How to Build a Digital Marketing Agency

You do not learn about sales and management in a marketing class or through design experience. Similarly, you cannot learn about the tricks and techniques of running a digital marketing agency until you actually start one. Not to mention, starting an agency is a challenge in itself, let alone running it successfully.

Are you an entrepreneur playing with the idea of starting your own digital marketing agency? Or are you an agency owner of a somewhat established agency but struggling to run it? Well, you have come to the right place.

In this article, we are going to outline some of the important basic steps on how to get started and successfully run your digital marketing agency.

Steps to Creating a Digital Marketing Agency: 

How to Get Started

Whether you have already started or about to create an agency, you need to know some basic steps to get it off the ground. Once you have nailed the basics to start a digital marketing agency, you can turn it from an exciting idea into a tangible business. Additionally, I’ll give you a couple of cost-saving tips to ensure your business gets off to a sound financial start.

The Basics

First, let us focus on some of the essentials. Mentioned below are the compulsory requirements for digital marketing agencies, new and established ones alike.

Get Yourself Online

The first step in creating your won digital marketing agency is to build your website.

The first thing you must focus on is the user experience of your website. After all, that will create the first impression of your agency. No matter how shiny the design of your site is, or how crisp its images are, the most important thing to remember is that it must to be simple and easy to use.

You should also build and maintain your social media presence. Social media activity boosts your online visibility and can be a valuable source of leads. Be sure to include links to your website!

Create a Killer Digital Marketing Portfolio

Actions do and always will speak louder than words. Therefore, having a strong, well-thought, result-driven business portfolio is paramount for revenue generation.

If your prospective clients can see that you have worked with brands they trust and know, they are more likely to purchase from you. They have no reason to doubt because if a well-known brand trusted you, they can too.

A professional portfolio is a minimum requirement for a digital marketing agency now. You must be able to show you are capable of producing results to reach new business. A decent portfolio will embody the following elements.

  • Headlines with short snippets about your work and its impact
  • Show off your team’s work and/or show how you/your team can help clients      achieve their goals
  • Testimonials and feedback from the clients showing that you’re able to tailor your      work to your client’s needs and that you’re a great person to work with.

The idea is to let your clients know that not only does your agency deliver results, but will continue to do so in the future.

If you’re having trouble with your portfolio, feel free to contact us today for a free consultation. 

Does Your Digital Marketing Agency Need Extra Capital?

Starting or running a digital marketing agency can be an expensive affair when you factor in labor costs, sales pitches, automation tools, and so much more. I would personally recommend bootstrapping your business for now and minimize the need to take on unnecessary expenses until you absolute need to reach your agency’s goals. 

The key is to figure out what is essential for you to start an agency and what is not. For example, you do not need every SEO tool that exists, you can avoid them and save $2,000 to $3,000 per month. Simply choose a couple of tools that you may actually need, and you are good to go.

Plus, more investors mean lesser authority over the agency. You will find that a lot of well-known agencies started independently and through hard-work they became successful.

Steps to Build a Digital Marketing Agency

Now that you know the basics, let us get to the central issue of how to build a digital marketing agency.

Figure Out your Goals

The first few steps are going to lay the foundation and for your agency. You must take this advice seriously because if you just wanted to make more money, you could ask for a raise, get a new job, or become a freelancer. There are over 418,300 marketing consultants and a little under 14,000 marketing agencies in the US. There’s a subtle reason for that. If you just want to make money, you could just become a consultant or get a better job.

Success comes when you color outside the lines. Create unique high work that you are proud to call your own. That sets you apart from the competition and builds a long lasting company and a memorable brand. If you have a vision that goes well beyond making a few extra bucks, then you should….

Stay Positive

The road to creating a successful digital marketing agency is going to be long and hard. There are no shortcuts and there is no such thing as an overnight success; just many late nights, hard work, blood, sweats, and tears. You’re not alone. 

Set Your Goals with Clarity

In order to be a successful agency, you are going to define clear goals. Paul Arden (an advertising legend) said, “Without a goal – it is hard to score.” 

Furthermore, make sure that goal is tied to a vision that you have defined for your company. For example, Centaur Consulting Group exists to work with marketers and create measurable success based on the client’ goals. We are working to maintain high quality relationships with a select number of clients over the next 2 years while maintaining high revenue and margin numbers. For the sake of privacy, I’ve kept our benchmark goals private. 

