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11 agency experts share ways to surpass your business goals in the final quarter

There’s no need to wait until January 1st to sprint toward the goals you have for your agency.

Design by Ashger Zamana

Profile picture of Ido Lechner


7 min read

Can you feel it? 2024 is on the horizon, but there’s no need to wait until January 1st to sprint toward the goals you have for your agency, even if you’ve experienced setbacks in the last year. Wise agencies are ready to put the past behind them starting now, in the final quarter.

Plus, the end of the year is a great time to encourage your team to experiment. While many agencies use Q4 as a time to reflect on their goals, it’s also an opportunity to try something new. So, as we near the end of the final Q, don’t run to the finish line, run through it. That means closing out 2023 strong, armed with these insights from industry leaders.

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01. Refocus your energy

It’s common to get sidetracked over the course of the year. Unexpected events surface, teams change and strategic bets don’t always pan out. But Kyle Prinsloo, agency owner and leader of the Freelance Fam community at Wix, says Q4 is a good time to refocus on one of the most important aspects of business growth: new clients. (By the way, here's how to charge more for your services.)

“You can spend hours making your logo look pretty when you should be focusing on getting clients,” he says. “If your priorities are wrong, then you're busy but not efficient.”

The solution: “Whether you’re just starting out as a freelancer or running an enterprise agency, the universal truth is you need to focus on the right things,” he says.

To do that, work on your ‘why?’ “Ask yourself ‘what do I really want?’ then set goals and milestones against it,” Prinsloo says. “Do you want to increase your developer velocity? Do you want to expand your marketing presence? Do you want to polish your design capabilities? Good things come when you identify your north star and work tirelessly to get there while blocking out the noise.”

Quote graphic from Kyle Prinsloo. It says "If your priorities are wrong, then you're busy but not efficient."

02. Prioritize growth-oriented tasks

When you start growing, you need to formalize a process for how you handle new challenges so they don’t shock your business and create bottlenecks that interfere with scale. Brad Hussey, web designer and founder of the Creative Crew community shares the process he uses when coaching his clients. “I call it ‘EDAM,’” he says, which stands for: eliminate, delegate, automate, me.

Ask yourself this series of questions when a task comes your way, whether it’s administrative or creative.

  • Is this necessary for my success? If not, eliminate it.

  • If yes, does this need to be done by a human? If not, automate it.

  • If yes, does it need to be me? If not, delegate it.

  • If yes, that's mine.

03. Seek novelty

Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and author of Build for Tomorrow, says agency leaders should ask themselves two fundamental questions when experimenting:

  • Are you studying and researching new tech?

  • Are you participating in the creation of some new service or tool?

“If you answered ‘yes,’ to the first question, don’t just pull up chatGPT and play around with it,” he says. “Talk to interesting new startups who are developing AI driven solutions and have conversations with people who know more about the space than you do.” (Related reading: Leading an agency in the age of AI, with Ogilvy Paris’ David Raichman and Mathieu Plassard)

And if your agency is large enough to answer ‘yes’ to the second question, empower somebody on your team to own the initiative, including research, project management and bringing on the right partners. “Give them free license to experiment,” says Feifer. “Even if they come back and say ‘I tried this and it didn’t work,’ you’ll still foster collective learning,” a solid business goal in its own right.

04. Expand your own scope

One of Don Draper’s most iconic pieces of advertising advice from Mad Men is “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” That’s easily adaptable to the internet design world, too—if you feel your scope is limited, expand it.

Clients want holistic strategies that compel the business forward, says Kevin Bethune, founder and chief creative officer of dreams • design + life (DDL) and co-host of Design Observer’s The Design of Business | Business of Design podcast. “When you provide evidence that you can do this, that’s when the relationship changes from doing a conventional design sprint to long-term problem-solving.”

So, say your team is brought on to redesign a client’s site. Will a simple site revamp actually help the client meet their end goal? If not, there's an opportunity to change the conversation and grow the client relationship, Don Draper-style.

Bethune has leveraged this strategy firsthand during his time as vice president of strategic design at Boston Consulting Group, and more recently, with his own smaller practice with DDL. “We no longer sell sprints,” says Bethune. “We’re invited into client partner-relationships, where we demonstrate value very quickly and most of our client partners never want that value to stop.”

05. Become your client’s thought partner

“Position yourself as a thought partner, not just a vendor,” says Terry Rice, business development consultant. “Clients will get rid of vendors quickly, but thought partners have lasting power.”

This means giving clients helpful advice on changes you're seeing in the industry, plus things their competitors are doing. “Every client I’ve ever worked with wants competitive intelligence,” Rice says. “Like, ‘what are they doing that I should be doing?’ And if you just pass over a quick email, ‘Hey, I noticed your competitors are doing these three things, just want to suggest that as an option,’ it builds rapport by communicating that you have their back.”

Quote from Terry Rice. It says "Position yourself as a thought partner, not just a vendor. Clients will get rid of vendors quickly, but thought partners have lasting power.”

