7 Easy Steps To Scale Your Agency

Table of Contents

Assess Your Current Agency Operations and Capabilities

Assess Your Current Agency Operations and Capabilities

Before scaling your agency, it’s crucial to thoroughly evaluate your current operations, resources, workflows and capabilities. This assessment will reveal areas of strength to build upon, as well as any weaknesses, bottlenecks or gaps that need to be addressed.

Start by looking at your existing client base and service offerings. Review the types of clients you work with, the services and deliverables you provide, and your pricing structure. Consider if there are any commonalities across your best and most profitable client relationships that can inform future growth decisions.

Next, examine your processes and workflows end-to-end for both client work and internal operations. Look for any redundant or manual steps that could be automated or optimized. Identify parts of the workflow that become strained when your agency takes on more work. Document your current workflows so you have a baseline to improve upon.

Audit your human resources and talent capabilities. Review the background, skills and utilization rate for each team member. Determine if you have key roles adequately staffed to handle more clients. Identify any skill gaps you need to fill in order to offer new services. Understanding your current team’s strengths and limitations will allow you to scale up thoughtfully.

In addition, you will want to assess your own finance, leadership, and communication skills.  If you’ve never scaled a marketing agency beyond the level that you’re currently at then most likely there will be skills that you need to develop within yourself.  The agency can only grow to the level that you’re capable of leading it so you have to become the leader that can run a $5M, $10M, or $50M agency before you’ll reach that level. 

Take stock of your current technology stack and tools. Determine if they will continue to meet your needs as you scale, or if upgrades or new systems are required. Look for ways to integrate systems and automate manual processes. The right technology foundation will enable growth rather than hinder it.

Conduct an objective analysis of your agency’s strengths and weaknesses across all of these operational areas. The insights gained will tell you where to focus your efforts as you put plans in place to scale up your agency. Address pain points first before reaching for rapid growth.

Define Your Agency's Growth Goals and Vision

Define Your Agency's Growth Goals and Vision

Setting clear growth goals and defining a vision for the future are crucial first steps when looking to scale your agency. This involves determining specific targets around revenue, profit, number of clients, team size, and other key metrics.

Think carefully about the path and pace you want to scale. Do you want to pursue aggressive, high-growth scaling quickly? Or take a more conservative approach to expand steadily over time? There are merits to both strategies – faster growth can help you seize opportunities but also brings risks if not managed carefully. Slower growth may provide more stability but miss out on potential.

Define milestones over the next 1-3 years for client numbers, revenue, team size, services offered, and geographic reach. Using a Pro Forma is a perfect tool to map out your next 3 years and you can see all the budgets, marketing and sales goals, and even the personnel and their salaries that you need to account for.  If you’ve never put one of these together before it can be a bit daunting, especially if you aren’t great with Excel, but once you master this tool it’ll become your agency’s secret weapon for navigating growth.

You’ll also want to look further ahead to paint your vision for where you want the agency to be in 5-10 years. This long-term planning will guide decisions on if, when, and how to scale various parts of the business.

Having clear goals and a vision equips you to make strategic choices on scaling, while assessing progress and adjusting course as needed. It also helps communicate priorities and rally your team around a shared mission. So take the time upfront to chart your growth trajectory.

Build Out Your Business Leadership Team

Build Out Your Business Leadership Team

As your agency grows, you’ll need to build out your leadership team and delegate more tasks to managers. This frees you up to focus on higher-level strategy and vision.

First, identify management gaps and roles you need support on. You will certainly need a VP of Operations to oversee fulfillment, project managers to coordinate the execution of campaigns and other deliverables, a Customer Experience Manager to control churn, an HR manager for hiring and training,, a finance manager to control the money, and a Marketing and Sales Director to ensure that we are generating new leads for the agency and converting those leads into paying customers.

Define clear responsibilities for each management role. Avoid micromanaging by fully empowering your managers to make decisions within their domains.

Look to promote from within your existing team first. Internal candidates already understand your agency’s culture and strengths. However, be open to external hires as well, especially for specialized skills.

Interview thoroughly and hire slowly. Management hires are critical, so take the time to find people with the right experience, work ethic, leadership potential and cultural fit.  You must make sure that every manager in your agency embodies every single one of your core values and that they will treat the company money as if it’s their own.  

Onboard new managers thoroughly. Set clear expectations and give them the tools and training needed to excel in their roles. Check in regularly at first to ensure they are ramping up effectively.

Delegate as much day-to-day decision making and operations as possible to your management team. This allows you to focus on higher-level strategy, vision-casting, business development and long-term growth initiatives. This can be very challenging for agency owners who can’t seem to let go, but without proper delegation skills your agency will never reach its full potential and you’ll always be the bottleneck that holds the company back. 

However, with an empowered leadership team in place, you’ll gain tremendous leverage to scale your agency faster and more strategically. But you need the right systems and constant communication to keep everyone aligned.

