Running a Lean Digital Marketing Agency

By | November 19, 2014
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Ryan ChesterBelow is a guest post by Ryan Chester (@ChestNut_Ryan), a business development manager at AnnexCore. He has helped develop digital marketing strategies for enterprises across the globe.

Most manufacturing companies operate lean; and luckily, our agency was started by someone with an extensive background in both software and electronics manufacturing. Unlike the marketing agencies of the Mad Men era, new-age agencies are built to do more with less.

Where Does Lean Originate?

Lean manufacturing. Lean development. Where did the term originate?

Let’s do a little history lesson. “Lean” came from the Toyota Production System (TPS) developed by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda after World War II, and is also referred to as just-in-time (JIT) production. The philosophy was to streamline processes and find improvements by working together, organization wide, to identify, analyze and develop solutions.

How Does It Apply to Marketing Agencies?

All businesses can benefit from the lean manufacturing structure, and a marketing agency maybe more than others. Many agency projects have repeatable processes. By defining and writing down those processes, others on the team can more readily replicate them.

With defined processes, you can improve everything from website design via reusable Bootstrap 3 setups, to blog post publishing via templates.

How Can an Agency Run Lean?

After being in the industry for so long, we’ve discovered many areas in which we are able to make ourselves leaner. Below, we share those lessons.

Improve Project Management

This is the biggest area most agencies can improve, and it starts with a basic project management system like Basecamp, Asana, Trello or Teamwork. These portals make sure all internal and external communications are documented. In addition, they let you set deadlines to avoid Parkinson’s Law.

Better Define Scopes

Obligations can go without limits, if a scope is not set. Consider a task like search engine optimization. You have to know where to draw the line. Where will you help the client, and where will you expect them to pick up the slack? For example, do you handle social media as part of your SEO, or do they? It is a good idea to have a well-defined scope.

Become Laser Focused

Everyone has heard this one plenty of times, but focus your business on what you do really well.  

Also, make sure your team is focused, and not constantly switching between unrelated tasks, as this takes a major toll on our minds, energy and time. Instead, batch tasks as best as possible. To get started, check out Tony Robbins’ Rapid Planning Method.

Ensure Strong Communication

Better manage workflows, schedules and client conversations with improved communication skills. Hold at least weekly agency-wide meetings, so everyone knows what is going on. Project managers should also meet with their team regularly to get updates and proactively identify potential challenges.

Conduct Client Discoveries

Take some time at the beginning of a client relationship to understand expectations, beliefs and available expertise. These few hours in the beginning will save everyone time and money in the long run.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Twice

We all make mistakes, but we should learn from them. When possible, update processes to avoid repeat problems. If you don’t have time to fix them, document them. Then, go back every month or quarter to resolve as many as you can.

Reuse Templates

As an agency, you’re going to end up doing the same things multiple times. Save these repeatable element, whether a phrase you use with clients, website script or icons. The key is to realize what these items are, and create ways to remove the headache of constantly remaking them from scratch.

How do you keep your agency lean? Share your ideas below.