No matter how young or old your agency is, your business should be growing at a consistent rate. If everything is working as it should, you could be sitting on the beach, sipping a cocktail, watching the profits roll in while your team of employees handles the workload.
Sounds great, right? But that's not the reality for most agency owners.
We’re going to guess that instead of being a business owner who can take a holiday, your reality is that you’re working all day from the time you wake until you just can’t keep going each night.
There are no days off because you’re always ‘on.’ Despite all of this, your team may be missing deadlines, and your client retention doesn’t go beyond a few months.
I’m not going to lie to you. Growing an agency isn’t easy.
It’s not something just anyone could do. If that were the case, everyone would be out there running their own agency, and the market would be saturated.
The good news is that it’s not impossible. So, if you’re stuck in the time management or growth rut (hey, maybe even both, we won’t judge), keep reading to learn the top reasons why your marketing agency is struggling to level up.
The 12 Key Reasons Why Your Marketing Agency Isn’t Growing — and How to Fix It
Reason #1: You’re Focusing on Revenue Instead of Profit Margins
Revenue is a significant factor — we’re not going to deny that, but it's not the only thing you should focus on.
Your agency has bills, and there are employees to pay.
However, when you focus solely on revenue as the guiding metric for profitability, you’re not looking at the whole picture.
Here is a typical scenario that many agencies tend to fall into:
We’re all here to make money, so you want the maximum amount of money to flow in, right? So agency owners will say “yes” to clients who are willing to pay for their services.
This often leads to a build-up of work that looks good on the surface, but the reality is you’re stretching your team too thin. Your workload is maxed out, turnaround times are growing longer, and you have minimal bodies to do the work.
The team is churning out work as quickly as possible to meet the deadlines. You’re stretching to make sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine.
Clients are not getting your team's best work. Your agency will suffer with high client and employee turnover rates. They’re tired. They want a break. This isn’t the life they signed up for.
They are overworked — hopefully not underpaid. So, you, the agency owner, continue to say “yes” to employees you think will do the work and the clients who will pay you for their work.
The cycle continues to foster stress and burnout in you and your employees. You don’t want that. No one wants that.
Instead, a more accurate indicator of how well the agency is doing is profit. What exactly is profit then you ask?
Profit is simply the money you make after subtracting those expenses like the cost of your office space, paying your employees, and any tool required for you to finish the projects for your clients.
Don’t feel bad if you thought the only thing to track here was revenue because 91% of agency owners say they track revenue while only 74% said they monitor profit.
If you’re an agency owner who doesn't watch both, now you can see that you should be. Take the extra time to calculate your expenses, gross profits, and net profits. This may show you that you’re earning much less than you thought.
That’s okay, though. It’s an easy fix. This is an instance where the quote, “know your worth,” is critical here. This will help you keep your employees and contractors happy and your clients resulting in higher profits and lower turnover.
Reason #2: Your USP Needs Tweaking
Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is simply your agency’s statement of value to your audience that is going to set you apart from your competition.
- Is your agency known as one of the best PPC managers out there for SaaS companies?
- Do you know how to write amazing content for Professional Services brands?
- Are you an expert at helping companies achieve 10x results?
If you haven’t created a USP, you should, as this will help you figure out where you fit within your industry and give potential clients a reason to pick you over the other agencies.
We understand that it isn’t always as simple as it sounds.
“When defining your value proposition, it’s important to be clear on your sweet spot without making that definition so specific that it limits your opportunities as the market shifts and changes.” - Gabrey Means
If your agency isn’t growing, it could be a result of being a little too specific with your USP. Instead, you may need to expand your agency’s focus beyond dental offices or real estate firms to include other professional services.
If you want to stay closer to your niches, you could add small medical practices to your dental such as chiropractic or add a construction company to your portfolio. Adding more specifics widens the potential client pool.
On the flip side, if your agency isn’t growing, it could be a result of not being specific enough. If your agency caters to copywriting, but you’re doing email marketing campaigns, long-form articles, white pages, ebooks, or social media posts, you might be offering too much. Be specific and offer just long-form articles, or just email marketing campaigns.
