10 Ways to Establish Order in Your Advertising Agency

By | February 8, 2013
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Drew McLellanThis is a guest post from Drew McLellan. For more than 25 years, he has been in the advertising industry. For 18 of those he owned and ran his own agency.

Today, McLellan leads up the  Agency Management Roundtable, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising agencies on how to grow and build their profitability through agency owner networks, consulting, workshops, webinars and more.

It’s no secret: Most advertising agency owners come from inside the advertising industry. Naturally, they’re very good account executives, copywriters or art directors, but they’re not always seasoned businesspeople.

Like most creative people, they’re not interested in restrictive, formulaic systems and processes to guide workflow, even though they’re necessary. Unfortunately, this misstep can singlehandedly create chaos in a busy advertising agency.

Common Ad Agency Mistakes

Most agencies rob themselves of income when they don’t track and bill work correctly. With these small additional revenue streams, the average agency could grow its bottom line by several percentage points every year—if not more.

In addition, without continuous revenue growth, it’s tough to keep hiring and training, which can lead to increased turnover and stale ideas. Ultimately, that can result in an agency that isn’t a creative force any longer. It’s simply a production house, rather than a generator of innovation.

In today’s environment, this is a risk that most agencies simply can’t afford. With a mix of employees and freelancers working together in different cities and time zones, process and project management become vital to ensuring proper billing, communication and project completion. Otherwise, details are dropped, deadlines are missed, clients leave and the bottom line takes a sharp dive into the red.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

10 Tips for a Competitive Advantage

Here are 10 ways to give your advertising agency a streamlined process and a competitive edge.

  1. Have a production process, and honor it. It’s important to create clear, easy-to-follow workflows for every kind of project. This ensures that steps aren’t missed and that the final product has been vetted at each essential stage.
  2. Create a culture that won’t honor workarounds for anyone—even the owner. Make sure that the production process applies to everyone, no matter what rank they carry. If clients insist on special treatment or believe they don’t need the expense of extra steps, they’re not giving you the opportunity to provide your best work.
  3. Encourage critical system implementation. Make it worth your employees’ time to use the right systems to accomplish their tasks. Efficiency and productivity boosts benefit both your employees and your bottom line.
  4. Hold regular, mandatory traffic meetings to stay updated on project statuses. Traffic meetings aren’t optional. They keep projects on time and on budget. Use them to your advantage.
  5. Create templates for frequently used processes and tasks. Make it as easy as possible for your team to ensure there’s uniformity in your information and methods.
  6. Leverage technology to make processes seamless and easy. There are many good software tools out there. Be sure togive your company and employees the tools they need to do the best job they can.
  7. Stop giving money away. Track time accurately, and issue change orders when your clients’ deliverables change. Don’t throw money after goals that have already been put to bed.
  8. Bring the client into your process planning. Your clients are an integral part of your process planning. Find out what frustrates them about working with you. Remember, the way that your agency operates isn’t just an internal issue. It impacts clients as well.
  9. Make training a priority. Most agencies don’t invest enough time or money to train staff and leadership teams. Without it, your agency will become stagnant. Fit training into your budget, and fund it well every year.
  10. Set goals for your operational weak spots. Communicate those goals to your entire team, and then track and report operational metrics based on those goals.

Many agencies are great at what they do, and they cringe at the thought of “boxing” work into a streamlined process. The catch is that without such a process, their work fails to hit on every cylinder, leaving clients and employees wanting something more.

The benefits are clear: Completing projects—on time and on budget—helps you create a more profitable agency with lower turnover and happier clients. All you need now are the tools to make it happen, and the dedication to build a seamless process to guide you forward.