Tag Archives for " Business growth "

Business Development Strategies (part 3)- why you can’t rely on referrals

Rod Da Costa Business Development

In today’s episode, we wrap up this mini-series on business development. 

Today my focus on is why you shouldn’t rely on referrals and word of mouth for new business – especially in the current environment. I explore how to build proactive campaigns that engage with your target audience and move them through the sales process until they become a client.


1:10 Why doesn’t word of mouth referrals work as your major form of business development

1:35 The impact of remote working

2:00 The risk of relying on one form of new business

3:00 Most business development strategies have a medium to long term impact

3:30 One short term business development strategies strategy

4:00 The key is consistency and persistence

4:44 The importance of focus

5:00 My own experience with this podcast

5:50 The importance of niche and defining your ideal target customer

6:00 Meeting your audience where they are at

8:00 Addressing your ideal target customer’s “pains and gains”

8:25 Nurturing content

8:50 The 3 stages of your sales funnel

9:14 Don’t expect results in the short term but you need to start today!

10:08 Should you outsource business development?

11:15 Nurturing referrals and word of mouth 

Useful links:

eBook: Defining You Ideal Target Customer

eBook: Finding Your Niche

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

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Business development strategies (part 2) – Interview with Darryl Sparey

Darryl Sparey

In part 2 of the business development interviews, we chat about what is working and what isn't working in this new predominantly online world of doing business.

We explore some mistakes that agencies are making and how to avoid them.

Time stamp

1.05 Introduction to this week’s guest, Darrly Sparey from Hardnumbers

2.21 What changes have you seen in the business development landscape in 2020?

3.20 Why you should not be embarrassed to sell    

4.00 Don’t make it about you!

5.08 Earning the right to sell to your audience

6.14 Applying a similar right approach to your website    

8.10 Where does your website fit in the sales process

9.10 How you present yourself to a prospective client

9.42 Your point of difference

11:25 The Ideal Customer Profile

12:25 Should I be selling in this challenging time?  

14:45 Why you should not be cutting your marketing budget right now! 

15.39 As an agency owner, what should you focus your money and time on?

16:18 Create a list of your dream clients

17:00 Don’t just focus on existing clients

17:43 What does building relationships look like in this new ‘online’ world?

18:45 Using communities to build relationships

19:44 What is working and what isn’t working right now?

20:20 We are not working from home we are living at work

21:20 Be an enabler for networking for your clients & prospects

23:10 The benefits of being in a group/community

23:36 How do you cut through the online noise?

25:46 What is the one thing you would not recommend agencies doing right now

26:45 Consistency and persistence is key

28:45 Make your business development time non-negotiable

29:25 Revenue, strategy and admin

30:00 The importance of a CRM system

31:00 What advice would you give your younger self?

32:30 What is your notional hourly rate?

Useful links:

You can contact Darryl via Twitter @darryls and @hardnumbers

eBook: Defining You Ideal Target Customer

eBook: Finding Your Niche

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.

Business development strategies (part 1) – Interview with Brad Smith

Brad Smith

In a challenging world, word of mouth and referrals may be drying up as we do less face to face meetings so in this episode of the podcast I interview Brad Smith from Succeed.Digital and we talk all things business development.

Time stamp

2:26 Who is Succeed.Digital?

3:10 What are the biggest changes you have seen in the agency landscape in 2020?

Two types of agency: 

-      Those who went into lockdown mode and tried to hold out and their business has fallen off a cliff!

-      Those who used this opportunity to look at new ways at doing thing from their sector, type of work and service to clients

6.20 Word of mouth & referrals has dried up

There is no better way of winning new business by referrals because they are ‘warm leads’ so you should have a referral programme in place. However, this cannot be the only form of business development

8.00 Inconsistent consistency – you cannot base your business dev strategy solely on referrals. It should form a maximum 25% of your new business strategy

10.15 You have no control of when referrals come in or the quality of the referral or if they fit into your niche

12.00 New business strategies need to focus beyond the next 3 months. Sales need to focus on the next 12 months and use multiple channels.  . Most agencies are short term quarterly focused.

