So you’re interested in starting a digital marketing agency, and want to know the challenges to expect?
Following the pandemic, there has been a rush of businesses going online. This means the spending on online marketing will be increasing over time. In fact, a study by Statista reveals that digital advertising spend is expected to hit a whopping $645.8 billion by 2024.
Well, that’s an opportunity for your agency to tap into the market and grab a share of the cake. Smile!
Of course, just like offline businesses, running a marketing agency has its challenges. And you’ll struggle with yours if you’re not conversant with them. The good news is, I will walk you through all the hurdles agencies face, and their solutions.
Let’s dive in.
Converting leads to buyers
Marketing agencies must attract and convert leads into sales to continue operating. But it’s normal for most of these to not generate sales, considering that 79% of marketing leads never convert into buyers.
That said, here are some reasons you’re missing out on leads altogether:
- Not mapping out your customers’ journey
- Producing tons of content thoughtlessly
- And hard selling, seriously.
Yes, it’s good to produce several guides to gain traction fast, but if you don’t slow down and assess value addition, your marketing is as good as dead.
Hard selling also robs you of LOTS of sales. Do you make your prospects dig into their pockets the first time they interact with your content? Why not nurture them with the right content first and then give a legitimate reason to work with you?
It’s easy to convert prospects into sales once you understand your buyers’ journey, and then create the right content at different stages to push them down your sales funnel.
It begins with mapping out your customer journey so you can know your customer’s needs, motivations, and pain points.
Here’s how you can create an effective customer journey map:
- Set clear goals. You’re bound to fail if you don’t have a clear goal mapping out your customer journey. Ask yourself what you intend to achieve with the map.
- Collect data from your personas. Run surveys to understand leads who have interacted with your agency. Ask questions like, “why did you choose to work with us?”
- Jot down your target customer personas. You’ll notice there are multiple customer personas interacting with your agency. It’s now time to narrow these down to two at most. Choose the most common persona and the route they follow when engaging with your agency for the first time.
- Note all touchpoints. These are the points where customers interact with you, whether it’s your site, social channels, ads, or third-party sites. Find the most common one and the actions your customers take.
- Pick the elements to showcase. You’ll have to pick one out of the types of the customer journey map, whether it’s a day in the life, current state, future state, or service blueprint.
- Review your resources. To give your customers a good experience, know the resources you have and the ones you’ll need in the future. Don’t hesitate to invest in better tools.
- Experiment with your customer journey. Follow the paths your customer takes, whether it’s social, email, or websites. Find and fix loopholes to generate more sales.
After you’ve mapped out your buyer persona, produce content that provides value to your prospects. You’ll see a spike in your conversions.
When you have more leads, then keep that in mind that you don’t have to go after each of them. Why? watch this video to get your answer.
Staying organized like top marketers
The life of a project manager is hectic. You log into your email and find texts from clients. Your team is also waiting for your feedback. How are you supposed to handle everything without losing your sanity, little bird?
From my experience, the worst you can do is to miss important updates from your team or clients. It’ll hurt your project delivery and piss off your clients. And you can guess what comes after. Cringe.
Well, prospects are clever, and they’re looking for red flags like disorganization to dump your agency. But if you stay organized, you’ll display professionalism and even double your productivity.
To stay organized, start by setting goals for your projects. You should have a clear timeline for communicating with your clients and finishing your projects.
Also, use the best project management software to manage your clients and team, and for better reporting. You’ll be on the same page with everyone.
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Keeping up with the fast-evolving digital marketing world
Almost 46% of marketers agree that trends are changing faster than ever before.
Of course, some old marketing tactics remain unchanged, but others that worked like a charm before are ineffective in 2021 and beyond.
Emerging technologies are changing the way we approach:
- Customer acquisition
- Social listening
- Project management and so on.
Several tools are also emerging. For example, businesses are now using AI tools to enhance the performance of their products, optimize internal business operations and make better decisions.
The reality is, agencies don’t mind embracing new trends like using fully automated chatbot platforms. But with lots of noise online, it’s hard to cherry-pick promising ones to incorporate into your marketing. You’ll have to sift through lots of them.
Another challenge with welcoming new trends is that it’s time-consuming to train employees, and to track and measure the relevant KPIs.
The trick here is to always keep an eye on emerging trends. How? Study your competition. If they’re getting results from incorporating trends and you’re ignoring them, then you’ll miss out on a lot.
You should also read top marketing blogs like Search Engine Journal to find out what industry experts recommend. Also, join relevant marketing forums and find what’s working in the real world.
Last, ensure you equip your team with the resources they need to keep up with trends.
Deploying marketing automation
Marketing automation is here to stay. And it has several benefits like saving time, lead generation, and boosting revenue.
