It isn’t just one outstanding thing that makes a digital advertising agency rise above others; it is the sum of its parts. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of agencies and noticed some striking similarities in those that successfully scaled, and those that struggled. We’ve compiled our Top 10 list of attributes associated with ad agency growth, and some of the key areas to focus on may surprise you.
But before we get to that, here’s why having an eye on growth is so important.
According to Statistica, U.S. ad agencies are expected to generate over $45 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2020, a $5.5 billion dollar increase over 2015 results.
Without a doubt, there are MASSIVE growth opportunities, particularly for digital. If you want a piece of the pie, make sure you’ve got these key things in order:
1. Organized Data
Organized data is key to automation, creation and execution of digital advertising. This means getting data into centralized database/warehouse where it can be utilized. The better it is organized, the more potential it may have. Too many digital marketing agencies are sitting on a mountain of invaluable data that is disorganized and dormant. Invest the time to organize your client and industry data and build processes and tools that allow it to transform digital marketing performance for your clients.
2. Make Data Easy to Import and Export
Your systems have to be the central point of truth for data. That data needs to be able to flow, through seamless connections, to other systems. This may be your data warehouse, ERP, CRM and other tools to operationalize your business. Without this connection between systems, scale is limited by humans, often times, cutting and pasting.
3. Clear Value Prop and a Defined Client Segment
If you are focused on a vertical, be the expert in that space. If your value prop is low cost or target a segment, be the best there. Being all things to all people doesn’t typically work. Agencies that target specific industries are growing at a faster rate, and it makes sense for a business to select an in industry vendor who can service as a dual expert: Digital advertising as well as industry expert.
4. Be a Thought Leader to Your Clients and Your Space
Your clients are not experts in digital advertising; that’s why they’ve hired you. While it’s imperative to have dynamic conversations to learn about each individual client, it’s equally as important to be definitive in your strategy and process. After all, that is the secret sauce to your entire business and the value you bring to the table. Create a strategy. Perfect it. Refine it. Sell it. Service it. In doing so, you will gain your clients’ trust as true digital marketing experts.
5. Be Operationally Excellent
Being operationally excellent doesn’t mean you have to have crazy process. You need a systematic repetitive process that can be taught and duplicated with relative ease that supports your business. This is a process that continually evolves so don’t expect a fix-it-and-forget-it approach here. And here’s a little secret: margin in advertising comes from scale, minimizing churn and being operationally excellent.
6. Leverage Tools to Operationalize
There are hundreds if not thousands of Adtech tools in the marketplace today. As you grow, your tools need to evolve with you, and ideally ahead of you. Adtech tools change everyday as this market evolves rapidly. So having points 1 & 2 (above) figured out are critical to scaling and changing when your business needs to. The right tool is NOT about filling a hole like bid management, it is about the holistic approach to be operationally great and delivering value.
7. Foster a Culture of Pushing the Limits
Advertising changes rapidly, and companies that move to capture market share and adapt are the ones that are winning. Those companies have a mindset that allows them to capture the opportunity and often we see their minds focused around growing portfolios 100% or even 300%+ a year. It is possible if you have your team and tech setup properly.
8. Quick Polished Client Launches are Critical
We all know that first impressions matter. If it takes you weeks to get a client live and a ton of manual work, then something is wrong. Your clients are going to lose confidence and you are leaving valuable revenue on the table. You need to have solidified strategies ready to go and be able to launch them quickly. This should be using your data from points 1 & 2 above!
9. Manage by Exception
If you are looking at client accounts on a monthly or quarterly schedule, you are going to fail and churn clients, and in some cases issue refunds. Margin is too low to have this happen at all. You need systems to be monitoring your accounts several times a day. You should have the tools in place to monitor when campaigns are off track and quickly address and modify as necessary.
10. Automated Reporting Drives Portfolio Growth
It goes without saying that you need to provide quality reporting. Reporting shouldn’t just be about clicks, rates and impressions. It should be about where your clients sit in the market and where the opportunities exist for them to invest more and get the return they are looking for. When you can articulate this, you open the doors to adoption and budget increases.