Smart Agency Podcast: The #1 Digital Agency Podcast for Social Media, SEO, PPC & Creative Agencies

Do you feel trapped in an operation tunnel vision? Are you ready to shift your attention toward strategies for agency growth? Our guest today initially viewed strategy sessions as a luxury she could only afford once her agency had achieved significant success. However, upon receiving guidance from a coach to address alignment issues, she and her partner began scheduling daily strategy sessions and prioritizing working on the business rather than just in it. Tune in to hear about her accidental path to agency ownership and her vision for the future after implementing more intentional planning for growth.

Samantha Martin is the co-owner of Prime Marketing Agency, a female-led experiential agency that creates epic brand experiences that leave a lasting impression. She discusses her entrepreneurial spirit and how she navigated through different roles before landing in her current position.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Navigating cashflow constraints.

  • Unshackling from RFPs and into a more relationship-building model.

  • Prioritizing strategic development.

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The 0 to 100 Leap from Freelancer to Co-Ownership

During her student years, Samantha was a member of a dance group that toured the US and Canada for various gigs contracted through an agency. This is where she ended up getting her start in the agency industry. Throughout the years, she kept working different gigs and staying open to possibilities working at different agencies at a time.

Eventually, the start of the pandemic brought a unique opportunity to work at an agency startup, seeing its growth from the ground up. It was an important experience she took to her next opportunity, where she could become co-owner of an agency she’d previously worked at.

It was practically a zero to 100 growth from being a gig worker at several agencies to owning a 50% stake in one. It was scary and risky but she knew how the business worked and felt ready to figure out her new role as owner.

Navigating Cashflow Constraints and Cultural Complexities

So far, the most challenging aspect of agency ownership for Samantha has been cashflow. As an agency that actually keeps and maintains equipment like foodtrucks, trailers, and large rigs, they’ve found it challenging to manage all these pieces while still accessing more freedom to grow the business quickly. They also have warehouses in three different cities in Canada, which adds to their operational expenses.

Furthermore, while growing a team has been incredibly rewarding and recruiting both English-speaking and French-speaking professionals offers a great advantage for the agency, it can also be a challenge for the owners. Basically, there are cultural differences between both that they are actively working to smooth.

After the pandemic, the agency has been fortunate to have a steady flow of leads and, while the number of clients has decreased, they have acquired larger accounts and diversified their portfolio across various industries.

In the immediate future, Sam wants to focus on getting to a point where the agency has a healthy amount of both big and smaller clients, which not only provides stability in terms of revenue but also allows for better resource planning and team motivation. There will also be a focus on clearly defining which clients they want to service and building the specialized teams to address those particular needs.

Unshackling from RFPs

As her agency grows, Sam is also working on feeling more empowered to step away from some of the less-than-ideal parts of agency life, especially when it comes to filling RPFs. Requests for Proposal are already a controversial figure in the industry, with most agency owners hating them and striving to get to a point where they feel comfortable enough to deny them.

RFPs are often time-consuming, costly, and offer no guarantee of securing the project, given the intense competition from multiple agencies. Successful agency owners have chosen to avoid responding to RFPs altogether, citing the time and cost involved in the process. These owners choose to focus on building relationships, showcasing their expertise through other means, and strategically selecting which RFPs to respond to. This allows them to not rely on the traditional RFP process and it’s where Sam wants to steer her agency in the future since she considers the model is slowly dying.

Heading to a Relationship-Building Model

Shifting the focus from simply responding to Request for Proposals also allows agency owners to position themselves as advisors engaging with clients and prospects.

Instead of spending time and effort on crafting proposals and competing with other agencies can often outweigh the potential benefits. Instead, agencies can decline RFPs respectfully and propose alternative solutions, such as paid discovery sessions or consultations, to demonstrate their expertise and value to clients.

By reframing the conversation and showcasing their unique insights and capabilities, agencies can attract clients who value quality over price and are willing to invest in achieving the best results. This approach not only helps agencies stand out in a crowded marketplace but also fosters stronger, more collaborative relationships with clients based on trust and mutual understanding.

Escaping Operational Tunnel Vision by Prioritizing Strategic Agency Development

Part of saying no to RFPs is putting more focus on the bigger picture, which is a must for agency owners to continue to grow their business. After being in the weeds day after day working on accounts, for Sam it was luxury to shift to working on the business instead of in the business.

Initially, it was almost a foreign concept for her to take time from day-to-day operations to work on planning for the bigger picture. It seemed silly to take two hours every day to just talk about the business when she and her partner talked about different aspects of operations on a daily basis. However, it was suggested by a coach that saw Sam and her partner’s issues with the business were easily solvable by being more intentional about working on strategy. Now she can clearly see how this intentional focus on strategic planning and development has been beneficial for their company and has allowed them to better serve their clients and team.

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Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

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