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  • Ben Fletcher

Top 10 things successful creative agencies do well

We've been working closely with a wide range of creative agencies over the years and have noticed some recurring themes amongst those do really well. We thought we'd share them with you here because we're good like that, plus, everyone loves a listicle!


Huge thanks to the one-and-only David Sharpe, close friend of Generate, for putting the headlines of this list together for us.


  1. They have a plan, and all the owners are working towards that plan. Great agencies have all the owners in alignment on a strategic plan for their business and work consistently towards their goals often using external advisors to keep them on track and accountable.

  2. They know their point of difference (and it’s not about the quality of the work). Finding your niche is really important, being a generalist just doesn't cut it for most agencies. This could be a certain type of service or product you offer, or it could be our next point ...

  3. They develop industry specialisations. If you want to offer a broad range of services (but not too broad!) then have an industry niche could be a way of differentiating your offering and help sharpen your marketing efforts.

  4. They know their capacity and set their prices and hourly rates strategically. The main expense any agency has is wages so it makes sense to critically examine the spend to ensure you're getting a great return on this cost. This means planning, this means timesheets, this means reporting.

  5. They go to war against scope creep. An enemy of the bottom line, successful agencies keep a close eye on time and costs on their jobs to ensure that budgets are being met and clients aren't being over-serviced. One area of exception to this that I've seen work in a particularly great agency client is allowing for some over-servicing by account services staff with a view to generating more new business.

  6. They keep a lid on freelancer costs. Yes, freelancers are less of a commitment than full-time employees, but they have their own margins to worry about which means yours will take a beating. Profitable agencies monitor freelance use closely and hire when the time is right.

  7. They are as good at job management as they are at the creative. This comes back to the point on scope creep - jobs need to be effectively managed if you've got any hope of turning a profit. This means accurate quoting and pricing, timesheets, job oversight, finishing on time and on budget.

  8. They build deep relationships with clients who bring in regular work. Steady ongoing communication with clients yields more work, it's simple, and agencies that are successful do this really well.

  9. They have a sales engine which reliably brings in new leads each month. It is surprising (shocking, perhaps) how many agencies that sell marketing and lead generation services don't have much in the way of a sales engine themselves. There needs to be goals and the strategies to achieve them. Where are the leads coming from? What kind of leads do you need? Who is making the sales?

  10. They manage cash like a boss (and they don’t pay their owners stupid money). Cash flow forecasting and budgeting. Tight terms & conditions in the service agreements. Close debtor management. Staff, including owners, paid market salaries for performing their roles which are clearly defined in position descriptions. Cash is the life-blood of your business, it needs to be treated as such.

  11. Bonus point. They have crystal clear position descriptions, particularly for senior staff, management and the owners. Take every task the business needs to get done to be successful, allocate them amongst the various roles, put measurements in place for each one (KPIs), and just like that, you're off to the races. The value of well-crafted position descriptions cannot be overstated.

Want to get deeper on some of this? We've got a handy ebook which gets into the nitty gritty on a bunch of these subjects and more. Grab your copy here.


Does your agency need a strategic overhaul? Need someone to help keep you accountable and on track for success? Get in touch today, we'd love to help.