Iliyana's Blog

What Happens When Agencies Start to Scale? Part 3

[fa icon="calendar'] 23-May-2017 08:30:00 / by Iliyana Stareva posted in Agencies

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Organisational structure inefficiencies, lack of documented processes and standardised service packages, no plan for new hire training and onboarding as well a lack of visibility into overservicing are some of the key challenges that agencies face when they start to scale.

We covered them in part 1 and part 2 of these series.

Today, we'll look at the last set of agency growth challenges, namely: 

  • Stepping back as the agency founder or CEO and allowing team members to make decisions on their own is an internal struggle that can stall sustainable growth.
  • Growing the team, the customer base and the service offerings often leads to a leadership and an identity and positioning crisis internally that inevitably has the potential to slow growth as it expands externally too.
  • Showing the real value the agency brings to clients is a constant struggle, particularly with year two or three renewals, so agencies need to think about developing a delight programme that also includes the identification of upsells.

Let's take a look at each challenge in more detail.

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What Happens When Agencies Start to Scale? Part 2

[fa icon="calendar'] 25-Apr-2017 09:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva posted in Agencies

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Organisational structure and time inefficiencies, service packages development and new hire training and onboarding are three challenges that agencies face when they start to scale. We covered this in the first part of this series, if you missed it, read it here

Today, we're going to look at three more challenges that agencies face when they've grown past five people and have a good number of clients on retainers or long-term engagements. These include:

  • over-servicing but being underpaid and failing to ask for what their worth is;
  • lack of a documented account management process so that each new account manager has a blueprint to start doing their job and the leader doesn't need to be involved in everything from scratch with each new person on that team;
  • lack of a renewal management process and a structured way of securing that the client is happy and agrees to your plan for the future to stay with you.

Let's get started. 

When Agencies Start to Scale: 3 More Key Learnings & Fixes 

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What Happens When Agencies Start to Scale? Part 1

[fa icon="calendar'] 04-Apr-2017 08:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva posted in Agencies

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During the last two and a half years, I've worked with about 250 agency partners at HubSpot. I've seen some of them grow immensely and I'm grateful that I've been able to be part of that growth because I've learnt so much together with my agencies. 

From an inbound marketing consultant, I had to become an agency business consultant because eventually the challenges that my agencies who started growing were facing, were far outreaching just marketing. They needed help with their processes and business operations. 

Today, I want to share some key learnings from the scale lifecycle stage that all agencies struggle with as soon as: 

  • they start selling really quickly and have their sales process figured out;
  • their CEO wears way too many hats (selling, account management, people management etc) and things begin to fall off track;
  • they start hiring more and more people but are struggling with onboarding and training them for the work that they are going to be doing. 

If you as an agency are facing these challenges too, the goal of this blog post is to help you get your agency machine up and running not just from an inbound marketing and selling perspective, but really from an operational one.

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The 3 Pillars of Customer Delight for Agencies (And Not Only)

[fa icon="calendar'] 14-Mar-2017 08:30:00 / by Iliyana Stareva posted in Brands and Business, Agencies

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Did you know that it's five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one? 

On top of that, improving customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. 

If you ask me, these are numbers that I certainly wouldn't ignore. 

Unfortunately, far too many companies focus almost exclusively on net new sales and customer service remains just there as a given. 

I see this with my agency partners at HubSpot all the time. 

Of course, money in is important. You need that to keep the business running but if you want to scale an agency, sales and services need to be on the same level. Keeping your customers happy is priority number one too because that's how you ensure you have a sustainable revenue flow coming in all the time. You renew your agency-client retainers year after year because you continue to provide value.

So how do you do keep your customer happy?  

With a simple framework that I call the three pillars of customer delight. 

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The Agency-Client Relationship is Broken

[fa icon="calendar'] 07-Feb-2017 08:30:00 / by Iliyana Stareva posted in Agencies

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2017 or not, the agency-client war still persists. 

Agencies want to be responsible for more, marketers don't trust them to let them. 

That's the major finding in a recent study done in the US but I think it's quite relevant for the rest of the world as well.  

Marketers at clients complain that agencies lack technical and data-savvy teams who can work on their accounts and that too many agencies still haven't transitioned from old media to new, lacking the expertise clients need in the digital age. 

Agencies, on the other hand, say that clients are unwilling to become true partners by taking work in-house that really should be done by the agency team and so showing a disrespectful unwillingness to commit to quality work. 

If you look at the comments below, you'll see how the language both parties use is rather judgemental and certainly doesn't show that they see the other counterpart as a partner: 

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