How to Build a Marketing Firm from Scratch: Success in Your Own Business

build a marketing firm
build a marketing firm
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Are you an experienced marketer with a passion for promotion, product branding, or logistics? Do you also happen to have an entrepreneurial streak coursing through your veins and always dreamed of being your own boss? If so, think you can build a marketing firm of your very own? Facing the challenge of owning any type of small business isn’t for the faint of heart. If you devote enough time and effort to this endeavor and have a little luck along the way, you’ll find great rewards from your efforts to build a marketing firm.

To ensure your first business-owning venture doesn’t end in tears, financial strain, and failure, pay careful attention to following advice. Here’s how to build a marketing firm from scratch:

Write a business plan

The first thing you must do in your bid to build a marketing firm from scratch is to write a business plan based on thorough research and one that considers the variety of internal and external factors that impact the decision-making and ultimate success of your venture.

Sure, we’ve all heard tales of hugely successful businesses build with no business plan or something scratched on the back of a cocktail napkin, but those are the exceptions. The rule is that success in any business, large or small, nascent or well-established, is careful, thoughtful, and thorough planning.

With this strategy at hand, you have guidance as you face the hard decisions involved in running your business as well as the right metrics to track your success (or suggest when it’s time to change tactics). In turn, your plan helps you remain on track with regard to achieving your overarching goals and aspirations as you build a marketing firm, or any business, for that matter.

When writing your business plan, the following are essential elements:

  • Both your short and long-term goals
  • Future financial forecast based on burn-rate, receivable, and startup cash. More businesses fail due to poor cash flow than fail because they don’t make sales
  • Projections for staffing and other resources as well as plans for either acquisition or rental that help stretch your money. For instance, renting an office, while often more expensive in the short-run, allows you to spend the big downpayment required to own an office in other ways. The same goes for using freelancers or outsourcing staff with third-parties rather than hiring full-time staff.
  • Plans for finding and delivering to customers
  • Your target audience’s buyer persona and details on how you plan on reaching them

Obtain funding

Hold your horses — you’re not ready to start rolling out your services just yet! Before you start focussing on getting your business going, you must get your finances in order. Before you do anything else, it’s essential you build a solid financial foundation for your marketing firm by obtaining the funding necessary to cover startup costs and several months of operating expenses. Since the sales cycle for professional services, like marketing, tend to be longer than for products and consumer services, you might plan for 6-12 months of operating expenses in your startup.

As you build a marketing firm, think about ways to bootstrap your efforts, such as renting or borrowing until you have income. You might also rely on your home as office space initially and use your personal vehicle, cellphone, and office equipment to keep costs down. You might put expenses on your personal credit card or cash in your 401K. Finally, seek funding from family and friends, joint ventures with colleagues who have skills necessary for your new business who contribute labor in exchange for equity rather than cash, and anything else you can tap into to meet the financial demands of your new venture.

But, in many cases there’s a limit to bootstrapping and your own financing options, so you must find outside funding. Making a small business loan application is never a straightforward task; that much is certain. Some lenders won’t wish to inherit the risks associated with your untried and untested startup, which is why you might struggle to obtain funding during the earliest days of your firm’s operations.

Fortunately, this is where Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are helpful. Funded through the US government, the SBA guarantees your loan, making commercial lenders much less concerned about your ability to repay the loan and, thus, more willing to approve funding.

Here are just a few benefits you stand to reap if you take out an SBA loan:

  • Low interest and down payment rates
  • Capital availability
  • Long repayment terms
  • Flexibility of use

Are you worried that you won’t have enough time in your busy schedule to go through the extensive loan application process? If so, you should seriously consider taking out SBA loans from Become. This clearinghouse allows you to compare offers from multiple different lenders, it helps you determine whether you meet the necessary loan requirements (even though the loans are from the government, you still need to provide proof of concept, sound financial opportunities, and collateral), and it points you in the right direction with regard to the type of SBA loan that’s right given your situation. With this comprehensive level of support on your side, you apply for your loan of choice without as much stress or hassle.

Hone in on your niche

Regardless of the type of business you invasion, you need a niche (or target marketing) with specific problems you solve and you must hone in on your own specific niche. Trying to appeal to everyone with a generic service is a recipe for failure, especially as a small business. Instead, find a group of potential clients who have a problem not solved by your competitors. For instance, small businesses don’t have access to marketing services from large firms as their marketing spend is below the threshold required to retain a big firm. These businesses are ripe for a marketing firm focused on these forgotten clients. Or, maybe your area features firms in a specific product-market. You might target these clients with specific programs for their niche or create products that share marketing costs across firms in the niche, like industry trade shows.

When you hone in on your niche, be sure to:

  • Identify what interests and impassions you, as well as craft an objective assessment of your skills. These factors impact the appropriate niche for your new business.
  • Find out what problems your audience members experience, especially those not addressed by competitors
  • Take a look at what your competitors do and how you can surpass their performance.
  • Determine the long-term profitability of your chosen niche. If the niche is contracting, it probably doesn’t qualify as one worth your efforts.
  • Test your idea before you jump in with both feet.

Emphasize lead-generation

Understand the nature of a marketing business. As mentioned earlier, professional services often involve long sales cycles. Clients don’t just jump into a contract for you to marketing their business without careful thought and demonstrations of your performance with other clients. Thus, emphasize lead-generation right from the start, rather than expecting sales to just fall in your lap. To establish an effective process when it comes to generating leads and ultimately converting customers, you must:

  • Find out where your target audience spends most of their time on the web and offline.
  • Create content of interest to your target marketing across a variety of marketing channels, then distribute the content across your various online platforms.
  • Develop a process for lead nurturing built on the conversion funnel. Each step in the process requires specific content and messaging designed to drive leads to the next level. You need a process that’s consistent and sustained.
  • Score each lead and focus marketing efforts on your highest scoring leads, since you likely don’t have enough resources for every lead. That means high-scoring leads get specific messaging and contact, such as from a dedicated salesforce, while low-scoring leads might get regular email messages.
  • Establish how high-scoring leads prefer contact so you’re not oversharing with them.
  • Take some time to evaluate your lead-generation process on a regular basis and make changes to optimize the process.

Start networking

In addition to generating leads online, you should spend time meeting and schmoozing potential and existing clients in the physical realm. Networking provides an opportunity to advertise your business face-to-face in a non-promotional way. By engaging prospective clients in community activities, you gain top of mind status when they need your services, as well as providing opportunities to share more about your services and expertise.

Don’t worry; this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend every weekend conferencing. There are a plethora of ways for you to network with both prospective clients and contemporaries in your field. Here are just a few of the options you have available for networking:

  • Attend industry trade shows and events
  • Communicate with fellow professionals and prospects via LinkedIn
  • Post content on relevant forums in your field, including new options for LinkedIn Live
  • Reach out to people via social media

Do you dream of owning a market-leading marketing corporation? If you want to realize your dreams and reach your full potential, it’s essential that you put all of the above advice into practice. Write out a business plan, obtain funding, hone in on your niche, generate leads, and start networking to give your marketing firm every opportunity for success.

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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.