Frustrating, isn't it? So many professionals believe that getting more clients for a marketing agency must be relatively easy.
After all, as these people see it, agencies must already have expertise and know-how to grow without much effort.
As we've heard from our our customers', reality is quite different any many agencies struggle to attract new clients. In particular, many of them have told us how the most popular channels have become oversaturated with larger agencies.
Others recalled the challenges they've faced attracting new clients with content marketing. In fact, we've heard terrifying stories from agencies that try to out-publish larger competitors. Needless to say, many end up frustrated with the process and have little to show for their efforts.
The thing is—content marketing, SEO, and PPC are only a few of the channels to find new customers. There are, in fact, many other approaches in order to help you attract ideal customers.
In this post, I've outlined some of my favorite strategies for finding new clients. First, let's start by gaining a broader perspective on the growth challenges that agencies face.
Why Do Agencies Struggle with Growth?
Notice that I didn't ask whether marketing agencies face growth challenges above.
Unfortunately, that is a given. For example, a series of interviews with agency owners by Smart Insights made it clear: marketing agencies struggle with maintaining growth.
Many of the interviewed founders admitted to having challenges with finding new clients. Others revealed how much they struggle with ranking for target keywords. Also, a lot of them openly spoke about the difficulties in overcoming the competition.
Hubspot's 2018 Agency's Growth Report revealed similar findings.
(image from the Hubspot's report)
At the same time, it showed that 79% of agencies feel confident in their ability to close clients. Only 60%, however, say the same about their lead generation efforts.
(image from the Hubspot's report )
To me, the data above reveals the root of the problem:
The agencies inability to reach the target market and engage it with a relevant message.
And if you read the interviews I referenced above carefully, you would also discover why.
Many interviewed founders talk about the growing competition, both from larger agencies and freelancers. Some also point at the over-saturation of popular marketing channels.
So, below are some strategies that, I believe, will help you overcome this challenge. With them, you'll be able to reach your target audience, without having to compete with larger brands at that.
Host Regular Training Events or Workshops
Most leads early in the buying cycle seek education above anything else.
They want to learn more about their problem and how a potential solution could help them solve it. However, they may not want to discover it by reading content.
For example, a manager of a thriving business who struggles to generate more inquiries online, might not have enough digital expertise to understand your ideas.
In fact, they might prefer someone to explain it to them first hand.
And here lies your opportunity -- hosting regular educational events to explain the benefits of your services to potential clients.
This agency, for example, runs workshops that introduce potential clients to solutions they offer.
Personally, I doubt that anyone would become a topic expert during any of the above workshops. Then again, that's not the point of running them.
Such events help participants get a good understanding of a particular strategy.
And for you, they also:
Help connect your agency with highly-qualified prospects,
Present yourself as matter experts,
Subtly pitch your services.
PRO TIP: To get even more out of these events, partner with a local coworking space or a meetup group. Many such places would have extensive networks of contacts that you could tap into.
Alternatively, if you're focused on marketing within a niche, find events within your niche industry to reach potential clients directly. While running your own event gives you more flexibility, you can often reach a larger audience by connecting with an existing event.
Ask Your Broad Network for Introductions
I admit that this strategy seems almost too obvious.
And yet, I rarely hear of agencies actually using it.
Current and former clients, leads you had a good rapport with, industry connections and other people you've interacted with can introduce you to companies looking for your services.
And all you need to do to avail of it is ask.
The problem? I believe many founders do not know how to inquire about such introductions.
So, here's a simple approach a friend of mine uses. Whenever he's low on new leads, he reaches out to connections with this simple message.
Notice how the message suggests one recommendation only. This way, it doesn't seem as intimidating as asking for many introductions would.
Retarget Website Visitors to a Lead Generation Asset
Not all website visitors are ready to inquire during their first visit.
Most need to come back more than once to make a buying decision.
And so, if you focus only on increasing conversions but forgo enticing visitors to come back, then you're leaving money on the table.
One way to overcome this is retargeting. Ideally, by positioning relevant information while prospects continue their research.
And I admit, this strategy incorporates many others -- content, lead generation, etc. But by combining those efforts, you increase your chances for new inquiries greatly.
First, map your content to the entire customer's journey. By doing so, you'll understand what information to present, depending on a person's interests.
Next, to establish exit points relating to the buying cycle. For example, customers who only read your blog posts are, most likely, at the awareness stage.
Those who reviewed your about page or service pages could be evaluating your agency.
And you can consider anyone who drops off from the contact page as a potential customer.
Now, the above is just an example. You'll have to analyze your data and establish how this process looks for your agency.
Finally, set up retargeting ads to present those people with relevant content:
Blog posts for people in the awareness stage,
White papers or other lead magnets for the second, and
Case studies or other proof for those already looking to hire an agency.
Use Strategic Guest Posting
I'm sure you've already heard how effective guest posting can be. Countless success stories confirm how sharing your expertise builds trust, authority and grow your business.
But many agencies still shy from this strategy. And I believe it's because they don't know where to guest post for the biggest exposure.
In fact, a joint-report by the Content Marketing Institute and SEMrush, called "The Invisible Key to Content Success" identified this as one of the major content marketing challenges.
(chart from the report above.)
How do you overcome this? My suggestion -- by being strategic in your selection.
Let me explain.
When publishing guest posts, you want to achieve two things. You want to gain the greatest possible exposure for your agency. At the same time, you also want to raise its authority level.
