Key Components of Effective Digital Marketing Agency Operations

Key Takeaways
Learn how to optimize your agency's operations for success.
Optimized, strategic digital agency operations lead to exponential growth.

Ever watched a perfect marketing plan unfold? It’s like watching an expert chef prepare a gourmet dish — tantalizing, rewarding, a mouth-watering anticipation of tastiness.

Yet, as a digital marketing agency, you know the winning recipe isn’t as simple as ‘a pinch of this CTA’ and ‘a dollop of that social media strategy.’ It’s more like concocting a potion in a wizard’s lab, where every ingredient can turn the brew from a smooth tonic into a ticking time bomb.

In your agency (mis)adventures, you’ve likely seen how a minor tweak in your operations can cause a negative ripple-effect, creating a tsunami of less-than-perfect results. That’s some desert of disappointment.

So, it’s clear then:

The gears of your marketing machine, your digital marketing operations, aren’t just important. They’re the heart of your business.

But what makes up this mysterious heart? And why is it so crucial to your success?

Strap in and prepare for some enlightenment — it’s time for a tour of your operations’ engine room!

Digital Marketing Agency Operations: The Must-Have Ingredients for Success

Digital marketing agency operations is a term that encompasses all the marketing efforts of an agency. Typically, they include the people, tools, technology, metrics, and best practices used in overseeing the:

  • Planning
  • Strategy creation
  • Data reporting and analysis
  • Performance measurement of agency projects

Implementing the proper marketing agency operations, along with strategic time and resource management, is the most efficient way for your project manager and operations manager to meet client expectations.

Sound complicated? Allow us to simplify it for you.

What are these critical components of effective digital marketing agency operations?

As previously defined, an agency’s digital marketing operations require establishing an organizational structure that works for your agency.

While this structure might differ slightly across agencies, the building blocks that make it up can be grouped into crucial components.

These key components are:

  • Team structure
  • Workflow and processes
  • Client communication
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Continuous improvement

Every step in establishing an operational system with your team and the right tools fall into at least one of these outlined components.

Understanding these key components makes establishing operations that work best for your agency easier.

So grab that cup of coffee if you haven’t yet, and maybe a notepad and pen as we dive into the crux of this article.

Team Structure

Optimized team structure is a key component of business success.

Once upon a time, John Maxwell said, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

For many, it’s easier to work alone than in a team. However, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and using them to the business’s advantage will grow your digital agency exponentially. Working alone, while perhaps easier, leads to slower growth.

If you already have a team but still face unresponsiveness or general underperformance, it might be a problem with strategic implementation in your business.

Read further on strategic implementation issues in this article.

Tips for building a high-performing team

Since we know that the team makes or breaks your digital marketing agency operations effort, what are the secret ingredients to a high-performing team?

Whatever steps you take, the goal should be creating a team that knows its role, why it exists, and how to achieve it.

One of the tips you can implement to improve your team’s performance is to define your team’s vision.

Imagine setting off on a journey with no destination in mind. Sounds fun for an impromptu road trip, but not for your team’s project. You may know your goal, but if it’s not clearly communicated, your team might as well be navigating in the dark.

Ideally, this crystal-clear vision should be a part of the hiring or onboarding process. Without it, your team members might be left guessing the purpose of their assigned tasks. It’s like playing a game without knowing the rules or the end goal —confusing, right?

You also want to set clear expectations for every team in your agency and for your core team members (including your account managers) to do the same for the teams they manage. Smaller agencies with only one team can simply set expectations for each team member.

So why don’t you create an organizational chart and define the role of each department, both existing and non-existing?

If necessary, you can make minor restructuring of each team, as one of the problems you could face is poor human resources management. You’re likely to find some talent performs better in your sales team than they do as marketers.

Sometimes, you might just hire people who don’t match your agency’s culture.

Start by defining the core values you find necessary for your business growth. If your employees don’t exhibit the core values, then you can train them. Or hire people who already do.

After creating the team structure, you want to ensure the positive changes remain by changing your digital marketing agency operations.

These could include:

  • Hosting regular resource training
  • Automating repetitive tasks to save time
  • Minimizing meetings
  • Having precise tasks and deliverables

Finally, be sure to performing traditional team retrospectives to identify any processes needing improvement. Then tweak, optimize, and repeat.

