10 Surprisingly Simple Tips for Marketing Agency Success

Surprised FamilyWe reached out to the Marketing Agency Insider community to find out the best advice they have ever given or received as agency leaders and owners. What we got back was a wide range of tips and advice, covering everything from business planning, to talent, to pricing, and beyond. You’ll be surprised at how simple they are to execute.

1.) Hire Your Clients Like You Hire Your Employees

“In the past we had nearly always welcomed new business in its many forms—websites, graphic design projects, branding and advertising and inbound marketing retainers. We felt that the influx of revenues every month was necessary to support our operations and that profitability would come out in the wash. The occasional cost overrun due to “project creep” or endless revisions was considered a cost of doing business.

Taking a harder look at our finances and trying to come up with a realistic plan, it was clear that these open-ended projects with no clear closure were actually killing our profits and jeopardizing the company.

After listening to Rick Roberge (@RainMakerMaker) and Frank Belzer (@fbelzer) from Kurlan and Associates in one of our sales training sessions, we realized that we were setting ourselves up for failure. We could avoid these situations by asking the right questions of our prospects and listening to their answers prior to doing business with them. The key was being willing to walk away from sure income in order to avoid disappointment on both sides. Yes, we could tighten up our proposals, deliverables and timelines, but if we weren’t on the same page as our clients from Day 1, we would be endlessly walking on a very shaky tightrope.

Now we spend as much time as we can in pre-sales screening our customers and making sure it’s a good fit before we even discuss pricing or next steps. It’s a simple tip, but in the end, it’s a lifesaver.”

John McTigue (@jmctigue), EVP and co-owner, Kuno Creative

2.) Perfect is the Enemy of Good

“Perfect is the enemy of good. If you sit around trying to write the exact perfect copy or make a perfect design, you’ll never actually launch or do anything. Get something good in place, launch it, test it and iterate on it.  You won’t even know what perfect is until it’s out there to be tested.”

Clay Schossow (@newmediaclay), co-founder and partner, New Media Campaigns

3.) Stick with Your Gut When Hiring

“When it comes to hiring employees, and even taking on new clients, you need to go with your gut instinct before making a commitment for the sake of both parties involved. If something’s telling you “NO,” and you don’t feel comfortable about moving forward, then you should listen to your instincts. 

As an agency owner, it’s crucial to enjoy who you work with and have a relationship that is built on trust. If you don’t have a good feeling about the person you are about to work with, then you need to re-evaluate if it’s the right move for your company. Our business growth has always revolved around personal connections and relationship building from every perspective of the business.” 

Steve James (@steve_james), partner, Stream Creative

4.) Do Not Compete on Price

“When I was first starting my business I had a presentation from a colleague who shared his top ten business rules. One of the rules I’ve found very helpful has to do with pricing and choosing clients: Do not compete on price. If you win on price, you’re setting yourself up to lose on price down the road. Winning a client by offering the lowest price is probably the wrong client.

Also, related to this is to choose your clients carefully based on mutual value to both parties. At first, we take just about every client we can, but at some point, we must decide to be more selective and choose to work with those we’ll mesh well with.”

Greg Elwell (@gregelwell), founder, B2B Inbound

5.) Timing is Critical

“My mentor, Tom Searcy (@tomsearcy), gave me some of the best advice that I think about in all aspects of business and life—“They [the prospect/employee/boyfriend/etc] must be ready and worthy of your gift.”

Sometimes a client is great, but they’re just not ready to absorb what you’re saying. Sometimes, we spend too much time on someone who really isn’t worthy of what we bring to the table.

Alexandra Gibson (@gibsondm), managing director, OttoPilot Media

6.) Sometimes, Getting Fewer Leads is Better

“It’s important to decide on what types of leads you want at the middle and bottom of your sales funnel. Calls-to-action for free one-on-one consultations and assessments can generate a lot of leads, but they also burn a lot of resources on unqualified prospects. And to really provide high quality consultations, you’ll need involvement from senior people or you will risk jeopardizing the company’s reputation.

We believe in filling the top of the funnel as much as possible, but after that happens, we’ve learned to become very selective on what types of prospects we want to nurture. We have eliminated most “free” consultative type offers. This approach combined with published pricing has significantly reduced unqualified leads, which is much better, less chaotic and more profitable.”

Chris Knipper (@chrisknipper), founder and president, Kuno Creative

7.) Treat Others as You Would Like to Be Treated

“Treat other people and businesses as you would want to be treated.

For me, this means being respectful, offering great customer service, being personable (not just a talking head) and actually caring about the person and business I’m working with. If they succeed, I succeed.”

Kelly Ward (@digitalKward), owner, Digital K

8.) Culture Keeps Employees

“As an agency leader, realize your best intellectual property walks out the front door every night. To insure it keeps coming back, create a great environment and treat team as your most valuable asset because they are. Clients will value this as well.”

Other advice: “All else being equal, people buy from a friend. A friend is honest, trustworthy and dependable, which happen to be ideal qualities for products, services and agencies.”

Eric Layland (@ericlayland), president and founder, Confluence Digital

9.) Invest in Businesses, Not Projects

“I once asked a very savvy and successful investor if he would be interested in helping fund a project Phenomblue was looking to pursue. He told me that he would not fund the project, but that he would invest into Phenomblue.

When I asked why, he said that he ‘invests in businesses, not projects.’ He explained, ‘If I invest in a project, you’ll only think how to make me money when you’re working on that project; however, if I invest in the business, you’ll be thinking about making me money all the time.’ I have always used this metaphor when Phenomblue pursues new revenue streams or new clients. Are we investing in a project or a business?”

Joe Olsen (@joeolsen), president and CEO, Phenomblue

10.) Have a Vision.

“One the most influential books I read early in my career was Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz. When telling his story about how difficult it was for him to gain support for his idea, he wrote, ‘Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.’ This quote has always stuck with me, and was an inspiration behind the building of PR 20/20.”

Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), founder and CEO, PR 20/20

What’s Your Best Advice?

What words of wisdom have stuck with you, and influenced your decisions when building and growing your business? Share them below.

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