Tips From Top Digital Marketing Agency Business Owners
By Matt Hale
We have asked top digital agency owners to give a good piece of advice for other agency owners, and we put the best on here.
Whether you are looking to start an agency or your running a digital marketing agency and are looking to scale there will be something on here for you.
You will find digital marketing insights and advice from some of the best in the business.
We asked them to answer one of these questions.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?
What advice would you give someone just starting an agency?
What challenging situation did you have that you overcome?
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to scale their agency?
Here is Some of the Best Advice and Insights We Got
When I first started an SEO agency, I was a little kid – 16 years old and I had 5 major problems.
1. When your 16 – who wants to give money to a 16-year-old?
2. I didn’t have money
3. I didn’t have a college degree
4. I didn’t have any experience, it was really tough.
5. I was going to school and running my agency on the side
But I still made the SEO agency work, I got into 5 figures per month in high school.
I am not trying to brag but I am just trying to prove a point, that if I could do it when I was 16 anyone can do it.
That’s the first thing you need to know, if you want to start an agency and go and create something – don’t be afraid and just believe in yourself.
I think in the early days it is good to work a lot because you don’t know anything.
When I first started I worked a lot more, and I got more done.
there is something to the fact that if you have 10 hours a day then do something that will take 10 hours.
There is something to it where if you work 5 hours per day or you work 10 you are going to get more with 10 in most cases. That’s what I was doing most days when I was first getting started. I remember I had a cutoff, I would get up at 6 and start at 7 then I stopped at 7 in the evening.
The number of hours I put in was good because I got to figure out what worked, what didn’t – I tested tons of different stuff all over the place. If I was only doing it in small increments by only doing fewer hours per day I wouldn’t have learned that fast.
Over the years of doing it, I have been able to figure out what works best so I can focus on just doing that thing and ignoring everything else.
But in the early days, I didn’t know what to ignore and what to focus on but by constantly asking what works best and moving forward quickly in small increments that was a helpful exercise.
I am a process nut, and I firmly believe it is the most important aspect of any business but especially agencies because of how much there is to do.
A lot of businesses use a framework, which is a high-level template. But it is not enough.
For example, for SEO you know you need to do a technical audit, keyword research, onpage optimisation, content creation and link acquisition.
But this is a framework, it is not a process.
You can’t just go to an employee and say “Hey we are doing SEO – go run a technical audit or do some keyword research”.
They are going to do what they know and often times it is going to be wrong.
If you want to be an effective agency your people need to be on point and your service has to be amazing.
You can manage that by having a detailed process because that is a roadmap on how to execute that framework.
So break all your tasks down into micro step by step tasks so you can give the job to anyone and they will be just as effective as you would be.
This is what I have found to be one of the biggest keys to scaling my agency.
I’ve learned the best way to grow a business is to maximise client retention and you do that by keeping them happy through delivering results and ROI.
It’s much easier to keep a client than to convert a new one and the number of recommendations including second and third generation recommendations you can receive can be astonishing.
In the early stages, you need to get the systems right because it will save you so much time and headaches.
There is so much to do in an agency that finding ways to maximise your time efficiently is having well-built systems.
I was also reluctant to get the software I needed like accounting software and website checkers, and I was doing it manually to try and save money.
But what I was saving in money I was losing in time that could be best spent elsewhere.
So when I finally got the software I needed it helped me have a more streamlined system.
So any invoice issues could get solved easily and quickly and I was more effective at running my agency.
If you want to scale you need to get the tools that enable you to do the more important tasks.
The quicker you can get all the best tools the quicker you can get better results for your agency and your clients.
One last tip I wish I could go back and tell myself is to get customers on a direct debit payment plan because it would have saved a lot of headaches.
It’s tough to do as clients are reluctant at times to do the right thing, but it’s worth the pain of pushing the client to do it.
It allows you to have less wasted time and the ability to fully focus on getting results without the distraction of chasing payments.
Short and snippy pieces of advice I would give to my younger self.
- Don’t undervalue your work.
- Seek criticism, not praise.
- Always keep learning & don’t be a static learner: do this by reading books, magazines, blogs and by practising.
- Collect & share things.
- Teach others.
- Never give up.
- Keep practising.
- Failure is just lessons learned for next time.
I had access to over 250 million Facebook fans in my past e-commerce days. What I found is every time we did promotions on social media, our brand searches would spike in search.
So do something popular on your social pages and immediately your brand searches go up in Google.
If you can, create gross revenue reporting that you can share with your clients. By being able to show they got this many sales from this many people which adds up to xyz revenue.
Once you do that, you have a seat at the executive table – you are no longer an outsider to their business but a valued asset.
