How to start your own marketing agency
If you have excellent communication skills and a strong work ethic, consider applying them to starting a marketing business. Learn how with our guide
Are you a marketer looking to leverage what you’ve learned and gone for it on your own? Or maybe you dream of running your own business and want to transfer your skills and apply them to something new to you? Whatever your reason for wanting to start your own marketing agency, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions.
Starting a marketing business can be a full-time business – with so many possible functions and sometimes a busy schedule, you may want to give this startup idea your full attention.
Otherwise, you could start as a side job – a business activity that you do in addition to your regular job. Whichever route you choose, what do you need to know to get started?
In this article, we’ll see how to:
- Find a niche
- Identify your target market
- Write a business plan
- Find clients
- Promote your business
- Acquire skills and hire staff
Who is suitable to start a marketing agency?
The following skills and traits are helpful:
Able to adapt – it is a rapidly changing industry. You should be open to change and comfortable taking risks to run a successful marketing business.
Desire to learn – there will be a lot of information you need (often quickly), especially if you are focusing on SEO or digital marketing (see below) where the climate can change quickly, and interest in l learning is essential.
Excellent communication skills (essential for a marketing communications agency) – you will need to be able to speak and communicate with a wide range of people, whether they are leads or potential hires.
Now that you’ve learned what skills and qualities you need, let’s take a look at the main steps you need to take when thinking about starting your own marketing agency.
1. Find a niche
Marketing is a competitive industry, so you’ll need to identify what makes your agency unique to help you stand out.
One way to do this is to offer a specialized service – for this purpose, the goal is to eventually make yourself known as an expert in a particular type of marketing.
Marketing agencies can provide services for print, digital, radio, television, and other forms of media.
How to create a marketing agency?
What can your marketing agency specialize in?
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – ads bought at the top of search engine results
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – the processes of maximizing the ranking of pages when searched online.
- Content Marketing – online content created for specific audiences about products or services.
- Event marketing – promotion of events
- Guest Blogs – write articles for blogs and link to sites.
- Email marketing – promotional material sent by email
If you want to start your own email marketing business, find out how to fine-tune your email copy with our article How to Optimize Email Open Rates.
Does your marketing agency specialize in B2B or B2C?
You could also focus on the type of marketing your agency will create – will it be B2B or B2C marketing?
B2B stands for ‘business-to-business’. Your agency could create marketing materials to help other companies position themselves within their industry or target other companies.
B2C stands for ‘business-to-consumer’. With this approach, your agency would be responsible for producing marketing aimed directly at clients.
If you are starting a marketing business as a side business, assess what kind of services you will be offering – you may want to work on particular one-off projects or work consistently for the same clients over a longer period of time.
No matter what specialty you choose, it’s important to have a clear and unique focus so people know what your organization does and how it stands out from the competition.
As a first step, it’s wise to build your business around one key service and do it really well. When you’re ready to expand, you may want to consider offering additional services to diversify your business offering.
Tips for creating a web marketing agency
- “Keep the overhead low – don’t stretch too much.
- “Stick to what you can do – don’t generalize. If you want to develop in other areas, call in specialists.
- “Be measurable. Account for and learn from everything you do – so you can prove the ROI for your customers AND learn from what you do.
- “50/50 billing. Cash flow is king – charge 50% upfront for projects and 50% on completion, or 25/25 at defined milestones.
- “Practice what you preach. Don’t pretend to be social media specialists or blogging superstars if your own content and social media results are outdated and dull. ”
2. Identify your target market
After deciding what kind of work you want your agency to create, the next step is to figure out who you are going to market to and why. You might want to take on as much work as possible, especially at the start, but remember to consider whether it serves your target market – if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to say no.
“When setting up your own marketing agency or going freelance, it’s tempting to make outrageous promises in an attempt to attract clients. However, this is a short-term strategy. Be confident in what you can offer and what you can achieve upfront and while it may take longer to build a following, you will set yourself up for success.
“In our experience, customers appreciate transparency in an industry known for its lack of clarity. So even if you feel like you are facing stiff competition, honesty is really the best policy, both at the start-up stage and during your partnership. It could mean having the confidence to say ‘no’ when a client wants to lead the campaign in a certain direction. ”
Another aspect of positioning your business is knowing where your target market is. For some companies, these may be large-scale international projects, while for others, it may be focusing on the local territory.
Analyze the market and look for the gaps, whether it is an industry, service, or location that is currently underserved. View market gaps as opportunities that your business could seize.
From the start, it’s essential to think about your agency’s brand – this includes what your business does and why it does it.
