Starting a digital marketing agency is tough. Scaling your one-person digital marketing agency can seem even tougher. Where are the extra hours and manpower to make it happen? You have to worry about hiring, selling, accounting, payroll, marketing, client management, and service fulfillment. And you have to do all of that while getting results so you retain those clients.
How to Scale Your One-Person Digital Marketing Agency
You didn’t start an agency to keep trading hours for dollars, so let’s talk about how you can scale your one-person digital marketing agency. I’ve broken this up into four major strategies so you can plan your multi-layered approach to growing your agency:
- Enhancing Services & Increasing Sales
- Increasing Client Retention
- Automating Systems & Processes
- Hiring & Outsourcing
1. Enhancing Services & Increasing Sales
The first thing that must happen to scale your agency is to pick a lane. It’s easy to say, “I want to be a full-service agency!” But it’s smarter and more realistic to start with a focus on a single service, master those marketing, client, and fulfillment processes and then add complementary services as you grow.
Your agency can’t be all things to all people - meaning you can’t offer every kind of digital marketing service to every industry. There is no way to effectively market that business model or demonstrate relevant results that prospects in different industries will care about.
It’s easier to scale when you pick a niche, separate yourself from the pack, and specialize in serving a specific audience.
Set Up for Recurring Revenue
Recurring revenue is necessary for digital marketing agencies to thrive. Consistent monthly revenue provides a financial foundation to grow from.
Consistency is key, so finding a way to provide your services year-round means finding a way to bundle and overlay campaigns to enhance the client experience and improve results.
Monthly retainers for maintenance and support of in-place systems such as SEO, PPC management, site maintenance, or content marketing make clients part of a far-reaching plan they are less likely to want to walk away from.
Having a retainer agreement means they’ve bought in on your grand plan, you’ve probably convinced them with preferential pricing, and they are thinking in yearly goals instead of month-to-month. And with a clear and comprehensive, agreed-upon plan in place, clients are less likely to want to go through the hassle of trying out the competition.
Case Studies for Leads and Sales
Create case studies to use as lead magnets, in email drip campaigns, or part of your sales pitch. Find clients who are willing to share their company information, their opinion, and their results with your business to create multiple case studies that match your various buyer personas, and you’ll be armed with persuasive sales and marketing collateral to share.
2. Increasing Client Retention
There can be no growth if your digital marketing agency can’t retain the clients it earns. I say “earn” because it takes work to get new clients than keep existing clients. Keeping clients long-term, delivering on results, and making them referral machines makes growing your agency a whole lot easier.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20 percent. (SmallBizTrends)
Simple Client Retention Checklist
Having these elements in place increase client loyalty and spending:
- Comprehensive new client onboarding, that’s easy on the client-side
- Proactive account management process so nothing falls through the cracks
- Informative monthly communication with the client to cover results, KPI’s, and next steps
- Personalized on-going relationship nurturing with routine high-level check-ins
- Education and communication on the tangible return on investment
Simplify Client Onboarding
Make it easy for clients and your agency to work together and stay together with a clear client onboarding process. Both you and the client will be able to get off on the right foot and save any information needed to avoid miscommunication and trouble down the road.
95% of customers are looking for some degree of proactive communication from the companies with which they do business (Loyalty360)
There is no need and no time to reinvent the wheel, so take advantage of tools like Process.st (14-day free trial), which lets you build a client onboarding checklist off their well-tested template so you have one that is perfect for your agency. You’ll find great examples with Process.st for all kinds of business processes.
But don’t forget to search online for “agency onboarding examples” or “agency welcome letter samples” to find inspiration for onboarding tasks and content that matches your brand's tone and personality.
Be Laser-Focused On Results
Instead of bragging on vanity metrics such as likes and impressions, focus on getting financial results for your client. Everything is measurable, from cost per click to in-store visits and sales, and clients stick around when they understand how metrics translate into profits.
3. Automation & Processes
Automating Proposals and Contracts
Having a proposal template is not automation. It’s smart, but you still spend time customizing it for each potential client, following up on getting it back, figuring out how to get their signature because they don’t know how, and sometimes wondering if they ever even got the proposal.
Using proposal and contract software like PandaDoc ($49/mo) automates the process, plus it shortens and manages proposal turnaround times by creating templates that allow collaboration between multiple parties. You can even set it up with your CRM so you know when the client has opened, signed, or paid on the proposal - all of which they can do right inside PandaDoc.
