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How Agencies Can Embrace Change in Order to Grow}

How Agencies Can Embrace Change in Order to Grow

Updated 31 January 2024

We welcome back business growth coach, Chris Simmance, to get his insights into how agencies can embrace change in order to grow. 

As someone who spends hundreds, if not thousands of hours a year talking with digital agency owners, to me, it's clear that agencies are not just in a race for visibility and longevity but are also on a mission to deepen the value they bring to their clients. 

Growth in this sector isn't merely a numbers game – it's about meaningful expansion, enhancing your service offering in a way that positions you as an indispensable ally in your clients' pursuit of success.

Today we're going on a journey…You can bring your coffee, don’t worry! We’re journeying through the art of scaling your agency whilst significantly elevating the value you offer your clients. It is an art, because if you do it right, it’s BEAUTIFUL…

This is about strategic, intelligent growth – the kind that transforms your agency from a mere service provider muddling through the day-to-day of business ownership to a crucial partner in your clients' triumphs. 

Whether you're steering a fledgling SEO enterprise or at the forefront of a seasoned digital marketing powerhouse, the insights and tactics we will discuss are crafted to navigate the nuances of scaling effectively and maximizing value for your clients.

Understanding the unique hurdles and prospects in agency growth, and balancing innovation, quality, and client-focused solutions, your agency can do more than just survive in the competitive digital marketing landscape. It can flourish. 

So grab the coffee, say goodbye to the cat and let's embark on this exploration of strategic scaling and client value amplification, where real success is gauged not just in figures, but in the profound and lasting impact you imprint on your clients' business odysseys… oh and make sure you don’t leave the oven on, you might be a while.


The current challenges and opportunities

Digital marketing agencies today face a multitude of challenges. Genuinely, it’s never been more complicated. Just as a starting point, market crowding and tech pushing the perception of value down while competition increases is a nightmare. Client expectation management is getting tougher and simply keeping up with change whilst running a business, just like any other, is like a tightrope act…on fire…with knives to juggle…that are also on fire.

However, in challenge lies opportunity. In chaos lies creation. For instance, the constant evolution of digital platforms opens up new avenues for innovative marketing strategies. Being able to move service results faster, with less resources and more rewards. There's also an increasing demand for specialized services, as usually traditional businesses become more aware of the benefits of targeted digital marketing strategies.

The importance of differentiation and niche specialization

(In an American accent) “The riches are in the niches”

In a market teeming with competitors, differentiation is key. Agencies need to carve out a unique space for themselves. This can be achieved through niche specialization – focusing on a specific industry or type of service – which not only sets an agency apart but also enables the development of deep expertise. 

By becoming authorities in a particular niche, agencies can offer unparalleled value to their clients, which is critical in retaining them and attracting new ones. 

If you’re more specialized in a service or a sector, EVERYTHING gets easier:

  • Marketing is more clear.
  • Proposals speak their language.
  • Processes fit their needs.
  • Reporting speaks their language.
  • Seasonality becomes more routine.
  • Churn declines.
  • Referrals increase.

Need more convincing?

A differentiator is absolutely not what many agencies are using right now. If your website or pitch decks say anything like the following, seek immediate help from a professional… The OMG Center maybe... 😂

  • We’re an extension of your team.
    • If they wanted that, they’d be hiring internally
  • We’re results driven.
    • As you should be, or you’d not keep the client
  • We’re strategically led.
    • Bare minimum expectation if you want to sell these services
  • We’re data driven.
    • Oh, damn, I was hoping for some Druidic divining rod to inform my digital marketing

Embracing change and innovation

The only constant in life is change. 

The successful agencies are those that not only keep up with this change but also anticipate and leverage it to their advantage. This requires a culture of continuous learning and innovation. 

Agencies should invest in training and development, stay updated with the latest tools and technologies, and encourage a culture where creative thinking and experimentation are valued.

“That sounds great and all Chris but HOW do I juggle all of these things and keep the business running?...”

…read on my friends.

The absolute beginning – where do I start?

The first step in a massive change is always daunting, particularly when you're accustomed to working in the business, deeply involved in day-to-day operations. The transition to working on the business – focusing on strategic growth and leadership – is a crucial pivot point. 

Here’s where I usually advise people to start:

Draw your organization chart: identify roles & responsibilities

The very first step is to create a comprehensive organizational chart for your agency. 

This chart should detail every role that exists within your business, regardless of its size. Start by listing all the functions and responsibilities that keep your agency running – from client services, marketing, finance, to human resources.

There should be “bums on seats for each of the below ‘departments’”:

  1. Finance
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Ops
  5. Delivery
  6. People/HR

The key here is to assign names to these roles. Initially, you may find that your name appears against multiple roles, probably lots and lots, especially if you're a small agency. This exercise visually represents the workload distribution and pinpoints the areas where you, as the leader, are deeply entrenched in operational tasks.

Take yourself into a room, alone, and do this on paper first. 

Understanding the leader’s role: The need to delegate

The organizational chart often reveals a critical insight – I would put money on the fact that you are swamped with tasks that could be delegated, but it takes time and brainpower to properly delegate so you rarely do. 

This is the first blocker in the path to scaling and I see it every day. As a leader, your role should gradually evolve to focus on leadership and strategic growth, rather than being bogged down by day-to-day tasks.

Planning for role transition and delegation

Once you have a clear picture of your current involvement in various roles, the next step is to plan for a transition. This involves:

  • Identifying key roles for delegation: Look at the organizational chart and identify which roles you can delegate to other team members. These might be roles that don’t necessarily require your expertise or roles that can be managed effectively by other competent staff. You might need to hire internally, externally or outsource.
  • Developing a timeline for delegation: Delegation is not an overnight process. It requires planning and gradual implementation. Develop a realistic timeline for transferring these responsibilities. This timeline should align with the training of staff members who will take over these roles and the hiring of new talent if required.
  • Financial planning for scaling: Delegating roles often means hiring new staff or investing in training for existing employees. This has financial implications. Your organizational chart and delegation plan should, therefore, inform your financial planning. Assess how this shift impacts your budget and cash flow, and plan accordingly. 
  • Guiding the pace of change: The process of moving from working in the business to working on the business determines the pace of scaling. Too rapid a transition can be disruptive, while too slow a pace can hinder growth. Use your organizational chart as a tool to guide this change effectively.
  • Decision making and leadership: With operational tasks being delegated, you can focus on strategic decision-making and leadership. This shift allows you to steer the agency towards growth, innovation, and scaling.

So… the absolute beginning of scaling your agency starts with understanding the current distribution of roles and responsibilities. Creating an organizational chart is a practical and eye-opening exercise that sets the stage for effective future delegation, informed financial planning, and a strategic approach to leadership. 

This foundational step is vital in transforming you from an operator within the business to a visionary leader working on the business.

Catch up with Chris next time, when he reveals the blueprint for scaling your agency: How to scale your agency & add value to clients. In the meantime, discover why Sitebulb is a favourite SEO audit tool for agencies

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Chris Simmance

Chris is the founder of The OMG Center, a digital agency accelerator business. With 10 years of leadership experience, Chris knows how to get things done. He's worked with clients across all levels and has been exposed to multiple layers in order for him to help you reach your goals as quickly or slowly as is right for YOU!

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