Scaling Your Agency Online: Optimizing Workflows for Growth

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So you’re planning to scale your agency. That sounds good on paper, but most agencies never get beyond wishful thinking. In this guide, we’ll share workflows, strategies, and best practices that will help you scale your agency by optimizing your business.

Many of these best practices will apply to any type of agency. You can try it out with your business, whether you’re in branding, marketing, software development, SEO, or any other creative or business service. Let’s dive deeper into optimizing workflows so that your agency will grow in 2024 and beyond.

Can You Scale an Agency Online?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Is it possible to scale an agency online? You might think that your company will never go beyond a handful of team members handling three to five clients at a time. And it’s true that the majority of agencies aren’t that big. Roughly 45% of all agencies in a 2022 survey indicated that they were a “small” agency, meaning they had 10 or fewer employees. 

But that doesn’t mean that scaling an agency is impossible. The same study above shows that around 12% of the interviewed agency owners had more than 50 employees. Another 19.6% of firms had at least 20 employees. 

Your goal should be to determine what those companies did to scale and optimize and start applying the same lessons and habits in your business so you can watch it grow. And it all starts with one change.

The Key: Business Optimization

Often, agency owners are tempted to keep their operations as “personalized” as possible. While keeping a human touch is important, sometimes we confuse that with refusing to implement any systems in our business. 

If you want to see your agency grow, you need to start seeing your company as an entity you can optimize. That means putting in the work to systemize as much of your workflows as much as possible. The more your agency runs like a well-oiled machine, the more prepared you will be to scale. 

5 Workflows that Help You Scale Your Agency

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The best starting point when optimizing your agency operations is to fix these five workflows so your business runs smoother. Take a look:

1) Lead Generation

The lifeblood of your agency—much like any other business—is sales. To get sales, you need a constant flow of leads. There are many ways to generate leads effectively, but there are also many ways to do it ineffectively. Your goal should be to find the lowest per-acquisition cost with the most consistent flow.

Some ideas we recommend for lead generation include: 

• Professional platforms like LinkedIn and freelancing sites

• Paid ads through Google, Facebook, and other platforms

• Create educational content for YouTube, Facebook, and so on

• Get organic search traffic with SEO-optimized blogs and landing pages

• Networking events and platforms

• Asking your past clients for referrals

• Creating white labelling partnerships with larger agencies

2) Project Management

The sad truth is that some agencies win work but fail in service delivery. The pain point is primarily around project management. It’s likely that you started your agency as a solo operation, so you never had to manage projects. 

But if you want to scale your agency, you need clear project management workflows. Create standard operating procedures around onboarding, research, creative brainstorming, service delivery, deployment payments, and so on. Template as many of your project management workflows as possible so you don’t have to start from scratch when you onboard new clients.

3) Client Happiness and Feedback Management

Customer service should always be top-tier when running an agency business. The value of client happiness in B2B businesses (such as agencies) is much higher than in B2C ones. If an e-commerce store loses a customer, it might lose around $20 to $200 in business. But an agency could lose $2,000 to $200,000 in future business if clients leave. 

So, you should do everything in your power to keep your clients happy. That includes building workflows around client happiness. Some workflows you should include are: 

• Client feedback forms and NPS surveys

• Catch ups

• Assigning account managers

• Delivering projects on time

• Handling revisions in a streamlined manner

4) Team Building and Leadership

The next workflow you need to build in your agency is your leadership and team structure. Have a clear mission, vision, and culture so that your team knows what’s at stake. Your team dynamics will greatly affect the quality of your work. So, agency owners and directors need to start thinking like leaders. That includes building team engagement, cohesiveness, trust, and so on. 

You can invest in team building by using personality assessments, team-building activities, company outings, icebreakers, and team evaluations. 

5) Finance & Cashflow Management

The last (but certainly not least) most important workflow to optimize in your business is your finance, cash flow, and management system. A thriving agency doesn’t only focus on making a lot of money. It should also pay attention to how it spends that money. 

Your finance management systems should include written rules and policies for everything finance-related, including invoice management, accounts receivables, payroll, and even tool subscriptions. Some agencies might also have to manage expenses like office rentals, training and certifications, and sales and marketing. 

3 Best Practices to Scale Your Agency

When optimizing your business, these best practices should also significantly help you scale. 

1) Have a Clear, Unique Value Proposition

You probably know this— you’re not the only business with your services and offerings. You’ll always have competition. There are around 14,000 marketing agencies in the United States alone. Add to that vast globalization that allows your ideal clients to hire people from anywhere else. 

To get more clients and scale, you need a clear, unique value proposition. That means knowing who you serve and what you bring to the table. How are your strategies different? What industries do you have clear success in? Do you focus more on people with library science degree jobs or legal software? What’s your brand of client experience, and how is it different? Answering these questions should help you stand out.

2) Extend Customer Lifetime Value

Failing to win back new clients is leaving money on the table. Let’s say you provide branding agency services. After you’ve completed the logo and branding style guide, you need to find avenues to get more projects from your clients. Consider offering social media management services or building out more design applications so you can get more repeat work from existing clients. 

3) Treat Your Clients as Evangelists

Another practice agency owners fail to do is ask clients for referrals. Sometimes, we think that it leaves a bad taste. But if you provide great work, your highly satisfied clients will gladly share your work with other businesses they might know. A client referral can generate as much as 3 to 5x higher conversion rates.

The mistake is that we simply assume that they’ll send referrals your way. For all you know, they might think you’re too busy to take work. If you can, provide a client referral program. That can include a small commission when you close a referral or even a small token or thank-you gift. 

Don’t Stop Learning

The bedrock of any scaling and thriving agency is a culture of nonstop learning. That means you need to find ways to further streamline your operations, improve your workflows, and make your services and expertise even more polished and amazing.

Never settle. Push yourself to grow, and your agency will grow with you. When you embrace that mentality, there’s no knowing what heights you’ll reach next. 

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