When you try to find out a thing or two about writing a digital marketing agency business plan, you are bombarded by an endless barrage of more or less annoying acronyms such as SCOMS, SUCUTS, AMBERS or something along those lines -none of the aforementioned are actual business plan acronyms, at least to author’s knowledge.
In other words, various business gurus are trying to sell you a prepackaged solution that is supposed to work for any company, no matter what it does or how it makes its money.
Like with all prepackaged solutions, the results are, at best, mediocre.
For a digital marketing agency, due to the exceptionally fluid and innovative niche, such an approach is almost guaranteed to fail. Instead, you have to dig in, brew yourself a ginormous pot of coffee and really get down to it.
Of course, since we are living in the year 2018, there will be some specific things to look out for, too.
Who is it for?
Inexperienced business owners almost invariably ignore the basic and eternal truth of writing a digital marketing agency business plan – the audience matters. It may seem inconsequential, but it is actually a distinction that will affect all subsequent decisions.
1. Internal purposes
For example, you may be coming up with a business plan that will be used mostly for internal purposes. You will be laying out your goals and means to achieve those goals to your employees. You will let them know what is expected of them and what kind of performance will be considered satisfactory. It will also let them know how the company is doing and try to convince them to stay on board.
An internally-oriented business plan is also a great way to understand where you stand realistically, which is often a problem for digital marketing agencies.
2. Investors and Partners
Another kind of a business plan is aimed at investors and partners. This kind of a business plan is intended to reinforce their trust and belief in your digital marketing agency. It goes without saying that this kind of a business plan will be finances-heavy, dealing in cold, hard numbers.
3. Potential customers
Finally, your business plan may be aimed at your existing and potential customers. It will be a borderline marketing tactic where you will point out all of the amazing things you are planning to accomplish and tools that you intend to use. It can also be a great way to advertise the wide array of your services and introduce new ones.
For example, if you just started expanding and are now offering digital marketing strategy services, your customer-oriented business plan is the perfect “delivery mechanism” (to borrow from pharmaceutical terminology here) for this announcement.
It should be pointed out that, since this is 2018, your digital marketing agency business plan should also start introducing certain terms and concepts that will be the future of digital marketing, such as A.I. in digital, natural language processing, data analytics, account-based marketing and so on.
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious in your business plan, especially if it is aimed at investors and potential customers.
First, have a look at the video to get the business plan basics right.
Know your market
A big part of knowing whether your agency will be successful is understanding your audience. Make sure your plan is clear about the definition of your target market – who will you be selling to and how many other agencies are already selling similar services?
Your ads won’t work if they don’t appeal to what your potential customers want or need. Research and find out as much as possible about the people you want to sell to.
Many business owners fall into the trap of believing that their products or services are “for everyone”— that is, anyone would be interested in or need the products. But even if you define your business as a full service digital marketing agency that appeals to a broad market of diverse consumers, you need to identify who your ideal consumer is.
Numbers. Numbers. Numbers.
Whether you like figures or not, having a thorough understanding of the numbers that impact your business is a crucial component in agency business plan. It does not matter who the audience for your 2018 business plan is, you will have to be excruciatingly precise with your numbers.
When you dig deep enough, a business plan is never about the words. It is about the numbers.
- How many clients do you have at the moment?
- How many more do you plan on attracting?
- What are you doing to keep your clients?
- How much does your client retention cost?
- How much are you paying your outside partners?
- What kind of growth rate are you expecting?
- How do you plan on selling your services?
- How much will it cost to sell them?
- Are you planning on taking out a new business loan?
- What is your employee turnover rate?
All of this and much, much more has to be backed by numbers.
Simply put, without the numbers backing your claims, no one is going to believe you – not your employees, not your potential investors or partners, not your customers.
If you avoid numbers in your business plan, they will notice it and once they do, the first place they will go to is that you are trying to hide something.
One word of warning – this does not mean you should divulge absolutely everything about your finances. That being said, some transparency with your numbers can go a long way.
Focus on people
The people from the subheading above are your people, your employees.
The reason why they are making a feature in an article about a digital marketing agency business plan in 2018 is that 2018 will hopefully finally be the year when digital marketing agency owners and managers realize the value of the people in their employ.
The situation is such that the employee loyalties are all but becoming a thing of the past and in an industry such as digital marketing, this is perhaps even more pronounced than in some other, “slower” industries. In addition to this, people are finally talking about the debilitating costs of high employee turnover which occurs when companies do not value the people who work for them.
It is because of all of this that you need to feature your people heavily in your business plan. (Of course, this is especially true if your business plan is of the internally-oriented kind.)
You should outline all the ways in which you plan on retaining your best people and help them do their jobs better.
You should write down all of the investments you will make in them and in making your company a better place to work. You should flesh out a clear-cut and results-driven hiring policy, as well as an onboarding one.
Everyone who gets a hold of your plan needs to understand that you are a digital marketing agency that understands the realities of the evolving workplace and that values its employees above everything else.
Be realistic and honest
Business plans should avoid fluff, be realistic and honest. The biggest mistake entrepreneurs can make when writing a business plan is to be overly optimistic with sales and future cost estimates.
Make sure your business plan demonstrates the compelling reasons why customers need your agency’s services and how you will achieve competitive differentiation in the digital marketing industry. Make the financials realistic, and look at worse case scenarios so you get a view of what could go wrong and what you would need to do to put things right.
If you came looking for a bulletproof, step-by-step business plan template for your digital marketing agency, the author is sorry to disappoint. The reason why this article does not fit that description is that such a template does not exist.
Instead, the author tried to provide the most important things to keep in mind when coming up with a digital marketing agency business plan for 2018.
The rest will be up to you.