Growing your agency & the power of “no”
The agency world is a hectic, challenging, but incredibly rewarding place. Every second has significance and your client pool is a perpetual (and never dull) juggling act.
There are no signs of things slowing down anytime soon, considering the sheer volume of work associated with managing social media on behalf of clients today.
My advice for any budding agency that’s adapting to keep up and grow their offering is this: Shift your focus. Instead of chasing exponential growth, look to the bottom line. Instead of saying “yes” to every ask, start thinking about how to say “no.”
You Can’t Say Yes All the Time
It sounds counterintuitive, but saying yes to everything isn’t a sustainable methodology.
It works well in the beginning when you’re doing anything and everything to land a client and keep them around. But eventually you’re going to agree to something that you’re not prepared for and the facade of your “yes!” organization starts to crumble.
“Yes” won’t always scale. It’s an unfortunate truth when your business model is based on the notion that you exist to serve others. But today’s agencies can’t offer everything to every client.
There’s an art and a science in saying no to client asks when you need to. It’s shouldn’t be the norm, but it should be a measure you take to guarantee the success of your organization.
Establish some clarity around why you’re saying no before you jump into declining projects. When you’re approached with a new client, ask yourself: Can My Agency Provide Value to This Client?
A client comes to you because you’re the expert. It’s your job to know when what you’re able to provide doesn’t necessarily make sense for that client.
Similarly, it’s okay to acknowledge that as your agency grows not every new client will be a great fit for your business.
Focusing on what value you bring to each client can help you fully realize your core offering. Consider who your ideal client is and their needs. Zero in on what you offer and your market as specifically as possible and start to become comfortable with letting prospective clients know when your agency is not the best fit for them.
Your agency is a brand too, after all.
Revenue & Growth Aren’t Always Synonymous
Growth is what you want, but at the end of the day your eye should be on revenue.
Slow down and take in the position of your agency—if the revenue is coming in then you can steady your roll and not worry so much about ostensible growth. It should never just be about growing exponentially, it should be about doing right by the clients you have and protecting the quality of what you have to offer.
That isn’t to say that being more selective in your commitments and focusing on the bottom line means your agency isn’t growing. It’s a different perspective of success. Make smart choices and invest where it counts.
Expand Your Value
You’ve established your value and have been more selective about your commitments, but you are growing. Some agencies dive right in to scaling their clientbase without establishing the manpower and the resources to do so effectively, but there’s a big jump between delivering your best work to one client and delivering your best work to several clients.
And agency life means long hours, high pressure and deadlines—you can’t afford to dive in without some structure.
Once your team hits a certain size, you’ll realize it’s important to add a level of middle management so not all team members are reporting directly to you. This makes it clear for every team member that there’s a strategy in place and each individual can understand how they fit into that plan.
Don’t be afraid to pivot. For an agency that’s scaling, it’s important to know when it’s appropriate to push people and take them to their max vs. when to move on and hire new talent. There will always be problems to solve in this business. If you aren’t creating new problems, then you likely aren’t growing.
You want to grow your agency and provide exceptional services to your clients. Agency partner programs give you that advantage.
Partnering up can establish a backbone of support, resources and ensures that you can focus on delivering quality work, instead of getting stuck in the weeds with the tactical details of scaling.
Building and scaling an agency is an ongoing conversation with no single answer to success.
In the end, it doesn’t come down to what you want, it comes down to what your work for.
Growth requires you to put your agency’s core offering and unique story at the center of your strategies and to activate a team, tools, partner agencies, as well as a client base that will help you reach your own goals.
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