Ad agencies and marketing firms sell planning as a service to their clients, and promote its benefits as only true converts can. But agencies suffer from split personalities when it comes to turning that advice around and applying it to their own businesses.
“Planning, schmanning,” you mutter as you hurry to the next new business pitch or client meeting. “Business is great, cash flow is good, employees just got a raise—planning can wait.”
Every day, you and your employees run hard to get the work done. You run so hard, in fact, that many of you never get the time to sit down and think about where you want the business to go in the long term.
And your agency business plan never gets written.
Business planning is a critical success factor for most agencies, especially as they grow from a few wear-many-hats people to larger, more structured staffs and more demanding clients. On almost every consulting assignment, I ask to see the agency’s business plan, and almost without fail, they say, “Plan? What plan? We wing it and we’re doing just fine.” (So explain to me again why you need a consultant…?)
My new theory is that you all want to do business planning, but you need help getting started. So here we are, armed with a useful agency business plan outline.
Your comprehensive agency business plan should consist of:
- An executive summary
- A table of contents
- An agency description
- Your brand positioning and/or unique selling proposition -- What you do, how you do it, what makes your agency “different”
- Your situation/market/competitive analysis
- Your agency marketing/new business plan
- Your operations plan
- Your financial plan and pro forma
- Other goals and objectives for the year
- The conclusion
Do your due diligence in research and data analysis. Then call a meeting of the entire agency to discuss and solicit employee comments and opinions. Individual departments can bring goals for the coming year to the table, and a list of requirements that will help them meet their goals. Employee input is critical, as their buy-in and active support will be needed to execute the plan.
Appoint a smaller group to draft the plan, incorporating all comments from the meeting, your research and other analytical reports. Review it and make final adjustments, then present it to the full agency for their final comments.
An agency business plan gives you objectives to shoot for, a good idea of costs and needs, whether you have the necessary personnel, what new clients you would like to work for and how to make your current clients more profitable—in fact, every aspect of your agency’s operations can be examined and reconfigured to attain future success. You make the plan, then work the plan.
Think about it: your agency could have another good year, OR, you could work your plan to achieve a really great year. Which will you choose?
See an example of a yearly agency business plan.