In today's episode of 'The Agency Accelerator Podcast’, I am talking everything to do with delegation. This is an important topic, whether you have a one-person agency or have a team of 20+! This episode is packed with practice and actionable tips to help you further your agency success.
In today's episode of ‘The Agency Accelerator Podcast’, I get together with Miranda Birch, founder of Miranda Birch Media; a company helping business tell stories to better engage with their clients. Today we talk all about the importance of storytelling in your marketing and also the value of great customer testimonials. This episode is packed with actionable items, so I know you're going to find it really useful and insightful.
01:22 Miranda Birch introduces herself, her background, and why she loves stories
03:01 The power of storytelling for agencies wanting to connect with potential and existing clients
06:07 What makes a good story
08:17 The role of customer testimonials in an agency’s sales process
13:28 The best format for testimonials
14:50 How to maximise the value of a video testimonial
16:14 What point should an agency approach a client for a testimonial
21:25 What to do when a client does not want their name published in relation to a testimonial
24:20 The do’s and don’ts of getting, interviewing and creating testimonials
26:15 Miranda’s new online courses about testimonials and how to capture stories that convert
32:38 The benefits of getting in front of the camera
35:40 Miranda’s advice to her younger self starting out in business
If you would like more ideas about how to secure new leads and convert them into paying customers then sign up for my
In today’s episode of ‘The Agency Accelerator Podcast,’ I am revisiting a topic which I spoke about at the beginning of last year; email marketing. If you want a robust business development strategy that delivers a continuous source of ideal leads, then email marketing should be at the top of your agenda.
01:22 The importance of email marketing
03:02 The importance of building your social media profiles and moving your followers into your email list
Business development is essential for every company, whether they are Coca Cola or Bill’s Web design down the road. Developing and growing your agency as an SME (small or medium-sized enterprise) brings with it its own problems and issues, whether it be embracing technology, finding a consistent flow of ideal clients, or attracting the right talent so you can provide a good quality of service.
But where do you start if you want your agency to grow? Well, that’s the million-dollar question and one that I hope I will be able to help you answer over the course of this article.
Let’s get started with our Ultimate Guide to Business Development for SME Agency Owners.
Avoiding Feast or Famine
I spoke about the ‘feast and famine’ cycle in a previous article (which can be found here) so I won’t go into great detail here. In short, ‘feast and famine’ is the cyclical nature of many businesses as they go through waves of success followed by lean spells.
The ‘feast’ part of the cycle is when times are good. Everyone has plenty to eat and you become preoccupied with serving existing clients to the detriment of marketing your agency and new business and to the detriment of your future agency.
The ‘famine’ comes when the clients dry up or a project ends. And the kicker is, this isn’t always easy to foresee – clients can end projects for many reasons and projects may end due to unforeseen issues completely out of your control.
It’s in a time of famine that most agency owners start to exert the most effort as they dedicate themselves to rekindling their order book through hard work and determination... which, with luck, can lead to another ‘feast’. But it’s also in a space of famine where agencies make bad decisions such as discounting their services or taking on any kind of client just to get money coming through the door and sadly this type of decision-making ensures that the feast and famine cycle repeats.
But the ‘feast and famine’ business cycle is not sustainable and very stressful for you and your team, and all it takes is one extended ‘famine’ to push even the most robust company to the brink of extinction. This past year’s COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of how unforeseen events can cause extended lean spells for everyone.
You may be asking how you can avoid the ‘feast and famine’ cycle. Well. I spoke in detail about this in the article mentioned earlier (here) so head there if you want a full break down.
The one thing I do want you to take from this section is that ‘feast and famine’ can and should be avoided. Make sure you have short-, medium-, and long-term plans and keep your head straight: don’t become complacent during good times. Keep those clients happy, keep focused on new business, and the money will keep rolling in.
If you would like to learn more about avoid
feast or famine then sign up for my
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Avoid “The client service hamster wheel of doom”
The client service hamster wheel of doom is all too familiar to many agency owners and it goes hand in hand with the ‘feast and famine’ cycle.
When times are good and you are feasting on the spoils of your success, servicing clients can become a vast black hole of time and effort. Multi-tasking becomes paramount and you seldom have time to think about your agency’s future, which is vital if you want to avoid famines and develop your company.
But eventually, the client you’ve spent so much time and effort on will sail away or the project you’ve worked hard on will finish. What now? The famine is fast approaching, and you’ve had little time to plan ahead or develop your business to succeed beyond right now.
