Joana Inch, cofounder and head of digital at Hat Media.
Money

How Outsourcing Can Scale Your Marketing Agency To 7 Digits

Growing a business, to some degree, means letting go. As you scale your agency, you begin to realize that taking on all of the work yourself can actually devastate your efficiency and ability to complete projects on time. That’s where outsourcing enters the equation.

With the right external partner, you can achieve potentially rapid growth even as you acquire new clients and work. New marketing campaigns, websites, or apps to be created become more streamlined, following established processes without burdening your staff or dragging your own marketing and client acquisitions down.

Take a look at most of the common problems marketing agencies face today:

  • 60 percent struggle to attract and convert new clients
  • 43 percent don’t have enough time to focus on their internal administrative tasks
  • 34 percent fail to achieve desired profitability
  • 23 percent don’t consistently hit clients’ goals and expectations
  • 16 percent struggle to keep existing clients

Outsourcing is not a magic solution, but it does touch on each of these challenges in a variety of ways. From convincing new clients to partner with you to retaining your existing partners and improving your administrative operations, you can increase efficiencies to sustain and grow your agency.

Of course, it’s not as simple as getting a few freelance writers or coders and hoping for the best. Instead, you need to approach the process strategically. This outline will help you understand how you can outsource the right way to scale your agency to seven digits and achieve sustainable growth.

1) Expand Your Focus on Existing Clients

As in all other industries, profitability has to start with retention. Your existing clients are your most significant opportunity to build revenue. You’ve already spent acquisition costs; now is the time to convert that into a significant return.

According to one study, a 5 percent increase in retention for your current clients will yield a 25 percent increase in revenues. That makes sense, considering you spend less to retain than to acquire, and investments in your agency tend to increase over time.

Unfortunately, too many agencies are limited by their own capabilities in their efforts to keep current clients engaged. Two questions can help you determine whether you need to outsource, and how to do it right.

What Marketing Services Do Your Clients Truly Need?

2018 survey of CMOs found a wide range of service companies across industries tend to outsource:

  • 43 percent outsource programmatic ad buying
  • 36 percent outsource all advertising efforts
  • 28 percent outsource market research and insights
  • 28 percent outsource creative services and design
  • 28 percent outsource corporate communications and PR
  • 14 percent outsource strategic branding
  • 13 percent outsource data and analytics efforts
  • 10 percent outsource social media marketing

That doesn’t even consider web and app development, which a vast majority of companies develop externally. One survey found that 68 percent of global companies have at least considered outsourcing the build of a new website.

Take another look at the services above. Which of these do you offer? And, just as importantly, which of these do your clients need that might present a missed opportunity?

Offering services that your clients are looking for is the ideal way to get more work and build more revenue. If you don’t have the in-house capabilities to accomplish that task, work with a white-label agency you trust to get them done. You don’t have to do the groundwork, but retain a good chunk of the resulting revenue.

How Can You Find the Holes in Your Clients’ Marketing Efforts?

Following the above list assumes that your clients already know exactly what they need. Any agency manager knows just how rarely that is the case. They’re coming to you for help; can you expect them to already have the answers on their marketing needs?

The answer, most likely, is a clear no. That means it’s on you to find the holes in their current efforts and strategy. Chances are they will be receptive — as long as you approach this topic the right way.

Some of the most successful marketing agencies make their business through campaign audits. For a set price, they offer a thorough review of current initiatives, and how those match up to both audience and competition.

As a result of this effort, you may find some of the above-mentioned holes. It might be an outdated website, no email follow-up to new leads, or the lack of a social media strategy. You can now use that information to offer your own services to build out the larger strategy.

Again, this initiative can only be successful if you can actually offer the services your clients are lacking. Don’t limit yourself to an audit that doesn’t lead to a solution you can manage. Instead, work with a firm that helps you accomplish your clients’ marketing initiatives in a comprehensive way.

2) Improve Your New Client Acquisition Strategy

The statistics are clear: attracting new clients is the single biggest challenges marketing agencies face today. That makes sense, considering the crowded environment of more than 13,000 agencies vying for new clients. Not surprisingly, 55 percent of agencies surveyed by the 2018 Agency Growth Report consider a lack of new sales to be their biggest obstacle for scaling up.

Outsourcing some of the services you offer is not the magical solve-all to gain new clients. It can, however, play a core role in building and improving the credibility and range of services you offer potential marketing partners.

Are You Pitching True Marketing Solutions?

The pitch is the most crucial part in gaining new clients. How good is yours? Or, more specifically, how well are you convincing potential clients that a partnership with your agency doesn’t just add some marketing services to their repertoire, but actually provides real marketing solutions?

Every good pitch has to include three focus areas:

  1. The why — what makes marketing in general, and working with you in particular, so important to the client’s success?
  2. The core value — what can you offer that is different and unique compared to the thousands of other agencies vying for new clients?
  3. The solution — how can the services you offer lead to tangible marketing improvements for the potential client?

Again, think about the potential that comes with outsourcing. By building a fuller suite or services that you don’t have to hire in-house, you can move closer towards offering comprehensive marketing services that help your new clients improve and grow their business over time. You also set yourself apart from your competition through a more comprehensive service offering than most agencies your size.