You should know what your vision is and what your SMART goals are for the next quarter, year, and ideally, for the next 5 years. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Specific

Have clarity about what you want. Replace vague goals such as “be the top company” with goals like “generate $100K/month in revenue from retail clients in the next year”.

Measurable

Set up and use tools like Google Analytics to measure your progress towards achieving your goals. Having and following a content calendar for your website is also a smart idea. Remember, for online marketing, content is king!

Attainable

Your goals must be realistic. Make sure you have the resources; time, money, and personnel, to achieve your goal within the timeframe you set for it. Achieving the goals you set for yourself builds your confidence in your agency, and that reflects in your work!

Relevant

Choose goals that move your business forward. An example of a relevant goal is: We will publish new articles on the blog once per week. That goal adds value to your website and helps to build your authority. That makes it relevant to building a digital marketing agency.

Time Bound

Set specific dates that you will accomplish your goals by. Using the example above, you might choose to publish a new article on a specific day of the week. Doing that ensures that you achieve at least one goal per week. Setting time bound goals also helps you keep yourself accountable to your business.

Aspire to Achieve Your Goals Faster

Locke and Latham claim in their research that aspiration goals are far more beneficial. If you add about 25% on top of what you believe you can achieve, you will hit the goal faster than you imagined. Press yourself and your team to do a little more from the beginning. Keeping in mind where you currently stand and what it takes to get there.

Be Realistic

Don’t try to run before you can walk. Do not expect to generate millions in revenue in your first year. But in three to five years if you have the capacity to do so, go for it!

Find Your Focus

Relevant goals will allow you to focus your time and efforts on the 20% of the work that generates 80% of the results. This level of focus demands dedication and will constantly be challenged by various distractions. 

Focus for an agency consists of choosing on your business model and your industry focus. This enables you to identify the specific audience for your business and enables your agency to focus on what you’re best at.

Most importantly, you need to be crystal clear about your role in your team. Are you just going to be a digital marketing owner or want to be involved in the process and decision making? Are you going to work on projects, or will you just manage the team of marketers working for you?

Early on you have or are doing everything yourself to establish your agency. As time goes on, you should have a clear vision of what you’re doing for your business and who you have to cover each role. 

This will evolve over time, but in order to maintain focus, you need to have the right people covering the roles that you won’t be covering.

Once you know your role, you will be able to decide who else you want on your team.

Find Your Specialization

To gain clarity about your goals, focus on what type of agency you are building and who it is for. Examples include paid media, data analytics, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). To succeed at digital marketing, you must find your specialization. It will help you decide what you want to do and how to become great at it.

Focusing your business model on specific services allows you to further enhance your offering. You could offer every marketing service under the sun, but that makes it incredibly difficult to allow your company to become great at any one service. It’s also very costly to pay employees or contractors to cover these additional services that are outside your area of expertise. That’s why it’s good to focus on what you’re good at or what your clients need the most. The remaining services can be covered by someone else that has the skills and time for it.

As Dane Atkinson said in an interview, “Learn to say no” – meaning if a project does not fit your specialization portfolio or your goals –say no to it, and you will have better chances to succeed.

Discover Your Niche

You must determine who is the target audience you wish to work with and why? Are you focusing on Fortune 500 companies, small independent businesses, or fashion brands?

Focusing on a particular industry allows your agency to become naturally appealing to specific prospects. A plumbing company is more likely to do business with an agency that focuses on plumbing vs one that doesn’t. That’s why we focus primarily on consulting for digital marketing agencies with 1-30 employees and at least $10k/month in revenue.

Figuring this out will help you narrow down your approach and build a business strategy on where you are going to look for contracts.

Identify Your Ideal Clients – Write it Down

Who do you want your agency to appeal to? Are you targeting small mom and pops shops or large retail brands?

Be specific! The more you know about your business’s persona, the better you and your team can be at appealing to them. The details matter a lot here because that is the difference between landing a big account and fizzling out.

It’s really important to take note of who they are and refine your notes as your business grows. The same clients that allowed you to start your agency are going to evolve, so your definition of them is going to have to evolve as well.

This will enable you to find the right clients to build your agency around.

How Are You Peacocking Your Business?

The peacock could be defined as being a little ostentatiously by some. I firmly believe they are wrong. The peacock is strutting its stuff in a glorious display of passion to show the other peacocks why it’s the best. A peacock without peacocking would simply be a waddling bird and wouldn’t be able to continue it’s lineage. Marketing agencies don’t need to be cocky, but they certainly need to know how to strut their stuff.

