Digital Agency Staffing for Long-Term Success

digital agency staffing

To stay competitive in today’s market, it’s a natural progression for traditional PR and marketing communications firms to add digital offerings like SEO, social media management, and web design and development to their existing offerings.

There are so many considerations to take into account before you expand though. One of the biggest question marks is how digital expansion translates into marketing agency staffing.

Agency Staffing: Questions to Consider

This type of business model transformation takes serious planning if you want to do it right. Here are a few questions to think about before you start bringing on new team members:

• Should we hire more staff or outsource some of the new offerings via strategic partnerships?
• If we hire, do we need junior, mid, or senior level employees?
• How many new team members do we need?
• What expertise and soft skills are required?
• What salary should we offer?
• How do we train our new hires?
• How much should we charge for our new services?
• How much work can each team member realistically manage?
• How do we assign team members to particular accounts?

Your agency might need to question (and answer) even more than these before expanding its offerings and hiring new employees. The good news is, you don’t have to make these decisions in a vacuum.

Call Upon Your Existing Resources: Your Team

This isn’t just the charge of your leadership team: it really requires your entire organization. Your own people can help you answer these questions. Chances are, they’ve been trying to provide your new services without much direction other than to “get it done.” With that on-the-ground experience, they can share valuable insight into a variety of issues:

• What resources do they need that they don’t have now?
• How can they best be supported to be successful in their roles?
• Do they need additional training; do they feel they’re lacking certain skills?
• What are they seeing in the market?
• What’s their POV on what’s critical to the agency’s success?
• What day-to-day challenges do they face?
• Do they feel appreciated and for the work they do?
• Do they believe the leadership team values the new offerings?

With all of this information in hand, you’ll be able to step back and take a big-picture view of the agency.

A Holistic Look at Your Agency

Before you decide to outsource or hire (or a bit of both), look at the impact on every aspect of your agency. Is this expansion of services in alignment with your team’s passions and expertise? Is there a clear market demand for what you’re offering? Will the changes make your agency more profitable than it is now? If you’re answering “no” to any of these questions, reexamine your intentions. Dive into the “why”, answer that honestly, and then you’ll be able to move forward.

Once the agency is well-positioned, look at your organizational structure. Identify the gaps in leadership, teams, and departments you’d need to fill if you choose to hire and do the new work in-house. Consider the cost of on-boarding, and research the competitive salaries and benefits offered in your geographic region.

Then, price out each offering with potential partners to see if you can realize a greater profit margin by outsourcing and marking up the work. The “hub and spoke” approach usually makes the most sense for services viewed as commodities, such as web development. If you find that to be the case, your hiring needs will be totally different (or potentially non-existent).

If there’s a particular service you’d decide to execute in-house, it might make sense to speak with owners of other agencies that focus exclusively in that area, or work with an agency growth consultant who understands your end-to-end needs.

The takeaway here? Staffing for success starts with proper agency positioning. You have to know who you are and where you fit in the market before you can find the people who will share that vision and drive the agency forward.

When you have that in place, you can go about defining roles and responsibilities—and then attracting and retaining top talent. Taking a page from Jim Collins:

“… leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

When you’re clear about your brand’s value and company culture, it’s easier for potential employees to connect with your vision.

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.” — Simon Sinek”

When you know exactly what you’ll need in order to be successful, it’s easier to define the right seats—and then find the right hires based on their individual passions and skill sets.

With the right people on your team to bring big ideas to clients, you’re set to grow in your new direction.

Author: Kelly Campbell
Kelly Campbell is an Agency Growth Consultant based in New York. A former digital agency owner for 15 years, she helps creative and tech agencies transform—focusing on people, positioning, pipeline and profitability. Kelly is also an IA/SEO consultant to Facebook and NASA. She writes for Website Magazine, speaks at digital marketing and agency growth conferences across the U.S., and has been featured in The New York Times, Woman Entrepreneur and Forbes. She is the host of THRIVE: Your Agency Resource, a bi-weekly video podcast sponsored by Workamajig that helps agency owners navigate growth.

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