So how do you avoid the client service hamster wheel of doom (catchy, right?)? How do you keep clients happy while ensuring you develop your business to keep the wheels turning and food on the table? There are a few things, that you can do to avoid this particular challenge, including:
Don’t be afraid to say no – You want your clients to be happy but there has to be a line in the sand. Being accommodating is one thing but being a pushover is another. Learn to say no when you have to (and teach your team to). Obviously, do it in a professional, polite way with reasons. Most clients will understand and be totally fine with it. It’s all about having clear boundaries and not just jumping when clients say so!
Define the scope of your relationship with the client – Make it clear from the outset the type of relationship you will have with your client. Give them clear indicators of how you work. Don’t lead them on into thinking you will jump through fiery hoops into an abyss when they ask if this is something they are not paying for!
Define the scope of the work you will do for your client – Again, make it clear what you will do for your client in terms of work (and therefore what you won’t do). Don’t be vague or lead them into thinking you will do something (to win the business) that later on you either can’t or are reluctant to do. Define the terms of work clearly and make sure your clients understand and sign-up to them.
Ring fence time to focus on the future of your agency (let’s call this strategy) – Don’t just say you will do this when you have time but rather set aside time on specific days where you will focus on strategy (i.e., planning, product development and business development). Schedule your clients around these times and be unavailable to clients when you are in your ‘strategy time’.
Get clear with clients the difference between a ‘standard’ service (i.e., what is included in the scope of work) and an ‘extra’ (i.e., something they will have to pay for) and if for whatever reason, you decide to do an ‘extra’ for free then make sure the client understands the value of it and that this would normally be charged for (and therefore will be charged for in the future).
The 3 components of business development
Of course, knowing that business development is vital is only half the battle. The other half is successfully implementing ongoing strategies that allow your agency to grow no matter what the current circumstances are.
How you do this is important because flailing around with various strategies with no game plan will prove fruitless, time-consuming, expensive and stressful!
Any successful business development plan will need to address 3 key components (click for more detail):
Marketing is a vital tool to grow your business but can equally be a time and a money pit that returns little in the way of results. Understanding what type of marketing is best for your agency is vital to growing your business. Here are a few marketing tips to get you started:
Look for a niche
I spoke about the importance of identifying for your niche in a previous article (which can be found here), so for a full breakdown of the topic head over there. In short, niche marketing is about narrowing your focus to areas that fit your specialism, your interests, and your services so you ensnare the most likely clients to be interested in what you do.
You’ve probably seen big businesses throw out a wide marketing net. And for them, it works (although if you look carefully, they too have a clear niche(s). They have the funds and muscle to pull in a wide client base. But for SMEs who don’t have unlimited budgets and an instantly recognisable brand, wide net marketing is a massive waste of resources and seldom bring results. So be a specialist not a generalist.
But how do you find your niche and once you have, how do you ensure you maximise its potential? Here are a few tips to help you out:
Know your audience (customer avatar)
A customer avatar (or buying persona, as it is also often called) is a detailed picture of the ideal client who you would like to work with. You customer avatar will be the client most likely to want your products and services as well as being the easiest to work with.
Think hard about who you are trying to sell your products to. What do they look like? What are their needs and pains, and how do you meet them? Where do you find them and what type of marketing entices them? Developing a good picture of your ideal audience will make marketing to them a much easier proposition.
You can learn more about creating your ideal target customer (persona) in my FREE workbook.
One quick tip - You might be tempted to go after different groups and different audiences, but this may water down your marketing message. Resist the temptation to go big and focus marketing efforts on your niche.
Keeping the sand timer filled
I like this metaphor - humans are like sand timers and if you don’t engage with them before the sand timer runs out, they will forget about you and look for another agency to meet their needs. You could run an amazing engagement campaign but if you don’t follow it up clients will soon forget you (and by from your competitor!). This is why any marketing strategy you implement must keep potential client’s sand timers filled. One great way to do this is with a mailing list.
The power of your mailing list
If 100 people who fit your ideal client engaged with your marketing today how many do you think would buy from you?
In my experience, only one of them would.
So, the question is, how do you nurture the other 99 so when they are ready to buy they raise their hand reach out to you?
One of the best ways to pull clients to you (without harassing them) is through value-based content email marketing. Clever email marketing builds a relationship with your customers while allowing you to remind them that you’re still here for them. It’s a clever tactic and one that is proven to work. Recent statistics on Hubspot (article here) show that businesses who use email marketing effectively see a 760% increase in revenue. It’s no wonder that 80% of business now use the strategy as their main form of customer contact.
