I get asked some variation of this question every single day. Successful, profitable agency
owners ask it. Agency owners that are struggling with having their work commoditized ask it.
What they’re really asking me is “what are agencies selling that is profitable” but of course the
answer is much more complicated than that.

The answer is some agencies are making money selling everything from print ads, brochures,
Google Adwords, strategic planning, package design, branding, and everything in between.
Other agencies are fighting to hold their head above water, selling the same list of services. It’s
not as simple as knowing that clients are hungry to buy crisis communications plans (which they
are, btw) and beating the streets with that offer.

If your agency is bloated with too many people or your ability to accurately estimate and track a
project’s profitability in real time is non-existent, it doesn’t matter what you sell. But, let’s
assume you have the right people in the right seats and you have systems in place to make
sure you get paid what the project is worth. (Both criteria are topics for another conversation
down the road). Now — what’s the short answer to that complicated question?

What agencies seem to be able to sell for a premium price these days (in no particular order):

  • Amazon ads and product placement on Amazon
  • Employee recruiting campaigns
  • Direct mail campaigns with a digital overlay
  • Video (ideation, creation, publishing)
  • A paid social media strategy
  • Research and all of the tactics that are borne from those new insights

What I think agencies should be selling more of and earning a premium price:

  • The creation and management of a true content strategy where the brand thinks of themselves
    as a publisher working hard to earn and keep an audience
  • A strategy for monetizing that audience (see #1) far beyond selling them something
  • An Influencer marketing strategy and execution of that strategy
  • Lead generation campaigns that go soup to nuts (tracking all the way to the sale)
  • Research as a thought leadership cornerstone that you can slice and dice

And yes, agencies are making money selling things not on either list and yes, a handful
agencies are selling the items on my second list. But there should be more.

How about you — where is your profit coming from these days?


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