Other Agencies Are Leveraging Cohorts To Improve Their Agencies And You Can Too
In our Mastermind Group Session last month, one of the members mentioned he regularly shares with clients that he’s part of an international group of agency owners who get together monthly to talk about ways to improve agency delivery, performance, and innovation.
That was pretty savvy on his part, but it also got me thinking, “yes, this is an international group of agencies who are proactively working together to make their agencies great.”
It didn’t take me long to start thinking about how other agencies can potentially work ON their businesses. I’ve said many times, as agency owners, we work IN the business way too much and not ON the business as often as we should.
The time you spend in groups like this and others might arguably be the most important time of your week and we should talk about how to leverage this time with prospects.
Here are some ways to share with your prospects why they should care that you’re in agency owner groups.
Staying Up To Date On Innovative Agency Practices
There are so many new tactics and approaches coming on the market. How do you possibly stay up to date? Changing technology, changing practices, changing data requirements, and changing trends with your clients all make keeping our agencies healthy more difficult.
In one of our previous sessions, I talked about Intent Data. We’ve created an entire session to cover Account-Based Marketing. We talk about analytics and how to get your creative people to be more open to understanding and using data when working with clients.
We have sessions on agile marketing delivery and points based pricing. We’ve covered topics like operationalizing delivery with playbooks and standard operating practices. These are easy topics to talk about but when it comes to implementing them there are pitfalls, roadblocks and hidden challenges that pop up unexpectedly.
Having other agency owners who have dealt with these challenges and solved them gives you the ability to respond to prospect and client questions intelligently, proactively, confidently and with the knowledge that you have people behind you to help.
Optimizing How You Deliver for Clients
You can’t grow your agency if you keep losing clients and you can’t keep clients if you don’t get them results, delivery beyond their expectations and do so in a way that allows you to charge them a reasonable rate.
This puts the delivery of services right in the cross-hair for initiatives you and your team should be working on, talking about and planning for in 2020.
It’s one thing to hear how we optimize delivery at Square 2, but it’s even better to hear how other smaller agencies run their delivery. There are almost always interesting nuances to how agencies deliver that have provided me insights in the past.
For example, last month in one of the cohorts we talked extensively about Agile and one of the cohort owners shared her experiences with agile and her hybrid approach was interesting. For owners considering moving from waterfall to agile, this provided some experience sharing that you just don’t get in casual conversations, brief meetings at events or chats in a Facebook Group.
In this case, the agencies in this group have been together for over a year, working on their second cohort together so they are fairly intimate with each other with regard to their agencies, challenges and their personal goals.
This helps us get into some of the more difficult challenges associated with delivery and helps agency owners break these open once and for all.
Collaborating with Other Agencies Who Have Diverse Expertise
While I do one-on-one coaching with agency owners too, the Cohort Program gives agency owners the chance to work with, learn from and collaborate with agency owners who have a vast set of diverse experiences.
Some have been in-house before starting their agencies. Understanding some of the challenges of being in-house helps us as agency owners to create the right perspective so we can help our clients more effectively. For some of us, we might have never had an in-house role. For me, it's been a long time since I had an in-house role, and this perspective is one that I like to try and remain connected to.
I think the best agencies I’ve seen are focused on delivering an amazing experience to their in-house clients and understanding their perspective, challenges, limitations, and objectives are key.
Some have very specific verticals on which they focus. A few of the agencies I work with do have verticals in which they specialize. Manufacturing, software, technology or professional services are few of those verticals.
The ability to talk with someone who does have a vertical specialty can be extremely valuable if you’re proposing to work with a prospect in one of these verticals. If you’re already working with a client in a specific vertical, having the ability to talk about their industry is also very valuable.
Others provide very specific services in which they excel. Search engine optimization, website design and build, paid media or social media are some of the sweet spots where agencies focus.
Again, if you have challenges in these tactical areas, having an agency who you’re friendly with, have worked on challenges and meet regularly makes dealing with these tactics easier, more efficient and in the end, more profitable.
As agencies get to know each other and those relationships are solidified, I’ve even had agencies start working together to supplement their abilities and give their clients an even better delivery experience.
Extending Your Network to Drive Revenue Opportunities
This collaboration often starts as a support function. For example, if you need help building a website and one of the cohort members specializes in website design and build, you might ask them to bid on a project for one of your clients.
I’ve seen these initial needs turn into full-blown partnerships where agencies are working together strategically. Sharing leads, sharing work and supporting each other based on their strengths and skill sets.
In the end, you have agencies who are stronger together than they were individually. They’re not merging, but they are working closely together as partners and benefiting from that new relationship.
Access to Agencies Across the Globe
Finally, many of the companies we talk to today are global companies with operations here in the U.S.. Some of the foreign companies also have U.S. subsidiaries and others are looking for agencies in the U.S. to help them with expansion plans in the U.S..
Having access to agencies in countries outside the U.S. is beneficial should opportunities to work together come up. If your U.S. based clients are looking for help overseas or overseas clients want help in the U.S. having existing relationships with agencies in these countries helps you help your clients.
Having them meet new people who you don’t know, don’t trust and who don’t know you, inserts an element of risk into your engagement. Being able to introduce your client to people you know in other countries makes you and your agency look bigger and more strategic.
Running a digital agency of any size is full of challenges. Having to do it alone makes those challenges at times feel massive. You might have friends, family, work buddies or even a mentor or two, but nothing beats having a team of fellow agency owners who have dealt with or are dealing with similar challenges.
“Just to hear that other agencies are going through similar situations and then being able to talk them through, brainstorm and come up with an action-oriented direction, it’s a game-changer.”
“I had a prospect meeting and wasn’t sure about pricing and our program offering. Being able to share it with my Cohort, get feedback, confirm my pricing and specifically make sure the value we’re delivering was aligned with pricing gave me the confidence to charge what we deserve, not what I think I can get.”
"We’re not a big agency, so when I shared how we work with other agencies to stay up to date on delivery efficiencies, innovative marketing tactics, and techniques to hire the best people, I saw their faces change. They're starting to trust us more.”
I’ve said many times, to get clients to say yes, you have to help them feel safe. When you share with prospects behind the scenes and intimate details on how you do what you do. It brings prospects closer to you, your team and your agency. The result is they do feel safer.
Start Today Tip – Working with other agency owners might seem like a competitive mistake on paper, but there is so much business to go around. I’ve yet to see one single conflict after working with hundreds of agencies. We’re all dealing with the same challenges and we’re not competing for a single piece of business. Instead, the value of hearing how other owners are dealing with issues you might be struggling with is the fast track to fixing your agency and doing it quickly. Whether you work with me, other agency consultants, or other agency groups, you can make 2020 your best year ever, just by teaming up and being open to learning from your peers.
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