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Long-term growth and client and talent acquisition are common themes of agency ownership. Success relies on developing systems to scale, acquiring clients who match your values and goals, and aligning talent with clientele. All of this is compounded by market fluctuations and operational challenges. How can you measure and achieve success amid these requirements?

We sat down with top agency experts who have prevailed through unprecedented circumstances. They speak about everything from overcoming setbacks and pivoting for quick growth to building an agency from the ground up and honing their services and culture to source top people. Nothing is too significant for them to handle. Read on to hear what they have to say.

AB Lieberman, Clicks Talent

AB’s secret to owning a profitable agency is to capitalize on every opportunity you receive. He learned this after waiting too long to sign a contract and losing a valuable opportunity. Whether it’s a partnership, client, or acquisition, it’s critical to act immediately and remain accessible.

Clicks Talent is the #1 TikTok influencer marketing agency specializing in music and brand sponsorships. The agency represents over 100 TikTok influencers and works with over 1,000 influencers within its extended network. Each influencer is vetted before joining a campaign to ensure accurate engagement rates.

Learn more: AB Lieberman, Clicks Talent 

Brandee Johnson, LimeLight Marketing

Sometimes, the best way to manage an agency is to learn from others who have achieved success in the past. That’s why Brandee measures her agency’s performance against other prosperous agencies. Don’t hesitate to seek help from experienced agencies who have traversed the path before. You can raise your success rate by having knowledgeable partners in your corner.

LimeLight Marketing drives growth for small-to-mid-size companies through the creation of effective marketing strategies, compelling branding, well-optimized website design and development, and seamless technology integration. LimeLight specializes in driving traffic, improving conversions, and increasing sales for mid-size e-commerce brands.

Learn more: Brandee Johnson, LimeLight Marketing

Gregory Hooven, MarketReach

When making a mistake, it’s easy to blame yourself or take it personally when a client reacts negatively. Instead, Gregory says to remain flexible and pivot to avoid major setbacks. It’s important to remember that you may not have all the knowledge you need to solve a complex challenge, so surround yourself with a diverse team who can balance out your shortcomings.

MarketReach is an award-winning creative production shop that provides B2B technology marketers with fast, efficient creative marketing services. MarketReach is led by decades of creative and tech industry experience, specializing in video, web, design, writing, strategic events, and program management.

Learn more: Gregory Hooven, MarketReach

Dustin Brackett, HIVE Strategy

It’s a common misconception that the longer you’ve been in business, the fewer challenges you have. While it’s true you can take greater risks, Dustin says these opportunities come with unique challenges. Once you’ve established yourself, the obstacles evolve to include scaling, acquiring and retaining the right talent, developing a company culture, and establishing long-term goals.

HIVE Strategy is a full-service inbound marketing agency and Diamond HubSpot Solutions Partner specializing in lead generation and customer acquisition through diverse digital marketing strategies and tactics. HIVE works with clients in B2B, B2C, nonprofit sectors, technology, education, finance, health, and HubSpot.

Learn more: Dustin Brackett, HIVE Strategy

Bob Grant, Grant Marketing

The marketing industry is becoming increasingly competitive, with various trends ebbing and flowing. According to Bob, it’s crucial to inform clients about these changes so they keep you and your services top of mind when capitalizing on contemporary trends. Additionally, Bob recommends keeping abreast of each new marketing tool to provide relevant services to your clients.

Grant Marketing is a Boston brand development and marketing agency specializing in B2B brand strategy services. The company utilizes a proprietary brand discovery process called Focus2020 to help build businesses with integrated and interactive marketing communication services. Grant Marketing has a staff of certified brand, marketing, and creative strategists and offers inbound marketing consulting and management as a HubSpot partner.

Learn more: Bob Grant, Grant Marketing

Dan Larkman, Keynes Digital

Dan takes a flexible and accommodating approach to team culture. His agency seeks to improve the quality of each team member’s personal and professional life. This entails allowing them to take personal leave in the middle of their workday without having to worry about being micromanaged.

Keynes Digital is a full-service audience and performance-focused programmatic advertising partner. The agency delivers trackable results for brands and agencies across connected TV and digital platforms. Keynes Digital utilizes an audience-first approach to drive new users to websites.

Learn more: Dan Larkman, Keynes Digital

Jeff Freedman, Small Army

In the advertising and marketing industry, change is unavoidable. Trends fluctuate regularly, so Jeff says you have to move with the changes to remain relevant and stay in business. It’s helpful to surround yourself with team members who are up-to-date with the latest industry developments and willing to make the shift.

Small Army creates brand stories based on shared beliefs and ideas. The team combines talent, passion, empathy, inspiration, and enthusiasm to develop relationships with brands. Since 2002, this Boston-based agency has been connecting companies with the heart and soul of their brand.

