Year End Planning for your Creative Agency

With the end of the year right around the corner, creative agencies are starting to assess their past year and plan for the one ahead.

An important part of year-end planning is identifying what worked for your agency and what your goals are for the next year. Do you want to gain more clients or increase your business with existing clients? Is your team spending too much time on internal projects and processes, or not enough? These questions guide you through the planning process.

After reading this blog, you’ll understand which questions you should ask yourself in order to plan for a successful next year of business.

Review Your Retainer Budgets

There are many reasons why retainer clients are a staple of any profitable agency. They lay the groundwork for a partnership to form between agency and business, trade short-term results for long-term success, and provide a reliable source of income each year. Right now, the value of retainer accounts is at an all-time high.

Many agencies have their retainer contracts expire at the end of each year. Now is the time to sit down with those on your team who are working with the client and figure out a budget that makes sense for both sides. Ask your team what they felt worked, what they felt didn’t, and what new strategies and initiatives they believe would help the client.

If you’re asking for a larger budget than previous years, provide proof from old reports and campaign breakdowns that clearly demonstrate the value you’ve brought to their business. It’s also a good time to make sure you aren’t over servicing clients and hurting your overall profitability. Even clients who you have a strong relationship with may be reluctant to open their wallet at first. By reminding them the value you continually bring to them will make them more open to larger budgets.

What Kind of Projects Do You Want to Work on?

We’ve written in previous blogs about the importance of identifying your most and least profitable types of projects. The new year is a great opportunity to shift your focus towards acquiring new work that you and your team are excited to work on, and that will be profitable for your agency.

Using your agency management software, you can identify your most profitable projects by type and develop a strategy to acquire more of that type of work, either by adding new clients to your roster or expanding your commitment with existing ones.

Head into the new year with a goal about how many clients or types of projects you would like to work on next year. For example, if you’re a design agency specializing in branding and website design, with most of your profits coming from branding projects, set a goal to bring in more branding work and reduce your focus on web design.

Is Your Agency Ready for Change?

This year taught us the importance of flexibility.

A common strategy is to sit down with the creatives in your agency and identify industry trends. What design styles are popular right now, which types of content do people consume, which styles of videos/email/blog perform the best.

These conversations can be helpful. It’s important to make sure your agency is staying up-to-date with trends—you don’t want to create work that looks like a relic of the past (unless vintage is the style of the day). However, be careful that these conversations focus on current trends and don’t try to predict future ones. It’s impossible to know what will be in vogue eight months from now. Change can occur without warning, making even the best plans look foolish.

More important than predicting how your industry will change is setting up your business to be flexible enough to accommodate change. For example, few agency owners would’ve predicted in December of 2019 that the majority of their work would be done remotely. Yet that is what happened. The agencies that succeeded in this shift were not necessarily the ones who predicted distributed work and virtual events to be core aspects of 2020, but the ones that were quickly able to put the processes in place to accommodate such a change.

At the end of this year, ask yourself if your agency has the tools and resources in place to adapt to unforeseen changes. If the industry standard changes or new content styles become popular, do you have the ability to meet the new demand?

Final Thoughts

The start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect on the successes and struggles your agency has been through. It’s a chance to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to change going forward. By taking the time to deliberately plan your next year’s activities, you’ll be able to head into the holiday season knowing your agency is set up to succeed.

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