Think of your brand as the story of your marketing business.
You will need to identify the main characters (your team members), the plot (what your business does), and the style (how your business communicates). Then tell that story over and over again.
Your brand is communicated through everything your business does, from general concepts like your name and logo to the smallest details, such as the fonts you use on your website.
3. Write a business plan
A business plan should include:
- Your business goals
- Cash flow and financial forecasts
- Projections of economic activity
- What source (s) of income you will use
- Who is your target audience and how are you going to reach them?
- If you haven’t already, now is a good time to register as a business. If you are starting as a self-employed person, you will most likely register as a self-employed person.
Conversely, if you are starting a full-time business, you may want to consider starting a limited liability company.
4. Find customers
Every marketing agency needs clients, and we’ll provide tips to help you find yours – whether you want one or 100!
While you want to acquire as many new customers as possible early on, it is likely that over time your goal will be more to retain customers for the long term, as it can be difficult to continually replace them.
That said, it’s also important to know when to let a customer go (see above for our previous point on saying no as part of your brand).
How can your marketing agency find clients?
One of the most important ways to find clients and market your agency is through networking. You can do it all the way:
- Participation in trade shows and industry events
- Presentations at conferences
- Reach out to your contacts and your network
- Participate in networking sessions
- Contribute to LinkedIn groups and discussions
- Posting on relevant business forums
- Share content on social media
Networking is about making connections and providing value – note that this is not necessarily an immediate source of income. Instead, think of it this way: Connections create customers.
Hannah Brice, Managing Director of Upmarketry, says: “Finding new customers is different in every industry, but for marketing, there are two sources.
“The first is your network – I have received most of my agency’s new business from referrals or former colleagues and clients who enjoy working with me and are confident in my abilities. It also makes the new business process easier by saving you from going through the lengthy presentation process!
“The second best source of new business is to run targeted Google AdWords campaigns linked to landing pages featuring your most popular service. If you know enough about the needs of your target audience – and the pressures they are under – you can create landing pages that offer this solution and drive traffic to them using specialized keywords. The more specific your keyword phrase, the more return you will have on your advertising spend as you will get very little wasted time. ”
Nothing makes people more interested in trying or doing something more than the word “free”, and you can apply that to your agency services too. Having portfolios is essential for agencies – but how do you create a portfolio without clients?
At first, consider offering your business services for free to show people what you can do. Gradually you will build your portfolio and you can use this work to get paid contracts.
Once you have clients to work with (following the steps above), use them to expand your client base even more. Ask their clients or suppliers if they need any marketing services and let them know your agency is available.
Getting recommended by another company might increase your agency’s chances of finding more clients to work with, as it helps build trust. This is especially important in the early days when your agency is still building a portfolio and client list.
Where you are based says a lot about your agency. Again, this is all part of your brand, so choose your office location carefully because it can say a lot about your business.
If you choose to work remotely or are looking to cut costs, you might consider using a virtual office or co-work space to have those essential business services, like a downtown mailing address or facilities. reception.
Initially, it may be possible to run a home-based marketing agency, especially if you do most of the work yourself. To maintain a work-life balance and ensure maximum productivity, check out our guide to working from home survival.
Finding the right premises for your business isn’t just about having enough space to work, it’s also about showing potential clients – and competitors – that your agency is a serious competitor.
Since agencies tend to be located in the same areas, being in these locations can help potential clients trust you more (which is vital, especially at first) as you will have a recognizable address.
However, depending on your target market, it may be better not to have a central location. Or you just want to stand out from the competition and stand out as well.
For example, if your agency is focused on marketing for farm businesses, then an office in a downtown area miles from your clients probably isn’t going to be of much use!
While you can start by offering work for free, this is only to secure clients to build a portfolio. Once your agency has one, you’ll need to switch to paid work. But what pricing options should you offer your customers?
There are basically two ways to approach this issue: one-off or contract work. In the case of a one-off job, your agency will offer its services to specific projects, while in the case of a one-off job, you will work for the client for a fixed period.
Here are some examples of typical price formats:
- Billing by the hour or by the day
- Offer fixed services for a fixed monthly rate
- Provision of a dedicated team on an ongoing basis for the payment of a deposit.
- Whichever you choose, be sure to set a price that fairly reflects the work your agency creates and the resources required to produce those results, in a way that is most appealing to your target market.
How to retain customers of your marketing agency?
Once your agency is more established, you will need to make sure that your clients stay with you and that they are not swayed by what other competitors are offering. Here are a few tips :
- Make sure that everything your organization does is customer-centric.
