How To Start A Marketing Agency

Start A Marketing Agency
💡 Introduction To Starting A Marketing Agency
🎬 How To Start A Marketing Agency
🚀 How To Launch Your Marketing Agency
🌱 How To Grow Your Marketing Agency
🏃🏼‍♀️ How To Run Your Marketing Agency

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If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.

Starting your own marketing agency requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.

If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own marketing agency, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.

We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your marketing agency effectively.

market size
$55B
avg revenue (monthly)
$533K
starting costs
$11.8K
gross margin
23%
time to build
11 months
growth channels
Word of mouth, SEO (blog posts, organic traffic from search engines)
business model
Consulting
best tools
Twitter, YouTube, Instagram
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
9 Pros & Cons
tips
36 Tips

💡 Introduction To Starting A Marketing Agency

Is Starting A Marketing Agency Right For You?

There are many factors to consider when starting a marketing agency.

We put together the main pros and cons for you here:

Pros of starting a marketing agency

• Flexibility

You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.

• Ability to start your business from home

It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!

• Meaningful business connections

You never know who you will meet or get to work with for your marketing agency. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!

• High customer retention rates

Once a customer invests in your product, they've invested their time and energy to utilize your product/service which is highly valuable to them. Typically, your marketing agency becomes an integral piece of their every day lives.

• Traffic to your website

A marketing agency gives people a reason to visit your website and to keep coming back to you!

• Scalable

With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services within your marketing agency. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.

Cons of starting a marketing agency

• Crowded Space

Competition is high when it comes to your marketing agency, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.

• Motivation of employees

If you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you're able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.

• Longer Sales Process

A marketing agency can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it's important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.

Players

Big Players

Small Players

Search Interest

Let's take a look at the search trends for marketing agency over the last year:

How To Name Your Marketing Agency

It's important to find a catchy name for your marketing agency so that you can stand out in your space.

Here are some general tips to consider when naming your marketing agency

  • Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
  • Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
  • Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
  • As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!

Why is naming your marketing agency so important?

The name of your business will forever play a role in:

  • Your customers first impression
  • Your businesses identity
  • The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
  • If you're memorable or not

It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your marketing agency.

You can search domain availability here:

Find a domain starting at $0.88

powered by Namecheap

Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.

It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.

As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.

Here's some inspiration for naming your marketing agency:

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Read our full guide on naming your marketing agency ➜

How To Create A Slogan For Your Marketing Agency:

Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.

The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.

Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.

Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your marketing agency:

1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words

A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.

2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different

There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:

  • Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
  • What problem do you solve?
  • How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
  • Do you make people more successful? How?

3. Be consistent

Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.

It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.

4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan

Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.

When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.

5. Consider your audience

When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.

It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.

6. Get feedback!

This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.

Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.

🎬 How To Start A Marketing Agency

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Startup Costs For Your Marketing Agency

If you are planning to start a marketing agency, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.

We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a marketing agency and outline the costs you should expect for each:

  • The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,015
  • The estimated maximum starting cost = $19,100
Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a marketing agency. Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs. Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.
Office Space Expenses
Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space. $0 $2,000
Total Office Space Expenses $0 (min) $2,000 (max)
Employee & Freelancer Expenses
Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K. $0 $4,000
Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses $0 (min) $4,000 (max)
Equipment & Supply Expenses
Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time. $500 $5,000
Total Equipment & Supply Expenses $500 (min) $5,000 (max)
Website Costs
Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article. $15 $100
Web Designer: If you have the necessary skills to design your website, then it may not be necessary for you to hire someone. However, if you do decide to go that route, make sure you establish an understanding of upfront cost, design and what the ongoing costs will be to manage the site. Here is what to expect when hiring a web designer. $0 $6,000
Total Website Costs $15 (min) $6,100 (max)
Business Formation Fees
Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here. $500 $2,000
Total Business Formation Fees $500 (min) $2,000 (max)
Total Starting Costs $1,015 (min) $19,100 (max)

Raising Money For Your Marketing Agency

Here are the most common ways to raise money for your marketing agency:

What Skills Do I Need To Succeed For My Marketing Agency?

With a marketing agency, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.

Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:

Advice For Starting A Marketing Agency

We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.

Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a marketing agency:

Darren Magarro, founder of DSM ($230K/month):

In addition, get out there and get involved. Don’t join a networking group or chamber of commerce and expect business to come to you.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Michael Gardiner , founder of Nomads with Solutions ($12K/month):

I would recommend choosing 1 or 2 skills that can transfer between businesses and getting really good at them.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Kathryn & Michael Redman, founder of Half a Bubble Out ($98K/month):

When you understand who you are as a company, you start to realize that not every customer is the right fit for your company. We had to learn to not say “yes” to every customer or take every deal that came our way, which was tough.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Rahul Alim, founder of Custom Creatives ($100K/month):

That was a bad plan. I did not anticipate all the hats I would have to wear such as paying bills, accounting, sales, fulfillment or vendor management.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Oliver Op de Beeck, founder of Interview: Kreatix ($10K/month):

Our mistakes make us what we are. I wouldn’t prevent them. We love experimenting and I think people should stop overthinking and start doing more.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Sam Wilcox, founder of Tribecto Automations ($10K/month):

I should have prioritized my physical and mental health sooner. In the beginning, the business was all consuming. I was working extremely long days and not seeing much of the outside world.

Read the full interview ➜

-

JB Kellogg, founder of Madwire® ($8.5M/month):

We’d often say that a client can cancel for a million different reasons, but let’s not allow one to ever be that we did not do everything we could to “wow” them in customer service.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Bryn Elizabeth Bonino, founder of Bryn Elizabeth Co. ($1.3K/month):

I’m a planner, and that quality helps me out a lot. But I learned that it saves time and energy to launch something before it’s perfect, sometimes even when others tell you not to.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Emenike Emmanuel, founder of Entrepreneur Business Blog ($3K/month):

When your back is against the wall, you will do everything to survive. Personally, I chose to survive it and I did through the power of blogging.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Jeremy Kanne, founder of Smart Yeti Creative Agency ($8K/month):

One of the top lessons I’ve learned is being confident in saying “I don’t know” when I don’t know. This honesty and transparency when paired with a great work ethic, creates trust and drives successful partnerships.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Alex Albarran, founder of Dream Client Academy ($31K/month):

Always be selling! Maintaining a full pipeline of prospects/deals is extremely critical to the growth of your business.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Travis Richardson, founder of Impressions Agency ($100K/month):

Just start. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you begin. In fact, to this day we are still figuring things out. Each season of your business will provide a new learning opportunity.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Kenn Kelly, founder of Never Settle ($100K/month):

In a culture that’s insistent on blaming others and finding excuses - ownership stands out.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Chris Ciunci, founder of TribalVision ($700K/month):

The leaders that form on your team are going to shape your internal culture which will ultimately decide how successful your business is.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Karl Hughes, founder of Draft.dev ($8K/month):

Be careful about listening to experts. Experts forget what beginners don't know, so they skip things that are obvious to them. I’m not saying you should never listen to experts but don’t assume that everything that worked for them will work for you.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Matt Tomkin, founder of Tao Digital Marketing ($19K/month):

Failures happen! If we didn’t fail we wouldn’t move to the next step. That member of staff, that expense that went wrong. Things just go wrong and sometimes it’s no-ones fault! Just keep going!

Read the full interview ➜

-

Brian Cohen, founder of Visiture ($900K/month):

Forget the instant gratification and focus on long term decision making. If you’re an agency, figure out a way to work with well-known brands that you’re confident you can deliver great results

Read the full interview ➜

-

Anthony Tumbiolo, founder of Jakt ($300K/month):

I started Jakt from the realization that I loved helping other businesses succeed and in turn help many other people.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Gilberto Rosas, founder of Maverick Media Lab ($10K/month):

Within 30 days I got my first client and it began to take off from there. I realized then that amazing things happen when fears are faced head-on.

Read the full interview ➜

-

Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your marketing agency.

Why?

Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.

For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.

You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
  • Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
  • Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
  • Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
  • Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
  • Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
  • Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
  • Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
  • Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.

Learn more about how to write a business plan here

Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need

There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.

Here are some factors you may want to consider:

  • Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
  • Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
  • Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
  • Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
  • Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.

Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.

When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.

The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.

