The 3 Pillars Of Running 

A Successful Marketing Agency: Pillar 1

“We really thought you’d be with us longer…”

The CEO was shocked that I was leaving. After providing white-label Google Ads management for 90 days, they had approached me to work with them as a member of their core leadership team.

They knew about my background and how much I was asking, but believed I was worth the investment. I was excited because I was burnt out with freelance work and was ready to settle down into a job-for-life with growth opportunities.

Not only was everything about the job perfectly suited to my strengths and experience, but it was everything I loved about working with agencies. Leading teams, coaching, training, process optimization, building a podcast, strategy development and implementation, and profit sharing… It was a dream job.

The whole story would take too long to share, but suffice it to say that getting behind the curtain revealed some nasty surprises…

A huge number of clients were ghosting us.
Employees were leaving left and right.
Billing was so confusing that the head of finance couldn’t explain it.
There were several different pricing models…

But none of that was as concerning as the real problem.

The CEO was always super attentive and helpful when I was working as a contractor and I found out why when I joined the leadership team.

He was micromanaging.

He was constantly checking in on everything to find out what was going on and seeking to control the outcomes.

To the point that he was telling his team members exactly what to say in client emails on matters that were of little importance.

He was even demanding that his team BCC a specific email address on all outgoing emails so he could read their messages.

He would talk about his team behind their backs with the rest of the leadership and postulate on how they were doing the least they could get by with and try to figure out how he could better make sure his employees did what he told them to do.

Because of this, he couldn’t keep good talent. He wouldn’t even try to hire good talent when he found it, being too paranoid. He would suggest freelancing on a couple of accounts and they would decline because they had to pay their bills.

Pair this with justifying and declining everything I suggested as a way to improve and I was desperate to get out almost as quickly as I got in.

If you’ll pardon the super-long intro, I really wanted to paint the picture of what happens when the first pillar of a successful marketing agency, People, is broken.

People are the leverage you need to grow your agency. They allow you to delegate and exponentially increase the value you can provide. They are the conduit between your promise and the fulfillment of that promise to your clients. The way you build and lead your team can literally make or break your agency.

Hire the wrong people and you can lose months of time and tens of thousands of dollars in operating and opportunity costs.

Hire the right people, but fail to train them, fail to give them the proper structure for success, or fail to communicate well with them, and you’ll experience the same losses.

Losing employees, good or bad, can hurt client retention as well. People are the number one driver of customer loyalty and bouncing around from account manager to account manager is a great way to make clients feel like a toy nobody wants.

Clients have to explain their business, goals, KPIs, ideal customers, and so much more, to every new account manager and their faith in your ability to deliver results for them rests heavily on their relationship with their account manager.

The actual delivery of results, however, relies on the specialist team. So if you don’t hire or lead either role well, everything begins to erode.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, hiring the right team members can solidify the trust a client placed in you upon signing on. A good account manager can save client relationships through extended seasons of poor performance, just as a good specialist can mitigate losses and bring accounts out of those seasons earlier.

A good leadership team can harness and accelerate the development of good team members and can win their loyalty, leading them to give their best to you and your agency.

Hiring the right people, putting them in the right roles, and leading them well is an unparalleled flywheel.

This is why it is the first pillar of running a successful marketing agency.

If you do everything else perfectly and mess this one up, you’re on a sinking ship.

If you do this right and mess up everything else, you can achieve a small level of consistent success.

To truly grow a successful and stable agency, you’ll need all 3 pillars.

People, Processes, and Performance.

Next week we’ll cover the importance of Processes. After introducing them all, each week we’ll dig into some practical ways to identify problems with each pillar and solve them.

All the best,

-Ryan Baker
Founder, Kingly Consulting