It’s not just creativity that makes agencies succeed, it’s also about efficiency. And while that might sound like yet another buzzword, there’s no getting away from just how important it is. Having a practical, systematic operational process for your company helps you scale, increase revenue and serve your customers like a seasoned pro. Who doesn’t want that?
However big, small, fledgling or experienced your business, there are probably a bunch of ways you could up your efficiency game pretty easily. In fact, we’ve made a list. They’re not rocket science. They’re smart, simple steps you can take to optimise your team for more high fives and fewer stressed emojis in the company group chat. Let’s take a look…
1. Make service your top priority
Damage control is an expensive waste of company time and resources – and it’s tough on morale and reputation too. Avoid it by making sure you don’t need it. After all, you’re in the service industry, so above all else, service needs to be your priority.
Trying to fix a problem you could really have avoided will have your whole team sweating bullets and staying late to make disgruntled customers happy. Not fun.
So, to avoid chaos and keep everyone in your agency productive and super zen, make sure all customer-facing team members are effective communicators with a real knack for public relations. Grumpy Gary might be a fantastic developer, but maybe he shouldn’t have a direct line to your most demanding customer. See where we’re going with this?
2. Keep your skills sharp
The smarter you and your team get, the more efficient your operations will be – and the more chance you’ve got of pushing up those profits. So keep learning.
In the digital landscape, change isn’t just constant, it’s relentless. You need to stay aware, up to date and able to deliver the latest big thing. Don’t get caught unaware by a game-changing industry development that could give your competitors the torque they need to leave you in the dust.
Invest in your people and your technologies by setting aside regular, dedicated training time for everyone on your team. Google encourages its workers to spend 20% of their billable time developing projects they’re really interested in. That allows innovation to flourish and employees to get a whole lot more job satisfaction.
Now, we can’t all be Google, but we can certainly take a page out of their book. Look into relevant courses, workshops and talks your team could get stuck into. There might even be online learning platforms that offer useful insights for your industry.
Software is also continuously evolving, so give your team time to get up to speed with new versions whenever there’s an upgrade. Staying on top of trends and working out what your business needs to know, adopt and implement will keep you savvy and progressive.
3. Leverage your relationships
Agencies build up vast relationship networks. Clients, employees, suppliers, landlords, contributing freelancers – the list goes on. Every one of them is important because every one of them can significantly impact how your business performs.
So, being on good terms with your network matters. A lot. Building strong relationships with everyone who contributes to your company’s feedback loop means you’ll get greater value from your interactions and find new opportunities to push your business forward.
For example, if you pay your rent on time and have a good relationship with your landlord, he or she will, in turn, be responsive to your requests for improvements and repairs.
Likewise, if the past few months have been leaner than a sugar-free skinny latte and you’re considering cutting some services from your suppliers to save on budget, why not call them up and talk it through? In many cases, companies will be happy to negotiate, offer a discount or even give you a freebie just to keep you as a customer. There’s no shame in asking, especially when you’re working hard to scale things up.
4. Be practical about project budgets
Being transparent about budget is a big selling point for your business. If you can show clients exactly where and how you’re spending their money, you’ll be building trust and respect, and helping keep every project positive.
Pulling vague numbers out of thin air when you’re trying to quote is a sure-fire way to send the client running for the door. And even if they do decide to go with your agency, you’re only going to end up with complications further down the line when you try to pin down a final price. How much time did Grumpy (but great) Gary spend on coding? Did Content Catherine write copy the client was meant to supply?
The proposal you make to your client should centre around a pricing formula that clearly illustrates how much time and resource you’ll dedicate to their account. This helps the customer understand what to expect, and helps you avoid wasting time on revisions you won’t get paid for.
Some agencies create values or points that correlate to the tasks and content they promise to produce for an agreed price. Others have flat project fees that cover the points they’ve discussed with the client.
You need to find a way of costing that works for your business and make sure your customer knows exactly what you’re charging for. This will also help your team budget their time accordingly and put the right amount of effort into each project.
Key components of your budget:
Direct costs – Expenses directly related to the project, like materials, equipment, salaries, freelance fees or external consultant costs.
Indirect costs – Agency overheads like rent, administration and utilities.
Once you know what these costs are and you’ve calculated how they fit into the price you’re quoting, the next step is to set goals, milestones and a system of tracking your team’s activities against the project deliverables.
5. Stay safe and secure
Creative agencies handle a lot of data – and it’s often confidential – so protecting your business and your clients is critical. Falling victim to cybercriminals or hackers could cost you money, clients and your reputation.
Unfortunately, it’s often smaller businesses that get caught out by security issues because they assume they’re too small for criminals to bother with. The reality is, hackers specifically target small and medium businesses precisely for this reason – they know that in many cases, the barriers are minimal and the entry points are easily accessible.
Whether it’s annoying malware or a serious data protection breach, sorting through a sticky cybercrime scene can really pull the plug on your daily activities. So, here’s how to protect yourself from cyber attacks:
- Have a data protection policy and make sure your team’s clued up on how to enforce it.
- Update your systems regularly and run tests to root out worms in your network.
- Outsource security to a reliable IT company who can make sure all your assets are optimised against attacks.
- Use a secure, reliable hosting company that protects your content and keeps your projects and digital assets safe from threats.
- Create a best-practice guide, share it with your whole team and use it whenever you bring new employees on board.
6. It’s not gremlins, it’s your hosting
If your bread and butter is website building, then hosting should never be a compromise. Gremlins may have been credible scapegoats in the 80s, but clients are growing increasingly intolerant of downtime, inexplicable crashes and slow responses.
Shop around for a hosting provider with a proven track record – check those Google reviews, see what their customers are saying and find out what kind of clients they attract.
You need a no-job-too-small kind of hosting partner who’ll offer the type of support a growing business needs and be consistently available to help you tackle any challenges that may arise.
We’ve all seen that bumper-sticker worthy quote: Life’s about the journey, not the destination. Wait, don’t roll your eyes – we’ve got a point here. Optimising your creative agency’s efficiency is a perpetual journey. That’s because technology is always improving, and with it, so are the challenges you’ll face. You need a solid infrastructure on which to build your projects, but you also need the flexibility to scale up and branch out.
The efforts you make to streamline your organisation’s processes will be reflected in how seamlessly you deliver each finished project. And when it comes to smoothing out the stumbling blocks in your path, finding a trusted hosting provider is a great place to start.
Find out how we’ve helped a whole bunch of brilliant agencies grow, thrive and do their thing over on our customer stories page. And if you’d like to talk things through, just call our friendly team on 0203 005 9181. We always love a natter.