Breaking The Feast Or Famine Cycle: Strategies For Sustainable Growth In Your Marketing Agency

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Welcome to The Agency Accelerator, the podcast that helps small to midsize marketing agencies grow in a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable way. In today's episode, your host, Rob Da Costa, shares five essential strategies to avoid the feast or famine cycle that many agencies experience. If you're tired of the stress and uncertainty of fluctuating client loads and empty ‘order books’ then this episode is a must-listen. So, let's dive right in and discover how you can achieve stability and sustainable growth in your agency.

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[00:00] Introduction: Rob shares strategies to break the feast or famine cycle in marketing agencies. 

[01:10] Strategy 1: Build a strong foundation. Get clear on who you are, who you serve, and have a clear vision. This includes understanding your niche market and their needs. 

[03:23] Strategy 2: Mitigate risk by diversifying your client portfolio. Avoid relying on a few clients for your revenue. Rob stresses the importance of consistently marketing your agency to attract new leads, no matter how busy you are.

[05:01] Strategy 3: Develop an effective sales and marketing plan. Communicate your value proposition across various platforms to attract your ideal target customer. Rob highlights the importance of protecting time for sales and marketing, even during busy periods.

[08:09] Strategy 4: Protect time for client delivery. Implement time management strategies to ensure efficient client service. Rob advises changing your mindset about time availability and priorities.

[10:04] Strategy 5: Focus on client retention and growth. Build strong client partnerships and generate additional revenue from existing clients. 

[11:47] Conclusion: Rob discusses the cycle of feast and famine, describing how stressful it is and the need to break free from it. He shares personal experiences and encourages listeners to implement the strategies discussed to achieve sustainable growth in their agencies.


"Feast or famine cycles in your agency will be detrimental to your business's stability and growth, and your stress levels!. So you need to implement strategies to help you maintain a consistent stream of clients and revenue.” - Rob Da Costa
"Protecting time for sales and marketing is crucial, regardless of how busy you are with client service. This will ensure a steady flow of leads and new ciients, preventing you from lurching from feast to famine." — Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Welcome to the agency accelerated the podcast for small to midsize marketing agencies helping them grow in a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable way. In this week's episode, we're discussing the all too common challenge that so many agencies face of being stuck and lurching from feast to famine in the to famine cycle. Now when you are in a place of famine, it becomes super stressful, and it's not a great place to be. So in today's episode, I want to share with you 5 strategies to help you avoid it. But first, I want to explain exactly what I mean by feast or famine. So let's get started. I'm Rob Acosta, and this is the agency accelerator cost as someone who has stood in your shoes, having started grown and sold my own agency, and adjust how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable sustainable and enjoyable business.

Have you ever been in that situation where you have got so busy with lots of great client work that you've got no time to breathe, let alone think about marketing and business development and planning for the future of your agency? You'll often find yourself stuck on the client service, the Hampster wheel of doom. Now in the short term, this feels really good because you've got cash coming into the company you're feeling confident about investing in hiring people and putting new systems and processes in place. But ultimately, in the end, of those projects will come to an end either because that's a natural conclusion for the project or often through no fault of your own that the client changes strategy or runs out of money, so they terminate the contract with you. And now you've made investments in your agency, and you've been super focused on client delivery that you're suddenly staring at a gap in your order book, and you lurch from a place of feast to a place of famine. And when we get into a famine. As I said in instructions, it can be super stressful. You've got cash flow issues.

You've got team members that you need to pay, which means you're at the back of the queue. morale in your team can go down. And you end up making bad decisions. Now, I see 2 bad decisions typically being made. 1 is that you count work to win new clients because, at the end of the day, you've got these gaps that you need to fill, so your discount work to win them. But that in itself generate stress in the agency because now you're doing work that you're being underpaid for, so you'll have the potential of becoming a busy fall. And, of course, you're half thinking, well, I wish I had the clients that were paying me at the right fee instead of this client, I'm having to discount. So you sort of resent it in the end.

That's the first issue. And the second issue is that you often take on the wrong kind of client, the less-than-ideal client because, again, you just need business. So you get an opportunity. You take it on without going through the same qualification process. And we all know that when we take on a less-than-ideal target client, they become problem children you like. They're harder to service because you don't quite understand them and they don't quite understand you. It's hard to meet their goals because they might be unrealistic, which might be why they're the less-than-ideal target client. And, again, this leads to stress and resentment in the agency.

