How to Set Up a Marketing Agency and Scale it to Success in 2024 [Course + Templates]

Content Writing & Strategy
Team Slam
Helping you win online

Navigating the startup phase of any business can be daunting, and setting up a marketing agency is no exception. But when you search up “how to set up a marketing agency” online, you’ve most likely come across a bunch of lists instead of real, practical advice. That’s why we’re writing this article: so that you have a toolkit of strategies to set up your marketing agency and have the resources to succeed. 

In this guide, we will talk about:

  • Why a marketing agency is a great business to start in 2024
  • Types of marketing agencies you can start
  • Identifying your niche and ideal client profile
  • Developing your service offerings
  • Setting up your business legally and financially
  • Finding your first clients 
  • Assembling a talented team
  • Selecting the right tools and technologies
  • Scaling your marketing agency

Here at Slam Media Lab (Slam), we know how to launch and scale  digital marketing agencies. Need more convincing? We're a digital marketing agency founded in San Francisco during the pandemic, and we quickly grew to work with over 30 clients in just three years, helping them crush their online goals.

We know how tough it can be to grow an agency, so we want to share the tools that helped us along the way. Instead of giving you a simple checklist with little to no info on how to actually follow through, we've created Slam's How to Start an Agency Course – the resource we wish we had –  loaded with over 20 templates to successfully set up your marketing agency and grow it to a million dollar business.

We've been floored by the excitement around the course! As a thank you and for a limited time, the first 10 people who sign up with this link will get 75% OFF with code AGENCY100!

Watch the course trailer here:

Why a Marketing Agency is a Great Business to Start in 2024

At its core, a marketing agency serves clients by identifying marketing strategies, executing those strategies, and analyzing performance to drive ROI and achieve business goals. 

Starting a marketing agency can be both rewarding and profitable, as the industry experiences continuous growth driven by increasing recognition among businesses of the necessity for digital marketing strategies. In fact, the global digital advertising and marketing market was worth around $350 billion in 2020 and is estimated to reach about $786.2 billion by the year 2026!

The functions of a marketing agency are diverse and robust, including, but not limited to:

  • Branding
  • Design
  • Video production
  • Website development
  • Various forms of online advertising

Since marketing agencies can offer such a broad scope of services, it's wise to specialize in a few key areas, rather than everything under the marketing umbrella. For example, at Slam, we are experts in SEO, web design and development, content writing and strategy, and  brand strategy and identity. Being great at these core service areas allows us to shape our digital marketing agency to offer unique solutions that position us in front of the types of clients that want to work with us.

Types of Marketing Agencies to Start

There are various types of marketing agencies you could start, each catering to specific digital marketing needs. Some provide a full suite of digital marketing services, while others specialize in certain areas. You should choose which type of marketing agency you want to set up based on your skills and expertise, as well as your marketing passions and interests. 

Let's take a look at some examples:

  • Public Relations (PR) Agencies: Manage the public image of individuals or organizations with the goal to enhance brand reputation, and navigate them through any crises that could hurt their business.
  • Google Ads Agencies: Help businesses use Google Ads to boost brand awareness and achieve marketing goals by managing clients' Google Ads accounts to deliver results that drive revenue.
  • Creative Agencies: Provide design strategy for advertising and marketing, including developing brand identity, social media assets, and creative strategies that will boost a company’s brand presence.
  • Content Marketing Agencies: Help businesses connect with their target audiences via content creation and distribution, such as blogs, videos, and infographics.
  • Influencer Marketing Agencies: Facilitate relationships between brands and social media influencers that can promote their products or services, bridging the gap between the influencers and businesses that want to capitalize on their reach.
  • Email Marketing Agencies: Help businesses harness the power of email marketing to increase brand awareness, reach prospective customers, and achieve sales and revenue goals.
  • Social Media Marketing Agencies: Help businesses of any size interact directly with their target audiences in a relatable and authentic way on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
  • SEO Agencies: Improve the visibility of websites on search engine results pages (SERPs), typically through core services like keyword research, link building, content creation, and on- page technical SEO.
  • Web Design Agencies: Create and design websites for individuals and businesses that capture their brand identity, generate leads, and that are beautiful, functional, and user-friendly.

7 Steps to Set Up Your Marketing Agency

Once you choose what type of marketing agency you want to set up, here are the seven steps you should follow for a successful launch:

  1. Identify your niche and ideal client profile
  2. Develop your service offerings
  3. Set up your business legally and financially
  4. Find your first clients 
  5. Assemble a talented team
  6. Select the right tools and technologies
  7. Scale your marketing agency

Identifying Your Niche and Ideal Client Profile

Before jumping into the fun part of ideating and executing marketing campaigns, (we get it, it's hard to resist) you need to lay the important foundations first. The first step that is critical to setting up your agency for success is to understand the target audience or niche area that you'd like to serve.

We talk more specifically about how to brainstorm and select your agency's niche in our How to Start an Agency Course, but for now, we'll focus on the importance of selecting the right niche and the benefit of conducting market research to hone in on your target audience.

Selecting the Right Niche

A defined niche offers your marketing agency a variety of benefits such as:

  • Allowing you to speak directly to a specific audience
  • Streamlining processes for repetitive work
  • Positioning yourself as an industry leader

Currently, some of the most profitable niches include e-commerce, healthcare, real estate, and technology. You can get even more specific within that niche, which will increase your chances of getting in front of your ideal clients. For example, maybe you want to help real estate companies with their marketing efforts, more specifically, property management companies that own college housing.

Though you might not have a high volume of clients at the start, you will increase your chances of finding quality clients that are the right fit and will be easier to pitch to. Then, as you grow your client base and portfolio of work, you will boost your agency's credibility and brand awareness, and you can broaden your niche from there.

Ultimately, the niche you choose should align with your brand identity and values as a founder and CEO of your marketing agency. It is important to be passionate about the types of clients you work with, as it makes it much easier and more fulfilling to deliver excellent customer service.

Conducting Market Research

Once you've selected your niche, you’ll need to drill down further on your ideal client profile (ICP), which is where market research comes into play. Thorough market research is the bedrock for effective marketing campaigns.

First, create a short list of competitors within the same niche area and start observing their strategies to understand who they are targeting and how they are targeting them. Dissecting your competitor's sites is a good place to start, as well as consumer intelligence tools such as Nielsen, BrandWatch, and even Google Trends. This research can provide valuable insights right off the bat, revealing potential gaps in the market that your agency can provide a solution for.

Next, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client, acting out the customer journey. What are some questions you might research to get more information on how to improve your marketing strategy? What would you type into Google if you were looking for a marketing agency to help grow your business?

From there, you can reverse engineer the type of content, service offerings, and brand identity you would need to create to draw in that customer base. Remember, researching potential clients isn’t a one-time thing: it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous optimization and refinement to understand your audience at a deep level.

Developing Top-Notch Service Offerings

Delivering top-tier services is essential to attract new clientele. The core services you offer will depend on the type of marketing agency you start, but the foundation for creating solid client service offerings remains the same across the board.

To develop your marketing agency's core service offerings, you should:

  • Thoroughly understand your client's pain points, marketing goals, and what they expect to get out of working with an agency
  • Have the right agency tools in place to deliver results
  • Have a marketing agency report set up to share campaign results with clients

Our How to Start an Agency Course provides a deeper dive into how to develop your agency's core service offerings, so that you can delight clients with exceptional customer service, while also remaining profitable as an agency.

Setting Up Your Marketing Agency Legally and Financially

Setting up your agency legally and financially can feel overwhelming with seemingly never-ending requirements and processes. Regardless, it is necessary to invest adequate time and money to make sure you are not putting your agency's legal status at risk. We have a full module in our How to Start an Agency Course dedicated to this,  but here's a snapshot of what's required:

  • Deciding your business type (S-corp, LLC, etc.) and how this might affect your taxes
  • Acquiring an EIN number
  • Choosing where you should register your business
  • Acquiring business licenses and insurance in your chosen state of operation
  • Staying compliant with state employment laws
  • Opening a business bank account and following all state and federal tax laws

Some of our recommended software for simplifying legal and operational processes include:

  • Stripe Atlas, which helps you incorporate your startup online in your agency's state of operation
  • Ramp, a corporate card and finance automation platform.
  • Mercury, a banking service tailored for startups

As part of our agency course, we will show you all the software and 20+ agency tool templates we use.

Finding Your First Clients

Once you legally establish your agency, the next step is promotion. Your marketing efforts should be tailored to attract your ideal client profile by focusing on providing a solution for their unique needs. To find your first clients, start by leveraging your professional network and reach out to people you've worked with, or for, to offer up your agency services.

Having a portfolio of work that demonstrates your skills and expertise is pretty important to build client trust. If you don't have past experience to display, you can build a portfolio by doing work for friends, family, or professional connections free of charge.

If you know someone that owns their own business and is looking for help but are unable to afford your services, try collaborating with them! You can offer your marketing services for free and build your portfolio. In exchange, they can refer your marketing agency to their network, or advertise your agency inside their business at the checkout or a community bulletin board, for example. 

Also, be on the lookout for agency request-for-proposals (RFPs). Businesses looking to hire a marketing agency will sometimes post proposals on job boards like Indeed and Upwork

You can also use our Agency RFP template to easily be prepared for future projects.

Image of our Agency RFP template, which you can find on Slam's Products and Resources page!

