Build a Boutique Ad Agency In Your Spare Room: Here’s How

A boutique advertising agency is small but nimble, offering a variety of services to an array of clients, each of whom wants something different. To become a successful service provider, working out of a spare bedroom, takes hard work, innovative, on-going promotion, and quality word of mouth (WOM).

So, if you’re thinking of building a boutique agency, here are some tips to get you off on the right foot. (Oh, and these service providers earn a nice living. At least the good ones do.)

1. Think locally. Act globally. First,farm the local business community for clients. Every small business has a website. Every one of them advertises somehow.

But don’t limit yourself to the locals. Build an attractive website that will be seen by the world. You’ll be amazed that folks from Malaysia call and want some consultation on introducing a new product to the U.S. market and could you advise them.

Sure, why not?

2. Track local media. Don’t get hung up on localization, but a boutique ad agency has a built-in trust factor with local businesses, so that neighborly trust enables you to skip the trust-building phase and get down to business because both you and the client know “ol’ Sam.”

3. Optimize your website for both global and local search. Add your town, state and zip code to “advertising agency Trotwood Ohio.” More and more search engine users are savvy to local search and prefer to work with someone close by.

4. Provide a menu of service offerings. Most clients don’t want to go from here to there. They want a project manager who can take care of the editorial development, the graphic design, the upcoming company picnic. The more services you provide, the more services you sell.

Consider the following:

search engine optimization
content development including blogging and optimized site text
site design
print ad design
graphic arts
multi-media including DVD products
event planning
on- and off-site marketing

You get the idea. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it doesn’t cost a dime, to call the local Ramada to get a conference room rate for your event planning file, or a rate card from the local press. Valuable information that you can collect during “down” time.

5. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Total no-brainer. Once a month the CoC gets together for a networking lunch. Bring business cards and strike up friendships. Don’t sell. That happens organically as more and more members know who you are and what you do.

6. Join the Better Business Bureau. A trust builder. And it goes without saying, keep your record spotless. People do check with the local BBB and if you have a couple of outstanding complaints, you ain’t gonna land the gig.

7. Advertise your own services, as in. follow your own advice. You should have a small print ad running daily or weekly in the local newspaper. First, you want that name recognition and second, buying ad space in bulk saves you beaucoups bucks.

8. Plan meetings to take place in public places. The last thing you want is your deep-pockets client tripping over a sippy cup on the way to your spare room office. Talk about amateur night, even if you are the best there ever was.

Find the right location for client meetings (their offices) or a local eatery, and always pick up the tab.

9. Build authority and expertise. Enter industry competitions and tout your wins and quietly forget your failures. “Gold Medal Winner, National Design Show” listed on the stationery builds credibility. And of course, such an award is worthy of a press release to the local paper. Get that free ink.

10. Perception is reality. High-end stationery, a professionally designed website, a pricy suit – all say success, and that you “get it.” Create a professional persona and you are a professional, and the owner of a boutique marketing agency.

If you have a computer, up-to-date software, good management skills, and know a graphic artist, a good copywriter, a video editor – you can build a boutique ad agency using local businesses to form your client base.

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