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Reflections on 8 Years Running an Agency
Running an agency can be a white-knuckle ride.
I found the part-written blog post below, reflecting on eight years of running an agency.
It was written back in 2015, which is a few years ago now and a while since I shifted from agency to consultancy life. But, I thought I’d share the completed parts of the post as I’m sure there will be a few agency owners who will empathise with my thoughts at the time:
Klaxon is 8 this Year
Sometimes I can’t believe our little agency is eight years old, but since I started out in January 2006, I guess it has to be true.
Klaxon and I have had a few ups and downs in those years. The ups have definitely been the people we have worked with, be they clients, team members, or partners.
And the downs. Let’s just say there have been a handful of experiences we’d rather not repeat. Like relying too heavily on one big client (aka the gorilla client) who then takes six months to pay an invoice.
I landed my first job in marketing in 1998 for Compaq, and I’ve learned an awful lot since then. Not just about marketing but also agency life, working with clients and putting together integrated marketing campaigns.
But marketing is in an interesting place right now, and the learning never stops. The pace of change, led by advances in technology, is breathtaking, but that’s partly what I love about this industry.
In these first eight years of the Klaxon journey, I would summarise my key experiences and feelings on running an agency, the state of the industry and b2b marketing in particular as:
1. There is Never Enough Budget. Period.
Client-side and agency marketers can frequently be heard complaining about a lack of budget.
Marketers always want Champagne with Beer money.
2. Be Transparent Please, Marketers
It always helps to share with your agency the budget you have available. Just today, we had a meeting with a prospective client who had aspirations of grandeur but a budget more akin to Oliver Twist. We walked out of the meeting. It was a waste of time.
Get it all out in the open, people. Share what you have, and then everyone knows what they’re dealing with. Focus on outcomes rather than time, and costs, and you.
3. Relationships are Key
For an agency, the best clients are the ones that understand they need to invest in an agency relationship. It takes time for an agency to get to know your business as you do and to deliver exactly what you need.
Relationships are vital, and everyone makes mistakes. Not every campaign is going to work. To win big, you have to take risks. It takes a strong client-agency relationship to allow for creativity in marketing/communications that leads to great wins and sometimes losses.
But you have to take a risk to win big.
4. Customer Service is Vital
Agencies always want to be partners with their clients, but they do little in the way of earning that level of trust.
Good old-fashioned customer service counts a lot.
5. Measurement is Critical
Technology is driving marketing at such a pace that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. But it’s also creating an environment where everything can be measured, and that’s good for the marketing and communications professions.
No longer can we justify our existence based on weak metrics like page views, clicks, downloads, AVEs, or reach. We’re getting closer to understanding what really matters.
I love what I do. No question about that. But the grey hairs on my once brown head do tell you it’s far from easy street running an agency.
So there you have it. Has anything changed about running an agency in the years since 2015?
Probably not a lot, although the technology piece has moved on from social media to AI. Everything else feels as valid now as it did when I first penned it.