In this post, I want to share what I have learned in the past few years of running my business – especially the services side of things with PixelTrack Digital. You can take inspiration and also make sure that you do not do the mistakes that I did while trying to scale a digital marketing company.
So here are the top lessons I learned, in no particular order:
1. Never Undersell Yourself
If there is one big advice I would give to anyone who wants to start a digital marketing agency – I would strongly advise you not to undersell yourself. When we are just getting started, our confidence levels are low. When we are not too confident about the amount of value we can deliver to our clients, we end up charging less.
Charging less comes with its own set of problems:
- When you price your services low, you will attract the wrong kind of clients. You cannot help a business that is broken with your marketing services.
- Someone who is doing business without a strong funnel will seek help from a marketing agency thinking that marketing will fix everything. Marketing can only accelerate a business that has the fundamentals right. It cannot change the fundamentals.
- Clients who have a business problem usually pay less because they don’t have much money and they will also have too much time on their hands and they won’t let you do your work properly. They will act like they know everything and treat you like an intern.
- When you charge less, you are also limited by the amount of effort you can invest for your client, and hence you will not be able to bring enough results for them, which will further reduce their trust in you. It is a negative spiral that is hard to get out of.
- Most agencies who undersell themselves go from one bad client to the other and the cycle keeps on going on until the company is closed. I have seen a lot of companies fail because they fail to rise in terms of service and product quality. Your focus should always be to charge more and deliver more value to a small number of people than charge less and deliver less value to a lot of people.
On the contrary, when you charge high, you will be able to attract clients who are already doing good in their business and would be able to get an ROI from the work you do. When you accelerate business from 100 kmph to 150 kmph, it takes the same effort to take a business from 0 kmph to 20 kmph. So work with businesses that already have momentum. Your efforts will have a much better ROI.
2. Personal Branding is Mandatory
When you are running a services company, the services are provided by people. The credibility and the reputation of the people who run the digital marketing agency is more important than the brand of the agency itself, at least in the initial years.
I was able to launch my agency PixelTrack and get clients immediately because I have built my personal brand long before I started the agency. According to my findings, you first build awareness about your personal brand by creating content. Once you have the attention of potential customers, you sell your services and build some credibility. If you keep doing it, then the credibility gives rise to reputation.
Reputation is something that happens as a side-effect of credibility. You can’t build a reputation on demand. It is something that comes to you and you just have to maintain it. If you maintain your reputation long enough, it will lead to fame. You don’t need fame to create a million-dollar company, but you need fame to create a billion-dollar company.
Here are the things I do to build my personal brand awareness:
- Write blog posts
- Publish YouTube videos
- Publish content on Instagram and Twitter suited to the audience in these platforms
- Speak at events
- Publish a book
- Became a TEDx speaker
- Conduct my own events (HighTraffic Summit)
- Let people promote my courses as an affiliate
- Be a guest speaker at other’s webinars
- Run an active online community called Learn Digital Marketing on Facebook
- Hire interns and mentor them
A lot of people think that my personal brand is a result of my reputation in the market. But a few people realize that the reputation I have in the market is because of my personal branding efforts.
Some people hesitate to build a personal brand (you might be one of them) because then the business depends on you. If you step out of the business, then your business will not continue to run the same way you used to run it. That’s true. But to start with, it is easier to leverage your personal brand and penetrate into the market. Your personal brand is the seed that takes roots before you grow into a large tree.
A lot of billion-dollar world-changing companies have been built on personalities. And such companies are more often looked up to than the brands which do not have a face connected to them. For example, Tesla and SpaceX have been built on the personal brand of Elon Musk. However, now the brands itself are so big that Elon Musk can proudly say that he is the founder of the company. The brand gives recognition to its personality.
In this day and age, building a personal brand using the internet is an available mechanism for everyone, you become the brand ambassador of the brand that you are building. If you hesitate to put yourself out there and hide your authentic self, then it is going to be an uphill ride to make your brand a well-known brand in a world with so much noise.
3. Hire the Best Team
Getting the right people on your team is the only way to succeed in building a great company. Almost no company ever succeeds without great people. Even if a company owns the intellectual property, a great brand, licenses, and patents, it can still fall apart if it is being run by the wrong people.
I have worked in many companies and I have seen how the wrong team can bring the company down. And with the right team, you will be able to achieve 10x of what you can achieve as a single person. Just one bad person in the team can set off a chain reaction and spoil the mood of the whole team. One bad apple can make all the apples bad.
In my expansion, the biggest mistake I did was that I hired the wrong people in the beginning. I used to think that as long as their intentions are good, they can become a part of the team.
In the early days of my business, I even hired my friends as team members and it backfired. When they cannot perform and do justice to the salary they are withdrawing from the company, it becomes very hard to fire them. You literally lose sleep over it and that reduces your productivity.
Since then, I have fired a lot of people and now I am proud to say that I have an excellent team. Thanks to my personal brand, attracting talent is not a problem for me. That’s another great thing about having a strong personal brand.
4. Setup Systems That Can Work for You
During the initial days of the agency, you are the system. Everything that you do is at the back of your mind. Some plans will be on random sheets of paper and even napkins. But eventually, if you want to remove yourself from the system, you have to make the system work without you.
Setup standard operating procedures for everything in your business. There is a saying which goes like: “The government should be made of law rather than of men”. Similarly, a business should be made of systems than leaders who run the business.
Decision making at several layers of the company becomes extremely easy if you stick to a system. The system will make the decision for you. Over time, you can make amends to the system, but it is the system that will tell you what to do than a manager telling people what to do.
5. Focus on a Single Niche
I cannot understate the importance of focusing on a single niche. It is very natural and easy to think that if you are a generic digital marketing agency offering all the services for all the people, you will capture more market share and make more profits in the long run. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Most of the successful agencies I have seen a focus on one thing for a single market. If you are everything to everyone then you are a no one to everyone.
One simple example to get clarity is to think about doctors. Who makes more money? A general doctor or a specialist like a neurosurgeon or a cardiologist? The deeper you go, the lesser the competition and higher your customers will be ready to pay for it.
A digital marketing agency should be able to provide all the different types of services, but they should focus on a single topic where they have expertise in. Once you know which is the core area you can focus on in terms of services offered, you should identify a market or a niche that you can confidently serve.
It is usually a good idea to choose a single niche which is a combination of the need in the market and your own skills and experience. When a generic digital marketing agency wants to compete with you, they will not be able to because you have some strong advantages that they do not have.
These are the top five lessons I’ve learned from my experience of running a digital marketing agency. Of course, I have learned a lot more from my experience as an entrepreneur and I’ve shared it on my book Edge of Sanity.
What do you think about the points above? Leave a comment below. If you run a digital marketing agency yourself, feel free to share your experiences.
If you want digital marketing services, please email me at email@example.com.