The 5 Steps for Handling Failure When Running A Digital Agency - Herd Digital

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Failure When Running Your Digital Agency: The 5 Steps for Handling and Learning from Setbacks

how to handle and prevent failure when running a digital agency

Failure is an inevitable part of owning and operating a business, and digital marketing agencies are no exception to the rule. In fact, digital marketing is an industry where we often face setbacks and failure, from less than stellar results from SEO campaigns to underperforming paid advertising results.

But despite how you feel, failure isn’t always outside of your control. There are steps you can take to prevent failure from occuring in the first place, and lessons you can learn to prevent it from happening again. 

Step 1: Understanding Where You Went Wrong

The first step to analysing failure is to understand where it all went wrong. And while we understand that failure is the last thing you want to dwell on, it is important to understand how your business strategy, project, or campaigns weren’t as successful as they should have been. 

Some of the most common reasons for failure in the digital marketing agency landscape include:

  • Poor project management.
  • Inconsistent clients and cash flow.
  • Poor client management.
  • A lack of a defined company culture.
  • Inability to scale as a business.
  • And being unable to hire the right people for your business.

Setbacks like these can be disheartening. And sometimes despite your best efforts and knowing that the pitfalls are there, you can make the mistakes anyway. Which means the best thing you can do is learn from them. So that next time around, you’ll be resilient and adaptable.

Step 2: Being Proactive to Prevent Failure

Sometimes failure can be truly and completely out of your hands. But as we’ve said, most of these above causes for failure can be avoided. Which entails some analysis of your business, strategy, and creating a structured plan. Something like this:

  1. Put together a comprehensive plan for your business and business strategy including what can possibly go wrong, and what steps you can take reactively and proactively.
  2. Don’t just rely on estimates and guesswork: Make use of the data that you have, to identify any areas of weakness in the business. 
  3. Have a clear goal for the future, and plan how you will get there. Having clear cut goals gives you something to strive for, and will help you envision problems you will encounter along the way.
  4. Be flexible with your business and goals. Having a rigid structured way of doing business can prevent you from the flexibility your business needs to succeed.

Setting goals is an essential part of being a digital agency owner. But setting yourself unreasonable goals can also be setting yourself up for failure: Which means you need to be realistic with expectations and understand the state of the current digital marketing industry.

Step 3: Handling Failure

Of course when you do experience failure with your digital agency, how you respond to it is just as important as the problem itself. Facing the problem head on and leading by example, is crucial to overcoming it. Steps you can take include:

  • Own up to failure. Facing the failure head on and being honest with the team means you can tackle it together, and the burden isn’t entirely on you. Once that is done, you can move forward with a solution.
  • You and your agency will experience failure. And it doesn’t reflect on your or your business. So don’t let it impact your confidence in yourself or your business.
  • And be upfront and honest with clients. When your issues will impact client campaigns, it’s better to get ahead of the problem. And your clients will likely appreciate your honesty.

And don’t forget how important it is to analyse and learn from your failure. Because while it’s the first time you face this issue (whatever it is), it probably won’t be the last. So learning how to proactively solve the problem or how to better manage it when it occurs again is essential to the future of your agency.

Step 4: Recovering From Failure

Every business has encountered failure. From start-ups that are now titans of industry, to huge corporations that have struggled in recent years: The common theme was experiencing failure, and overcoming it. For example:

  • Apple is a household name brand, and one of the biggest technology brands in the world. But in 1985 when co-founder Steve Jobs left, the brand experienced 12 years of declining popularity until they rehired Steve in 1997.
  • And in recent news, Pret A Manger have posted their first profits and revenue increase in the first half of 2023, since 2018. Even well established brands struggle, and it was only with the innovation of their subscription model have they recovered from 5 years of financial struggle.
  • And as an example of a household name that almost failed to launch, we have Reddit. The now incredibly popular message board initially failed to attract any attention on launch, until employees made fake accounts, holding fake discussions which attracted real users to the site. Proof of the power of perseverance.

And of these success stories, none of them require wild rebranding or reinvention. All they needed was flexibility in their approach, and perseverance that their business and idea was solid.

Step 5: Learning From Failure

As any digital agency owner (or any business leader) worth their salt will tell you, it’s your failures not your successes where you learn the most. And there’s a few simple steps you can take to learn from your failures:

  1. Recognition: Where did things go wrong?
  2. Analysis: Once you know what went wrong, why did it go wrong?
  3. Preventing: What can you do to stop this from happening again?
  4. Implementing: How do you implement what we’ve learned?
  5. Dissemination: How can what you’ve learned be applied to other areas of the business?

Of course, you’re only one person. Hiring the right people for your agency is essential to its success. Which is where we can help.

When the stakes are so high, it’s worth making sure you get the digital marketer who is right for your individual business needs. Which is where we come in. Here at Herd, we work hard to support the growth and development of agencies of all sizes. Have a look here, to see what we can do for your agency

And don’t forget, it’s completely free until we find you the right person, and you’re happy!

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