The Agency Growth Blog - For Owners Who Want Growth

Advice To The Inbound Marketing Agency Owner

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Oct 13, 2017 7:03:00 AM

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It’s All On You To Make It Work, There Are No Short Cuts, Don’t Do Everything People Tell You

Inbound marketing agency adviceAfter Inbound 17, there’s been a bit of a dust up in the partner community around HubSpot’s role in helping us grow our agencies. If you’re curious to see what I’m talking about, click here to check out the post on While I did post a comment, this forum allows me to get into a little more detail.

For the past three years, I’ve been working closely with agency owners, specifically inbound marketing agency owners. Over that time, I’ve had over 80 agency owner clients work with me at Agencies 2 Inbound. I think that classifies me as an expert when it comes to understanding what your challenges are and what’s holding you back from the growth you expect.

The answers you’re looking for are not in the HubSpot offices, not in the HubSpot product and not within the HubSpot team. While HubSpot has a wonderful product (they are literally transforming the way small businesses manage sales and marketing), a wonderful company filled with very helpful friendly people and one of the best VAR channels I’ve had the pleasure to be connected to—what’s holding all of you back has nothing to do with them.

Instead of looking at HubSpot for answers, look inside first. Look inside your agencies, inside yourself and inside the community you’ve chosen to be a part of. Here are elements of your business that you can work on improving.

You’re not hiring the best people

I know, the thought of hiring someone is scary. Salary, benefits, taxes, headaches and the time it takes to bring a new team member up to speed is massive. But you’ll NEVER grow if you have to do everything.

Think about it. You can only work so many hours. To do more you need help. But your first move might be to hire someone cheap, someone young or someone who can’t get a job anywhere else. Bad move. Instead, hire someone great. Create a culture and a company that people are fighting to get into. Pay them what makes them happy so they work hard for you.

The fastest way to grow is to hire great people, teach them to take great care of your clients and compensate them to do great work.

You’re not managing your agencies based on the numbers

inbound marketing agency financialsImprove your financial IQ. You must understand gross profit on the services you deliver. You must understand net profit on your entire business.  You must understand how to price and charge for the services you deliver.

I was on an agency website the other day and they had the normal Fast, Faster, Fastest packages on their site. They listed out everything you get for each of the packages. The Fast package was $2,500 and the Fastest was $7,500. The amount of work listed there could in NO WAY be delivered profitably. It was obvious this owner didn’t have a good handle on their financial model.

If you don’t want to be intimate with the finance side of your business, make sure you have someone who you trust to keep an eye on this and listen intently to their advice, do everything they say and work with them to get more comfortable with your numbers. It’s the difference between life and death in the agency world.

You’re not investing in your own sales and marketing

How can you feel confident that you can get leads and new customers for your clients if you can’t do it for your own agency? This must be one of your top priorities. You have to budget time and money to generate your own leads through your own inbound marketing. You should have a killer sales process that consistently coverts leads into new clients.

Marketing and sales is changing so quickly, you need to use your own agency to test different tactics. You can afford to make a mistake on your agency. You can’t afford, nor should you be making mistakes on your client’s programs. If you can make an innovative new marketing tactic work for you, I promise it will work for your clients.  

You’re not leveraging experts

It’s shocking to me how many agency owners think they have to figure it all out on their own. There are so many people available to help you make less mistakes, grow more quickly and scoot around the potholes. At Square 2 Marketing, we’ve always invested in outside experts to help us. Finance, management and agile are just some of the areas where we brought outside experts in to help us grow faster. These are important investments that you can’t afford to NOT make.

You’re choosing to work for the wrong clients

I get it. You’re trying to grow, you have an opportunity to get a new client, but deep down you know you’re not charging enough, they don’t seem to be ideal but you move forward anyway. Do this too many times and you have an agency full of bad clients. Clients who ask for more than they pay for, clients who don’t respect you and clients who don’t value you or your team. Don’t do this. Trust me, I’ve done it twice.

Instead be more selective. I’ve always wanted to be smaller with better clients than bigger with bad clients. Be patient and the right clients will come to you. Tell a more compelling story, charge what you’re worth and you’ll have a practice full of amazing clients who you love. I can’t say I love all our clients, but I can say I love a lot more of them.

You’re undervaluing the services we all provide

inbound marketing agency ownersThis issue is directly related to the one above. You’re not charging enough. If you attended the Diamond Agency Partner Panel at Inbound you heard me say this over and over again. What we do is strategic and highly valuable, yet agencies continue to offer huge amounts of services for small amounts of money.

This is hurting every single agency on the planet. If I charge $10,000 and you charge $4,000 for the same services, unless you have people who work 80 hours a week for a 40 hour a week salary, you’re pricing is hurting all of us. But it’s hurting you the most. I might not win the business, but if you do—you have to deliver all those services and pay for people to do that work.

You can’t build an agency on that strategy. Eventually your costs will be out of whack, you’ll be losing money on all your clients and you’ll be up the creek without a paddle. Again, been there, done that. Don’t do it.

This might seem harsh but someone should say it. Remember, this is based on hundreds of conversations with inbound marketing agency owners who are all making the same mistakes. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time with agency owners outside the HubSpot community. News flash! They’re no different. Same challenges, same issues, same lack of support dealing with those challenges and issues.

There are two types of business owners. Those with lifestyle businesses and those with growing businesses. Both are reasonable options. It comes down to what you want for your company. Prior to finding HubSpot and this community, you probably were happy with a lifestyle business that allowed you to do what you love and make some money. For most of you this is the correct path.

Growth is hard, it requires sacrifices of both time and money. It demands constant change and headaches you might not be up for like hiring, firing, financing, and training. It’s not another company’s responsibility to help you tackle these challenges. It’s your responsibility and it won’t be easy. It wasn’t easy getting Square 2 Marketing to be a $6 million agency and it won’t be easy getting it to be a $10 million agency. But it’s what I’ve chosen to do.

If you want to grow, you must choose to make it happen and then work hard enough that nothing prevents you from getting to your goals. You won’t need HubSpot and you will have done it on your own. Nothing will be sweeter.

InboundStart Today Tip – Make a choice. Grow or don’t grow. But if you choose to grow, accept the fact that you’ll need help, that you’ll make mistakes, that you’ll have to challenge yourself to do things you’ve never done before. Make sure you get advice and guidance from people who have done what you‘re trying to do. Most of the people at HubSpot never grew an agency from $1 million to $10 million. Find the people who have. Lean on them. Doing what other agencies are doing won’t get you there either, that just makes you all look alike. Chart your own path. You’ll be wildly successful and you would have done it your way.

Agencies 2 Inbound - Helping Your Agency GROW Beyond All Expectations!

Topics: Inbound Marketing Agency, growing your inbound agency, inbound marketing agency owners

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