Building a successful business from the ground up is no small feat. However, scaling a business into a seven-figure enterprise is a completely different ball game altogether.
According to a report, only 22% of startups have achieved true scalability in the last decade. So, how could these startups scale while others struggled to find their footing?
As the founder of a PR agency that defied the odds, I learned firsthand that reaching the seven-figure mark requires more than just a passion for communication and storytelling. It demands careful planning, strategic thinking, innovative approaches, and a relentless drive to stand out in a competitive industry.
So how did I scale my PR agency to a coveted seven-figure powerhouse? In this article, I will share six key strategies I’ve used so far. So let’s dive in.
1. Develop a niche focus
When I started my PR agency twelve years ago, it was just me and two other teammates with an undying passion for PR. We shared a tiny office in Leeds. I was eager to take on any client in any industry. But I soon realized that was a mistake. To scale and truly stand out, I needed to niche down.
So, instead of trying to cater to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, I identified a specific target market where I could excel and establish my expertise clearly. We chose the higher education, retail, and food and drink sectors where our experience and passions lie. This choice paid off.
By focusing on a niche, we were able to:
- Position the agency as an industry expert by creating specific valuable content, speaking at PR conferences, and hosting free marketing webinars. Becoming a thought leader in my niche boosted my reputation and ability to attract high-profile clients.
- Build a tailored portfolio of successful campaigns to advertise my business. This made it easier to attract new clients through referrals and word-of-mouth from the same niche.
- Create tailored pitch templates, media lists, and outreach strategies for my target audience.
- Most importantly, I could charge more premium rates for our PR services because of the reputation and authority we had built. This significantly impacted our revenue and profit margins.
To ensure long-term success, we developed a comprehensive one-page business plan (because nobody wants to read long documents) outlining our long-term vision, goals, growth strategies, and key performance indicators (KPIs). This plan served as a roadmap to guide my agency's growth and allowed us to stay focused on achieving tangible results.
2. Expand into new geographies
While we had established a solid reputation within our local market, we knew that true growth would come from expanding into new geographies. This strategic thinking allowed us to tap into whole new pools of clients and larger markets. However, it required time, money, and patience.
The key to scaling a business is starting small, doing your homework, building genuine connections, and not being afraid to take calculated risks. For starters, you can do your research or hire dedicated business development managers to help prospect in target markets.
Here are some quick pointers for you.
- Focus on one new city at a time. Don't spread yourself too thin by trying to expand into five new places at once. Start with the location where you see the most potential or opportunity. Build up your client base there before moving on to the next target.
- Research emerging markets by connecting with local businesses, attending industry events, and partnering with local influencers. This will help you understand cultural nuances and communication preferences in each region.
By embracing diversity and tailoring your services to cater to different cultural contexts, you can position your agency as a trusted partner for clients worldwide.
Overall, expanding into new geographies requires a flexible mindset and willingness to adjust your strategies to suit the local market. My advice would be: don’t scale too fast. Between 20-30% per year is doing brilliantly. The industry average for PR is 15%, so you are certainly punching if you are better than this.
3. Invest in technology
Clients expect agencies to be at the forefront of technological advancements. We recognized this early on and invested in cutting-edge tools and software that streamlined our internal processes and efficiency.
We adopted social media management tools to monitor, track and analyze our client’s mentions across print, broadcast, and online platforms like social media. We used a press release distribution service to get our clients’ news in front of journalists. Leveraging influencer outreach tools helped us discover and connect with industry influencers.
With technology, the possibilities are endless. You can also jump on the ongoing AI rave to generate ideas and optimize your marketing strategy. With AI writing tools like ChatGPT, you can generate insightful templates for blog posts, press releases, client reports, and more.
Leverage technology to track your finances and profits. Maintain a thorough understanding of your agency's financial health. Regularly analyze revenue growth, expenses, cash flow, and profitability to identify areas for improvement. This will help you make informed business decisions at all times.