Everything we do is data-driven, we let the data show us where to go, so when our data agrees we tend to go in that direction.
We are always testing to see what is ranking factors correlate on the top ranking websites using my SEO testing software, and then we let the data tell us what to do.
We have found transparent reporting to be a key relationship builder with our clients.
The biggest thing I can say we do, which has been fantastic is we will benchmark when we start a new project.
We will often take the average of the 3 months before showing stats for users, clicks, impressions – that sort of thing.
Then we keep that up as a benchmark so when that month’s stats come in the business owner can see where they were and where they are now.
Sometimes you will have a month that is kind of flat and using normal reporting it would be like “Hey this was a flat month” and the client is up in arms over what happened and you end up explaining your way out of it.
But by showing their previous 3 months on each report it gives a clearer perspective and it makes those flat months more manageable.
There are tons of project management tools, first off you need to find the one that your team is going to use.
I found the hard way that you can’t force a project management system on somebody.
We have tried nearly all the management systems, and really you need to test with your team to find out what is going to be best for you.
Your team needs to all be able to use it effectively so things can get done.
We use the highest level of scientific experimentation to try and find out what the ranking factors are in Google. We do single variable tests on a constant basis to know exactly what ranking factors are important today.
Most SEO agencies use what I call GuesSEO because they read a blog or watched a video on Youtube that told them a piece of information that may or may not be correct.
Only through testing can you find out the truth, which is why through our scientific testing methods we are consistently able to get results for our clients.
The point of me saying this is you either need to run tests yourself to find out what is going on in the search engines or you need to join a group of people who are.
Being able to say to our clients that we know how to rank their website because we do scientific testing gives you a stronger position to negotiate from
Ruan M. Marinho
I ranked number 1 for New York SEO in less than 90 days.
A few months ago I was thinking what is the best city to target for SEO services, and one of them was Boston but the one that I wanted was New York SEO.
It’s kind of a funny story because when I was ranking this keyword my website domain authority wasn’t what it was today – it was low.
There was a lot of people telling me that I shouldn’t go for the keyword because my site is too small, there are people already ranking at the top and that has had this position forever the list goes on. In fact, some people even challenged me and said I couldn’t do it – so guess what I did – I went and did it.
What I did was very simple.
The first thing you have to do is put your mind to a big keyword, too many people go for little keywords inside of Google because they are scared of going for the larger keyword.
Once my mind shifted from fear of targeting a difficult keyword, I went in and started creating the content necessary for the page.
Then I did my research on the companies at the top of the search results and I started to notice that they weren’t all that special.
After I did all my SEO the website only made it to the third page but I instantly knew it was possible to make it to the first page.
So I started to think about some strategy to get it on the first page. So I made a video about buying links on Fiverr which now has over 30,000 views on Youtube. In the video
If more people click on your website and more people stay on your website, Google is going to think that you are popular and is going to rank you higher in the search engines.
So once I made that video thousands of people were typing in New York SEO into search, clicking on my website and having a look around to see what I was doing.
Literally in one day, Google ranked me at the top of the first page from the third page.
Neil Patel did a similar thing a while back, where he took out an advert on Instagram with a sexy girl holding up a sign saying ‘Who is Neil Patel?’ which got people to search his name and click on his website.
So think big, be creative and learn from other industry experts.
Ruan M. Marinho
I couldn’t run my agency how it is, without using virtual assistants. But I travel and move around a lot, so to do that I need good virtual assistants to manage my business properly.
Most of the SEO is outsourced to my VA’s, anything that doesn’t require any thinking – they are doing. Which means most of my time is spent on coming up with strategies and ideas to grow my agency. I have full-time VA’s and they have been with me for quite a while now.
When you are hiring people whether it is from Upwork or a full-time person, you want to do a few things to filter out a lot of people quickly.
You should put a test in your job description, something like “include the word purple in your reply”, then you know that they have read it.
Next, you need to get on a Skype interview because you want to test how well they can write and speak good English if they have some basic knowledge of SEO that’s a bonus.
I hire untrained people the reason for this is because I create training videos so they can do the tasks I give them.
It is a win-win, you can hire full-time people for as little as $350 per month and they get a valuable skill and decent money for their country. Plus when they are working for you longer you can raise their pay and give them bonuses.
They also need to be fast with their responses, as I want people who can do things quite quickly.
Then if they qualify I give them a free trial, which is a small task like a 500-word article and I give each of them the exact same article title.
I do it in batches of 3 or more and this lets me compare them which is an easy way to see exactly how good they are. Then i put them on a 2 week paid trial and go from there.