Working too far outside your area can result in stretching your employees thin, causing that high turnover of candidates and clients that we’re trying to stay away from.
Words of wisdom: Stick to what you know and sprinkle it with things that compliment it.
Reason #3: You’re Taking Clients That Aren’t a Good Fit
You want them, and you want them all, but please don’t take them. Seriously. Don’t force your team to waste their time and energy responding to every inquiry. Not everyone is a good fit for your agency, and your agency isn’t always a good fit for them. Take some time to refine your client screening process, but don’t ignore agencies that are not a good fit.
Just like we don’t like ghosting, we don’t like silence either. It’s rude, and word travels fast. Take a moment to hit reply and just let them know you don’t think they’re a good fit for your agency. Class goes a long way here. Even better if you know of an agency that is better suited and can refer them. Most likely, they’ll return the favor.
Reason #4: You Don’t Have a Steady Cash Flow
Just like any business, your marketing agency requires a steady cash flow to survive. At the heart of the company are bills and employees, which require payments in a timely fashion. For that to happen, you need to be paid promptly as well. Unfortunately, sometimes we’re at the mercy of our clients, and their payouts can take a bit longer.
In order to battle the Net 30 or Net 60 terms many companies use, entice your clients to pay on time by using simple ideas such as these:
- Make payments more manageable by setting up a cloud-based payment service.
- Set up recurring billing by switching to a retainer-based model.
- Offer discounts for paying on time.
- Put late penalties in your contracts.
- Bill more often, such as weekly or twice a month.
Easier ways to make payments and more payment choices for customers will provide your agency with a steadier cash flow to help keep things running smoothly.
Reason #5: You’re Not Upselling and Cross-Selling
It’s a common misconception that in order to grow, you need to bring new clients on board consistently. But you can scale your business without wasting time on prospecting. If you can increase your customer retention, you can boost your business profits.
You can do this by cross-selling and upselling. You’ll need to convince your current client list to spend more on your services, and if they do not utilize all of your services, they need to start.
For example, an SEO agency like Swell Marketing would explain to their customers why they should upgrade from their silver to their platinum package:
Or, a full-service agency, like the Marketeering Group, explains why conversion optimization services and outreach assistance are worth spending an additional budget on:
For both case examples here that we’ve discussed, focus on the value of services over the price.
To further explore that example, you could say something like, “Investing in our COS will give you a higher return of investment by converting website visitors into customers. Our research shows that clients who use our offer generate at least 10% more customers on average than if they don’t use that service.”
The key here is to document your services and how they work for your clients. If you prepare case studies, facts, and figures, you’re sure to sway them with upselling and cross-selling. The key is to give your clients usable, tangible information they can see which shows the value of their investment. Show them their added value.
Reason #6: Your Own Marketing Gets Deprioritzed
How are you at marketing your own agency? Sometimes it can be easy to work for other clients but not so for yourself. Your agency needs to have clear marketing goals and strategies, and you must treat your business development team like you treat your clients.
Don’t push the work off just because you are busy with paying clients. Look at it as if you were paying yourself too, because in a way you are. Your marketing efforts are what bring in the clients, and those clients are what pay you.
Without marketing for yourself, you’re not marketing for others, and those profits cease to exist. This is a circle you want to keep flowing. Schedule it in if you must just like a client, but make sure it gets done.
Reason #7: You’re Not Working On Your Business
Shark Tank personality and Inventor Lori Greiner says, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week just to avoid working 40.” Ask any entrepreneur, and they will tell you that it’s true. Agency owners are no exception.
Now, ask them how productive they are during those late nights at the office, and the chances are they will give you an answer, but it's not likely to be right. Do you know why? Because business owners tend to measure their productivity in hours working on projects, which does not benefit their company as much as they think.
To grow your business effectively, you need to work ON your business, not IN it. Meaning, you will have to practice the art of letting go, and this is where delegation comes in.
