You are ready to make plans to start your own social agency.
But where should you start? If you want your business to be both successful and respected, there are many things to take into consideration.
You must do a lot of research if you want to create a profitable agency that is both respected and profitable.
This article will share hacks and lessons learned about starting a social media marketing agency.
A Brief History
Together with Niki Nikolaou, my business partner, we founded Contentworks Agency in 2017. We specialize in content and social media marketing in finance and technology.
The agency will celebrate its fifth anniversary. We work with large and mid-sized brands in the finance sector. We offer compliance-savvy content such as PR, blogging and technical analysis. We manage their social media channels.
Here’s Niki and I at the first Bloomberg finance conference, shortly after we launched the agency.
It was a dream to start a social media agency in the early 2010s. With Facebook ads and Adwords, you could target prospects of your clients with ease. Competition was lower and channels were fewer. There wasn’t the background of lockdowns, cancelled events and endless Zoom calls.
If you want to be successful with your social media marketing agency in 2022, then you must up your game.
It’s not necessary to have an office space if you are able to promote your online business. Zoom and Skype calls are becoming the norm in lieu of regular meetings. Online seminars and events have become a common norm. Hybrid or working from home is no longer an option.
Not only are more companies realizing the benefits of outsourcing, great agencies are also thriving.
2. The Things You Didn’t Know You Need to Know
I work in fast-paced content marketing and social media. I kept up-to-date with all the latest trends and developments.
You need to be able to understand things that aren’t related to social media and marketing when you set up a social media marketing company. I found this a difficult learning curve that pushed me out of my comfort zones. (This was something I realized was a positive.
Here are some things you should know before you begin.
Profit and loss. You are probably not an accountant if you’re a social media specialist. It’s important to understand your P&L from the beginning. This means knowing your expenses, income, turnover, profit, and outgoings. After costs, you need to understand how much you’ll make on each service. This is a crucial step that can lead to false confidence in your profit.
Accounting. You should also ensure that you hire a qualified accountant to review your books and prepare tax returns. You don’t have to be an expert in the field, but you can help guide the process and ask questions. Many examples exist of fraudster accountants stealing money from trusting and naive business owners. Do not be one of them. Quick Books can give you complete visibility to your accounts.
Human Resources. You need to know the laws in your area regarding employment if you plan on hiring team members. You will need to have contracts in place if you intend to hire contractors or freelancers. Although freelancers are a common practice in agencies, it is important to have clear guidelines regarding their work. What could possibly stop a freelancer from approaching your client directly?
Also, you should be aware of the current employment rules in your area, such as sick leave, maternity leaves, bonuses, or disciplinary procedures.
Technology. Technology. Not social media technology, but technology that powers your agency. You will need to know how to set up email, CRM systems, websites, video calling, and other communication tools. These tasks can be outsourced, but it is best to understand what’s happening.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there’s so much to consider. There are many YouTube tutorials that can help you. You will learn something every day when you set up a social media agency.
3. Find out your Value Proposition
A value proposition is a promise made by a company or to a market segment. This should explain why customers should choose your marketing agency instead of another.
An elevator pitch can also be used to convey a value proposition. This is an effective and quick way to describe your agency like you had an elevator ride to do it.
Ours, for example, is:
“We set up a marketing agency in order to transform and improve the financial services industry. Complex topics like banking, blockchain, and forex were transformed into fun and engaging talking points. We created social media solutions and content that were hands-free for busy companies. They deliver results without stressing their managers.
Contentworks Agency offers compliance-friendly content to banks and fintechs. Our content marketing services include technical analysis, intelligence reports and whitepapers. We also offer video marketing and social media management.
A value proposition or elevator pitch is a great way for you to express your creativity and focus on the benefits of what you have to offer.
The wording does not have to be about you. It should reflect how the customer will benefit from your words.
Benefits. What can you do to help the customer? What will you do to help your customer? Differentiation. What do you have that no one else offers? What makes you different?
After you have written your elevator pitch/value proposition, it is time to learn it. You should be able to easily talk about it at meetings, events, and elevators.
4. Are you a specialist or generalist?
There are thousands of agencies that offer marketing services around the globe. This means that you must be distinctive and focus your efforts.
Do you want to work for Contentworks, a fintech and finance-focused agency? Will you accept any opportunity in the areas of finance, beauty, and health? What is your experience in the field if you are a specialist?
You can also decide to focus on specific marketing areas such as organic social media, or all of it like content, paid marketing, SEO, PPC and the entire digital experience. Learn my tips for building your startup dream team.
What is your core competence? This will influence the direction of your agency and the resources required to build it. You may be able to draw on the expertise of multiple partners to build a digital agency.