You should focus on your message for your agency in other words, what are saying and how are you saying it.
This defines everything about your business which includes what you say on your social media, what you say on your website and what you say over email or on the phone.
Then you need to understand the driver behind the decision makers.
Why are they making the decision?
What are their criteria for choosing their supplier?
What are their needs and pain points that you are solving?
You need to make sure your message really identifies and really talks to these people.
Next is how do you reach these people.
Where are they spending their time online?
What are the blogs or magazines they are reading?
Which of the social channels are they spending the most time on?
A lot of people are surprised that actually, their target audience is spending a lot of time on Facebook.
Most people think of Facebook as a B2C marketplace. But think about it we are all people and every one of those decision makers has a Facebook account.
Which means you can get right in front of exactly who you want with the offer for specifically for them.
If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, this is some of the tips I would give myself.
Tip 1 Choose a type of SEO, there are loads and loads of different things you can do within SEO. My philosophy is just do a single service and do it very well – I chose link building.
Tip 2 Choose a single person to follow and stick with whatever they teach, at least for a little bit because you don’t want a lot of advice that contradicts each other.
Tip 3 Fail and fail again, succeed and fail. You want to constantly be calibrating, learning from your successes and your failures. Get better and better because the more experience you have, the more confidence you will have with it. Figure out what is working for you and just keep doing that.
Tip 4 If you’re looking for clients, you will be surprised how many business owners you, your team or your friends and family probably know. Whether it is your dentist or chiropractor they probably need your help, so find their contact info and tell them you will do some work for them for free in exchange for a video testimonial, as a video testimonial is absolutely essential.
Tip 5 Go to meetup’s in your city, whether this is BNI or meetup events. I went to a meetup called the Yorkshire Mafia where a handful of billionaires get on stage and people can ask them questions. So you can imagine the types of people this attracts. Also, don’t just go to marketing meetups where you will bump into people in your field, you want to get out your bubble and go to a lawyer meetup for example as you will be the only SEO consultant there.
Tip 6 Put anyone that enters sends you a message into an email autoresponder which sends out an email each week with a case study. This will keep you top of mind so when they are ready, you will be on their short list.
Tip 7 Have a win-win money back guarantee type of deal. What I like to do is “if you’re not seeing a traffic improvement in the first month you can have your money back if you want”. If you are doing the work right, it is very unlikely that you will not get traffic improvements.
Whatever type of service you are selling in your agency – make sure you can streamline it. I mean because if you can’t scale it – then you can’t really sell it.
Because if you are just doing all this stuff manually or you don’t have processes in built in – to kind of show how to do these tasks in a streamlined way. Where you are taking somebody from point A to point B in 3 steps.
Then you are going to end up spending a bunch of your time just trying to figure all this stuff out for every new client.
Trying to personalise what you are doing to everybody, its a lot easier to say “OK we do SEO for plumbers or we do PR for Accountants, these are our case studies and this is how we do it”.
Simply just showing people in a transparent way what you are doing goes a long way.
What I have found as a marketing consultant running my agency, I found that most of the time I have been able to secure clients is when I am going out and doing outbound marketing – where I am contacting them.
I know you can get inbound leads but personally, for my own business, I don’t get a lot of inbound leads. Most of the inbound leads I do get are from referrals from existing clients.
But I don’t get a whole lot of cold leads coming from Google. I rank well for SEO Virginia and things like that, but I don’t typically get a lot of leads from that.
What I get my most leads from, was me doing the outreach. I hate cold calling and sales – I absolutely despise it.
So I built a video lead generation system so now instead of cold calling I shoot videos and send them with email prospecting.
Videos are a great way to get noticed or get a conversation started with potential prospects. Because think about this – if you are just starting to build your own agency – I can tell you now – it is a saturated market out there when dealing with local businesses.
Business owners get hammered – relentlessly by marketing and advertising companies. All the time they are getting some solicitation whether it is cold emails or cold calls and there are even people knocking on their door.
So you need to get through all that noise which is why having a video lead gen system is a great way to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
The key thing I have learned since becoming a consultant is how much time admin sucks up.
I always imagined by day being 7-8 hours of doing the work that I enjoy doing.
But the hard reality is that 40% of my day is sucked up with work such as invoicing, chasing, sales and general day to day admin work.
The key thing to overcome this is processes.
If you can get into a routine and have a structured process to follow, the laborious admin side of being a consultant doesn’t feel so bad.
Top Tips From Digital Marketing Agencies
So that’s all folks – this has been the top tips by agency owners for agency owners.
If you are a digital agency owner and you would like to contribute to this post – feel free to send us a message.
We will pick the best and add them to this page.