Agency SOS Update — December 2022
It’s our 18-month-a-versary. Here’s an agency update, some recent WINS and FAILS, and a look ahead to 2023.
Agency SOS has been open 18 months as of today.
Since 20% of small businesses fail within the first year and that number jumps to 30% by the end of year two, we’re going to take a minute to give ourselves a little pat on the back.
(pat, pat, pat)
It’s been a few months since I shared a behind-the-scenes update on what’s cookin’ at the agency, so I recorded a video to give you the latest scoop.
It includes a financial milestone, project update, a look back on 2022 (including some real talk on what all those “recession!” news stories did to production work), some WINS and FAILS (one may involve me wearing too many hats), and a look ahead to 2023.
For those of you who are thinking “I love you John, but I REALLY don’t have time to watch you talk for 12 minutes.” Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:
1. Agency Update
At the 18-month mark, we hit $2M in revenues. Margins are good and we are profitable. Our clients seem happy; most of them are coming back to us for repeat projects and expanding their remit with us.
Production work definitely slowed in the second half of 2022. The recession chatter this summer made lots of brands tighten their belts. (And the spate of layoffs, especially in tech and media, isn’t helping the financial mood.)
But, in a lot of ways, we were lucky. As production slowed, our brand strategy and brand guide work took off. Clients engaged us for planning and brand infrastructure projects and that kept us very busy.
Plus, end-of-the-year production picked up. We have three campaigns in production right now. (Maybe four; we’ll have a green light or red light by the end of this week. UPDATE: It went away! Read the story.) Those campaigns will be released into the wild in Q1.
I am so, SO grateful to our clients. You are the reason we exist. Thank you for your trust, your partnership, and your confidence. (And for being great about paying your invoices in a timely manner, too. We REALLY appreciate it. 😀)
A big thanks to the extended SOS team—the creatives, strategists, planners, producers, craftspeople, project managers, and friends who jumped in to help and advise. You are the reason we were able to deliver great work. Grateful to you for sharing your time and talent.
2. Wins & Fails
Like any year in business, some things WORKED and some things didn’t.
In the win column…
Brand Strategy Bootcamp. We’ve been doing brand strategy since we opened our doors, but this fall we crafted a new program that packaged it up as a 6-week program.
We were thrilled with the response! Strong interest and demand, a successful pilot program, and happy clients. We built out a full curriculum (videos, worksheets, schedules) that’s been road-tested, improved, and is now ready to roll for other clients.
It went so well, we think Bootcamp could represent 20–25% of our total revenues next year. More importantly, we think the program is an improvement over our previous brand-strategy approach and delivers better results for our clients. We can’t wait to see how the program develops next year.
Content Marketing. If you follow me on LinkedIn and think, “Oof, this guy posts a LOT!” you’re not imagining things. It was part of a concerted effort I made late this year. I have mixed feelings about it, but the bottom line: it’s probably working. We’re getting more inbound inquiries as a result.
The weekly “Some Outstanding Stuff” newsletter was also a winner for us. We have hundreds of subscribers (which is cool) but the real value is that the discipline of doing it each week forces me to keep my finger on the pulse of marketing creativity. That’s good for our clients, too.
Oh, and our Ooma Campaign and Anniversary Theme Songs are still two of my favorite things we did this year.
In the fail column…
Creative Campaign Accelerator. If Bootcamp was a pilot program hit, Accelerator was…not. Live and learn! (And we learned a LOT by putting it out there — tons of great feedback.) More details in the video above, but we’re re-thinking our creative development “package” and will be rolling out something new next year.
Too Many Hats. We have a terrific bench of talent that plugs in when we need help on various projects. But, I’m still doing too much for the agency right now, wearing too many hats. That’s not a recipe for long-term success. Operationalizing the way we work and engaging more partners to deliver our work will be critical for next year.
3. Looking Ahead to 2023
It feels like a bit of a crossroads moment for SOS. We have some big opportunities on the table that could easily double our revenues next year.
That’s exciting. That’s terrifying.
Because “getting big” is not one of our goals. We like being a small team. We like our formula: experienced grown-ups who know what they’re doing, few layers, moving fast, and doing good work.
We don’t want to carry a lot of overhead or bloat so we can stay nimble. (It also helps me sleep at night, so I don’t worry about the balance sheet.)
We’d love to help more people. More brands. Tackle bigger opportunties. Help our clients be more successful.
So we’re trying to be thoughtful about how we say, “yes.” And the best way we can serve our clients.
I don’t think that the answer is adopting the traditional agency playbook. So we’re looking at new models and working hard to carve a new path. More to come on this…
Thank you to all who supported us over the past year and a half. It was a little nutty to open a new agency in the midst of the pandemic. It’s a little scary to see what the all the belt-tightening will mean for marketing services in 2023.
Fingers crossed that a small, nimble, solve-your-problem partner will always be in demand. 😉
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Kovacevich is a creative director and the founder of Agency SOS. He writes a weekly newsletter highlighting three bits of creative inspiration for modern marketers. You should subscribe; it’s good!