10 Most Common Mistakes of Agency Owners

Robin Vander Heyden
Last Updated:
September 7, 2021

If you are running an agency you probably have the following questions:

- What type of clients should we go after?
- How to price our services?
- What marketing channel should we focus on?
- What’s the ideal team structure?

And many more.

While you may know well about the services you're offering it's common to make some strategic or tactical mistakes when answering these questions for your agency.

In this post, I have laid down the 10 most common mistakes agency owners usually make and offered a practical approach to avoid them.

1. Not having a clear positioning

Always start with positioning.

One of the most common problems of agencies and B2B services is that they lack a clear positioning.

While they have a good value proposition, their messaging and offering lacks the following:

What problem are they solving and for whom?

As a result, their offer is not differentiated from the competition and it’s hard for them to have a predictable way to generate leads.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say you’re building a startup and looking for a new bank for your business.

You have two choices:

1. Your current bank
2. A bank built specifically for startups

Which one would you choose?

You’ll probably end up choosing the second option.

Because that bank positioned themselves specifically to answer the problems you may have with your startup banking needs. 

This is what positioning is about.

It’s about clarifying your messaging and offer so that your ideal clients will choose your services over the competition.

How to position your agency services

Start by answering the following questions:

- Who do you help?
- What problem do you solve?
- What solution do you offer?
- How do you differ from your competition?

Here’s a 3-step approach to position your agency services:

1. Understand the goals of your clients.

For B2B, I’ve seen that the “Job-to-be-Done” framework is a good way to nail positioning. Find what “tasks” your prospects have in their current job and how your service can help them with those tasks.

2. Look at the competition.

I like to research on G2/Capterra and check reviews of competitors. Pay attention to how your competitors’ clients are, and how they describe the services rendered by your competitors.

3. Create buyer personas.

What are the attributes of your ideal clients? Title, team size, industry, geographie?

In addition, you can find out the following: Which tools do they use? Which content do they read or listen to?

The agency positioning formula

Once you’ve done the above you’ll be able to use position your agency by filling the brackets in this formula:

“We help [Segment] solve/achieve/do [Job-to-be-Done] by doing [Vertical service]”

Note that you may have several segments or services as well.

2. Charging too little

Another big mistake agency owners make (especially at the beginning) is to charge too little for their services.

I know the temptation: If I charge lower prices than my competitors and offer the same, I’ll get more clients, right?

As good as it sounds, this comes with two potential problems:

a) Clients that only value low prices are usually a wrong fit.

You want your agency to focus on delivering value and a positive ROI for your clients, not low pricing.

b) Pricing too low puts strains on your margins.

In turn, this affects your ability to invest in your team (more on this below) and profitably reinvest in marketing and growth.

So what should you do instead?

1. Focus on acquiring clients that match your ideal client profiles.

2. Price your agency services accordingly, to ensure you have strong enough margins to pay your team, reinvest in marketing, and generate profits.

3. Focusing on the wrong type clients

In other words, saying “Yes” to every type of lead that comes to you.

The problem with this, not every client will be a fit for the services of your agency. And that’s ok!

As Jake Jorgovan mentioned in his post: “Your service isn’t a right fit for everyone, but it is a great fit for a small subset of customers”.

Some clients might get a lot of value from your service whereas some others might simply not, for various reasons: Their business is too small, your agency services do not fit their strategy, they don’t want to take time to see the results, etc.

So how do you avoid making this mistake?

1. Focus on your ideal clients

Again, this comes back to our first point on positioning. Once you successfully identify your ideal clients, you’ll know exactly what their pain points are and will be better able to solve their problems with your agency services.

2. Structure your agency website and content

For example, you can create solutions or use case pages where you explain what type of client or industry your agency serves. In addition, you can also create a video sales letter which will help your clients qualify or disqualify themselves as regard to whether they are a fit for your agency services.

3. See your clients as partners

Finally, you want to align your agency services and your clients’ long term plans. The best way is to qualify your clients during demo calls and after purchase during the onboarding to make sure your agency services are well integrated in their company’s plans.

4. Not setting clear expectations with clients

Another common mistake of agency owners is not setting clear upfront expectations with theri clients.

Without clear expectations, clients might have too high or completely different expectations from your agency services and get disappointed as a result.

You want to set your expectations on the following matters:

- Who you help
- Services you offer / don’t offer
- What’s the exact scope of services
- The process and steps to deliver those services
- How communication takes place
- What you expect from your clients

How to set client expectations

1. Standardize your service offerings

As a first step, I highly recommend packaging or productizing your services.

Productizing your services has multiple benefits such as being easier to sell, clearer expectations for your clients, and you get paid upfront.

2. Create a scope of service

In addition to standardizing your service offerings, make sure to create a scope of service and what each service entails.

3. Create a “Our process” (or “Our methodology”) page

This page will help your clients understand how you deliver services.

For example, you can include a diagram with how it works to get started with your agency or a timeline of  your agency engagements over a period of 1 year.

Finally, this page is also an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and show you know what you’re talking about. You can also add some links to client studies or recent results you had for your clients.

3. Create a “Who we help” page or “Ideal clients” page

This page will help clients decide whether they are a fit for the services of your agency.

You can include information such as :

- Examples of past clients you’ve worked with
- Ideal business size (Profitable w/ xx in revenue, VC-funded, …)
- Their ideal clients (for example: LTV of at least …)
- How long they should be committed for
- What their goals should be 

4. Create a “Ideal agency” page

In addition to the “Ideal clients” page you can create an “Ideal agency” page.

For example, if you’re a content writing agency you could create a “The SaaS Content Writing Agency” or “Why [YourAgency]”. This will help your clients understand better why they should work with you.

