6 challenges facing small digital agencies

Every small business has its challenges, and too often they can be overwhelming for business owners and their staff. As the owner of a marketing communications agency, I have found that understanding the dynamics of each challenge helps me prepare a better plan of attack. Below are the top six issues I tackle every day, along with some solutions to make sure my business thrives.

1. Staying on the cutting edge of technology
It's one thing to have a Twitter page and update it, and another to constantly be aware of new emerging social media trends for your clients. It's challenging to juggle the old with the new, but that's where true talent comes to life. 

One thing small businesses have is tremendous expertise and flexibility, compared to large agencies. You can only reinvent your client's marketing strategy if you stay current on the emerging digital front. There is lots of marketing potential in social media networks, so being ahead of the game is crucial to your success. 

2. Competing with big agencies for a larger piece of the pie
Small agencies struggle sometimes to figure out how they can service a very large client, especially when they know they have what it takes. That should not hold you back from going after larger projects; it's just another small agency challenge that has to do with timing and staffing. 

Competing with big fish agencies is a challenge because small agencies also tend to neglect their own branding. Identifying your agency's strengths and developing internal agency branding is easier than ever nowadays with social media -- it just takes some time and dedication. Internal branding pays huge dividends, especially when you want to go after a large piece of business.

3. The never-ending new business game
Chasing after new business is just as vital as working hard to maintain your existing accounts. If you want your business to grow, you have to commit to new business initiatives. 

It's important to expect that you won't win every piece of business you bid for, but getting out there and networking with potential clients can put you on the map for future projects where your small agency might be a good fit. With so much going on in the world of interactive marketing communications these days, it takes a lot of work to submit great proposals. Too often it seems like all the hard work for new business is for nothing, especially when you simultaneously have to keep up the good work for current clients.

4. Losing the stereotype of a particular type of agency
It's important to identify what your agency stands for and what industries you can serve best. Being highly specialized is great in some cases, but in the growing world of digital marketing, where communication keeps integrating, specialization can backfire, sometimes to the point where you lose big clients you know your agency can handle.

Small agencies can overcome this challenge by avoiding labels like "technology" or "consumer" only agency. Relying on your staff's expertise and your agency's flexibility is tremendously advantageous in winning new business without holding a label.

5. Attracting the attention of agency search consultants who select from a list of regulars
This is one of the most frustrating challenges small business owners face, and unfortunately they face it often. It clearly benefits brands to look outside their regular list of agencies and be more receptive toward new thinking and fresh ideas, and this is true more than ever in the world of digital marketing communications. 

Internal branding helps get your agency's name out there for search consultants to find and approach you. Now that networking has turned to online venues, getting your agency's message out there requires owners to be assertive and creative in their approach.

6. Juggling the everyday operations
Administration, maintaining cash and accounting, staffing issues, managing time constraints, internal branding efforts, account management, client reporting -- these are all daily operational issues that must be handled efficiently to run a small agency. Small business owners should possess great time management and critical thinking skills because these are put to the test when trying to juggle the day-to-day operations. Learning to prioritize and be patient with your problems will help you figure out the solution.
 
Finally, learn to go with the flow. Finding a balance is a constant process, and understanding that everything is not going to go your way is part of overcoming the never-ending challenges and problems small agencies face in today's world. 

With determination and a faith in your expertise, along with re-energized relationships, cutting-edge ideas, and plenty of hard work, small agencies can learn to turn challenges into opportunities. And who doesn't relish a new opportunity these days?

Dennis Franczak is CEO of Fuseideas.

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Comments

yolanda yin
yolanda yin May 3, 2010 at 9:31 AM

Great advice on small agencies. It's so true that these challenges exist. The article is on point and well written. As a CEO of a small company/start-up, I look forward to reading more of your advice.

Kim Hoang
Kim Hoang April 27, 2010 at 4:52 PM

iMediaConnection so far seems a great site, very informative.