7 Lessons From a Search Agency That Grew to More Than $2.5M in One Year

Recently the competitive intelligence SaaS company iSpionage published a blog post titled “How a Search Marketing Agency Went From $0 to $2,500,000 in Revenue in One Year.”

It’s been a popular blog post, but it also ended up being 7,794 words long.

Since that’s a lot of reading I decided to distill some of the lessons down into a quicker read for this post. All of these are lessons search marketing agencies or people looking to start an agency can implement to boost profits, increase client retention, and hire more talented employees.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in.

Lesson #1: Get Results as Soon as Possible

The number one thing clients are going to judge you on is whether or not you get results. If you’re making them money, they’ll keep you around; if not, they’re going to be a looking for another search agency to partner with.

Disruptive Advertising, the agency that went from $0 to $2,500,000 in a single year, found this out early on. They realized that the faster they got companies to the “sweet spot” of getting results, the more likely the client was to stick around.

They also do this in two ways.

First, they accomplish this by making sure they undersell but overdeliver. They tell clients on sales calls that it will take up to three months to get a well-oiled marketing machine, but they do everything they can to get results in the first week.

Second, they stay in contact with the client and communicate wins early and often. Once they start getting results, they make sure the account manager lets the client know good results are coming in.

This is in contrast to a lot of agencies that go weeks at a time without contacting the client. This can leave the person writing checks wondering whether or not you’re still paying attention to them, much less working on their account.

The result from this approach of getting clients to the “sweet spot” as quickly as possible is more clients sticking around and feeling good about paying for the second month, which is a win-win for everyone.

Lesson #2: Offer CRO in Tandem With PPC

Something else Disruptive does is offer conversion rate optimization (CRO) services in addition to PPC management. This combination helps them to stand out from other agencies and also to charge more.

In the interview Johnathan Dane, Disruptive’s president, talks about how doing landing pages and CRO provides much more value than just managing an AdWords account and allows them to charge a premium price compared to other agencies.

It also helps them to get better results for clients, which leads to more satisfied customers and better retention rates. When prospective clients shop around and are comparing prices, they know that Disruptive offers more value, which means they don’t compare them to shops that offer bottom-barrel pricing.

Lesson #3: Help Clients With Their Sales

Something else that stood out with Disruptive is that they help customers with their sales. Not only do they offer CRO when some other agencies don’t, but they also reach out to clients and help with the sales process.

They ask questions like, “What are you guys doing to sell leads that are coming in? Can you show us? How often are you following up?”

Questions like these go above and beyond what the client expects but also ensures the likelihood of a long-term partnership because even if clients are getting a lot of leads, if they aren’t closing sales, they won’t see the value of PPC advertising. Disruptive takes the bull by the horns by not only managing the PPC side of things but also offering sales advice and training when needed.

Lesson #4: Don’t Lead With Pricing

Instead of showing prices on their website, Disruptive focuses on generating leads and then talking about price over the phone.

They do this partly because they charge more than other agencies and need an opportunity to explain all of the extra value they provide to justify their higher rates while also answering objections that may come up. This helps to make sure their service doesn’t become a commodity and gives their sales people an opportunity to do what they’re hired to do — answer objections and close sales.

If you find yourself struggling with pricing, you may want to consider removing prices from you website and providing custom quotes. It’s always a good idea to price based on the value being provided by an agency and being received by the company.

And never forget that you can always start high with pricing and move down. If clients balk at a higher rate, you negotiate another acceptable rate, while it’s much more difficult to negotiate up after advertising a lower price.

Lesson #5: Send Customer-Appreciation Gifts

Disruptive sends meaningful customer gifts to let their clients know they appreciate their business. The gifts aren’t expensive, but they’re another touch point that shows clients how much Disruptive cares.

An example gift is a stuffed rabbit with a mustache. It’s quirky but also matches Disruptive’s personality as a brand and is something fun that clients appreciate receiving.

They also do things like send a picture to clients with two Disruptive employees pointing at the client’s website on a screen in the middle. These types of photos are a fun way to stay in touch with clients and to let them know you’re still paying close attention to their account.

These types of gifts can’t replace getting results, because that’s ultimately what clients will measure your agency by, but they are an extra touch point that makes your clients feel special and decreases the likelihood they’ll leave you next month for a lower-priced agency.

Lesson #6: Make Sure You Hire the Right People

As most people know, a business is only as strong at the team it hires, and this may be the most true at agencies that rely on account managers to cultivate and maintain relationships and PPC managers to stay on top of accounts and continue getting results.

Disruptive accomplishes this with unique hiring “hacks” that help them stand out from the crowd.

Their approach starts with an Instagram account that documents life behind the scenes at Disruptive. It shows a fun workspace complete with a ping pong table, a foosball table, and employees that do things like juggle while at work.


The result? Disruptive gets emails out of the blue with PPC specialists telling them that Disruptive is where they want to work. Instead of always chasing down new talent, they get approached by people wanting to work for them, which obviously helps with recruiting.

The next time you’re working on your social media strategy, you may want to consider how you can use it to lure top-talent to your agency, not just to get more clients to sign up.

Lesson #7: Show Your Employees You Care

Not only do you need to show your clients that you care, but you also need to tell your employees how much you appreciate they’re choosing to work for your business, because the fact of the matter is this: everyone has multiple options when it comes to where they can work, and your business’s success depends on hiring and retaining top talent. If your employees are happy and stick around, you’re going to be better off in the long run.

Disruptive accomplishes this by letting customers know how much they appreciate having them there, especially early on when employees could have chosen more established companies that would offer more stability. They also have unique programs like a $500 vacation credit to let their employees know exactly how much they appreciate them and also to encourage some healthy R&R that will make them more productive employees for the long run.

Employee perks like a vacation credit and a work environment that helps to make sure everyone can succeed and grow while also having fun and enjoying their job goes a long way to decreasing employee turnover and increasing employee satisfaction.

What’d You Learn?

My top three insights are:

  1. Try to get results quickly and help client with sales
  2. Be sure to hire the right people
  3. Offer CRO with paid search and display clients

I hope you learned something from this post and enjoyed the lessons.

Also, don’t forget to read my eight lessons from owning an agency for 15 years for more tips and strategies to make you successful.

Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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