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win with us.
We exist to make your business thrive and our greatest reward is our returning clients. Our focus is and always will be on our clients and not on industry awards and accreditations, which could account for why we’ve won so many of them…
How to Increase your Agency's Revenue.
Two things, firstly, strategically and tactically growing your agency’s revenue is definitely possible but, secondly, there are no hard and fast rules for this based on my experience and from talking to other agency owners in my personal and professional network.
However, as the co-owner of an agency that has grown 247% in the past couple of years (I’ll let you decide if it’s good or not) from effectively a startup to a reputable digital agency, employing 50+ people in three countries, over 4 offices, I thought I would share a few simple initiatives/principles/ideas that I think go some way to contributing to our success.
As an agency owner, the first principle for me is Keep Learning. There are no rule books for running digital agencies, we (my business partner Paul and I) could be considered the first generation (or second at most) of digital agency owners having started in the ‘noughties’ and so understanding that in order for our business to grow, we needed to grow as people, was key. Self learning, personal development networks such as Vistage and openly meeting with other agency owners to talk through issues and challenges has been key in the story of Sagittarius. By opening our minds to external help and input we transformed our whole approach to how the agency was run, taking the lessons learned and the academic theories and interpreting so that we could implement them in our business.
The next important step was to create a solid Vision and set of Values for the business. Our vision is simple, easy to understand, built on key metrics and has a very clear focus. Consequently, whenever we bring someone into the business it’s easy for them to understand where we are and where we’re heading. Coupled with our 5 core values, we can quickly evaluate whether you're a ‘Sagittarius person’ or not. More importantly, so can our potential recruits!
I used to believe, like many others, that most important thing in our business is our people. But, and I know some will argue with this, I don’t think that anymore. The most important thing in our business is our Culture, built on our Vision and Values. Without this, brilliant people are still brilliant but they’re not necessarily all rowing in the same direction. We use lots of ‘on the bus’ and ‘rowing in the same direction’ analogies in our business, which to some sound quite trite, but we know that these are so critical in getting our amazing team to work towards the same end goal, our Vision.
This brings me onto my next point, Focus. Focus for us has been key and we only learned this about two years into our most recent chapter. At the start of our journey, we were a marketing agency with our own platform and a plethora of marketing services - most digital but some more traditional. The problem was, in the fast-paced world of tech, we weren’t really known for anything. We learned, with a little help from our non-exec team, that to be reputable meant to be famous and to be famous we needed to be more focused on fewer things.
With Vision, Values and Focus you can really start to align and hone your skills as a business. The next key area in our growth story came from having Good People. Earlier I said people were not the most important thing, however, you won't get far without them.
As a business, let alone as an agency, we have made a point of trying to provide all the things that they need so that they know they are cared for, safe and secure. This includes the tangible stuff like good kit, a great office environment (in all our global offices), good salaries and good benefits. We've also looked after the less tangible aspects too including flexible working, dependency leave, supporting volunteering etc. However, this is the easy stuff.
The hard stuff with people is what makes a difference to growth - developing our people and empowering them, including letting them fail and helping them learn from it. It took me about two years to get used to being a 'Managing Director' which, and it seems so simple now, is to manage and direct - not to do or to micro-manage or dictate. Our people are brilliant, match our values and subscribe to our vision so all I have to do is give them the vision, empower them and then get out of their way. That’s it, apart from being a sounding board, watching for signs of fatigue and a bit of nurturing and re-alignment our people are brilliant, capable and empowered to move us all collectively towards our vision and objectives.
There are lots of other things that I could write about including accountability, standards, PPT (people, process, tools) but I'm going to finish with partners. I'm proud to say that Paul and I have grown our agency without investment or borrowing. However, we have by no means done it alone.
Our supporters, partners and non-execs, those that are truly interested in working with us to develop our business are a huge part of our success. Through joint endeavours with partners in sales, marketing, operations/delivery and HR, we have worked closely to align our businesses and grow together. We put such stock in this that we changed a great number of our supplier relationships to align ourselves with people who had a truly passionate interest in seeing us succeed, as they can see the longer term benefits for their business.
Our non-execs have been brilliant too. Showing us new ways of doing things, building our networks, providing support and much needed counsel; and always being there for us. Without them, I don't believe we would have grown with the same pace and intensity.
This then brings me full circle back to learning and using the genius, sweat and energy of others to better yourself and your business. To sum up, this article then, if I had to write a recipe for growth I would say invest in yourself and your people, have a clear vision, work with brilliant people who share that vision and subscribe to your values and then really focus on what you do best. Finally, surround yourself with other businesses that want you to succeed and you will soon see the benefits.
Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.
A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.
So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance.
What is a Content Strategy?
It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.
But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business.
Who are my Audience?
You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.
So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context.
Do I need to tailor content?
As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.
Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:
What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?
Who are they most influenced by?
What voices influence their behaviour?
What type of content do they consume?
Where do they consume content and engage with brands?
Different Content, Different Objectives
All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.
There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.
Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale.
Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels.
Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.
Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.
Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.
How do I manage all this?
Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.
Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.
Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.
If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.