16:00 Introducing new services when you need more sales

Understanding your customer needs and researching and validating new ideas before you launch

18:00 5 questions to ask clients to build stronger relationships with your clients

N – Now:

“What is the most valuable service we provide you now?”

E – Enjoy:

“What do you really like/enjoy about working with us?”

A – Alter:

“What would you most like to alter about the way we work we with?”

D – Decide:

Decide: “What made you decide to choose us?”

S – Stay:

“ What would make you stay with us over the next 2 - 3 years and beyond?”

23:40 At what stage would you have these conversations with a client?

 24:40 Don’t assume you know what your clients want!

25:57 What 2-3 tips would you advise someone to do it they need new clients now?

29:50 Know me, Like me, Trust me, Help me

32:30 Outbound sales and marketing strategies

Useful links:

You can contact Brad at [email protected]

Validation guide for launching a new product or service

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.


Winning New Business In A Challenging Climate


The world is in turmoil. That’s a hell of a statement to begin an article with but after everything that’s happened this year, you can’t doubt its truth. With a pandemic (yay COVID-19), race relation issues, wildfires, Brexit (sorry to mention that!) and an economy that is tanking faster than you can say “Where’s all my business gone?” the world has become an increasingly challenging place for everyone.

The workplace is no different and if you work in the marketing agency sector, you may find yourself faced with a variety of challenges that necessitate adaptation and transformation or risk finding your business heading the way of the dodo.


But I’ve always believed that even in the most challenging of economic environments, it is still possible to win over customers and keep revenue flowing. We might have to work harder and, more importantly, smarter than we would normally but business doesn’t stop even if the world seemingly has. Over the years I’ve managed to fight through some of the most difficult times and come out the other side both wiser and relatively unscathed (I started my agency in a recession and started my coaching practice during the financial crisis of 2007!).

Here are a few tips so you can do the same:

The importance of building a mailing list

The importance of building a mailing list cannot be underestimated. Here is a really important point to ponder:

With a mailing list, you own the details of the people who are interested in what you do. Many marketers ignore keeping their own list in favour of social media. But the problem with social media is that in essence, it is ‘rented space’. You are only ‘borrowing’ the information of the people you come into contact with and at any moment it can be taken away. To highlight this let me tell you a quick story:

email list mailing list

Recently a story came to my attention of someone who had managed to accrue 10,000 followers on Instagram and was using this for most of their new business generation. 10,000 followers is a huge pool of potential clients and a great way to generate revenue. Unfortunately, this person got their Instagram account hacked and as a result, Instagram cancelled their account.

Overnight they lost not only 10,000 followers but 10,000 potential clients and their main source of revenue. If your main audience is based on social media, you need to actively move them to your mailing list to not only protect yourself in the event of a catastrophe such as in the story but to allow you to directly contact leads in any way you see fit.

email automation

Strategic Email Marketing that Gets Results

If you want to learn more about email marketing then grab your FREE copy of my indepth guide

You are your company’s best salesperson

Here’s a question, “Who knows your business better than anybody else?” Let’s follow that question up with, “Who do you think is the best salesperson for your company?” The answer to both questions for many businesses is most likely YOU!

You built your business from the ground up and understand everything there is to know about it. As a result, you are the person best placed to explain it to others and extol its many benefits and virtues. Who else has as much passion for what you do as you? You can hire dozens of sales professionals to help sell your marketing business but at the end of the day, they will never be as good as you at selling your company.

Qualify leads to save time, effort, and money

Every business needs a way to make money. To make money you need conversions or sales. To get conversions you need leads. That’s how simple running a business is. Marketing is no different. The problem is, leads are not always easy to come by and when they do arrive, you may find that many end up in a frustrating dead end. That’s why you need to qualify your leads properly to prevent wasting time, effort, and more importantly, money. In a difficult climate like the one we currently find ourselves in, it is even more vital that we focus our energy on those avenues that will actually generate revenue for us and not the many blind alleys we come across.