These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.

  • LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
  • S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
  • C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.

Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.

Learn more about securing the right permits and licenses ➜

Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.

How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?

Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).

But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.

There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:

1. Owner's Draw

Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.

At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.

As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.

This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.

2. Salary

If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.

The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:

  • Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
  • Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
  • Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
  • Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
  • Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.

https://media.giphy.com/media/xT0xeLTRncS90ptpfi/giphy.gif

To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.

How To Price Your Marketing Agency

One of the most challenging and critical pieces to starting your marketing agency is determining how much to charge for your marketing agency.

When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.

Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.

On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.

When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.

Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:

Understand your customer

It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:

  • Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
  • Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
  • Level of price sensitivity with your customer

All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.

Understand your costs

When pricing your marketing agency, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your marketing agency so you can factor in a profit.

The actual cost of your marketing agency may include things like:

  • The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
  • Shipping + overhead fees
  • Rent
  • Operating costs to run your business

You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.

Create revenue goals

When determining the price of your marketing agency, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your marketing agency to make.

This process is simpler than you may think:

  1. Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
  2. Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
  3. Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
  4. Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell

This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.

Evaluate your competition

The last piece in determining how to price your marketing agency is by simply looking at your competition.

The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your marketing agency fits best in the marketplace.

All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your marketing agency, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.

Identify Target Customer

A very critical piece in building marketing agency is to identify your ideal target customer.

  • Develop a niche and create a consistent brand that reflects your target customer.
  • The colors, logo, content, and overall website should resonate with your target customer and should draw them in by helping them solve their specific "need".

Building an MVP (Minimal Viable Product)

When building a marketing agency, it's critical that you first validate your product/service rather than rushing to build it right away.

This could save you months, if not years of building the wrong product/service.

If you're hoping to decrease any sort of risk that comes with launching your marketing agency, designing a prototype can be a great way to de-risk your situation.

The point of your marketing agency prototype is that it doesn't have to be perfect.

In the beginning stages, it doesn't matter how rough V1 of your prototype is, it's more important to just get started and you can always refine from there based on feedback from your network and most importantly your customers.

How To Build A MVP

Here are several different ways of building a prototype/MVP:

  • Start by building a landing page to see if customers actually need your product and if they are willing to pay for it
  • Build a very basic version of your idea and ask for immediate feedback from potential customers
  • Present a problem and solution via Facebook/Instagram Ads and see what the response is like

JB Kellogg, founder of Madwire® dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:

The process of launching our platform, Marketing 360, was a long journey. We founded Madwire in 2009 and did not launch the first version of our platform until 2014, five years later. This was not because of a lack of effort, but rather, a lack of knowledge. We always knew we wanted to make Madwire a technology company and build our platform, but without any experience in the industry, we didn’t know what to build!

So, we started Madwire on the back of services. We offered a wide array of managed services to help small businesses grow including website design, branding, ad management, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, video production, and more. We planned to offer services to both earn revenue to fuel the business as well as learn exactly what the perfect technology to build would be. It took us about three months of solid planning and educating ourselves before we opened the doors for business.

The day we prepared enough to open our doors, we launched our marketing campaigns and then went to workout. When we got back from working out, we already had our first lead! So we called the lead, sold the lead for $190 a month, and that account is still with us today! We were so excited. This was going to work.

We’d often say that a client can cancel for a million different reasons, but let’s not allow one to ever be that we did not do everything we could to “wow” them in customer service.

Fast forward five years later. By this point, we’d worked with well over 5,000 small businesses and had grown the company to around 150 employees. We now had a strong understanding of what we needed to build in terms of technology that would both help our team become more efficient and scalable as well as what the small businesses needed to grow their business. It was at this time that we designed and prototyped the first version of our platform, Marketing 360. The initial development of the platform took about nine months. We launched it around September of 2014. It was at this time that we transitioned from a service company to a tech-enabled services company.

In 2016, we launched our second version of the platform which introduced business management related features and functionality, such as a small business CRM. This helped further move us toward a technology-first company, but we were still considered a tech-enabled services company at this point.

At the start of 2019, we began the development of our third version of the platform. The third version would take everything we learned over our ten years in business and create something truly transformational in the small business space.

