#16 - What are your top 3 challenges with growing your marketing agency in 2023?

Posted January 11, 2023 in
Digital Sales and Marketing Coaches Digital Sales and Marketing Coaches

Chris Marr

Global Coaching Perfomance Director

Happy new y'all! 

Did you know that marketing has one of the highest rates of turnover across all industries and business functions?
As leaders, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we allow this to continue.
Putting our people first
We asked tenured agency owners what they felt were their top  challenges in 2023.
80% of what they said centered on their people:
  • Hiring good salespeople
  • Preparing for and predicting skill redundancy
  • Protecting the agency from skill attrition
  • Talent acquisition and retention
  • Improving their ability to delegate
  • Developing the best team structure for growth
  • Building and creating a great culture
  • Improving the consistency of service delivery
  • Competing with salaries
Reflecting on these challenges, my worry is this:
What’s holding us back from spending more time working with and on our people?
Are we too focused on the short term — daily, weekly, quarterly goals — that we aren’t working on the things that can’t be measured to three decimal points in a spreadsheet?
Are we too focused on shooting for instant gratification that we don’t pay attention to the work necessary for the future?
Are we afraid that the work of people is testing us in areas where we’re afraid we’re weak?
What is it that we're afraid of?
Something needs to change if we want to alter the course of our industry — in order to create the conditions that allow our people to do their best work, feel fulfilled at work, and want to stay for the longer term.
When you look at your calendar, what percentage of your time is spent on your people? What do you need to start saying no to (delegate, defer, delete) so you can say yes to your people?
As the leader, you’re the only person that’s completely responsible for the future success of your business.
In order to prioritize your people, what needs to change?
In marketing we’re so used to tracking every metric and milestone, that we struggle to prioritize work we can’t track.
The work of people is a different type of work. It’s slow work that requires patience. It requires an investment in faith where you don’t know what the outcome will be.
But you have to believe that it’s the right work.
It’s work that ONLY you can do, and as leaders we have to be comfortable with:
  • Never getting recognition for our work
  • Not being able to track our work
  • Delayed gratification
What motivates and inspires us is the deep intrinsic knowledge that the work we are doing is meaningful. That we’re doing the right thing.
What kind of leader do you want to be this year?
What kind of leader do your people NEED you to be? What does your agency need from you right now?
I’m willing to bet that your whole team knows what your agency’s goals are, but for how many of your people do you know their personal goals for the year ahead?

Jump into the comments section and share with me your top 3 challenges for growing your agency in 2023 👇🏻
IMPACT CEO Bob Ruffolo is hosting his signature agency leader workshop on January 24-25 to show you how we’ve worked on these challenges to grow to a $10m+ agency with 70 people.
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Bob Ruffolo
If you're looking to scale your agency to 20+ people, this workshop is for you!
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Winnie Anderson
Love this post and all of the issues you've raised here! Since I have a background in HR/OD (former HR director with a master's in HR and past certification as a SPHR) I could go on all day about this stuff. (Part of my HR career included recruiting for the Marketing division of a past employer.)

I think job one is to get rid of the title of "salesperson". The whole point of a buyer-first approach to marketing is no one is selling. They're helping prospects make decisions...to find solutions and to help them choose the right solution for them.

So that means the staff-formerly-known-as-salesperson should have a new title. I recommend "Solution Consultant" because that's actually what should be happening. They act as a consultant to the (qualified) potential buyer.

That means that the compensation strategy likely needs to change in order to reward the right behavior. 

If a salesperson/solution consultant's personal revenue (aka "salary") is generated from commissions then you're rewarding "selling" behavior and not consulting behavior. 

I recommend a bonus pool and every employee is a recipient of a bonus at some level. 

Afterall, if you're attempting to build a true team environment, everyone is playing a role in the overall success of the business so everyone is working to either (directly or indirectly) attract, delight, or retain clients. 

Part of onboarding and ongoing employee communication needs to include helping team members understand the business' vision/mission and strategy...understand how all the departments work together to fulfill those things...and understand how they and their job (and those are two different things) support the achievement of success as the clients define it and as the business defines it.

** I say that "they and their job" are two different things because helping the employee recognize they are NOT their job can help reduce defensiveness in receiving feedback.

Support skill development including self-management. Part of this requires ongoing communication inside the organization. Help employees stay plugged in to how things are changing (especially with tech) and how those changes can/could impact the organization, its clients (remember we have to help staff stay focused on the overall work of attracting, delighting, and retaining clients) and how they can continue to evolve in their own abilities so they continue to stay valuable to the organization and to themselves. (Heaven forbid something should happen and there is a voluntary or involuntary separation but when folks realize they are NOT their jobs and they have transferable skills they can use elsewhere, they are more likely to be able to stay positive and land their next gig.)

Performance Reviews need to change. With ongoing feedback, no one feels surprised. When great people are brought in, effectively onboarded, continuously communicated with, and given feedback in a safe environment with a coaching approach then improvement is seen as something that's ongoing. All humans want and need to reach their fullest potential. Managers need to hone their ability to provide feedback in a supportive way and everyone needs to see that working on their own self-management includes the ability to give and receive feedback in a healthy way. 

I could go on (maybe I'll come back and post more later) but I have to get back to work :-) 

Funny, because I've been thinking a lot lately about if and how to blend my HR-side with my brand strategy side.

Happy to talk about this or be a resource for the conversation.

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