How do you qualify leads?

To understand how you can qualify leads you need to understand what lead generation is in the first place. Simply put, lead generation is the act of gathering information, such as names, addresses and email addresses, of people or companies that could benefit your business and, hopefully, generate sales. The goal of lead generation is to attract users to you, whether that means getting them to call you, talk to you in person, or visit your website and download something in return for their email address. But not all leads have the same value, and some may bring nothing but wasted time and effort to your business.

Knowing which of the many leads you come across to focus on and which should be left alone can be incredibly difficult. That’s why you need to find the right qualifying strategy to stop you chasing up blind alleys. Here are a few tips to get started.

Find a way to score your leads based on quality

Lead scoring is a great way to figure out which leads mean more to your business. Giving a value to each lead based on the information you have and how likely they are to convert allows you to focus on your best leads first before moving on to lower scoring ones later. How you score the leads will differ by business but will generally be based on the information collected. For instance, if a client has previously purchased marketing services from you or has shown an interest in a marketing field you specialise in, then they may score higher for you. You might score someone higher who has repeatedly interacted with your brand by filling in forms, making comments, or sharing and liking your content. Engagement with what you do is a great indicator that a client is interested in your services.

Get the right balance of information from your leads

The more information you have about a potential client, the easier it is for you to qualify them as a lead. If all you have is an email and a business name, you have no indication of how likely they are to buy into your services. But getting the right amount of information is not easy and there is a fine balance between getting what you need and overloading the customer with demands. Too many questions will turn away potential clients before they get anywhere near giving you their information. Make sure the questions you ask are pertinent to what you need while being as succinct as possible. This will allow you to figure out if the potential customer is worthy of your time or whether it would be better to prioritise efforts elsewhere. Once you have this information you can also assess the quality of your lead based on how much they interact with the email sequences that you will add them into once they have given you their email address.


Use a prescribed lead qualifying strategy

There are several different strategies for qualifying leads correctly, each with their own merits. Here are a few to try out for yourself:

CHAMP (Challenge, Authority, Money, Priority)

Champ is a way of looking at a client’s needs first and foremost and seeing if you have the right tools to help them, before moving on to asking, do they have the means and motivation to work with you? Here is a breakdown of the strategy:


What are the challenges, needs, and pains of the client? How can you help them, and do you have the skills they need?


Is the lead authorised to purchase your services? If they aren’t, can you find someone who is? If not, is the lead worth pursuing?


Does the potential customer have the money to buy from you? If there is any doubt in this area, move on to the next lead.


How urgently does the client need your services? If they are desperate and enough ‘pain’, they are more likely to buy. But you also need to ask yourself if you have the means to fulfil the order in the time frame they’ve set.

FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing)

The Faint lead qualifying technique prioritises money (that is, can the customer afford your services?) first and foremost before looking at the other aspects of qualification. Here is a breakdown of the technique:


Does the potential client have the necessary funds to purchase your services. If not, then don’t waste your time.  


Is the lead authorised to purchase your services? If they do not, can you find someone who is? If not, is the lead worth pursuing?


How interested is the lead in working with you? Do they seem keen or are they standoffish?  


Can you meet the potential customer's needs and have you the tools to deliver wat they want?


How quickly will the customer commit and if they do have you the resources to do the work they need?

Your customer is ready to buy when they are ready to buy

An important point to remind ourselves is that your customer is ready to buy when they are ready to buy not when you want them to buy! 

Now, of course, you want to create a sense of urgency for your clients to try and get them over the conversion line but based on the fact that it should be their timescales, not yours, emphasises the importance of building your mailing list and having regular communications to nurture them so you are still front of mind when they are finally in enough pain and ready to buy.

In conclusion

When times are tough like they are right now, money can still be made and new clients found but to do so you will have to work extra hard as well as extra smart to find it. If you maintain a healthy mailing list, sell your business yourself, and qualify leads effectively, nothing can stop you from being successful. Not even COVID.

sales funnel

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The dreams we have when we start our own business (and how to ensure they don’t turn into nightmares!)

