Process and organization
Appealing as it is, questions like what specific services you'll offer, who should you sell you to, and how will you land clients, can be difficult to answer.
Starting a social media marketing (SMM) agency is an idea that is appealing to many social media marketers, but figuring out how to go about the process can be overwhelming.
Questions like what specific services will you offer, who should you sell you to, and how will you land clients can be difficult to answer.
Even though these questions are important, you won't get anywhere if you keep overthinking. You need to take the first step and start working to make it happen. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
This article will serve as a guide on how to start a social media marketing agency in 2021.
Let's get started.
A niche is an area of expertise within an industry that you will specialize in. It guides you on the type of services you will offer, the kind of clients you will work with, partnerships you will accept, and also helps you create a marketing strategy for your new agency.
There are hundreds of niches in the SMM industry. The best practice is to find a specific market you will serve, rather than working on multiple niches at a time. As a new agency, you will be more effective specializing in a single core service, than generalizing. For example, instead of branding as an agency that offers social media advertising services, position your agency as one that offers social media advertising services to e-commerce businesses.
When you specialize in a single market, it becomes easier to build expert status. And by building your authority, you will be able to land new clients with ease.
Focusing on a single niche is also cost-effective. Choosing several niches and offering multiple services will increase your start-up budget. It will require more advertising and resources to put your services in front of your target audience. Building a relationship with these audiences will also be difficult since you are spreading yourself thin across multiple industries. And if you don't have a specific target audience, you are also less likely to attract sponsors.
Tip: The best advice is to start as a specialist. As your agency grows, you can then expand your services into other sectors. By that time, you will have the resources to adequately market to multiple industries. And since you already have built authority, convincing new prospects of your value won't be difficult.
To get started, choose a list of niches that interests you. The following questions can help you fast track the process:
Answering these questions will give you a shortlist of ideas. Next, you will have to research them to find which one has the most potential.
Tip: It takes a lot of commitment to run a successful agency, so you want to pick a niche that you are passionate about. If you choose a niche just because of the profit, you might find it difficult to get motivated to work hard.
Google Search: The best place to research the popularity potential of each niche is on Google. You should look for a niche that has robust search results. A popular niche means that there are plenty of potential customers.
A popular niche will also mean more competition. That is a good thing. It means that there is already a market for the service.
Never try to create a market for your service. Instead, offer a service to the market that already exists.
Keyword research: Use keyword tools like Google Adwords or Answer the Public to search for the main keywords in that niche. If the main keywords in the niche have over 10,000 searches in a month, it indicates that it can be a strong niche for your agency.
Social media: Look at key social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see how popular content and hashtags related to your niche are. This will give you an idea of whether there is an active audience for that niche on social media platforms.
After you've completed your research, you should have a good idea of the most profitable niche for your industry. With this knowledge, you can start the process of launching and building your agency.
A value proposition is a statement that summarizes why someone should work with your agency. It should convince a potential client why your service is more valuable than other agencies that offer a similar service.
Your value proposition is the first thing visitors will see when they land on your website. So, it should be a clear statement that shows what you have to offer. To create a strong value proposition, here are three things to tick of:
Here are some best practices to follow when creating a value proposition for your agency.
Avoid using marketing jargon in the statement. Use simple words. If you have to explain your value proposition to a client before they can understand the message, then it's of no benefit to your business. A poor proposition statement may even cause you to lose leads.
Here is an example of a bad value proposition:
From the homepage, we can assume that the value proposition is - “Invoice Dude is an online billing software specially designed for small and medium businesses”.
The only thing good about this statement is that it is reasonably short.
The biggest problem with this statement is that it does not explain why their product is better than other competing invoicing software in the market. A visitor to the website cannot see the benefit of using the product.
Yes, the visitor needs an invoicing software. But why should they choose yours?
Your value proposition needs to answer this.
Your value proposition needs to mirror the conversation going on in the client's mind. Show the client that you understand their pain points. To do this, you need to understand the language the client will use to describe their problem.
You cannot guess what the right language for your audience is. You have to reach out to your target clients to find out. This can be done by running surveys or polls on social media. You can also visit forums or attend events to interact directly with clients.
Here are the four main things that you should include when creating your proposition:
If you already have a value proposition, evaluate it by checking if it answers the following questions:
After you have answered the questions, use the headline/paragraph/points/visual template to structure your value proposition.
Here is an example of a great value proposition from Evernote:
Why it works
In the heading, they clearly explain what the app is (creating notes), the benefits it offers (improving organization), and why you should choose them (they make it effortless).
In the subheadline, they outline the key features and benefits. There is also a relevant image.
The most effective way to sell your service is by offering multiple packages. Clients will have different needs. To ensure that you don't lose a prospective client, you need to have more than one service offering with varied pricing and types of work.
Give new clients the option to choose a package that is most suitable for them.
Tip: Do not offer too many packages. If a prospect has too many options, they might experience decision fatigue and end up not choosing any. It's best practice to limit the options to three pricing packages.
