How To Start A Social Media Marketing Agency

Lessons Learned From Our Early Years

Are you looking into how to start a social media marketing agency? Wondering how to start a digital marketing agency? Whatever you want to call it, great, welcome to the gang. I’ve just got a few questions. They’ll help determine if this article is for you.

  • Are you primed with your laptop and ready to take on the challenge of starting a digital marketing agency?
  • Have you done your research and know that you have something to offer that’s better than the competition?
  • Do you love using Instagram and other social media?
  • Have you subscribed to something called Hootsuite?

These are just the basics. But, if you answered yes to any of the above, keep reading.

Starting a digital marketing agency isn’t easy. 

From the offset, I need you to be prepared for some long days and nights. Getting those first few customers can be a tricky business as you’ll come to read later on. You’ve got to be able to prove that you can attract clients for yourself. But, that is only half of it. You must also prove that you can attract clients for others using your amazing social media marketing strategies.

Everyone out there will say you have to be unique. This is true to a point, for sure. I want to challenge you to come up with an offering that is uniquely different from that of your competitors. This will make you stand out from the crowd and be remembered by prospective clients. Otherwise, you’re just another standard marketing agency who has nothing new to offer. And, why would a client choose that over an agency that DOES offer something different? 

You might be thinking that this is easily said but not so easily done. It’s hard to find something truly stand-out and unique. Most social media marketing agencies offer posting to Facebook, Twitter progression, or content creation for Instagram. A few might offer a little more, such as web design or search engine optimisation. But, apart from these basics, how much more unique can you get? I certainly had this problem in our early days. However, with a LOT of trial and error, we’ve built the company up to be a well-oiled machine that works. More importantly, I enjoy it. You need to be able to enjoy what you’re doing as well. Otherwise, why are you even bothering to research how to start a social media marketing agency? If you don’t have a passion for it, your agency is sure to fail before it even really gets started!

How to start a social media marketing agency: our first clients really must have taken pity on us. 

When Delivered Social started we invited 6 people at a time into a session every single Wednesday morning. We’d talk about social media and provide lessons. At the time, I thought we were doing something revolutionary within our location. And to a point, we were, as there were no other agencies in the area who were doing this. However, there was a problem. The people who were coming in for these lessons were not converting into paying customers. 

For months we converted maybe only 1 in 12 of those guests into clients. The problem was that we had a standard offering which we thought would work for everyone. As you might have guessed, it didn’t.

The reality was that these groups of people had very little in common apart from the fact that they wanted to do more on social media. The room would be filled with people and businesses from various industries. As a result, it was about as targeted to them as a meat menu to a vegan activist. Yet we plugged on. Relentlessly. We believed we offered value.

We didn’t.

But we kept offering a sales slide at the end to try and convert our visitors into clients. The problem was that we thought we were offering something unique and useful. While it may have been fairly unique, it just wasn’t what people really wanted. This is another key when starting a digital marketing agency. You must do your research and provide what your target customers want. Or, you’ll end up like us in our early days, struggling to convert anything into paying leads.

how to set up a social media marketing agency

Group sessions didn’t really work out for us…

How we went from converting 1 in 12 to 90%.

Fast forward to where we are today (and thankfully have been for some time now). 

A lot of what I am about to tell you was all inspired by a book (I’ll come onto this in more detail later on). This book was called How To Grow Your Business In 90 Minutes A Day.

A little recap. Our problem when starting a digital marketing agency was that people really wanted to hear us speak. But, when we opened our mouths nothing of any real value to them came out. It wasn’t bespoke to their business. Unless they’d turned up, on one of the 52 Wednesdays of the year, to learn about exactly what I was talking about that day, it was a pointless exercise. The pastries we served were nice- but this just wasn’t enough. When researching how to start a social media marketing agency, we clearly hadn’t thought about what we were offering enough.

That’s when I came up with something that is truly unique to Delivered Social. 

Two words. Social Clinics.

These literally revolutionised Delivered Social’s operating model.

