Your marketing agency has three strategic assets that differentiate you from your competition: your positioning, your talent, and your clients.

Each aspect fuels the others in predictable ways; marketing agency positioning attracts specific clients, in-house talent dictates client work, and client work affects the professional development of your staff.

By keeping your finger on the pulse of client needs, you can more effectively grow your business and potentially enhance your staff’s skill sets.

Marketing agency positioning hinges on whether you want to evolve service offerings to satisfy new client needs or refer business elsewhere. There are two ways to think about your approach:

  • The first way: “Stay in your lane” and focus on your core competencies. You can focus on growing your marketing agency by targeting clients who want your expertise.
  • The second way: Step outside of your comfort zone and evolve your service offerings to match changing client needs.

How to Build a Marketing Agency

Identifying new client needs means staying on top of opportunities and threats that will affect their business. It illustrates that you can see past the marketing bucket and think about their overall business. Your willingness to paint a picture of the macro forces that could affect them validates your positioning as a strategic partner. It also has the added benefit of bringing validated service options to them.

When you can show clients an issue they have (or might have), you can identify ways to resolve those friction points. Those don’t have to be served by your team, either. Recommending your client talk to someone else shows your courage and value as a trustworthy partner. After all, you might not have the capacity to implement the service. It’s better to identify the issue and refer it to another marketing agency than ignore it altogether.

Of course, many clients might listen to your forecast and still ask you to assist them. Under those circumstances, your team will benefit from upskilling, and your marketing agency will benefit from delivering a new service offering.

Forecasting Done Well

If you’re interested in learning how to build a marketing agency through strategic forecasting, use these tips to construct more service lines without taking time from your current workflows:

1. Invest your nonbillable hours wisely.

Forecasting requires that your leaders spend time on business development. Unless you make this a priority, it won’t happen. Agency employees tend to be busy — they won’t devote time to nonbillables unless you bake it into their expected (and tracked) responsibilities.

If you can get executives and managers to spend just an hour a week on the process, you’ll end up investing about 50 hours apiece annually. Be sure to track the time spent on forecasting and include it in your monthly scorecard discussions. After all, when you keep an eye on something, you signal its importance.

2. Run potential new service lines through the three-box solution.

Vijay Govindarajan’s three-box solution is an excellent way to prioritize which new service lines make sense for you to provide. In this framework, Vijay outlines a strategic approach for how to prioritize the future, manage the present, and selectively forget the past. It is a helpful tool when you’re thinking about creating new service lines.

You are essentially answering the following question on behalf of your clients: What must this business look like in the future to be successful? Then, your agency must determine whether this is a problem that other clients will need solving in the future. If the answer is “yes,” it’s important to go through this five-point checklist to determine whether to pursue launching a new service.

  • Status: Will offering the service reinforce our agency’s expertise?
  • Profitable: Will this service be profitable?
  • Cannibalization: Will this new service diminish the value of our current services?
  • Competency: Do we have access to the talent needed to deliver the service?
  • Sellable: Are our clients ready to buy this service?

3. Set up client innovation workshops.

Coming up with your agency’s new business strategy by forecasting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Consider bringing clients into the experience by setting up regular innovation workshops. For instance, you might create a center of excellence focusing on industry trends. When meeting with your client, you could highlight weak signals in the client’s industry and explain the meaning behind the weak signals. Before you know it, you’ll be a leading expert in your agency’s unique sphere.

Most services provided by marketing agency leaders like you don’t include tons of “crystal ball” thinking. By taking a serious look forward, you’ll be in a better place to impress your clients while upskilling your staff with work on increasingly diverse projects.

Jeff Meade

Jeff Meade is the founder and CEO of MEADE, a management consulting firm providing marketing teams with trusted advice to scale their business and performance.

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