Starting a digital marketing agency with no prior experience might seem like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but in 2023, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. As the digital advertising world continues to expand, there’s a golden opportunity for newcomers to make their mark. With the global digital ad spend projected to reach a staggering $645 billion by 2023, there’s a chance to ride the wave of this industry’s growth.
So, in case you’re ready to learn the ropes of the digital marketing world, this blog is your compass to navigate the seas of uncertainty and start your very own agency.
From the Scratch: How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency with No Experience
It’s often said that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” today, this age-old adage takes on a new meaning as AI-powered tools have transformed the entire digital landscape.
Now, whether you’re a recent postgraduate or someone just starting, you can dive into the world of digital marketing agency ownership. Consider social media management, for instance. Platforms such as Hootsuite and Buffer offer AI-driven scheduling and content suggestions, making it easier for newcomers to create engaging social media content and help clients create a bold online presence.
So, thanks to the accessibility of AI tools and the vast opportunities in the digital marketing sphere, starting a digital agency with no experience in 2023 proposes massive potential. However, the path to success is not without its challenges. For newcomers and new entrepreneurs, it can be a daunting endeavor that demands careful planning, dedication, and a willingness to adapt to an ever-evolving landscape.
So much so that, crafting a niche, conducting market research, building a skilled team, and navigating the intricacies of legalities and technology are a few of the steps you need to take. Additionally, networking, client acquisition, and effective pricing strategies play key roles in building a “good” agency. At that point, it’s best to remember that seeking help from experts is a good call. But before that, let’s explore all the steps to start a successful digital marketing agency in 2023.
Steps to Start a Successful Digital Marketing Agency without Prior Experience
Determine If there is a need/market for your service
As you set out to start your own digital agency business, your first and foremost priority must be ensuring the demand for your services. This initial step is nothing short of climactic for compelling reasons; as all we know a great number of agencies are vying for attention in this competitive area.
In other words, failing to pinpoint a demand for your services can lead you to compete with a limited number of potential clients & target audience, restricting your agency’s growth potential.
At that point, conducting market research (What are your potential audience needs? What are they looking for in a digital marketing agency? What are their pain points? What are their goals?), analyzing the other digital marketing agencies, and identifying your market are some of the ways to get a sense of the demand for your services.
Other tips to determine whether there is a need for your service? Here are:
- Conduct online surveys and polls to gather feedback from potential clients & target audiences. These insights can guide you in framing custom services that cater to specific needs and preferences.
- Explore & follow industry publications penned by authorities in the field of digital marketing.
- Attend industry events and conferences (online or in-person) to network with other digital marketing professionals.
Choose a Niche
According to B2B Marketing Zone, agencies specialized in a particular niche have a 68% higher win rate for their proposals compared to those with a general focus. That result is not surprising when considering specialization allows marketers to tailor marketing efforts, content, and services to a specific audience, making it easier to resonate with the audience.
Let’s dive into another fact: Many new-age digital marketing agencies will provide similar services in 2023. By carving out a niche, you reduce direct competition, making it more likely that your agency will be the go-to choice for businesses seeking expertise in that area & industry.
Additionally, specialization undoubtedly supports building a bold brand identity and allows your digital agency to become synonymous with expertise in your chosen niche, which can further attract clients seeking those specialized services.
Decide your agency type
Choosing your niche also refers to what kind of agency you will be building up. According to your niche, you can focus exclusively on content marketing, SEO optimization, and creating and distributing high-quality content. Or, if you have the potential and source for social media marketing, you can choose to help your clients build and engage their audiences on social media through organic and paid ads.
On the other hand, deciding on your agency type ripples throughout your business, shaping your specialization, client base, service offerings, and the entire strategy. The options are diverse, ranging from Content Marketing Agencies, SEO Agencies, and Social Media Marketing Agencies to more comprehensive Full-Service Digital Agencies. It is best to remember your choice should adjust to your expertise, market demand, available resources, and long-term growth opportunities.
Prior to your final decision, do not hesitate to check out our comprehensive list of digital marketing agencies to have an idea about the ecosystem.
Register your agency as an official business
Let’s jump into a more “serious” phase: Registering your agency as an official business!
Actually, it is a foundational step that provides legal and financial structure to your endeavor. It instills trust with clients, offers liability protection, and ensures compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Allow us to be more specific: What are the benefits and responsibilities of being a registered digital agency?
- Business name: Pick a unique business name for your digital agency that corresponds with the registration regulations in your jurisdiction. At this point, do not hesitate to check for domain name availability.
- Legal structure: Determine the legal structure that best suits your digital agency type – sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or another form. Each legal structure holds different taxation, liability protections, and administrative requirements.
- Taxation: Registering your agency can have tax advantages, allowing you to take advantage of markdowns and tax breaks open to businesses. To track the tax implications specific to your business structure, consider consulting with a tax expert.
- Business banking: As a part of taxation and overall financial operations, open a separate business bank account to manage your agency. This simplifies accounting and financial tracking.
- Permits and regulations: Ensure your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, including any industry-specific requirements like permits, licenses, and adherence to advertising or marketing regulations.
Create your official website and build social media accounts
An undeniable fact: Setting up an official website plus creating a robust social media strategy is the bread and butter of launching a digital marketing agency.