The concept is simple but very effective. Before, we were doing group sessions where people sat through a standard presentation and two PowerPoint decks of learning that were very general and not particularly detailed. Now, Delivered Social offers 1 on 1 sessions, for free, to any business who wants to book in!

There’s only one rule we have in Social Clinics. We will not sell. Ever. We’ve built a model completely on advice, and if the visitor thinks we’re the right people for them then we’ll send them more information – but never, ever, in the room! 

That’s right. We give our time, expertise and knowledge away for free. If people want to buy from us in that room, we say no. Social Clinics are the time and place to focus completely on their business, not on ours.

In addition, we there are no qualifications to attend. If a business or individual wants to come in, and our screening room is free – it’s theirs. A member of staff will spend exactly 7 minutes showcasing Delivered Social to our visitor and then the next 83 minutes are all about that business – no matter what stage it is at. When I was looking at how to start a digital marketing agency, this was something that I never came across. Thus, it is our version of that unique thing that every business needs to offer to stay ahead of the competition.

You mentioned your conversion went to 90%. Did it really?

Yes really. Our conversion rate leaped up. Before, we were converting less than 10% of our potential clients. Now, we couldn’t really ask for it to be much higher!

I believe that this is because we decided early on that not everything we did needed to have a financial transaction to be a conversion. 

Think about this for a moment. This bit is really not that groundbreaking, but I promise you it will change your business. Not everyone who comes in to meet you is ready to buy or has a business that can fund your fees. They could be a charity looking for some support. This does not mean they can’t convert for you. When looking into how to start a social media marketing agency, have you thought about the ways that ‘free’ work can actually really help you out? It could even transform things for your business when you least expect it!

So, what use is a client with no money when starting a digital marketing agency?

Let’s go back to the Social Clinic model for a moment. It’s very true that the screening room costs money to rent, a member of staff needs to be paid, and we provide tea, coffee, and popcorn to everyone who comes through the door. As a result, these are all costs to the business that we must absorb. 

Despite these costs, there are always perks to be found when offering some of your services for free. To help you out, here are some of the benefits we’ve found when offering our Social Clinics:

  • Feedback.

At the end of every single clinic, we send out an informal email, asking for people to review the content and their speaker. As a result, it’s helped us move up the search rankings much faster than a traditional social media marketing agency would have. It also had a very unexpected benefit…

  • Word of mouth.

You’d be amazed at how many people shout about the session they’ve experienced and invite other business owners in. It really is a force to be reckoned with. Plus, it lets us know that what we’re doing is working and that it offers value to the businesses that come in. This is a bit different from what we were offering before!

  • Black Book Building.

This is another great benefit that we’ve found from offering our free Social Clinics. We now have people who randomly email in years later just to say hi and see if they can come back in again. We always say yes, no matter how many times they ask!

I’m not going to say it wasn’t a huge plunge into the unknown when we started this. Totally changing what your business offers is always a risk – but the gamble absolutely paid off in this case.

You’d be amazed how many clinics we met in year one who ended up coming back to us in year two or three to financially transact. This is obviously great for us! However, we also know that without their non-transactional transactions in the past, we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, it’s clear that offering free services really works for our social media marketing agency.

starting a digital marketing agency

Our Social Clinics- with popcorn!- may be free, but they do wonders for our business

Would I change anything about the Social Clinic model if I were to start a social media marketing agency again?

I often get asked whether I would change a thing about what we do. Businesses that we meet (and at the time of writing this we’ve done close to 750 clinics) are usually shocked at the value of the session. They turn up not knowing what to expect. In fact, some really don’t expect much or even think it will be a waste of their precious time! But, every single one of them has left with something of note. This is the real value in what we do with the Social Clinics. Needless to say, no model is perfect…

Here are a few of the things that I’d change or that really annoy me about the Social Clinic model (yep – I’m going there).