Here is an example of a social media management pricing page from Lyfe Marketing:
They further break it down to show what features each package has.
Prospects can see what kind of service they will get for each package. For example, the post frequency is different for each package.
They are three options you can use to charge for your services. They include.
1. Monthly or recurring: This is the most popular payment option among agencies. Here you are paid on a set date each month.
2. Project-based: Here you are paid per project. You will either receive payment in advance, after completion of the project or at agreed milestones. It is best for one-off services like consultations, audits, or creating a social media strategy for a client.
3. Hourly/daily: You are paid by the hour or per day.
Tip: In your proposal, clearly state how long the project will last, the payment option you prefer, and the services you will be offering. This will ensure that there is no confusion between you and the client during the undertaking.
One of the biggest challenges that agencies face is finding and getting new clients.
Without clients, your business won't generate any ROI. In this section of the guide, we will see how to attract your first agency clients.
When a prospective client first hears about your agency, the first place they will check is your website. They will want to learn more about your agency, the services you offer, and clients you've worked with in the past. Your website will showcase your work and also increase your visibility on search engines.
One of the most important pages on your website is the homepage. This is usually the first point of contact a new client will have with your brand. Here, your value proposition will come in handy. If you have a strong value proposition, the client will be intrigued to find out more about your agency.
The next places prospects will check are your ‘About’ page and ‘Pricing’ page. We've already discussed how to decide your pricing and packages.
Prospects will want to learn more about the agency they are about to work with. Here you can tell a story about how your agency started and the challenges you faced. People love stories. We use emotions rather than a reason to make purchasing decisions. By using stories to elicit an emotional response, you can convert leads into paying clients.
On the ‘About’ page, you can also expand on your value proposition. To support the claims that you can deliver on the services you offer, you can also add testimonials from other clients.
You can include the testimonial as a quote on the page.
Another effective format you can use is video testimonials.
Tip: Apart from your ‘About’ page, you should also create a dedicated page where you showcase your work. You can call this page a ‘Portfolio’ page. When displaying a project on this page, make sure you include:
But what if you don't have any client testimonials since you are just starting your agency?
Before you decided to start your social media marketing agency, you've had previous work experience. You can include any relevant work experience you have in your portfolio. You can also collect testimonials from your past employers.
This is one of the easiest ways to reach clients who are looking for your social media marketing services.
There are few ways you can take advantage of directories. First, list your agency on general directories like Google Partners and Yelp.
You can also list your agency on marketing directories. These are great because visitors to these directories are already looking for the services you provide.
Here are some popular directories you can list your agency on:
Tip: All directories are not created equally. Some of them are just listings and nothing more. Look for directories that offer more opportunities like events and advertising options.
When you are just starting out, the quickest way to spread the word about your new agency is by talking to your friends and family. You can also talk to your contacts from previous jobs or first-degree connections on social media websites like LinkedIn and Twitter.
These are individuals who already trust you. They will be happy to recommend your services to their network.
Tip: Before you inform your personal network, create your website. So any prospect they tell about your agency will have somewhere to check out.
Here is an email template you can send your network when asking for recommendations.
I hope you're doing well. I just launched a new social media marketing agency for [insert niche]. The main challenge my target market faces is [insert challenge] and I want to provide a service that [insert solution].
Do you know of anyone that will require my services that I could speak to?
I have created a website that explains what my agency is about and the service I'll be offering. I'd really appreciate it if you can share the link with your friends on social media. [insert link to your website]
A unique way to get clients for your new agency is to partner with other established businesses. They can be a great source of referrals. The best practice is to work with agencies or businesses that offer non-competing services but are in the same niche as you. For example, if you offer social media advertising services for e-commerce websites, you can partner with an agency that offers SEO services.
Reach out to these agencies and explain the services you offer. Show them how the partnership will benefit them. Here is an outreach email template you can send to a potential partner:
Hope you are doing well? I've heard of the amazing work you are doing in SEO for e-commerce businesses. I was wondering if you ever have requests to provide social media advertising as well.
If you have, I would love to partner with you. We can offer a package to e-commerce businesses that includes both our services.
I run a new social media marketing agency for [insert niche]. The main challenge my target market faces is [insert challenge] and I want to provide a service that [insert solution]. You can check my website to find out more about my agency. [Insert website]
Are you free for a 20 minute call next week?
Hosting a free training session is a great way to show your expertise and put your new agency in front of your target audience. Choose a catchy topic that is trending in your industry at the moment. This will make it easy to attract the attention of prospects.
To increase sign-ups for your training session, you can use boosted posts and adverts on social media platforms. Make sure you send a follow-up email to everyone that signs up to remind them of the session.
To host an effective session, make sure you deliver value to the audience. Make actionable points that your audience can apply and see some results.
When your prospective clients can see the value you offer, they are most likely to reach out to you for further consultation.