So being in a place of famine is not a great place to be. Now this whole scenario can often be exacerbated because you have an overreliance on just a client. It's that old eighty-twenty rule that 20 percent of your clients give you 80 percent of your revenue. And of course, if you lose that client, you can be in serious trouble. And, of course, it immediately lurches you into a place of famine. When I ran my agency, we had 2 big clients that were both paying as around about £10,000 a month, bearing in mind. This is back in the nineties. And we lost both of them within the course of about 3 months because they both got acquired 1 by IBM and why by Adobe.

And, of course, we were just a little old agency, and they had their preferred agency, and therefore, we had no chance. So as I said in the introduction, often you lose clients, through no fault of your own such as in our situation. But those 2 clients probably accounted for about 40% of our revenues. So we were in immediately stuck in this place of famine with the staff of twenty-five people, you know, twenty-five mouths to feed, and I can tell you that feel really stressful. So that's one of the common causes rely on just a few clients. And another one, as I said earlier, is because you're stuck on the client service hamster wheel of doom. So you have no time to implement your sales and marketing strategies. You have no time to focus on the future, and that probably means that you have a lack of consistent lead generation coming in.

And, of course, these strategies are all mid to long-term deliverables. So if you're in a place of famine, you can't just switch it on and suddenly get a load of new leads have to have been investing in that over the medium term to get those results. Now when I started my coaching business, this happened to me twice. I went through this feast and family cycle twice where it ended up in a place of famine, and trust me, it was painful, especially right back in the beginning when I wasn't making that much money to start with. And, of course, it sows doubts in your head. Can I do this? Should I go and get a job? And in the end, I just had a good chat with myself and Rob, why are you letting this happen? You know what you need to do, and I set about making sure that it never happened again, which is what I want to share with you in my 5 strategies. So Trust me, this has happened to me and two times was two times too many. So I really want to help ensure that it never happens to you.

And if it has happened to you, I want to ensure that it never happens to you again. So let's jump into strategy number 1, and this is an overarching strategy for your whole business, which is making sure that you have a really strong foundation. So you have all of the systems and processes and the pieces in place to ensure that you don't jump into feast or famine. And I think it all starts by having a clear plan and also having a clear need for your agency because when you have a clear niche, you can identify who your ideal target customer is. And when you understand them, you understand the pains and challenges that they have and also know where they hang out so you can build marketing and sales campaigns around those ideal target clusters. Now when you've got a clear value proposition, you want to make sure you're articulating it across all of your various platforms including your website, your LinkedIn profile, social media and anywhere else where your ideal target customer might find you. You'd be amazed at the number of people who tell me they have a clear niche and a clear value proposition, they show up more as a generalist than the niched business that they believe they are. I'm not gonna jump into too much detail on this episode because I've spoken about Niching before, and I will put links to relevant episodes and also a free guide on Niching.

But that's part of having a strong foundation as is having a plan for your business. And, again, I've spoken about that before. So You want to make sure that you can clearly articulate who you are and who you serve and why they should pick you, and you also want to have a clear plan that shows you when will make investments in your agencies such as when you will hire additional staff and when you will make other investments such as in sales and marketing and systems and processes. Okay. So that's strategy number 1, which is really building a solid foundation, understanding who you are communicating that clearly to your at the market and having a clear plan that shows when you're gonna make various investments. The second thing is sort of around mitigating your risk by building a diverse client portfolio. As I shared when I ran my agency, we over-relied on 2 big clients and then we lost them in quick succession. So you want to make sure that you have a range of clients and that you are not just relying on 1 or 2 clients to generate 80 percent of your revenue.

So make sure that you are so make sure you're super clear about your ideal target customer. And that will include the size and the kind of thing they buy from you and then work really hard to have multiple clients that fit in that box so that you are winning multiple projects rather than 1 or 2 very large ones. Now, strategy 3 and strategy 4 kinda go hand in hand. So strategy 3 is to develop an effective sales and marketing strategy and plan and make sure by hook or by crook that you implement it. So you want to understand so because you understand So because you have a clear niche and, therefore, you define exactly who your ideal target customer is, you'll be able to create really compelling content that hits home and resonates with your audience. You want them to be thinking, blimey, he's reading my mind or she's reading my mind with your marker things. So that's something to think about in terms of planning. But then you want to think about your sales funnel.

So at the top of the funnel, you've got new cold leads. These are people that are discovering your business, and they fit your ideal target customer profile and how you are going to nurture them through the sales funnel. So they drop out the bottom as customers. So think about the various lead generation strategies, what content marketing you need to put in place, social media, SEO, and, of course, email marketing. And if you're gonna do any paid work, it might be PPC. And whatever you do, my advice is always to pick a few things and do them well. And remember to meet your audience where they are. So what are the things that are gonna work really well with them with the one nonnegotiable being build your email list because You then need to use your email list to nurture your audience?

