The Agency Growth Blog - For Owners Who Want Growth

What To Do In The Final Months Of 2020 To Make Next Year Your Best Year Ever

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Oct 30, 2020 7:15:00 AM

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2021 Tips for Digital Marketing Agency OwnersI try to give agency owners a lot of practical advice. I know many of you are technically capable of doing what you need to grow, but there are just forks in the road, potholes, unforeseen challenges and decisions that seem to slow down your growth.

One of the biggest challenges is simply working IN the business, instead of working ON the business. If there was a single piece of advice I could share with agency owners it would be to carve out at least 2 hours every month to stop working in the business and work on it.

This would allow you to consider how you differentiate, how you can add a few new tech partners, how you can improve your delivery, what new services you can offer, and how you can help your client services team be better consultants.

Just think how much better your agency would be if you were able to impact those five areas of the business. This is able to be done with just a little extra time.

Going into the last few months of the year, I wanted to give you five very specific tasks for you to tackle as you work ON your agency. Each of these efforts require strategic thinking, planning, prioritizing and organizing your resources to deliver. This is CEO level work. This is work you should be doing every week.

These tasks are the ones that will help your agency grow.

Actively Drive Client Revenue

Since the end of last year, I’ve been sitting down with our Director of Client Services and going client by client looking for additional revenue. It’s easy to get comfortable, especially when you have a retainer model.

Instead, I want to talk about their progress, what additional work could we be doing for them, what additional work has been discussed, what’s holding them back, what we can do to earn that extra business. 

This has uncovered new revenue opportunities on a monthly basis. This is low hanging fruit. The clients already like us, they already trust us, and we’re already set up to help them. These projects almost always execute quickly and contribute between $10,000 and $100,000 in incremental revenue each month.

These conversations also help us decide if I need to get involved. Sometimes it’s a conversation, sometimes it's sharing stories associated with other clients, and sometimes it's just an extra set of eyes on the situation that helps us get these closed.

There are additional revenue opportunities inside almost every client. All you have to do is uncover those opportunities and create a plan to add them to your engagement.

Consider Launching A New Service

Want to differentiate your agency? This is one of the best ways to do so. But this is going to take some thought. What services could you offer that you don’t currently offer? What have your clients been asking for? What doesn’t feel like it's working smoothly? What are they buying from other partners or agencies?

If you want these new services to help differentiate your agency, then you can’t look at what other agencies are doing. You have to look at what they’re NOT doing.

Start with what’s not working so well. What are clients frustrated with? Maybe it's reporting, maybe it's dashboards, maybe it's audits, or sales training.

I’ll give you an example.

You know as well as I do, clients hate waiting for results. They hate when we have to tell them to be patient or Inbound takes time.

To solve that challenge, we added Demand Generation Services to our portfolio. This made us less of an Inbound agency and more of a lead gen and revenue growth agency. However, we pushed it a bit farther because other agencies do demand generation, and we also broke down the traditional fractional team-model in all agencies and gave clients an option to hire a dedicated team.

Yep, they can hire their own dedicated team that works only on their stuff. They can hire the team for as long or as short as they need. This allowed us to accelerate the deliverables and get clients results in about 1/6 the time as the fractional approach.

We never would have come up with this idea if we didn’t put time aside to work on the challenges facing the agency and brainstorm solutions.

NEW COHORTS ARE LAUNCHING: One or two more seats in the standard Agency Cohort launching in November and a new Advanced Cohort is likely launching in December. If you're interested click here or email me directly to chat about either Cohort.

Work On Improving Your Close Rate

I talk a lot about working on your own marketing, but you have to work on your own sales process too. The close rate on proposals submitted is a great place to start. Do you know your actual close rate? It should be one of your most important KPIs.

Typical close rates in agencies are around 30% to 40% but that’s way too low for my liking. Last year we started an initiative to drive up our close rate to 80%. Today we’re at 75%. A big part of this initiative is not submitting a set of recommendations until you’re sure you have a solid chance of winning it.

