Everyone in digital marketing knows just how fiercely competitive the industry is, both for brands competing for audience market share and the agencies behind them.
In 2022, it’s estimated that a whopping $616 billion was spent on digital advertising globally, and this figure looks set to pass $1 trillion by 2027.
If you own or lead an agency, the only way to stay ahead is to grow.
But growth doesn’t only mean expanding your team, taking on new clients, and fostering retention. It also means growing laterally, continually upskilling, and keeping a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing digital world.
If you want to achieve continual agency growth and revenue generation without burning out, diluting quality, or compromising client retention, you’ll find all the answers right here.
The Evolution of Digital Agencies
“Great marketers think in terms of growth frameworks.”—Neil Patel
While advertising agencies date back as far as 1786, digital agencies first emerged with the dawn of the internet in the 1990s.
When Archie, the first search engine, went live, search engine optimization followed soon after. In 1993, the first clickable ad banner was displayed online. The first social media site launched in 1997, and Google and Yahoo’s search functions launched a year later.
In the last few decades, digital marketing has evolved as the digital landscape has, with social media sites and mobile use taking center stage. Facebook, X (previously Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat have millions of users, and it’s estimated that 65% of the time people spend on their mobile devices is spent browsing digital media.
Influencers have also changed the digital marketing landscape dramatically. In 2022, the influencer marketing market was already valued at $16.4 billion. Predictions now estimate that by 2030, it will be worth over $143 billion.
With so much change in the digital world, it’s no wonder that client expectations have changed too. Market dynamics shift all the time, and a digital agency that’s static is one that won’t grow or meet ever-changing expectations.
From ongoing changes in Google algorithms to continual growth in mobile use and newer social media platforms racking up record follower numbers, the need for adaptability and agility is ever-present.
An advertising agency can no longer copy and paste a strategy and expect it to be successful. The need to constantly evolve and adapt is crucial, and a lack of growth will lead to a loss of profits.
Agency Growth Strategies
The way you approach agency growth will depend on the type of agency you are and your existing offerings. Not every marketing company is the same, so the strategies will differ too.
Digital marketing encompasses a wide array of services across numerous channels, and each has its own specialty, purpose, and goal.
Some agencies adopt an omnichannel approach across multiple channels, while others specialize in SEO, PPC, social media marketing, content marketing, PR, web design, or outbound or inbound marketing.
If agency growth is your goal, you must assess your current offering and determine where to diversify. You don’t have to evolve from a singular channel agency into a full-service agency, but you do need to expand your service offerings to facilitate growth.
This requires market research into what your competitors are doing and analysis of how you can grow in similar directions without incurring further startup costs or going over your budget.
You also need to consider the human cost of diversifying. You cannot expect your team to increase their workload as you’re expanding in different directions. A good option for diversification is to look at using freelancers who have specific skills or to outsource work to other agencies or small businesses that are not competing in the same sector as you. You can form positive, long-lasting partnerships this way while not overloading your existing team.
If you operate within a very specific niche, you need to assess how you can expand within this niche to attract more potential clients.
For example, if your agency focuses on content creation or guest posts, you may want to expand your digital marketing services to include graphic design, giving customers the option for additional services that complement your existing offering. You can use freelancers or outsource this work to others who can complement your niche. Alternatively, you can employ contractors who are paid per project to ensure that your expansion doesn’t eat into your profits.
The right growth strategy will boost your client retention as you can build on existing relationships. However, it also increases your client acquisition options, as your service offerings now appeal to a broader demographic.
As the marketing world is so competitive, having a strong client portfolio is also crucial to ad agency growth.
For most agencies, prospective clients will want to know who your existing clients are, what campaigns you’ve worked on, and your success rate. By effectively communicating this, you can establish trust and credibility and encourage revenue growth.
You can easily add an online portfolio to your ad agency’s website, and this will promote your work to every potential client who comes across it. Even a list of businesses you’ve worked with on your home page (with their logos) enhances your portfolio and highlights your connections.
Utilize tech & data:
Technology also plays a huge role in your ability to facilitate ad agency growth. Automation tools and AI allow you to leverage technology for sustainable scalability whilst keeping your overheads low. For small business owners, this is crucial to long-term success and profitability.
Analytics tools also provide growth metrics that your agency can track and use to make data-driven decisions. Data analysis has many benefits, and it encourages the ability to make growth and revenue decisions based on facts and stats rather than estimates and forecasts.
