How to fuse a Founder’s values with the agency brand they’ve built

values-founder-vs-agency-brand

How does a marketing business founder fuse their personal values with those of the brand agency they create in a way that both stand to benefit?

Claire Hutchings, Founder of content marketing agency Chime believes there is a way to successfully balance the two, even as the business grows…

claire-hutchings-chime
Claire Hutchings, Chime

The relationship between an agency brand and its founder brand can be a complex one.

While the founder’s vision and values are often the driving force behind the creation of the agency, the agency brand itself takes on a life of its own as the business grows and evolves over time.

As the agency expands and takes on new clients and projects, the agency brand may begin to develop its own identity that is distinct from the founder brand.

Ultimately, the success of an agency brand depends on its ability to convey a clear and compelling message to its target audience.

By carefully navigating the balance between the founder brand and the agency brand, an agency can create a strong and cohesive identity that resonates with clients and helps to differentiate it from its competitors.

When it comes to agency brand, size matters

The shift from founder brand focus to agency brand focus is one that happens over time as the agency grows. That is, when the agency brand evolution is successful.

The idea that people buy from people still rings true, particularly for smaller agencies. For agencies under fifteen employees, more of a focus on founder brand makes sense.

Often new business is being won via the founder’s existing network, word-of-mouth and referrals.

By leaning into a founder-led brand, agencies of this size can capitalise on the founder’s connections and reputation. It gives it a face that is recognisable and rich in social capital.

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Reputation: Leaning in to a Founder’s values can enhance an agency’s standing.

That said, while the founder brand is a valuable model for smaller agencies, with growth also comes the need to change and adapt. Limitations can arise when the business outgrows this approach.

When the agency reaches, for example, fifteen to thirty employees, the agency is larger than its founders’ personal brand and expertise. Instead of centring on the founder as smaller agencies might, the founder brand evolves into more of a vehicle or channel rather than the whole strategy.

Perhaps the founder has exhausted their personal network or simply can’t keep up with the speed of growth necessary for the expanding business. This is where the agency brand begins to really emerge.

For agencies of a larger scale, here we’re talking thirty plus people, we often see the emergence of a machine-like system. Perhaps there’s a dedicated team or department, systems that are dedicated to marketing the business in a sustained and intentional way.

Larger agencies should have the resources and capacity to scale up their marketing and invest in a strategic approach. This surpasses the need to centre itself around the founder brand.

Agency Brand can diversify the business’ marketing and stretch beyond centring the value-add of its founder.

Another point is that in a larger agency the clients are likely to work with a variety of people from the team not just the founder so it’s important to represent the agency as its own entity. This way the client is not expecting to have the founder’s full attention.

team-variety-Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
New faces: Clients like to work with a variety of people from agencies.

Employee advocacy becomes super important for larger agencies. It’s almost like an offshoot of this idea of a founder brand that is more suited to larger-scale agencies.

The benefits of employee advocacy are similar in that it can help with social selling and building credibility, but it can also be a powerful tool for brand recognition and reputation management.

You should also bear agency vs founder brand in mind if the agency founder has any plans to sell the agency in the future. It’s essential to establish a separate brand identity for the agency as a whole as relying on the founder’s personal brand could make it difficult for potential buyers to see the agency as a distinct entity that can continue to thrive even without the founder’s involvement.

By creating a unique brand for the agency, you can help ensure its long-term success and make it a more attractive acquisition prospect for interested buyers.

Finding the Balance

So yes, it’s a delicate balance this founder vs agency brand tactic. But if you understand what a good a balance looks like over the agency’s lifetime then you’ve got a good foundation to work on.

Balancing founder vs agency brand successfully requires flexibility and agility. You have to be able to adapt and pivot.

Of course, these are all words anyone in agency land will be familiar with, but they’re more than just ‘corporate jargon’.

There’s merit in bending with the wind but doing so strategically as you navigate the agency lifecycle. Equip yourself and the agency with the knowledge and tools to guide you forward with purpose and make the best of your brand as a whole.