My take on... The Seven Digital Agency Sins

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by David Prior

This week Mark Appleton, managing director of The Agency Advantage, outlines his seven deadly sins for every digital agency to be aware of.

There are Seven Deadly Sins - pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed - that date back thousands of years.

We can take this principle of the Seven Deadly Sins and apply them to a variety of businesses too. In this case, we're applying them to digital agencies. There are obviously more than seven sins agencies make and not everyone may agree with the seven I've selected below.

appletonFrom my experience, however, having been through growth, downsizing and administration with agencies of all shapes and sizes, I can tell you these seven are sins I've seen cause many a downfall.

          1. Scope Creep
            Not having a clear and concise definition of what is being delivered helps no-one and will lead to the scope of the project growing as your profit margin shrinks. Both you and your client should be clear from the start on the scope of the project and what happens if things deviate from that scope.
          2. Under Estimating
            Estimating can be a major headache for some agencies. Not estimating correctly from the start is a surefire way to ensure your profit won't be there at the end. As much as possible, get the people who will be doing the work to provide the estimates and follow the 'measure twice, cut once' proverb. Check and double-check estimates before they go to clients.
          3. Over Servicing
            Whilst over-servicing is a lovely element to provide to a client, it comes at a cost to your profits. Over-servicing is simply another name for providing things for free. You can't get that time back and you can't get paid retrospectively for it either. Be clear about your level of service, set the precedent from the start. There are ways to service clients and keep them feeling loved without it hitting your margins.
          4. Late Payments
            Allowing clients to take all the time they want to pay for your hard work and services is lovely, but does nothing to help your cash flow. Be firm but nice, get paid on your terms. Make sure you and your clients are clear when payments are due. Send polite reminders that a payment will be due soon and get the names and numbers of the accounts department.
          5. Invoicing Schedules
            When you invoice for work is as important as when you actually get the money into your bank account. Get it wrong, and you are living hand-to-mouth each month, get it right and it's happy days. Ensure schedules are arranged to enable you to get paid for the work you know is coming up and don't forget to take into account payment terms and contingency.
          6. Selectiveness
            Being too particular over which jobs you take, or the opposite, is a clear way to dent your profit and reputation. Know your strengths and play to them. There will come a time when you simply have to turn a job away; whether it's a capacity issue, business fit or the numbers simply don't add up, don't be afraid to say no. Equally, make certain you know how to check that a job can be profitable before you start.
          7. Not Asking for Help
            We all need a little help from time-to-time. Knowing when to ask for help, and being strong enough to do so before it is too late, shows true leadership. How many times do we hear about an agency getting into trouble or folding and how many times is it a surprise? If only they'd asked for help, they'd have found plenty of people who had been through the same thing only too happy to provide advice.

To give your take on a particular issue or subject, contact david@prolificnorth.co.uk