Importance of hiring the right people for your agency

Did we hear you ask why hiring the right people for your agency is non-negotiable?

Unsurprisingly, humans run your well-planned digital marketing agency operations and not the ever-impressing AIs that abound. However, if you plan to scale your business and not run it to the ground, you need the right team to make it happen.

Key players like your project manager, operations manager, social media manager, digital marketers, SEO specialists, content creators, and designers are must-haves for successful digital marketing agency operations.

While your project and operations manager plans each step of the digital marketing agency operations, your content creators, writers, and designers let their creativity run free.

Finally, your marketing team, inclusive of your marketers, SEO specialists, and social media managers, work to ensure all the team efforts pay off with more client conversions or purchases.

Workflow Automation and Processes

Automate workflow and processes for increased efficiency and productivity.

Another key component of effective digital marketing agency operations is the optimization of your workflow and processes. Establishing a streamlined workflow and procedures has a positive time management effect on productivity, one you can see in real time as you implement them.

Find workflow tips you can use to get started on managing your workflow and processes here.

In 2017, McKinsey found that up to 30 percent of the tasks of 60 percent of occupations could be automated. So, consider implementing effective project management techniques like workflow automation. Define your goals, map clear steps to achieving them, establish proper resource management, set attainable deadlines, and assigning tasks accordingly.

When all is said and done, you have a decent process to follow through with your projects while automating repetitive tasks.

Where do project management tools and software come in?

Workflow automation as part of your digital marketing agency operations is only possible with the right project management tools.

If you’re unfamiliar, you can learn more about what these tools are and which are the most popular here.

Each project management tool has a set of common, core features you’d expect in any PM tool. However, what makes each one stand out is its unique, specialized features that distinguish it from the rest. You would want to research PM tools to find the one best suited to improve your workflow and processes.

Best practices for onboarding clients and managing client projects

A major part of your digital marketing agency operations is client onboarding. Pretty much anything about client management is. However, we are discussing this as it is part of your workflow and processes.

One thing to remember with each client is that they are not your agency. While you already know the process, they don’t. So a good onboarding experience is required for topnotch customer service.

First, you want to have documentation of what your process looks like. This shows the client that a reliable, concrete structure exists, which eliminates a lot of confusion and frustration for them. It’s a good idea to include the following documentation and instructions in your client onboarding process:

  • The agency’s deliverables
  • Team structure
  • Communication channels
  • Feedback loop
  • Pricing for your various services

The more detailed the documentation, the more reliable you are.

Remember to give clear, simple instructions for how to use any software they need to access. To simplify the process, you can create a reusable template or video recording that can be customized to each client if needed.

Client Communication

Clear communication is required for agency growth.

Let’s face it — without clients, we’d all be twiddling our thumbs, refreshing our email inboxes, and eyeing a spot for a van down by the river.

That’s why, at the heart of your digital marketing operations, there should be a golden rule:

Communicate, and then communicate some more. Delighted clients not only sing your praises, but they also become your cheerleaders, enticing new prospects to your door.

So, let’s not just stick to the humdrum email updates. Consider rolling out the red carpet and granting clients exclusive, limited access to some of the collaboration tools your team uses. This way, they can peek behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of the magic as it happens, tracking the progress of their project firsthand.

Tips for managing client expectations

Still on the subject of client communication as a component of digital marketing agency operations is managing client expectations. As the project progresses, the client sees whether or not their expectations are met. Some steps you can take before the project begins (and midway) also comprise well-structured digital marketing agency operations.

One great way to start managing client expectations is to narrow their expectation. You can achieve this by focusing your agency on one niche to set your business apart from competitors. This way, they already have a broad idea of what to expect from your particular brand.

As you work on the project, keep a communication line open and put transparency at the forefront for the project’s duration. This keeps clients up to date with the progress, or notified of possible setbacks, and helps manage their expectations since they’re fully informed.

CRM | How to handle difficult client conversations and situations

Unfortunately, not all client conversations are filled with laughter and good vibes. But that’s okay. You might have a difficult client or a bad day that requires a difficult conversation. It’s way better to have a process already in place for when these less-than-ideal conversations need to take place, then to fly by the seat of your tattered pants.

