Thanks to low barriers to entry, low-cost tools, and widespread visibility, starting a digital marketing agency is not terribly difficult. Many firms have started from a home office and continued to be managed independent of a permanent location or commercial space.

But there’s a significant difference between launching a digital marketing agency and scaling a marketing agency into a vibrant and successful business. To do the latter, you need a solid plan.

Four Tips to Scale Your Marketing Agency

You may have seen stories of marketing agencies that grew from $0 in revenue to $1 million in only 18 months, or some other relatively brief period of time. Such tales make great headlines and case studies, but to be honest, they’re few and far between.

In reality, most seven-figure digital marketing agencies have scaled up over a period of many years. So instead of assuming you could strike it rich in a matter of months, you should focus on growing a business over a longer length of time.

Here are some of the ways you can nurture sustainable growth that could set you up for long-term success.

Figure Out Your Brand

Before you can help your clients manage their brands, you have to understand your own. Rather than try to be a jack of all trades, you would be smart to look for ways to specialize and nail down a niche.

According to one survey, clients are looking for expertise when they hire agencies. Roughly 20 percent say the most important thing is “expertise in my industry,” and 19 percent say it’s “expertise with my audience.”

“Rather than try to appeal to every kind of client, truly understand who your agency is, what it does best, and what kinds of clients you work best with,” marketer Kimberly de Silva suggests. “In this manner, you will attract the kinds of clients you are best-equipped to understand and help.”

Build Long-Term Relationships

Expanding agencies too often make the mistake of pursuing quick money at the expense of a solid future revenue stream. Specifically, hungry agencies will take whatever projects they can get their hands on, even when they may be isolated jobs that offer little or no guarantee of future work.

You’re better off using some discretion and taking on long-term projects that are more likely to yield a steady return over time. It will undoubtedly take more effort to find such opportunities, but that will be healthier for your business in the long run.

Secure the Right Partners

Because successful marketing agencies specialize in specific areas of digital marketing, they don’t always have the proper resources in house to handle all their clients’ needs. But this doesn’t mean they turn people away.

Instead, they service customers’ unique needs through strategic partnerships. For example, many digital marketing agencies lack the ability to produce large volumes of content in-house.

So they work with link-building services to outsource the work instead. The end product is high-quality content that satisfies the client. As a result, the agency maintains its winning reputation.

Learn to Qualify Prospects

As your operation grows, you may begin to generate more leads than you can handle. This seems like a great problem to have, but it can hurt you badly if you don’t have a plan in place for such an eventuality.

You need a system for qualifying prospects. To be more specific, you need the ability to weed out clients that aren’t going to be worth your time, and focus on the ones that will generate long-term revenue for your company.

The BANT method is one of the more popular lead-qualifying strategies. The acronym is based on the four factors used to score a lead: budget, authority, need, and timeframe. If a lead satisfies each of these criteria, then it’s more likely a good prospect to prioritize.

Prioritizing Sustainable Growth

Everyone wants to enjoy overnight success, but beware of getting what you ask for. It might be thrilling to go from $0 to $1 million in a handful of months, but this is rarely a sustainable business model.

It takes time to put the appropriate building blocks in place and establish a strong foundation. But through this steady grind, you’ll learn about yourself, your business, and what it takes to be successful—and more important, how to sustain your success.

Growth is always a good thing, but make sure you prioritize sustainable growth. Otherwise, your success could be fated to be short-lived.

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Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking, and skiing with her family.