I advise you to build on what you already know. This means that you should start as a specialist, and expand your portfolio to include new sectors. This will allow you to provide outstanding services to clients and enable you to hire people who are experts in the areas that you wish to expand into. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t accept business, particularly not in the beginning. This means you need to understand your core values and know how to position yourself accordingly.
Tip for social media marketing
Our portfolio page and word-of-mouth are the best ways to find great clients. Your work is the best way to win clients. You’re already a pro in your field if you can provide case studies, client testimonials, and previous work. Before you share your work, always ask clients!
5. Calculate the running costs of your agency
This is a difficult one. You can expect to drink a lot of coffee while you work on those spreadsheets. Understanding your running costs is essential. These are your initial costs, or what you need to launch an agency. It was helpful to have an accountant present for some meetings. If you get off track with your finances, an accountant can help you get back on track.
You should consider the following costs:
The set-up cost will include the costs of hiring an auditor and a lawyer. There will also be costs associated with establishing a company, such as office space, utilities, and running costs. These tools are free to help you get started. This is a major one as you can’t avoid paying your staff unlike other marketing tools.
Always keep two months of running expenses in your bank account. This will provide you with a cushion in case of unexpected expenses or quieter months.
Now, work out the cost of your service
It is important to determine how much you can make from social media and content marketing services. What is the cost of Twitter management? What is the cost of running a blog? What is the cost for a set Facebook Ad Content?
Make sure you factor in all costs to ensure that you make the profits you desire. It is unprofessional to add costs as you go. Create quote templates for all your services so that you can easily review your costs and prices on a year-to-year basis. Your rates might rise, or your time might be longer. All of this should be reflected in the pricing.
There is no ideal profit margin, so this is something you’ll decide for your agency. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 20% or more. Marketing agencies have an average net profit margin of 6.0% to 12.0%, according to data from industry benchmarking.
6. Find out how much you’ll charge for your services
As a marketing agency, you have three options:
Monthly retainer. Fixed monthly fee. It’s a fixed monthly fee. This creates consistent billing patterns and dependability for both client and agency.Project-based. It is often a one-off project, such as a video or rebranding. You should receive payment in advance, or at least 50% upfront. You may need to pay an hourly rate or 50% upfront. Although we don’t use this model often, it is important to know your hourly rate. This can be written into your terms to protect you in the event that a project is delayed or a client requires additional training or mentoring. If you don’t discuss them beforehand, don’t add any charges.
You should also be clear about whether VAT is being charged.
Quick Books allows you to set up professional and consistent invoicing. Clients prefer to receive their invoices on the same day each month, without any surprises. This will ensure that you don’t cause any problems for your client or upset their accounts team.
7. What are your services?
First, be clear about the services that you provide and then determine how you will handle inquiries for services you do not offer. You could partner with another agency or hire a contractor to handle the request. Or you could simply decline the work.
Social media agencies often offer services such as…
Social media management Can you provide full social media management services? It is important to be clear about the scope of this service, including how many channels and how many posts it includes, as well as whether graphics or videos are included. You should also discuss how you will respond to direct messages. Are you offering paid or organic social media marketing services, or both? How much do you charge for campaign management? Is there a minimum spend? Are you a licensed agent? Writing Content Will you write blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, or presentations? What is the cost to send social content via email, and not manage accounts? This is what many clients need. Strategy Can you help clients with their strategy, branding and positioning? This includes market research and positioning. It is also important to budget for strategy calls with clients. You will need to cost this in. This could take up to an hour per week. You are interested in community management. This includes engaging with fans via social media and providing quick answers. It also supports sales and customer service teams. Be aware that this is usually 24/7 and fairly labor-intensive.Design Social media marketing needs great designs, but will you provide them? You can still create graphics on your own using Canva, PosterMyWall, and Visme if you don’t have an artist. A freelance designer could be found.
Tip for social media marketing
For new clients, create service agreements. You can add a description of each service to your template, which you can edit or modify as needed. It is important to clearly define client expectations from the beginning.
8. Write Your Marketing Strategy and Research Report
A strategy is essential for any client campaign. Niki and my wife, Contentworks Agency, spent months developing our strategy, style guide and competitor analysis. We also had to calculate costs. Because they are the foundation of everything else you do, it’s no surprise. When you are already in place, it can be hard to pivot.
Strategy Your strategy should include your KPIs (yes you do need them) as well as action points for each channel.
At least once per year, your strategy should be reviewed and updated.
To keep your brand consistent, your TOV (tone of voice) document is crucial. This document will determine how your brand sounds, what it will say and what personality it will project. This document also outlines spelling and grammar rules, and how your company name should look.
This document must be properly formatted so that it can be shared with external contractors and new members of the team.
Your brand style guide
A formal brand style guide should be created by your designer. A weak logo, inconsistant use of fonts and colors, and unprofessional graphics can all make for unforgettable branding. Ensure that everyone in your company follows the guidelines.
