What Are Your Best B2B Marketing Secrets
3 Secrets To Starting A Digital Agency (From Somebody Who Did It Themselves)
You learn little about sales in marketing class. You learn little about management when you design. You hardly learn the specifics of running a business until you actually run a business. And that makes it pretty hard to get started.
At least that's how I felt when I started my first company. I didn't have any investors or advisers; all I had was a $ 5,000 credit card limit and a little knowledge of sales from a previous job. It was precisely this broad view of the business world that enabled me to be on the Inc 500's list of Fastest Growing Companies for two years in a row.
Now I'm in the process of doing everything all over again with my new digital agency Conklin Media. We have reached similar heights helping our customers generate tens of thousands of leads and millions of dollars in sales. This time around, however, I was able to be much more relaxed knowing that an agency's success does not depend on the amount of funds flowing into it, but on making smart decisions and following best practices. And it is this wisdom that I want to share with you today.
So I've rounded up the top three tips that have helped me start a digital marketing agency, keep it alive, and ultimately succeed. These strategies are not just learned in any class, so use them to take advantage of the experience even if you are just starting out.
1. Create a lead generation engine
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the business world demanded a little more muscle. I was working as a real estate agent back then and spent a lot of time cold calling and driving around to find new locations. This was at a time when phone numbers weren't available online, so I had to flip through my phone book to find any potentially interested residents in the neighborhood.
The work was not only time consuming but also daunting. All day long I called people who were simply not interested; Hearing a “no” for hours on end felt like banging my head against a wall over and over again. But that was the job and - as if on command - all 200 disappointments led to someone finally saying "Yes, I am interested in selling my property."
Cold calling worked to land jobs, but posed another problem. If we were actually busy selling real estate, we didn't have time to get new business. Our agency was stuck in a fluctuating workflow where we couldn't find new leads while we were working on our old ones.
This problem is not unique to the real estate industry. Most agencies in every industry suffer from the same problem of deciding whether to get new clients or to please old clients. From that point on, I looked for new, more streamlined ways to generate new leads.
That's how I got into digital marketing. Since the Internet was still young and unknown, I was able to incorporate SEO techniques before our competitors and benefited from the young Google Adwords before it was even called “Google Adwords”.
Soon we got hundreds of thousands of leads from all over the country. Our company has prospered and grown over the years. It was a fantastic ride and all because we were looking for more efficient ways to generate leads.
5 Lead Generation Strategies
Focusing on lead generation is one of my personal keys to success, especially considering how many other digital marketers aren't spending enough money on it. Although both SEO and Adwords have gotten more complex since my humble beginnings, there are still tons of underutilized techniques to keep your business doing well:
- Identify your target customers. The first step in generating leads is knowing what type of people or companies are your best leads. Who are your perfect customers? In which income class do you move? Which websites do you frequently visit? How will you be contacted preferentially? All other lead generation tactics depend on determining your reach first. Conklin Media, for example, focuses primarily on B2B companies with annual sales of $ 21 million.
- Notification services. You can set up specific notifications so that you are notified every time someone buys a particular domain. That means if you focus on domains that are relevant to your target audience, your sales team can contact them directly.
- Affiliate marketing. Sites like CJ Affiliate and ShareASale can introduce you to the best partners for reaching your target audience, whoever they are.
- Outsource cold calling. Nowadays, you can outsource your cold calling to companies that specialize in doing just that. I advise against doing cold calling yourself (as a manager and future business owner, you have better things to do), but if you can afford to outsource the work, cold calling remains a slow but steady way to generate leads even today.
- Fantastic website. Your website is your most important tool. You need to make sure that your page shows what you're doing, your unique value proposition, slogan, your customers, some stats to show you are effective, and a call-to-action. I recommend StoryBrand to find out where your site can get better.
2. Expand your workforce with freelancers
Running a digital agency requires that you fund a highly effective workforce at the lowest possible fixed cost in order to survive. The best way to do this is to use freelancers. They offer the benefits of additional, permanent labor without the cost of additional permanent labor.
As I said in my previous article "How to Grow Your Business", freelancers allow you to handle times of extra work without paying more than necessary during times of fewer jobs. Furthermore, freelancers enable you to expand your range of services or styles without risk; if your client wants a crazy science fiction style, you can simply hire the right freelancer. This is way better than rejecting it because your in-house designer can't. And don't forget the obvious benefit of being a freelancervery muchare cheaper.
In creative industries like design, freelancers give you and your clients a wider and more diverse range of options. Customers who want a design love to look at samples and choose the ones that speak directly to them. You're grateful for playing a more direct role in the process. The problem is the cost; each additional, new designer that you commission a sample from incurs additional fees.
