Starting a digital marketing agency is the new business model these days.
It is the surefire way to make passive income if you start it right. But here’s the thing: no online business succeeds without a proper strategy. The reason why 90% of the businesses fail online is the lack of business model.
So if you’re thinking about starting your own digital agency from scratch, this post is exclusively for you.
Let’s get started without much ado.
Table of Contents ☰
- How to start a digital marketing agency [Step by Step Guide]
- 6 Solid Tips Everyone Should Know Before Starting A Digital Agency
- Final Thoughts
How to start a digital marketing agency [Step by Step Guide]
Step 1: Do competitor research
Competitive analysis is an important part of business strategy because without knowing how you rank against your competitors, it is impossible to beat them and also to know where you should focus your efforts.
Being competitive online is more important than ever. Most often, your customers find and evaluate products by comparing them online first before interacting with you. The easiest way to do competitor analysis is to do an online search using the same keywords that your business targets.
1. Make a list of 10 to 15 of your competitors: When spying on your competitors, you need to consider different factors. Marketing tools help you to monitor your own web performance and also can help you gather data on your competition.
Here are the 5 tools that you can use to prepare list:
- Semrush: It specializes in competitor data. Just type in a competitor’s website and immediately you will get information regarding organic keywords and rank, ad keywords and traffic of your competitors.
- Google Alerts: This simple tool will send reports right to your inbox. If you want to know every single time your competitor is mentioned online, you can get that report. It is up to you what you want to track.
- Social Mention: Enter in a search term and the tool will tell you what’s being said about that term across blogs and social platforms. You can see how many times and how often it is mentioned.
- Marketing Grader: You can monitor social activity of competitors, blogging and SEO success of competitors and lead generation success of competitors.
- SimilarWeb: You can get traffic insights for any website. You can also see how many leads come from social, search, referrals, display ads and many more. If you want to get interesting insights about your competitor in no time, SimilarWeb is the ideal tool for you.
So, based on all these reports, you will know which are in top 15 in your niche. Make a list of all them.
2. Find out how they are monetizing: When you have identified your top competitors the best approach is to determine from where they are getting money.The most fundamental part of your strategy is research.
You need to know how they are making money and what you can learn from their monetization methods.This information is critical as you start your business so you can start earning money sooner rather than later.
List all of the products and monetization methods used by each competitor in your spreadsheet. To help you in finding your competitors’ monetization strategies, here are some of the monetization methods that one can use.
- Advertising, Affiliate sales, Lead Generation.
- Sell a digital product, Sell a physical product, Subscription.
- Donation, Commission, Coaching, Freemium, CPM, PPC, CPA, Group Buy.
Once you have identified one or more monetization methods for each of your 10 competitors, then move on to the next step.
3. Find out their content marketing strategy: You can create a killer content marketing strategy by analyzing your competitor’s’ website, SEO, social media, and blog posts.
Check what kind of content they are producing. Do they have a blog, post videos, or even run a podcast? How often do they update it? What topics does a competitor cover? Do they have a lot of followers? What kind of posts their followers are engaged in? Does their website is with infographics?
With the help of these questions, you can categorize their overall marketing strategy and decide if you want to build upon that or go in a different direction. You should do a deep dive of their content and determine how they communicate with their customers.
Step 2: Launch your website
Before launching a website, there are several elements that must be taken into consideration, such as; website design, content, technical logistics, marketing and much more. Who are your top competitors? What are your users looking to do? Browse, buy, learn, or reach out?
Building an online marketing agency means you need to make a ton of decisions. One of the most important first steps is deciding how you are going to find clients for your consultancy business.
To launch a website, all you need is a domain name and hosting. Or else it’s not possible to set up your website for others to read and browse. If you are an absolute beginner and looking for a great hosting service provider at an affordable price then I suggest to use Bluehost.
Bluehost is super-reliable, user-friendly and they offer a FREE domain for a limited time. You can still use Bluehost as your hosting even if you already have a domain name.
1. Get started: Go to Bluehost (it’s one of my favorite hosting services which also offers a free domain for 1 year) and click on the “Get started now” button.
Here’s how it looks like;
Important note: Using our affiliate link, you’ll get Bluehost hosting starting at just $2.95 per month (it usually costs you $3.95 per month, so you’re saving few bucks).
2. Choose website hosting plan: Once you click “Get Started Now”, you can see choose your hosting plan. Select their Basic option. This is the best option for brand new websites. If you are getting millions of visitors from day one, then you can opt for The Plus and Choice Plus.
