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7 steps to launching your digital marketing agency

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Updated on:
December 11, 2022
December 11, 2023
Integrate your proposals, contracts, invoices, and more with Bonsai.
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Digital marketing is an ever-evolving industry, forcing businesses to stay agile in order to survive and constantly get new clients to sign contract templates or agreement templates with.

When you’re trying to figure out how to start a digital marketing agency, or what is a creative agency, there are many pitfalls awaiting you. It’s easy to get lost in the storm, and many new ventures crash before they ever really get going.

You need a solid strategy for success from the very outset. Here are seven essential steps that you should take to get your agency off the ground and maybe be one day among the top digital agencies.

1. Build your personal foundation

If you’re going to brand yourself as an expert in digital marketing, you need to actually become a digital marketing expert! At the very least, you should have a good understanding of the following aspects:

  • How to build landing pages
  • Brand messaging
  • Paid advertising
  • Data analytics
  • Industry-standard systems such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce

Realistically, you should get some experience as a contractor to develop your skill-set before striking out on your own. This will also allow you to gain valuable experience of entrepreneurial life. It takes time to get comfortable with the many elements of running a business, such as time management, accounting, and creating contracts.

If you build your freelance career with Bonsai first, your fledgling business will have a much stronger foundation to build on than if you just dive in with no prior experience.

2. Find your niche

Specializing in one small area may seem like it’s bad for business, but it is the smartest move you can make today. Competition is intense, and the need to stand out from your rivals is more important than ever.

With a clearly-defined niche, you can focus on a smaller, but more qualified audience that is genuinely interested in what you offer. You can learn about their needs and interests, and then prove your business to be the best solution for them.When it comes to the niche, sometimes a brand questionnaire and brand identity strategy can help.


3. Build a team of experts

If you’re wondering how to start a digital marketing agency, chances are you’re not planning to be a one-man band for long. Make sure you make smart hires and always use proper marketing contract templates.

Here are the people you need to succeed:

3.1 Head writer

Great content needs a stellar writer. From blogs and email marketing to ad copy and landing pages, writing will be the backbone of your content marketing.

And here’s the thing:

“Content marketing is the only marketing that is left” - Seth Godin

3.2 Editor

Your editor will effectively assume the role of lead storyteller, directing the others to craft your brand direction. The editor should have good storytelling skills, understanding how to hold suspense and deliver strong punchlines.

3.3 Media specialist

There’s no doubt that video is the future, with over 80% of all internet traffic expected to be video in the next few years. If your budget can afford a photographer and videographer, that’s great. If not, just get a video expert. Whatever you do, don’t get left behind.

3.4 Graphic designer

Having a graphics guru will not only give your photos some added zest but they will also produce incredible digital posters, fliers, and catalogs for all your promotions and website branding.

3.5 Facebook ads expert

Facebook has undergone a public relations nightmare over the past year or two, but the platform is still a marketing powerhouse. Paid advertising can help your agency build up a customer base in a short space of time. Be sure to incorporate that into your advertising proposal.

4. Optimize everything for search

Digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s a blog post, a video, or a job listing, you need to check that everything is optimized for user searches.

Research your market, discover what you want to rank for and then make it happen. Good SEO can make all the difference between your content floating around the dark abyss of Google’s back pages, or it being shared by thought-leaders in your niche.


5. Get social

Even if you don’t know how to start a digital marketing agency yet, you’re sure to grasp the relevance of social media today. Social media marketing is important not only in launching your business. Bonsai can teach you the essential skills for social media managers, which can reap great benefits for your business, such as:

  • Easy marketing - Digital word-of-mouth counts for a lot, and social media can turn a relatively small investment into a global audience.
  • Customer engagement - By engaging in conversations and resolving problems, you forge personal connections with customers, showing you are more than a faceless brand.
  • Lead generation - Organic reach isn’t what it was, but you can still find some new customers on social media. That brings us nicely to our next step...

6. Focus on lead generation

SEO and social media are core components of lead generation, but it shouldn’t end there. Consider the following techniques to increase the flow through your sales funnel:

  • Identify target clients - Create buyer personas that detail your ideal customer. Understanding who you are trying to reach will help keep your agency on track.
  • Affiliate marketing - By partnering with affiliates, you can expand your network and find prospects who are interested in your products and services.
  • Cold emailing - This can border on spam if you do it wrong. However, with a smart strategy for cold emailing, you can research prospects, and then craft a tailored email that speaks to their needs. Make sure to track links you include to see which content or product attracts the most interest. Cold emailing is a cost-effective way of finding new leads, which is ideal for new agencies on a limited budget.
  • Fantastic website - Your company website isn’t just a pretty design. It has real potential to attract leads and turn visitors into loyal customers. Everything from your slogan and logo to your content and calls-to-action must work together to compel and convert people.
  • SMS marketing - you need to have opt-ins from your clients for this. Once you have them, you can tap into the power of instant text marketing. Send special offers, run giveaways and contests for your loyal clients. Texting is a great tool for time-sensitive marketing activities.

Want more? Here are some great strategies from Bonsai to find more freelance clients. And when you close a deal, another important thing to do is to write a marketing contract.

7. Set your business model

You can bill clients in a number of ways. Here are the best methods:

  • Hourly - This makes sense for short tasks or one-off jobs, but it may get tricky on large-scale projects. You also need to account for ‘off the clock’ time spent on calls, consultations, and admin. A time-tracking solution will make your life easier.
  • Flat retainer - Arguably the simplest pricing model to use. By setting a flat fee for the month, you ensure smoother operations as both parties know the price from the beginning. It’s a smart move to include some clauses that allow you compensation if the client unexpectedly goes bust, as well as some room for negotiation if your clients scale up over time.
  • Percentage of spend - This model considers scalability, ensuring your agency gets fairly compensated when the client is enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Whichever model you opt for, get a tax professional onboard. They could save your business a lot of money down the road. Also, with Bonsai invoicing, you can ensure you always get paid on time.

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Take your agency to the next level

Now you know how to start a digital marketing agency, but how do you really get to the top?

Today, data analytics and ecommerce personalization are integral aspects of online business, and tying these two facets together is machine learning.

Artificial intelligence (AI) marketing software can collate data on your site visitors and social media followers, analyze it and then adapt. What this means is you can tailor your content, targeting small segments of your audience with a laser focus that they find irresistible.

With data insights and advanced machine learning-based software, your agency can finetune your marketing on all fronts, from your website and social media to SEO and video. A digital marketing agency that harnesses the potential of AI and personalization will be able to deliver a customer experience unlike any other.

Soon enough, you can position your company as a respected brand, and a trusted business in your niche. With such solid foundations, the future is surely a bright one.

Sign-up with Bonsai today to start your agency on the right foot.

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