The most important part of any business is the revenue/profits it generates. And the only way to generate revenue is to make sales.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet solution to generating sales. The key is to do a few things and do them well. Don’t overstretch. Look at the areas of outreach that you are comfortable with, are best at doing and therefore can do consistently, and focus on those.
Make sure you qualify prospects carefully, so you invest your limited time in the hot prospects rather than the fact-finding time wasters.
You also need to understand the sales funnel (see image below) and its stages, especially the importance of building KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST with clients. The three phases can be described as follows:
· KNOW – potential clients see your products and services through your marketing, networking or via word of mouth. They haven’t yet formed an opinion about them but they know they exist.
· LIKE – As the client understands more about your products and services they form an opinion and begin to like what you do. They may even start to engage directly with you, but they don’t yet trust you enough to become a customer.
· TRUST – This is the part of the sales funnel where the revenue is generated. At this stage, clients trust you so they are willing to buy from you. They know your products are great and want more. Once a client reaches this stage they will return to you over and over… so long as you keep that trust in place.
Marketing will help you through the KNOW and LIKE phases, but you will have to work hard for them to TRUST you. To get TRUST you need to effectively keep your clients close through direct contact and more detailed communications. Let them know when you have a new service they might be interested in and provide them with free value-added content.
A word of advice: steer clear of cold email or cold LinkedIn outreach methods as they rarely work (Why? Well there is no effort to build KNOW-LIKE & TRUST!). Few people ever responded positively to being cold-called back in the day, and that is truer than ever today, whether it be by phone, email or social media!
3. Client retention & growth
Client retention is also something I’ve written about extensively previously (my Ultimate Guide to Client Retention can be found here), but it’s important to understand that retaining clients is a key factor of business growth.
No agency can afford to adopt a mobile phone approach to client retention where you focus all your energy on winning new clients, not the ones you already have. This leads to a revolving door of customers which can be more time consuming and, at the end of the day, far more costly for your business.
An article in Forbes magazine in 2018 put the cost of finding a new customer at five times that of retaining an existing one. Figures like that just aren’t sustainable over time. That’s why you need to implement strategies for keeping current customers happy as well as attracting new clients to your business.
Do some account development planning to future proof your client relationships and when you have your planning/strategy meetings with the client, go armed with new ideas for future campaigns.
Business development as an SME agency owner can be challenging but it is essential to deliver controlled growth.
Make sure you do two crucial things that will ensure success:
1. You work out your best business development strategies to engage with your ideal target customer.
2. You ring-fence time every week in your diary to focus on these business development strategies.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our Ultimate Guide to Business Development for SME Agency Owners. Have a look around my website for many other useful articles and free eBooks to help you with your continued controlled growth.
Download your "How to avoid Feast or Famine" ebook
A step by step guide on how to avoid the feast or famine cycle in your agency.
In today's episode of the Agency Accelerator Podcast, I’m really excited to have this week's guest, Lucy Snell with me. We’re talking everything to do with business development and some of the dos and don'ts of things you should be doing in your agency and shouldn't be doing in 2021.
01:05 Lucy introduces herself and her background
02:55 Lucy explains how she decides on what advice to provide businesses she works with
05:22 Why business development is a longterm game
09:42 Trends that happened for agencies in 2020
12:31 The difference between an agency that really succeeded last year and an agency that has stumbled or even failed
16:34 Using email as a tool for business development
20:46 The ‘Client Service Hamster Wheel of Doom’
22:17 What agencies should be doing this year from a business development perspective
25:27 Finding things that work and engage with your target audience
27:50 Things that agencies should not be doing this year from a business development perspective
In today’s episode I am talking all about LinkedIn and specifically exactly what my LinkedIn strategy is and why I think if you are in a B2B space, it is the most important social media platform you can use.
01:16 The dos and don’ts of using LinkedIn for business development and outreach
01:29 Treating LinkedIn as a sales funnel
03:16 Finding who your ideal target customer is on LinkedIn
05:05 Strategic posting on LinkedIn
05:50 Investing time into LinkedIn on a regular basis
In today’s episode of the agency accelerator podcast I’m extremely excited to have John Ashton with me. John is the founder of copywriting agency, ‘Write Arm’, he has written a book, ‘The Kitchen Table Method’, and is also the mastermind behind the ‘Kitchen Table Community’ concept.
01:05 John gives his thoughts on many people starting their freelance journey in 2020
07:24 John explains what the ‘Kitchen Table’ method is
11:06 Why culture is so important for your business
14:43 How to maintain your culture as your agency grows
Good riddance to 2020, I am looking forward to a happier and more balanced 2021. Let’s not take for granted all the freedoms that we had pre-2020, once we start getting them back this year – fingers crossed!
