Do You Have to Start a Marketing Agency?

Dec 15, 2023

If you read yesterday’s email, you learned of Marketing Marvin and his attempts to get all web designers bought into the idea that becoming a marketing agency is the only way to survive in the future.

I called shenanigans on this.

But my point in that email was a little different.

My point there was that your offer should be determined by the WHO your business serves. You WHO builds your offer.

But now I’d like to tackle the question head-on because it comes up so often: Do you have to start a marketing agency to be successful? Can you make it as “just” a web designer?

Let me give you three thoughts.

First — yes, it is possible to be “just a web designer,” but that does come with a few caveats.

Web design is more and more becoming a commodity service. Susie Jane starting up a side business out of her garage to help her family buy groceries is not gonna pay premium coin for a website. Just ain’t gonna happen.

If she wants to hire, she is going to Google something like “inexpensive website designer” and land on Fiverr or Upwork. If she wants to tackle the job herself, she is going to look at Wix and Squarespace (because they spend millions on advertising that speaks her language).

And if she’s in her late teens or early 20s, she may even look for an AI-based solution. Of which there are now a few.

So this person is not your customer.

If you want to be “just a web designer,” I suggest you approach it from two angles:

  1. Be ultra-expensive and look for companies doing 5M-100M/year. Much bigger than this and you are going to have a difficult time getting the right person on the phone, and there will be lots of bureaucracy. Much cheaper than this and they are still looking for a deal. I’ve charged companies in this sweet spot between $850 and $1275/mo for “just a website” so I know it’s possible.
  2. Have an inexpensive, no-brainer, laser-focused offer for a specific niche. This is the approach Adam McLaughlin takes (see my interview with him if you haven’t already — it’s dynamite). These websites can practically sell themselves once you’ve got a couple of clients built up and the marketing is hyper-targeted as well. These add up nicely over time.

So if “just a web designer” for you means hanging out a shingle and saying “Look at me, I build sites for everyone!” it’s probably going to be a tough road to hoe.

Just trying to be straightforward with you.

Second — It’s a good idea to build results-based thinking into your offers, but again, the context will determine what those results should look like.

Marketing Marvin is on the right track. Results-based thinking is key, because if you can sell a specific result to clients instead of “a website,” it’s a lot more attractive.

Business owners want results.

More clients, more calls, more leads, etc. These are all results.

The mistake is thinking that everyone needs the same results. This was the subject of yesterday’s email.

Before you go trying to learn 30 things to offer your clients, think about learning the two or three that would be MOST impactful to your audience.

Put together a few “good, better, best” packages and bind those offerings to the packages. Each one comes with a website.

Then, to go the extra mile, consider a “free initial offer” you could give your target customer that makes sense.

If you’re doing local business, it could be a Google profile setup. If you’re working with a specific niche, it could be a high-value (but minimal time investment) activity that they should do, perhaps something as simple as setting up a LinkedIn profile or Facebook Business Page.

There are all kinds of options for this.

But this is what the funnel looks like:

Lead Magnet (email address opt-in) >>> Frequent Emails that entertain and educate your list >>> The CTA for those emails is your (no strings attached) free service >>> The upsell from that free service is your first package >>> The upsell from that package is your more advanced packages.

I’m not saying it’s easy or that it won’t take time and lots of trial and error.

I am saying that it needn’t be any more complicated than that.

Third — You must factor in your lifestyle.

I’m quite bullish on this, I admit.

I didn’t get into business to have another job. If a job is what I want, arguably, there’s a lot less stress in working for someone else.

Being a business owner is hard enough as it is.

So I’m at least going to try to design a business that fits with the lifestyle I want and not the other way around. This is a huge point. If you don’t want the stress of running a results-based marketing agency, you don’t have to have it. The choice is entirely up to you.

You should make the decision that is right for you and your family.

Not what Marketing Marvin — or any other guru, including me, for that matter — tells you to do.

So if you’re in the beginning of your journey, you need to think about this. You make the rules. You need to design the business that works best for YOU.

But also — don’t let wishful thinking rule the day.

You must deal with the reality of the world right now.

And that can be uncomfortable.

But you’re not alone! At least, you don’t have to be.

Me and my students — your peers — want to be there for you and help you in the journey.

Imagine building a business that came with the same predictable monthly income as your job. Most web designers are not focused on building that.

But you’re not like most web designers, are you?

Not if you’re here.

You already know there’s a better way.

Here’s where to find the help and support you need to make it a reality: