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April 15, 2024

Digital Agency Events: Grow Your Agency by Building Community 

When we talk growth with digital agency owners, we don’t just look at financial metrics. Instead, we focus on non-financial drivers, such as production and pipeline, which are ‘levers’ that owners can pull to make their agency as efficient as possible. 

But there’s another dimension of growth that happens beyond your agency’s walls. It doesn’t appear on any spreadsheet: community.

Every entrepreneur will pay lip service to the importance of networking, but when you hear people say, “It’s lonely at the top,” that’s a sure sign they haven’t put in the time and effort to truly build community.

When you build community with other owners and industry players, to exchange knowledge and best practices, you’re more likely to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Yes, it can be hard to set aside time for networking, especially in the busy day-to-day of agency life – my colleagues and I have the same challenge in our work building and growing Summit Virtual CFO by Anders. 

That’s why joining professional organizations and attending conferences is invaluable, especially in a high-stress industry like creative agencies: it puts you in the same room with the people who best understand your situation. People who you can help and who are most likely going to be happy to help you in return.

“When I’m around other people, and we’re all just sharing ideas, that’s where I have found the most growth for myself and my agency,” says Jay Owen, organizer of the Agency Builders Retreat. Agency Builders is not just another massive warehouse full of networkers. It’s a smaller, industry-specific conference designed to allow people to make connections and build community by being authentic and vulnerable.

“Sometimes we glamorize the mega events with 1000s of people at them,” says Jay, “But you can only talk to so many people. I’ve often gotten good value from people that are speaking on stage. But I would argue that the vast majority of the time, the biggest value is the afterwards ‘fire pit’ conversation, the lunchtime chit chat, or the in-between break talks. It’s that one little thing where you’re willing to open up to one other person and go, ‘Gosh, I’m really struggling with this.’ Maybe you wouldn’t say it in a big room, but you’d say it to two or three people, and then somebody in that circle goes. ‘Oh, just do this.’ And you go, ‘Oh, all right. Well, I’ll try it.’”

Here’s why he thinks more intimate digital agency events are the perfect ingredient for growth.

You’ll Participate in More Sessions and Hear More Speeches That Speak to Your Niche 

Smaller events cater to specific groups, such as business owners operating within a particular industry or vertical. In fact, these digital agency events can be highly selective about who they invite or allow to attend. For example, some events may focus on bringing together business owners of a specific size (e.g., earning a specific amount of revenue annually). 

digital agency events

When the organizers are selective about attendees, you’ll be more likely to connect with individuals who have been in your shoes – and maybe have a solution you haven’t yet considered. The content of the event, such as the breakout session topics, is also more likely to provide more information and insights you can leverage for your business.

You’re More Likely to Connect with Other Attendees

Smaller marketing events allow you to connect with people one-on-one. They may give you the confidence to speak up more in sessions with other attendees because fewer people are participating in each session. With that said, you have to be willing to raise your hand and speak on the issues you face as a business owner or share some of the solutions you’ve employed that someone else can apply to their business. 

“I want to encourage people, when you get in those rooms, be willing to raise your hand and go, ‘Hey, I’m trying to figure this thing out,’” Jay says, “because chances are really good that somebody in that room knows how to solve that problem. They can save you years of frustration.” 

You’re More Likely to Pay Attention during Keynote Speeches

We’ve all been to conferences where you attend the keynote speech in a large room with hundreds (if not thousands) of audience members and notice a few people scrolling through their phones or working on their laptops. You may have even been one of those people! Since keynote speeches at large conferences are typically broad because they have to connect to a large and diverse audience, it isn’t surprising that some attendees may direct their attention to other tasks instead of listening to the person on stage. However, keynote speakers at smaller, more tailored digital agency events are much more likely to speak on topics and provide insights that will be helpful to you.

In a smaller room, there’s nowhere to hide. But you also will be less likely to want to hide, if you’ve picked a selective event, in your niche. When you sit in a small room, with top industry minds, you have the chance to learn from the best. 

“Be the idiot in the room,” Jay says. “Just soak in all the knowledge from the other people. You’ll be so much better for it than if you showed up in the room and you were the best one there. That’s fun every now and then,” he admits, “but you’re not going to grow very much that way.”

Attending a smaller marketing event might feel like a gamble, but it’s one that regularly pays off for us and our clients. When you book an event, you’re making a commitment to build community. ‘Community’ doesn’t get written down on any spreadsheet or forecast, but the benefits for business growth are undeniable. “If you’re out there trying to build a business or agency or any kind of organization, get in community,” Jay says. “Get people around you. Don’t do it alone.”

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