08 steps on starting your first business
If you want to build your own advertising agency, you’ll need a small financial backing, a well-developed business plan, a bit of hustle and a boatload of passion. But if you’re up for the challenge, the digital arena makes getting started easier than ever.
- Set the Stage
Unless you plan on making this a part-time adventure, you need enough nest eggs to remove yourself from your current role and dive fully into your new role as an agency owner. You’ve probably heard your whole life that financial advisors suggest you have money set aside to cover between six months and one year of living expenses; time to dig into those savings.
While you won’t need to invest a ton of capital into your ad agency to start, you will need to live without a salary. And if you were used to a 40-hour week, throw that idea out the window. It’s your business, after all. You need to do whatever you can to make it successful, no matter how many hours that takes.
- Build a Business Plan
Consider a well-thought-out business plan as the foundation of your ad agency. Create it for yourself, but also for future investors. It should start with an easy-to-read summary and should also include such components as market analysis, product and services, sales and marketing plans, anticipated operating expenses, future staffing requirements and profit margin and financial projections. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. What do you expect to do, how will you achieve it, when will you see the fruits of your labours and how will you chart your accomplishments?
- Choose a Specialty
Because you’re just starting out, it will be easier to choose one or two quality services that you know you can provide with confidence. Advertising agency services include branding, campaign strategy and development, website design, content production and dissemination, traditional and digital media purchasing, search engine optimization, email and social media marketing and more. With what specialities are you most familiar?
- Learn Everything
Wait. Why learn everything if you’re picking a specialty? Advertising, and particularly digital advertising, changes at the speed of the internet. If you expect to compete in an evolving market, you need to know what you do, what your competitors do and how you can stay one step ahead of the curve. Subscribe to advertising publications and get online to follow a few advertising gurus. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, participate in webinars and watch TED Talks. Attend conferences. They may be costly, but you’ll learn a lot and connect with people who do what you hope to. Every waking hour is advertising. Are you up for the challenge?
- Pick Some Low-Hanging Fruit
Okay, so you know what you need to do. You have a bit of financial security, a whole lot of knowledge and a ton of drive and tenacity to break into advertising with your own agency. Now what? Don’t think you’re going to land Coca Cola or General Mills. Instead, find some local companies that might benefit from your knowledge. It’s a good idea to find a niche. Maybe you know an attorney or two that have websites that are pretty poorly constructed. You could help them. Or maybe it’s a local grocery store. Whatever your training ground, your goals is to serve clients where you know you can make an impact.
- Offer Free Advice
Those free samples for products you never, ever thought you’d care about are pretty effective at getting you to actually buy. Big companies, small restaurants and service organizations that lure you in with free consultations are onto something. People are more likely to purchase something once they’ve already tried it and liked it. As an ad agency, you may not be able to give away a free ad, but you can give a glimpse of your creative capabilities. You can show a company a few problems with its website and tell them how you could make it better.
- Get a Client, Get a Testimonial
A single client can put you on the map. But only if you do a pretty phenomenal job; that means that with that first client, you need to crush it. Provide amazing service and produce results that you can measure and attribute to your efforts on their behalf. And once you’ve amazed them, get their positive feedback in every way you can. A note, an interview, a video testimonial – they’re all a great way to promote your new business. Ask your new client to tell their business associates and rave about you on social media. Referrals are among the best sources of new business that you can find. Go find some!
- Tell Your Story
As you help build your clients’ businesses through all of your advertising efforts, don’t forget to build your own. The best brands have the best stories. What do you want yours to be; now’s the time to plant the seed of what you are as an advertising agency and where you hope to go.