| Aug 6, 2020 | | 8 min read

The Key to Growing Your Digital Marketing Agency


I’ve been in the digital marketing industry for more years than I can remember, and have come across many talented agency owners who struggle to get their agencies off the ground.

Some of their biggest challenges lie in generating quality leads or choosing a LIGHTHOUSE client. If the term LIGHTHOUSE client doesn’t ring a bell for you, I would recommend reading this blog.

Which agency growth stage do you fit in right now, and are you hitting the right benchmarks to reach the next level? Take the short quiz to find out.

Recommended Reading: How to Generate Leads Using the Lighthouse Client Strategy

However, on the flip side, I have also come across many agency owners who, despite attracting quality leads, are just not able to close the deal. They’re working really hard in making a name for themselves, but things always fizzle out when it comes to actually signing the contract.

Both of these problems are related to one another, and that’s what I’m here to talk about.

It’s all about building authority and how marketing agencies can get across the finish line by incorporating a strategy that is a blend of building perceived authority and actual authority.

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What is perceived authority?

Perceived authority is when people come to your agency because you’re famous, are known to be an expert in a particular area, or are associating with other people who are those experts.

It is how you drive inbound marketing because people think that you’re good; however, that does not necessarily mean that you actually have the expertise to provide those services.

This is why marketing agencies are able to get clients in as leads, but aren’t able to close them.

Only having perceived authority, without having any actual authority, causes agencies to not be able to deliver on what they promised to customers. They might be able to get hold of an odd customer or two and service them, but when it comes to scaling they would run into problems.

Therefore, it becomes imperative that agencies not only build perceived authority for themselves to attract potential customers, but also build actual authority in order to grow their business.

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What is actual authority?

Actual authority is when your agency actually has the ability and expertise to get stuff done.

It means that when you land a customer, you can provide them with the best-in-class service because you have a checklist of how to do things, thereby ensuring repeatable excellence.

Repeatable excellence means the ability to do something at scale. This doesn’t mean having your business’s presence worldwide like McDonalds, but having a set of robust processes that you have done many times and can help you prove that you’re competent in providing a service.

For example, a doctor who performs LASIK surgery has actual authority in the field because they’ve been doing it for a long time. Similarly, an automobile manufacturer like Tesla or Ford has actual authority in the space of producing cars because they produce thousands of cars.

If you only have actual authority, and no perceived authority, you might be the best social media marketer in the world, but you won’t have any customers because no one would know you exist.

Join me on my weekly Think Tank calls and build more of your actual authority!

How to build perceived authority?

As a marketing agency, build perceived authority primarily by associating yourself with people already of high authority.

If you’re around, and are constantly creating content, with people who already enjoy high authority in a specific domain, then through inception their authority starts rubbing off on you.

This helps create an implied endorsement for you and your marketing agency, which, in turn, increases your chances of getting more customers in because they start trusting you. In the image above, you can see how a simple Facebook post can create an implied endorsement.

Another great example of building perceived authority through association can be seen through the lens of David Hancock, who is a sports physical therapist. Now chances are high that when someone mentions that name, at first you might not be able to comprehend David’s authority.

However, if David started creating content that showcases him with other high-authority people, then the probability is high that someone on the lookout for a physiotherapist will remember him.

This video, which shows David in a working session with professional football player, Odell Beckham Jr., builds David’s perceived authority and would help him land more customers.

Furthermore, the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. posted this video on his own YouTube channel increases the amplitude of the content since it would reach a wider audience, especially those people who fall perfectly in David’s LIGHTHOUSE -- sports professionals.

Once you start creating content in a structured way that fits into your topic wheel, people start talking about it and that leads to building your agency’s brand through the creation of a network.

Creating a strong network is important because it helps with sustainability. Since I’ve been in the marketing space for quite some time now, my power to build my authority lies in my network. Therefore, if I want to build more authority in a domain, I just create content in my topic wheel.

And lastly, a quick and easy way for you to build your perceived authority is through paid efforts.

When I say paid efforts, platforms like Cameo come to mind where you have the option of paying a fee and having celebrities and athletes create personalized content for you.

However, just like content marketing where one can’t rely solely on paid efforts because they deliver quick results, and must have a strong organic presence as well that keeps the train chugging, when it comes to perceived authority, agencies must not just rely on paid efforts.

Looking for ways to create authoritative content? Join the Think Tank!

How to build actual authority?

As I mentioned before, once you have enough perceived authority that you start generating quality leads, it’s important that you and your marketing agency also build actual authority.

The best way to do so, in my opinion, is to create a checklist for your marketing processes.

Not only does that allow you to ensure repeatable excellence, but it’s also a great training tool that will help you save time and resources when you onboard new employees. 

It’s the same process that doctors follow when they refer to a pre-scrub checklist before they’re about to perform a surgical procedure. Or the manner in which airline pilots refer to a pre-flight checklist before taking off, even if they’re competent and have flown F-18s before.

The process of creating a checklist not only forces you to develop your marketing processes, but it also drives you to build your intellectual capacity. This helps you cross the threshold of transitioning from having perceived authority to having actual authority.

Another great way to build actual authority is through the process of Learn, Do, Teach.

This concept states that as an agency owner you must spend at least a third of your time learning new concepts, a third executing them, and the rest teaching others how to do it.

If you spend all of your time servicing your customers, then you won’t have time to learn new things and improve your skills. Or maybe if you're focusing only on the present, you're not putting in place your foundation for the future and, therefore, you will get stuck in the long term.

If you want to build your intellectual capacity join me on the Think Tank!

Bridge gaps between perceived and actual authority

Now, depending on whatever was missing, once you go through the process of building either your perceived authority or actual authority, it’s time for you to bridge the gap between the two.

What this means is that if you already had actual authority and have just created content that showcases your perceived authority, you ought to put that content in front of people that actually matter. Just like David Hancock put his Odell Beckham Jr. content in front of other athletes.

Using some quick-win concepts like the dollar-a-day social marketing strategy, agencies can maximize their chances of getting leads in as they can target specific audiences on Facebook.

Furthermore, you can also boost your high-authority content in a specific geographic area.

On the other hand, let’s say that you already had the perceived authority and have worked really hard to build some actual authority for yourself. It’s time for you to now start closing some deals.

Since your marketing agency would already be generating leads due to your perceived authority, you can start onboarding the prospects using strategies like the power hour roadmap.

The Power Hour is all about taking potential customers on a journey that first shows them their data metrics, then enlightens them with an analysis, and finally empowers them to take action. Such a process shows prospects that you are the real deal when it comes to servicing them.

Learn more about tripling your perceived authority with me on the Think Tank!

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Taking the first step towards building perceived authority can be tough. It’s a challenging task, which can feel even more daunting if you don’t have access to people with high authority.

However, creating content that showcases your perceived authority doesn’t necessarily have to be with celebrities or famous sport athletes that the world knows and adores. Don’t think that if you and your marketing agency are not on CNN or ESPN, you’ve lost out on your chance.

While creating perceived authority with superstars is amazing, let’s not forget that local authoritative figures are also valuable if you’re focussed on a very specific area.

At the end of the day, what matters is that the people whom you’re targeting must perceive your agency as an authoritative entity. Therefore, if there is someone in your city or town that is respected or has the desired expertise, create content with them because they have authority.

It's important to realize who those individuals are, take advantage of knowing them by interviewing them, and ultimately grow your agency by utilizing the aura of their authority.

About the Author

Dennis Yu is the inventor of the 9 Triangles framework. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is co-author of Facebook Nation – a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities.

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