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June 21

Build successful services by avoiding common pitfalls

It’s always good - vital even -to think through not just the what of new services that you introduce to clients and the wider market, but also the why and the how. That sounds like an obvious point to make but it’s a common and recurring enough issue for agencies for it to have struck a chord when I’ve talked about the subject at agency leader events over the last few years. That talk is entitled ‘Build Your Agency Services For Success By Avoiding Common Traps”. Not the catchiest of titles now that I look at it, but what’s covered resonates with agency leaders: I walk through how agencies can unpack the success factors of any new service they are looking to offer, before going all out to market.

Rushing out a new service without due diligence can be an expensive mistake to make. I have personal experience of agencies launching services without their eyes open and it costing dearly in terms of repeat overshoots on estimated project time and repeat ‘distress purchase’ of external skills to rescue project scope creep.

That all said, much of the service launch pain can be avoided with some planning. Agencies can unpack any potential new offering – so they understand the implications and demands it will generate – before going out to either existing clients or the wider market. The pitfalls I see and talk about are ones I have encountered across all kinds of agency, there are lessons to be learned across the board. Before mentioning what those broad pitfall categories are, what are the common catalysts to launching a new service? I think the idea to launch a new service for the agency can come from one of four different directions: client demand (“It was too tempting to say no when client X asked if we could build their website alongside the rebranding project”), Market demand / opportunity (“Everyone is looking for content marketing , we should offer that too”, ’Accidental’ (“We’re great at PR , so we kind of slipped into offering social media services too.”) and more latterly – quickly adding a range of services as part of a post-pandemic recovery plan.

If there is one take away I hope folks have in the talk mentioned above (or when I’m consulting clients direct) it’s ‘Stop, Look and Listen’, to borrow from my childhood and the words of the Green Cross Man. By that I mean, agency leaders should consider a few factors that can make or break a new service / revenue stream, before rushing ahead and telling the world about it. Each factor will have different weighting depending on where you are as an agency but will typically have a workstream attached to it. Depending on what your review of each factor / potential pitfall is, you may need to add new processes, new talent, different pricing approaches etc to what the agency already has. In summary, the factors to consider are:

  1. The existing service mix: moving from an ad hoc ‘gut feel’ mindset to a planned service introduction framework (essentially a service vs client matrix with some scoring added in)
  2. Consideration around skilling the team
  3. Finding the right talent to give new services their best chance
  4. Making it pay / considered pricing
  5. Account Growth – successfully introducing new services to clients
  6. Socketing the new service/s into your overall New Business activity
  7. Moving from ‘made up’ / undocumented / unsuitable processes for a new service to implementing profitable processes

Let us know what you think here, does any of this resonate with you in terms of a service you may have launched in haste and then had to scramble to put the infrastructure in place to support it?

Mark Kelly, NNW bench

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