How To Bake Success Into Your Agency With the 7 Cs

the 7 C's of agency success are represented by an arrow shooting at the center of a board and confetti around


The 7 C's of success form a framework for marketing agencies aiming to scale their operations. This approach emphasizes Client-centricity, Communication, Clarity, Culture, Collaboration, Consistency, and Continuous improvement. It underlines the importance of aligning services with client needs through innovative solutions, clear communication, and a strong team culture. With this ideology, marketing agencies confidently face market changes successfully and maintain steady long-term growth.

Every agency owner or leader is trying to build a successful agency. And there will be as many definitions of success as marketing agencies. Some agency leaders dream of landing star clientele. Others hope to cash out and retire early. Some want an office with an ocean view or to be the agency behind the most viral campaign of the decade.

For this article, it doesn’t matter how you define sweet, sweet success. What matters is what you need to have and do to get it. And interestingly, the recipe for success is the same no matter what success means to you. Because no matter how you slice it, success is only achieved with the same seven key ingredients.  

Without further ado, sink your teeth into the 7 Cs of agency success: the non-negotiable ingredients to bake success into your marketing agency.

The 7 Cs of Agency Success

1. Clients Are Your Number One Priority

We could debate for ages which factors belong in the number one spot. There are plenty of valid arguments to say it’s your leadership style or your employees that are the most important aspect of your agency. And those folks wouldn’t be wrong, per se. These ingredients are interdependent; forget any one of them, and you have a sunken soufflé or a hollow pie.

But we stand by our choice to put clients first, and we think you will too. If you were a baker, clients would be your yeast. You rise because of them. 

As an agency, when you commit to having an unshakeable client focus, everything else comes into focus–and remains in focus too. 

Everything revolves around client results and success. When our customers are able to grow and achieve their goals, they share their experiences with other business owners. We’ve grown our business off of referrals almost exclusively.

Anya Curry, CEO, Ambidextrous Services

It’s easier to get more clients, review results, shift an agency’s culture, refine your mission, expand your services, enter new markets, improve client loyalty, and ultimately turn bigger profits when you examine everything through the lens of your best clients and ideal soon-to-be clients. 

2. Communication Is The Key to Getting Things Done Right

Duking it out for the top spot with “clients” is communication. That’s not because everything is made possible with effective communication–it’s actually the reverse. Everything is made impossible with poor communication. 

If you watch any of the baking reality TV shows, many of them often include challenges where all or part of the recipe is missing–and the guesswork involved in trying to bake some fabulous dessert with no recipe is time-consuming, confusing, and often heartbreaking. (A bit like running a digital marketing agency with poor communication practices.)

Communication isn’t a silver bullet or a scapegoat. It can’t save you from a cash flow crisis or a talent exodus. But it is the best weapon in your arsenal to prevent and resolve problems. 

Meme saying "What if I told you not all traffic is good traffic"

It starts by communicating with the client. We tell them what we believe will help their company to grow, based on our experience. Then, we sit and listen to them and what they want to achieve. 

Danny Star, CEO and Founder of Website Depot

This includes communication from the top down and the bottom up in your agency and the communication between your agency and–you guessed it–your clients. “An example from our company where effective communication saved a project involved a client that was a personal injury law firm that decided to not practice personal injury law anymore,” recalls Danny Star, CEO and Founder of Website Depot. When their client decided to focus entirely on another area of law, his team had to completely change their strategy and knowledge base–and it’s great communication that got them through this major transition. 

By staying in communication to not just delegate responsibilities but to check each other's work, clarify laws, and more, we were able to provide our client with all of the services they needed to effectively transition.

Danny Star, CEO and Founder of Website Depot

Look for ways to streamline and simplify communication. For instance, you can use automated reporting to keep your staff and clients up to speed on campaign performance.  

In our article The Art of Data Storytelling, you’ll learn how to communicate complex data and insights in a way that’s compelling for your clients. Additionally, our Client Onboarding Checklist outlines the importance of establishing strong channels of communication with your customers from the outset of the relationship. 

3. Clarity Is More Valuable Than a Diamond Mine

It’s probably the hardest thing to achieve–because it takes a whole lot of powerful strategic thinking to refine our goals, ideas, and desires into a simple, distilled vision. But doing the upfront work to achieve clarity will save you wasted time, effort, and money along the way because you will have ensured that every member of your team is pulling in the same direction. 

