Have you been in the marketing game for a while? Maybe working in the gig economy or working for a couple of clients? We bet you considered starting your own marketing agency at some point in your journey but found it overwhelming. Maybe you even started to plan for your own agency, but then “real life” took over, and you put it on the back burner or you had no idea how to accomplish the myriad of tasks necessary to get an agency off the ground. Well, we’re here with tips to get you started on the road.
It’s never been easier to start your own business and go it alone. Fight the fear, and use these tips on how to start your own marketing agency.
1. Market yourself first
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A good marketer has no issues with marketing a new product. A great marketer can also market themselves. Before you start your journey to creating your own marketing agency, you have to sell yourself.
Create a website, demonstrate your work, write a blog, create videos, or build an email list following. You need to convince prospective clients that you can market yourself and your business.
If you don’t have a wide portfolio of work, think about doing pro bono work for non-profits that generally need a lot of help marketing their causes. Not only does this help create a portfolio that demonstrates your ability and highlights your results, but it also helps support a charitable cause.
Ask firms you work with to provide reviews and recommend you to others in their network. Set up space for these reviews on your website and highlight them across social media, including the firm’s social media. With pro bono work, asking for these reviews gets more traction since you’re giving them something for free in exchange. Make sure, however, the reviews are honest by never asking for only positive reviews or suggesting wording for reviews. Such reviews actually damage your reputation when it becomes known the reviews were tainted.
Even though I have an established marketing agency with a proven track record, I still do a great deal of pro bono work because it’s the right thing to do. I also engage students with non-profits for all their class projects for the same reason.
2. Create a niche for yourself
As you go about building your own marketing, think about selecting a niche (a small, concentrated market segment) where you can really shine, preferably in an area where you have some expertise and/ or in a niche that’s not already crowded.
Everybody is a generalist which means you have a lot of competition. Instead, focus on what specifically you know and can market better than anyone else? It could be B2B SaaS software, IT security firms, hiking gear, or any other niche where you have expertise.
The more specific you get, the more attention you’ll receive from businesses within that niche, and the more likely you are to win new clients. Think about the areas of business where you have experience or specialized knowledge, including any that align with your own hobbies and try to stick to things where you have a strategic competitive advantage and where competition is low.
For my own marketing agency, I focus on companies needing data-driven marketing strategies because I’m an expert with analyzing metrics and market research. Companies who recognize the advantage accruing when data informs strategy not only value by expertise but also recognize the additional cost associated with this approach.
3. Create packages
Operating a marketing agency involves crafting custom proposals for prospective clients that package several services into a comprehensive plan to meet the client’s goals. Commonly, these packages include activities that require an hourly charge with others that charge a flat rate. I usually craft a proposal containing some necessary elements as well as additional elements that are recommended, but optional. Some activities are only done once, such as developing a custom marketing strategy, while others are completed as part of an ongoing marketing campaign.
Check out our own marketing agency page where we list some of the activities available for clients, as well as reviews and lists of prior clients.
Each package should clearly detail activities, how they help the client reach one or more goals, necessary resources (such as time, money, and information), and deliverables. Keep the prices fair and be transparent with the use of the money. Packages make your services feel easy to understand and demonstrate how they help the client reach their goals.
4. Start as a freelancer
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You don’t need much to get started with your new marketing agency. You could do it all with just your brain, laptop, comfy chair, internet connection, and decent business telephone systems.
That’s the beauty of modern technology. Running your own remote business is incredibly easy with the advances in communication and operations software. If you want a little more pizzaz for your work, add project management software, account tracking via one of the small business accounting options, a payment portal, such as PayPal, and ease collaboration with software like Slack.
To protect your assets, you should consider some type of incorporation, such as an LLC. You don’t have to go through an attorney as many online platforms can file all the paperwork for much less.
One of the best tools you’ll need is effective networking, whether online or in person. Most cities have Meetup groups that bring together like-minded folks and prospective clients. Join the ones that make the most sense. Consider joining groups that support small businesses, like yours, to learn and get encouragement from others like you.
Again, having a niche helps guide which groups make sense and make your networking more productive.
A few caveats regarding networking make sense here. These include:
- Don’t approach networking as a way to distribute business cards. Instead, focus on building meaningful connections.
- Networking isn’t a one-time event. Plan to attend the same group meetings on a routine basis to keep connections active and build new ones at each event.
- You shouldn’t spam attendees. We’ve all been to events where insurance agents or brokers only cared about selling you something. Treat networking events like any social event, with the exception that there’s a purpose behind the meeting. Get to know individuals both on a personal and professional basis.
- Observe group norms. Don’t try to dominate conversations as a newbie. Instead, use the first few meetings as a way to observe how others in the group interact then follow suit.
6. Track your results
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Once you have some clients in the bag, start tracking the performance of your work. This helps win new clients as you have concrete results to back your claims. Back up those results with testimonials to help win new business.
But, monitoring performance goes deeper than just selling new clients. Monitoring should be a part of every marketing package you put together and convince clients this is a must-have element. Not only do results demonstrate your ability to help the client reach their goals, but they also provide necessary input for improving performance moving forward.
7. Hire some help
There is only so much one person can do. At some point, you require some assistance, since you can’t be out winning new business, writing proposals, implementing marketing tactics, and monitoring performance. Yet, new employees are expensive not only in monetary terms, but they require more time to train, monitor performance, and manage all the paperwork associated with employees.
The key here is using freelancers for certain tasks. Recognize, you can’t outsource sales, but you can outsource many other aspects of your marketing agency, including hiring a virtual assistant to manage admin or handle your money. The downside of freelancers is you have less control over their activities, which may mean you don’t meet timelines or produce the quality your clients expect.
Again, networking helps here by building relationships with folks you can trust to perform tasks as you would if you had time. If you can’t find freelancers in your network, ensure appropriate performance by thoroughly checking references and establishing rules such as reduced payments for late or subpar performance.
Later on, when the business can afford it, you might consider hiring other marketers to complete the work for you. Your own marketing agency will only make real money when others do the work for you, and you simply manage and monitor their performance.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.