How to build a successful digital marketing agency

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A guide to building a successful digital marketing agency.

The budding interest of entrepreneurialism and the steady growth of technology means loads of digital marketing agencies are making their way on to the scene. Founders are becoming more savvy and the industry is getting more competitive, so how can your company stand out from the rest?

We at Run2 have pulled together a guide to building a successful digital marketing agency, based on own successes and mistakes. By embedding a few simple techniques, you can adapt and mould your personality around these guidelines to build your perfect agency without hitting obstacles. Here's what we advise:

1. Recruit the best people

Create the right agency culture

​Recruiting and retaining staff becomes so much easier if you create a great environment that people want to be a part of.

We decided to ditch the hierarchy culture so often found in agency environments, instead appreciating and celebrating every member of staff for their achievements. By acknowledging that every person plays a vital role in the team, no matter their salary, experience or title, you can bring out the best in people and make them feel valued.

Avoid using recruitment agencies

Although recruitment agencies can have their place, try to avoid them as much as possible. Most members of staff have joined our team having applied for the role directly, whether they spotted us through social media, Google or via a recommendation from a friend already in the team.

Although we've certainly had some talented people join the team through recruiters in the past, using recruitment agencies can be expensive. They can also be unreliable. We love it when people apply to work with us directly because it feels more personalised and we know they've taken time to understand what we're about"

Support and train junior members

When you’re a smaller agency it’s often easier to recruit juniors who demonstrate potential and help them to grow rather than searching high and low for people who already have all the skills you need. By nurturing and investing in your staff you can watch them grow.

2. Keep winning

You need to do the leg work

Word of mouth can work well but we’d advise against relying on it to gain new clients. You need to get your name out there and reconnect with people. Try and do one thing a day that could potentially become something more further down the line.

Specialise

What makes your agency special? Focus on what you excel in, be the expert and deepen your knowledge in those areas. Seek out clients who need your expertise and ignore the rest. Agencies often make the mistake of taking on any work they can get but this often puts your resources under excess strain and takes the focus away from your true calling.

3. Retain existing clients

Be consistent

Clients love consistency. As a smaller agency you are much better placed to provide this. At larger companies, clients get shifted through numerous different people and they never really know who they are talking to. We’ve been able to build lasting relationships because our team members have strong relationships with their clients.

Be personable

You will dramatically improve your chances of winning over clients if you are approachable and friendly. Allow your clients to enjoy the experience of working with you and you’ll no doubt retain that account year on year.

Manage expectations

Sometimes you will do everything your client has asked and more, but that doesn’t mean your client will stay with you forever. When you do a great job, the company may grow, so it is natural that they may then take the work in-house. Don’t dwell on the loss of these clients. You’ve helped grow their brand and become part of their journey. Retaining a good relationship with these clients might even bring you business in the future.

4. The yin yang

Keep working hours realistic

You’re often expected to work longer hours at smaller companies but this can be counterproductive and it generally lowers productivity.

Set yourself realistic timelines and communicate these timelines clearly to your clients. Don’t say you can do something in a week if you know it will take two. Not only can these false promises make things unnecessarily stressful for your staff but it will also set a precedent for future work and you will end up paying a costly price one way or another.

Be flexible

Smaller companies do generally tend to offer more freedom than large organisations with strict HR departments. This can go a very long way in making employees happier and more productive. Allow your team the freedom to go for a long lunch or attend their kids’ sports day. You’ll find that when you need them most they are more than willing to pay that time back.

Keep the hierarchy flat

There isn’t really a methodology to this. It’s just about treating everybody the same. There’s a mentality at Run2 that we are all working towards one common goal. We have the same perks and this leads to a feeling of ‘we’re all in it to win it’. That’s probably down to keeping the hierarchy as flat as possible.

5. Make better decisions

Review often

Agency life is hectic and it’s easy to forget to take a step back and examine how things are going. Review your finance, review your operations, review your staffing, and review your marketing. Use this to address any issues and develop a list of goals. It’s vital for the health of the company to do this.

Listen to your staff

At smaller companies you tend to have more interaction with your staff. Use this as an opportunity to listen to what they need. If new hardware or software is requested, be attentive and willing to adapt to new innovations and work habits.

You can almost guarantee that your employees will be after something that will make their life easier, but remember this in turn brings better productivity and can put you on the front foot of your industry.

Desirables

Sometimes it’s good to spend a little bit on luxuries. It’s important that you enjoy the space you work in and if that means investing in a really good sound system or a swanky coffee machine then it’s strongly advised. It’s also worth littering your spaces with industry magazines, books and a bit of nice artwork. They’re invaluable for keeping up to date with what is going on in your world.

Linzi Hunter is head of design & UX at Run2.

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