When evaluating guest posting opportunities, focus only on sites that promise exposure and authority.
Sites like Social Media Examiner or Moz, for example, immediately deliver on both objectives. Those sites have ginormous readerships. And, being featured there immediately raises the author's industry status.
Another strategy, reach out to your best customers, asking what publications they read often. This way, you can uncover opportunities you could possibly miss otherwise.
PRO TIP: Feature where you've written on your website too. This adds credibility when a visitor sees that you are a published expert in your field.
Join Relevant Slack Groups
Slack is slowly becoming a much better alternative to forums and other online communities.
For one, it's where many of us spend a lot of our time. As a remote team, for example, most of our team interactions happen on Slack.
Slack is also incredibly intuitive to use. Not to mention that its UX truly helps bring people together.
But this goes beyond engaging with teammates. Slack communities connect like minded people to connect, engage with, and help one another out.
However, a little-known fact is that becoming part of a Slack community could lead to new business opportunities.
That's because, often, members will ask for or refer work to others. Here's one proof from a Slack community, a friend of mine frequents.
Here's a list of Business-oriented Slack communities to help you get started.
Create a Mastermind Group on Facebook
Joining an existing community offers an incredible opportunity to expand your network and grow.
But building your network can deliver far greater benefits. That's particularly if your community helps solve problems relevant to your agency's specialization.
(That said, building a community requires significantly more work than joining one. But as I'll show you shortly, it's well worth it.)
Think about it. Many local businesses around you feel overwhelmed by marketing.
And some of them will want to gain as much knowledge as possible about it first. Moreover, they might prefer to do it by interacting with the industry professionals, rather than reading content.
And that's why building a mastermind group is a good idea, particularly on Facebook.
For one, it makes engaging with you much simpler. After all, most of your potential clients would be on Facebook already. Using the social network to host your group makes joining and interacting with others effortless. A person can log in to check updates or post comments whenever they check their Facebook feed.
At the same, running it allows you to position yourself as the expert and great source of advice. And that's even if your potential clients interact with other members instead of you.
Develop Strategic Partnerships with Non-Competing Companies
For many business owners, strategic partnerships are an absolute no-go.
They fear how a partnership could affect their client relations.
But building a strategic partnership doesn't mean giving another party access to your clients.
Instead, it allows you to:
Help out clients who need complimentary services to what your agency provides.
Deliver additional services through a white label connection with another agency.
Take managing Adwords campaigns, for example. To deliver results, a PPC campaign requires more than just keywords and bid management. Content, landing page design, and other factors contribute to higher conversions and lower spend.
However, not every PPC agency would offer those services. At the same time, it shouldn't rely on a client to provide assets necessary for their success.
But those services are in synergy.
A copywriting firm might service clients who need help with growing website traffic. Many PPC agency customers would need a better copy for their landing pages, and so on.
By forming a strategic partnership, both agencies could service their clients better, while helping each other grow.
Use Agency Marketplaces like Credo
(Full disclaimer, neither AgencyAnalytics nor I are affiliated with Credo. We don't even know those guys. But their service seems like a great opportunity for agencies to expand their customer base.)
Many agency owners I know associate marketplaces with low rates and cheap labor.
And perhaps they are right with some of them.
But recently, a friend told me about a service that seems to combat that negative perception. It's called Credo, and instead of allowing agencies pitch for jobs, it manually introduces clients to high-quality, vetted, and verified vendors.
As the company states on their website:
"Credo started in 2013 to solve the problem of businesses not knowing which SEO or digital marketing agency to hire."
As said, I have never had any interactions with Credo. I also don't know anyone who has used the service. But judging by their testimonials, and the fact that its run by an agency veteran, John Doherty, it might be the marketplace to consider.
Conclusion: What to Do Next to Get More Clients?
There's one other thing customers often ask me about marketing agency customers. They want to know what they could do to convert new leads into paying clients.
And it's a fair concern. The strategies I outlined above would help attract new clients to your agency.
But you still need to convince them to become clients.
And my recommendation is to use data to present them the biggest wins of working with you.
Let me explain this further.
When companies reach out to you, it's not because they want to have a particular desire to work with a marketing agency. They face challenges they believe doing so would help overcome.
And most likely, they'll choose an agency that shows how well they understand those concerns.
So, here's a simple trick you can do to make it happen.
Research the new client's industry and market before the sales call.
Next, collect various data illustrating the situation now. For example, research what estimated traffic their domain might receive. Or the most popular keywords their competitors use (including those your new client doesn't target), the cost of acquiring more traffic, and so on.
Then, create a dashboard showing sample results companies receive with the service you provide.
Here are some sample dashboards we created with AgencyAnalytics for your inspiration:
The PPC dashboard:
SEO Conversions Dashboard:
As the last step, merge those results with the data from your initial research. Then, use the results to illustrate the ROI a new client could expect from working with you.
For example, when pitching SEO services, show how growing the number of ranking keywords will affect conversions and revenue.
Calculate the difference between attracting a certain number of visitors to a much bigger one. Using the average conversion rates for SERPs positions, combined with the client's avg. sales amount, work out the actual earnings increasing visibility would deliver.
For PPC, discuss the effect of improving campaigns and reducing spend would have on their sales growth and so on.
By a.) presenting the data in context, and b.) outlining the ROI using visual cues, you make it not only more relevant but also, easier to comprehend.
And what goes with it, simplify their decision of whom to hire.