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Building Creative Agency Operations One Brick at a Time

July 23, 2021 | Productivity

Creative agencies are a key piece of the economic puzzle. They stimulate the economy and support businesses by giving clients in especially competitive industries a much needed boost. However, just because they’re vital for the success of other businesses does not mean an agency cannot fail. In fact, they fail all the time. That’s because as hard as it is to start an agency, it’s even harder to keep it operating. Between making a website, attracting clients and figuring out your expenses, you need to find the time to implement creative agency operations that are standardized, scalable and efficient. 

Building a Solid Operational Strategy

Creative agency operations are not any one thing. Think about them as the activities that a creative agency engages in to grow the business and earn a profit. A number of components go into making these activities successful, including your business model, your objectives, your team structure, and your personnel. If you build your agency right from the get-go, then optimizing and streamlining operations will be a breeze moving forward, though. 

Make a Blueprint

The first step to creating an operational strategy is nailing down your agency’s business model. A business model is essentially your plan for creating profit from your creative agency, and your operations can be interpreted as the execution of that plan. Therefore, any operational strategy should be concerned with the design and management of the process of producing goods or services, factoring in the services offered to clients, production workflows and the controls that manage overall quality.

Of course, different creative agencies have different business models and require different operational structures. A creative agency that offers web UX services will have vastly different organizational and business needs than an agency that creates custom billboard creative. Beyond the difference in industries they work in, the expertise of employees, the degree to which third-party vendors are included, and the length of project timelines all differ to some extent. 

Don’t take for granted the importance of developing a business model for creative agency operations. The biggest mistake you can make is restructuring your agency without actually changing how your team works. 

Start With a Strong Foundation

A successful operational strategy requires a sturdy foundation built on carefully considered strategic objectives. These are measurable, realistic interpretations of your agency’s mission statement that will help guide your decision-making. An example of a strategic objective could be something like, “Increase sales revenue YoY by 25% for the next 5 years”. 

If you fail to translate strategic objectives into workable operational objectives, you’re unlikely to achieve them. Operational objectives are like bite-sized morsels of your strategic objective. If your strategic objective is to increase sales revenue, an operational objective could be to build out your sales team, shorten the sales cycle, or invest more marketing efforts. If operational objectives aren’t designed with the achievement of their parent strategic objective in mind, they’ll likely lack cohesion with each other as well as your agency’s mission. 

Create an Open Floor Plan

Once you have the big picture parts of creative agency operations taken care of, you can start to focus on some of the finer details: the processes, skills, technology, and other aspects of an agency that ultimately makes it special. Envision how you want your creative agency to look in the day-to-day. What skills are you looking for in employees? What technology should you use? What will the team structure and hierarchy look like? 

As you think about these things, resist the urge to only see your agency as a physical place. Geographic location will matter less in the future; instead, consider the clients you’ll be working with and the daily functions your team must fulfill. Remaining agile in your creative agency operations should be a particular focus of yours. Clients don’t actually want to see a confusing organizational structure with layers of complexity between departments, and you probably don’t like how that sounds either. 

It’ll be much more productive to break down barriers between departments and allow everyone to function together as a homogeneous team. Then, everyone will be able to work together to find solutions and achieve operational objectives. 

Attract the Right Residents

One aspect of creative agency operations often overlooked is the people. You can dedicate as much time and effort as you want to improving operational efficiency, but it’s your team who will make it stick, and cross-functionality is the key. Your goal should be to have a blend of people and skills that you can dial up and down as required to meet objectives. 

Think of your employees as T-shaped. They have their primary area of specialization and knowledge, but can be stretched to cover different disciplines and fill skills gaps. These kinds of multi-skilled employees that are able to step outside of their roles can be hard to find, but creative agencies have the ability to work internally to help their teams become more well-rounded. 

To Recap:

If all of that feels like an egregious amount of work, well, no one ever said running a creative agency would be easy. To help you recap, here’s an abridged list: 

  • Determine your agency’s business model
  • Articulate your strategic objectives
  • Break strategic objectives down into operational objectives
  • Think carefully about how you want day-to-day agency operations to look
  • Attract or create multi-skilled, T-shaped employees

If you’re hoping to make creative agency operations even easier to execute, consider what the power of technology can do for you. The right tech solutions have the ability to automate and smooth over many operational processes, which in turn enables teams to have more capacity for taking on more hands-on activities. 

Every Creative Agency Could Benefit From Ashore

One thing that should be noted is that creative agency operations will evolve as your agency grows. By planning ahead and preparing to make adjustments, you’re saving yourself from poor performance issues and client dissatisfaction. One thing you can do right now to get ready for the future is identify the processes you have the ability to streamline. 

That’s exactly what we did when we created Ashore. We realized how much time and energy creatives wasted on the proofing process and knew there had to be a solution. Flash forward several years and several iterations of our product, and we have the Ashore that thousands of creatives use everyday. Ashore streamlines the creative approval process, adding structure, context, and clarity to your workflow. 

Automated workflows, email templates, automatic reminders, a dynamic tagging system, and a detailed audit timeline for each proof are just a few of the features we’ve packed into our platform for creative agencies. When creatives proof projects in Ashore, they see them approved 50% faster, giving them more headspace for the more important aspects of their roles. 

If you’re ready to shore up your creative agency operations, signing up for a free Ashore account is the best place to start.

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