06. Step out of your domain

This was likely a hectic year as many agencies faced team shortages (and subsequent workload management challenges) and shifting business strategies. As we inch closer to 2024, network with employees across your agency to bring additional value to your team in the new year.

“It's critical to interface regularly with other roles,” says Emmy Cao, developer advocate at Wix. “For example, if you’re a developer who works with designers whose assets change regularly, you need to consider how to make a certain component flexible, so that you don't need to worry about messing anything up if an image is changed later.” There are so many nuances of working with others that you’ll only truly learn what’s best for each team when you openly welcome opportunities to collaborate.

07. Bring humanity back into leadership

We’re all subconsciously looking for that human touch at work. “The greatest leaders are the ones who are the most human,” says Shaundai Person, senior software engineer at Netflix. “They empathize with their team and look out for them.”

That means people are more than their work. Look beyond your team’s job titles in order to tap into each individual’s strengths. That requires you to really get to know everyone on a deeper level, which you can do by allotting time in weekly 1:1s, going on corporate outings, hosting fun virtual events and assigning small projects that push your team’s creativity.

“To be a humane leader is to be empathetic, sensitive to your team’s boundaries and protective of their time and efforts,” says Person. “You have to view each individual as a holistic human being, and approach them in that manner.”

Quote from Shaundai Person. It says "To be a humane leader is to be empathetic, sensitive to your team’s boundaries and protective of their time and efforts."

08. Let go of the (social media) past

The social media landscape is highly volatile right now, says Sophie Miller, founder of Pretty Little Marketer. LinkedIn is having a moment partly due to last year’s waves of layoffs, Twitter is now X, and Meta launched Threads last October (brands are still scratching their heads about that one).

“I like to set my business and social goals quarterly rather than yearly because it feels easier for me to keep my agency light on its feet,” Miller says. “Whenever I test a new tactical strategy for social media, I like to do so for four to six weeks, which is enough of a runway to try ideas to their fullest and then reassess performance.”

Miller recommends ‘troubleshooting for shiny object syndrome,’ meaning identifying and cutting back on ideas you’ve implemented that seemed effective but aren’t actually serving you. That could look like trimming the number of social channels your agency uses to hone in on the ones driving the most traffic, or identifying outdated marketing strategies you can cut out of your marketing funnel altogether.

Quote from Sophie Miller. It says, "I like to set my business and social goals quarterly rather than yearly because it feels easier for me to keep my agency light on its feet."

09. Build systems to support caring at scale

Scott Lachut, professor of branding and communications at the City College of New York, references the idea of caring at scale, which he read in a famous short piece by entrepreneur Seth Godin. “The central tension of the piece is that as your business grows, it becomes harder to pay attention to individual clients with the same level of depth.”

Think about social listening (that is, analyzing conversations happening on social media related to your brand), polls, speaking directly with clients for feedback and hosting events and webinars to stay connected.

10. Automate your eComm efforts

There’s a structured, methodical approach to scaling your client’s eComm business, and with a few tweaks, you can make Q4 their strongest sales quarter yet, says Oren Inditzky, VP eCommerce at Wix.

Once you’ve done all the work to bring traffic in over the course of the year, you want to make sure that your store is enticing at the product-level. “At Wix, we recently brought in a third-party AI solution that tweaks your store to display products in the best order to increase sales,” he says. “It features strong recommendation algorithms as well, plus we have an AI product description generator that can write genuinely amazing copy.” (More: Wix Studio’s AI capabilities will change the way you work)

Inditzky also recommends automating abandoned cart recovery efforts. “With 70% abandonment rate still the industry standard, small tweaks go a long way,” he says. “Set up a chain of emails about a week apart that reach back out to customers reminding them of their incomplete purchase.”

Last but not least, consider your post-purchase process. What can you do to continue your relationship with the customer and build long-time success? Things like newsletters, loyalty discounts and exclusive first picks go a long way in demonstrating gratitude and honoring long-term relationships.

11. Get your team’s wholehearted buy-in

Let's assume you're not hitting targets for a moment. Chris Simmance, founder of OMG Center, a digital agency accelerator in London, says you should communicate this with your team in a clear, concise and honest fashion—not just because it’s the respectful thing to do, but because clear communication will get you more buy-in when you need to make changes to the agency.

“If you want to hit your targets at the end of the year and you're behind, you’ll need to make quick changes, and quick changes without buy-in are dictatorial,” he says.

Big or small, clue your employees into the reason behind any strategic changes. “For example, you can tell employees, ‘we know that the economy in X target country isn't doing so well, so we're putting more effort into said country, which would mean a slight budget cut here.’ Or, ‘we know that AI is a big factor in building sites and creating content, so we’re going to make that the focus of next year, which will change how we structure our content creation efforts.’”

It’s important people don't go into the end of the year worrying about their jobs, so a little explanation goes a long way. The sooner you articulate next steps, the higher your team spirit will be.

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