Why We Pivoted Our Digital Agency (and the impact we expect it to have on our revenues)
You would think that growing our digital agency — for a team of marketing professionals like us — would be a walk in the park.
When you consider our knowledge of online marketing, our experienced team, and how we help other businesses grow their revenues each day we step foot into the office, you’d be silly to assume otherwise.
Well, after more than 6 years of being in business, I can honestly say that this couldn’t be further from the truth…
And in this post, I pull the curtains wide open and share how we’ve managed to grow our agency up until now, the struggles we’ve faced along the way, why we’re not quite where we want to be yet, and how we plan on tripling our revenues over the next 24 months.
Keep reading…I think you’re going to like this one.
WHERE WE’RE AT RIGHT NOW
Let me first start by disclosing that at the time of writing, Webrunner hasn’t quite reached the seven-figure mark (yet).
Don’t be sad for us though.
We’re living the dream and completely in love with the grind!
Since starting Webrunner, we went from 2 people working in a home office with less than a handful of clients…
…to a small but respectable 800 square foot office with a bit of room to grow:
And when I say “a bit of room to grow,” I really do mean a bit.
We were in a basement with low ceilings, so we literally couldn’t hire anyone over 6 feet (not kidding).
But we kept grinding and made the space work for us.
We stayed there for two years and kept our costs low.
Then just last year, we made our second move to a beautiful new office — three times the size — that we’re finally able to invite clients to without feeling embarrassed:
In terms of headcount, we went from Kevin and I doing everything to a team of 10.
Today, our team includes super talented designers, developers, and marketing strategists who genuinely love working together, and who pour their hearts and souls into their work.
In terms of our client roster, we have the opportunity to work with the owners and marketing directors of so many amazing businesses across industries like manufacturing and distribution, through to software, retail, and more.
Our monthly revenues continue to climb year after year, and while we’re not profitable yet, we’re now at the point where we can take on more business without having to increase our expenses thanks to having invested in growing our team.
Lastly, we’ve managed to develop a great work-life balance that makes it easy, fun, and rewarding for everyone to get up to come to work every day.
So even though we’re not a million dollar agency (yet!), we’re totally loving every minute of this roller coaster that is the agency life!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
When we started Webrunner, we were nothing more than two guys who happened to love technology, had a passion for marketing, and who knew how to leverage Google products to help businesses get found online.
For us, that was enough to justify leaving our well-paying, secure nine-to-fives, in order to live the dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
We had worked for a software company that created a bidding & reporting technology for digital agencies a few years prior and so the agency world wasn’t completely foreign to us.
In hindsight, as much as we thought that our business plan projections and growth goals were realistically aligned with a worst case scenario, we were still extremely naive and dumb.
What we figured would take us six months to accomplish actually took twelve.
Luckily, we had enough savings to weather the storm and remain committed up until the point where we finally started to generate just enough revenue to cover our basic living expenses and avoid getting divorced from our wives.
At the time we both owned homes, and Kevin — my business partner — also had a young child to take care of.
Saying that we just barely made it would be a huge understatement. One bad month and we’d back on the job market looking for work.
FROM PAY PER CLICK TO FULL-SERVICE
Our goal when starting Webrunner was to offer pay per click advertising services to businesses looking to get found online.
The barriers to entry were fairly low, and though the competition was already quite fierce, there was still enough demand to justify starting an agency.
Many competitors offered PPC services but very few were actual specialists (there are literally hundreds of PPC agencies popping up every day).
As a result, we regularly came across business owners who had been poorly serviced and who were dissatisfied with their previous vendors.
Providing great service was our golden opportunity.
We cared so much about each and every client, making sure to always go over and above, aiming to exceed their expectations on our promise to deliver results.
Before we knew it, we found ourselves doing way more than just running pay per click campaigns.
Our clients’ websites needed work…
They had never heard of landing pages…
Their digital strategies were either non-existent or a complete mess.
So naturally, when clients saw that we were savvy and willing, they relied on us to help them sort things out.
This usually came with us spending way more time than what we initially planned and what we were billing them for.
But we needed all the business we could get.
As the saying goes, “Cash is King”, and for a small business like ourselves, we said Yes a lot more opportunities than we said No.
Over time, word got around and we became known locally as guys who “know what they’re doing”, “aren’t too expensive”, “and who can do anything”.
We helped businesses with:
- branding & design
- search engine optimization
- social media marketing
- pay per click
- email marketing
- and more…
Nonetheless, as time passed, we slowly but surely signed on new business.
Our team grew in size, and we became more and more knowledgeable about the countless online marketing strategies & tactics we were helping businesses with.
Still, I wasn’t happy with our overall success as an agency
I felt we should be much farther along than where we currently stood.
Things had to change if we were to build the profitable agency we set out to build in the first place.