But, that’s easier said than done, says author and business expert Edward Hess:
“Most entrepreneurs don’t like to give up control of any aspect of their business. Facing the fact that they can’t do it all on their own and that they must learn to rely on others to complete certain tasks (and not necessarily exactly how they would do them) can be a very hard reality to swallow.” - Edward Hess
He does make sense, and it's a well-known fact you must cross-train your employees to do your job as well as each other's job. If you do this, you’ll have more time to optimize your business. Eventually, you’ll make yourself irrelevant (think back to our first discussion about that relaxing getaway), and then you can watch your agency grow from afar.
Reason #8: You Haven’t Created Repeatable & Scalable Processes
Structure in an agency is necessary for growth. Without it, you’ll end up with more direct costs as well as the cost of opportunity. What we mean by this is actually quite simple. Does your agency have a time-tracking system?
If not, you need to be using one. You need to know how much time different projects take. Without time tracking, you’re losing billable hours and items.
It can also be that your lack of agency structure shows up in the inconsistency within the quality of work. You have one employee or contractor that just isn’t quite making the grade. Maybe you aren’t using templates, outlines, or practical workflow tools to efficiently get the work done.
Because of this, steps are missed, and shoddy work is returned. Maybe corners get cut to meet deadlines, so work product suffers. All of these things can result in clients leaving. Then we’re back to the flow of clients. We want to retain them and potentially up or cross-sell here.
Reason #9: You Expect Your Employees to Be You
We know you want everyone to have the same knowledge, value, and work ethic that you do, but that’s just not possible. You cannot expect your employees to do every job in your agency just because you have the know-how to do so. This is something all agency owners should be mindful of.
Even with a college education and experience, as agency owners, we often don’t realize just how much knowledge we gain by working in the industry. Many agency owners wear multiple hats, and those agents have their own databases of learned information.
What ends up happening is that an agency owner will seek new employees and become frustrated, or be disappointed that their new team member gets overwhelmed and doesn’t perform exactly like them.
We know we need to train them, but we become so busy and full of high expectations that often their new team member quits or we let them go because we feel we can do a better job on our own without the frustration of teaching someone new. We have to break free of this cycle.
You can’t do everything yourself if you plan to grow your agency business. You're going to have to take the time to list the strongest skills you bring to the table and then make a list for the skills you have but need to find in someone else. Those are going to be the right people to fill the role for the positions you need.
Reason #10: You’re Not Hiring Top Talent
There are two things one must remember, “you get what you pay for,” and “know your worth.” If you know your worth, you're likely to know the true worth of the person you need to hire.
This is not an area where you want to cut costs because, in this case, if you spend more, you’re more likely than not to get better quality work. Value your employees and their time.
When you hire top talent and pay them their worth, you're less likely to spend your own time fixing their mistakes or worrying about whether they will deliver high-quality work for your clients.
Remember, it's all about retention; employees and clients.
Reason #11: You Don’t Train Your Employees
Your agency is really only as good as the expertise of its employees. Hiring top talent is just a start. In order to grow your agency and catapult it to the next level, you must invest in your staff and help them grow.
If you do this, business growth will follow. With expertise and experience come great rewards like a staff who feels invested in and services that can be utilized for clients.
Giving opportunities to grow generates a steady flow of creativity and a healthy workspace. Everyone wants to feel valued, appreciated, and invested in. This is how you create a happy work environment.
Happy workers mean more efficient work. Grow their skillset and grow your business.
Reason #12: You Don’t Outsource to Specialists
Believe it or not, outsourcing your work to specialists can result in exponential business growth. Reluctance to do so can lead to stagnation. For growth, we want to make sure you are not stretching employees and contract workers thin.
We want to make sure you are not being stretched too thin. We want to make sure the quality of work is top-notch for your clients. We want growth. To connect all these dots, sometimes we need to outsource some items to a specialist.
Practice the art of letting go and delegating. This gives you and your employees that work-life balance we all desire.
That’s where we come in. Let us help you with specialized tasks — Get One Free Article for your agency and let us show you what our agency can do to help with your growth.