Agency Advisors Are Not Created Equal, Their Answers To Your Questions Help Make The Right Selection
There are more and more people wanting to help you with your agency. That’s the good news. The bad news is they’re all not created equal and who you select to help might be one of the most important decisions you’ll be making over the next few months.
How you select your agency consultants and advisors is critical and the process you go through is just as important as the person you select. Here are a couple of key questions that force the advisors under consideration to highlight the experiences they’ll be calling on when you need their help.
Here are six key questions to ask your inbound agency consultants before you hire them.
What was your agency experience before you started consulting?
This is the most important question you’ll ask and here’s why. Not all agencies are created equal and not all agency owners are created equally, so agency owners who now consult come in all shapes and sizes. Their experience has to match with your desired outcomes.
For example, if you’re agency is doing $2M in revenue and you’re trying to get to $5M, then you need a consultant who grew her agency to $6 million. You want to make sure they did what you’re trying to do. If you hire a consultant who grew their agency to $2M and then sold it, they won’t know how to get your agency from $2M to $4M and then to $5M. It’s not the same. My experience is that it’s a big challenge to get your agency over $1M and then from $2M to $4M. Getting past those levels require unique skills.
If you’re all in on inbound, don’t hire a traditional agency consultant. Again, in my experience there are major differences between traditional agencies and inbound agencies. The delivery model, pricing challenges, competitive pressures, and sales process are all different. Those traditional consultants might be excellent, but without inbound agency experience, they’ll be hard pressed to give you proven guidance.
Did you grow your agency, the way I’m planning on growing mine?
Almost anyone can manage a lifestyle agency or manage an agency to $1M and then keep it there. For most of you, that might be what you aspire to do and that’s great. No judgement. But if you’re planning on growing your agency, then you should look for someone who’s also grown an agency like yours. Hiring, acquisitions, new business development, partnerships, delivery modeling that scales are all challenges that face growing agencies.
If your consultant simply acquired agencies and never hired, they might not be able to help you hire effectively. If they hired, they might not be able to help you with your acquisition strategy. If they only worked with referrals, they won’t be able to help you scale your sales and new customer acquisition processes. Make sure your growth plans match the skills and experiences of your chosen advisor.
How active are you in agency management currently?
This business is changing so quickly that if the consultant you're considering has been removed from the day to day of the agency management world for the last five years, I’d consider other options. Yes, they can stay connected. Yes, they can talk to other owners, but if they’re not actively managing an agency—in my opinion, they’re at an advantage.
There’s a saying, those who can’t do, consult. While I don’t believe that, I’ve met some consultants who cause me to wonder about the success of their agencies. Some consultants are not actively doing what you’re doing. The risk is that their guidance is based on their experience and since they’re not active, the advice you get won’t reflect the current environment.
We change what we do at Square 2 Marketing almost every quarter and we’re constantly innovating both sales and service delivery. It seems that the key learnings from that innovation would be extremely valuable to owners going through a similar experience. If I didn’t have that knowledge, I’d think my advice would be well—a little less valuable.
Here are my key challenges, how did you deal with similar challenges when you ran your agency?
Alignment is very important. By asking your key advisors how they dealt with similar challenges, you’ll get a great idea about whether their attitudes and opinions are aligned with yours.
Here’s an example. Almost everyone is looking for improved efficiency. That means higher profit and more customers with the same level of expense. One coach might advise you to push your team to work harder so you make more money. I might recommend you protect your culture and drive efficiencies by reorganizing how you prioritize work and execute during delivery. If you’re not aligned, you’ll quickly become frustrated with the difference of opinion.
What were the quantitative results from your solutions?
This is very important. I hear a lot of people talking a good game. But by asking them for the exact numbers and the specific gains they produced in their agency you’ll get a better understanding of their actual capabilities.
Did their sales experience produce four new clients a month? Did their operations experience deliver 15% to 20% net profit month over month for 12 months? Did their acquisition experience produce a series of successful (based on financial metrics) additions? Did their growth experience take their agency from $900k a year to $5.56M per year? Those numbers will tell you a lot about the consultant’s ability to help you hit your goals.
Why are you providing these services to other agency owners?
I think it’s a fair question. A lot of people ask me that question and hidden in the answer are key insights that might help you make a good decision. Most are going to say, they want to give back, they want to help others do what they’ve done and those are great answers.
I think you want to look for people who have a desire to help the larger ecosystem or community thrive. I’ve always thought that if more agencies could get better at inbound and if more inbound agencies could grow into bigger more professional shops the entire inbound practice methodology would be elevated. More clients seeing better results from inbound means more business for everyone. A rising tide floats all boats, if you will.
There are a lot of people in the agency consulting space. Not all of them are created equal. Some are very smart but have different experiences than you need. Others are leveraging their past successes, but don’t have the skills or processes to be an agency consultant and still others have clever offering but never really know what’s involved with growing an inbound marketing agency beyond a $1M in revenue.
The decision to bring in an advisor isn’t challenging from a financial perspective. In my experience, most of the consultants are all affordable when comparing the value of the guidance their providing. But while the mistake might not be financial, it can be timing. For example, you’re going to want to work with your selected advisor for at least 10 to 12 months. If after 12 months you’re not sure what you accomplished or what the value was, you lost an entire year.
Start Today Tip – I’m a big fan of hiring experts to speed up your growth trajectory. I believe that these advisors help you skip over mistakes you’d make on your own. At Square 2 Marketing, we hired an Agile Consultant and today work with a management consultant to help us with planning and execution of our annual and quarterly goals. But we’ve also had our collection of duds and I want you to avoid that. Identify your biggest challenge. Is it sales? Is it agency operations? Is it hiring? Is it finance? Once you know where you need help, finding the expert, investigating their expertise, reviewing their program and talking with them—you’ll know who’s right for you. Pull the trigger, get started and watch your agency grow.
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