The cheaper option for both you and your customers is design contests. 99designs, for example, uses crowdsourcing to generate dozens of designs for the price of one. Only designers who have the time or are confident will take part, so this is a win-win situation.
Thats how it works:
- You submit the criteria for your concept.
- Designers see the competition and submit proposals (you will usually receive around 30 proposals).
- You (or your client) choose the proposal that you like best.
- You work with the winner to work out the designs.
To show you what I mean, below are three samples of a design contest that were created based on the client's wishes. Which would you have chosen?
In my personal experience, this is a huge help in attracting customers, especially when they are undecided. People are more likely to contract you if you already have a concept they like, and thanks to 99designs' design competitions, you can give them multiple options.
That's not to say you shouldn't have in-house employees. In my agency, I take the middle ground: internal experts lead each department, but teams of freelancers work under them. This gives me a close and long-term relationship with my department heads and at the same time the flexibility to expand my business area whenever the job requires it.
How to find the best freelancers
Freelancers are always a good strategy, but you need to be careful when hiring them. The difficulty lies in figuring out who is the best and who is just pretending to be the best. I don't want to scare you, but freelancers candreadfulbe; I once had a designer in the interview who stole one of our projects and put it in his portfolio as his own. He tried to impress me by stealing my work!
To avoid deceptive freelancers, I recommend two strategies:
- Give them a test project. Set your own criteria to ensure they don't copy work, but also pay them for their hassle.
- Have their workflow explained to you. Take a specific project out of their portfolio and have them explain step by step how they did it. This is a great way to see how far they are involved in creating it. This is most effective on the phone or in face-to-face meetings, where there is no time for excuses.
For specific projects outside of your expertise, don't be afraid to ask a friend for help. I recently had to hire a videographer, but since I don't really know anything about videos, I asked a buddy to be there for the interview. He was able to judge the applicant's ability much better than I could ever have done.
One final note: always price your projects so that you can afford to hire a freelancer when you need one. I've been in the middle of a project when I needed extra help but couldn't afford it. In this respect, a little foresight can ultimately save a project.
3. Understand business networking
If you think a marketing degree is enough to run an entire company, you are in for a rude awakening. The diverse world of business life consists of dozen different disciplines - not least one of which is sales. As weird as it sounds, sales aren't taught in marketing classes, which leaves us with a large number of marketing graduates who have no idea about the pillars of a business.
How sales determine the success and failure of an agency
The first people I hired at Conklin Media were salespeople. Let this sink in for a moment. They weren't marketing people or designers, although we call ourselves a digital marketing and design agency. I hired sales people first because, to put it simply, sales are the root of every business.
This is what most people who shy away from taking risks are afraid of. Their mindset is that they don't want to hire a sales team until they have the potential to sell something. But in the end they only harm themselves; often these agencies have trouble getting started because they cannot land enough contracts to survive.
There is so much that a successful company needs besides marketing. If you only specialize in one area, tears will fill your eyes when your partners can increase conversions with topics like "Customer Lifetime Value", "Return on Investment" or another color of your call-to-action button , come along.
In the end, it's the result that counts
Aside from sales, I've always found that results-driven thinking has helped me run my agency. Every little thing will either increase or decrease profits, so you need to be mindful of every decision you make, no matter how small it is. Understanding the business means understanding how all the little nuances in each department come together to dictate the numbers on your financial reports.
To give you an example of how tiny decisions can have a big impact, I remember how we once dealt with a page that had a picture of a group of people on it. Images on web pages can be tricky because you are dealing with both the intricacies of web design and photography, not to mention how the two change when you combine them. Anyway, we tried to change the direction people were looking in the photo - a seemingly harmless change for people with little design experience. This small change resulted in a 5% increase in the site's conversion rate.
Well I don't expect from an agency manager. that he knows all the proven methods of the respective areas, but with a team of hand-picked freelancers you are well taken care of in all areas. Surrounding yourself with people who understand a lot about their respective disciplines is what makes a good entrepreneur.
Conclusion: start your own agency
One of the best things about starting your own marketing agency is that it isyours Agency is. You are in charge, you make the decisions and you take care of yourself. You get the praise, but also the guilt. It's your baby raised by a family made up of your employees.
You'll notice in the tips above that I didn't go through step by step what I did to build a successful agency. That's because what I did may not work for you. I want to give tips that you have the flexibility to use your way. I recommend focusing on sales first, but how depends on you. I recommend using freelancers to your advantage, but who you hire depends on you. You are free to tailor your business strategy to work for you, using my advice merely as a framework. In other words, don't be afraid to join your agencyyoursTo make agency.
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