7 tips to keep your agency strong during a downturn

Woman with glasses in office working on laptop

Agency life is nothing if not exciting. We live for the hustle of tight deadlines, branding big events, and juggling lots of projects, but the truth is, downturns happen. Slower business can be scary, but there’s always a silver lining. At Design in Mind, we adjust by focusing on nurturing client relationships and committing time to projects that have long lingered on the back burner. This approach helps us to stay focused, maintain momentum, and make a positive contribution to our clients and community. Ultimately, every agency needs to assess its own circumstances, but here are seven practices to consider if you’re trying to keep your agency strong during a downturn.

1. Communicate with your clients.

We know that client relationships are key to success at small agencies. Continue to nurture your client base by proactively reaching out and showing your support. With compassion, remind your clients that they can count on you to keep up with their rapidly changing priorities. Remind them of your relevant services, focusing on creative business solutions that meet newly arising needs such as digital marketing, copywriting, virtual events, and other services that suit an online audience.

2. Consider flexible payment options.

Because a slowdown in economic activity can ripple across industries, consider adding flexible payment options. Recognize that your clients might be hurting, too, and could benefit from your services now more than ever. Reasonable discounts or payment installments might be just the flexibility your clients need to commit, and can even draw in new clients and help maintain revenue goals. After all, businesses still need marketing services. If you do give options to defer payment, just make sure you have a solid contract in place with detailed terms and conditions vetted by your lawyer.

3. Speed up existing project timelines.

If project requests are slowing down, consider accelerating existing timelines as a win-win move for your business and your clients. Exceed expectations by meeting deadlines faster than anticipated. Not only does this make the most of your team’s extra time, but it also makes for happier clients and quicker payments. Keep quality top-of-mind as you charge ahead, knowing that impressing your clients now might turn them into repeat customers in the future.

4. Focus on internal priorities.

Think of a slowdown as the perfect time to finally dust off your internal projects. Put your team to work on that long-awaited website redesign, refresh your social channels, and beef up your blog. Give yourself the same level of attention you give your clients: When was the last time you took a critical eye to your own online presence? As branding professionals, we know that investing in your digital personality pays off. The coronavirus may be causing global chaos, but it is a golden opportunity to grab the interest of a giant captive audience forced to stay home.

5. Revisit your website strategy. 

Use downtime to dig up your Google Analytics password and dive into your site’s SEO, keywords, top content, and meta tags. This data tells you if you’re reaching your target audience and increasing visitors–insights that can help you make better business decisions. In fact, 93% of marketers agree that informing marketing with analytics is essential to driving results. (If you don’t know how to tackle these metrics, there’s no better time to take a crash course on LinkedIn Learning.)

6. Invest in your employees.

Set your employees up for success by ensuring that they have the tools, technology, and office equipment they need to stay productive at home–we’ve encouraged our team to take their monitors and office chairs from their workstations. Be open to flexible schedules as many people are juggling work with new family responsibilities, and check in regularly with how your team is feeling. Cultivating a positive company culture is vital to maintaining employee productivity and morale through tough times.  

7. Consider pro-bono.

Donate some of your newfound time to helping small nonprofit organizations in your community. These organizations often feel the pinch of a downturn more than for-profit businesses and could use extra support, so find a group that you believe in and consider offering your services at no cost. Though this obviously won’t benefit your bottom line, corporate volunteering is shown to boost team morale and brand perception while uplifting your community. And during times of crisis, supporting each other is priceless.

Keep your hopes high.

Agility is every small business’s superpower. Rather than give into feelings of doom and gloom, consider taking an opportunistic approach and using this time to reaffirm priorities and enrich your business. If you are equipped to handle a downturn, you’ll be sure to come out on the other side with a stronger business identity and a more resilient team.