Watching your new agency take flight after all the planning, blood, sweat, and tears is always a joy. Now, you’re ready to spread your wings and change the future. What can be more exciting?
Unfortunately, the early growing phase is also the most perilous for most startups. In most cases, startups fail because of the inability to build on early success or simply because of a slightly miscalculated trajectory.
Having a checklist that you can look at every day to keep you pointing in the right direction will give you the best chance at success. With that in mind, here are our top pointers for growing agencies.
1. Choose a battle you’ve mastered — and enjoy
While the focus of your project, or service, should be to relieve your customers’ pain and bring them joy, solving this problem should bring you joy as well.
When doing something you’re not passionate about, it’s easy to lose that compelling drive you had at the beginning. This will lead to a lack of enthusiasm and innovation. Steve Jobs himself said:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Tackling a particular problem or field that you enjoy working on will create a positive feedback loop. You will create better products that will reach/influence more users and bring success which will motivate you even more. Whether it’s design, marketing, writing, or coding, reinvest in yourself by doing what you feel passionate about.
2. Don’t Try to Outgrow Yourself
There are a lot of growing pains involved with building and expanding a business. Don’t make things harder than it needs to be in the delicate beginning stages by taking on too much. While nothing is wrong with ambition, anything is in too large portions.
In the beginning, it’s best to give a few choice projects your full attention. A great place to start is within your existing network, where you also might have more leeway with clients. If you take on too many projects at once, your attention will be divided and you’ll find yourself taking shortcuts.
Focusing on a few curated projects will undoubtedly lead to you producing better results which will have other knock-on effects:
- Build a reputation for delivering high-quality, polished end products
- Get comfortable working together in your team without undue pressure
- Streamline your workflows and get all the right processes in place to work smarter, not harder in the future
- Build a solid, loyal customer base that will support you through future ups and downs
3. Focus on Relieving Client’s Pain Points
According to numerous studies, one of the main reasons why startups fail is developing a product or service with no market need. The surest way to determine a market need is to find out what causes consumers pain and to find a way to solve it. If no one else has come up with the same solution as you (or you can do it better), you’ve found your market!
The key to finding real pain points is to be proactive — not to sit in your office and guess. How can you do that? I’m glad you asked:
- Find the right questions to ask and survey consumers
- If you fail to sell a product, service, idea, try to find out why — chances are, it’s because it doesn’t solve a problem
- Do some competitor analysis, including looking at negative customer reviews
- Develop prototypes and run usability tests to verify pain points are being eliminated
4. Clearly Communicate Your Position Statement and Target Audience
As the global market expands and diversifies, brands and consumers increasingly want to do business with those they identify with. If you don’t clearly communicate your ideals, vision, and project your voice, consumers can’t identify with you. A brand tribe, for example, is a loyal base of consumers that identify strongly with your brand and each other. This is also a way of establishing a unique brand and distinguishing yourself from the competition.
Of course, this is hard to do if you don’t know and understand your audience. So, having a solid understanding of who your target audience is a must.
Part of what shows who you are is who you’re willing to work for, or with. Working with brands that share your vision will result in a mutual understanding and a better working relationship. These types of collaborations will also strengthen your individual brand identities and lead to great marketing opportunities.
5. Proudly Display Testimonials
As a young business without a long track record, you won’t have as strong a reputation for consumers to trust you by. You can’t expect consumers to take all your marketing at face value either. Testimonials and feedback from customers is the social proof you need to build that consumer confidence.
This involves reaching out to your clients. You can also guide them to write the type of testimonial that you can use to sell yourself more. This can be done by asking the right questions.
Even a bad review is an opportunity! Addressing a complaint and solving the problem shows you are willing to engage with customers, admit your faults, and take steps to correct them. It shows that you care about your customers, and not just their money. Who knows? You might even turn a negative review into a glowing testimonial.
6. Refine Your Marketing Strategies Over Time
Nothing today stays the same for long. Your marketing strategy needs to adapt as your circumstances, audience, market position, and the overall market changes.
As this is likely the first time you are running a major, long-term strategy for this particular business, you also don’t have the benefit of experience. A/B testing is a critical component in most marketing strategies today to find what works and what doesn’t.
Never make assumptions — you may find that you’ve invested too much in an idea that simply doesn’t work.
7. Adopt Automation Early — Delegate Where You Can
The longer you put off adopting automation, the more times you will be doing the same work over and over again. Not only that does cost you time and money, but it’s also demotivating and doesn’t foster innovation.
Invest your time and energy where it matters. And, spend more time managing your business, tuning your marketing strategy, looking for new opportunities, and strengthening your network.
From marketing to organization to testing to development, automation solutions exist for just about any aspect of the modern business. Zapier, Integromat, and ActiveCampaign are just some examples.
The same goes for delegating tasks to others who are more skilled or specialized in that field. You don’t have to be a jack of all trades. Choose the best developers, designers, etc., and have faith in their talents.
8. Build Your Own Tailored Solutions
Yes, why reinvent the wheel? Well, for one, every business is unique and faces its own unique challenges. Secondly, third-party automated business solutions can be very expensive and ties you down to that product’s roadmap.
Today, there are also tonnes of open-source projects out there with full feature sets and active communities behind them. Using these tools can give you a jump start, cut costs, and provide exciting future opportunities. While it will still require an upfront investment, it will save resources in the long run.
As this is proprietary, in-house software, you may even be able to monetize it in the future as a product or service. Or, you could give it away to build your reputation and industry authority.
9. Document, Everything
Thorough documentation is another helpful resource your future self will thank you for. Documentation is universally considered to be best-practice for just about any coding project. It makes reading code, tracking changes, understanding your product/service, and adhering to internal procedures and practices so much easier. Professional and comprehensive documentation also makes onboarding easier for new recruits.