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The Growing Agency Checklist — Steps to Grow Your Agency

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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.

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