5. Create a FAQ

On your pricing page you can also add a FAQ. Here are some things you can include in it:

- What services they can expect to receive
- Onboarding process
- How often you communicate
- How clients can communicate with you
- What happens if they’re dissatisfied with a project
- Any money back guarantees

5. Poor client onboarding experience

Once you set expectations with your clients, it’s essential to onboard them successfully.

With proper onboarding, your clients will know exactly how you work and will also be empowered to communicate effectively with your agency during the projects.

1. Kickoff call or Welcome email

One of the first things you can set up is a kick off call or welcome email.

You can include:

- What’s required from the client to get started
- What are the next steps
- Intro to their account manager
- Links to the client portal (more on this below), help centre, and useful tips

2. Client portal

A client portal is a great addition to make clients feel part of your team. The idea is to have a single source of truth for everything related to your agency:

- Invoices
- Client requests
- Files
- Dashboards and reports

Note: With ManyRequests you can create a customized client portal for your agency clients with welcome screens. Start your 14-day free trial.

3. Educate your clients

Finally, another way to make sure your clients are onboarded successfully is to create educational content.

A great way to educate your clients is to create a help centre. You can create various sections such as inspiration, tips to communicate with your team, as well as information regarding your billing or referral programs you may have.

6. Their agency website doesn’t convert

Let’s now jump into marketing and attracting leads.

One of the first things to look at is to improve your agency website.

You need to look at two things:

a) Website content
b) Technical aspects (speed, website structure)

Website content

Your website content has several goals.

1. Communicate your value proposition

2. Help visitors qualify (or disqualify) themselves by navigating through your website content
3. Convert visitors into booking demo calls, trials, or email signups

If you want to read more about which content you need on your agency website, have written an extensive guide with 11 things you need on your agency website.

Technical aspects

In addition to this, you want to make sure to check several technical aspects of your agency:

- How fast does your website load?
- Are all pages correctly indexed on Google?
- Broken links
- Image optimization
- Did you build internal links?

7. No repeatable system to grow

Another mistake of agency owners is that they don’t have a proper system to generate leads.

They rely on short term tactics or “growth hacks” and usually don’t take into account the full buyer journey of their clients.

In short: They have no clear marketing strategy in place.

In our client acquisition guide for agencies, we mentioned that a great way to approach your marketing strategy is to see it as a funnel, each step having distinct goals and tactics.

Once you set up this funnel, it’s essential to measure it and track goals (more on this below)

Step 1 - Awareness

At this stage prospective clients usually don’t know yet about the need to solve their problems. Your goal is thus to make prospects problem aware through educational content.

Examples of tactics:

- Blog articles
- Podcast appearances and PR
- Ebooks
- Asking qualifying questions via cold email

Step 2 - Consideration

At this stage, prospects are looking for a solution to their problem and start to consider options available to them. This is where you can start introducing your product as the ideal solution.

Examples of tactics:

- Solutions / Use cases pages
- Demo calls, sales video letters
- Email nurturing sequences
- Retargeting ads

Step 3 - Decision

In this stage, prospects are “product aware”.

They know your product but need more convincing to finally make the purchase decision.

Examples of tactics:

- Case studies
- Competitor comparison pages
- Offers

- Free trials 


Finally, retention is as important as client acquisition

Here are several tactics. you can consider to improve client retention:

- Client onboarding
- Customer success and education
- Upselling and cross-selling

8. Not having good systems for service delivery

Another mistake of a lot of agencies is to have a lack of processes. All of their agency “knowledge” is siloed among a few team members (usually the agency owners)

Processes are essential for two reasons:

1. You can delegate tasks more easily and focus on higher level activities that grow your agency.

2. They give consistency to your service delivery. Clients always know they’ll expect the same level of service and quality.

They give clarity to your team so that they know what to happen when a certain situation presents itself, without having to ask you or their team leader.

Here are some examples of processes you can create for your agency:

- Client onboarding documents
- Client communication guidelines
- Service delivery and quality control
- Office rules (holidays, sick leaves, employee directory)
- How to use tools you use in your agency
- Training materials for employees

You can use tools such as Google Docs or Notion to centralise your SOPs and improve them over time. Make sure that this documentation is easily accessible by relevant teams and encourage them to improve it.

In addition to creating processes, setting up and training your team to use software can help you make your agency more efficient:

- Client portal and communication software (like ManyRequests)
- Project management tools
- File sharing (Google Drive, Dropbox)
- Time tracking and employee records tools
- Internal communication and productivity tools (Slack, Notion, Google Docs)

9. Not investing in their team

Another mistake of agency owners is not spending enough time building teams.

As a result, they feel they are always “needed”, don’t have time to focus on the bigger picture, and can’t grow their business.

With a team in place you’ll be able to delegate everything in your agency: Service delivery, sales, hiring which will allow you to focus on higher value activities but also make your agency much more enjoyable to run.

Here are some questions to ask:

- What’s the hiring process like for new team members?
- Who is responsible for sales?
- How is the team structured? 

For example, one hire you can make in the early days is a project manager. That project manager can be responsible for onboarding new clients, and following up on client tasks.

10. Not knowing their numbers

Last but not least, knowing your agency profitability and key important metrics is another mistake.

For example, key numbers include:

- Revenue / MRR
- Gross margins
- Revenue per employee
- Website conversion rate
- New demo calls
- Churn rate

And finally some customer success metrics include:

- Referral per customer

What you can do next

I hope this post helped you, if I missed anything feel free to let me know in the comments.

Here’s what you can do next:

1. Join our community of 5000+ agency and productized service founders. Feel free to share the biggest mistakes you made with your agency, and how you overcame them.

2. Read our related article: A complete guide to productized services.

3. Start your 14-day free trial of ManyRequests.