Make sure the direction and strategy is distilled....then inspire and lead the team to execute through thoughful communication and encouragement!

Christian Evans, President & CEO of Evans Alliance 

And to gain clarity, you need to set clear goals. 

We make sure our goals are SMART–specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Combined with open communication between teams, it's all about creating a mindset where every product is brought back to this framework.

Michelle van Blerck, Communications Manager at Digital Freak

So, if you haven’t yet, it’s time to get clear on the vision for your agency. Are you baking wedding cakes or funnel cakes? No, really. What do you specialize in? What’s your niche? Who’s your ideal client? Where and when are they buying? What makes you, you? Are you the agency that produces killer B2C video content or the agency with the best retargeting strategy? Are you known for your elegant design work for traditional firms or some truly inspired demand generation campaigns for small start-ups? 

The main focus is to offer one solution, for one main problem, to one main type of client.This allows everything to be streamlined and simple, which reduces stress for me & my team while also making future growth easier.

Guy Hudson, Founder, Bespoke Marketing Plans

Work on your foundational documents, such as your business plan, vision, and values. Our article, How to Differentiate Your Marketing Agency, explains the importance of finding your unique value proposition to stand out in a competitive market. For instance, selecting a niche to best serve clients is key–but as Danny Star, CEO of Website Depot, Points out, continual learning is key:

A marketing agency, to incorporate and reach growth goals, can never be too good nor too suited for its particular niches. If you believe you know everything about the niche industries that your marketing agency focuses primarily on, I guarantee you there is something else to learn, something new to implement, some new way to help your clients to grow their business so that you can better grow yours.

Danny Star, CEO and Founder of Website Depot

4. Culture Is The Beating Heart of Your Agency

Naysayers think that “culture” is an annual obligatory team-bonding activity or those awkward pizza parties in the breakroom where the social media intern insists on getting a #team photo. They’re wrong. Culture is like your oven, and it, too, is crucial. Too hot, and everything burns. Too cool, and nothing cooks. Filthy and grimy, your food tastes gritty and smokey. 

Culture determines the level at which your staff performs, how long top talent stays, and how well your team responds to new trends, projects, and problems. Culture sets the tone for how staff interact and collaborate with each other. It also shapes the way they approach clients and their projects, which can greatly influence their success.

We place a huge emphasis on people and relationships. By focusing so much on the happiness of each individual employee, we ensure better outcomes for our clients as well. We know this people-first strategy works because our employee and client retention rate is incredibly high.

Graham Lumley, Director of Marketing, Blackhawk Digital Marketing

If the culture at your agency has been on autopilot, we strongly encourage you to read How to Build a Strong Agency Culture, then do an honest examination of your agency’s culture and compare it to the vision you have for your agency. 

Don’t do this vital work alone! Gather insights from your leadership team and determine the best way to gather the real insights: those from your employees. From the new hire to the senior and mid-level staff, theirs are the opinions that matter most. Figure out what will be the most effective way to get their unfiltered thoughts about where your agency culture is succeeding and where it could improve (and why).

5. Collaboration Maximizes Potential Without Slowing Down

“Firstly, it's all about doing your research and seeing what other agencies are doing. But it's not about copying others!” says Michelle van Blerck, Communications Manager at Digital Freak.

Some of our most creative and innovative ideas come from hosting growth-focused team meetings where everyone and anyone can make suggestions, put forward ideas they are passionate about, and work off each other. It's not just rewarding for the agency's bottom line–it creates so much enthusiasm and excitement for the team too!

Michelle van Blerck, Communications Manager at Digital Freak

Organizations, big and small, suffer when workers become siloed. When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, one or both of those hands makes a mess–and some messes are more obvious than others. 

There are obvious situations, like when the account manager promises something the designer or developer can’t deliver. But there are less blatant problems that come from a collaboration breakdown: great ideas that go unspoken or hidden efficiencies that never come to light because, though everyone is working, they’re not working together

We ensure clarity of direction in our agency's strategy for success through consistent, thoughtful communication. Through Basecamp, Slack, Trello, and other methods, all members of our team not only know what they have to do, they know what others are working on as well, always with an eye towards our established goals. As such, we're able to properly scale and adjust when necessary, always meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations.

