Running an agency can be one of the most complex and rewarding experiences in the business realm. From dealing with siloes and communication breakdowns on individual teams to high-turnover employees rates, profit margins, and difficult clients, you can hope every morning that you won't have to put out any fires that day. However, through adopting analytical software or implementing new processes, the chaos can be managed.
If you're looking to make some big changes within your agency this year and enjoy more of what you do, here's a list of recommendations that have been critical for my marketing agency in the past year.
Get a handle on scope creep.
Scope creep is what happens when either poor expectations are set or client account representatives are trying to keep your clients happy. It starts with a simple question of "Could you look into this for me?" and often ends with you losing money because you're doing work that a client isn't paying you for. If your agency has a scope creep problem, the first thing to do is to understand why. Are your terms and agreements lax? Does your team know exactly what the client is paying you for? Or have you created a culture of always saying yes to the client?
Once you understand why you have a scope creep problem, setting out to address it isn't easy, but it is doable. Start by making sure you have detailed terms and agreements. Train your employees and clients on what it is you do, where they go if they want additional help, and all the payment terms associated. The only way to manage scope creep is to continuously devote time into ensuring proper processes are followed.
Embrace customer experience.
Customer experience is the new marketing. For every ad, blog post or website copy you create, you must understand how your messaging impacts customer experience. If your copy is hipster-esque and casual but a customer's first interaction with a customer service representative exudes slightly stuffy vibes, you've already lost the customer.
You need to embrace the idea that marketing and customer experience go hand-in-hand. Your branding must be consistent across all aspects of the business. And while this may be more difficult to master for an agency, I can tell you that the ones who do master this technique are going to excel in 2017.
Try a new service offering.
Adding new product or service lines gets your agency a step ahead of the competition. Haven't ventured into video? Do it. Thinking about offering a sales enablement service? Go for it. A stagnant agency will have difficulty succeeding, as marketing changes so quickly. If you've been waiting for a reason to try out a new product or service, now is the time to do it. And if you haven't ventured into certain verticals already, you may be falling behind the trend.
Manage workflow capacity.
Workflow capacity may be something your agency excels at, but in my experience, it is something that is often overlooked. Do you know how much time your employees spend on administrative work versus client work? Do you know how profitable each individual client account or employee is for your business? What about how much work your employees actually have to work on? How long individual tasks or deliverables take?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, your agency could benefit from putting the processes and systems into place that manage your resources. If you want to improve efficiency and profit margins, this is your place to start.
Build a strategy for employee retention.
Whether you have a high-turnover agency or a low-turnover agency, monitoring employee retention is a must-do for agencies. If you are losing employees, you are losing a lot of money and time along the way. And if your employees aren't happy, it's likely your clients aren't either. You don't need to offer new perks like free lunches or the option to bring your dog to work. You just need baseline information to correct faults.
At Foxtail, we use Slack for communication, as well as use an app called Officevibe that allows our employees to write feedback and which monitors employee happiness. This allows us to monitor how satisfied employees are with their work, their pay, their managers, and a wide variety of other metrics. We have been able to use feedback given through the platform to make changes across our organization, and our employees are happier than ever.
Fire your bad clients.
If you have clients who are a nightmare to work with, stop working with them. If a client doesn't fit your model, your services, or is just a terribly rude human, you can and should cut the cord. Apologize to them for your error in accepting them as a client, and let them know you will finish out whatever work you agreed to. But by no means keep working with a client who is causing you constant fires. You are not a bad agency or person if you let go of toxicity; agree to stop working with poor clients in 2017.
Relax and maintain a work-life balance.
Agencies can be chaotic environments. Don't let your agency ruin you. This year, make a plan and commit to enjoying a work-life balance. Make a commitment to have early Fridays, implement Wednesday yoga or take that vacation you've been procrastinating. Whatever you do, make sure to take time out of your day to meditate or take care of yourself in some other matter that resonates with you. Because let's be honest, a happier you makes for a happier business.
As 2017 gets underway, remember that you don't have to do everything all at once. Instead, put together a plan to make 2017 your most profitable, stress-free, creative year yet.