One notion which is important to internalize whenever starting a new business is the following: “You don’t find clients, you create them.” You can wait all day for the phone to ring or even accept any piece of work that you can find, however the clients you work for are the clients you created through your own choices. Web development is a very mature field and the agency business model is a low risk, but slowly growing model. Many large agencies you see, which work with high-end clients, have often been around for more than a decade. They built up relationships and expand their network gradually. Your connections and the quality of your relationships are what matter the most when establishing an agency.
It is also important to figure out a way to differentiate your agency from the other ones. This is by far one of the most challenging parts. If you run a tech company and built your own software, then it is quite simple to research your audience and competitors, thereby building a product which either targets a different audience, is more affordable and / or includes other features.
When you run an agency, it is a bit more difficult than that. You will always find a competitor in your field of expertise, for example if you target enterprise companies, and they will probably already have established relationships with their clients. Now you can differentiate your business by offering lower prices or by improving the quality of your work, however trust goes a long way.
Why should a company working with an existing agency switch over to you instead? If they have a good relationship, they won’t. Now you are left with those who are not working with an agency yet and those who have been burned by a previous relationship. Questions: Why are they not working with an agency yet? Why were they burned by a similar company before? Are they a bad client or did they choose the wrong company to work with? Why did they choose the wrong company?
It raises many questions and I believe this is the key component of selling your services to other businesses & organizations. It may seem weird, but it is a bit like dating. You have to put your best side forward, but you also need to figure out what the other person is like. If the other person recently divorced his/her partner, then it would be quite important to figure out what went wrong and whether he/she is a suitable person to date.
So here are some tips when building up a digital agency:
- Know your audience
- Build trust with your existing connections
- Make sure you differentiate yourself from your competitors
- Talk to other people working in the field. Not every digital agency will be an immediate threat as a competitor, but some will cooperate with one another and you’ll be surprised how much people like to help each other out. (Brings up the next point)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Make sure you have contracts! Prepare for the worst
- If you don’t have a portfolio, then just reach out to some local non-profits in your area. See, if you can do some small pro-bono work. Consider it as a donation