  • If I could have more than one screening room to offer more sessions I would. They really are in demand, and sometimes we just can’t fit everyone in when they want to see us!
  • These sessions are 100% free and have become a fantastic resource for local businesses. Seriously, go to Google and type in Delivered Social. Check out feedback and see what we’ve done with so many businesses. We’re really proud of what we’ve done with so many people. But, to this day we still get people who just don’t show up to their allotted slot. Now, that’s fine some of the time… Things happen. Where I draw the line is when we hear nothing from them to say sorry. Even a cancellation would be better so that another business can have that slot. This is a great annoyance to the business, but it’s one that I’m not sure we can really do much about.
  • I’d like to have a buffer in between meetings as some people overrun. This seems like something that’s very simple to add. However, with so many Clinics being booked daily alongside regular meetings, adding a buffer would take away a slot from a business. Again, this is a problem that I’m not really sure how to solve at this moment in time. But every business has hurdles they need to adapt to and get over. Be prepared to encounter your own!

How to start a social media marketing agency: consider your growth RIGHT now.

I can see your eyes rolling already. You’ve barely even started looking into how to start a digital marketing agency, and here’s this guy on the internet telling you to consider your growth before you’ve even got going. 

Trust me, once you have your first bit of success, you’ll be hungry for the next. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. There are lots of great resources online for you to access. But, instead of directing you online to the usual Google references, I’d like to take you old school. 

Books (remember those?). There are three great books from two authors that I highly recommend. The authors I’m going to introduce you to are Daniel Priestley and Martin Gladdish.

Key Person of Influence: The Five-Step Method to Become One of the Most Highly Valued and Highly Paid People in Your Industry by Daniel Priestley

The first book I recommend is this one with a very long title by Daniel Priestley. It focuses on the idea of those key people of influence, who exist in every industry. You probably know of a few, and maybe aspire to be more like them. If that’s the case, then read this book! Learn about a five-step strategy to help you on your journey. If you’re looking into starting a digital marketing agency, you probably want to be up there with the best, and this book can help you get there.

24 Assets: Create a Digital, Scalable, Valuable and Fun Business That Will Thrive in a Fast Changing World by Daniel Priestley

This is another interesting and useful book by Daniel Priestley. If you want your new business to thrive long-term, it needs to be built to survive and adapt in a rapidly changing world. That’s where the idea of the 24 assets comes from. They help you build your business into something that is an asset in itself and is able to scale up and make an impact. I’d recommend reading this book before you start your business, so you’re well prepared in advance and have some great ideas to get you going.

Build Your Business In 90 Minutes A Day by Martin Gladdish and Nigel Botterill.

This is the book that I mentioned earlier in this article. It’s something that I really recommend that EVERYONE who has a business or wants to start one reads it. This book really changed the way I looked at things and time, especially around building my business. By thinking about things differently, I was able to come up with the Social Clinic model, which as I’ve mentioned, revolutionised Delivered Social.

The basic concept is spending just 90 minutes a day totally focusing on the things that really matter to your business. It’s full of stories from other entrepreneurs who use this method to great success, as well as tales about important moments in history that were determined in just 90 minutes. If you want to rethink the way you look at your business, pick this book up today. I can almost guarantee that it will give you a fresh perspective on how to start a digital marketing agency.

So, you should definitely read these books to up your business knowledge. They’re packed full of ideas that won’t just get you started. They will also help you build a business that lasts, is adaptable, and offers something different from the rest. But, always remember one thing. A business not moving forward is a business dead. Use these books, news articles, other people, or whatever you can find to inspire you. Always strive to move forward and you can’t go too wrong!

How to start a social media marketing agency: 9 tips that will set you on the right course.

*note to you the reader. If you’ve skipped ahead to this list you’ll be missing quite a bit of context. Don’t be that person who reads the end of the book before anything else. Read the whole article first!

1. Social media.

You’ll need to make sure your social media looks good. Ours didn’t always, and sometimes there are questionable things that happen to your social media, no matter what your industry is! However, it’s especially important when starting a digital marketing agency. No one is going to trust you with their brand if you are not a good gatekeeper of yours.

2. Feedback.

Try your best to gain feedback from day one. There are several ways you can do this. Firstly, ask people you’ve come into contact with to publicly share their experience with your business. If you are doing a good job this will pay dividends in the future. Also, if you go the extra mile to really help them out, ask them for feedback again! There are several sites where you can gather feedback, including Google, Facebook, and Trustpilot, so they can leave a review on more than one.