3. Secure a domain name: It is suggested to have .com, you can also use different endings (such as: .net, .org or even .co.uk). If you already have a domain name, use the right form – ‘I have a domain name’. If you don’t want to choose your domain right away, you can also do it later.
4. Complete the registration process: Enter your personal details to complete the registration process. Add your name, address, phone number, email address etc.
5. Check your package information and complete registration: Bluehost provides great add-ons. However, most of them are not required. There are few decent and optional ones to consider:
- Domain privacy: If you want to keep your website fully anonymous, tick this option. It will hide your personal information like name and address thereby reduces the number of unsolicited marketing emails you receive.
- Site Backup Pro: Sign up for Site Backup Pro in case you are so concerned about security. You will start receiving regular backups of your site.
Once you have signed up with Bluehost, you are now able to start building websites on your domain name. Choose WordPress, Joomla or Drupal as your website builder once you log in to your control panel. Bluehost provides a ‘one-click-installation’ option for beginners so that you can get a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal website up-and-running with just a few seconds.
Here’s how it looks like;
Step 3: Build a portfolio
Offer FREE services when you’re starting out. Well, people love freebies. The #1 secret for the success of any business is gaining trust of your customers. If people see that you have worked with and delivered results for a brand that they know and trust, they are more likely to buy from you.
So, to build portfolio, do some free work for people and build some good relationships. Or, you can compile a list of previous projects your staff have worked on in the past as a placeholder until you have got some agency work under your belt.
For any agency, a portfolio is now considered a minimum requirement. A good portfolio is made up of:
- Shorts snippets and Headlines.
- In-depth result case studies.
- Testimonials from clients.
- Future goals and targets for that client.
You need to ensure to your audience that you can deliver the results and will continue to deliver them to people continuously. Make your portfolio an honest representation of your own work. Running an ethical practice may take a little more work at the beginning, but it pays off in the long-term.
Badly written portfolios and case studies impairs your ability to win work. So, always maintain high standard. Portfolios and case studies are powerful marketing tools. Demonstrate your expertise to a client when responding to a request for proposal or when marketing to a new client to create a need.
Relevant portfolios that tell a story and are well-written offer the best chances of turning interest into investment.
Step 4: Find ways to generate leads
The biggest challenge most of the agencies face is generating pipeline of leads. Finding new clients for your new agency is very easy with these 5 tactics.
1. Develop a tool or product: If you can develop a calculator or tool or anything that helps your customers. And once you developed it, offer it for FREE. To turn traffic for the tool into leads, you can use entry or exit pop-ups, with a CTA for your newsletter or some other content.
2. Start YouTube channel: Visual content always works and it reaches well to the audience when compared to normal content. Regularly publishing video content on your agency’s branded YouTube channel welcomes new lead generation stream. It provides more opportunities to share CTAs promoting your other premium content can boost the SEO rankings of the agency’s website. It helps in establishing your agency as a thought leader.
Publish video case studies, how-to videos, discussions on hot marketing topics, and interviews with client and team members.
3. Share inside details: Sharing inside details on how your agency works attracts new leads. You can generate written, image, and video content that gives prospects a peek into your process and your people.
You use your content to build trust and authority but the knowing and liking parts are hard to achieve without some direct and personal contact. Let people get to know your agency and team. Showing the inner workings of your agency expands the opportunities prospects have to start knowing and liking you before direct contact is made.
4. Create an agency-branded app: Create an app that regularly updates with background and design tips about different typeface families. It has to be something that will educate, inform, or be useful for marketers on the go.
5. Repurpose content with new titles: To quickly find more leads , A/B testing content titles is one of the most cost-effective tactics without having to develop more content. This tactic can work on both high and low performing content. Refine the title of a poorly performing piece of content and observe what will increase its shares and downloads.
Step 5: Pick a team, offer great services and automate
Understand the team. If you have done good research, you will have a handful of agencies. Now, go and meet with an agency at their office.
These meetings helps you to see how an agency works from both a creative and a business sense. Before making a final decision, it is important to make sure you ask any questions or express any concerns to get all the answers and assurance you need.
Have informal conversations with the team members.
How much time do you spend on reporting each month? Reporting is a great opportunity to upsell new services; especially if you are giving them great news. Build reports and automate them to go out every day, week, or month. Integrate everything you need like rank tracking, backlinks, PPC, social media and more.
