If you work a full-time job in automation or you’re a freelancer in the space, chances are that you’ve developed the itch to start your own automation agency.
Maybe you feel the call to step away from your 9-5. Or maybe you’ve freelanced for a while and have created a big enough clientele to start your own business. Whatever you do for a living right now, you can envision yourself doing something grander, something greater.
But that begs the question – where do you even start?
We asked three automation experts who work at the automation agencies Erevu TechWorks, Elogia, and Altois for their advice when it comes to launching an automation agency. Read on to learn their step-by-step process for launching your own agency and providing automation solutions to your clients.
9 steps to starting an automation agency
1. Choose a target market that you can truly serve
A target market is a group of potential clients that share the same business model (for example, SaaS), compete in the same industry (healthcare), and have roughly the same amount of employees as each other (enterprise).
As a full-time employee or freelancer, you’ve likely worked with a certain target market more than you have with others.
Ideally, you’ve also enjoyed collaborating with them, are genuinely interested in their industry and understand their common pain points, processes, and players, and have experienced a lot of success with them.
If so, then you have a target market that you can truly serve.
On the outset, it might seem tempting to home in on a target market with the most potential for profit or the one with the least amount of competition. But in the long run, it’s much better for business and your sense of fulfillment to focus on the target market that you’ve had success with in the past and truly want to help.
2. Specialize in one area and branch out as you grow
When you launch your automation agency, it’s likely that you won’t have enough resources to hire high-quality experts in multiple areas of automation.
So whether you’re well-versed in marketing automation, sales automation, or HR automation, start off with your main area of expertise.
Once you grow and acquire enough resources to hire another expert in a different area of automation, feel free to expand your offerings.
3. Craft a positioning statement for your brand
As a new agency eager to stick out from the crowd, one of your main goals is to attract as much attention from your target market as possible. But how exactly do you do that?
You craft a positioning statement.
A positioning statement pinpoints the target market that your services cater to and conveys your value proposition.
The target market portion of the statement will instantly relate to your ideal clients and the value proposition portion of the statement will pique their interest, which is a one-way ticket to grabbing their attention.
Here’s a quick three-step process for crafting a positioning statement:
- Lead off your positioning statement with the company size and industry that you want to target. “We help small eCommerce companies…
- Then, highlight the service that you offer and its benefits. “...grow through marketing automation”
- All together now — “We help small eCommerce companies grow through marketing automation.”
4. Pick the automation platform that you prefer and stick with it
Odds are, most of your clients will not be familiar with automation platforms. In fact, most don’t even know that they can even automate their work.
“I would say that before starting an automation agency it is a good idea to understand that most companies you will be advising do not have a dedicated software development/IT team and may not be even aware that platforms can be automated,” says Phillip Ragen, CTO of Erevu TechWorks.
With this in mind, the majority of your clients won’t have a preference for the automation platform that you use. So stick with the one that you prefer and have mastered.
You’ll be able to do your best work for your first set of clients, which will make a good first impression on them and boost the odds that they’ll refer your next set of clients.
5. Focus on profitability and cost control when building your business model
If you’re bootstrapping your agency and don’t have any funding, then building a business model that can feasibly turn a profit should be one of your top priorities.
Why? Because it’ll be your biggest challenge.
“The biggest obstacle for any agency that starts from scratch is profitability and cost control,” says Mayur Jawdekar, Founder of Altois.
Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies that you can leverage to do build a profitable business model:
- Price your service at the profit margin that will keep you profitable
- Start off with a small team and only hire when absolutely necessary
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to new business
- Offer retainer agreements to clients
- Join affiliate programs
- Take advantage of small business tax breaks and grants for entrepreneurs
6. Keep tabs on the apps that your target market uses the most
When you start an agency, one of the things that you’ll quickly realize is that the platforms that you thought you knew can be overwhelmingly more complex or limited at the API level.
This rang especially true for Ragen and his team at Ervu TechWorks when they first launched their agency.
“Not knowing the full feature scope of both the platforms used by our clients, as well as automation platforms like Integromat limited the quality of the solutions we were able to offer to our clients,” says Ragen.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stay up to date on the full feature set of all the apps that your target market uses.
However, if you can maintain a broad understanding of the frequently used apps in your target market’s industry and keep tabs on their overarching changes, you can still offer a ton of value to your clients.
7. Create as much marketing collateral as you can
You might not have a lot of time to focus on marketing when you first start your agency, but it’s crucial to nail the basics.
First, create a website so people know you exist.
Then, make social media pages so people can find you.
Finally, write case studies on your website so people know you’re worth your salt. If you were a freelancer before starting your agency, you can collect these testimonials by asking your clients for them.
8. Gain access to the data that you need from your clients
Having access to your clients’ data gives you a full picture understanding of their processes and lets you grasp what you truly need to automate.
“It’s crucial that the client understands how important it is to let us know what kind of data they have and the definition of its contents,” says Laura Martin, Marketing Automation Expert at Elogia.
However, as important as it is to get the data that you need, it’s just as crucial that your clients feel safe giving you access to it.
From the very beginning of your relationship, make sure to sign a contract or a non-disclosure agreement with them so they know their data is in good hands.
9. Automate your agency as much as possible
Automating your agency shows your clients that you can walk the walk, which will matter a lot to them when they’re deciding to work with you or not. Because if you’re not relying on automation to streamline your business, why should they trust you to do the same for theirs?
Remember, no one wants to do business with the cobbler whose children have no shoes. So automate your agency as much as possible. It’ll also give you an opportunity to tout your automation capabilities through your marketing materials or during the sales cycle.
Launching your automation agency today
Starting your own automation agency is most likely a dream come true for you. But before you launch, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be all peaches and cream.
“Before starting an agency, it is always good to accept the fact that there will be highs and lows,” says Mayur Jawdekar, Founder of Altois. “The entire world has been going through this huge challenge the past couple of years but taking on this mindset has been essential to our success.”
No one said starting an automation agency would be easy. But armed with these nine steps, you can not only make it feasible but also the most fulfilling venture you’ve ever embarked upon in your career.
Onwards and upwards!