3. Networking.

Go to networking events. Every single guru will tell you to do this, but I’m going to have to insist. I thought it was the worst idea in the world. You probably do too at this point. These events are boring, cost you money and time, and aren’t worthwhile. Guess what, I’m not always right. While this may be true of the odd few networking events, there are plenty more out there. And, they’ll definitely be worthwhile for your business. It might just take a bit of trial and error to find the right events for you!

4. Be unique.

I might sound like I’m repeating myself here, but it really is important. Come up with your own equivalent Social Clinic offering, or something similar. Make it bespoke, fun and something that your guests and clients will want to talk about. Do as many of these as you can. I can promise you that it really will work wonders for your business, even if you’re only just starting out.

5. Speak.

Speak at events. Do as many of these as you can. you’re probably an expert (or can pretend you are) at something! Show your skillset and what you are good at. It will help get your own name out there, as well as your business. Plus, you never know who might be listening and what doors they could open up!

6. Hold off on hiring.

Do you need staff straight away? When your business is in its infancy, the answer to this question is probably not. If not, I’d advise only hiring when the business is ready to take that leap. Otherwise, you may end up biting off more than you can chew, by hiring staff when you don’t have the capacity or funds to really do so.

7. Books are your friends.

Read, read and read some more. Learning never stops. And it doesn’t always have to be a book. Try blogs, online articles, the news. Even podcasts, though they’re not technically reading, can tell you about a huge amount of new ideas you may not have thought about before. 

8. Try.

Don’t be afraid to try things. They’ll fail, some of them always do. But, you’ll learn what works for your business as time goes on. This does sound like a cliche, but there’s a reason why so many people will tell you to do this. For everything that fails, there’s an idea out there that will work. You just have to be unafraid to try it out!

9. Charity work.

Take on a charity – simple! Give back to the world and the world will give back to you. This is a great way to raise your profile and earn a good reputation. But, more on that in the next section…

how to start a digital marketing agency

Charity work is very important to give back

Start a social media marketing agency that embodies CSR

I’m so very proud of Delivered Social’s approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR). As a company, we’ve completed pancake races, slept in a high street and devoted our resources to any charity that needs us at no cost. Our close relationships with charities such as Sands, Oakleaf, and Real Change Guildford have been a real high for the business. In fact, one of our business objectives in 2020 is to open a charity department within the organisation that can help build websites, train staff and manage social media – all at zero cost. Charities do fantastic work and this is the best way we can ever support them. It plays to our strengths and what we can offer while giving value to the charities at the same time.

If you’re looking into how to start a social media marketing agency, I really urge you to look into CSR. You don’t have to do as much as we do, especially when you’re just starting out. Just do as much as you can within your means. Furthermore, you’ll be surprised at the benefits it can have for your business too. People will see the good you’re doing in your community, and get a great impression of you as a result. You never know who’s attention you might grab. They could be potential customers or someone who can help you with your business. Overall, participating in as much CSR as you can is a win-win for your business and the charities and communities you support.

How to start a social media marketing agency: what else can I do?

This article is only the beginning. There is literally loads more that you can read, do, and discover. As I’ve said before in this article, there are resources everywhere. Remember social media and digital marketing are fundamentally about being social. So here are a few things I’d love for you to do now you’ve read this article on how to start a social media marketing agency:

  1. Head over to Delivered Social on social media if you’ve enjoyed this article and say hi. We’d love to know more about you and your ideas for your new business.
  2. Experience a Social Clinic of your own. Feel free to book in! We’ve had people from as far as Australia pop up on our doorsteps to learn. We promise it will be worth your time!
  3. Share this article and tag us in your share if you’ve found it useful. We’ll then give it a like and a little love.

Finally, if you are feeling inspired and would like to speak to me directly please feel free to send me or the Delivered Social team an email. You never know what could come from a conversation about how to start a social media marketing agency…