There is fierce competition in digital marketing. As I mentioned earlier…according to Statista and based upon the current industry trends, there are a little under 14,000 digital marketing agencies in the US. 

There are a lot of barriers to entry of course, but there are also a lot barriers to maintaining your digital marketing agency. You need to differentiate yourself from the other agencies and marketing options out there if your going to keep getting new clients and maintain your current portfolio.

So what makes you stand out from the rest of them? What do you do differently to offer value to the clients and customers than others?

Knowing what your agency brings to the table and who you are, whether it is digital content, paid media, SEO, and so on, is a key to building a long last digital marketing agency.

Create a Brand Identity for Yourself

Lois Geller once wrote for Forbes, “A brand is a promise.”

There are several reasons you need to make a brand identity for yourself. Perhaps you’ve must heard the cliché, “People buy from people they like.” This is true because trust in your name will bind your clients to your digital marketing agency.

You do not have to be famous; just have to show them your value by delivering on the promise of service you make. This will create a name for your agency in the niche that people like and associate with.

You can do this as a freelancer, a full-time marketer, or even at your current job.

Build Relationships

As Tim Ferriss said, “Your network is your net-worth.” This is a statement that will always stay valid, as it is the ultimate truth in business. Your agency is only as good as the people it does business with.

If you are really interested in starting or establishing a digital marketing agency, you will need to reach out to prospective clients and develop a relationship that creates long term value based upon an existing issue. You can start to find more clients and do right by your existing clients. 

For example, you see a business with poor SEO ranking or someone penalized by the social network, offer them help by providing valuable information. This will help you get a foot in the door. These little interactions are what helps you develop the rapport you need to get new clients. This how you get an appointment to pitch your solutions and grow to be a successful digital marketing agency.

Think of all the sectors and individuals you wish to work with and find out where your target audience dwells. Create a spreadsheet of them and reach out. Do not try to sell yourself straight away; just try and find ways to offer them value.

Build Your Team and Develop Your Offerings

If you wish to build an all-star team for your digital marketing agency, you must look out for the most talented professionals. You will have to convince them that you are an agency they should be working with and try to entice them to come aboard.

You must develop your offerings, as at the end of the day, you just have to keep them happy. Building a strong team is as critical as building a strong clientele. Not having the right people in the right designations can hurt your business.

Here are some of the top hard marketing skills your team members should have:

  • Project Management
  • Digital Marketing Analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence 
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Comprehensive Understanding of Video Creative 
  • Strong Skills in Customer Experience, CRO, and UX
  • Empiric Paid Media Capabilities
  • Masterful Knowledge of Content Strategies
  • Ad Copy Writing Skills
  • Understanding of SEO and Voice Search.

Here are some of the soft skills we highly recommend looking for in your team members to make your good team, great:

  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Passion for their Profession
  • A Competitive Spirit 
  • A Humble Personality
  • Team Oriented Mentality
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Detail Oriented
  • Persistence & Dedication to Their Work
  • Willing to Learn From Their Mistakes

Remember, it is all about quality, not quantity. Therefore, focus on building a small yet efficient team to accomplish your agency’s goals by delivering quality results every time.

Always ask for feedback and be a sponge for knowledge!

It seems obvious, but you definitely should ask your clients and customers to give their valuable feedback about your services. This will not only provide acknowledgment of what you are doing right but also highlight areas of improvement for future projects. It’s easy to let this one slip through the cracks with everything that happens in your day to day. So try to schedule time for it to make sure you’re constantly getting feedback.

Be a sponge and soak any knowledge you can gain from your experiences, clients’ feedback, and other on-going trends in the digital marketing industry.

No Standard Formula

There is no set formula that fits all businesses when it comes to digital marketing. Therefore, these steps will not be fluid since your business will need to evolve with your clients’ needs.

Sometimes you will have to retract to basics, whereas at times, you may need to build up more capacity and push your limits than you previously thought were impossible. However, the more you become successful, the more you will have to innovate yourself.

The Difference Between a Digital Marketer and a Digital Marketing Agency

Whether you are an agency owner or a digital marketer thinking about starting their agency, always remember there is a huge difference between being an agency owner/entrepreneur and a digital marketer.

A digital marketer simply uses an agency’s digital channels to build brand awareness and generate leads. On the other hand, an agency owner or entrepreneur has to look after every aspect of the business from top to bottom.

Therefore, you will have to adapt to the mindset of an entrepreneur or a digital marketing agency owner to start up your dream business, follow the steps mentioned in this article, and make it a success.

Centaur Consulting Group

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