After you have set processes in place to attract prospects, the next step will be turning prospects into paying clients. This next stage will involve three steps:
The discovery call is one of the most important stages of the sales process. The questions you ask during the call will give you a clearer picture of the needs and pain points of the client. It also helps you ascertain that your services align with the needs of the clients.
Here are some questions to ask during a discovery session:
These questions will help you identify whether the client is the best fit for your agency.
If the discovery call went well, the next step is to show the prospect why they should work with your agency. This will be done using a social media proposal.
A social media proposal is a document where you propose your agency's services to a potential client. In the document, you will explain what services your agency offers, establish the client's goal, and detail the steps you will use in helping them reach these goals.
Without a strong proposal, it will be difficult to convince a prospect of your value. Check out this in-depth guide on how to create a social media proposal.
If the client is happy with your proposal, the next step is for the client to sign a contract. You don't need to complicate this process. In plain language, spell out every detail of the project. These will include things like deliverables, pricing, payment plans, deadlines, penalties for late payment, etc.
A contract will keep you (the agency) safe. For example, a client might want to include new tasks that were not part of the initial project deliverables. Instead of complaining or arguing with the client, you can just refer them to the contract. If they want to add a new task, you can accept and renegotiate contract details like pricing.
You can use software like DocuSign to sign the contract.
A pitch deck is a presentation that helps potential investors learn more about your agency. Its primary goal is to intrigue the investors enough that they will want to work with you. With a good pitch deck, you can easily raise funding for your agency.
The presentation will consist of slides that tell a compelling story about your agency. You can easily create a deck using PowerPoint.
Tip: It is best practice not to use more than 15 - 20 slides in a deck. Be brief and straight to the point.
Here is a rough outline of things you should include in your pitch deck:
It will be difficult to run a successful social media marketing agency when you are the only person in the company. Growing and scaling the business will become a herculean task. That's why it is necessary to build a solid team.
When you are just starting, you don't need to employ tens of employees. You can hire for positions where you are weak. Maybe you are not great at organization, you can hire a project manager that will ensure that tasks are executed properly and on time.
Step #1: The first step is to identify the qualities you will need in a prospective hire.
What skills will the individual need? What will the person be doing? What will you expect them to achieve in 90 days?
These questions will help you streamline the hiring process. You won't have to spend hours interviewing countless people since you already know what you want.
Step #2: Reach out to candidates via the right channels.
The most effective way to hire new talent is via recommendations from your network. Ask your colleagues to recommend suitable people for the positions you are about to fill. Candidates you get from recommendations are usually of higher quality in terms of skills and experience than candidates from a job board. As a new agency owner, you need to prioritize efficiency. As much as possible, limit the amount of time you will spend interviewing candidates.
You can also use LinkedIn to find new people. Identify the sectors, companies, and job titles a candidate might come from. Most people have a resume on their LinkedIn profile so you can use it to measure their skill level. When you find a person that stands out, you can reach out to them via LinkedIn's messaging feature or email.
Step #3: Create a structured interview process. For example, you can create a list of criteria that candidates must meet before they move on to the in-person interview stage. This will help you filter out people that are not suitable for the position early on.
Consider building or investing in a tool. For example, Influencer Marketing Hub offers a free Instagram money calculator tool. This tool allows users to calculate their earning potential based on the number of followers and engagement they have.
Tools can help you boost brand awareness, generate links, and drive quality leads to your agency.
While tools are great, it might be too expensive to build one. Fortunately, you don't have to build or invest in a tool to reap its benefits. You can go to a website like Code-Canyon to buy plugins, widgets, and scripts for as low as $2.
Since you are building a social media marketing agency, you can buy an A/B testing calculator for specific social media platforms.
To run a successful business, you need tools. They will help increase your efficiency and get things done faster.
As an SMM agency, the number tool you should have in your arsenal is a social media management/analytics platform. And my number one recommendation is Iconosquare.
Iconosquare is a social media analytics and management tool that allows brands and agencies to improve their performance on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. It comes with an advanced analytics feature that allows you to make data-driven decisions.
Some useful features it comes with include:
You can try Iconosquare free for 14 days. No credit card is required. Try Iconosquare.
Here are a couple more tools you will need to successfully run a social media marketing agency:
Project management tool: It helps you to efficiently plan projects, establish a hierarchy of how tasks should be carried out for efficient completion, and improve collaboration among team members It also makes it easy to delegate tasks and share files/updates with team members. A project management tool will help improve your agency's productivity. Some of the best options in the market are ClickUp and Asana.
CRM tool: Instead of using a spreadsheet to store clients and leads, use a customer relationship management software. With this tool, you can manage all your sales and support in one place. It allows you to collect, organize, and manage client information. This will help you improve data management, streamline communication, and track the buyer's journey of every prospect you interact with.
Now that you know how to start a social media marketing agency, it's up to you to take the first step. There will be challenges ahead, but when you have a structured process in place, it will be easy to navigate these roadblocks.
Remember to learn from your mistakes, offer the best service to your clients, and have fun while running the business.
Thanks for reading this far. If you have any questions, leave your thoughts in the comment section.
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