Making Agency Numbers More Transparent

Benchmarks are an incredible tool for business owners and operators. They tell us where we sit on the spectrum and make our strengths and weaknesses transparent. Without them, we’re often left to wonder – am I any good at this?

(Kitchen pie chart via Jotun Türkiye)

Here’s a conversation I recently had with the founder of a marketing agency:

Founder: How much should we be paying for entry level consultants?

Rand: Maybe Payscale or have good numbers?

Founder: They’re all over the place – and not specific enough to our field. I’m competing with other search agencies for talent and clients, not the lumped-together buckets of consulting jobs those sites use.

Rand: Yeah, that’s totally frustrating.

Founder: What about estimating employee tenure? Or average client retention? Or pricing? We’re trying to figure this stuff out with no idea of the broader landscape. Are we doing a good job? Are we way behind the curve in some areas?

Rand: You know… I might actually be able to help with that.

When I left their offices, I had already emailed myself to work on a survey to send out to agency owners/founders/CEOs. My hope is that by collecting, anonymizing, and then aggregating data, we can help give some benchmarks to the operators of search, content, and inbound marketing agencies.

As a startup in the technology world, Moz has access to tons of great stats around salaries, costs, key metrics, and customer data. The software world publishes a tremendous amount on these topics, and investors (like Foundry and Ignition, who put money into Moz) can provide us with even more data. But for independent agencies in the inbound/content/SEO world, accessing these kinds of trustworthy, usable numbers is much more difficult. Hence, I’ve built a survey whose results I surmise might help:


If you’re an agency owner/founder/CEO/exec, please take the survey here

I plan to collect data for a couple weeks, and hopefully gather a few dozen to a few hundred total responses, then publish the averages and distributions by country (for any country where there’s critical mass). Generally speaking, this is geared toward those agencies with 5-250 employees, but if you’re smaller (or a solo consultant), feel free to enter your information as well and I can break out independent consultants as a separate group if we have enough responses.

A few compromises were required – making a survey short enough to be tolerable yet include enough questions to make it truly useful is a careful balancing act. This one’s 35 questions in total, primarily multiple choice (which are generally the easiest variety to answer), and should take less than 15 minutes to complete.

Any help spreading is much appreciated, as it will make the data more robust and more useful.