Analyse of competitors
Recently, I wrote about competitor analysis.
This is a must-have when you’re starting a social media marketing company. It’s important to know your competition, their offerings, and what they charge. Follow your competitors on social media to get a better understanding of their business.
Create a pitch deck
You will need to pitch prospects to grow your social media agency. It’s a lot! You will often only have a few moments to complete it so make sure you work on your elevator pitch.
A great way to convert clients is to have a compelling video or presentation. This video was created for new clients. We won’t make your VP viral, but we can create great content to improve your brand.
We budgeted money to create gift boxes for potential customers when Contentworks Agency was launched. These gift boxes contained business cards and flyers as well as pens and chocolates. Check it out!
Establish your roles
What will your roles be if you are setting up a marketing company with others? Are you going to be managing clients or actively working on projects? What is your responsibility? It is crucial to define your area of responsibility early to avoid conflicts later. It is not as obvious as it sounds, but you shouldn’t enter into business with anyone if you don’t have a good relationship. Even if you don’t wish to create a contract, it is a good idea to document your roles and responsibilities.
Tip for social media marketing:
Your social media agency should be treated like a client. Ensure you are constantly strategizing and producing eye-popping content on social media. Create reports using Agorapulse to analyse your engagement, top content, and top acquisition posts.
9. Nail Your Launch
A successful launch is essential for any marketing agency. No matter if your business is virtual or physical, you need to have a successful launch.
These are some things to keep in mind:
Your website. Is your website up and running? Are all of your links working? Social media. Your social media channels should be active if you are starting a social media agency. Google Maps. You must ensure that your business is listed on Google Business and that you have verified your address. Lists. List your agency wherever possible. PR. You should plan a series PRs that you will send out to industry publications. These could include interviews with the founders, introductions to the agency, and special launch offers. Professional photos are essential to make a good impression.
Events or gifts. You could launch your agency with targeted gifts, or even an online event. Give attendees virtual vouchers to your services, or let them enter a prize draw.
You must be prepared to invest in the tools that you will need for your agency as well as its clients when you set up a social media marketing company.
Failure to use the correct social media tools can slow down your business, lead to miscommunication, make it look amateurish, and even cause you to lose customers and leads.
I advise you to always start with the free ones and then upgrade to the paid tools that you truly need. Contentworks Agency uses hundreds of tools, but I love these free ones:
Trello. Trello is a great tool for managing teams. It is easy to use and provides everything you need for organizing projects of any size. Trello allows you to add clients to boards. However, make sure that your team is aware of this before they begin commenting. Zoom. This one doesn’t require an introduction. Zoom can be used to host webinars, training sessions, and conferences in addition to video meetings. This is an ideal tool for remote events, as it supports up to 1,000 participants and can be viewed by 10,000 people. For calls with clients, your agency should have an official Skype ID. To store important files, you will need to have a server or cloud space. This includes files for clients, ongoing projects, and employee details. Dropbox’s flexibility is the best thing about it. Dropbox allows you to set file access permissions (for example, for senior management). You can easily upgrade to more space later. TweetDeck is used by our team to monitor mentions and influencers on Twitter. TweetDeck allows you to create lists, schedule tweets, track hashtags and reply. Research has shown that visuals can increase content engagement by as much as 80%. What can you do as a small agency that doesn’t have the budget for a full-time graphic artist? You can create social media covers and invitations using Canva. You may eventually hire a designer but for now, Canva is an excellent option. To access more features, you can upgrade to Canva’s paid version.
My favourite paid tool is…
AgorapulseObviously! Agorapulse allows for collaboration between social media teams, scheduling all of your accounts and monitoring multiple interactions. You can also create impressive reports that you can present to clients. That’s hours saved messing about tracking stats and putting them into a PowerPoint!PosterMyWall. PosterMyWall offers a variety of graphics, GIFs and videos that can be used on a subscription or “pay as you go” basis. These are great for social media agencies. PosterMyWall’s vast library of stock videos is a clear advantage. You can search the video library to find the one you are looking for. Beautiful infographics are essential for agencies that need to present to clients. Canva is great for accompanying social images, but Visme is better at creating infographics, wireframes and presentations. Zoho CRM. You will undoubtedly use Excel spreadsheets to keep clients and leads. However, it is best to get rid of this tool as soon as possible. A CRM (customer relation manager) is an online tool that allows you to manage your sales, marketing, support, and other activities in one place. It can store your prospects and leads, and allow you to take notes and log interactions. It can be connected to MailChimp for newsletters.Quick Books. These accounts should not be neglected. Regularly invoicing clients and paying employees, tax payments, and calculation of social security payments are all important. Without the right accounting software, all of this is almost impossible. Quick Books is the accounting software that our accountant uses to keep us informed, organized, and on track with our finances. Regular meetings are necessary to review your spending and analyze profits or losses.
