It’s hard to deny that marketing has gone almost fully digital over the last decade. It makes perfect sense: to make your products and services visible, you have to be where the people are. And the people are online. They visit websites and social media platforms every day – and they love it so much that more traditional means of mass-communication are rapidly growing out of popularity. That is precisely why growing a digital marketing agency can be such a good business idea.
How do you do that, though? How do you go from being one enthusiastic marketer to a full team of people sharing your common goals, vision, and love for marketing?
We spoke to Karina Tama, CEO and Founder at Senior Care Clicks, about the pains and successes of growing your own agency. Read on if you want to find out more.
The Worst Part About Growing a Digital Marketing Agency
Growing a digital marketing agency is not for the faint of heart. In addition to having passion, it takes time, tenacity, resilience, and huge doses of patience.
Building your agency is always slow in the beginning. Over time, one success builds on top of another, and growing a digital marketing agency gradually gets easier.
However, when you decide to start your own agency, you will quickly find you have many challenges and obstacles before you get it off the ground. In the beginning, you can rely on yourself to manage everything. Growing a digital marketing agency will eventually require you to hire more people, and it can be hard to transition to teams.
Here’s what Karina had to say about growing a digital marketing agency of your own from her own experience:
1. Develop processes and implement them. For example, a CRM system will help you manage tasks. You may also need other software programs to monitor your teams, invoice clients, and pay your teams. Established processes will streamline marketing and outbound sales, and they will help you be accountable for every task that relates to your deliverables.
2. Build a qualified team you can trust. The best part about a global pool of freelancers is that you get the chance to hire the best talent for your business. So don’t limit yourself to local and regional options – spread your wings and open your job announcements to the world, so you can find the best person for the job.
3. Grow a personal brand behind your agency. Your future customers want to work with people, not companies. That means you’ll have to give your business a “face”.
Find reputable sources and become a contributor. Set up blog interviews or agree to participate in a podcast. Growing a digital marketing agency requires being active and visible on multiple social media platforms.
Not every company has the financial resources to pay a public relations agency, but a good digital marketer can demonstrate how marketing can be a cost-saver and revenue maker rather than be a cost center.
4. Work to acquire new clients. Getting new clients can be the most challenging part of growing a digital marketing agency.
Karina has experimented with different ways of acquiring clients including using SEO techniques and PPC, and sending out cold emails. As with any operation that involves sales, you are bound to face rejection on some level, and that can affect your mood, causing you to doubt yourself.
The best way that she has found to deal with this is to outsource outbound sales.” I have someone else to make cold calls, send emails, and give presentations to screen out prospects that are not ready. I take the hot leads, offer them more information and convert them. We also use SEO and social media to attract clients. “ Karina said.
How to Overcome the Pains of Starting & Growing a Digital Marketing Agency
Trying to make time to find new clients and continuing to serve your existing portfolio is tough. In fact, as Karina told us, it might just be one of the biggest pains of growing a digital marketing agency. In between cold calls, sales calls, creating strategies for your agency as well as for your clients, everything can feel like you’re constantly playing “catch (up)”. Even more, at times, it can feel even hypocritical, since you’re educating your clients to do what you are having trouble doing yourself.
Focusing on a niche industry is one way to overcome that challenge and growing a digital marketing agency. With each passing day, you learn more about that industry. You can use that knowledge to optimize your processes and make your agency more successful.
When you have effective processes and good teams in place that follow directions, your agency will be like a well-oiled machine, able to function with minimal supervision.
Over time, good reviews and case studies will help you earn trust in the industry. Referrals will naturally follow. You will begin retaining your existing clients so you’re not always scrambling to replace clients that have dropped off with new ones.
Tips from a Successful Digital Marketing Agency Owner
Growing a digital marketing agency will eventually require you to manage bigger clients. Subsequently, you will need to hire more staff to serve clients well.
By filling the pipeline with high-quality leads, you are positioning your agency for steady growth.
Karina gave us a few more insightful tips on growing a digital marketing agency just like she did.
1. Your people are one of your most important assets. Each person has their own degree of expertise and collectively, your team brings a lot to the table. For example, in B2B marketing, LinkedIn is a primary distribution channel for content. Your employees’ LinkedIn accounts are additional distribution channels that can help you increase your agency’s reach on LinkedIn.
Share your company articles on LinkedIn and encourage your team to do the same on their LinkedIn pages adding their professional tips and comments. This way, you will be able to expand your reach exponentially and authentically.
2. Offer free SEO audits to interested prospects. Give a little to get more. For example, Karina’s agency, Senior Care Clicks, offers free trials of one week to give prospects an opportunity to see the processes in action. In the niche of home care agencies, Karina launches Google Ads where the prospective client only pays for the Google Ads budget.
Karina says, “We create the ad campaign for free, add it to our proprietary CRM, and follow up with a drip campaign to track leads.”
Karina conducts custom SEO audits and sends prospects a Loom video showing them missed opportunities and how ranking local keywords improve organic traffic. Karina also whets their appetite by showing them how many conversions SEO can effectively generate.
3. Rank for target keywords in specific geographical area. If your target audience is local, your SEO should be localized too (makes sense, doesn’t it?). To get the best results, you will typically need to think about marketing to clients nearby. Karina does this by leveraging local SEO to rank high for their service terms in conjunction with location terms such as Digital Marketing Agency + Brooklyn, NY
4. Position yourself as the local community expert. Growing your digital marketing agency requires networking, and that doesn’t have to mean being the keynote speaker in a ballroom of thousands.
People trust faces and other people’s recommendations, and that’s where your personal brand is key. To connect with people online, participate in Slack groups, present online webinars, and try to be part of the community as much as you can.. Give yourself a major online presence. Yes, it can be time-consuming and at times, it can even feel like it’s de-focusing you from actual work. However, it will eventually pay off.
5. Turn your agency website into a mean, lean lead generation machine. It all comes back to the concept that people are everywhere online every day. Not only do you need to be visible, but you also need to drive prospects to action.
Not engaging and funneling leads is one of the biggest mistakes new marketers make. Karina emphasizes the free trial and SEO audit tools she offers entices prospects to enter the sales funnel.
The strategies for effectively growing a digital marketing agency can be extremely overwhelming -- but not insurmountable. They do get easier with time. Karina recommends focusing on one growth strategy at a time so you can devote the proper amount of time and resources to it.
As a final tip, keep growing your own knowledge by taking master classes and learning from other successful marketers. If you want to get into Google Ads, for example, you can always check out our free Google Ads Master Class -- a 6-module course built to take you from zero to hero in Google Ads in virtually no time. Check it out and add it to your list of things to do when growing a digital marketing agency!