In the simplest terms, a website for a startup serves as a digital storefront; the place where potential clients, partners, and customers will stop by first – the brand’s first impression.
Here are a few great examples of digital agency websites:
And let’s not underestimate the power of social media; building a bold social media presence entitles you to engage with your audience & potential clients, showcase your expertise, and create a community around your brand (you already know all of that.) In other words, having a social media presence like Hootsuite, Buffer, We Are Social and Hubspot means expressing your unique brand personality.
Pick your tools
Picking the right tools and putting together a top-notch team is like nailing the one-two punch for any digital agency.
In the initial stages, it is critical to pinpoint the precise digital marketing skills your agency will have. When you have a total grasp of your service portfolio, you can undertake the process of researching & acquiring the most suitable tools for each task. Since the digital landscape offers a great number of tools for various needs, it is paramount to cherry-pick the ones that align with your requirements and financial limitations. However, we can list some of the best tool choices for your future agency:
- Communication: Slack, Trello, Notion.so, Infinity, Skype, Zoom
- Content & SEO: Grammarly, Semrush, Zutrix, Wide Angle Analytics, WordPress, Canva
- Social media: Buffer, SocialPilot, Planly, Intellifluence, Instajet, Semrush
- Automation: Channable, Adzooma, GetResponse, Justuno, BigMailer.io, Bugherd, Ziflow, Copper, Advisr, ConnectorEngine
- Workflow & operation management: Productive, Screendragon, Height, Runn.io, Synergist, Teamwork
Build your team
It’s time to talk about your future crew! Even though finding the perfect team in the first place is like searching for a needle in a haystack, time and patience will give you what you need.
The size and composition of your crew depend on the scope of your agency. However, there are main roles (such as CMO, digital marketer, content writer, social media manager, and SEO specialist) to be filled to ensure your agency’s success.
At that point, we recommend you remember building a team is not a matter of checking off roles from a list. It’s actually bringing together individuals who genuinely thrive on digital marketing. These team players are expected to bring the necessary skills, ambition & experience to the table and excel in communication and collaboration.
At the end of the day, your team serves as the very foundation of your agency, and the process of assembling it must be carried out with maximum precision.
Does Money Talk? How Much to Start a Digital Marketing Agency?
Indeed, money certainly talks when starting a digital marketing agency…
Let’s analyze how much to start a digital marketing agency by breaking it down into three key areas:
- Fundamental costs: Basic startup costs include the primary elements necessary to get your agency off the ground. You will need to register your business, develop a professional website, purchase essential equipment and software, and invest in marketing and branding materials, all of which require an initial cost.
- Ongoing operational costs: Operating a digital marketing agency is an ongoing venture that entails recurring expenses. Salaries and benefits, office space (no need for remote working agencies), utilities, tools, marketing and advertising budgets, and insurance coverage are a few of them. These recurring efforts support your agency’s daily operations and client service.
- Client acquisition costs: Sales and marketing expenses – attending networking events, advertising, and lead generation efforts – are critical components of client acquisition. Education and training for yourself and your team are also vital, keeping you updated with the digital landscape. Lastly, holding a reserve fund or working capital is a prudent strategy to handle unexpected expenses and sustain financial stability.
How Do You Get Your First Digital Marketing Client?
We need to accept that getting your first client just after starting your digital agency is often the most challenging step in the process. As you gain experience and build a portfolio full of successful cases, your agency’s reputation will grow, making it easier to attract new clients. However, at that step, staying persistent is the best. While doing so, you can also give a try the following advice:
- Take advantage of online ads: Create targeted Google Ads & social media campaigns for keywords like “digital marketing services” or “online marketing agency.” Ensure your ads include a compelling call-to-action and a link to a dedicated landing page on your website.
- Optimize your existing network: If you have experience in the realm of digital marketing, reach out to your former colleagues or acquaintances who own businesses. Offer to check their current digital marketing strategy or deliver a free consultation. The relationship you already have can lead to trust and potentially a client.
- Try cold outreach: In case your team is experienced in websites, identify local businesses with outdated websites & poor online presence. Send personalized emails offering a free website audit or suggesting improvements. Explain how your expertise can boost their business.
- Offer introductory discounts: In your initial client meetings, provide a particular introductory rate for the first three months of service. This can incentivize businesses to take a chance on your agency.
- Leverage local SEO: It’s quite important! Optimize your official website for local SEO to attract nearby businesses even though you’re working remotely. This can be particularly effective if you’re targeting a local client base.
- Be active on online marketplaces: Register your agency on freelance and job marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr. These platforms can be a source of initial clients.
For detailed information, head out to our quick guide “How to get clients for a digital marketing agency.”
In the realm of digital marketing, taking the plunge to start your digital agency in 2023 with no experience might feel like jumping in at the deep end. However, as we’ve explored in this blog, the current landscape offers a silver lining, especially with the support of AI tools. Developing a concrete business model, putting together a passionate team, and approaching client acquisition with creativity and persistent determination are all critical steps to set the ball rolling.
We would like to remind you that even the most experienced professionals were once wet behind the ears. So, in an age of boundless digital possibilities, arm yourself with determination and newfound knowledge, and set sail on the exciting adventure of launching your digital marketing agency in 2023.