By: Sarah Tourville, Founder & CEO
The term “never” can often have a very negative connotation. It’s a powerful word that sets the barrier between where you have been and where you are going. But in the world of business, “never” is not always a negative thing; rather, it’s a term that brings on reflection of the road that brought you to where you are today. As I’ve reflected over the past year and on the new decade ahead, I have been assembling a list of things I promised myself never to do again.
These are lessons learned during my trials and tribulations while launching my own PR and marketing agency across three continents, with zero external investment. Each bullet on the list is a reminder of why a certain method or strategy did not pan out and a glimpse into the maturation of my agency.
My “never again” list is a step toward a more sustainable future for Media Frenzy Global, something that will likely resonate with many of my contemporaries and serve as a guide for many new business owners who are likely navigating the waters of entrepreneurship for the first time.
1. Forgetting To Market Yourself
It seems crazy in hindsight, but in scaling my agency, the emphasis was always on the client and never on Media Frenzy Global itself. From PR and digital marketing to social media and content creation, we sell potential clients our suite of services but rarely dive into our own marketing efforts. Then, the lightbulb went off in my head that the best case study we can share would be on our own personal brand. The same efforts we put forth for our clients need to be allocated to our agency.
This led to a complete rebrand and an updated website. We sharpened our image and followed much of the same counsel we share with our clients. The result was a 70% increase in inbound leads and a strong mix of industry and local business acclaim for our new branding.
Agencies shouldn’t use their client work as an excuse for lack of internal effort. This mindset shift has been monumental for my business and should be top of mind for all creative firms. The best way to show a future client the work you do is by looking at the efforts around your brand. Just as you would expect your personal trainer to be in great shape, your marketing agency should have the best-in-class website and social media channels.
2. Avoiding Red Flags In The Relationship
While there are intricacies in every relationship, working with an agency is a two-way street. The only way to ensure success is through clear lines of communication and transparency on both ends. The agency-client relationship is comparable to many personal relationships we have, which is why it’s important to find like-minded people and companies with similar values to align with. For instance, we have a qualification process to vet our leads and make sure prospects match our criteria. This includes their industry, internal capabilities, timeline, budget and if it’s a PR client, asking ourselves the question, “Is there a true story to tell?”
We don’t want to set ourselves up to fail, which is why so much work needs to be put in upfront, at the start of a relationship. I am not looking for a paycheck, but rather a sustainable relationship where both parties are happy. This means being very strategic with our business development and turning down clients if they raise any red flags. These can be requests for immediate services, an unrealistic or no budget or even a client in an industry you typically don’t operate in. While entrepreneurship is synonymous with risk-taking, you must understand your company’s strengths and gauge the right time to step away from a potential deal.
3. Being Flexible On Price
To grow as an agency, you must be able to clearly communicate your value proposition and separate your offerings from those in the market. This also means setting concrete pricing and rationale for why certain services run various rates. Oftentimes, prospects will have many questions about the cost of hiring an agency. For some, it may be their first time partnering with a third party, while others may have to quantify the ROI of partnering with a marketing agency to senior leadership or the board. That being said, be confident in your pricing model and set it in stone.
A client’s budget should not dictate the price of your offerings. While you can certainly scale a program up or down based on need, at no point should certain clients be paying less for more. While negotiation is part of business, haggling is not. You wouldn’t go to the store and ask for a cheaper price on a shirt because you don’t have enough money to pay for it. Be firm in your valuations and you will not only see increased success but also better alignment with ideal clients.
This list is a testament to the growth of my agency, and a step in our maturation. It puts things into perspective and shows the mistakes that have led Media Frenzy Global to where we are today. I will write another list next year, and if I’m doing my job right, it will consist of entirely new items.
When you seek to learn from your mistakes, failure becomes a step toward growth. Companies with ambition should always look to push the boundary and try new things. But what separates ambitious companies from successful ones are those that can identify which moves shouldn’t be repeated and which should be explored further. My “never again” list is a way of cataloging our ambition and ensuring we are always moving toward a brighter and better future.
Find the original article in Forbes.