When it comes to blogging, one of the tricks I deploy is keeping a running list of potential blog article ideas. Then, when it comes down to writing an article, I look at the ideas, select the one I like and get started. Since this one is time sensitive, I thought it might be relevant as we’re already halfway through January already.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with over 100 agency owners, all going through some degree of evolution from traditional agency to inbound agency. Unfortunately, I see a lot of the same issues at a variety of different agencies. I classify this as unfortunate because I would expect owners in this community to be more aware of mistakes other agencies make and then be on the lookout to avoid making the same mistakes themselves. But as I stated, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
I still see challenges from taking retainers that are too low to provide enough value to move the needle. I still see hiring issues that put the wrong people in the wrong roles. I see a lot of agencies with no pipeline because they’re not practicing inbound for their own agencies and I see many agencies with horrible sales processes, so they’re blowing the leads they do generate with inbound marketing.
Why am I telling you this? Because there are ways to avoid making the same mistakes everyone else is making. Here’s how to be a smarter inbound marketing agency owner in 2017, so you avoid the pot holes, detours and costly mistakes associated with wrong turns and missteps.
Get A Mentor
A couple of years ago, we were struggling with our direction. We met with a guy who started, grew and then sold a large PR agency in the area. After just 30 minutes his counsel had us moving in the right direction again. Sometimes hearing the experiences of others, who have been there and done what you’re trying to do makes all the difference in the world.
Our experience with this agency owner was a one off. But you can build wonderful relationships with people who would be happy to serve as your mentor. Once you’ve established the relationship, having access to people for questions, to vent, to work through issues or challenges is usually invaluable. Instead of wondering if you’re making the right move or thinking through your situation correctly, you have the ability to talk to someone else about it in real-time.
While most mentors are not paid, sometimes it’s worth establishing a more formal relationship with industry leaders. Considering the cost of making a mistake or the time it’s going to take for you to fix issues at your agency without outside help. The relatively low cost of working with a coach, one-on-one usually produces a very high return on any investment.
Work With Other Agency Owners
It’s rare that answers to questions and solutions to more complicated agency issues are black and white. Because of this a lot of people find value in working with a group of other agency owners. For a long time, I was part of a Digital Agency Mastermind Group. We got together every few months and discussed big issues facing all our agencies. Together we came up with creative and compelling solutions that I might not have been able to uncover on my own.
Being part of a group allows you to get a variety of different perspectives. Now you sort through the feedback, recommendations and options, picking the one or ones that appear to work best for you. If you respect the group, have faith in their ability to help you and feel like their recommendations are based on solid thinking your participation in this type of group gives you the insights you need to make better decisions for your agency.
Hold Yourself Accountable
When you work alone, like many entrepreneurs and agency owners do, it’s difficult to keep yourself accountable for change. It’s easy to get too busy, or be distracted from the important work by the work that’s deemed urgent. Note that urgent is not always important.
When you work with someone else, or when you’re part of a group, there can be implied accountability that actually pushes you to be more productive and more focused. If you don’t want to show up at the group meeting with the same issue you had last month, you can be sure you’ll work hard to resolve it so you can report back that you’ve handled your challenge and you’re moving on to the next issue.
Don’t underestimate this one simple benefit of working with outside resources. This can be very important in ensuring that you make progress.
Prioritize Your Issues
If you’re looking to be smarter in 2017, one of the best skills you can master is prioritization. Agency owners almost always have a wide variety of issues you’re dealing with on a regular basis. You can’t tackle them all simultaneously. Instead lining them up and knocking them down in order is a better approach. But the question of which ones to work on is almost always a trickier issue.
I like to start with the issues that will have the biggest impact to my business but take the least amount of time to fix. If in an hour meeting I can double the amount of leads my agency is getting from inbound—that sounds like something I want to work on first. Hiring a new Director of Search might be important and have a big impact, but it’s going to take much longer. While I want to work on it, it might get prioritized below my lead generation issue. Practice this for a couple weeks before you evaluate whether it works or not. Once you master it, you’ll never go back to any other method.
Follow Industry Experts
Today there are a ton of experts online who make it easy to follow them. Most of them have a lot to offer and most are effective in making it easy for you to get helpful insights from them. The first step is to do a little duedilligence. Just because someone has a blog, doesn’t mean they’re an expert. Look below the surface.
As an example, if you’re planning on building your agency so it can be sold, you want to follow and listen to someone who did the same. But if they sold their agency for pennies on the dollar because they were losing money, month over month—I’m not sure that’s the person you want to be learning from. Some closer inspection usually results in the details you’re looking for.
Also, make sure they have the right background to provide the help you need. Some agency experts know a lot about traditional agencies and very little about inbound agencies. In my experience, what works for traditional shops, doesn’t always work for inbound shops. I’ve had a few industry experts visit my business ONLY to tell me they couldn’t help me because they didn’t really understand what we did or how we did it.
This isn’t an easy path we’ve chosen. Moving your traditional design, web, SEO or PR firm to an inbound agency is tough sledding. It’s going to be a struggle, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have to work through setbacks. We’ve had the same challenges at Square 2 Marketing.
Some of you might chose to give up and return to the safety of your old legacy business. That’s fine. No judgement. Everyone has to seek their own path to happiness. But for those who see inbound as the future and those who want their agencies to be part of the future, you’re going to have to preserver through the rough spots and stick with it even when you want to quit the most.
Having outside resources who you trust can make the difference between wanting to give up and having the guts to keep pushing forward. Sometimes, simply hearing that others have had similar challenges and rallied to overcome those challenges is enough to help you push forward and get past the hurdles.
Given the challenges facing us all this year and beyond, make sure you have your support structure in place now and then lean on them as needed to help you hit your goals in 2017.
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Start Today Tip – Assess your current situation and identify the types of resources you need to get you to your goals. Do you need a couple of well written blog articles on a few key business areas? If so then find those blogs, subscribe and read them religiously. Do you need a group of people to help you be accountable for your improvement ideas? Do you like a variety of suggestions for you to consider and then you’ll act? Perhaps a group of committed agency owners is right for you. Do you have more aggressive goals and like one-on-one interactions? Then you might need a mentor or coach to guide you more quickly to your solutions and then help you work through the specific issues for your agency. Assessing your own needs is always first, then find the support that fits you. You’ll quickly find that if you’ve picked the right collection of advisors they’ll help you feel better, make better decisions and get to your goals much more quickly.
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