How to Scale an Agency: 7 things to look at

Let's face it. Running an agency is hard.

You are running a business which is heavily dependent on people, both your clients and your team.

There's a lot of things to get right: Your value proposition, finding the right clients for your services, ensuring smooth communication, etc.

In this post, I've condensed what you should look to structure your agency for scale and growth.

The goal of this month is not to just give some generic strategy but rather to give you actionable advice that will help you scale your agency.

Your market

One of the biggest determinant of your agency ability to scale is simply your market.

If you market is growing, your agency revenue and sales will probably grow too.

Let's take an example: E-commerce.

The e-commerce market is exploding and will likely continue to do so in the next few years.

What does it mean? This means there are multiple products and services that will need to exist to serve the needs of that market.

As an agency owner, being in a growing market helps: There are more clients available and there is demand that needs to be fulfilled by service providers.

So how do you pick a market for your agency services?

  • Pick a large - and if possible growing - market (for example, E-commerce)
  • Pick a niche (for example, Shopify maintenance)
  • Identify your ideal customers: Knowing the attributes of your customers and how they benefit from your service is essential to make sure you provide value to them.

Your offer

Once you've found a great market to sell your agency services, you need to have a compelling offer - or strong value proposition - to solve the problems of that market..

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • How compelling is your value proposition?
  • Are you solving a "must have" problem or a nice to have problem?
  • Jobs-to-be-done: What are you helping your customers achieve?

So how do you improve your offer?

Your team

A great team is key to ensure your agency is scalable.

Clients love working with the same employees.

If your employees are constantly leaving, this will put a lot of stress on the growth prospects of your company.

Make sure you have long lasting relationships with your employees and freelancers.

There's a lot that can be written about employee happiness but if you provide them with growth opportunities, make the work enjoyable (by creating processes), and align your team company mission and values, his is already a great start.

So how can you scale your agency's team?

  • Create a company rule book with rules, mission, and values to ensure team alignment
  • Provide enough paid time off for your employees (and even freelancers)
  • Take time to onboard and train new employees
  • Re-train existing employees (a good way to do this is to provide them with a Coursera or Udemy budget)
  • Promote your employees within the company (for example, if a designer wants to be Project manager, and then Team leader)

Your services and processes

If you provide great work, your clients will stay and refer you to other clients.

The problem with running an agency, is that it is difficult to maintain quality at scale.

When you are doing all the work yourself or with a few freelancers, it's easy to stay on top of everything: Client communication, delivering projects on time, and

Your ability to deliver a quality service thus depends on the quality of your processes.

You want to have a streamlined, and scalable way of running your agency.

Map out all the processes of your agency:

  • Onboarding your clients
  • Hiring new employees
  • Training new and existing employees
  • Service delivery
  • Generating leads
  • Client communication

The idea is to create a machine that can run without you.

If you create clear processes that your employees can rely on, and automate some other processes, you won't be needed in the day-to-day work of running the agency and can focus on the big picture.

Your marketing

If you want to grow your agency, you need to have a predictable way of acquiring new clients.

Once again, create processes for marketing.

Here are some examples of scalable marketing channels you can set up for your agency:

  • Content creation and SEO
  • Sales process (training sales development representatives, finding leads, outreach, and demo calls)
  • Setting up a referral system

Your tools and automations

Next step to ensure your agency: Choosing the right tools to run your business.

For example, using a client portal with a project management solution like ManyRequests helps your agency have a central source of truth for everything that happens within your business.

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In addition, you can also automate as much as you can in your agency. For example, every time there is a new customer or a new request, you get notified by Slack and add them to your CRM.

Tools and automations help you and your team stay on top of projects, clients, and requests.

Your leadership team

Finally, I like to say that "you are your own biggest obstacle" in your business.

At one point, you need to scale yourself and fire yourself from the job to allow your agency to scale.

Replacing yourself and focusing on what you enjoy doing and what you are good at is key to achieve this.

Here are a few ideas to scale yourself:

  • Identifying which areas of the business you enjoy running and want to continue running
  • Know which KPI's and numbers to track
  • Learning useful agency owner skills: Copywriting, sales, negotations, ...
  • Putting in place an executive management team

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