In the world of professional services, it's a tough job being an agency owner. There are countless factors to consider in order to grow your business and maintain profitability while providing excellent service for your clients. While running a successful business is hard work, there are certain principles that can make this process easier.
In this article, I'll be outlining five key principles that will help you break down barriers and unlock new opportunities as an agency owner/freelancer/ professional services provider, whether you're launching or scaling up your agency.
This is what I learned after building outbound programs across 3 agencies.
#1 - Brand
It is tough to build. How do you build a brand with no budget? You are a nobody. A lot of people say that having a brand does not matter...especially when you are a small company. Let me tell you something. Brand matters WAY more if you are a smaller company. Don't you get most of your business via referrals?
It takes time and every day that goes by without a cohesive branding strategy in place means you are losing potential clients because they see your business as unprofessional or unfocused. You need a process of building your brand: create a strategy, design, content creation, and deployment.
I read this post once that stated, you start to build a brand when you stand for something in your field of work. At Growth Rhino we truly believe outbound is broken and want to help SaaS companies with their respective programs.
Branding is what sets you apart from your competition and it's how people identify with your company or organization. When done right, branding can take a new idea and turn it into an internationally-recognized brand that people love.
A strong brand will help establish trust with clients who are looking for someone they can work with long-term on something they truly believe in.
A strong brand will allow you access to more clients because there is already recognition when someone sees that name or logo, which means less marketing required for initial sales.
Brand hack: Go have 100 conversations about your topic. Do 100 podcast interviews, articles or Linkedin Posts. I guarantee you after that , people will know what your brand stands for.
#2 - Subject Matter Expertise
This translates simply into people wanting to work with the best. What's your business all about? Do you know? It doesn’t matter if you have a 100 dollar engagement or 100 million. You can build this by producing content and talking about your differentiation. The key here is to produce relevant evergreen content that you can repurpose in your sales cycle.
Subject matter expertise matters for the success of your agency and the importance of being an expert in your field cannot be overstated. It's important that clients feel they're getting top-tier service when they come to you with their marketing needs, and it’s also important that your employees believe in the work they are doing. When people don't have subject matter expertise or are working in unfamiliar territory, there can be a lack of buy-in from both parties involved as well as decreased productivity due to frequent mistakes and wasted time spent on unnecessary parts of the business.
#3 - Can't Force The Need
This is probably the biggest misconception any service provider has. Only 2% of your buyers are in ready to buy mode. The rest are not even aware of the problem they have. No matter how many emails, phone calls or free events you throw, if that person doesn't have a need they cannot engage you for your service.
We all know that the need for our services isn't always there and it's frustrating when we can't get clients to buy into what we do enough to sign on.
If you're a consultant or agency owner, you've probably heard the question before: 'How do I get my boss to buy your services?' The answer is simple. You can't. It's not that our services are so great and we're just waiting for people to see how smart we are. It's because there's no way of forcing someone else into using something they don't want. Here's why you can't force the need:
You'll burn yourself out if you try too hard, it takes time (and luck!) to develop a client base. Focus your energy on other parts of your business instead of trying to drum up work constantly.
It will seem desperate and unprofessional, you want potential clients to think highly of your branding right off the bat which means not seeming like someone who will sell their soul for a client
#4 - Nurture
Staying top of mind with your existing network is what will help you the most. Nurture your network. This is a phrase I've heard many times and can't seem to shake. It's like the old adage "it takes one person to make a difference." The more people you know, the more opportunities you have for work, connections, or even friendships. But how do you nurture this network?
You stay top of mind by posting on Linkedin, starting a private/company newsletter, reaching out to your network and scheduling catch up calls. You need to think like a media company and be everywhere where your prospect is.
It's hard to stay top of mind in a business filled with competition. When talking about nurturing, I’m not saying to treat them like children, but keep an open line of communication, provide consistent value, and be there when they need you most. Nurturing doesn't happen overnight, it takes time and effort, but the outcome will be worth it!
#5 - Relationships
Don't focus on MQLs, SQLs, and all other metrics. The only metric in lead generation for a service provider that matters is relevant relationships. Optimize your funnel to start more conversations that will help you build more relationships. Then you stay top of mind across those relationships.
A few more tips:
- Get out there!
- Find people you trust and connect with them
- Be ready to share your skills
- Be open-minded about new connections
- Keep it real
- Offer help when you can
- Make time for others
- Create a blog (content)
- Write guest posts to share what you know
- Think of networking as an investment in yourself and business
Building relationships for your business is easy if you are creating conversations in your area of expertise and interacting with your ideal audience.
You can build a predictable and scalable pipeline can be possible once you build a process around the above.
In short you need to take a stance, be producing content, building new relationships and maintaining existing ones. That is how you will build your agency.
One relationship at a time.