I run an agency but spend less than 10% of my time on marketing

“Kev, how can you still consider yourself an MARKETER?

When was the last time you actually did any MARKETING for your own agency?”

I get questions like this a lot…and they bother me each time.

And here’s the rub…

I’m the one asking them…of myself.

You see, I’ve run digital marketing agencies since 2006. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting, hacking, growing, learning (and everything in between). I’ve written hundreds of blog posts, given media interviews and presented at a ton of conferences. To be honest, I (pretty much) loved every minute of it…and the ends always justified the means.

“Organic” marketing has always been my main way of generating new business, with prospects coming purely via referral, reputation, search or our own content. I loved spending most of my time in “the trenches” and this allowed us to keep growing and working with some leading companies in the world.


(Here I am speaking at an SES London event from a couple of years ago)


… I realised there’s been a big shift in where my time has been spent of late. And I found myself asking those two questions more and more.

So I analysed where I’ve spent my time over the last few months, and I found it interesting that so far this year I have only spent 9.85% of my time doing “hands-on” marketing work.

I still blog and speak at some bigger conferences…but to me that still sounds low. Uncomfortably low (if I’m completely honest).

It used to be closer to 50%!

But the more I thought about this, the better I felt.

Here’s why…

1) The cobbler’s shoes…

Cobblers Shoes

(Image source: Flickr)

You may be aware that:

the cobbler’s children have no shoes refers to the phenomena where people who are successful at doing something but don’t demonstrate that in their own personal lives.

We don’t want to be in a position where our own marketing is better than what we do for our clients – but without this sounding like an excuse, it can be difficult to prioritise time on yourself, when you’re focusing on client work.

That said, seeing that we specialise in content marketing, it’s always something I’m conscious that we should be doing more of ourselves – to practice what we preach and demonstrate thought leadership within the industry.

2) Is less MORE?


(Image Source: Deviant Art)

I wrote about this a while back, but great content marketing can take a lot of time – if you’re going to do it, do less, but do it properly…

I’ve never been a fan of quick and easy marketing. If I write a blog post, it’ll be in-depth and extensive. And if I create a presentation, I always strive to make it better than the last.

I don’t like giving the same presentation twice – I’ll update and review to keep things fresh and new (my Slideshare history with attest to that!).

In some ways, that’s probably a bad thing and I just need to be more efficient – especially as I’ll often be presenting to completely different audiences. But I’ll still worry that there’s one person watching who has seen it before, is bored and wants to see fresh ideas.

In some way, this may have been my downfall in gradually doing less and less actual “marketing”. Doing it properly takes so much time – but doing it quickly and dropping quality was never an option I’ve been comfortable with.

3) Here’s the irony, we’ve grown more than ever…

Irony graffiti
(Image source: Flickr)

Was I really that bad at marketing before? Probably!

But the ironic thing is that Re:signal have grown significantly, especially over the last 12 months, since I reduced the time spent on the marketing work I felt that I should be doing more of.

Despite this, I still can’t quite shrug off that feeling of guilt when it comes to spending more time on marketing. It’s probably also the reason I’m writing this post on a Sunday afternoon!

Given that I’ve done a lot of speaking and blogging in the past, cutting right down on this is tough as it always feels like I could be doing more.

4) Aim for the bullseye, not the whole board…

By being more selective in whom we do and don’t work with, we can really put our marketing time and budgets to better use. We don’t want to work with everyone, in which case we can be more targeted with our marketing.

Try the bullseye framework from Traction, to find your top marketing channel – then focus on it, get better at it and do things to support it…

Bullseye Framework

(Image source: Zapier – this is a good summary if you don’t want to read the full book)

You don’t need to do everything!

5) Doing great work is the best marketing you can do


(Image credit: Pixabay)

Marketing can get you a seat at the table, but it won’t close the sale on its own.

You need to have a great product.

The more great work you do, the more your customers are happy. The more business they do with you and the more they tell people about it, the more awards you win, the more credibility you get – and by this point, you’re in exciting territory.

6) Scaling word of mouth is the real goal…

Word of Mouth

(Image credit: Unsplash)

It’s very hard to do this, but it’s MUCH EASIER once you have great customer success stories.

If there’s any content marketing advice in this article, that’s what I would recommend: make sure that you’re telling your brand’s story from your customers’ viewpoint. What challenges/obstacles did they have? How did you overcome them and what results did it get?

Potential customers will really resonate with that.

7) Then I had a realisation…


(Image source: Unsplash)

In one form or another, everything I do is marketing!

My mindset and way of thinking is that I’m not doing enough to market ourselves as an agency, but the things I’m spending my time on instead are doing exactly that.

Perhaps just a little more indirectly.

If I consider where I’m spending my time now, it all impacts on how we market ourselves – whether that’s setting and communicating the vision of where we want to be as an agency, working on our team culture, improving our service offering and delivery, building key relationships with clients or coaching our team…

It all impacts how we communicate who we are and how we market ourselves – even down to every email I send, internal company presentation I deliver, a discussion I have or a decision I make.

8) Focus, focus, focus!


(Image source: Unsplash)

I’m still not sure if I’ll ever get away from that feeling that I should be doing more when it comes to marketing.

However, now that I understand where I can add value in key areas – and that marketing is everything – I’m much more comfortable with it.

How much time do you spend on marketing?