There are many freemium tech tools available online that you can use to monitor your metrics and track growth. Do some research into CRMs and scheduling, lead generation, project management, and collaboration tools to find the right fit for your advertising agency. You can always do a trial run of a tool to see if it works out, and if it doesn’t, you can rethink your options.
Speaking of free tech, do you know about Parakeeto’s Agency Profit Toolkit? It’s full of spreadsheets, templates and training videos allowing you to take your agency to the next level. Get your copy today!
“At least 40% of businesses will die in the next 10 years if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.”—John Chambers, CISCO
Transforming Your Advertising Agency Business
While there are multitudes of advertising agencies vying for market share, there is only one of you.
What makes your advertising agency business unique? Why are you different? What can you offer potential clients that others cannot?
When you can answer these questions, you can begin transforming your agency and focusing on future growth by crafting a compelling value proposition.
What is a value proposition? VP is the features, service, or innovation that make your agency an attractive option for clients.
Once you’ve established your VP, you need to focus on building a strong brand identity for your agency. This is a case of outing your money where your mouth is. The skill set you’ll apply to clients will apply to your brand, and it’s something that many ad agencies don’t always get right.
Marketing your VP is as important as the marketing you do for your clients.
Take the same approach, continually create and manage ad campaigns, and ensure that your brand identity is strong and resilient.
You must also consider pricing, hiring, and talent retention when priming your advertising agency business for transformative growth.
Effective pricing strategies:
How you price your services will always impact your bottom line, especially if you have startup costs. However, while many agencies are tempted to price themselves as low as possible, this isn’t ideal. Not just for limiting revenue growth, but for reputation too. If you’re too cheap, you risk taking on too many clients and burning out, or diluting or compromising quality to churn out work cheaply.
Do market research and ensure your prices align with your offering and the industry standard. It’s important to establish a baseline for your profit margin and ensure that if you offer lower rates, you can afford to cover your costs and still operate with a growth mindset.
Of course, you can’t just go ahead and hike your prices if you realize you’re undercharging or you want to boost your revenue. Not only will this increase churn, but it can ruin your reputation too. Instead, what you can do is increase your rates for any new clients your agency signs.
For existing clients, you can implement an annual price hike, ideally at the start of the new financial year. When doing so, be sure to explain how much you appreciate their business and how a slight increase will help to ensure you can continue to provide the quality marketing services you’re known for.
Hiring and training top talent:
Without a strong agency team, you can’t service clients in a way that facilitates growth. To transform your agency, you need to ensure that your hiring processes are exemplary and that once you have a team of top talent; you retain them. To ensure the best possible hires, you can use an external recruiter to assist in your hiring process. For onboarding and ongoing engagement, you’ll need to ensure that your HR person or department is well-trained and up to the task.
An engaged team is essential, and ongoing training is key to keeping your agency in the lead. Studies show that companies that embrace a strong learning culture have increased retention rates of between 30 and 50%. In the fast-paced digital marketing world, one of the key challenges is constantly adapting and learning new skills. If you can train your team and encourage them to do related reading, keep up with industry trends, and generally take a proactive stance to progressive learning, you’ll encourage lateral and vertical business growth.
Maximizing Digital Marketing Agency Revenue
Your digital marketing agency revenue is the reason you’re in business.
You want to make money and ensure your annual income shows a substantial profit.
We’ve touched on the importance of effective pricing models, but we will unpack them a little more here so you can determine which option best suits your agency. A new business will have different revenue requirements to an established agency, and adopting the right pricing model is key to growth. These are the two most common digital marketing agency revenue models:
If you have clients on retainer, you guarantee them a certain number of hours or services a month at a set rate. The rate may cover specific content requirements, project management hours, the sending of automated emails, or social media management for specific business accounts.
Regardless of the parameters of the ad campaigns or services, this pricing model provides stability, especially for small businesses, and allows you to manage your cash flow as you know your income over a specific agreed-upon time.
Often a good option for an established agency or a new agency that needs to prove itself. Performance-based pricing is exactly what it sounds like. Rates are based on performance and tied to a predetermined value metric. This could be the number of leads generated from a PPC campaign, open rates for email marketing, or the conversion rates from a social media campaign.
But maximizing digital marketing agency revenue isn’t just about having the right pricing model to increase revenue. It’s also about knowing how to upsell and cross-sell and practice efficient client relationship management.
What’s the difference between upsell and cross-sell?
Upselling involves encouraging clients to opt for an upgraded version of the service your advertising agency offers, such as a larger package, a bigger campaign, or increased marketing spend.