Learn more: Jeff Freedman, Small Army

David Lee, Design Source Media

Burnout is common among agency owners, and David is no exception. After assuming too many responsibilities and pushing himself to his breaking point, David became disillusioned with running an agency. He eventually delegated his tasks to a dedicated and supportive team who helped him overcome his doubts. During these difficult moments, it’s valuable to build an encouraging team that can help you work toward your personal and professional goals.

Design Source Media (DSM) is a web agency that helps small businesses build their web presence. With a focus on technology, DSM specializes in web design and development, information technology, and business consultation.

Learn more: David Lee, Design Source Media

Erika Montgomery, Three Girls Media

In the event of client disputes or disagreements, Erika recommends having a clear contract that outlines key terms and conditions. This contract should include agreed-upon services, mutual responsibilities, and payments. It’s also crucial that the written agreements are straightforward and don’t contain hidden fees or details so that when a client has questions, you can reference the contract in its entirety.

Three Girls Media is a boutique, award-winning marketing and public relations agency. Three Girls’ mission is to provide world-class marketing and public relations services for organizations of all sizes, raising their brand awareness and name recognition through both traditional and digital tactics.

Learn more: Erika Montgomery, Three Girls Media

Jami Eidsvold, Smarty Social Media

Agency ownership is a people-based operation. According to Jami, everything you do should revolve around your team. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a vision for your agency. Creating a goal and implementing systems to execute it keeps your team grounded. Yet, it’s important to maintain flexibility in each venture to give your employees creative freedom and inspiration.

Smarty Social Media is a social-first healthcare marketing agency that uses social media to help innovative companies bring healthcare and technology disruptors to market. Smarty Social Media strives to improve lives by connecting providers and patients to medical devices, aesthetic procedures, biotech innovations, and wellness products — and then igniting them to take action.

Learn more: Jami Eidsvold, Smarty Social Media

James Kwon, Figmints Digital Creative Marketing

As James says, consistency is key when building an agency. Businesses cannot thrive without consistent, effective systems and operations. If you want to scale fast, you have to structure your company around straightforward processes that put clients first.

Figmints Digital Creative Marketing is a full-service digital agency that specializes in interaction execution. Figmints helps businesses craft a creative story through branding and identity development, marketing communications, website design and development, and more. Figmints’ mission is to realize its clients’ full potential.

Learn more: James Kwon, Figmints Digital Creative Marketing

Kenneth Fischer, Atigro

Client acquisition is challenging. Some agencies reach a point where they accept any client who selects them for a service. Yet, Kenneth warns against taking on just any customer. Instead, assess potential prospects thoroughly by considering your agency’s culture and services, your industry, and market conditions. Ensure that the clients you select embody the values you’ve set for your agency.

Atigro is a performance-driven digital marketing agency optimizing businesses’ SEO and content to grow visibility, leads, and revenue. The agency applies SEO to build a high-performing search engine optimization program that converts prospects to customers.

Learn more: Kenneth Fischer, Atigro

Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb

According to Dave, there are two types of business owners: visionaries who develop ideas and integrators who execute them. If you fall under the first category, it’s important to have a team who can help bring your ideas to fruition. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to engage your team and get them to participate. When this happens, Dave recommends walking through your goal and explaining how it will help grow the agency.

BizzyWeb is a full-service digital marketing agency helping business owners, marketers, and sales teams generate leads, sales, and online buzz. The agency offers web design, digital and inbound marketing programs, and growth-driven design programs that encompass everything. As HubSpot and Constant Contact partners, BizzyWeb provides onboarding and training for both platforms.

Learn more: Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb

Eric McGehearty, Globe Runner

Launching an agency is no easy task; it requires sourcing employees and clients and marketing your services to establish a presence. Most agencies begin as solo operations, with entrepreneurs struggling to gain traction. After his e-commerce business failed to turn a profit and his wife became pregnant with twins, Eric knew he had to launch a company that would gain authority quickly. So he employed contractors from his e-commerce business and posted job ads for sales representatives, allowing him to market his agency as an established company and acquire his first customers.

Globe Runner is a boutique agency offering SEO, search engine and content marketing, PPC advertising, branding, and automation. The agency’s clients span a range of B2C and B2B businesses operating in North America, the Uk, and Brazil. With specific expertise in retail, fashion, financial services, and healthcare, Globe Runner’s work has been featured in Forbes, AdWeek, and the Dallas Morning News. 

Learn more: Eric McGehearty, Globe Runner

Kriste Goad, Fuoco

When it comes to agency growth, the standard is to scale fast and consistently. Yet, Kriste stresses that there’s no right or wrong way to grow. Every agency is unique and has different requirements, goals, and values, so it’s critical to forge your own path and find a scaling method that suits your needs.