PandaDoc also allows you to manage new-hire HR documents and manage project quotes to help you price services and calculate profit. But if you are looking to create exciting proposal websites clients can’t ignore, then you’ll want to check out Qwilr ($66/mo).
Qwilr does everything PandaDoc does but think webpages instead of documents. The benefits are prospects think you are operating with next-level digital innovation, and Qwilr analytics lets you track how clients moved through your documents - what they ignored and what they cared about.
Build and Leverage a Digital Agency Automation Stack
A marketing automation stack is the group of technologies that marketers use to automate their agency services and processes. The focus is to create hands-free processes and systems to get more work done, faster.
Here’s a shortlist of popular automation software:
- SEO - Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, Serpstat
- Marketing - HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua
- Sales Engagement - Outreach, SalesLoft
- CRO - Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics, Hotjar
- Workflow Automation - Zapier, IFTTT
- Landing Pages - ClickFunnels, Unbounce, Leadpages
- CRM - HubSpot, Zoho, Freshsales, (surprise!) ActiveCampaign
Use the links above to research software options and discover what integrates with what you already have so you can add to your marketing automation stack. Providing enhanced and specialized services means you can charge more; using automated services means you can handle more clients. You’ll scale faster when you can do both.
4. Hiring & Outsourcing
Scaling your one-person digital marketing agency means you’re going to have to let some things go so that you can focus on growth. That means outsourcing and hiring great people so you can delegate time-consuming tasks and responsibilities.
Outsource Every Service You Can
It can be really tricky to balance the right amount of staff with a fluctuating client base. One of the awesome benefits of scaling your digital marking agency is that almost every service can be outsourced. When you find the right people to outsource to, you’re able to get high-quality work for a fraction of what you charge clients.
About 24% of small businesses outsource to improve efficiency. (fortunly)
One workable plan for scaling your digital marketing agency is to outsource every service you can until you have enough recurring client revenue to hire someone in-house to manage the day-to-day processes such as marketing, accounting, and customer communication that take up most of your time.
Hiring is Part of Scaling Your Digital Marketing Agency
When you have people you can trust working with you, you’ll benefit from their ideas and collaborate on how to improve what’s in place. Then you free up time for you to focus on new opportunities and ways to scale your digital marketing agency.
Hiring an employee or outsourcing can be a daunting task, but to scale you need to add staff, tools, and resources to handle the demands of lead generation and servicing new customers.
Simplify the hiring process by developing an entry-level system that focuses on finding candidates whose personalities match your needs while displaying both ambition and trainability. Digital marketing is constantly changing so you’ll want to hire people who are quick to learn new things and adapt to change.
Scaling by Partnering & White Labeling
Few full-service agencies have in-house staff to handle all services. To scale, cultivating a software stack that automates services lets you work less while earning more. Here is where you can leverage your expertise by managing and leveraging automated tools to make your clients’ businesses more efficient, competitive, and profitable.
Clients hire you to take care of a business problem for them, and that’s why managed services is the ultimate business model. If they can run a business, chances are they could also eventually figure out PPC, Social Media, and all the other moving parts in a comprehensive marketing plan, but they don’t have the time or desire to learn or manage these processes.
With the right tools, you can get paid twice to manage services for clients:
- The client pays you to manage the software that solves the problem
- Software provider pays you for new business and retention
White labeling another agency’s services is another way to offer more services without doing more work. This is a great way to have another agency manage client projects like email marketing, PPC, or reputation management while you manage the client relationship and payment.
You’ll find that a lot of software companies recognize the value of selling to your agency clients and offer business models where you earn money from selling the software itself with commissions or wholesale discounts.
You’ve done the hard work of creating your own business, so scaling your one-person digital marketing agency can be the easier part of your entrepreneurial journey. With a firm foundation, and the right tools and resources, your agency can scale quickly, which benefits your clients as well as your profits.
Join us and be part of the Offline Shark Community!
While focused on Local Marketing, in our global community (with 6k+ members in over 13 countries) you’ll feel at home surrounded by fellow marketing consultants and digital agency owners who are facing the same challenges, ready to help solve each other’s problems, and eager to celebrate your wins.
Offline Sharks is committed to practicing and teaching ethical marketing, so while financial goals are important, you’ll instantly see that maintaining our stellar reputation and supporting our community of beginners and veterans is more important. Come see for yourself!