Updated: Mar 14
Digital marketing is a growing industry and it needs more and more agencies to keep up with the demand. If you have the skills, knowledge, and patience to create your own social media marketing agency or digital marketing agency, then you should know that it is not an easy task.
There are many things you need to consider before starting your own social media agency. And who better to teach you how to start your own social media / digital marketing agency than another digital marketing agency? In this blog, we will cover each of the 13 steps we used to establish Echt Social.
1. Study the industry
This is a basic but overlooked fact. As potential agency owners, you may feel the need to ignore this and dive right into registering your business and start approaching your clients. While that may be the faster route it isn’t necessarily the best one.
You need to do due diligence and study the digital marketing industry and how it operates. This helps you assess how your agency would fit with the current market offerings. The digital marketing industry among many others organizes regular webinars to pass on updates and discuss case studies. Attending these will be highly beneficial and will give you clear insight as to how the digital marketing experts in the industry conduct themselves.
In your industry research phase 5 key questions must be asked;
What are the challenges faced by the industry as a whole?
Is there a gap in the current market offering that my agency is geared to give?
Who are the key players in the industry and what do they offer?
Can I match the technical / design skills that my peers are offering their clients?
What are my current weaknesses when compared to the industry standards?
2. Identify a USP
This is applicable to any business in any industry. If you don’t have a USP it would be very difficult to convince potential clients as to why they should choose your agency over others.
The unique value proposition you give your clients would also help you zero in on the clients that need it the most so not having a USP identified would be detrimental to your agency as you would be unclear on how to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Your USP could be one or a variety of factors;
-Superior industry or digital marketing knowledge
-A strong network and easier access to prospective clients
-Access to the latest digital marketing tools
-A strong team with a diverse skillset
3. Make your brand name easy to remember
Make it a name to remember and one that you would be proud of even several years later. Try not to be too specific with your name as it would hinder your chances of offering more services in the future.
For example, calling your business Colombo SEO Agency would by name give customers the impression that you only provide SEO services and especially for businesses within the Colombo city limits.
4. Find the right partners
Picking the right partner/s could make or break the business. While it’s common for people to start businesses with a person with the same skill set it’s actually more beneficial to pick someone with a different skill set and a different line of thinking. This helps you see clients, operations, or any issues from different perspectives. As long as you and your partner/s have the same goals for your business then diverse skills and thinking really do help strengthen your business.
5. Build your brand guidelines
Once your partner is on board next stage is to build your agency’s brand guidelines and offering. It is important you and your partner/s agree on what your agency will and will not do. Identify brand colours, fonts, and goals on where you want your agency to be in a few months, in a year, or 5 years later. When navigating through tough times, having goals that are agreed upon help!
6. Run a few social media test accounts in different niches
Start a few niche accounts on Instagram or Facebook for industries you are hoping to target. For example, starting a page called “Hotels Sri Lanka” and featuring hotel images, and offers will help you identify how easy/difficult it is to grow the page, how the audience resonates with this industry etc. This will also give you practical data to see if your social media strategies work. Having this in place would help you take on future client accounts in this niche with better clarity and confidence.
7. Register your business
Once the planning and brand building is done the next step of course would be to register your business. If you are a business in Sri Lanka you could choose to do it yourself or use a company secretary like Simplebooks.
8. Keep your costs low
It’s crucial that you maintain financial discipline at the beginning and throughout your agency’s journey. Even when things are going great, giving yourself an increase or splurging on unnecessary expenses should be avoided.
We live in a global economy and you never know what could happen. The money you spent a month ago could have been saved and used to keep you afloat for 2 months of no revenue due to an unexpected global crisis (coughs in Covid)
9. Network and build contacts
It’s rare that you could just approach a client or cold-call a prospect and land the account. People tend to work with people they trust. This is why networking is important. Be present at various events where your clients are most likely to gather or even industry events with professionals from your industry to build visibility and brand awareness.
10. Approach clients that match your agency's offering
Find prospects that could benefit from your unique offering. Only take in clients that you know would be a good match with your agency’s strengths. If you take in every client that you can without evaluating if they would be a fit, then the relationships would be short-term. Focus on building long-lasting relationships and don’t over-promise.
11. Make the pitches personal
When you approach a prospect it is vital that you realize how important first impressions are. If you send an obviously mass email that is quite impersonal then you are surely going to be ignored as the average manager/owner gets numerous emails each week trying to pitch potential products or services. If your email doesn’t stand out, then it will surely be buried with the rest of the promotional emails they receive.
12. Follow up with respect
If it’s one thing a client hates is constant reminders and follow-ups from businesses asking for updates. While it may be the most important item on your agenda, you need to understand it may not be on theirs.
Space out your reminders and if you do ask for updates make it respectful making them understand that you are aware that they are busy.
For example, the incorrect way of following up would be sending an email saying “Hi John, Could you let us know if made a decision regarding the proposal we sent?” A better way of showing them you understand and triggering a possible response would be to give them a reason to speak to you “Hi John, You’re probably busy. But I just realized that Mother’s Day is coming up and I just thought up this amazing campaign that we could run for you to drive sales for your business. Do let me know when you’re free to discuss and I’d be happy to hop on a call. We could also discuss any clarifications on the proposal we sent last week if you have any.
13. Keep at it until you succeed
Running a digital marketing or social media marketing agency is not easy. Fewer barriers to entry than other industries and lower startup costs make it relatively easy for anyone to open up. The competition will always be present. Adapt and change as many times as you need to. Study the industry, listen to your customers, monitor the external factors, and change your offering to avoid being complacent or redundant.
To all eager digital marketing / social media enthusiasts that are reading this, we can assure you that this industry is definitely the place to be. The growth we’ve personally experienced at Echt Social over the last 3 years despite the constant crises should give you an indication that this is a career and an industry worth working for.
If you have any questions, please do drop a comment below and I’d be happy to answer them :)