The dreams we have when we start our own business

Our hopes and dreams

Many of us start our own agency because we dreamt about creating something tangible and of value and something worthwhile.

We hoped that we might be able to impact the world in some small way and often believed that we could do things better than other businesses. 

But if we are not careful our dream can turn into a nightmare.  We can easily lose control because everyone is demanding our time, we are spinning 100 plates and lurching from one urgent crisis to the next.  We have cash flow issues, client issues, staffing issues and so on.

This is not why we started our own business!


Why we start our own agency

Why we started our own agency

But let’s backtrack a little and spend a few moments considering why we started our own business.  We were probably fed up in a 9-to-5 job, tired of bureaucracy and politics, and the lack of control. 

Often there is no direct correlation between how hard we work and the rewards and recognition we receive.

All of these adds up to a desire to start our own business.

Now there are three reasons fundamentally why anyone starts their own business.  Firstly, they want to be in control (most likely because they didn’t have control in their past job) and secondly they want to have more flexibility and ultimately more freedom. 

However, as time goes on the need for control is diametrically opposed to the ability to have more flexibility and freedom.  As we grow, we move further from the reasons why we started our own business and we find ourselves working for a much harder taskmaster boss than ever (i.e. YOU)!!

But it doesn’t have to be this way, so please read on…

My story

Rob Da Costa

I’m writing this blog from a position of personal experience & I believe in sharing an honest “warts & all” story of my time starting, growing & selling my agency.

In my early 20s, I'd been working as a marketing manager for a small software company and we had struggled to find a good PR agency that understood the tech that we sold so in my naïve innocent optimistic youthfulness I decided that there was a gap in the market that I was going to fill by starting a tech-focused PR agency.  We were going to help take complex software & hardware solutions & create compelling marketing messages to their audience & thus CIT PR (Communicating IT) was born.

In year one it was just me working as a freelancer, but I already knew that I wanted to grow beyond that so after one year my business partner joined and shortly after that the first member of staff was employed.

Now we never sat down and consciously created a plan that would identify the forward momentum and direction we wanted to take.  Instead, we let external factors and opportunities dictate the direction of travel.  Sometimes this was fine, and we followed the opportunities, but more often than not it caused problems for us because we weren’t always clear at what point we should hire the next member of staff or whether we should take on a client or not. It led to capacity issues and feast and famine in the agency.

Fast forward 11 years and suddenly we had 25 staff which meant 25 mouths to feed before we got fed, big demanding clients and a whole lot of stress!  I woke up one day and thought this is not why I started my own business how did I get to this point!

At this juncture, we were feeling tired and worn out and started fantasising about following new pastures and getting out of the agency business.  This funnel vision thinking led us to put the business up for sale and after 18 months we found a buyer.

Now it’s worth considering what a service-based business such as an agency is worth because much of what you do is intangible i.e. you’re not making widgets. So, any valuation will be based on such things as the client roster, the staff, revenue and scalability and to some extent, brand equity.

The key message I want to make at this point is that when I wanted to be less tied to the day-to-day running of my agency the only option I felt I had was to sell but now I know better: there are many other options and what I should’ve focused on is the same thing as many agency owners today desire and that is to build an agency that is less dependent on you which means creating running agency a self-running agency.

The minefields to avoid

Avoid minefields

If any of my story rings true for you then no matter what point you are on your journey there are several common mistakes owners make that mean they become more tied to their agency over time rather than less, so let’s just talk about some of those mistakes and it all starts with mindset.


If you can develop the mindset early on that you want to empower your team and you believe that they can do the work as well or better than you, then you’re more likely to delegate and avoid becoming the bottleneck for your agency’s growth.

Develop the right mindset and behaviours in yourself to create the space for your team to step into. Remove some of those false stories we tell ourselves ('the client will leave if they don't get me on their account', or 'they won't do it as well as me') and you are more likely to build a business that is less dependent on you!


