It’s no secret that we’ve had a really successful year at RUN2, four big client wins in January got us off to a flying start and that big ball just hasn’t stopped rolling for us. The results we deliver for our clients speak for themselves, people talk, and we’ve welcomed many more clients (and friends) this year which has enabled us to grow and expand our offering into new fields.
It has been super exciting and we are proud of what we have achieved as a company, personally it is a joy and a privilege to work with a team of enthusiastic and committed individuals and I genuinely believe that team here are the master cog in our wonderfully oiled digital marketing success machine.
Honestly though, it hasn’t been a walk in the park – we’re only human, we’ve faced challenges, but we’ve tackled them head on and come out on top which allows us to pass on the knowledge of how to build your own successful agency:
1. Recruit the best people
Tempt talent and hold on to new recruits.
- Create the right agency culture: If you create a great environment for your staff recruiting and retaining becomes far easier. Being a smaller agency, we’ve managed to develop an incredibly collaborative and almost collectivist culture. The hierarchy here is as flat as possible, and this has contributed to our ability to attract and retain talent. Our staff are really able to make a difference within their teams, practices and the agency overall.
- Avoid using recruitment agencies: Recruitment agencies are best left as a last resort – they’re expensive and not always reliable. Truthfully, most of our best staff have come direct to us – maybe we’ve been lucky but maybe it’s always partly because of the culture here…
- Focus on juniors: When you’re a smaller agency it’s much easier to recruit juniors with potential that can be developed as opposed to finding fully formed talent. Nurture your staff and watch them grow.
2. Keep winning
Continue to win new work and clients.
- Leg work: Word of mouth does, and has proven to, work seriously well but we don’t advise this to be your only way of gaining new clients. You need to get your name out there, reconnect with people. Try and do one thing a day that could potentially become something more one day.
- Specialise: Focus on what you excel in as an agency, be the expert and deepen your knowledge in those areas. Seek out clients who need it, and ignore the rest. Agencies often make the mistake of taking any work they can get, just don’t do it. It takes the focus away from what you are supposed to be doing and resources become tighter, chances are you will suffer in the long run. Once you have mastered one area, start again with recruiting the best people for your new offering. Don’t mix it up.
3. Retain existing clients
Stop clients jumping to rival companies.
- Be consistent: Clients love consistency, and as a smaller agency you are much better placed to provide this. At larger companies clients get shifted through numerous different people and they never really know who they are talking to. We’ve been able to build long relationships because our clients have strong relationships with their dedicated teams that remain consistent.
- Be personable: If there’s one thing that has won us clients in the past it is this very thing – we’re a really easy going agency and this makes us much more personable than bigger companies. You will dramatically improve your chances of winning over clients if you are approachable and friendly. Nobody wants to deal with an agency that is full of their own self importance – and there’s plenty of them! Allow your clients to enjoy the experience of working with you and you’ll no doubt retain that account year on year.
- Manage expectations: Sometimes you will do everything your client has asked and more, but that doesn’t mean your client will stay with you forever. When you do a great job, the company may grow. It is natural that they may then take work in-house. Don’t dwell on these clients, you’ve helped grow their brand and become part of their journey – retaining a good relationship with these clients might bring you business in the future.
4. The yin yang
Allow your staff the right balance of work and play.
- Keep working hours realistic: You’re often expected to work longer hours at smaller companies but this can be counterproductive and generally lowers productivity. Simply set yourself realistic timelines, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it is this; Communicate your timelines clearly to your clients, tell them how long things are going to take, realistically, and they will be fine with it. Do not say you can do something in a week if you know it will take two, not only will it be really stressful for your staff but it will also set a precedent for future work and you will end up paying a costly price one way or another.
- Be flexible: Smaller companies do generally tend to be able to offer more freedom than large organisations with strict HR departments. This can go a very long way in making employees happier and more productive. Allow your team the freedom to go for a long lunch or attend their kids sports day – you’ll find that when you need them most they are more than willing to pay that time back.
- Keep the hierarchy flat: There isn’t really a methodology to this, it’s just about treating everybody the same. There’s a mentality at RUN2 that we are all working towards one common goal, we have the same perks and this leads to a feeling of ‘we’re all in it to win it’. That’s probably down to keeping the hierarchy as flat as possible.
5. Make better decisions
Invest your money wisely.
- Review often: Agency life is hectic and it’s easy to forget to take a step back and examine how things are going. Review your finance, review your operations, review your staffing, review your marketing and from all of this develop a list of goals moving forward along with any issues that need addressing. It’s vital for the health of the company to do this.
- Listen to your staff: At smaller companies you tend to have more interaction with your staff, use this as an opportunity to listen to what they need. If new hardware or software is requested, be attentive and willing to adapt to new innovations and work habits. You can almost guarantee that your employees will be after something that will make their life easier, but remember this in turn brings better productivity and can put you on the front foot in your industry.
- Desirables: Sometimes it’s good to spend a little bit on luxuries. It is important that you enjoy the space you work in and if that means investing in a really good sound system or a swanky coffee machine then it’s strongly advised. It’s also worth littering your spaces with industry magazines, books and a bit of nice artwork. They are invaluable for keeping up to date with what is going on in your world.
On a side note, I mentioned that we were expanding our offering, you’ll hear much more about this in the new year!
Here’s to the continued success of RUN2 and fellow agencies!