Danny Star, CEO and Founder of Website Depot

Collaboration is vital, but it’s a tough balance to strike because the pitfalls of ineffective collaboration can decrease an agency’s efficiency and profitability. For instance, waiting unnecessarily for too many stakeholders to sign off on work, overloading a few star players by roping them into every project, or losing clarity along the way by having too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen. 

It can be particularly challenging–even in this day and age–to maintain healthy collaboration when you’re running a remote agency. That’s why it’s crucial to have elegant, user-friendly task management capabilities directly in your analytics platform to make it easier and more efficient to work together.

Recently, we found that a content strategy for a large client with multiple locations and services was ballooning–it was too fragmented, too caught up in small details, and essentially got lost in what we and the client actually wanted to achieve. Using a combination of online meetings and Miro boards, we were able to refocus it together while working remotely, resulting in a sleek, actionable, and highly effective content strategy that precisely aligned with the clients goals and ours.

Michelle van Blerck, Communications Manager at Digital Freak

Manage Your Entire Agency With a Robust Client Reporting Platform

Start Your Free 14-day Trial Today

6. Consistency Is The Secret to Strong Profits and Reputation

Consistency is what makes Grandma’s sugar cookies the bomb. They’ve tasted the same way every time you’ve eaten them since you as far back as you can remember: delicious. It’s how you can tell which batch was made by Grandma and which batch was made by your uncle’s new wife, who just can’t quite get the recipe right.

It’s not glamorous, but good old consistency is what gets you across the finish line every time. 

Balancing the need to generate revenue and the capacity/capability to deliver that marketing service consistently was our biggest challenge. Scaling our internal team with top talent was just as challenging as bringing in the leads to keep the lights on! Creating detailed and repeatable processes and workflows on both sides of the house (sales and delivery) was transformational for our business.

Rodrigo Campos, Founder & CEO, Splurge

Being able to consistently produce quality work on time and on a budget is the key to meeting or exceeding your clients’ expectations and building a reputation for being a solid and reliable agency–for both clients and as an employer. 

Repeatable processes make it easier for your staff to balance their workloads, estimate time and capacity, and prioritize effectively. For tips on maintaining consistent performance, check out this article on Agency Management Tips

7. Capacity To Scale Responsibly and Efficiently

To wrap up this baking metaphor, capacity is your pan. If you pour in too much dough into a pan that’s too small, it’ll run over, and you may have an oven fire. But if you pour the same amount of dough into a pan that’s too big, it’ll spread too thin, burn to a crisp, and you may have an oven fire. 

The point is that capacity problems lead to fires.

In digital marketing, it feels like there's never enough time in the day to get everything you want done. But when we had to start saying no to clients, we'd love to work with because we had no capacity, that's when we realized something had to change.

Michelle van Blerck, Communications Manager, Digital Freak

You won’t be able to grow if you don’t have the resources to meet client demands. Look for ways to save billable hours, reduce inefficient processes, and leverage time-saving technologies. You may also have to make some hard decisions about cutting time-consuming, toxic clients who cut into your profitability. And of course, you’ll want to create a hiring (and training and onboarding) pipeline to ensure top talent is coming your way just in time.  

Likewise, you’ll drain your coffers if you don’t have enough properly priced projects to keep your staff busy, so you’ll need to focus on keeping your pipeline full so that you are consistently converting enough leads at the right pace to match your team’s capacity.

Overall, I believe that our commitment to delivering exceptional results, building strong relationships with our clients, and employing a team of highly skilled professionals has been the biggest contributor to NativeRank's growth.

Daniel Dye, President of Native Rank, Inc.

Other Important Cs to Consider

So there you have it. That’s the recipe for success–no matter whether you’re aiming for world domination or something a little more down-to-earth. 

Have you got the bandwidth for a little more? (Information, that is, not baking metaphors.) While these factors didn’t make our Top 7 list, we still consider them crucially important considerations that marketing agency owners and leaders should pay attention to.  