So now you have the right mindset in place we now need to make sure that we are excellent delegators but trust me, most of us are not! 

We know what we want someone to do in our heads and then we get frustrated when they don’t do it because we haven’t clearly articulated what we want them to do, what the outcome is, what support they need and a specific deadline to deliver that piece of work.

Bottleneck to growth

For all the amazing reasons why you started and grew your agency, some of those same reasons (i.e. the need to constantly be in control) can create a bottleneck and stop your agency from growing, so you must build a robust team, let go and “get out of your way”.


Referring back to mindset for a moment if you don’t have the correct mindset around pricing and you don’t believe that the value you’re delivering for your clients is worth the fee then you will always struggle to charge a fair price and increase your prices regularly.  This is perhaps the main reason why agencies don’t increase their fees or why they don’t get their pricing strategy right in the first place (this is a value/outcome v time/inputs conversation).

At the end of the day, it’s relevant whether you think your price is high or low because it should be based on what your market and what your customer is willing to pay and the perceived value they receive from your service.

So, these are four core barriers that get in our way, that stop our agency growing and that keep us tied to the business.  Of course, there are many others, but these are four key ones that you can immediately acknowledge and start doing something to remove them.

The ultimate goal

When we started our agency the ultimate goal that many of us dreamt of was having flexibility and freedom whilst still maintaining some element of control in our agency.  This means that we’ve got a constant stream of income yet also have the time to pursue other interests if we so wish. 

Ultimately, we all wanted to build a self-running agency. 

I know this since it’s what I aspired (yet failed) to achieve and I know it from working with over 200 agency owners.  This is ultimately what they would love to build yet often don’t believe it’s achievable because they don’t put some of the aforementioned steps in place…. but you can.

I have gone into a ton more detail in my brand-new book which is part autobiography and part step-by-step guide.  The book normally sells for £5.99 but right now you can grab a copy for free.

Talking finance with Susan Boles from ScaleSpark

Today, I want to dig deep into some of the decisions you make early on in your agency that can have a HUGE effect on how your business develops in the future. We will be discussing:

Do you charge hourly or do you use value-based pricing?

Do you make sure you and your team use time tracking?

Are you sure you are making the best use of your time?

In this episode I am delighted to be joined by Susan Boles, virtual CFO and owner of organisation, Scale Spark.

We are going to be discussing all of the above and everything else in between to help you be sure you’re running a resilient and efficient agency.

[02:02] What are the common types of challenges most agencies seem to have?

[06:41] Your money mindset will have a HUGE effect on you and how you run your business. You may find that this is something you have to address, in order for you to reach your full potential as an agency owner. 

[09:25] People tend to structure their agency based on their experience as an employee at previous agencies. Why is this a problem?

[14:03] “Why are you doing it that way?”

[16:18] Let’s dig deeper into package pricing and the importance of tracking your time. 

[24:40] When you have data about how long a task takes, you can start to find more efficient ways of doing those tasks!

[27:48] Susan gives her 2 top tips for new agency owners.

[29:38] If Susan could go back in time and give herself some business advice, what would it be?


ScaleSpark website 


Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,


Scaling and succession planning with Pietro Ranieri

Today’s guest just so happens to be the first EVER employee I hired in my agency CIT, many years ago!

Pietro Ranieri worked at my agency for 9 years before leaving to set up on his own and I wanted to get him on the show to discuss his journey from freelancer to running and growing an agency, and to the point of selling his agency.

He went on to buy his agency back (we discuss why!) and he now has a number of offices around the world!

If you’re thinking of making the move from freelancer to agency owner, or if you’re thinking of scaling and maybe ultimately selling your agency, then this episode is for you.

[05:26] What made Pietro make the switch from freelancer to agency owner? With most of his clients based in the US, Pietro had become somewhat of a night owl which lead to an unhealthy and lonely lifestyle…

[09:37] Ranieri has a clear niche in consumer electronics, which has worked well for his agency as everyone knew they are the “go-to” experts. But what happened when he took on clients from outside of his area of expertise?