Scaling Your Agency Requires You To Create Efficient Systems and Processes

Scaling Your Agency Requires You To Create Efficient Systems and Processes

As your agency grows, it’s crucial to create efficient systems and processes to streamline workflows and improve productivity. This allows your team to scale smoothly while maintaining quality and consistency.

Some tips for creating efficient systems:

  • Streamline workflows to improve productivity – Analyze current workflows and identify any bottlenecks or redundancies. Look for ways to simplify processes and eliminate unnecessary steps. Document new, optimized workflows. Use process mapping to visually identify problem areas and then reverse engineer how to fix them.
  • Implement project management systems – A project management system centralizes key information and processes for teams. Popular options like ClickUp, Asana, Trello, and Basecamp improve task management, collaboration, and visibility across projects. Set up a system and train your team on using it properly.
  • Standardize processes – Identify your agency’s core processes for client onboarding, creative development, approvals, etc. Then create standardized procedures, templates, and checklists to unify workflows across teams and clients. This boosts consistency and efficiency.
  • Automate where possible – Look for opportunities to automate repetitive, manual processes through tools like Zapier. This could include data entry, client communications, follow-ups, reporting, and more.
  • Improve knowledge sharing – Make it easy for employees to access documentation on internal processes and past work. Maintain organized project files and wikis. Enable seamless sharing and collaboration.
  • Analyze and optimize – Continuously review your processes and systems. Identify pain points through employee feedback. Refine them to boost productivity as your agency evolves.

Efficient systems and processes empower your team to get more done in less time. They ensure work is higher quality and consistent as you scale your agency. Streamlining operations is key for supporting sustainable growth.

Scaling Also Requires you to Invest in the Right Technologies and Tools

As your agency scales, you’ll need to rely more heavily on software, systems and tools to automate tasks and streamline workflows. This will allow your team to work more efficiently as you take on more clients and projects. Consider investing in the following types of solutions:

Project Management Software

Robust project management software like ClickUp, Asana, Trello or Jira can help you organize tasks, track progress and facilitate communication across your growing team and multiple clients. Look for a platform that’s flexible, intuitive and has robust reporting capabilities. Make sure that whatever project management software you use has time tracking capabilities or integrations so you can track profitability by project, client, and product. 

CRM Platform

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Zoho, Salesforce, or HubSpot allows you to manage leads, contacts and accounts in one place. CRMs help you track your sales pipeline and client interactions. As your agency expands, you’ll need this centralized view of your business relationships.

Accounting & Invoicing Software

Solutions like QuickBooks or FreshBooks provide invoicing, time tracking, reporting and accounting capabilities to help manage your agency’s finances. Opt for cloud-based services that can scale with your agency over time.

Collaboration Platforms

Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace enable efficient communication and file sharing across distributed teams. As you bring on more employees, these platforms will become essential.

Automated Workflows

Leverage automation tools like Zapier to connect your apps and automatically trigger actions between platforms. For example, you can create workflows to add new client info from a CRM into your project management system.

The key is choosing scalable technology that streamlines processes, provides visibility and enables collaboration. Investing in the right tools will maximize productivity as your agency grows.

Expand Your Services Strategically

Expand Your Services Strategically

As your agency grows, you’ll likely find opportunities to expand your service offerings strategically. Identifying new services based on client demand and diversifying revenue streams are key.

Start by looking at gaps in your current services and capabilities. Your Customer Experience and Account Management teams must communicate with clients consistently and they need to recognize if the clients are asking for new service offerings or products.  This is the best line of defense for product development because your existing clients will tell you what they want out of the next version of your product. Then just look for ways to compliment your core competencies with new services.

Some options to consider:

  • If you offer web design, add web development or SEO services.
  • If you provide graphic design, expand into branding, packaging design or marketing collateral.
  • If you focus on social media, add paid social media advertising or influencer marketing.
  • If you’re a PR agency, provide media training or crisis management services.
  • If you do web development, offer maintenance and support packages.

Diversify revenue streams by adding services that appeal to new types of clients in different industries. This spreads risk instead of relying on just one or two service offerings.

When adding new services:

  • Start small with a pilot to test demand before fully launching.
  • Hire specialists or train existing staff.
  • Market the services separately to find the right customers.
  • Analyze profitability and refine the offerings.

Expanding thoughtfully into new but related services allows you to provide greater value to clients. This can fuel an agency’s growth dramatically when done right.

Hire More Strategically

As your agency grows, it’s crucial to hire strategically and intentionally to support scaling. Rather than hiring reactively as new business comes in, take a proactive approach:

Assess Role Needs and Hire Accordingly

Conduct a quarterly or bi-annual analysis of your current team strengths and gaps. Using your Pro Forma, you can look ahead at projected growth and determine what roles you’ll need to add over the next 6-12 months. Some key roles may include:

  • Project managers to oversee client work
  • Designers and developers to take on more projects
  • Sales and marketing to drive lead generation
  • Finance and HR to support operations
  • Customer Experience reps or Account Managers to manage client relationships. 