- Maintain reports and document work
- Stay up to date with industry news
- Creative approach to work
While it can be easy enough to manage your time (both acquiring new clients and maintaining existing accounts) in the early stages, as your business grows and grows you will need to maybe consider additional tools.
This is where customer relationship management (CRM) software can help – it offers a central point for all the interactions a customer has with your business to store in one place. To find the best CRM system for your business, compare quotes here.
5. Promote your marketing agency
Promoting a business is essential, but for a marketing agency the question becomes even more interesting: how do you market a marketing business?
Even if people expect higher standards (this is the area of expertise of your
Even if people expect higher standards (that’s your company’s area of expertise, after all), don’t worry – see it as a creative challenge instead. Here are some of the main ways to promote your business:
First of all, you need to have a professional and well-designed website. This is not negotiable for a marketing firm – clients and others interested in your agency should be able to find your business online and see a site that best reflects what you do.
However, it doesn’t have to be expensive. At first, you can use a website builder to build a basic website quickly and easily, without needing a lot of technical skills.
After a while, you may consider hiring a professional web designer to create a website with a bespoke design and enhanced features, such as an interactive portfolio.
In addition to your site, your agency will need to be on social media to contribute to your overall online presence. While there are a number of platforms out there, focus your efforts on connecting with your target market. It’s about knowing which networks they are using and sharing their content. You can use social media to promote your business, but also to engage and find customers.
In general, Facebook and Twitter are the main networks to use. If applicable, consider using Instagram, Pinterest, and other platforms as well. It’s a way for people to see what’s going on at your agency and keep you up to date with what matters most to your clients.
“I invest a lot of time on our corporate blog and social media, but I find the most effective way to market Upmarketry to my target audience is to go directly to them and find ways to work with him for free. For example, I often hire entrepreneurs and start-up executives to contribute to my blog and PR articles. It builds a relationship and helps their referral program. ”
Even if you are running an online marketing business, don’t forget about printed promotional material. It can be as simple as creating business cards for yourself (and possibly other key team members), which are useful to distribute while networking.
Likewise, you might consider creating brochures and other physical materials to promote your business. You could sample a range of work that you think best represents your organization in a brochure to distribute as needed.
6. Your marketing agency needs to acquire skills and hire
At first, you will likely be doing all of the tasks involved in running a marketing agency. Once your agency’s revenue is at a high enough level, then you’ll want to consider hiring staff.
“Don’t do it too early. At first, it is very likely that you take on short-term projects and your income fluctuates wildly from month to month. Getting stuck with employees when you don’t have the job for them can ruin your business, so I recommend finding high-quality freelancers you trust until you’re ready to hire permanent staff. ”
Make sure you understand your role as an employer. Read our articles on setting up professional liability insurance for new employees and employers.
You will need to think carefully about this – what skills are missing and what processes could be improved?
While it is sufficient that all critical information is known only to you when you set up your start-up, at this point, you will need to think about making this information accessible to your team members when they need it.
The roles you hire for are totally dependent on the workload and individual needs of your business. However, here are some ideas for key roles to hire early on:
Financial Officer – As cash flow forecasting and financial forecasting is an essential part of your business plan (and the success of your business), an accountant, financial officer, or similar position can be one of the primary roles that you are hiring.
Support Staff – It can be easy to forget what documents need to be returned and when or what supplies the office needs, for example, so support staff is essential to keeping your business running daily.
If you are not yet at the stage where it is possible to hire staff, you can still think about the skills you can acquire to further improve your organization.
For example, you could gain on-the-job experience at an agency before branching out and hiring your own staff. You can also get officially recognized qualifications, such as a diploma or degree.
Once you’ve created your team, remember that clear and transparent communication is essential for success. Likewise, don’t forget to show your employees that they are appreciated – for example, you could take them on vacation or offer them benefits. All of this contributes to a creative and positive work culture that allows a happy team to do the best possible job.
“At the beginning, you will need to hire versatile staff who can do a lot of different things. Then, as your agency grows, start identifying specialization opportunities for these employees. Taking a more modern approach to work will make it easier: the more flexible you are, the more freedom staff have to make the best decisions and make the best decisions.
What are the next steps for your marketing agency?
At this point, you have learned the essentials of starting a marketing business. We looked at how to identify a target market, as well as what should be included in your business plan. Plus, you’ve learned how to promote your business – whether it’s to find customers, attract talent, or just spread the word.
So what do you do with all of this information? Now is the time to start your marketing agency – good luck!