68% of businesses are already using automation, giving them a significant edge over those that don’t. Statistics also reveal that the global spend on marketing automation is expected to reach $25.1 billion by 2023.
Source: Online Sales Guide Tip
The sad truth is, most agencies are still struggling with automating their marketing now that it requires skills that are hard to find. 16% of marketers feel that developing quality automation is their biggest challenge.
The other marketing automation challenges agencies face include integrations, creating quality content, and driving engagements.
You’ll get high engagements with marketing automation if you understand your audience’s interests, create top-notch content and personalize this. Without this, your prospects will feel like they’re communicating with robots.
In case you try everything and fail, consult an automation specialist or hire them to train your team.
Generating more customers (and retaining them)
The truth is, your agency needs more customers to generate revenue and meet its operating costs, especially if it does not have a recurring revenue model in place.
But according to a survey done by HubSpot, 61% of marketers feel traffic and lead generation is one of their biggest challenges.
Source: Startup Bonsai
Well, the competition for leads is becoming stiffer. Everyone is going after a share of the pie. How will you even compete with the top marketing agencies?
If we look at SEO in customer acquisition, several companies are competing to rank for lucrative keywords. And even some that rank in the top still struggle to convince prospects to work with them. After all, almost all agencies guarantee success. We also have some that promise overnight results.
Always have a unique selling proposition to differentiate yourself from your competition. Look for that one unique thing your agency can do best and forgo all the others.
You can also consider specializing and then branching out to other markets after collecting testimonials and case studies. For example, it’s easier for an agency specializing in dentistry marketing to win a dentistry client than a general agency.
I also recommend delivering gold to all your clients, and then asking for referrals. As you can see, 90% of agencies say referrals are their primary source of leads.
Well, if you can’t beat your competitors, why not join them? You can collaborate with them to get projects when they have an overflow. Reciprocate to strengthen the relationship.
Cherry-picking the best talent (and retaining them)
Finding and retaining top talent is hard. In a survey done by GetApp, 40.4% of recruiters mentioned that they struggle to find skilled candidates.
It’s a challenge for marketing agencies to find great content creators, marketing automation specialists, designers, growth marketers, etc.
It’s even harder to get marketers with excellent analytical skills to track metrics and report to clients. Most of them are already working with big brands. Experienced freelancers, on the other hand, are stormed with work from clients.
Yes, some agencies are lucky to find top talent, but the problem comes when they can’t manage to meet their needs. Other employees will work for an agency for some time then leave after discovering better opportunities elsewhere.
So, the big question here is, how do you attract and retain top talent?
We’ll discuss it in the next section.
First, start by offering competitive pay. If the salary is lucrative, you’ll attract top talent and vice versa.
Next, give your employees a reason to stay, such as good work-life balance or favorable work environment.
If you find top talent, but the location is an issue, don’t hesitate to embrace remote work.
Pro tip: if you don’t find the right talent, consider hiring interns, training and absorb them into your company.
Scaling your agency like the big boys
Choosing to scale your business can mean doubling or tripling your revenue. Or killing your agency because most agencies fail due to premature scaling.
There comes a time when your digital marketing agency is steadily growing, and you feel it’s time to scale it.
Some of the signs to scale include:
- You’re receiving inquiries from several prospects
- You’re flooded with referrals
- You get more work than your team can handle
- You’re okay with delegating and outsourcing.
You should know that the biggest challenges come with scaling an agency. It demands a lot of flexibility. And you can expect several hurdles like recruiting new staff, managing your current team, outsourcing, investing in tools, and marketing to generate more leads. You’ll also have to hone your delegation skills.
To scale your agency, start by hiring the right talent to handle your client work. That also means you should know when to trim your team to reduce your operating costs.
I also recommend automating some processes to free up your space and focus on getting leads.
Overall, try and consult a growth expert before scaling your agency. You’ll get timely advice on what to expect when deciding to go all in.
Running a digital marketing agency is all fun and games until you experience setbacks that can kill or shape your business.
You can expect to encounter problems in finding the best talent, offering customer support, and handling the marketing automation as discussed above. Situations like scaling your agency will test your limits.
But I’ve walked you through the solutions you can use to counter such challenges today. And it’s now up to you to take action.
Bookmark this guide so that if you ever face any of those menaces above, you’ll know where to turn.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reaches over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed as an executive for three years. He’s now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.
Jamil is an Organic Search Manager at Cloudways - A SEO friendly hosting Platform. He has 14 years experience in SEO, and is passionate about Digital Marketing and Growth Optimization. Jamil is a Minimalist, Observer, Loves Nature, Animals, Food, Cricket & Mimicking :)