A singular platform that would provide a business with everything they need to both manage and grow their business. The final version would transition us from a tech-enabled services company to a technology-first company.

In March 2020, we launched the third version of our platform. This was a game-changer for us. Since launching, we’ve seen tremendous growth and feedback from our over 20,000 small business users. We now roll out new features and functionality every Wednesday. We have a saying at Madwire that goes, “Every Wednesday the platform gets better.” It’s always exciting to see the new feature releases each week for our team and our active users.

how-i-started-a-5-8m-month-company-providing-business-management-and-marketing-solutions-to-smbs The Marketing 360® platform has everything a small business needs to manage and grow their brand

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JB Kellogg, on starting Madwire® ($8,500,000/month) full story ➜

🚀 How To Launch Your Marketing Agency

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Build A Website

Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).

  1. Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
  2. Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
  3. Make sure you choose the right theme and design
  4. Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)

To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.

Best Website Platforms To Use For Your Marketing Agency:

There are a variety of websites platforms out there, and it's important to choose the right one that will set you up for success.

Here's everything you need to know about the two most common platforms for your marketing agency:

WordPress

Free and open-source content management system based on PHP and MySQL.

Free to use/open source but you will need to pay for the hosting.

Businesses using WordPress:

242 successful businesses are using WordPress ➜

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Get WordPress ➜

Squarespace

The all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website.

  • Personal Plan: $12/month
  • Business Plan: $18/month
  • Basic: $26/month
  • Advanced: $40/month

  • Pricing: Freemium

  • Twitter: @squarespace

  • Website: squarespace.com

Businesses using Squarespace:

55 successful businesses are using Squarespace ➜

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Get Squarespace ➜

Web Design

Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.

Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.

One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.

If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.

Traditional Launch Strategies For Your Marketing Agency:

There are various different ways you can launch your marketing agency successfully.

Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your marketing agency:

  • Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
  • Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
  • Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
  • Live sales to get customers excited
  • Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.

Matt Tomkin, founder of Tao Digital Marketing dives deep into the process of launching the business:

The main thing was to make sure we had the design of our service offering right.

This took some time to get right as we’d meet some prospects looking for a one stop digital marketing agency (full service, if they really exist) and then other wanted search marketing specialists.

I knew we were different from a lot of the search agencies out there due to my background being in owning and running a few businesses before starting in search. This meant I’d had my own frustrations with what was being offered and knew we had to make communication at the heart of everything we did.

Plus, a client isn’t really bothered about lots of traffic to a site. They’re bothered about lots of qualified leads coming through the site. So my concentration was around delivering tangible results for our clients and effectively communicating the process.

We were pretty lucky when we launched Tao Digital, in that I had already built a good business network of contacts over the previous 12 years of being in business in my local area.

To this day, the majority of work we win is from referrals from my contact base and this will continue to be a big driver of growth for us. We are now, however, looking to market the business properly.

We launched our website and I used Linkedin to great effect. Linkedin allowed me to message all my contacts and point them to our new website for free. This meant we had an audience of business people from day one.

My first “client” was a Photocopier Leasing company called Copy Print Services. I had known the owner of this business a good number of years through the different networking I had done in other businesses and he had a marketing consultant working for him who had seen the opportunity of search to his business but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

I sat down with John and discussed how I might be able to help. The main task was to increase leads through the website and increase visibility of the brand within the search engines.

In the early days I kept it very simple, get the site in the best position from a technical perspective (make it as easy as possible for Google to understand the site). I restructured a lot of the site, submitted it to both Google and Bing and set-up local listings properly etc. All very basic things.

Then, I focused on the site content and completed a massive amount of keyword research to set out what the internal service pages needed to be and also a short plan of blog content to move forward with.

Very much Top of funnel type content such as this article on lease vs buying a copier, as you can see it’s very basic but is still one of the highest trafficked blogs on the site. And generates leads.

We are still working with them to this day, very rare in the search to have a client for over 2 years. It was a more informal arrangement before I set-up the agency.

From here I picked up a few more clients after discussing the work I was doing down the pub and at other events. Lucky to have a good few business owners frequent my local!haha

A friend of mine who runs a Bid Consultancy business called Thornton & Lowe in Bolton offered to back me. He was willing to fund 6 months of the company if needed before it got on its own feet.