By embracing the latest innovations, we boosted our team's productivity, improved client satisfaction, and gained a competitive edge in the industry.
4. Focus on client retention and referrals
At Prohibition PR, we understand that client retention and referrals are not just vanity metrics. They are the lifeblood of any successful PR agency. It's not just about acquiring new clients; it's about building lasting relationships that enforce customer loyalty.
Our secret sauce? We went above and beyond to truly understand our client's pain points and implement strategies to solve them. Although maximizing profit was one of my long-term goals, we focused more on offering genuine value. I did my best to ensure we could provide exceptional client service, consistently deliver results, and foster long-lasting relationships. This is not easy to do, but it’s so important.
But it doesn't stop there. We encouraged our clients to refer us to potential customers, significantly boosting our business growth. We also use referral programs to incentivize and strengthen our bond with clients. This approach improved our client retention rate and referral network. With time, our customer base increased, and so did our profit margins.
Overall, maintain open communication with clients, address customer feedback, and manage expectations from the beginning to ensure a smooth process. Then, evaluate success by monitoring new client acquisitions, revenue growth, and satisfaction.
5. Hire and develop top talent
Building a strong team is crucial when scaling a business.
At Prohibition PR, we looked beyond the resumes and focused on hiring professionals who shared our agency's vision and values. We leveraged Linkedin and referrals to find employees who were not only experts in their respective fields but also possessed the skill sets and ability to inspire and motivate others.
We invested heavily in ongoing training and leadership development opportunities to retain top talent. This also helped update employees on industry trends and thought-leadership activities. Moreover, we provided crisis management training to equip leaders with the skills to handle crisis situations effectively.
We encouraged autonomy and trust among team members to facilitate seamless task delegation. Each employee has a clearcut role so they always know exactly what to do. For instance, our marketing manager works with no clients – they just build our lead funnel.
Foster cross-department collaboration and open communication through regular meetings. Lastly, hire leaders who embrace diversity and promote inclusion.
By surrounding myself with skilled professionals, I could delegate responsibilities, focus on strategic growth initiatives, and ensure that my agency maintained a high-quality standard.
6. Implement strategic partnerships and network
Strategic partnerships are crucial to scaling any agency. Collaborations can help you expand your services and access new networks, allowing you to attract high-profile clients.
In 2021, we partnered with the renowned Northern Powerhouse - a collection of esteemed businesses in northern England. The partnership established us as experts in our field and caught the attention of big-shot clients who were eager to work with us.
Think beyond the PR industry for partnerships. Look, too, for businesses offering complementary services. For example, you can partner with solicitors, event management, and enterprise SaaS SEO agencies. These partnerships would be mutually beneficial, allowing both parties to leverage each other's strengths and deliver exceptional client results.
Make sure you measure the impact of your partnership initiatives afterward so you’ll know whether or not they’re worth continuing.
You need to stay up-to-date with changes in the PR landscape for continued success. That’s why networking with peers is also important. Don’t just follow industry publications like PR Week. Attend conferences like AMEC to stay ahead of the curve and adapt your strategies accordingly.
Connect with other agency owners, journalists, and local organizations as well. Set up intro calls and grab coffee with anyone who will meet with you. Many of our first clients in new cities came through personal connections.
Share your electronic business card with other attendees to create memorable connections and showcase your agency's value. Digital tools like Beaconstac help you create electronic business cards that reflect your branding. Plus, these cards save you printing costs.
There you have it. Those are the key tactics that transformed my PR agency from a humble startup to a seven-figure success story. By focusing on a niche, expanding into new areas, investing in tech, focusing on client retention and referrals, hiring and developing top talent, and forming strategic partnerships and networking, you have a roadmap for scaling your PR agency.
Remember, scaling a business–in this case, a PR agency—takes time and persistence. You need to be patient, remain focused on your goals, and continuously seek opportunities for improvement.
With the right strategies, your PR agency can achieve remarkable financial milestones and become an influential player in the industry.