Why Understanding Your Pipeline is the Key to Long-Term Agency Success

June 26

If you’re like most creative agency owners, you’re running your business in three-month sprints. While the team is busy with projects today, all you see is red in your financial forecast beginning next quarter. Are you in a dreadful cycle of feeling good about this month but wondering where the client work will come from next month or all months after? In a project-based world, this is not unique.


Project security is a constant challenge, no matter how perfect our process or how happy our clients are. Part of our jobs as owners is to get comfortable with this cycle and do everything within our power to extend the cycle's duration.


We’ve written extensively about how recurring revenue can add longevity to contracts and, if you have the wherewithal, stability to your future. But for most of us, recurring revenue is not the lion’s share of our business, and making it so isn’t an overnight process.


So, how do you control your future? The answer lies in your pipeline, the critical tracking mechanism for leads, opportunities, and proposals with current or new clients. 


Only if we’re able to drive robust and repeatable activity within our pipeline can we expect to see the same outcome with our revenue. On the flip side, the more we shy away from our pipeline, account planning, or keeping up-to-date with the accuracy of our deals, the more we should expect uncertainty with our revenue forecast. The simple question is—which would you rather?


It's for that reason that, as an owner, pipeline generation should consistently keep you up at night. If we do not continually generate a pipeline to allow ourselves to win business, we will have no business to manage, no client work to get done, no time to track, and no meetings that will matter—we’ll be right back at square one.


Agency owners struggle with producing pipeline activity because so many problems in our businesses are "solvable." However, the one thing I cannot help you solve with the snap of my fingers is more revenue, which is why I think there's only one attitude towards pipeline generation to maintain.


Remember the giant boulder in Indiana Jones rolling towards him and representing imminent death? Pretend you’re Indy and lost or declining revenue is that giant boulder. We must spend every waking moment running from death and uncertainty in our agencies… and the counterintuitive fact is that this still holds true even during the best of times. It’s the never-ending treadmill we decided to place ourselves on when we started our businesses.


What’s the best way to run faster and defend your position? Fill the pipeline, then fill it some more, and after you sign the largest contract in the history of your business, wake up the following day and work on the pipeline again.

Some of you may dispute, "But I oversee the work," or "I hired a salesperson to oversee biz dev," 


But let me ask you—who takes responsibility if your business doesn't stay open? Or if you can't repay your debt? Or if your investors don't get their money back? Or if you don't have enough money to bring home to your family after caring for your team? That's right; it's you, the owner.


Our number one responsibility to ourselves, our business, and our team is to supply them with enough business to have a stable environment, develop new skills, and earn more money. In the agency world, if we're not growing, we're shrinking, and the boulder is nipping at our heels.


We all know the feeling of not knowing where the next deal will come from, especially when we need it most. It's a dreadful and hopeless pit in our stomachs. That’s why, no matter how our business is doing, we need to outrun that feeling every day, like Indy outran the boulder until it no longer chased him for good.


Protect the franchise. Procure a sizable and repeatable pipeline, and watch your agency thrive in the build mode of your business lifecycle.

Interested in working together?