Are you the owner of a digital marketing agency and have been struggling to scale? Have you ever wanted to know how other owners of digital marketing agencies have grown their firms to where they are today? We’ve all been there, so why not talk about it?
We work day and night to scale our brand and compete with other agencies. With any luck, our business grows, as does the amount of responsibilities we have to manage. Of course, adding more clients to the work flow is ideal, but when you consider the micromanaging that naturally comes with scaling, it is understandable why so many of us fall short of our targets. In fact, some of us don’t even get out of the gate.
So, to give us all better insight for 2017 and to better understand the struggle we all inevitably face, we decided to pose the following question to some big names:
“What was the hardest part of scaling your digital marketing agency?”
See what they had to say below!
#1. Doug Kessler
Doug Kessler is co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, the London-based B2B content marketing agency. Doug has written a lot about content marketing including the B2B Content Strategy Checklist, Insane Honesty in Content Marketing and Crap: Why the Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing.
“Growth is change and change is f**king hard.
For us, we’re always having to learn which parts of our business – which systems, processes, methodologies – are important to fight for and which are better to let go of.
I hope that our culture hasn’t changed too much but culture is a fragile thing. It does have to adapt.
The important thing is that the values that drive that culture don’t change: integrity; mutual respect; no a**holes; no blame; respect for the audience; serving the client by challenging them; and never stopping the learning… if we betray these values, we become hacks.”
#2. Sean Si
Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.
“Oh my, where to begin?
Scaling up any kind of company is difficult and digital marketing agencies are none the easier. Digital marketing agencies deal with people and processes and clients and art. Those things have numerous factors in between. Fluctuating factors that are extremely hard to control and temper.
I wrote an answer exactly for this question in my book “CEO at 22” but that’s going to be too long for a round up post like this. So I’ll summarise it into one: People.
Scaling up a digital marketing agency is difficult because you just cannot be 100% sure about the kinds of people you get, what they would do in certain situations, how they would respond in certain incidents, etc. Being able to predict those things deal with the supernatural. It’s just impossible.
How I was able to scale up SEO Hacker was in making sure that I become better with handling and leading people. Engaging them at work. Putting systems in place that don’t choke them. These things have helped my team flourish and bloom. And somewhere in between, that made us the company that we are today.”
#3. Lamar Hull
Lamar Hull is the Founder of Organic Clicks, a Digital Marketing Agency and a Charlotte SEO Expert & Consultant. He spends time blogging on Inspirational Basketball and driving growth for small to medium sized businesses.
“I’m a small business owner trying to create a brand that adds significant value in the local online marketing industry. The hardest part of scaling my digital marketing agency is creating processes that makes systems function without me heavily involved in the day-to-day technical work of the digital marketing strategy. Michael Gerber, the author of E-Myth Revisited: Why Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, talks about who you become when scaling a small business. The small business owner is a technician, manager and entrepreneur all-in-one. The technician does all the day-to-day technical work (the job), the manager spends time managing the business (staff), and the entrepreneur dreams and focuses on the future (growth, new clients, etc.). Most small business owners start out 70% technician, 20% manager, and 10% entrepreneur. This is so true for a lot of small digital marketing agencies, so scaling in terms of maximizing capacity and growth in a cost effective way is important. At the same time, the business owner has to determine how he or she can be removed from the day-to-day technical work so that he or she can grow the business. This is very challenging at first to figure out. Not all cases are like this, but definitely a high percentage of small businesses experience this at first. So having processes for link building, on-page optimisation, social media marketing (i.e. FB Ads), reporting, and etc. is so important, so when you hire someone to cut cost at the beginning who potentially doesn’t have any experience, your systems and guides can still help them make an immediate impact for your clients because you have a winning formula. This is important so that training can be developed, the right people can be put in place, and the business can continue to grow and not plateau! “
#4. Douglas Karr
Douglas is the CEO of DK New Media and Founder of the Marketing Technology Blog. He is also a recognized expert on digital marketing, speaking and consulting enterprise clients all over the globe on their omnichannel marketing efforts.
Website: www.marketingtechblog.com| Twitter: @douglaskarr
“By far, the hardest part has been finding the right clients. Notice I didn’t say great clients… I said right clients. The right clients respect our experience, accept our culture, recognise our value, and don’t hesitate to pay well for the value we provide. Passing over prospects that aren’t a match is difficult when you’re trying to grow – but necessary to provide you the resources and time to find the “right” clients. ”
#5. Jerry Low
“Because the entry barrier is so low, finding good talents you can trust is the hardest part of scaling up. Turnover rate is extremely high compare to traditional offline business – people often come and go (to start their own online businesses) within the first six months. ”
#6. Chris Raulf
Chris is the founder of Boulder SEO Marketing, a boutique digital marketing agency located in beautiful Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Recently recognized as a “Top 30 SEO Agency”, Chris and his team assist local, national and international customers with all of their search engine optimization, social media and content marketing needs. Chris is an international keynote speaker and his self-paced, non-technical online SEO training allows anyone to implement a powerful online marketing strategy. His international background makes him one of the few professionals in the industry who truly live and breath multilingual search engine optimization on a daily basis. Learn more about Chris and Boulder SEO Marketing by connecting with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Website: www.boulderseomarketing.com/| Twitter: @swisschris
“When I first started my SEO agency, I had to take on every client that I could get. In some occasions, my stomach told me to stay away from certain clients, yet I still ended up taking them on and ended up regretting it later. Here’s my tip to other new agency owners: If your financial situations permits, try to be selective on who you take on as clients. You need to have a good feeling about it and it should sort of feel like a partnership instead of an agency-customer relationship. Most of our current customers have now been with us for 5+ years and the results that we’re seeing are quite amazing. ”
#7. Sam Hurley
“My story is a little different! I built my audience and business on social media, without a website.
For that reason, it’s been difficult to scale because the clients and opportunities all came at once…which has given me relatively little time to focus on operations and one of the most important components of online presence…a website.
Right now, it’s a juggling act between social activity, business growth / direction and client work.
All the above said, the most difficult part of scaling has been finding the time. At one point, it was taking me 8+ hours every day (including weekends) just to get back to everybody on Social Media. I’ve had to drastically re-shape my daily schedule each quarter to adapt accordingly with the ever-increasing demands and ever-decreasing amount of hours available.
If there’s one takeaway here, it’s: Be flexible and adaptable in order to grow. Sometimes, growth can be hiding under a stone you never before thought to unturn…and you may just need to shut the door on other activites to discover it. “
What was your hardest part of scaling the digital agency? Share it in the comments below. As always, stay tuned for our follow-up post and contribution coming soon!