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If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that plans can go awry!

Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to get much easier for agencies in 2021. Many clients may have more restrictive budgets. Some will have been forced to downsize. Others will, unfortunately, simply cease trading.

So, how can you come out the other side of 2021 in a stronger position?

Here are some of the things to bear in mind…

How to set yourself apart from the competition…by doing less

You’re probably familiar with the Pareto principle – the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

Even if you’re a multi-service production agency that offers video, SEO, copywriting, PPC, social media, web design and email marketing services…you’ll likely find that a large percentage of your revenue comes from one or two services.

It can be tempting in times of trouble to try and spread yourself as wide as possible, to try and bring in as many clients as possible by promoting every service you offer.

The trouble with this approach is that you’ll inevitably end up with some clients that aren’t really right for your agency, and you won’t end up delivering optimum results as a consequence.

Instead, consider taking the opposite approach: focus more and more on the one or two services that bring you your best clients and your best results.

If you focus on becoming the market leader in one or two specialties rather than a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, you can separate yourself from the hundreds of other agencies scrambling for clients in a very uncertain world.

We’re not suggesting, of course, that you stop doing the other tasks and looking after your lower priority clients. This is a false economy, to say the least.

We’re simply saying that when it comes to building your business and attracting new clients…focus on what brings you your biggest returns and your best results.

How to plan your finances for a big ‘win-win’ in 2021

It’s pretty standard for agencies – and, indeed, all businesses – to use last year’s finances as a guide to what they might achieve in the next twelve months.

Needless to say, you can forget about doing this for 2021! Just as we couldn’t see last year coming…there’s no predicting how the coming twelve months will go.

Unfortunately, many businesses have doubtless taken the news of a Covid-19 vaccine as a sign that everything’s about to go ‘back to normal’. They may even have returned their spending to pre-pandemic levels.

Don’t make the same mistake.

There are still a lot of uncertainties in place:

  • The ongoing shifts in workplace culture and remote working
  • Further Covid-19 lockdowns
  • New policy changes made by the Biden administration
  • The impact of Covid-19 on sectors like retail and hospitality

The simple fact is that – whatever you believe politically – all of these issues have the potential to impact your clients and, as a result, your agency.

That’s why we recommend fiscal caution in 2021 and beyond.

It’s worth keeping as much cash in reserves as you can. Avoid expensive promotion strategies and instead, focus on consolidating your position. Deliver as much as you can for your existing clients in the meantime.

It’s likely you’ll lose a client or two through no fault of your own, so make sure you’re fiscally able to absorb these losses, and keep building up those reserves of capital.

This is a win-win strategy.

Even if we’re wrong and everything does go back to normal, by building up your cash reserves in the meantime, you’ll be in a stronger position to promote hard when business starts to boom again.

This applies to strategy, too…

Don’t go overboard when setting goals

In normal situations, you want to stretch your staff and yourself. To push to try and over-achieve, and to go to the limit of what you’re capable of.

This year…it’s wise to err on the side of caution.

By all means try to grow, and to progress. But be conservative and recognize that the business opportunities in 2021 aren’t going to be normal. (Right now, we have no way of knowing if ‘normal’ as we understand it will ever return!)

Right now, businesses all over the world are going bust as a result of the fallout from the pandemic. Understand that the most important thing you can do is help your current clients thrive, while ensuring that your agency remains robust.

How to attract the best staff by taking care of your existing team

Having a strong team culture is important in normal circumstances. In 2021, it’ll be vital.

It’s hard to keep people totally happy right now. There are a lot of legitimate worries to go around, from job stability to family health.

If you can, try to make employee wellness a key part of your 2021 plan. There are any number of ways to try and make your staff feel more valuable and involved, even when remotely:

  • Additional performance bonuses or rewards
  • Subsidized career development and training
  • Free workplace counselling
  • More flexibility in terms of hours
  • Online social events

Even something as simple as sending gifts to the home of your employees to make them feel valued can make a huge difference!

Put simply, the best employees – the ones you rely on – will remember how they were treated when things were tough. In future, they’re more likely to remain loyal to you, even if they have the chance to move to a different role.

This could continue to pay off for years to come. In future, you will have a better reputation as a great place to work…giving you the opportunity to attract more top talent!

Negotiate your way to a bigger profit margin

You have an opportunity to ensure that even if you don’t take on many additional clients, your agency’s profit margins grow in 2021.

How? Because in a time when clients are less freely available, you have the time to go through your own financial outgoings to see where you can improve things.

If you can cut down your own spending by 20%, that could be tens of thousands more a year in profit, which you can use to build up your cash reserves in the event you lose a few clients – again, likely through no fault of your own!

You may be on top of this already if you’re a small operation. However, you might be surprised how fast expenses can grow once you start delegating to your team. Many agencies spend tens of thousands a year on:

  • Software and tools
  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Freelance and consulting staff
  • Insurance
  • Office and workplace

And other expenses.

Some of these costs might be set in stone, of course, but you should make auditing your expenses a key part of your plan in 2021. Remember, suppliers will be struggling, too. They may well be open to offering you a better price in order to keep you as a client.

Alright, hands up. This isn’t a particularly exciting or glamorous task…but it could add a lot of money to your profit margin in 2021 and won’t take a huge amount of time to do.

Imagine giving yourself an extra five figure buffer, just for the sake of a few hours calling round suppliers. It might make the difference between you keeping your best staff, or having the resources to pitch to the right clients at the right time.

Of course, the opportunity for saving money isn’t limited to your essential overheads…

Auditing your process…and how to add resources without paying over the odds

Nearly all agencies have set tasks that need to get done…but that take up the valuable time of staff who – really – are a bit too skilled to be wasting time on them!

What if you could ensure that your smart, creative team members never waste time doing day-to-day tasks, and instead spend all their time on high-value work that brings much more value into the business?

Well, you can. And you don’t have to hire agency staff or junior members to do the less interesting tasks, if you don’t want to.


You might not realize it, but the increase in home working worldwide presents a huge opportunity for agencies, many of whom are now choosing to take advantage of ‘Smartshoring’.

Imagine being able to add all the additional resource your agency needs, but without having to pay anywhere near the amount you would to hire new team members yourself. (Not to mention without having the worry of hiring new people in today’s uncertain business environment.)

And we’re not talking about traditional offshoring. With ‘Smartshoring’, your additional teams can be based anywhere in the world, with client services teams nearby, in the same time zone, and production hubs in lower cost locations.

Essentially, it gives you the chance to maximize the value you get from your own staff, while still ensuring that all of the day-to-day essentials of your agency get done…all without you having to pay full-time staff to take care of it.

If you’d like to know more about ‘Smartshoring’, please get in touch with We Are Amnet today. We’d love to hear from you.

Saskia Johnson

Author Saskia Johnson

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