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How a Digital Marketing Agency Survived and Thrived in COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most industries, and digital marketing was no exception. According to an Uplers survey of digital marketing agencies around the world, 66% of agencies experienced a decrease in revenue.

Hite Digital was among those affected as the pandemic swept across the United States in March. By summer 2020, the young agency had lost 35% of their portfolio, with nearly every client citing the pandemic as the reason. “We’re cutting our budgets,” every client told CEO JC Hite; marketing is often the first thing to go from a budget, despite evidence that this isn’t the smartest move.

Growing During a Crisis: People First

Hite worried for his team, which at the time was made up of about 40 young professionals, many with families. At Hite Digital, zero debt and savings are a priority — but taking care of their people comes first. Hite was determined not to cut one salary, or one team member, because of the crisis.

The first six months of the pandemic were rough for Hite Digital, but with some smart budgeting and adapting, they pulled through the summer. They saw firsthand how the pandemic changed clients’ digital marketing needs, and they sold many more e-commerce sites than usual as businesses took their sales online.

Through it all, Hite Digital did not cut a single team member or reduce anybody’s salary. In fact, they grew to 50+ team members and many of these moved up within the company as well. These commitments to their people, as well as efforts to maintain company culture alive virtually, paid off. As new and old clients steadily returned to their digital marketing campaigns, Hite Digital was prepared to take them on.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most industries, and digital marketing was no exception. According to an Uplers survey of digital marketing agencies around the world, 66% of agencies experienced a decrease in revenue.

Hite Digital was among those affected as the pandemic swept across the United States in March. By summer 2020, the young agency had lost 35% of their portfolio, with nearly every client citing the pandemic as the reason. “We’re cutting our budgets,” every client told CEO JC Hite; marketing is often the first thing to go from a budget, despite evidence that this isn’t the smartest move.

Growing During a Crisis: People First

Hite worried for his team, which at the time was made up of about 40 young professionals, many with families. At Hite Digital, zero debt and savings are a priority — but taking care of their people comes first. Hite was determined not to cut one salary, or one team member, because of the crisis.

The first six months of the pandemic were rough for Hite Digital, but with some smart budgeting and adapting, they pulled through the summer. They saw firsthand how the pandemic changed clients’ digital marketing needs, and they sold many more e-commerce sites than usual as businesses took their sales online.

Through it all, Hite Digital did not cut a single team member or reduce anybody’s salary. In fact, they grew to 50+ team members and many of these moved up within the company as well. These commitments to their people, as well as efforts to maintain company culture alive virtually, paid off. As new and old clients steadily returned to their digital marketing campaigns, Hite Digital was prepared to take them on.

A New Business Model

But JC Hite had even bigger plans for the company. During the crisis, he developed a new business model for Hite Digital, that they’re now ready to launch: franchises.

The franchise model grew out of what Hite Digital was already doing by helping small agency owners grow through a combination of white label services, education, and prospecting. “These agency owners had a strong desire to help their clients reach their digital marketing goals,” says Jeff Zelaya, VP of Franchise Development at Hite. “But often they struggled to scale their business in a way that didn’t end up sacrificing time with their family and their individual self-growth.”

Through Hite’s franchise model, new agency owners will be able to get not just the operations and systems needed for a successful agency, but the training, support, and fulfillment as well. “Hite’s expansion with franchisees has been fueled and motivated by our revenue growth but also by our desire to make an impact in more people’s lives through our vision,” explained Zelaya.

Just like they prioritized their people during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hite Digital is now focusing on small agency owners and their growth, setting them up for increased success in 2021 as digital marketing continues to grow. By becoming franchise owners, these agency owners join a family that’s ready, not just to survive, but to thrive.

But JC Hite had even bigger plans for the company. During the crisis, he developed a new business model for Hite Digital, that they’re now ready to launch: franchises.

The franchise model grew out of what Hite Digital was already doing by helping small agency owners grow through a combination of white label services, education, and prospecting. “These agency owners had a strong desire to help their clients reach their digital marketing goals,” says Jeff Zelaya, VP of Franchise Development at Hite. “But often they struggled to scale their business in a way that didn’t end up sacrificing time with their family and their individual self-growth.”

Through Hite’s franchise model, new agency owners will be able to get not just the operations and systems needed for a successful agency, but the training, support, and fulfillment as well. “Hite’s expansion with franchisees has been fueled and motivated by our revenue growth but also by our desire to make an impact in more people’s lives through our vision,” explained Zelaya.

Just like they prioritized their people during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hite Digital is now focusing on small agency owners and their growth, setting them up for increased success in 2021 as digital marketing continues to grow. By becoming franchise owners, these agency owners join a family that’s ready, not just to survive, but to thrive.

Matthew Fraser is a writer, journalist, and branding strategist. He helps brands build their authority as an Authority Advisor. Matthew is always looking to write about the world's most innovative, creative, and intelligent entrepreneurs. If you're looking to take your brand to the next level, reach out to Matthew Fraser

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