Remember they're ready to buy from you when they're in enough pain, and they're clear that you can solve that pain for them. So, unfortunately, clients are never ready to buy 1. We want them to buy. They're ready to buy when they're in enough pain, and your right front and centre saying, hey, I can help you, and that's why we need to be consistently marketing. So that is super important if you want to make sure that you are never lurching in family, then it ties into strategy number 4, which is protecting your time. So no matter how busy you get servicing clients you need to protect some of your time to focus on strategy 3, which is implementing your sales and marketing strategy. The way I look at it is I often say clients, do you work 10 o'clock at night, or do you work at weekends? And, hopefully, the answer is no. So they've already got examples of how they protect their time.

Now you need to apply exactly that same thinking to protect some of your time in your working week to focus on the future of your agency, i e, sales and marketing. So rather than thinking that I've got 5 days from 9 to 5:30 available to my team or to my clients, you now need to think, well, actually, I've only 4 days available because I'm using a day of my time or half day of my time or whatever is to focus on sales and marketing, which my future self is gonna be really thankful of because it's gonna help us avoid lurching from feast to famine. And even when we're in a place of feast, We are still focused on sales and marketing. We're still focused on the future. And as I often say to myself, your future self will thank you because you won't be in that awful place of family where you're having to make those bad decisions. So make sure you're protecting your time and changing your mindset around how time is available and also changing your mindset around what is important. Of course, clients and teams come high up the agenda or the priority list but so does working on the future of your agency. So that is number 3, which is developing an effective sales and marketing strategy and number 4, which is protecting your time no matter how busy you get in client service mode.

And the final thing I want to say is Strategy number 5, which is focused on client retention and growth because we might have a great sales and marketing strategy, which is generating leads and they're turning into clients, but you also don't wanna have a revolving door of those clients going in one door and then exiting out the exit after 6 months. So You wanna really focus on building really strong client partnership relationships and also look at how you can grow those existing clients to get additional revenue, which would again protect you from feast or famine, rather than just totally focused on sales and marketing. So we kinda got these 3 strains here. We've got client service. They're doing great for your current clients, making sure that they really know, like, and trust you and that you provide a great level of service commensurate with the fee that they're paying. but you also want to focus on the future of those clients. So how do I retain and grow them and get additional revenue? And you also want to focus on bringing new clients into your world as well. So we've, you know, running an agency.

We have to be great jugglers, which I've spoken about many times before, and that juggling skill definitely comes in place when we're talking about avoiding feast or famine. So those are the 5 strategies that wanted to share in this episode. So number 1 is all about building a really strong foundation, having really good clarity on who you are, and who you serve, and then having a vision that shows when you're gonna make various decisions. Strategy 2 is mitigating risk by putting all your eggs in one basket by building a diverse client portfolio so that you are not falling foul of having 20% of your clients delivering 80% of the revenue, which will definitely lure you into or famine. Strategy 3 was all about building an effective sales and marketing plan so that you are constantly bringing new leads into your world and know monitoring them until they become customers. And in order to do that, we have to implement strategy 4, which is protecting some of your time no matter how busy you get with client delivery. And then number 5 is focused on retaining those clients and getting additional revenue from them so that we are protecting than them and we're not having a revolving door. So I hope that helps.

That's just 5 quick snapshots of how you can break the feast or famine cycle. And in dead, create sustainable growth in your agency. Now I want to do a plug here for my agency accelerator live workshops which run on a Wednesday morning every 2 weeks at 9 o'clock in the morning because the next session we have is digging into avoiding feast or famine in a lot more detail than I have given you in this podcast episode. So I'll put a link in the show notes to register. It's free to attend. They're all value, no sales, or sessions, and I want to provide value. And in this series of workshops, we're tackling the 13 big challenges that I see most agencies having and avoiding feast or famine is one of those 13 challenges. So I really hope you can join us for the 45-minute session, which is about 25 minutes of me providing training and value and then 20 minutes of q and a.

And as I say, they happen every 2 weeks. And the next one is happening next week if you listen to this when it's just been released, and we are focusing on avoiding feast or famine. So I hope you found that useful. Please do share it with your colleagues. Please make sure you've hit the subscribe button, and please please please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. I've even put a link with a little video on how to do that because that helps the algorithm share this episode with more people just like you, which as you know means I can help more people just like you. But other than that, Hope you have a great week. If you're in a place of famine, do reach out to me and let's have a chat.

But, hopefully, you can implement the strategies that I've outlined, and that will help you take steps to avoid that. But other than that, have a great rest of your week, and I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast.

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