[16:22] Are you running a proper agency, or do you just have a bunch of assistants working for you? If you want to scale, you need to be able to step away from doing the client work.

[20:37] If you’re really looking to scale, it’s important you learn to distance yourself from the being the first point of contact, so the clients don’t become attached to you. Pietro and Rob delve into WHY this is so important and HOW to go about it.

[25:59] The process of selling your agency can be a very long and draining process. If you want to sell your agency, you need to know what to expect and how to properly prepare for it.

[35:15] if Pietro could go back in time and give himself some advice, what would it be?

For more info on Pietro's agency, Ranieri Communications, visit the WEBSITE.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,


The Self-Running Agency


MY Brand New Book: The Self-Running Agency, has just been launched.  You can buy it on Amazon for £5.99 or for a limited time, you can grab a FREE copy

Imagine having an agency that runs itself.

No more slogging over client work day in, day out. No more 15-hour days to ensure you meet the next deadline. No more dealing with multiple clients all wanting to speak only to YOU.

This is something many agency owners dream of yet fail to achieve. However, if you really want an agency that runs itself, it most certainly is possible and I’m going to show you how to do it:

[02:01] If your hourly rate is £150 and you’re doing tasks below that level, you need to start delegating these and focusing only on the tasks that at level of your hourly rate or higher.

[03:51] You need to build your brand to be your agency not just “you”.

[06:23] Why you absolutely must hire the very best people you can afford, and not just a bunch of assistants.

[07:49] How building a management team as soon as possible will make it easier to move your agency forward.

[08:55] There is an art behind being a super effective delegator and learning this is so important if you want your agency to grow to the point of not needing you! Make sure you download my free e-book on delegation HERE.

[10:37] Do you have a plan that you visit every day to ensure you’re always moving your agency forward?

[13:00] You can’t build an extension on your house without foundations as the extension will fall down. Similarly, you can’t grow an agency without getting the fundamentals right.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,


Video Production with Laura Evans

Video content is dominating the world right now, but for so many of us (myself included for a long time!) the thought of getting in front of the camera can put us into a cold sweat!

Laura Evans runs a video and podcasting company called Let’s talk Video Production and I was super excited to have her as my latest guest on the Agency Accelerator Podcast.

We are going to be talking all things video and podcasting and why you should seriously think about adding these into your marketing strategy, if you haven’t already done so.

[3:49] Me and Laura both have experience of being made redundant but this can sometimes be the best thing to happen to you!

[6:20] Laura explains why businesses ought to be using video as part of their marketing strategy. Many of us are still fearful of this, but both videos and podcasts can be a great way of building a relationship with your audience, so it’s important to try and overcome this fear. Remember, it’s not all about you, it’s about your audience and the value you can bring them!

[11:25] Different methods work for different people when recording videos. Whether you use an autocue, post-it notes or you just wing it, do what works best for YOU.

[13:17] Laura gives some great tips for someone planning on recording a 2-3minute video on their own (without a production company!) including some awesome affordable gear suggestions.

[20:40] What is the ideal video length can how can video content help with your SEO?

[25:54] Podcasting is great for visibility but can it help you get more clients? 

[32:50] If you could go back in time and give your younger self some business advice, what would it be?

To find out more about Let’s Talk Video Production and their services, visit their website or email Laura at [email protected]

Links Mentioned In The Ep:

Starting Video Production With Low Costs

Microphones for starting your podcast

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,


The Ultimate Guide To Growing Your Agency During These Challenging Times

agency growth

Why on earth would I be writing a blog post about growing your agency during these challenging times when many agencies are just struggling to survive? 

Am I just not in touch with the current environment or what is going on in the agency world right now?

The truth of it is for every one agency that is struggling to survive, another agency is doing well and able to focus on growth.

I’ve seen two types of company during this crisis:


The first kind has decided to sit it out, furlough their staff and hope they can weather the storm. 


The second kind has been galvanised into action, pivoted their business or suggested to the client how they can pivot their business and supported them through the process.