Fuoco is a healthcare marketing agency with a passion for problem-solving and connecting people. Fuoco’s team of healthcare experts has experience ranging from startups and public and private corporations to newsrooms and political organizations. With expertise in sourcing, implementing, and leveraging tools, Fuoco helps businesses align technology platforms with their brand strategies, marketing goals, and campaigns.

Learn more: Kriste Goad, Fuoco

Lisa Larson-Kelley, Quantious

Providing value is one of the most important ways to give back to your industry. This is especially critical when your clients are facing tough times and major setbacks. Lisa has acquired Meta as a client who has started to dismiss some of their employees. By supporting these employees through their transition, Lisa can position her agency as a top choice with an esteemed reputation.

Quantious is a boutique content marketing agency specializing in emerging technology and the developer ecosystem. The agency provides marketing enablement services that fill the gaps, shore-up teams, and increase efficiency to turn goals into finished products and marketing managers into brand heroes.

Learn more: Lisa Larson-Kelley, Quantious

Jason Fishman, Digital Niche Agency

Jason’s top tip for agency growth is to acquire strategic partners who can support you in expanding your reach. Establishing these partnerships requires creating referral sources that help build and spread your reputation to potential prospects. Then, you can develop trust with your partners to initiate and nurture a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

Digital Niche Agency (DNA) is an investor and user-acquisition agency that has worked with over 500 brands on data-driven marketing campaigns to acquire users, customers, and investors. As a leader in FinTech marketing, DNA regularly surpasses the results of the most notable agencies and in-house marketing teams in various industries.

Learn more: Jason Fishman, Digital Niche Agency

Tihana Muric Lalic, Made Online

Managing an agency entails a delicate balance between serving clients and supporting employees. For Tihana, this means standing up for her employees against difficult clients because losing a team member is more detrimental to the business’ performance than losing a demanding client. Respecting quality talent requires valuing and promoting them, respecting their work-life balance, and creating a stress-free work environment.

Made Online is a digital marketing agency with experience providing SEO, content, social media, and website design services. Made Online helps businesses extract value from digital marketing and ensure the best ROI for campaigns.

Learn more: Tihana Muric Lalic,Made Online

Paul Feith, Paul Gregory Media

Paul says that agency ownership is not about partnering with companies, it’s about building relationships with other people. Get involved with your industry and community to form these relationships. It’s essential to present yourself as authentically as possible, so don’t be afraid to disclose your mistakes, as it can help others facing similar challenges.

Paul Gregory Media (PGM) is a certified B Corporation and a full-service digital marketing agency. Since 2006, PGM has produced work that informs audiences, inspires interactions, fosters personal connections, and increases impact. Paul Gregory Media is considered one of the top marketing agencies in the region.

Learn more: Paul Feith, Paul Gregory Media

Keith O’Brien, Page.One

Keith’s advice for managing business partnerships is to develop terms and conditions in the early stages of the company. Start by delegating roles and responsibilities and discuss potential next steps if the partnership fails. Keith warns against dividing business equity before establishing these requirements because it can be difficult to reverse. Transparent and honest communication is key to a successful partnership.

Page.One is a full-service Amazon agency that helps brands with $200 million in revenue grow on the platform. Page.One has in-house teams for content optimization, photography, design, and PPC and account management. This gives the company a unique perspective on businesses to create the most engaging, highest-converting listings possible.

Learn more: Keith O’Brien, Page.One

Ramsey Sweis, Aqaba Technologies

The most common mistake agencies make when advertising their services is not recognizing their target audience. This is crucial to positioning your brand in the modern market. Ramsey has developed industry worksheets and conducted extensive market research to understand and advertise to his audience. Each social media platform has distinct users with diverse personas, so you have to strategize accordingly.

Aqaba Technologies is a tech-driven agency that brings consumers and brands together through high-impact, personalized digital experiences. Aqaba uses online marketplaces and strategic partnerships to unleash transformative digital growth and solve advanced issues across multiple industries.

Learn more: Ramsey Sweis, Aqaba Technologies

Ramin Jahedi, OpticTour

According to Ramin, the traditional selling model is outdated. Instead, agencies must form connections with their clients. Part of creating these connections is educating your clients about your agency, i.e. your services, industry, and values. In turn, they will inform you about their values and challenges.

OpticTour is a group of dedicated professionals with one common goal: to build a strong digital marketing foundation for businesses to grow. OpticTour takes a measured approach to reviewing businesses, observing competitors, and analyzing target audiences.

Learn more: Ramin Jahedi, OpticTour

Steve Wiideman, Wiideman Consulting Group

When building an agency and structuring services, Steve says not to follow trends. A business should be unique to your style and values, so you should develop a personalized brand story to manage your agency. However, when breaking into your chosen market, Steve recommends following previously successful strategies instead of recreating them.