In today’s episode, I talk about having a plan for the year, as well as putting a robust business development strategy in place so you can get a consistent pipeline of leads, prospects and new clients – and you don’t need to rely on word-of-mouth and referrals.
01:34 Two key areas to have in place in order to take back control and get a better work-life balance
02:00 How to get a plan in place for the year ahead
04:40 The 7 areas that your plan should incorporate
07:00 How to break down your plan into quarters
08:03 Breaking your quarterly strategies into a monthly plan
08:49 The importance of your plans being dynamic
10:00 Why you need a consistent pipeline of leads, prospects and new customers for your plan to work
You don’t have to be a visionary entrepreneur to understand that a business plan is vital for your success. And with the new year just getting started, now is the time that many marketing agencies look at the year ahead and begin to ponder what the future holds.
But while dedicating time for forward-thinking is a good idea, understanding that planning is a whole year process (and more than a finance plan) is important if you want to be successful.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a formal document containing all the goals of a business, the tactics they plan to use to attain these goals and the timeframe for the achievement of these goals.
It may also describe the nature of the business, give some background information on what the agency does, give the financial situation of the business and list its financial projections, and detail any strategies it intends to implement to achieve its aims.
In basic terms, a business plan is a road map for the business that gives it direction.
Why so many business plans fail
There are many reasons why a business plan may fail, from unrealistic expectations to inflexibility. Let’s have a look at a few in a little more detail:
Not having an all-year-round strategy
I hope that all agencies plan ahead to a certain degree. But how many have a plan that is both flexible, adaptive, and re-visited throughout the year? For most businesses, creating a plan of action is a once-a-year occurrence, like setting a new year’s resolution. But just like new year resolutions, business plans are often too rigid, too short-sighted, or too unrealistic in the first place, and lack the depth to outline HOW the plans will be delivered. To stick with the resolution metaphor, it’s ok to announce that you’re going to lose a bunch of weight this year but without a strategy outlining HOW you will lose the weight, it is likely to just remain a failed pipedream.
In business, setting lofty goals once a year seldom works. Stating that you’ll increase productivity by 10% without taking into account staffing fluctuations or saying that you’ll sell £x by the summer without realising that this is a quieter time of the year, will only lead to failure.
A good business plan will offer both short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategies which are both flexible and adaptable when necessary. But even more importantly, it will have designated review points where goals can be assessed and amended, based on what you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
Not planning for every eventuality
To say that last year (2020) was a hell of a year would be an understatement. Even the most prepared business couldn’t have foreseen the issues faced. But the question is, should they have? Yes, COVID-19 was a bolt from the blue, but if your business isn’t prepared for every eventuality then your plans are essentially pointless.
Disasters happen all the time in the business world. Economies falter and the bottom can fall out of any market at any time.
If you want your business plan to work in any economic climate, then it must plan for every eventuality, and that means making your plans nimble and dynamic rather than casting them in stone.
Too narrow focus
If your business plan only focusses on a few areas of your business, then it simply won’t be comprehensive enough to be successful. For many businesses, money and staffing are the two main priorities when looking at the future. And while revenue/bank balances and staff are important, they are by no means the only things you will have to think about in the future.
For your agency, it’s important to factor in things like your products/services, your target customer, your comms strategy, and the systems and process that underlie your ability to grow.
Overly ambitious financial projections
For a business plan to be successful it must have realistic financial projections. Projecting too much revenue will lead to shortfalls and not taking into account costs, including things like staff pay rises and the increasing costs of materials, can see your business plan fail at the first hurdle.
Failure to delegate
We all need to focus on our special ‘superpower’ and yours as an agency owner, is to create the vision, share it with the whole organisation and ensure it is delivered.
However, if you are constantly sucked back into client delivery and stuck on the client service hamster wheel of doom then you will never have the time to deliver the plan.
This is an issue that many agency owners face since clients want them to work on their account. So if you want to ensure you deliver your vision for the year you need to delegate.
I’ve included a link to one of my popular e-books on best practice delegation. You can grab it here.
What you need to include in your business plan
One way I like to think about a business plan is as a journey that you and your team will go on over the coming months and years.
Look at it like planning a trip to the south of France. Think about all the things you need to take into account to make sure your journey is successful. What is the end goal (getting to France)? How are you going to get there (car, train, plane, ferry)? What are the costs of getting there? What pitfalls might befall your journey (getting lost, car breakdown)? Are there times where you might need to revise the plan (stopping for children to go to the loo, extra costs for food)? Think about every eventuality and plan for it.