You need to be the second type of company.  And to do this you need to speak to your clients frequently (whether they’re working with you currently or they have put you on pause) and make sure you are listening and serving them.

So let’s explore some practical steps you can be taking:

Use this time to learn more about your client’s wants and needs

We all like to think that we know our target audience well and armed with this knowledge we create our sales & marketing content.  But how well do we really understand our clients?

You might have done some work on defining your ideal target customer or customer avatar, but if you want to take it to the next level you need to talk to your clients and learn more about their pains and gains.  Right now there has never been a better time to talk to your clients because they’re more likely to have the time and inclination to spend 30 minutes discussing their business. During this interview, you want to identify the PAINS that they have, that they are trying to move away from and the GAINS that they want to achieve - that they are trying to move towards.  You are looking for the repeating patterns here and if you can interview between 7 and 10 clients then you’ll be able to identify these patterns. Use the recurring themes to inform the content that you create and the products/services that you deliver.

This is exactly what I do and it ensures that the content I am creating will be of value to my audience rather than just things I want to write about.  That is one of the key outcomes of doing this exercise (the other is producing products and services that your audience wants and needs – more on that later).

Have a plan

agency planning

I get it! A lot of us have been in survival mode and can’t think beyond the end of the month let alone six months, a year or even further but it’s a fine balance between reacting to ever-changing needs of today and trying to survive versus having half an eye on the future and having a longer-term plan (albeit one that you need to frequently revisit as this new world unfolds) for growing your agency.

I normally work with my clients on a long, medium and short-term plan. A long-term plan is usually 2 to 5 years (this is your vision).  The mid-term plan is usually one year and includes a quarterly breakdown (your strategies) and then from there, we have a monthly plan (your ‘to-do list’ for your business).  This is the document that you will use to run your monthly management meetings to ensure you’re focused on working on the business as opposed to operational discussions about the business.

I appreciate during this current period we need even more granular than I outlined above so I have created a weekly plan with measures, and you can grab your copy of that here.

Pivot where necessary

Agency growth

“Pivot” is one of those annoying words that we are hearing a lot in the business world right now but what exactly does it mean for you?

It means finding new ways to service your existing audience or finding a new audience.  For you, that looks like refining, amending or creating a new product or service or looking for a slightly different audience to your traditional audience and most likely, it is a combination of those two.

Don’t make the mistakes that many have made (and indeed I’ve made in the past) and that is assuming that you know what your audience wants and needs. So you invest a lot of time, energy and money in turning this new idea into a product/service to only launch it to crickets.

If ever there were a time to use my favourite expression of slow down to speed up then this is it! You need to first of all test your idea and validate it with your audience BEFORE you start marketing and selling it in earnest. This is a process of refinement. To do this you create three target groups and test you’re offering with group 1.  Using their feedback, refine it and then rinse and repeat with groups two and three. If at the end of this process you have had positive feedback and pre-sold some of your product then you know your product has been validated.

This is such an important topic that I’ve created a new e-book guide that takes you step-by-step through this process including templates for questionnaires and for letters you can grab a copy of that here.

Become a good listener

Being a good listener is an art and one that perhaps we all think we are good at but if there were ever a time to listen to your audience and hear the clues that they tell you about what they need from you, then now is that time.

Clients all have ‘jobs to be done’ and they have certain pains about those jobs that you can solve and gains that they are looking to achieve by getting that job completed.  If you can identify these jobs to be done and the pains and gains and market your business against that you’re much more likely to win new client business. Listening to your audience means marketing yourself against what your audience needs rather than what you have to offer so consider if your website and your outbound communications are they resonating with those pains and gains, and jobs to be done or are they just telling them what a great company you are, what your products & services are and who you’ve done it for before - because if you’re taking this old approach you’re not going to be winning new business.

This is a topic in itself for a future blog post but I felt it was important to include a reference to it in this post.

Get the balance of your time right

I’ve written quite a lot in the past about how leaders of agencies need to be allocating their time effectively and perhaps this is more important than ever right now, whilst we are working remotely from home which probably means working longer hours and/or having distractions such as kids at home, so we need to get even more disciplined and structured with all time.