This was a really nice feeling, both from a “I know you can do it” point of view but also the ability not to worry about bringing business in too fast or even worse bringing the wrong type of client on board.

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Matt Tomkin, on starting Tao Digital Marketing ($19,000/month) full story ➜

🌱 How To Grow Your Marketing Agency

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Social Media Advertising

Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to marketing agency.

There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.

Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:

  • Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
  • Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
  • Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
  • Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
  • LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses

It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:

Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:

  • Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
  • Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
  • Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?

From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!

Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.

Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:

The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.

We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.

Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:

  • Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
  • Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
  • Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
  • Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
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Andy Hayes, on starting Plum Deluxe Tea ($75,000/month) full story ➜

Grow Your Email List

The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.

One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.

This could also be anything from:

  • Ebook
  • Fascinating case study
  • Video series
  • Free week of the product
  • Discount on the product

Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.

Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:

We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.

Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.

We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.

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Dylan Jacob, on starting BrüMate ($12,000,000/month) full story ➜

Add an exit-intent popup to your online store

A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.

Here's an example of what that might look like:

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One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.

That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.

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Steven Sashen, on starting Xero Shoes ($1,500,000/month) full story ➜

Improve Your Email Marketing

Different types of emails

Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:

  • Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
  • Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
  • Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
  • Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
  • Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!

Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!

Abandonded Cart Flow

The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.

Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.

Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."

Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.

Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.

Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:

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Things they do well:

  • Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
  • Offer a small discount + free shipping
  • Great design + clear call to actions!

Improve your SEO

SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.

One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."

Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your marketing agency.

Publish Great Content

Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.

There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.

So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"

  • Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
  • Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
  • Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
  • Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
  • Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).

Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.

If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.

Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.

Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:

  • Trello
  • Airtable
  • If you prefer to keep it simple, your average spreadsheet is just as useful!

Backlinks

Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.

Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.

Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.

For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.

Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:

  • Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
  • Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
  • Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
  • Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
  • Leverage existing business relationships

Learn more about the fundamentals of SEO ➜ here and check out Neil Patel's 3 Powerful SEO Tips below

Build A Blog

One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.

We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:

Consistency and Quantity

Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.

What’s more important is consistency and quantity.

Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.

This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.

Oversaturation

The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.

This is nonsense.

There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.

For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.

You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.

Patience & Persistence

Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.

The only thing you have control over is your content.

You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.

So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.

Where to share your blog content

Mailing List

I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.

Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.

Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.

An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.

Reddit

Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.

It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.

Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:

Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn

Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.

Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.

Facebook Groups

When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.

Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
  • Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
  • Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.

PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.

Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.

Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:

My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.

It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.

From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).

A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.

Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.

To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!

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Ryan Schortmann, on starting Display Pros ($30,000/month) full story ➜

🏃🏼‍♀️ How To Run Your Marketing Agency

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How To Retain Customers For Your Marketing Agency

Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your marketing agency.

Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.

Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.

That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.

Here are some ways you can retain customers for your marketing agency:

  • Responding to comments on social media
  • Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
  • Provide valuable content, for free
  • Write a hand written thank you note
  • Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers

To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here

Anthony Tumbiolo, founder of Jakt dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:

What’s worked well for us to attract customers has been mainly two things:

Referrals and Channel Partnerships.

When I was starting out, I had little money and few connections.

So what did I do?

I started talking to people.

And helping them in whatever way I could.

And through these conversations and interactions, business opportunities started popping out and my network started growing.

I was constantly talking with people, sharing my story, bringing as much value as I could, and staying top of mind with everyone.

Once, for example, we had an office in a co-working space in NYC. There was a guy I’d met there who had an office in the same space. I knew him for about 3 years. We never did business together, but always saw each other around and kept in touch.

Because we had a good human relationship, stayed top of mind, and he had heard of our reputation, he eventually referred someone to us which turned into a half a million-dollar deal with a healthcare company.

The healthcare company did over $500M in sales -- it was a large enterprise -- and normally these deals take many months to close. We closed the deal within a week because the referral came from someone they really trusted.

And this isn’t the only time something like this has happened. We’ve gotten these types of deals through our network quite a bit, so it’s not just a random occurrence.