A business plan is no different and the questions are the same. What are your goals? How are you going to achieve them? How much will this cost or how much revenue will this generate? What could go wrong? If you have answers to these questions, then your plan will be more accurate and have a better chance to succeed.
Knowing where to start with a business plan can be one of the hardest parts of the process. To help you get started, here are a few things to think about when creating your own business plan:
A vision for the year
Every business plan needs to set out the vision for the year. In simple terms, this is the part where you state where want to be by the end of the year. If we take our trip to the south of France analogy from earlier, then the vision would be the destination: that is getting to say, Cannes. In your agency, your vision may be to attain a specific client or to move into a different type of marketing, launch a new service or break into a new market. Or it could just be to increase revenues or increase your market share. The vision is the goal.
Strategy for each quarter (or another specified period)
If the vision for the year is the end goal, then the strategy will be the road map for how you will get there. When setting out the strategy for the year the steps must be broken down into deliverable chunks with realistic time frames. If we return to our trip to France analogy, the strategy for getting to our target location, Cannes (our vision) would be to work out how we are going to get there. Should we take the train? Can we drive? Would the ferry be a cheaper alternative but take longer? Can the journey be split into different chunks, for example, a drive to Dover then a ferry before a train to our final destination?
In business, the strategy for each quarter should give an overview of the goals for that period and how these contribute to the overall vision. It should be detailed enough to know what you need to do at each stage but they won’t dive into the minutiae of the plan. It’s important for this part of the strategy to understand the need to be flexible and the strategy should account for changes in the market and other eventualities.
A detailed plan for each month
So, you have your vision, and you have your strategy for each quarter giving direction on how you will reach your end goal. What you don’t have is the details of how each stage will move you further towards your aims. To finish off our trip to France analogy, this part of the planning process will look into the minutiae of your strategy. What train are you going to catch? Which hotels will you stay in? Where are you going to get food? How will you combat issues like car breakdowns etc?
In business, the plans you set out for each month will give specific targets that need to be achieved and details of how they can be attained. It will explain what needs to be done and how any issues that arise will be combatted.
A detailed plan for each month will not only set out a road map of where you are going, but it will give you a way to come back to the plan at regular intervals to review and adapt as necessary.
A business plan is vital for any agency. For it to be successfully delivered it’s equally important that your plan is realistic, adaptable, and easy to monitor, especially in difficult times like we find ourselves in right now. If you follow some of the tips set out above and avoid the pitfalls we mention, then nothing will derail your goals. Not even a pandemic!
In this episode of ‘The Agency Accelerator’ podcast, I am joined by the extremely talented and savvy Lee Jackson.
Lee is our first-ever repeat guest, and today he will be sharing with us his insights to what he sees coming down the road in 2021.
The last time we spoke, Lee joined us in Episode 10 of the podcast, where we were talking about growth and transformation.
If you haven’t listened to that episode, Lee helps web agencies fall back in love with their businesses, he runs ‘Agency Transformation Live’, is the co-founder of Events Engine, and if that wasn’t enough he is also the host of the ‘Agency Trailblazer’ podcast.
02:00 What are the typical trends you’ve seen happening this year with agencies?
02:07 Most agencies have been surprised that they have been able to continue throughout 2020!
02:45 For most agencies, their clients reached out for help
03:07 Agencies helped clients move from the physical to the digital space
03:56 Some agencies thought they could hibernate and tread water, and some agencies were afraid to sell their services because they thought it was in bad taste!
04:38 Small businesses struggling to sell things online
05:32 A digital renaissance - businesses are realising that being online is imperative
06:05 Two aspects: technology and marketing
07:58 Using social media to build a new audience of consumers
08:34 People working out how to pivot
10:00 Lee’s clients are events organisers - they have embraced online and created incredible digital experiences
14:32 If you can really understand what your clients what to achieve, you should be getting out there and helping them
15:25 Lee tells us more about the 2021 ‘Digital Renaissance’
16:26 Businesses will start focussing on what’s important
16:40 One of Lee’s agencies is going full virtual now
17:10 Lee is still concerned about the high street and thinks they might still struggle in 2021, but he thinks the high street will also change and more service-based businesses will appear
18:30 Many entrepreneurs get seduced by starting projects and not finishing them. How will agencies figure out what is important?
19:13 To start a business you need to work out your identity, then your values, the message and output. If you look at 2020, think about what your strengths, missions and passions are. Who are you helping and what are you solving?
21:37 The importance of niching
25:00 Not everyone can start an agency, there’s a lot of fake competition tarnishing the industry
25:55 Marked increase in the low cost of entry in the industry
27:18 Lee, if you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?