Make Sure Your Agency Marketing Is Producing Up and To The Right Results

I laid out exactly what your marketing program should look like going into 2021, but you also need to be disciplined to keep track of your marketing results on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

One of the reasons I blog twice a week is to spend time in HubSpot. I’m watching our visitor numbers, and doing projections out through the end of the month. I’m also looking at blog subscribers, email campaign performance, landing page performance, offer performance, conversion rates, and more.

I want to make sure that what we’re doing is producing results and doing so month over month.

Find One New Tech Partner

Back in the day, creative agencies made a lot of money selling media like ad placements on radio, TV, and in print.

Most digital agencies never even had an opportunity to sell media like that, but there are new opportunities for smaller digital agencies to generate passive-income (income not associated with billing, work, or hours) through relationships with technology companies.

HubSpot, Drift, Vidyard, and other martech/salestech companies are creating partner programs specifically designed for agencies.

But more importantly, your clients are in desperate need of these technology tools and left to their own devices they are rarely equipped to implement, train, and use these tools without help from a company like yours.

If you want to finish 2020 strong and go into 2021 in a positive revenue position, then consider starting with or better yet adding one or two new technology partners.

The secret to generating revenue from technology partners is to build services around the technology partners and position the technology as part of the services you’re providing.

For example, if you want to work with your agency, let prospects know up-front that you need the following tech stack to do your job for them. That means they’ll be purchasing HubSpot, Seventh Sense, Sendoso, and SEM Rush if they want to work with you.

You’ll help them with the purchase, you’ll onboard and train them, you’ll help them get comfortable with the tools, but they should be a requirement to work with you.

Concerned? That’s fair.  Then start with just one or two. The ONLY way we became HubSpot’s biggest partner was to bake HubSpot in with ALL our new client engagements. You can do it too.

I’m a big believer in working into trends, instead of bucking trends. These items here are all designed and supported by trends I see not only continuing but accelerating into next year.

By getting on these waves, you can have your best year ever in 2021, no matter what’s going on in the world.

Leaning into clients? Companies all over the world have seen success this year paying extra attention to existing clients. You can too.

Creating a new service? It’s never been a better time to stretch your team to deliver services your clients are already asking for.

Improving your close rate? This is, by far, the fastest and easiest way to grow revenue. We counsel clients all the time to start at the end. Going from a 20% close rate to a 40% close rate will double revenue with no need for more visitors or leads.

Making sure your marketing is working? If you can’t do this for the agency, how can you do it for your clients? Enough said.

To ensure your own marketing is moving in the right direction, consider some rhythms. First, make sure you do a daily review of the high-level metrics, like those I mentioned above. Then set up a weekly meeting for 30 minutes with a few other folks in the agency to review what optimization efforts are being done, the progress, and the prioritization of those efforts.

Finally, do a monthly review with the entire agency. Let them see how the agency is doing with their own marketing. I do this primarily to generate ideas and interest in our own marketing. After all, the people who see these results are solid marketers with good ideas and experience. I regularly get interesting perspectives, solid insights into what’s driving performance, and creative ways to improve performance.

While I might have to do the execution of those ideas, their contributions are highly valuable and almost always impact results in a positive way. 

Finding a new tech partner? There are going to be more and more tools for clients to consider, the more guidance you bring to their decision-making process the more valuable a firm and the more passive revenue you can generate. This is only going to get more complicated, not less.

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Start Today Tip – You have two months left in 2020. These initiatives are relatively easy to get going and all doable in the next 60 days. The work you do now is going to set you up to exceed your goals in 2021 and beyond. Make sure you find the time to work on initiatives like this. The more you can hover up and work on strategic initiatives, the faster your agency will grow. As I advise my agency clients, the time you spend working ON your agency is much more valuable than the time you spend working IN your agency. It might not seem like that on the surface and while that fire seems hot and in need of extinguishing, those bigger issues will pay dividends for years to come and there will always be little fires everywhere.

Agencies 2 Inbound – Helping Grow Agencies Beyond Expectations

Topics: Planning for Growth, strategic planning, 2021 Planning

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