Whether you’re a seasoned agency pro or just beginning your journey as a freelancer, attracting and retaining new clients can be an unceasing task.
In this article, we’ve distilled key industry insights from the 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report, made exclusively for agencies and freelancers and filled with industry feedback from marketers worldwide.
We’ll also explore 3 approaches that can help enhance your ability to land new business: the benefits of having a business plan, the power of specialization, and the importance of saying ‘no’ to misaligned ventures.
Dive in as we share tips that can help increase your chances of landing your next major endeavor in 2024 and beyond.
Having a Business Plan
Having a strong growth plan is one of the most valuable things you can do for your agency or business. It’s not only great for your peace of mind—its efficacy is backed up by research, including Mailchimp & Co’s.
In the 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report, surveyed agencies say that they are not where they want to be in terms of planning:
The report revealed that only 22% of agency respondents say they have a clear, written growth plan in place. Additionally, nearly half of respondents say that while they have some defined objectives, they don’t have a detailed plan.
What explains this discrepancy? It could be an effect of the changing business landscape, which has made long-term planning more complicated. It could be a consequence of agency owners and freelancers feeling stretched too thin, and spending more time on administrative tasks than they would like.
The causes are likely numerous, but their solutions are the same, and backed by insights contained in this year’s report: Agencies who report having a written business plan also reported an increase in revenue of 26% or more.
Hone in on a Specialty
Research from the report also indicates that respondents’ clients are willing to pay top dollar to work with specialists. In fact, agency respondents who say they have a specialty are almost 3 times more likely to generate revenue gains of 26% or higher than respondents who say they don’t have a specialization. Therefore, creating a business plan can help you identify a specialization, or, at the very least, assist you in figuring out how to more effectively market your existing specialization to prospective clients.
The Fear of Saying ‘No’
Data from this year’s Benchmark Report also revealed that a whopping 60% of agency respondents say they rarely or never turn down projects that aren’t the right fit. The assumption driving this pattern is that every project, no matter how ill-suited, can be a stepping stone to success. But is that true?
Responding agency owners say they fear turning down work will lead to a reduction in revenue. And that makes sense, seeing as ‘saying no’ could mean missing out on potential income streams, client relationships, and ultimately, a potential steady flow of projects. But this hesitation isn’t merely about numbers on a ledger; it’s about the essence of running an agency.
For agency owners, ‘saying no’ can understandably feel like balancing the scales between immediate financial gain and long-term sustainability. In other words, you might decline a project that helps pay the bills today but puts you at risk of burnout or compromised quality tomorrow. On a deeper level, confronting the fear of turning down work and actually going through with it can mean running the risk that your agency fades into obscurity.
Contrary to agency behavior, saying “no” strategically can help catapult your marketing business to new heights. In fact, insights outlined in this year’s Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report uncovered a surprising revelation—those who report setting professional boundaries by saying “no” were more likely to double their chances of growing their revenue, compared to those who say they rarely decline work.
A Strategy for Success
Now, let’s delve into a possible strategy for saying “no.” Every agency owner should strive to feel more comfortable (and confident) turning down or passing off opportunities that don’t align with their vision. While it’s easier said than done, it’s a skill that can make all the difference.
Defining Your Ideal Client
Getting comfortable with saying “no” begins with defining your ideal client. Imagine you’re working with clients who align with your agency’s vision and values. What characteristics make them a dream to work with? Is it their industry passion, their collaborative spirit, or their innovative problem-solving approach?
69% of agency respondents from the report say that client enjoyability is their top criteria. For another 50%, it’s about potential profitability, while 49% say they value the potential for repeat work. Clearly, there’s more to a successful working relationship than managing client expectations and earning a paycheck.
Marti Kerner, Mailchimp pro partner and founder of Spring Ahead Media Solutions, shared who her ideal clients are and what makes them preferable to other clients.
“Collaboration is so important. I want to work with clients who understand what makes their businesses valuable; clients who know their limitations and value my expertise. I don’t necessarily need to learn every detail of every business and they don’t need to know the latest email marketing trends. So long as they have a vision of their own, I can help execute it.”
Identifying the Wrong Fit
The next step in the art of saying “no” is learning how to identify the wrong fit. This could be a project that doesn’t align with your areas of expertise or a client whose values clash with your agency’s mission; your workload might be at capacity, or you might know someone in your network who would be a better fit. Maybe you simply don’t connect with the product or service being offered. No matter the reason, recognizing these misalignments—and acting accordingly—has the power to help you preserve your resources for the right opportunities.
Having the Confidence to Say ‘no’—and Actually Saying it
Once you’ve identified the wrong fit, it’s time to cultivate the confidence to actually set your boundaries and decline. Having a crystal-clear vision of your ideal client and projects can help you find this sense of assurance. Crafting a personable, honest, and straightforward message that helps you decline an offering while maintaining a positive relationship, is crucial.
The 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report isn’t just a collection of data—it’s an invaluable roadmap to success, providing actionable, tailored industry insights.
If this article resonated with you, sign up for Mailchimp & Co—Mailchimp’s global partner program for agencies and freelancers. By joining, you can access exclusive resources, tools, and perks, all enabling you to confidently say ‘yes’ to a brighter, more prosperous future.