The Top 11 Elements of Advertising Agency Success

As an agency owner my biggest fear was that I might have more billings walking out the back door than walking in the front. This thought kept me up many nights and it forced me to really think through what it takes to be a successful agency. Here is a list of 11 elements that I think are essential for building a sustainable agency.

Note that this list does not include some of the advertising industries more critical decisions like how to design a cool office, figuring out where to place the creative awards, choosing between a ping pong or foosball table, or what kind of holiday card to send out.

Here are my 11 elements or goals for agency success… And a good night’s sleep.

  1. The absolute bottom line for achieving all of your goals is that you view your agency as a business that is driven by the pursuit of profit. Yes, running an agency is fun. But, it is a business first. A failing business isn’t fun.
  2. You should end the year with at least a 15% net profit and 4+ months of cash in the bank to cover any unforeseen problems – like losing a big account.
  3. You will have a clear, competitive agency brand position and efficient marketing program designed to set you apart from your competition and generate incoming leads.
  4.  You will be known for delivering business building creative, strategic thinking, tech savvy and superior account service.
  5. You will have an ongoing active new business plan to drive agency awareness and to get your sales proposition out 24/7.
  6. You will get paid what you are worth and will not give away your brains for free. Nothing rankles me, and I suspect you, more than giving away valuable ideas to prove that you are brilliant. Yes, I know about procurement and bending over. But, lets try to get past that evil.
  7. You will have the right staff, expertise and thought-leadership to stay ahead of the rapidly evolving market. You understand that you may have to cut some dead wood. I’ll admit that I was occasionally slow in building for the future by making necessary cuts.
  8. Your management team and most important employees will be paid at or higher than industry averages. I continuously studied industry salary stats. I know that my employees did too.
  9. The best people in the business will call up and ask to work with you.
  10.  Everyone at the agency will have fun and will love to come to work in the morning.
  11. The desirable clients you want will call up and ask to work with you. These clients will deliver at least two of the following: they pay very well (this means very profitable); they understand and want great work; they are famous brands that beget other famous brands.

Just to pile on, allow me to end with a quote that has influenced my personal business decisions and need for speed.

“If everything seems under control you are just not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti

–> There are more elements, lets discuss how to grow your agency.

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