The complications of marketing a marketing agency when you’re focused on your clients’ marketing.
Wow – that’s a bit of a mouthful! Yet it’s the main thought in my head at the start of everyday as I, once again, move my own content marketing needs to the bottom of the to-do list.
Twelve months ago, when I made the decision to team up with my super talented design partner, I complacently thought that being the bosses of our own small agency would be a walk in the park. After all, I had donkey’s years of experience marketing other people’s businesses; surely the pleasure of creating content marketing for my own would be my reward.
However, the past year has taught me a lot of very valuable lessons. The key one being that it’s no mean feat to take a ‘client first’ approach whilst allocating the necessary time to market your own business.
Clients come first
We’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some amazing, and varied, clients this past 12 months. We’ve also been in the enviable position that most of our work has come from referrals. For that reason, it has been too easy to de-prioritise my own content marketing.
I have seriously struggled to get to grips with the idea of writing a blog for myself, when I’ve got a list of blogs and guides to write for my clients. Plus those on-page SEO updates that I should get onto; plus that quick website tweak that needs doing; plus the email campaign that has to go today, plus GDPR, plus – well, you get the picture.
However, it feels kind of hypocritical to bang on to my clients about the importance of regular content, when I’m not practicing what I preach.
Finding the time for your own content marketing
I know what you’re thinking – what about evenings and weekends? I know you’re thinking that because it’s what I also beat myself up with. There are 24 hours in a day, right?
The truth is, at the beginning, evenings and weekends were the times that we allocated to our own stuff. To getting our website up and running; to researching our market; to writing case studies; to focus on social channels. All of this happened outside of ‘normal’ office hours
The result was that we burned out! Our ‘normal’ office hours were getting later and later as we were too tired to be creative in the morning. Suddenly evenings and weekends were being taken up by our regular workload. Our own content marketing was being de-prioritised again. It was unsustainable.
Finding other people for your own content marketing
The next logical step was handing our content marketing over to somebody else to manage. There’s a gazillion talented freelancers out there. I know this because we work with some great ones when a particular client project requires an element that falls outside of our skillset.
However, this in itself proved problematical. When you work with freelancers on a client’s project, the need for project management is expected. Timely communication and checking of work is part of the deal.
When working with a freelancer on your own marketing projects, the project management side becomes (for want of a more tactful term) a hassle.
You still have to find the right person for the job; explain the requirements; compose a brief; proofread the work; suggest amendments…
Once again, I found myself pushing those things down the list in favour of the needs of my clients. It didn’t solve the problem – plus, it wasn’t fair on the contractors who weren’t getting my full and timely attention.
How did I solve the problem?
Truthfully, I don’t know if I have just yet. I’ve implemented some steps to help me solve the problem. Time will tell if they are successful.
Firstly, I’m trying to consciously treat our business as a client. To help me to stop putting our agency on the back-burner, I’ve done what I would do for any of my other clients. I’ve compiled a long term content marketing strategy which contains (hopefully!) more realistic tactical chunks for each month.
I say ‘realistic’ because it’s easy to say that I’ll write a blog a week, yet experience to date has shown that I struggle to write one per month! I never over promise and under deliver for my clients, so why do it to myself?
Is it working? Well, you’re reading this now, aren’t you? So far so good!
Secondly, I’ve started to repurpose relevant content that I’ve written for my clients (with their kind permission, of course). A lot of care, thought and research goes into what I write, and it feels really great to make tweaks and edits that make it relevant for our audience.
Finally, I’ve stopped worrying about being present on all channels. It’s exciting when you start a new business. The temptation is to want to shout about it from every possible rooftop. However, in reality, we are a small team. I can’t manage a website, a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, (ad infinitum) and provide a stellar service to my clients. I need to stop feeling guilty about where we’re not, and put my energy into where we need to be.
What have I learned?
The most important thing I’ve learned is to manage my own expectations. When you’re the person that is accountable for the success of your business, it’s too easy to focus on the things you haven’t managed to get done. When another week goes by without an update to your blog or Facebook page, it can send you into a negative spiral.
I know that we aren’t the only agency that is dealing with this issue. There are many other versions of me out there trying to find the time to dedicate to their own brand presence.
In the future, we will hopefully grow enough to warrant a content marketing team of our own. However, that growth will depend on our ability to promote ourselves and generate demand. I hope that the steps I’ve implemented can help us to realise that ambition.
We dreamed about becoming our own bosses for years and now, having made the jump, we’ve found ourselves up against a steep learning curve. Challenging? Yes. Rewarding? Abso-blooming-lutely!