One big mistake you want to avoid is the ostrich. Don’t bury your head in the sand and expect the issue to just resolve itself or otherwise blow over. Instead, be proactive. Create different templates for regularly handling tough conversations in your digital marketing agency operations. Tweak the template as needed, and use it to guide your decision-making through each difficult client conversation.

Before diving into a conversation, take a moment to pinpoint your desired outcome. This not only sets clear direction but also puts boundaries in place. Don’t dance around the underlying issue – be transparent. This clarity allows you to jot down notes and shape your dialogue with precision.

Next up, it’s time to set a date. Schedule a call with the client, and give them a heads-up about the conversation topic so they can suit up for the discussion. Calls, unlike emails, are a two-way street, reducing the risk of misunderstanding and letting you collaborate on a solution.

Brace yourself though.

Despite your best efforts, the conversation might not pan out as you’d hoped. Take a deep breath, and get into a positive mindset. Remember, your client might not be as Zen about this as you are. If criticism is on the menu, don’t digest it personally, keep your eyes on the ball. And if the relationship can’t be salvaged, be ready to cut the cord – if it’s the best decision for your agency.

Reporting and Analytics

Use reporting and analytics for increased efficiency, productivity, and growth.

In Geoffrey Moore’s words, without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway. The impact of whatever digital marketing agency operations you have on your projects can only be calculated with data.

Data-driven decision-making is essential for establishing and maintaining your operational structure and strategically managing your workload, as the data gives you insight into its effectiveness or shortcomings.

So as you work on your business, find tools and technologies that offer reports and analytics on your processes, campaigns, and digital marketing agency operations.

Popular tools and technologies you can use to implement your digital marketing agency operations for data analysis are Google Analytics and Supermetrics.

Key performance indicators/metrics (KPIs) for tracking success

Use KPIs to inform and improve your agency process and workflows.

KPIs like profit margin, customer acquisition cost, return on investment, conversion rate, and social media engagement are suitable for marketing agencies to track success. Other KPIs you’ll want to follow are based on your specific needs as an agency, both for internal purposes and to report to clients.

The results you obtain from reports should be presented in a simplified form to the client, while the main message is sent via email for record-keeping or in-depth study.

Continuous Improvement

Continually improve your agency operations with research on current trends.

Continuous learning is necessary for your business as you either grow or get kicked out in a fast-paced world like the digital marketing industry.

Just as it took planning to attain the level you are at now, you now need digital marketing agency operations for continuous learning. This will ensure you’re at the right place, at the right time for scalable growth.

Strategies for staying up-to-date with trends and best practices

It sometimes feels like the world is moving faster than a rollercoaster with the new technologies that abound and how quickly trends come and go.

How do we stay up-to-date with trends to remain relevant as a business?

Add it to your digital marketing agency operations. This could be monthly or quarterly research your team handles where they find new trends, technologies, and best practices to share with your organization.

Another approach is to become part of a community of agencies. Such communities share valuable information, including new trends.

Encourage team members to develop a sense of ownership over their work. This empowerment often leads to increased resourcefulness and intuitive problem-solving within the team. Who knows, your agency might be the next to create a trend to be followed.

Similarly, you can implement continuous improvement to your digital marketing agency operations and processes after you learn of the industry’s new trends and best practices.

Take action today & level up your operations

As the ringleader of your agency, you’re the one steering the ship towards success. While no two ships follow the exact same course, we’ve shared the compass points that can guide your journey.

Let’s break it down:

  • People Power: First step is to cherish your crew and clients – they’re the heart and soul of your voyage.
  • Workflow Wonders: Set the pace with efficient workflows to keep your ship sailing smoothly.
  • Analytics Ace: Unleash the power of data with insightful reporting and analytics.
  • Lifelong Learning: Embrace the ebb and flow of knowledge. The sea of digital marketing is always changing.

Follow these guiding lights, and your digital marketing operations are destined for smoother sailing.

Still not sure we’ve got your back? We’re tossing you a lifesaver!

Check out the ScaleTime Project Management Checklist, your trusty guide for navigating the choppy waters of project management. Dive in and sail towards success!

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana Marulanda - ScaleTime Founder
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.
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