I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to juggle all the balls associated with running an inbound marketing agency. Hiring, training, selling, working with clients and more go into a typical day for an inbound agency owner.
Many agency owners ask me the very simple question, “Mike, where do I start? You’ve given me so many things to think about what’s the most important thing to do first?” So while the new infographic growth chart we published early in the month gives you the broad brush steps to inbound agency growth, you still need to prioritize activities on a day to day basis.
Today’s article gives you tips on how to prioritize and focus your energy and the energy of your team so your company moves up the growth chart.
Think Long Term But Act Short Term
You need to have a long term plan in mind, regardless of your business. Agency businesses are no different. Do you want to grow the business? How large do you want to grow? Do you intend to sell the business? Do you intend to pass it down to family members? Are your employees interested in taking it over eventually?
It might seem like a useless exercise but knowing where you’re going helps you make decisions that pull you towards that goal. For instance, we’re trying to build Square 2 Marketing into a $20 million inbound agency, so our day to day decision making is designed around building our business to that level. We constantly ask ourselves, “Is this what a $20 million agency would do?” You’d be surprised what having that longer term vision can do for your day to day planning.
Once you have that long-term plan, now your short term planning starts supporting those longer term goals. One very effective way to tie long and short term goals together is to use a system to help you stay organized. There are two that I have personal experience with, The Rockefeller Habits which features the One-Page Plan and is delivered by the Gazelles Group and the Entrepreneurial Operating System which might be a little more self-contained for people just starting out. I’ll go into how these work later in the article.
Manage Activity Daily, Weekly and Monthly
I’ve found that the biggest obstacle that prevents us from getting focused, working on the most important tasks first and making more progress with our businesses is simply getting started. We spend most of the time thinking about what we need to get done that we never really get going with any purpose.
There’s a popular story that illustrates how to make sure we get the most important stuff done first and it goes something like this.
A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was full.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full. They chuckled and agreed that it was indeed full this time.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. The professor then again asked the students if the jar was full. Now they were all pretty sure that this time it was indeed full.
But as the professor started pouring water into the jar, they realized that there was still more room and actually even more room than they expected.
“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions and the water, well—those are all those things that seem easy, so we try to knock them off first but in reality, they’re actually preventing us from getting the big rocks in.
So as you start to look at everything that needs to get done. Start with the big rocks. Make sure you start you day with the day’s biggest rock and instead of coming in and spending a hour replying to emails, work on your big rock. Then get to those emails later in the day after you’ve accomplished something significant. Look at this daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and even annually. What are your big rocks? Are you working on them right now? That’s where you should be spending your time.
Schedule Time Like You Schedule Client Meetings
Planning and thinking like this takes time. Some might argue this is the most important use of your time. Yet most of us never schedule time for stuff like this. We schedule client calls, sales calls, meeting with our team, even personal appointments but do we ever schedule time to work on our big rocks. Treat this time the same way you treat your other time. Put aside two to four hours each week to work on big rocks that are preventing you from growing. Work on them for 5% to 10% of the work week, that’s all I’m suggesting, just two to four hours each week.
If you accomplished one significant improvement each week, you would have made 52 improvements like this over the course of the year and your agency would look dramatically different. How amazing would you feel then looking back?
Get Help From Proven Methodologies
Change is hard for everyone. As human beings change is counter to our own DNA. We like our world to be consistent and predictable. Then we know how to deal with it. Change causes us to learn new ways of doing things, we have to adapt and our brains are working overtime to prevent this.
Here’s a statistic that shocks me when I hear it. Every year about 1 million people make a new year’s resolution to learn how to play the guitar. But only about 200,000 of them will stick with it and even less will actually learn how to play more than just a few chords. Why? Because it’s hard and things that are hard cause us to give up. It’s something you’ve never done before, it’s something new, new things take time and human beings like to stay in a safe zone where things are generally easy.
You’ve decided to run an inbound agency and more than that, you’ve decided to grow it. So you might need help. The two growth management systems I mentioned above, Gazelles and EOS are two very good methodologies to help you do something you’ve never done before.
They help you break down big tasks into little tasks, they help you focus on the most important tasks, they help you organize, assign and track those tasks. They also help you measure your progress so you see that your hard work is paying off. In some cases, I’ve seen these systems be the difference between successful growth and frustrated stunted growth at agencies just like yours.
Considering what you’re trying to do, all these tips need to be applied in a way that works for you. Without some changes to the way you work day-to-day, there’s more chance you’ll continue doing what you’ve always done (that prevented you from growing) than making the changes you need to grow your inbound marketing agency.
I don’t want to see that and I know you don’t either, so make the commitment today to try some of these techniques and then reap the rewards a few months down the road.
Start Today Tip – If you want different outcomes, you need to do things differently. It’s that simple. Your agency has been fine for the past years but now you want grow, what you did to make it fine is not what you need to do to help it grow. Take a few of the pointers here and create a new operating system for your new growth oriented agency. Use this to follow the 11 Stages of Growth outlined in our infographic and watch your inbound marketing agency move up the growth chart. Only then will you have the business you always dreamed of having when you started years ago.
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