THE PIVOT: WHAT GOT US HERE WON’T GET US THERE
When we held our annual review this past December, to assess and to discuss what needs to happen over the next twelve months in order for us to triple our revenues, we decided to get real with ourselves this time.
The wise Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.“
We were caught in a groove.
We were doing the same old thing expecting different results, and it just wasn’t happening.
In order for us to build our dream agency, we knew we had to challenge everything.
We started by identifying what we had been doing right and what we had been doing wrong (or just not doing altogether).
It looked a little something like this…
What we were doing right:
- driving results from our ad campaigns
- servicing & supporting clients
- not losing any clients
- staying on top of the latest marketing strategies & tactics
- hiring the right people to grow within the agency
- overall company culture
What we were doing wrong:
- not setting aside time to create & promote content
- rarely communicating & educating our clients
- neglecting our own advertising campaigns
- keeping success stories to ourselves rather than sharing with clients & prospects
- not automating things that could easily be automated saving us lots of precious time
- working with a client that’s a terrible fit
- trying to offer too many services
- investing time supporting clients on things that don’t directly impact the bottom line
As an agency’s reputation evolves, opportunities naturally come about for all sorts of random projects and it’s extremely difficult to turn away revenue that’s basically sitting on your doorstep.
We’ve seen an article from another sought after PPC agency based out of the US which makes reference to this notion as being as addictive as crack cocaine.
We offered too many services and spent too much time delivering services that don’t build any momentum.
It was a HUGE red flag that we failed to identify.
That prompted us to take a closer look at things from a different angle.
“Which of our efforts generate the best results for clients?” is the first question we asked ourselves.
Also, “what is it that we enjoy doing most as an agency?”
And finally, “what is the one service that we can actually scale profitably while keeping our operating costs stable?”
These three questions all had the same answer…
It’s what 95% of our clients were seeing the most success with and getting the most value from.
It’s what we were the best at.
And besides being the service we enjoyed delivering the most, we knew that running an efficient PPC agency was totally doable and could be highly profitable.
Right then and there, we made the conscious decision to commit and, I hate the term but, “pivot” the agency.
We essentially agreed to come back to what Kevin and myself originally set out to accomplish when we started the business in the first place.
Our journey over the past few years isn’t one I’d change for anything in the world.
We’ve grown slower than I’d like to admit, but as a result we’ve become much better overall marketers for it.
Our in-depth knowledge of inbound & content marketing, email marketing, SEO, and marketing automation technology is in large part due to the fact that we’ve wandered off the beaten path, and it only helps our pay per click accounts for the better.
We’ve all seen this image before. I for one know it to be true:
WHERE WE’RE GOING FROM HERE
The first thing we did come January was to share with our team the what, why, and how we would refocus our agency.
With everyone on board, we quickly made plans to reposition our website messaging and branding.
We spoke with all of our client accounts and shared with them that moving forward, we would be focused solely on helping them leverage paid ads to grow their businesses.
We were ready to deal with whatever complaints came our way…
…but not one customer objected!
In fact, most commended us for taking this decision and were excited to see our progress.
We even fired the one customer who continued to be a thorn in our side, and the extra time our team gained each week more than made up for the loss of revenue we incurred.
And finally, we made plans to fix everything else that had been neglected for ever so long…
WHAT WE (ABSOLUTELY) NEED TO FIX
Everything we do here at Webrunner is to help businesses grow through paid advertising.
Be it our landing page designs, our pay per click campaigns, our Facebook ads, or the on-going testing we do to improve results for our clients.
That narrow focus is what you can expect from us moving forward. That’s how we’re going to 3X our revenues in 24 months.
From a marketing standpoint, we simply have to start.
We’ve spent all of our time marketing other peoples’ businesses — our own has been neglected.
We’re going to turn this around.
Blog posts, client case studies, educational how-to videos, more regular client communications, social media content…that’s what we need to do.
We’ve told our clients time and time again to take advantage of video, create great content, and strategically promote it, without taking the time to do it ourselves.
Now it’s our turn to lead by example.
And as our good friend Gary Vee would say, “f*ck you’re gonna. Just do.”
So with that being said, this article marks the first of a series of posts which I’ll be publishing under Agency Life on the Webrunner blog.
My hope is that by regularly sharing with you some of our wins (and potential losses), as well as publicly committing to delivering you different forms of helpful and valuable content, our agency will be one step closer to reaching the goal of tripling our revenues within 24 months.
Over the past few years, we’ve learned a ton of lessons that I’m certain can be helpful to many of you.
I’ll be sharing my experiences and thoughts on hiring, finance, business growth, marketing strategy and more.
If there’s anything in particular that you’d like to see more of from us, please let me know in the comments below because I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And if you can relate to any of my experiences, I’d love to hear your story. It’ll make me feel better
*All GIFs gathered on Giphy