6 Solid Tips Everyone Should Know Before Starting A Digital Agency
So far you have discovered the simple step by step tutorial to start a online marketing agency, now let’s quickly talk about some of the essential tips you should know before even launching it so you can make it a success. Are you ready? Let’s jump into the details.
1. Know what you want
Before you even start searching for a digital marketing company, know what you want. Are you looking for a better social media presence? Or interested in research studies? What you want your future digital marketing company to do? Make a list of everything.
This list might include, Search engine optimization, Social media management, Search engine marketing, Email marketing, Analytics, Online advertising like Instagram promoted posts, Facebook sponsored posts, Google AdSense, etc, Content marketing, Website development, Marketing automation, Inbound marketing, Public relations, Blogging.
Spend good amount of time to create your list. You need to have an extreme amount of clarity. Know what you need specifically and be able to articulate that to the digital marketing firm when the time comes.
2. Answer them for free
Whatever the business you start, building trust is highly important. If you observe the most successful business, they all run as they built a trust with their customers. People always love to get things for free and if they find your services or products helpful, then that’s a great endorsement of your abilities.
Also, instead of settling on a number and trying to stick to it, be flexible and consider putting your quote on a spectrum. Unless you are focused on being an affordable solution for smaller businesses, selling your services based on price is a bad idea.
For example, if you consider average agencies, they sell themselves by saying “This is what XYZ package will cost you”. Whereas the best ones say “With our XYZ package, you will get increased brand awareness, search engine visibility, etc.”
Got the difference?
First focus on value then only discuss price after the client has either determined the services they will need or specifically asked about it.
Now, the next biggest question most of the businesses ask when talking to a online marketing agency is, “How much do you charge?”
Most businesses are on a tight budget and want to spend their money wisely. But the reality is that you won’t be able to get top quality services for cheap. If you want to find a person or a team to handle all of your marketing efforts for just a couple of hundred dollars per month, you won’t see even a satisfactory result.
If you are getting an agency with low prices then it is probably a bad one. If you want good results, you will have to dish out money. A professional web marketing agency knows a lot more than you do.
The one thing you can do is look for reputable agency and negotiate for a lower initial fee.
3. Start with one product
The one mistake most of the new agencies make is trying to be a full service firm where anyone can get anything. Unless you have significant financial backing that you can spread your resources and deliver all of these different services, it is not recommended to start too many services.
So, what you can do? Find the one service you are the strongest in and try to become the best at it. So that, you will be known and become popular for that service that people opt your firm first.
Every entrepreneur especially during the beginning stage will have a lot of passion to be involved in every detail. But if you are going to scale an agency successfully, having an absolute focus on your highest value tasks only is critical.
Know what your strengths. For example, if selling and team building are your strengths, focus on doing only that.
4. Always hire the best people
Looking at skills and competencies, personality are important when you are hiring people. Skills can be taught but personalities can never be changed. You have to get along with and like the people you are hiring.
Keep this in mind when you hire and fire people. There will always be problems to solve. If you aren’t always creating new problems, then you probably aren’t growing.
5. Grab every opportunity
Attend every conference, connect with everybody on social media. Because, your biggest opportunities and clients will often come from chance meetings. You have no idea where your next big client is going to come from.
Remember, you are your first client. Start building an audience as soon as you can. If you only rely on referrals then it won’t work. Your own audience and especially your email list is gold.
6. Promote and brand yourself
If people don’t know who you are, there is no way you can grow your business. And, social media is a great way to develop your personal identity, establish a reputation and stand out in your industry. Google gives high authority to all of the main social media platforms. So, the more active you are on a particular platform, the higher that profile is ranked.
To brand yourself, speak at events and make a case study out of your own success. In addition to spending so much time working on your clients’ brands, work on your own too. Always make time for building your own brand. And it will always help in the long run.
Remember that everything you do online is a representation of your personal brand. When people research you online, what they learn about you can be a deciding factor in whether they will contact you or not. When your personal brand is strong and if you make yourself appealing enough that people want to connect with you, then there are chances that you will sell more of your product or service.
When you start your own business, you will have full control over it.
But there are a few things you need to consider to make it a success. You need to analyse your competition, create a sales funnel, launch your own services or products that actually makes money and profits in the long run.
So what are your thoughts? Did you find this post useful? Do you have any questions? Share your views in the comments.