Does a Digital Agency need a Strategy?

“Does a fish need a bicycle?” was one of those senseless Eighties phrases. But, “Does a Digital Agency need a Strategy?” is far from senseless. And the answer is YES in big capitals. After all “If you don’t know where you’re going then any road will do.”

My experience is that agencies talk about the ‘strategy’ word with clients but rarely succeed in doing their own strategy properly. Ironic that. As a result, their development and growth is relatively random and piecemeal. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most agencies create plans they rarely deliver on; the big plan (if they have one in the first place!) has little to do with the day-to-day running of the agency. It has little to do with anything concrete or real but somewhere, someone said that strategy is a good thing and that is why most end up doing it. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Creating a strategy for your agency can be and should be a simple yet powerful way to set up your agency for the coming year(s). It comprises of three apparently simple questions:

  • “Where are we now?”
  • “Where are we going?”
  • “How are we going to get there?”

An additional question would be:

  • “How are we going to measure and monitor our performance to make sure we stay on track (or take the necessary evasive action)?”

The essence, the DNA, of the strategy needs to be articulated in a short, succinct statement. One that everyone can understand. One that everyone gets and can buy into.

Please, no nonsense platitudes like:

  • “maximise shareholder value by exceeding customer expectations while respecting the environment.”

So, what is your agency’s strategy?

Strategies that agencies create, and actually believe in and deliver on, are composed of three elements:

  1. Objective(s) – A single precise statement
  2. Scope – Encompasses the customer or service offering, the location and position in the market
  3.  Advantage – Sustainable competitive advantage (in other words, ‘being different from or better than the rest and being able to maintain that position’) is the essence of strategy, so it should be no surprise that advantage is the most critical aspect of a strategy statement and comprises your customer value proposition and your unique activities.

“How then should an agency go about crafting its strategy statement?” That is the question. “How to create something that has meaning and actually impacts on the future of the business?”

An article like this cannot cover all the detail.

However, just think about questions like:

“Why should people bother to buy from us?” and “What makes us different from the rest?” as a starting point.

The first step is an analysis of pressures and changes and their impact on the agency.

The clever bit is to find a sweet spot where your capabilities (what you are good at) and the opportunities and demand match each other. Not so easy for an agency. However, just because it is difficult to do doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Here are some simple examples:

“To grow to 75 staff within three years offering bespoke, relevant digital services (“payment-by-results, digital marketing on a rope”) to increase the profitability of mid-tier UK accounting practices with few IT/Web resources.”

“To hit 25/25; 25/25k; 250/250* in 36m: working with M25-based medium-sized** service businesses needing customer acquisition and consultancy campaigns to fuel their growth. Been-there-done-it marketing experts that deliver.”

* 25% net profit with 25 people; 25 clients paying £25,000pa; 250 paying £250pm

**£5m-200m turnover

“Million turnover by Year 3; guru-led digital campaigns for edgy, young SW businesses needing more than just another full service agency. New best friend with a black book to die for.” 


We can argue about the wording but these examples give you a feel and a flavour.


Write down your agency’s strategy statement now, if you have one. If not, create one, a first draft.

Strategy is planning while being aware of the outside environment. Strategy is also about making your mistakes on paper! All the research shows that companies that put strategy writing and developing at the heart of their business are more likely to be successful. Don’t you want to be part of that crowd? What we are talking about is working ON your business and not becoming a busy fool by working IN all the time.

I am regularly asked if there is a secret to business success and the answer is YES. Successful agencies are obsessed with Strategy, Marketing and Teams. Most agencies cannot even define what a strategy is, never mind actually have one! What are you going to do about it.