’re still invested. For Ryan, this means bi-weekly phone calls and quarterly check-ins. For you, this could be something different. Establish a procedure that prioritizes communication and keeps the client involved every step of the way. Take nothing for granted.

Speaking of communication, make sure you communicate successes and what you’re doing behind the scenes. As another podcast guest said, “If we didn’t communicate it, it never got done.” Give your clients a way to track metrics and provide benchmarks to show how far they’ve come.

How to be a More Effective Agency Leader

Ryan says having a team made him take a look at his own ability to be a leader. This, in turn, pushed him to focus on personal development. Despite what you’re lead to believe, leadership doesn’t come out of a book and it’s not something that you really can teach. Successful leadership comes from within.

I end my day answering “What did I learn? What did I accomplish? Am I ready for tomorrow?” This simple ritual allows me to visualize the day ahead and get a good night’s sleep. Ryan, on the other hand, focuses on a morning routine.  His regimen includes meditation, exercise, and morning journaling. Whatever you choose, take some time to focus on what went well and how you can improve. Being aware and continuous learning are two attributes of a good leader.

So much of your success as an agency will come down to your values. When you invest in your clients and your team, you’re more likely to see your agency grow.

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