December is upon us, and that means the year-end sprint has begun. On top of end of year client to-do’s, agency owners should be turning a close eye to what the new year will mean for their businesses. Growth at all costs? Or only if it’s in line with the bottom line? New staff or new training for current staff? Squeeze the most efficiencies out of your current space, or go for that shiny new office downtown? 2015 is a blank canvas at this point. But before you start putting pen to paper, here are the top five things all agency owners should consider when putting together their plans for next year:
1) Current Business Growth
You’ve heard the mantra “grow or die.” In the agency world, that’s not just a mantra; it’s the truth. The best way we’ve found to grow is by keeping current clients happy by constantly thinking about -- and offering to them -- an element to their program they haven’t considered or leveraged before. In Q4, we diligently recap to our clients all of the success we had together throughout the year, and then we use those successes to talk about what the next year could look like together. The great work we’ve done leads to the opportunity to do more great work, and growth of current client programs is by far the least taxing on our staff.
2) New Business Growth
The other way to grow, of course, is by bringing in new business. Every agency should have a strategic plan for this. Often, we get caught up in just answering the requests that come our way, and a quarter goes by before we realize we’ve gotten away from the plan. In 2015, don’t let that be you.
While it’s great to have the inbound leads, all agencies should also have a plan in place for the industries, regions, and specific businesses they want to tackle. Then, you've got to go for it. “Going for it” can mean different things to different people, but we’ve found that looking within your agency’s network (Pool your management team’s network. You will be surprised at your resources.) to get introductions where you want them has been the most effective. And get your "SEO house" in order. I cannot underscore the value of good SEO -- it has brought us more new business in 2014 than any other tactic and will be a significant part of our strategic marketing plan in 2015.
3) Client Retention
Client retention will never be 100%. Even if you are the most amazing agency on the planet, some of your clients are going to go out of business, some of them will have a change of leadership that wants “their team,” and some of them will just flat out kill their programs and go another direction. It happens. Assess your current clients and the potential for a change of plans in 2015, and ensure your new business goals adequately compensate for some loss of current clients. (And the best way to stave off replacing current clients? Keep them happy, all of them, all the time.)
What’s your plan to keep your team motivated, professionally trained, and on your team throughout the new year? Don’t leave this to chance and a few free drinks in the kitchen. Our team is the most valuable asset we have to offer our clients, and as such, it needs to be cultivated, motivated, and retained.
Set a professional development budget for each staff member, and outline your expectations for its use. Think about new tools they might need in the new year, be it a faster running computer or a more efficient way to track time. Outline a clear career path for your team members so they know what they need to do to move up and are motivated to work towards those goals. And of course, make sure they have goals and that those goals align with what the business is working to accomplish. This should be a major area of consideration for all agency owners in 2015. Don’t just set your revenue goal for the year and kick back -- you’re not even close to being able to realize that goal if you haven’t thought about the development of the people on your team.
While you’re not going to uncover a hidden monthly cost that suddenly brings your profit margin goal into reach, the end of the year is a good time to assess where you are spending your money. Check out the subscription services you’re paying for -- perhaps someone on staff added one for the team without knowing someone else already subscribed to it. Look at big ticket contracts like telecom. Is there an opportunity to renegotiate and save some money? Is your cell phone data plan all it can be, or are you getting hit with overages every month? Have a plan for cleaning up your expenses and then sticking to your budget in 2015. It’s a smart way to ensure all of that business growth is going to the top line, instead of leaking out the bottom.
Are there other things on your mind as you plan for your business in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments – and good luck!