If you’re looking for something a bit more strategic though, channel partnerships were (and still are) a large share of our new business.

Instead of talking with our leads about 1 to 2-month projects, frame them as 6 or even 12+ month long relationships. Framing it like this instills confidence in the buyer that you are really care about their future success.

Back then, we didn’t offer design in-house (we do today though), so we partnered with a design agency that was complementary to what we did.

By adding Jakt as a partner, they were now able to offer one more service to their mix –which helped them close more deals and add more value to their existing customers.

Since they were already trusted by their clients, it was easier for me to sell because their referral passed over the “trust juice” to me, and I also didn’t have to hunt for new customers myself.

We could also offer design now to our clients. It was a win-win.

When I realized the power of channel partners, I starting forming relationships with many other complementary companies where there was some sort of win-win scenario. This led to millions in business over the years.

As far as retaining clients, I believe a few key things come into play:

1. The client’s transition from the sales to the production team is super important.

Ideally, they’re coming from having a great experience with your sales team. You were able to gain their trust (and their business).

So you don’t want to lose it now. You need to make sure that the onboarding system is up to the same standards.

One tactic you can potentially use is introducing your production team during the sales process. You want your clients to be familiar with them and not tied to your sales person -- because he’ll eventually go away.

Another thing to keep is mind is making sure that whatever you told your client during sales, that’s also what the production team tells them. They need to be 100% aligned with each other with clear communication and effective expectation management.

Your onboarding meeting also has to be really solid. Everyone needs to be on the same page, up to speed on things, organized, and there can’t be a disconnect between the sales and production or that you don’t talk to each other.

But also everything else leading up to that point -- the emails you send, how you send them, what information you give them, how fast do you provide next steps after the contract is signed, how you’re introducing people… There needs to be a process behind all this.

Sales doesn’t end after closing the client. All points of interaction with the client moving forward need to be even better, both from a product-delivery AND customer experience standpoint.

2. Frame your sales process from day one as a long-term relationship.

Instead of talking with our leads about 1 to 2-month projects, frame them as 6 or even 12+ month long relationships. Framing it like this instills confidence in the buyer that you are really care about their future success. And this should be true, because the truth is your success as an agency depends on their success.

3. Deliver amazing work and results.

If the work isn’t good, there’s only so long a customer will stay.

4. Deliver an amazing customer experience throughout the engagement.

Even if the work is good, running an agency means you’re in the client services business. If the customer experience is poor (e.g., poor communication and expectation setting), it can kill a relationship.

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Anthony Tumbiolo, on starting Jakt ($300,000/month) full story ➜

Diversify Your Product Line

Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.

It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.

Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product

  • Meeting the needs of your customers
  • Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
  • Resistance to downturns/trends fading
  • Create new revenue streams

How To Crush The Sales Process For Your Marketing Agency

You may find yourself in a spot where you're ready to hire a few (or many) salespeople to support the sales conversion process.

Regardless if you have one or thirty salespeople, it's critical that you assign them specific roles and responsibilities to nurture the client and provide excellent support.

Mike Korba, co-founder of User.Com walks us through the entire sales process and which teams are responsible for what:

User.com Sales Process

Each user and account is qualified with a specialist. For business leads, they are handled by the sales team, and if they are qualified we give them a demo, more than often at the end of their fourteen-day trial. If they’re happy they’ll add a payment, and get an account manager, so a customer support and success team who will help implement the solution and to use the technology.

Sometimes, users will convert naturally on their own, after using the freemium product and finding it to be something that they will find beneficial.

After they convert, we help with onboarding, give them some personalized tips for their specific business or industry to grow plus all kinds of support, for whatever they need - something we take huge pride in.

The team is right now more than 30 people, with more than half working on the IT and product side, and the rest are in three teams: Support, Marketing, and Sales who all work together very closely.

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Mike Korba, on starting User.com ($100,000/month) full story ➜

Word of Mouth

The most tried and true way to grow a marketing agency is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.

Why you should focus on word of mouth:

  • Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
  • 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
  • 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing

Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜

Provide Great Customer Service

Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.

Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.

Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.

Resources

We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your marketing agency.

Tools

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Case Studies

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Starter Story,   Founder of Starter Story

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