Set up a test for potential employees of your social media marketing agency when interviewing them. Although everyone thinks they’re social media experts, it is important to actually see them in action before hiring them. Ask for past examples of their work.
11. You must properly onboard clients
After signing up a client, it is important to properly onboard them. Failure to take the time will lead to miscommunications, complaints, and even lost clients.
You can use Zoom or Skype to start your onboarding process.
Are they the right people? Many times, the people on the call (shareholders and CEOs) are not people you need to be dealing with every day. They could be the CMO or content manager, or digital market manager. Ask everyone on the call if they are available. This will save you time in the future. You can use the NDA, service agreement, contract and payment form. To get your documents signed, you can use DocuSign or Hello Sign. This will ensure that you align with the client’s goals and strategy. This is not a session for strategy. This will be done separately. In reverse, the same applies. What are the next steps in an emergency situation? Who do you call? Your next steps will be a strategy meeting on Thursday at 9 a.m. with the CEO and marketing manager. Allow for questions. At this point, you should be open and approachable. Make sure your client is clear about what’s next.
For new clients, create a “Get To Know You” document. This document will contain their USPs, landing page links, and any legal disclaimers.
Social media managers need to be able to manage their time.
As I said, it is important to always acquire clients. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be interested in retaining clients, but it does mean acknowledging the possibility of a drop-off.
These are some activities that you should do regularly.
Utilize LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to create articles, answer questions, or network with other Linkedin members. Don’t be rude if you aren’t interested in a job. Be professional. Be proactive in reaching out to companies that you are interested in working with, but don’t be spammy. Hosting webinars or moderating them will allow you to make contact with CMOs and CEOs of companies that you might later join. Participating on panels will make you a thought leader. Niki is moderating the marketing panel for our Big Forex Breakfast event.
Promote testimonials. You should always find out why a client has stopped using your services. You should always ask for a testimonial from clients who are satisfied but no longer need your agency. For winning new business, happy client testimonials are a great way to get it. These testimonials are great for generating new business. Social media is constantly changing. The sector in which you work (pharmaceutical, finance, or sports) is also changing. Be proactive. Keep your eyes open for potential customers. Make a list of potential clients while you are at an expo. Have you seen companies posting jobs on Linkedin looking for social media managers? Introduce yourself to them.
Your presence as a social media agency should be strong and consistent. Each channel requires its own strategy and content, so be sure to think about this before you open 20 channels! To plan ahead, you should create a social media calendar.
Here are some suggestions:
Make group photos. These photos don’t have to be awkward or staged. You can capture spontaneous moments and fun moments. These photos are great for Instagram… Niki grabs some Expo pizza!
For added traffic, tag local clients and businesses in your posts. Search The Nest is here with me
Local charities and businesses should be supported. It’s a wonderful thing to do. If you are able, consider donating your money or volunteering your time. Sharing updates regularly is a great way to help while also providing valuable content for your fans. We regularly update our chosen charity, Room to Read. This aligns with #literacyforall’s content marketing philosophy. We believe this cause is important so we link to a page on corporate responsibility explaining why.
Send photos of special events, such as birthdays and parties. Yes, it can be glamorous to run an agency.
Make short videos that show your team working together on a project, or just having fun. Do not feel pressured to produce something spectacular. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. This funny green screen script was created with MotionMilk.
You should share insightful content that shows your sector knowledge. You will need a blog that is well-populated with at least one article per day.
You can share case studies. Social media is a great way to share case studies, work samples and testimonials. Potential customers will want to hear about past clients and see your work. I believe that organically promoting your work can be more effective than paid advertising.
It is important to keep the human touch. To be successful on social media, you must connect with someone else. Even for B2B businesses, there will always be a decision-maker.
You will need to be savvy and creative in order to run your social media agency.
These are my top three social media management tips for managers and owners of social media marketing agencies.
1. Flexible working hours are encouraged
You may be able serve your clients better if you allow some flexibility in the hours that staff work. Imagine that you have two social media managers. One is a night owl, the other is early bird. This will enable you to target different locations and cover different time zones in real time.
2. Plan your content ahead
This is a must for both your agency and clients. Your agency should be allowed to create videos, graphics and other content. This will help you get great results. Look for days in your industry that could be used to create cool campaigns. You should aim to be at least one month ahead, but you should have a good overview of the next six.
Automated tools are a great way to save time. These tools include scheduling tools, chatbots for social media, automatic media monitoring, RSS and auto-response email, as well as chatbots on Twitter. You will eventually need to hire a human, but automation can help you save time.
It’s about being able to last. Marketing agencies only 3% last more than 50 years, so make sure you think strategically and don’t burn out in Year 1.
Start saving time and energy with your social media management. Get a free trial of Agorapulse, which will help you plan, track, measure, and measure your social media efforts.