Cross-selling is similar, and it will vary based on the services you offer. However, it involves inviting clients to purchase complementary services to provide maximum value, e.g., social media posts and guest posts for content marketing campaigns.
To successfully upsell and cross-sell, your agency must prioritize client relationship management. You can leverage technology here and implement a CRM to ensure all interactions are recorded and easy to refer to in order to maintain an excellent relationship.
If you have a solid relationship with a client and manage their account in the most professional manner, they’ll trust your agency, and you’ll have a great rapport that allows you to make suggestions and drive growth—not just for them but for yourself, too.
The Role of Marketing Magic
Marketing agencies are magicians. So, you need to whip that rabbit out of the hat regularly and develop creative, innovative marketing techniques that reach your client’s target audience and draw in new prospects.
We’ve made it patently clear that adapting, evolving, and staying up to date with the latest trends is crucial to the success of your ad agency.
But you need to do even more than that.
Your digital advertising agency needs to build a strong online presence for brands, leverage social media and content marketing, and focus on influencer partnerships and collaborations.
Building a strong online presence may mean stepping up your social media management and creating captivating social media posts that engage audiences. Or it may mean creating guest blogs for link-building purposes or emails for outbound marketing.
For influencers and other collaborations, you must partner with the right influencers with a target audience that benefits your client. Strategic partners are ones that serve clients and actively promote them in the best possible light within the desired demographic and audience.
If you align with other brands, it must also be a win-win situation where both benefit from the exposure.
Real-World Growth Examples of Ad Agencies
There are dozens of examples of digital agencies that have maximized their growth potential and increased their revenue successfully. These are just two examples of agencies that have achieved success and the strategies they used to get there:
A prime example of how important customer relationship management is, Hüify managed to grow its revenue six times in a year using Hubspot’s tools.
A marketing and sales agency in North Carolina, Hüify used Hubspot’s CRM and HubSpot Sales Professional to bring a human element to their client’s business presence online. This allowed them to shorten their sales cycle from nine months to four weeks and add five more employees to their team.
A UK-based digital marketing agency that now employs over 250 people, CTI Digital, was struggling to find a comprehensive SEO solution that would allow them to boost the ecommerce businesses and companies they worked with and to attract new clients. They integrated the use of Semrush’s SEO, PPC, content marketing, competitor research, and social media marketing tools into their agency, and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
Some of their biggest clients experienced a 12% site health increase, an 8% year-on-year revenue increase, and an 85+% increase in organic revenue. This boosted their own marketing as it enhanced their portfolio, driving growth, revenue, and new customer acquisition.
Challenges and Pitfalls in Digital Marketing Agencies
The challenges agencies face in their quest for growth depend on numerous factors, such as size, annual revenue, niche, and operating capacity. They may also depend on the agency owner or leaders and whether there are limited resources due to budget or rapid growth.
Some of the most common obstacles a marketing company may face while aiming for growth and an increase in revenue generation are listed below, along with the solutions:
Challenge: Finding and retaining new customers
Solution: Offer a value proposition that makes you stand out. When you find clients, ensure that your VP carries through to every interaction and is results-driven.
Challenge: Attracting and retaining top talent
Solution: Focus on employee engagement, training, and creating a healthy workplace culture that encourages productivity and innovation.
Challenge: Remaining innovative and creative
Solution: Avoid stagnating, stay up to date with industry trends, and explore partnerships with influencers and other collaborators.
Challenge: Sudden growth leading to burnout
Solution: Leaders and managers must step up and ensure that every team member has adequate time off. Creativity and inspiration don’t exist in an overworked, stressed environment, so avoid creating one!
Challenge: Dilution of quality and brand compromise
Solution: Avoid expanding your client base too rapidly and across too many verticals just to accelerate growth and revenue. In the long term, this will do more reputational damage than good for your agency.
Agency Growth Is An Ongoing Endeavor
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”—Henry Ford
Any marketing agency that aims to facilitate ongoing growth and build revenue needs to embrace ongoing adaptation and change. The digital world doesn’t stand still, and an agency needs to move at the same pace.
There are numerous ways you can grow your agency, both laterally and vertically, and we’ve covered them here.
From continually doing market research to adapting your digital marketing agency revenue model, leveraging technology for scalability, employing automation, encouraging client and talent retention, and managing your team, there are numerous avenues that all lead to the same result—growth.
By transforming your agency, you can make marketing magic. Not just for your clients, but your own agency too.