  • Credibility

Credibility is essential to any successful marketing agency. Clients want to know that they can trust your agency to deliver results, so do not underestimate the value and importance of growing and nurturing your reputation: from online reviews to your portfolio, to client testimonials and referrals.

Read More: A Guide to Reputation Management for Agencies

  • Cash Flow

With healthy cash flow, your marketing agency has the funds available to take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities to fuel your growth.

Read More: How To Manage Marketing Agency Cash Flow

  • Community

Your agency doesn’t exist in a vacuum–and there is immense power in finding your people. For a marketing agency, being an active participant in one or more communities can be rewarding in more ways than one. 

Whether it is a community of local businesses, or a community of specialized agencies, or a community built around a place or a cause, you are sure to strengthen your reputation, make connections, and be inspired by different perspectives by finding different people and organizations to collaborate with.

Read More: Choosing a Niche for Your Agency: Insights From 16 Marketing Experts

  • Common Sense

When things get overcomplicated, check to see if common sense has been applied. Nine times out of 10, when a project is overdue, a budget is blown, an employee is having a breakdown in the bathroom, it’s because somewhere along the way, we forgot our common sense. (That doesn't mean that the common sense solution will be instantly beloved by all. 

People often hold fast to the principles and assumptions that caused them to lose sight of common sense in the first place.) Hire, train, and reward staff who apply good judgment when faced with stress and urgency, and your agency will come out on top. The same goes for dealing with difficult clients or those with off-the-wall or outlandish requests.

Read More: How Toxic Clients Can Negatively Impact Agency Culture

  • Change Management

Nothing can bog an agency (or any organization, for that matter) down more than poor change management. Not only can it cause mass confusion and slow work to a grinding halt, but it can also cause immense frustration among employees and clients. 

Avoid all that by taking the time to read up on change management best practices and put them to work for you before your next change, big or small. A proper change management process can also help your agency overcome the perils of scope creep. 

Read More: How Agencies Can Overcome Scope Creep

  • Commitment

We see you, agency owners and leaders. We know you are burning the candle at both ends. 

We know the weight of leadership can be a heavy burden. We know every day, you face a giant to-do list, a packed calendar, and tough decisions at every turn. 

Your commitment doesn’t go unnoticed, and it won’t go unrewarded. You’re going the extra mile just by being here, reading a blog about how to make your agency succeed. 

With that kind of commitment to continuous improvement both for yourself and your agency, you’re sure to go far. 

Read More: Lessons Learned During a 25-Year Path To Agency Success

The Takeaway: Simple Ingredients For Long-Term Agency Success

We hope you’ve enjoyed this C-theme recipe for success. Though the ingredients are simple, that doesn't make the journey to success any easier, shorter, or faster. You can take the “simple” ingredients of flour and butter and struggle to make a flakey pastry. 

Christian Evans, President & CEO of Evans Alliance, also uses the baking metaphor at his agency, saying, “There is no one ingredient that will do the trick.” His recipe for success? 

Let's say a great website is "flour". If you take four cups of flour and put it in the oven at 375° for 30 minutes, you come out with hot flour. Not exactly edible. But if you combine that flour (website) with eggs (social media), shortening (SEM), milk (SEO), baking soda (video) and several other secret ingredients–all at the correct ratio–and put them in the oven at just the right temperature for exactly the right amount of time… Voila! You have a perfect cake. We bake cakes!”

Christian Evans, President & CEO of Evans Alliance 

Knowing the ingredients is only the first step: now it’s all about how to leverage them over the long term. Because, as you know, none of these items are one-and-done or set-it-and-forget-it. All of them require constant fine-tuning, maintenance, and protection. So keep going! We’ll be right there with you, cheering you on.

An overview of the AgencyAnalytics platform in 2022.

Streamline your agency’s workflows to focus on what matters most. Start your free 14-day trial with AgencyAnalytics today to win back billable hours for your agency!

Elyse Gagné bio

Written by

Elyse Gagné

Elyse Gagné develops branding and content strategies that unite businesses with their customers. A podcast junkie, you'll find her learning about the latest technologies and brand storytelling techniques while she gardens or hikes.

Get Started for Free

Try AgencyAnalytics risk-free for 14 days. No credit card required.
AgencyAnalytics Dashboard Preview