Create detailed job descriptions outlining responsibilities and required skills and experience for each role. Be selective in your hiring process – it’s better to wait to find the right fit rather than rushing to fill seats.

Onboard and Train New Hires Thoroughly

Have a structured onboarding program to get new team members up to speed quickly. Assign a mentor to guide them through systems, processes, tools, and work culture. Provide training on your services, methodologies, and best practices. Set clear expectations and offer ongoing coaching to support their growth and development.  A proper training program should get your new hires to 80% of their full autonomy withing the first 90 days. 

Investing the time upfront to hire strategically and integrate new employees effectively will pay off exponentially as your agency scales. The right hires will propel your growth rather than hold you back.

Refine Your Sales and Marketing

As your agency scales, it’s crucial to refine your sales and marketing to drive growth in a sustainable way. Focus your efforts on results-driven marketing activities that deliver ROI.

Focus on Results-Driven Marketing

Rather than vanity metrics like likes and shares, obsess over marketing activities that directly generate leads and customers. Track conversions at every stage to see what’s working. Experiment with different channels and campaigns to determine the most cost-effective sources of profitable business.

Content marketing, SEO, PPC, and targeted email campaigns should be optimized around generating and nurturing high-quality leads. Make data-driven decisions to double down on what converts.

Also develop strong relationships with influencers and organizations in your industry.  Digital marketing has developed a terrible reputation over the past 10 years so building trust with prospects is slow, uphill battle.  By developing relationships with key influencers, you’ll be able to gain the trust of people in your industry much quicker and your conversion rates for all your marketing will increase. 

Nurture Leads and Automate Outreach

Set up lead scoring and nurturing sequences to automatically contact prospects over time. This takes the burden off sales to manually reach out to every new lead.

Automated emails that provide valuable content to leads can increase conversion rates significantly. Track open and clickthrough rates to see what content resonates.

Similarly, look to marketing automation and CRM tools to identify hot leads and pass them to sales at the right time. This coordination will ensure no leads slip through the cracks.

The key is developing scalable and repeatable marketing processes. This will let your agency grow revenue predictably and efficiently.

Consider New Location(s) or Going Remote

Consider New Location(s) or Going Remote

As your agency grows, you may find your current office space is no longer sufficient. Opening additional locations or going fully remote are options to consider.

Weigh Pros and Cons of New Office(s)

Adding a new office location has advantages and disadvantages to weigh.

Pros of a new office:

  • Gain access to local client markets and local talent pools
  • Additional space for your growing team
  • Establish presence in an important business hub

Cons to consider:

  • Significant upfront investment and ongoing costs
  • Logistical challenges of managing multiple offices
  • Potential culture fragmentation across locations

Carefully project costs, hiring needs, and client demand at a new location. Ensure the opportunity aligns with your strategic vision before making major investments.

Evaluate Feasibility of Remote Work

Many agencies are exploring a fully remote working model. This provides benefits like:

  • Increased flexibility for employees
  • Access to talent globally rather than locally
  • Reduced office costs

There are also downsides to evaluate:

  • Lack of face-to-face interaction and collaboration
  • Communication and project management challenges
  • Difficulty building company culture

Assess your agency’s operations, management, and tools to determine if fully remote work can be feasible and effective. A hybrid model may balance the pros and cons of office and remote work.

Monitor, Learn and Continuously Improve

Monitor, Learn and Continuously Improve

To scale your agency successfully over time, you need to closely monitor performance, learn from challenges, and continuously optimize your operations. Here are some tips:

Track KPIs and Metrics

  • Identify the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track for your agency. These could include client retention, new business growth, utilization rates, profitability, customer satisfaction scores, etc.
  • Set up dashboards and reporting to monitor your KPIs at least monthly, if not more frequently. Compare to goals and past performance.
  • Dig deeper into the data to identify what’s working well versus areas needing improvement. Segment data by client, service line, department, individual, or other factors.

Learn from Challenges

  • When issues come up, such as losing clients or projects going over budget, analyze the root causes thoroughly. Look for systemic problems versus one-off situations.
  • Interview team members involved and get their perspectives. Identify if it was due to poor planning, inadequate skills, technology failures, communication breakdowns, unreasonable client demands, or other factors.
  • Turn challenges into learning experiences. Discuss as a team and put processes in place to prevent recurrences. Share lessons learned across the agency.

Keep Optimizing Over Time

  • Regularly review your agency’s overall performance and strategy. Set aside time at least quarterly to analyze results, competitive landscape, market trends, and new opportunities.
  • Re-evaluate your services, pricing, technologies, workflows, and other elements of your operations. Make incremental improvements over time.
  • Listen to team members for their ideas on enhancements. Empower them to help optimize their individual roles.

Continuously realign your agency model, capabilities, and offerings to the evolving needs of clients and the marketplace. Strive to always be improving.

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