The hardest part of scaling a marketing agency
Welcome to our 12th session, we will be talking again to the one and only Roger Parent on the subject of the hardest part of scaling a marketing agency ⏫ 📺
Ever wondered what is the hardest part of scaling a marketing agency? Welcome to the show, today we hope to share with you insights about just that.
Our 12th webinar session is a segue to session #9 when ClickGUARD’s CMO and Digital Marketing Guru Jason Pittock and Digital Position’s founder and CEO, Roger Parent talked about growing an agency from scratch.
In this session, they’re going for the big fish: scaling, better known as the hardest part of growing an agency (or any business, for that matter). Jason asked Roger all the right questions to provide us with valuable insights and practical advice.
Scalability is inherent in a business's ability to grow
Once you get your business on its feet and you see it going well, why wouldn’t you let it be and want to grow it?
The simple answer is that the market changes quickly and if you don't keep up, you fall behind. Subsequently, if you don't scale you will start losing clients and, eventually, fail.
As a businessman and PPC agency founder, Roger acknowledges that these are great times to run and work for a PPC agency: thanks to automation, managing accounts has become easier and the teams are more efficient in their work. This means increased profitability and a great opportunity to scale, considering that the pricing has remained stable.
“There's no better time to own a ppc agency and other owners like myself need to make hay while the sun shines.”
At the same time, let’s be honest and admit that, although important, money is not the goal. Growth is key for human satisfaction, be it in business or on a personal level. How many times have you read in the news about celebrities or athletes who, despite their wealth and fame, suffer from depression? While working towards wealth and fame, keep in mind the words of a wise man:
“Everyone's miserable when they're not growing and miserable people result in just a terrible work product.”
For things to be successful they need to be documented
And so, it’s time to scale your business. Where do you begin? You need an accountability mechanism that can guarantee or at least estimate the outcome. That is, you need good processes and technology.
You’ve heard it one too many times: it all comes down to having the right process in place. Roger adds to it an essential point: one person can't create the whole process; it really is a team effort. What’s more, any process needs constant iterations. For a better understanding, let’s say you want to adopt the working model in Digital Position. You’d have to:
First, engage your team members in process creation (which contributes to moving the business forward, by the way).
Then separate what can be repeatable and organize those in folders for each service (say, performance management, PPC, paid search, etc).
Next, your employees will know what needs to be checked on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis. In addition, there can be an ‘on demand’ folder for those clients who want to improve roads in their account.
With all that in place, your employees get 85% of the way there in providing a great service to all clients.
Want to go all the way and provide a premium service? From time to time, a ‘reality check’ is more than welcome. In Digital Position, for instance, it’s not unusual for someone at a higher level to jump in and say “well that's not really working for that account; we need to try these more complex breakouts.”
In terms of the tech stack, you’re most likely to need file storage and sharing software or platform, management software, and one for human resources. If you want to take it to the Digital Position level, look into developing your proprietary platform, as they did. It provides daily pulls from all the APIs, it projects to the client where they're going to be at the end of the month, how they're trending, including inflation and time lag, and the clients can log into it and check out all of their metrics in real-time. Obviously, this platform saves you time and answers most of your customers’ questions.
People: not everyone is good at everything
“You can't scale it from one person to 10 to 50 to 100 if you don't have something documented, because one person can't teach every single person, and one person can't do all the work.”
Spot on. But, you might wonder, can I learn and teach others how to be process-oriented when joining my agency? It goes without saying that some people have it in them and they’re going to be ace at taking ideas and creating processes with, from, or for those ideas.
To be sure we’re on the same page in regards to what we mean by a process, Roger makes it clear: an idea that’s lacking the implementation is not a process. At best, an idea can be a tactic
to improve the management or improve that account. It’s the implementation that makes it a process.
Whenever you’re presented with an idea that’s supposed to become a process, ask questions like:
- Does everyone buy into it?
- Do you have an accountability mechanism in place?
- Is there video documentation of that process being used?
- Are we doing this daily or regularly?
Now, if you want your people to become process-oriented, make sure they differentiate between tactics and processes and provide them with support to get there. Bear in mind that, like everything else, processes are not for everybody and try Roger’s approach:
“... when somebody's strong at something they should lean into what they're strong at and surround themselves with people who are good at the stuff they're weak at.”
As for building a team, Roger gave us two valuable tips on making the right choices when recruiting and fitting people into the puzzle of our team.
If you’re anything like him, identifying strengths, weaknesses and seeing the potential in the candidates is your thing. You’re going to look for variety when recruiting so that your employees can support each other in growing, working, and accomplishing the goals you’ve agreed upon. And so, how do we do that?
- Listen carefully when they talk about their previous work
“The people who did the work can talk fluently about it, they're confident about it, they can get into the nitty-gritty with you. The people who didn't will just talk in broad, paint broad brushes and whatnot.”
- Make them comfortable and see what they’re like beyond their “representative,” the person they present themselves as. You can, actually, go about this in two ways.
- Make them comfortable, leading them to open up and show their true colors;
- Go the other way, making them feel uncomfortable - ask questions they wouldn’t expect and see how they react and if they can “think on their toes.”
Roger’s examples illustrate the efficiency of these techniques (and entertaining!).
Niche: specialize or provide a C level service everywhere
Having the people, the processes, and the software to scale, doesn’t mean you have it all. No surprise there, right? One of the things you’ll find yourself asking over and over again has to do with the niche you’re servicing.
In the beginning, choosing the industries you’re going to be there for is as vital as choosing your services. Every service and industry come with a set of tools, training materials, and routines that will most likely need adjustments as the market changes (which is in itself an unpredictable but certain thing to happen).
If you have five different services, whenever the market changes for one of them, you’ll have to reiterate the processes, while keeping your employees motivated and your clients satisfied. If it doesn’t sound easy, it’s because it’s not.
We cannot but encourage you to think about Roger’s approach and do your best to implement it for your business:
“We are serving multiple industries but probably 80% of our core clients are active and healthy lifestyle e-commerce brands, and we'd like that to be 100%.”
There’s at least one more advantage in being in a niche, which you’ll find out by tuning in and listening to our 12th webinar session.
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CEO @ Digital Position
Former CMO @ ClickGUARD