The barrier to entry for starting a social media agency or consultancy is so low that thousands of new businesses are springing up every year. All you really need to get started is a laptop, an internet connection, and the right attitude - but with so many agencies setting up every month, how can you ensure yours stands out, and becomes a success?
In this post, I’ve put together three key tips that helped me when I successfully grew and exited my digital agency between 2013 - 2017, and still apply today. I consult with numerous agencies now who are performing well who follow these approaches to stay ahead of their competition.
Let’s dive in.
1. Positioning is Everything
How you position your agency is the most important factor in your success.
When I talk about positioning, this includes the likes of:
- Your brand
- Your pitch decks
- The services you sell
- Your pricing
- How you approach businesses
- The content you produce
- Your own social profiles
- Your website
- Your personal brand
These are all key factors, across which you need consistency. The most successful agencies I work with set themselves out as experts - they price their services relatively aggressively, they shy away from cold-calling, and they stay separate from the battle for low-value clients.
By appearing as experts, and backing it up with high quality, consistent creative assets and social profiles, they can charge more, have clients come to them, and see more success.
Another area to consider is how you can appear different. Is there a slant you can put on the services you offer, or should you just be servicing one niche of clients to help you differentiate? It’s different for each company, but it’s worth thinking through before going too far.
2. Treat Your Brand as a Client
With social media agencies, proving return on investment for clients can be challenging, particularly if you’re focussed on the content side. As such, clients are going to be looking at your social profiles and how you conduct yourself, rather than for specific revenue-based case studies a lot of the time.
Given this, you need to also ensure that you treat yourself like a client. It’s all too easy to not work on your agency, and just work on client projects (especially if you have a few projects on), but you must develop your social media profiles, and dedicate time to building your brand, just as you would for a client.
If you’re a social media agency, one of the best places to start is by signing up as a contributor on sites like this very one (author sign up is available here) so you can share your knowledge with the wider business community, and then sharing that socially.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, it just needs to be prioritized so that it happens, and so you look legit to potential clients.
3. Be Smart With Your Lead Generation Efforts
A lot of social media agencies fall by the wayside because they don’t get their lead generation efforts working for them in a profitable way.
There’s a number of ways to tackle lead generation and sales - from cold-calling, to approaching people online, to attending networking events and asking for referrals. Each has its own pros and cons.
There’s a lot of talk around ‘growth hacks’ and ways to get business faster, but it's still a case of good old-fashioned relationship building a lot of the time. There are tools which can help you do that faster by giving you warm opportunities (like Meet-Hugo.com for instance), but you still need to be putting in the legwork to make the most of those relationships.
Another top tip in this area is to optimize your sales and lead gen efforts. Calculate what's working for you, keep a track of where your leads and sales ultimately come from, so you can double down on what’s working. If advertising on a certain channel isn’t working for you, then it’s time to cut that budget off. Using a free CRM like HubSpot or Zoho will also help you keep a track of this, and enable you to optimize your efforts easier.
In summary, these three elements will play a key role in the ultimate success or failure of your agency journey. Focus on improving each, and you’ll have a much higher chance of standing out in a crowded market.
Survive the first year, and you’ve got a much better chance of making it long-term.