Establish an Online Presence and Utilize Effective Marketing Strategies

In our increasingly digital world, establishing a strong brand identity and online presence is hugely important for any business, but especially a digital marketing agency.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to "hire" yourself and use your own services to boost brand awareness, site traffic, and ultimately, generate leads. 

Apply the strategies you use to assist your clients in enhancing online visibility, such as selecting high-intent keywords for SEO and developing and distributing blog content optimized for these keywords, to improve your search engine ranking.

Having a strong social media presence is also key to standing out in a competitive market.  Make sure to create agency social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Tools  like Canva can help you  create beautiful images and infographics to post, and SproutSocial and iconosquare may help with scheduling out social media posts in advance across different platforms.

A picture of the social media scheduling platform, iconosquare

You can also run targeted, lead-generation campaigns using Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads by creating audiences that have your ideal client's demographics, job title, or work for relevant companies. 

Once you draw these clients to a landing page on your site, you can offer "freebies," like an ebook or whitepaper, in exchange for their contact information. This allows them to enter your sales funnel, and you can nurture them with email marketing campaigns that provide helpful industry expertise and promote agency offerings.

Check out some of these effective templates to market your agency confidently:

Assembling a Talented Team

The success of any good marketing agency relies on a talented team. Depending on the type of agency you set up, you might need to hire content writers, video editors, web developers, or Google Ads specialists. 

You can utilize networks like LinkedIn to target professionals in your industry and draw top candidates with similar titles and roles. Tools like Upwork and Fiverr are great resources if you would rather hire freelancers than full-time employees.

Here are some key facets to consider during the hiring process to find the best talent:

  1. Make sure you are looking for individuals that are aligned with your brand values and goals as an agency
  2. Prioritize cultural fit to ensure your marketing team works cohesively
  3. Hire individuals who are eager to learn and grow, contributing to the team’s professional development
  4. Encourage team innovation by allowing members to experiment with new ideas, enhancing the quality of work provided to clients

If you need help figuring out how to find top talent for your agency, our How to Start an Agency Course will guide you on the art of finding candidates that are capable of providing concrete results and data-driven approaches to achieve your client's marketing goals.

Selecting the Right Tools and Technologies

To provide high-quality SEO services, a digital marketing agency must have access to a range of tools and technologies. Some essential analytics tools include:

These tools are helpful for tracking keyword rankings, auditing technical SEO, and providing insights to improve a client's site rankings and organic traffic.

In addition to SEO and analytics tools, keep in mind that project management is just as important to set up and operate a successful marketing agency. Having a suite of agency tools to help manage client meetings, track ongoing tasks and deliverables, and organize key documents and agency onboarding processes can streamline your workflow and save you time.

Project management software like Notion and Airtable that are equipped with task tracking, collaboration tools, and reports can play a pivotal role in your agency’s operational efficiency. 

Tools like Slack and Loom can help streamline your client communications and cut-out unnecessary meetings. With these tools and technologies at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to deliver exceptional marketing services.

We've also created several templates to help you manage client projects:

Scaling Your Marketing Agency

After establishing your agency, building a talented team, and delivering exceptional services, the next step is scaling up. Successfully scaling a marketing agency requires:

  • Implementing and streamlining agency onboarding processes and systems 
  • Hiring the right people to manage those systems
  • Focusing on growth within profitable niches
  • Acquiring more clients via targeted social media campaigns, email campaigns, and ads

Additionally, forming strategic partnerships with other businesses can open avenues for shared opportunities and resources, contributing to your agency’s growth and exposure. Our How to Start an Agency course also provides you access to an online community of entrepreneurs and agency founders, helping you form partnerships with like-minded organizations. Remember, scaling isn’t just about growing bigger, it’s about growing smarter.

Measuring Success and Adapting to Industry Trends

Part of the scaling process is making sure your agency is staying on top of industry trends. Given the fast-paced evolution of the digital marketing industry, staying on top of new trends and tools helps you maintain an edge over your competitors. Here are some key steps to help you stay ahead: 

  1. Monitor your marketing performance by analyzing user metrics from platforms like Google Analytics
  2. Collect customer feedback to gain insights into their needs and preferences
  3. Evaluate market trends to adapt to industry growth and embrace technological advancements
  4. Respond to shifts in consumer behavior to stay relevant and meet their changing demands

Staying on top of industry trends and monitoring the competition are important for your agency to stay ahead of the curve. By following these steps, you can ensure that your agency stays competitive and achieves success in the digital marketing landscape.  

If You’re an Aspiring Agency Founder, Slam is Here to Help

At Slam, we understand firsthand the hustle it takes to start a marketing agency, which is why we want to help you work smarter, not harder. Our How to Start an Agency course can help you set up and grow your marketing agency so you can swiftly expand your client base and become a multi-million dollar business.

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