Over the past five years we have been blessed to see Power Digital grow by over 100% every year. We have won many awards for our growth, service offerings, and culture, including recognition from Inc Magazine, Search Engine Land, the San Diego Union Tribune and many more.
We have not had an employee quit on the company in over three years, which for a digital marketing agency is very rare. Not to be braggadocious, but we have been lucky and this success has not been due to rocket science.
There have been a multitude of factors that have contributed to this growth and success but when we really boil it down the key factors are focusing on doing two things and always putting those two things first as priority #1.
Those two things that we focus on are:
#1) Growing and retaining our employees so that we have a world-class team.
#2) Thinking very long-term with our clients so we grow those relationships and have minimal customer churn.
Key #1: Building And Retaining A World-Class Team
For us, when it came to building our digital marketing team there were three key components. The first is recruiting so we get the best talent and most driven people. The second is developing that talent and helping them grow. You can’t always hire super stars, often times you need to hire “potential stars” and build them into superstars. It’s the same thing you see great sports organizations, like the New England Patriots, they build their team through the draft with young talent and bring in select veterans that really fit their culture and values. The third is retaining these team members so your investment in their growth is realized and you have consistency in your culture and product offering.
Here is what I’ve learned over the years about these three key areas.
- Farm League – it is important to have a great mentorship program for interns and young team members. This gives you the ability to date before you marry with potential employees and really see who wants to be successful and fits your core values.
- Hired Guns – these hired guns and veterans can be a major difference maker. It is critical though to have a very in-depth interview process where they go through rounds of interviews with your leadership team, take skills assessments to see if their skills are really as strong as they say, and socialize with your extended team to assure they fit in and this gives you many opinions on them and not just them impressing a few people in an interview.
- It Gets Easier If You Do Things Right – if you take great care of your employees and truly put them first it becomes very easy to attract top talent and recruit. Your employee’s will start to do the selling for you and potential new hires will want to be a part of your team.
Developing Team Members
- Formal Leadership Program – this is something most small companies don’t do. It played a huge role in the development of the Power Digital team and turned a bunch of our hot shot Digital Marketers into great leaders and managers.
- Mentorship Program – this is a very cost effective way for your team to grow close and help each other get better. Having veterans share experiences and wisdom with more junior team members or across departments makes everyone better. Mentors get better by teaching and mentees get a free education from a peer that has done it before.
- Hands on Experience and Training – let your people take changes and make mistakes. The faster your team messes up and fails the faster they will learn. Don’t look at their mistakes as failures but instead learning experiences and use them to build them up and train them.
“Make your team members constantly do things they are not comfortable with. This will make sure they continue to grow and do not become stagnant in their job or role. It will pay off for the employee and the company”.
Retaining Team Members
- Develop your team and make sure they are truly getting better each month and see the value
- Treat them how you would want to be treated
- Show them a path for growth so they do not hit a glass ceiling that makes them feel they need to go elsewhere
- Have consistent one-on-ones and open lines of communication to make sure they are happy
- Have fun and make it fun to come into work every week
Key #2: Always Put Clients First And View Them As Long-Term Partners
- The First Contract is Usually a Loss Leader – digital marketing is hard these days… Getting results and making clients’ money usually takes time and a lot of heavy lifting up front. For us, we front load our digital marketing programs so the client can see what we are made of during this tough time. We focus on investing in our clients and proving ourselves so we can still be working together five years from now.
- Don’t be a Yes Man – it’s as simple as that, we are always honest with our clients. We do not act like we know everything and we do not tell them all their ideas are great. If we really want to be a great partner and put their business first, we have to be totally honest with them even if it means telling them something they may not want to hear.
- Don’t be that “Scope this, Scope that” Guy – this is a challenge for all service businesses but is especially true for digital marketing agencies. Clients pay you to do a set of services and it is very easy for these lines to get blurred and the client to ask you to do things that are not in scope. We try very hard to go above and beyond for our clients and not nickel and dime them every month. This has really paid off for us and often means less money now but much bigger money later and a much longer relationship.
With all that said, the only thing we DO NOT put our clients in front of is the moral and happiness of our team. We have seen many agencies in our industry do that and although you may gain in the short-term the impact it will have on your team and company culture is not worth it. Clients that are abusive or a negative drain on moral need to be carefully monitored and, often times, need to go. We want to treat our clients as if they are family and as if we are owners in their company and we expect the same type of respect back.
Wrapping It Up
For most companies, if you truly put these two things first you will be very successful. There are a lot of things that go into a business gaining traction, experiencing growth and long term sustainability, but if you have great people representing your organization and a customer base that loves you and your brand, it will take some serious bad luck to not grow and succeed. You will have something very valuable and you don’t need to focus on 50 different things to make this happen, just two.
You have to actually put these things first though and not just say you do… Every company says they care about their employees more than anything and that customers always come first but very rarely do their actual investments and actions reflect this.