8 Tips To Grow Your Agency Fast

Growing an agency is rarely easy and more often than not it takes considerable time and effort to achieve any measurable growth. 

We need to find clients, offer them a service, achieve results and maintain these results as we bring on other clients. Then we’ll need a team to support these new clients and processes to manage the team. Did we mention getting paid? Because we’ll need that also.

Yes, growing an agency fast is tough, but if done right, it can be one of the most fulfilling and ultimately, financially rewarding. The good news is that to grow your agency we already know the challenges you will face. We’ve worked with clients just like you and walked in your shoes as agency owners ourselves. We won’t downplay the level of focus and activity you’ll need, but we’ve made many mistakes while implementing many of these tips ourselves so that you don’t have to.

The 8 tips to grow an agency faster are:

  1. Narrow your service offering
  2. Building your own brand
  3. Find strategic partners 
  4. Ask for referrals
  5. Hire slow, fire fast
  6. Build relationships 
  7. You are not the oracle
  8. Fire clients, you can’t grow with

Narrow your service offering

As agency owners, we increase our service offering to gain more of our client’s business. Being all things to all people sounds great on the face of it, but rarely does this translate to the outcome we expect.  

The Pareto principle states that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of causes. In agency life, we could therefore assume that 80% of our profit comes from 20% of our services. Conversely, 20% of the team does 80% of the work.

Of course, none of this is set in stone and will vary based on any number of factors, but generally speaking, the principle holds true across any input and output.

By narrowing our service offering and focusing our effort on those tasks that make the most sense, we can increase productivity, output and ultimately, profit. Besides these internal factors, specialising in a smaller more targeted area allows you to stand out against the crowd, become an expert in a specific area and charge more for your experience. 

Building your own brand

Many agency owners forgo their own brand-building to focus their attention squarely on their clients. It never ceases to amaze me how shy agency owners are about presenting their own brand in the manner they know they should. 

Building your brand helps right across your agency. 

  • Becoming an employer of choice
  • Increasing revenue per client
  • Finding more of the right type of clients

Shining a spotlight on our clients is all well and good, but to grow your agency fast, you need to become your own best customer first and foremost. A considered focus on building your own brand is core to ensuring that while you help build your client’s business, you do so for yourself.

By actively promoting your business, you’ll demonstrate expertise, market your services using best practices and in return, you will be able to communicate directly to your prospective clients.

Before anything else, being your own customer and having a continued focus on this, will help to increase the speed at which you grow.

Find strategic partners

Not every competitor is our competition.

We can’t do everything ourselves and our core competencies as a business are never exactly the same as those agencies we compete with. It took me longer than I care to admit to realise that some of our fiercest competition could and did become our best partners and our biggest advocates.

There are also complementary businesses who will happily refer their clients to you knowing you’ll look after them just as they did. 

And strategic partners aren’t just those who can send you business. Finding strategic partners that can support all of your business functions is key. They are people or organisations that help you to sustain and grow your agency. They could include your accountants, or even 3rd party developers or designers that boost your business capacity. 

Look for weaknesses in your business that could be supported by partners. Using their knowledge and experience build processes to seamlessly integrate their service with your outputs.

Ask for referrals

There’s a lot of debate in our industry about asking for referrals. But I can tell you that 100% that the process of regularly asking for referrals was part and parcel of the reason why our agency grew and ultimately was sold.

The argument I hear is from people with only one or two clients. How will doing this benefit me? Well, let’s think about it, if you have 2 clients and 1 of them refers another client, you’ve increased your customer base by 50%. 

Larger agency owners sometimes feel a little embarrassed by the process of asking for referrals. But I guarantee that you are proud of your work and if so, why wouldn’t you want this to be shared with another prospective client? 

I tell this story a lot, but we completed a branding project for the regional office of a national newspaper. I asked for a referral and they introduced me to a client of theirs. A racecourse. After working with them, their brand became incredibly well-known in this tight-knit community. Again I asked for a referral and in return was introduced to a much larger racecourse. One of the largest independents in Ireland. After both rebrands, each racecourse won the coveted racecourse of the year. I’ll admit our part in this was minuscule, but we played a part. Seeing our work there assisted us in the competitive tendering process for the national body for horseracing in Ireland. This became one of our largest customers over a period of 4 years.

Do great work, expect to be paid and ask your customers to refer you. You never know where it will take your business.

Hire slow, fire fast

In the pursuit of wanting to grow your agency fast, it can be tempting to throw resources at all the functions we need to increase capacity to meet our strategic objectives. This is the wrong course of action. I can tell you that from experience. Hiring slowly allows us to recruit the right people and onboard them fully, giving them the best chance of success in their roles. 

When you bring a new team member on, do you have a strict onboarding process to follow? Or do you wing it and leave them to find their own feet? Are you losing staff quickly? There’s probably a reason for that..

Never pick a hire because you’re desperate. Only because they’re the right person for the role.

I hope that every employee works out for our companies’ but sometimes it’s not us, it’s them. Whether it’s poor performance or other valid reasons for performance improvement, move at pace to get them back on track to work through the process of dismissal. Delaying this allows their behaviour to influence those around them and sometimes a poor performer becomes toxic. I used to hate letting people go, but a mentor once told me, it’s not us as owners firing the employee, it’s themselves. As long as you have given them the structure and opportunity to get better, it’s on them. 

Remember it’s just business.

Build relationships

Business is a series of relationships. And I’m not talking about your team being “family”, because I’ve said it and I meant it. But it’s a load of shit. Eventually, your team or you will leave the business and take it from me, the minute you or they leave the company, they are its past, not its future.

But with every interaction, every team member chat, every pitch or supplier meeting, this is your chance to build relationships with all stakeholders in your business. To scale your agency fast, you need the right relationships and they need to all serve the purpose of growing your agency. That sounds blunt, and I make no apologies for it. We do good business by supporting those relationships that help us grow. But if the relationship serves no positive business purpose then it’s your choice to maintain it. And that’s fine btw, as long as its a conscious decision.

You are not the oracle

The biggest bottleneck to scaling your agency unfortunately is you. As founders or owners, many of the decisions that affect the business fall at your feet. Many of the processes and systems that your agency uses are ones you have developed or implemented. It’s easy to become the oracle in your business because you have all the answers. 

As your business grows you need to remove yourself from this “role” and empower those around you to make decisions that affect your business. Creating an environment where making a decision is rewarded more than a reprimand for making the wrong one, is critical to fostering fail forward atmosphere. 

Fire clients you can’t grow with

Retaining a client is always easier than gaining new ones. A successful growth plan is always focused on retention and scaling existing clients first.

But sometimes you outgrow those clients who don’t grow with you. Either they expect historic rates or don’t move with the expanding services you offer. Or they are stuck in the original operational processes of your business and refuse to change. This is common.

While we will always have loyalty to those businesses who supported us in the past, at some point, the decision needs to be made to fire them, freeing up resources to scale the agency further.

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