How Well Are You Marketing Your Own Business?

If you are like most other agencies, referrals are your top source of new client acquisition. Satisfied customers tend to set into motion a chain that leads to personal recommendations and new business over time. But that stream, reliable as it may be, is no longer enough.

According to Ad Week, referrals have declined from 92 percent to 64 percent as a source of new business for marketing agencies. Just 10 years ago, the average agency got nine out of ten clients from this source. Today, it’s less than two thirds.

Yes, that’s still the majority of clients. But it also highlights the need to diversify. There’s a reason 63 percent of agencies named lead generation as their top growth challenge in one recent survey. If you don’t have a comprehensive client acquisition strategy in place, you will struggle to grow.

And yet, most of your staff is probably focused on building marketing strategies for your clients, and rightfully so. What if you could outsource some of their work, so they can dedicate some of their time on helping your agency grow? Through strategic outsourcing, your internal marketers can focus on what they do best, for your benefit.

Can You Build Your Profile As A Key Person Of Influence?

In growing your business through new client acquisition, you have to keep the factors your potential partners look for in mind. Experience and credibility are consistently among the top variables brands use to pick an agency partner. Your effort in getting that expertise and credibility across is crucial.

One opportunity to stand apart: become a key person of influence. Create content that adds value to your target audience, focusing around buyer personas to find and answer key pain points and needs. Over time, key leaders within your agency will become thought leaders in various specific areas.

Once they internalize your credibility, potential clients will naturally want to work with you. Use the time freed up through outsourcing to go through and optimize your own social media presence, and begin to build a content calendar for blog articles and social posts designed to showcase your expertise.

3) Increase Efficiencies Of Internal Administrative Tasks

Almost half of all agencies struggle with time to complete their administrative tasks. The potential consequences can be devastating:

  • You might undercharge for your services, leaving significant revenue on the table.
  • You overwork your staff, leading to burnouts and a loss in both efficiency and top talent.
  • You might underwork your staff because you don’t have an overview of the work done on an average day.
  • You can’t track the out of scope work you’re performing for clients, leading to missed revenue opportunities.

A service level agreement can help you begin to get a handle on these issues. It ensures that you are tracking and charging for all the work you are doing, keeping track of anything that goes beyond scope. Ideally, though, your work to optimize your internal administrative tasks doesn’t end there.

Do You Have the Right Tech In Place To Maximize Efficiency?

Outsourcing doesn’t just have to be about human resources. Sure, experts to help you build website, conduct better analytics and more can help. The right technology, though, can be just as crucial.

The right tech helps your staff automate most of their repetitive work. It helps them focus on building strategies, thinking up creative ideas and collaborating better. Perhaps most importantly, it helps you create better client communication for more efficient, successful relationships.

You likely already use some platforms to help you automate your tasks. Consider thinking outside the box. For instance, an accounting software, set up as an SaaS solution, can help you track your invoices and free up your staff to use its budget expertise for marketing campaigns.

Client communication is just as important. Have you considered extending a task management software like Asana to your partners for better campaign tracking? Find and don’t be afraid to outsource the solutions you need to maximize organizational efficiencies.

How Well Are You Managing Your Overhead?

The average marketing agency overhead is 30 percent. That range can vary widely based on your costing and revenue model, but it will likely be a massive chunk. Think about it: almost one third of all revenue goes towards nothing directly related to generating revenue.

Now, imagine performing the same type of services, but without the overhead. With the right partner, that’s exactly what outsourcing can provide. A freelancer or external company who helps you accomplish marketing tasks for your clients will not need payment for:

  • Wages
  • Superannuation
  • Taxes
  • Annual Leave
  • Benefits
  • And more.

Typically, you only pay a small retainer, plus the fees for the work performed on your behalf. That means a lower overhead for your services as a whole, and a larger portion of your revenue going directly towards profitability. 

Outsourcing To Scale Your Agency — The Right Way

Scaling your agency for consistent growth is a complex undertaking. It takes far more than just a few simple steps that provide the magic formula. It can, however, boil down to some strategic moves that improve your chances of growth and profitability.

Outsourcing some of your services plays a part in that equation. It helps you do a better job in retaining existing clients, attracting new clients, and even improving your internal operations. Done the right way, you extend the capabilities and potential of your agency without a massive hiring spree.

Of course, you have to get it right. In essence, you have to trust your outsourcing partner to provide the same level of work and service as you would. Your clients should never know the difference between work done by your internal team and your hired help.

That, in turn, requires both strategic selection of the right partner and an ongoing effort to improve communications and integrations. Get in touch with me to learn about potential outsourcing capabilities. Let’s work together to increase your potential and allow your agency to grow.

Joana Inch enables agency owners to scale at large, get some free time back into their busy lives and focus on what they do best. As the Cofounder and Head of Digital at Hat Media —a white-label marketing agency that specializes in content creation and marketing automation, she understands the ins and outs of business and marketing and is passionate about allowing agency founders to move past the hamster wheel and find success in their endeavours. Joana has been in the industry for 15+ years, has been an owner for 10 of those years and comes from a digital media, search and strategy background. She excels in big picture thinking, cutting through the noise and delivering campaigns on time and in budget.

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