As your advertising agency grows and your media buying team expands beyond a few founding members, you’ll inevitably experience growing pains. Excel-based media buying processes start to break down. Emergencies occur more frequently. Putting out fires becomes a daily activity. If not handled properly, these will tear your agency apart.

As your agency enters the next phase of its lifecycle, you will start to notice these five signs your agency has grown beyond its capacity:

  1. Increased mistakes.
  2. Decreased work quality.
  3. Decreased productivity.
  4. Increased irritability.
  5. Decreased job satisfaction.

If you observe these signs at your agency, don’t be alarmed. They are natural indicators of your agency’s growth. In fact, if you’re not experiencing these problems, you should be concerned about your growth trajectory.

I’ve worked with hundreds of agencies and they all face these growing pains as they level up. What separates success from failure in reaching the next level is how you deal with these critical issues.

Option 1: Employ the M-TWAN Methodology

The last thing you want to focus on when growing your agency is operations. It’s just not sexy. Maybe it’s a bit of procrastination or complacency, but you decide to defer solving operational problems until after reaching scale. After all, you’ve gotten this far operating this way. It’s much more exhilarating to chase new business.  So, you ignore internal problems while jetting around pitching new clients.

Meanwhile, discontent is festering within the agency.

When you return from the pitch, you find the mess of problems has grown. The natural reflex is to blame your team and a perceived lack of effort. You might even lose your temper because of your frustration and exasperation from lack of sleep. Now the agency morale is in the toilet and the team is even less productive than before.

To solve these problems, you force your team to work nights and weekends without extra pay. This is euphemistically known as the M-TWAN methodology, which is an acronym for Make Them Work All Night. You don’t feel remorse because you remember having to pay your dues when you got started in the agency world.

Unsurprisingly, the M-TWAN approach demoralizes the staff even further. Members of your A-team quit for better working conditions. You might even justify their departures as a fault of “not being able to hack it” instead of recognizing the true underlying problems.

Maybe it’s time to stop blaming your people and start blaming your process.

Option 2: Reform Your Media Buying Process

A more constructive way to address these problems is to fix it at the source. It’s time to recognize that the flimsy Excel-based media buying process you’ve been using since day one won’t scale beyond a small team. You can’t blame your team when the process guarantees mistakes. Finally, you correctly conclude you must reform the media buying process to fix the root cause of the problems.

Reforming your media buying process requires a concentrated effort. It requires vision and leadership. It requires retooling with new systems and procedures. It requires retraining the staff. It requires tenacity and diligence in working through the transition. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

If you’re up to the challenge and everyone is properly motivated, your transformation will pay big dividends.

A Better Media Buying System

A concrete result of your media buying process reform is a better media buying system that includes:

This new media buying system improves efficiency and eliminates mistakes through automation. It increases work quality by enforcing agency standards. It eliminates confusion with a centralized media buying database.

A Happier, More Productive Media Buying Team

A soft result of your media buying process reform is a happier agency. They’ll appreciate that you’ve recognized the problem is not bad people, but a bad process. With the focus directed towards solving the problems, not punishing the bystanders, the dark cloud over their head starts to clear up.

Your media buying team will be happier because they spend less time copying and pasting from Excel, fixing mistakes, and performing grunt work. They can now focus their time and energy on high-level work like strategic planning and optimization of the media plans.

This is a big win for everyone: your team, your agency, and your clients.

A More Scalable Advertising Agency

The most significant result of your media buying process reform is a more scalable advertising agency. With your new media buying process in place, your agency is now poised to reach the next level of success because:

  • You have the systems in place to compete with much bigger agencies in winning new business pitches.
  • You have the procedures in place to quickly onboard new employees.
  • You have the standards in place to consistently deliver exceptional advertising results without error.

This means you can take on new business and more revenue while simultaneously increasing profits without sacrificing the quality of work or level of service. This creates a virtuous circle that gives you the resources you need to fuel even more profitable growth.

What’s Your Next Move?

Is your agency experiencing these growing pains? Are you ready to move to the next level? Bionic Advertising Systems can help you elevate your agency to the premier league.

“This is Fine” image credit: K. C. Green