For over 18 years, Wiideman Consulting Group (WCG) has provided strategic and innovative inbound marketing solutions to enterprises and SMB brands. Often referred to as the “agency’s agency,” WCG’s team members have served the world’s largest brands in the e-commerce, service, and franchise industries. WCG brings corporate search engine marketing expertise and leadership.

Learn more: Steve Wiideman, Wiideman Consulting Group

Michael Query, adMind Analytics

If you want to create an attractive agency that interests clients across multiple industries, it’s crucial to understand that your service offerings aren’t for everyone. Instead, Michael advises marketing to the select set of clients who benefit from your work. When you focus on providing value to appreciative clients, you can attract ideal people.

adMind Analytics provides custom analytics audits and solution design and implementation for brands with emerging analytics needs. As a marketing consultancy, adMind is comprised of data architects, engineers, and analysts who ensure data is accurate, accessible to all stakeholders, and focused on the KPIs that drive businesses forward.

Learn more: Michael Query, adMind Analytics

Robb Fahrion, Flying V Group

Remaining consistently informed of your agency’s performance and development requires gathering input from your team. Robb advises leaning on your employees to recognize your business’ shortcomings. He surrounds himself with talented professionals who help him learn about the industry and identify potential opportunities.

Flying V Group is a nationally recognized digital marketing and advertising firm that has been recognized by Clutch as a top B2B marketing company in the US. The group provides comprehensive and holistic marketing and advertising strategies for its clients, including website design and development, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, programmatic display advertising, and social media and content marketing.

Learn more: Robb Fahrion, Flying V Group

Tom Conti, SweetScience

When organizing your finances, even the smallest mistake can have a significant impact. That’s why it’s critical to develop a knowledgeable investment strategy for your business. Analyze each expenditure and determine your average ROI so you can structure your operations accordingly. Tom says you can never be too prepared when it comes to investments, so ensure that you consider service fees and staffing.

SweetScience is a full-service, tech-forward marketing agency that builds activation strategies and campaigns for challenger brands. As a 2019 Inc. 500 company, SweetScience creates campaigns at the intersection of art and commerce.

Learn more: Tom Conti, SweetScience

Natasha Brito, AUSTERE Agency

Natasha is systems-oriented, and she encourages other agency owners to embody that same attribute. As you grow, your original ideas and processes won’t sustain the business further, so it’s important to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) to document and organize your operations. Trust your team to follow the SOPs and move the company forward. If mistakes happen along the journey, you can update your processes to reflect the necessary changes.

AUSTERE Agency is a global team of inspired, avant-garde creators and social marketers that bridges an intersectional strategy of building iconic brands through social creative, marketing, and advertising in Web 2.0 and 3.0. AUSTERE develops strategies that convert fast, and it creates engaging, viral, creative content for the music, fashion, and lifestyle industries.

Learn more: Natasha Brito, AUSTERE Agency

Christopher Savage, Savage Global Marketing

Company culture and talent acquisition are buzzwords that have been circulating around the agency space recently. But what do these terms mean? Christopher says that when hiring potential employees, you need to ensure that they embody your values and can grow with your agency and clientele. When you have a well-established culture that encompasses your company’s goals and persona, you can acquire people who fit that mold.

Savage Global Marketing is a marketing, design, and creative agency that works with startups to Fortune 500 companies specializing in the automotive, marine, and aeronautical spaces. Savage Global Marketing fuels brands with advertising, websites, and videos that save time and generate explosive returns.

Learn more: Christopher Savage, Savage Global Marketing

Paul Echols, Square 205

As someone with a client-focused agency, Paul stresses the importance of valuing and investing in customer relationships. This means that your services have to consider the client’s needs, challenges, goals, and ROI. Provide consistent value and ensure that you follow up after each offering. If your agency isn’t a fit for a potential prospect, offer additional options they can leverage outside of your business.

Square 205 is a human-focused digital marketing and creative agency. From idea to launch, Square 205 builds a digital presence and products with an emphasis on exceptional user experiences. The team works collaboratively with clients to form a focused strategy and pursue design and technical direction that meets and exceeds expectations.

Learn more: Paul Echols, Square 205

Erika Saracco, City Ranked Media

Every agency wants to outperform its competitors, but it’s crucial to differentiate yourself first. Most agencies measure success by the amount of traffic, leads, and conversions they generate over a given period; however, these performance metrics are limited. That’s why Erika tracks her agency’s profitability by the growth of her clients’ experience. Standing out from the crowd requires the ability to make an impact through your services.

City Ranked Media is a progressive, full-service digital marketing agency that focuses on developing long-term client relationships through innovative website design, local search, social media, and paid advertising techniques. City Ranked strives to help clients grow their businesses by providing them with relevant leads that convert into high-value lifetime customers.

Learn more: Erika Saracco, City Ranked Media