In the agency world, things move fast, and just keeping up with your clients’ demands is a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean you should only focus on in-bound requests. Your clients would benefit significantly if you shifted some focus on your internal processes. Streamlining operations can improve your client/agency relationship while increasing agency profitability, employee job satisfaction and the quality of your firm's work. When you only think in terms of client to client, rather than building an overarching strategy for your agency, issues are often overlooked, such as: (1) inefficient internal processes that become increasingly more inefficient as the business scales, and (2) judging employee effectiveness on input rather than output.
However you slice it, the success of an agency relies on building the right team, over-delivering on services and working with the right clients. None of that is possible if you have faulty internal processes in place. Listed below are the most important steps to grow your agency, your workforce’s productivity and your clients’ satisfaction.
- Proper Agency-Client Communication
No matter how great your offering is, if it’s not exactly what the client was hoping for, you’ll ultimately fail. This goes far beyond just setting high-level expectations on goals and how creative should look; these discussions should be a deep-dive into proper budgeting, frequent cadences to monitor and tweak performance, and an intense focus on creating iterations throughout, rather than taking a waterfall approach where your team spends weeks or months preparing a campaign before the client gleans any insight into the progress.
In an effort to set up regular, productive cadences to ensure a solid relationships are built, agencies and clients should:
- Make sure milestones are in place, and being met
- Create and stick to an agenda during each call or visit
- Take notes on every key point, reference, objective and action items
- Follow-up religiously to avoid confusion
At the very least, those four processes should be mandatory with every meeting to ensure projects are not only done on time, but within the scope of the budget and within the scope of the clients’ expectations.
- Improve & Automate Timetracking Behaviors
We’re all familiar with the pain-points that arise when employees are required to manually track their time. From disruptive weekly timesheet reports to continual interruptions of triggering time tracking software on and off in between client work, preparations and other duties, the timesheet process can be incredibly counterproductive. Do you understand just how disruptive a manual time tracking system can be to your organization?
Because employees are focused on billable work, they are often reluctant or unable to interrupt themselves to manually enter their data. While all agencies that bill for hourly work (or that want to understand job-level profitability) must utilize a time tracking system, it doesn’t have to be an invasive solution as we’ve relied on in the past. These older systems capture everything employees do, with screenshots, and will effectively destroy the agency's internal culture by making employees uncomfortable, paranoid and feeling guilty about taking a few minutes to take care of personal matters. Nobody likes a work environment that references George Orwell and "Big Brother".
If you’ve built the right team, empower them to do their best by giving them the best tools and creating the best work environment. An automatic time capture solution such as CreativeWorx TimeTracker, with total respective for personal privacy, will go a long way to improve overall employee happiness and productivity, which is something the agency world could use more of, apparently.
- Measure Everything
Nothing proves your worth more than objective data. In modern day marketing, there’s very little room for excuses on not measuring specific objectives within a campaign to show clients where you’re hitting your targets, and where you’re not on other targets (and how to fix that).
Look at Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic and you'll see scores of analytics software ranging from Web & Mobile Analytics to Business Intelligence to Marketing Analytics:
As you can see, there’s no shortage of software for SMBs and Enterprise companies to track, measure and visualize data to stay on track and iterate based on objective data, rather than gut feeling.
- Constantly Over-Deliver (Especially) For The First 100 Days
James Altucher, who’s an investor, entrepreneur and a blogger, talks a lot about over-delivering all the time with clients, but especially within the first 100 days. James formerly founded and sold a web development agency called Reset, and he’s mentioned numerous times how he’d land a client then immediately hand that client off to a project manager while he’d go after the next client, which in the end would often cause unnecessary friction. As many of us already know, the best clients are your current clients because you can grow with them and retain business. It’s important to invest in the relationships that will allow you to earn more trust and responsibility, rather than always doing one-off projects with a bunch of different clients where you increase your turnover and can never fully focus on the project at hand.
So, how do you do this?
Go beyond what’s expected.
If you’re hired for web development, throw in extra features and offer advice on how to build better site navigation to boost conversions. If you’re a content writer, make introductions to journalists on behalf of your client for PR purposes. Maybe you could even offer to help them outside of their business, too. The possibilities are endless, and anyone who brings more value upfront will almost certainly be rewarded in one form or the other.
- Put Your Employees First
There’s a lot of talk about how to build company culture, but the problem is, company culture is measured in a lot of different ways. Some define it as benefits and office perks, others say it’s team chemistry and camaraderie, and others will tell you it's about personal respect and independence. However you define it, all great company cultures start at the top, and are built on trust and appreciation.
This appreciation could be in the form of giving each employee $1,500 toward a vacation, by having an amazing office, by implementing or eliminating systems to improve the process. The bottom line is for any business, especially an agency which is build on human-powered talent, fostering a group of talented and engaged individuals into a creative force is the greatest investment an agency can make.
Whichever direction you choose to go, you should start by:
- Regularly reinforcing core values
- Giving responsibility and acknowledge accomplishments
- Including all team members on major decisions (where appropriate) such as office layouts, perks, key hires and more.
- Leading by example (perhaps the most important)
Overall, a solid foundation within a company can be your greatest asset, as it improves every other functional area of the business. Without it, you’ll struggle to hire and retain top talent while experiencing many inefficiencies that will considerably slow the business. As a leader, investing in the right team members, technology and processes will determine the entire structure and future of your business.