If you want to continue growing your agency during these challenging times then you need to make sure you are allocating enough time to working on the strategy for your agency. This includes everything to do with how you are going to earn money in the future.

Time management

Learn more about allocating you time (click on the image)

A quick reminder: we can split our time across three ‘pots’

1. Revenue: (how are you earning money today) so this is all the client projects and retainer work you currently have on your books s

2. Strategy: (how you to earn money in the future): business development, sales and marketing

3. Admin: everything you do to run your business.  The ‘lifeblood’ tasks that keep your business afloat (finance, HR etc.)

No matter what kind of complicated labels we try to apply to our work, pretty much everything we do falls into one of these three categories. But while each of these areas matters, they don’t all matter equally. Particularly not for you: as the agency owner, your time needs to be spent in a deliberate manner for maximum impact.

You want to be making sure you’re allocating the right balance of your time across these three ‘pots’. There is a tendency right now to be doing as much as we possibly can to keep our clients so we are investing a greater percentage of our time in revenue but those agencies who are going to flourish and grow are also allocating equal amounts of time into strategy and strategy today might look different to what it did a few months ago. 

My advice here is to get structured with your day and schedule time across these three areas and create a list of things you do in each of these three areas.  I have created a simple tool you can use to help with this.

The second really important thing is to get good boundaries because when we are working at home the boundaries can easily get blurred between your working day and your personal time.  One approach that helps me is having morning and evening rituals (link?).

Focus on marketing your agency

Marketing plan

I have had lots of questions from my audience asking whether they should be marketing in this current climate. You see they are worried that if they send out content it could be seen in bad taste and feels inappropriate.

My response to this is a resounding YES YOU SHOULD marketing to your audience provided you are continuing to serve them and one of the ways you will achieve this is by applying the points I’ve made earlier in this article.  LISTEN and produce content that is truly adding value (as I am attempting to do in this blog!).

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of building your email list.  Consider this:

Do you know why eBay bought SKYPE?

Do you know why Facebook bought Instagram?

It's not for the reasons most people think....  

It was for their subscriber lists. eBay wanted SKYPE's 54 million members across 225 countries. Facebook wanted Instagram's 30 million users.

Why?  Well for every email subscriber you have on your list you can potentially earn £1 per month from them. Have a list of 100? That's £100/month. 10,000 in your list? £10k per month (or £120k/year!).

Also, consider that you OWN your list where you 'BORROW' your contacts on platforms such as LinkedIn. There are always new marketing fads that come and go but email marketing has always been one of the most cost-effective ways of generating new business.

I have been discussing the power of the email list for a long while and I encourage all my clients to make building their email list of potential buyers a central part of their marketing strategy. And I encourage you to do the same.

If you don’t have a list today then start one and set a goal of having 50 people on the list by the end of the month.

I have written about HOW to go about this and WHAT to send you list in this FREE guide.

OK so that’s your mail list but what else should you be doing? 

You can’t go to networking events, but you can get online – and the key here is to hang out in places that your ideal target customer hangs out and your research will tell you that. Also, think about how you can use LinkedIn to make connections and build empathy with those connections this is particularly true if you work in the B2B space.  Don’t be one of those annoying people who send out a connection request with a generic message and then send a sales message immediately you accept them.  That is a sure-fire way of being blacklisted! Instead, provide value to your audience.  Remember your goal (as with all your marketing) is to focus 80% of your time providing value and 20% selling. 

In conclusion

When times are tough we have to work extra hard and extra smart to find and win business. I have run my business through 2 recessions and now this current pandemic and have lived by that belief and it has served me well.

The key to growing your agency is to use your time smartly and get the balance right and have a consistent focus on sales & marketing – whilst communicating with your audience in an empathetic way do this consistently and you will be filling your pipeline with eager potential customers.

If you want more details on how to continue growing your agency in this challenging time, then grab a copy of my FREE guide on agency growth.

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