Improve Marketing was a new agency, a startup, I set the business up in late February 2017 and at the time of writing this piece it was mid-April 2017 (this post has since been revised). At the time I only had one client and that was a marketing consultancy contract that was unfortunately only temporary, short term. So I needed to find more customers and create a new business strategy to generate leads and in turn contracts. I had done this before, In my career I had been a director at a large regional agency, I had generated a huge amount of new business for that agency, by myself and working with the business development team. I knew I needed a strategy, I needed to generate new business.
What I thought I would do is share my plans and tactics and show you some of the ways that we developed new business and built our marketing agency from scratch. If you are an agency, new business director a startup marketing agency or marketing consultant you'll be interested in this post. We share various strategies and tactics that can be used by single person consultancy businesses to larger agencies.
So here it is, for all the startups, consultants and agencies out there, my new agency business strategy, the ways and means, strategy and tactics that we used to build our marketing agency.
60+ Ways Agencies get New Business:
1) Create a Marketing Strategy
So we are a marketing agency, the number 1 on the list is to obviously market ourselves. It struck me that in my experience of agencies new business strategies, well they were pretty poor. Perhaps a little SEO on their website, some paid search. But largely new business was generated by a cold calling new business person, that networked a little. An outbound cold call centre or, and this was the main way that agencies seemed to generate business, via referral and recommendation. Referral and recommendation is great if you are well established and have some great case studies but I wanted to market myself, a startup without those things, so I sat down and did a very unusual thing. I wrote a marketing strategy for my business.. Ground breaking I know.
When writing your own new business development plan take time to really consider your strategy in full. Just the way that you would for a client. Start by writing a marketing plan, be honest with yourself and understand where your business is and how it is best placed. Think about your target audience, what channel do you perform best in, what sector? Who is your perfect client? What industry or sectors are they in? Are you best placed to be a B2B or a B2C marketing agency? Perhaps you are a small business marketing agency? Do you have an international focus? Have you got the case studies to back those sectors up?
Also, do some competitor analysis, see how your competitors are positioning themselves, is there an opportunity to do something better than them? Is someone missing an opportunity? Set marketing goals and then move onto your tactics.
Large or small you need to have an agency new business strategy to succeed. Prioritise what is going to be most effective for you and start there. Find out more about writing your own new business marketing strategy here.
2) Build a great Website
Our website is the centre of the universe for us, like it is the majority of other businesses. It's where we display all of our key information, show clients what services we offer, case studies and ultimately this is how they will contact us. Remember, whatever your strategy or tactics, potential customers will always check out your website before making contact.
We spent a huge amount of time creating a good looking, easy to navigate, well optimised website that will direct clients to us. The simple first goal of a website is to communicate what you offer and give that person a reason (and the ability) to contact you. Although obvious in its importance having a great website was job number 1 on the priority list and the reason it was at the centre of my strategy.
Make sure your information is clear, your message gets through. That you rank in search engines and that the user experience on your website is good. Also pay a lot of time to considering your customer journeys. The day of 'brochure websites' where you simply list your services and the customers come flying in are gone. Websites are the key to converting agency business. Websites play a part in nurturing the lead, make sure that the right information and indeed software is also there to assist in converting the lead.
The process of converting website traffic into leads.
(Image courtesy of 'Hubspot')
Perfect for startup agencies read: Build your own marketing website in 6 steps
So this was always going to rank highly on my list, because we love SEO. I can't help myself and whilst I was writing the content for the pages in my mind I was already SEO copy writing the pages and targeting them on juicy keywords. My website and URL was new, so this was going to be a campaign strategy that probably wouldn't bear lots of fruit for a while but soon enough I started to rank for some decent keywords and phrases and the traffic and leads have been increasing ever since. A minimum of 55% of your traffic should arrive at your site via organic. Therefore so should 55% of your leads. We see SEO as the lumbering giant of our marketing strategy, slow to start but once it gets going it really delivers.
Need help with your SEO? Click the link.
4) Build a Lead Generation website
Whilst we are on the subject of websites and SEO, we also took the liberty of building a second website. My second website would be targeted at keywords that I couldn't target on my main brand website. That website is called 'Internet Marketing Strategy for Small Business'. Catchy I know. Its purpose was to target a different channel of customers, customers who would still require the same services but who would be using different search terms to find those services. A lot of effort, but now that its built a great addition to our new business strategy. An extra sales person.
5) Social Media
A big category. As an agency is a B2B targeted business the obvious social channels are Linked in and Twitter, perhaps Youtube or for internationally focused agencies Xing. At the very least I needed to be active within my core two channels but in addition to this there was also Facebook and Instagram. Although we are not hugely active on these platforms, for a startup agency or consultant they can be powerful. The reason being, you will be amazed how much your friends and colleagues support and share your content for you. I know I am lucky to have friends like I do, but the point that I am making here is that although you would not initially think that a B2B business should be on Facebook or Instagram, there is a place because it provides a place for your friends to support you and deliver your marketing messages far and wide. They have and work at businesses too, let them support you.
Another tip here is to make sure that you automate your social media. Create and share great content, dive into conversations. Follow potential new business and engage with them. Follow agency or business networking pages, if you are a local agency jump into regional or town level Facebook pages and groups and interact. There are opportunities everywhere on social but you have to find them and earn the lead.
Create a social media strategy, share your content. automate it and include it in your business development plan.
Twitter needs some special recognition. I personally like Twitter (yeah so what, I am a little old school). Sometimes it gets a bad rap for being the runt of the big social media channels. In a recent conversation with a social media agency, they even recommended that I didn't invest time in twitter as a platform. Amazing! I have had great results come from Twitter. Particularly in a B2B context. Businesses are definitely using Twitter so I need to be too. It's a great place to find and contact businesses and its a great place to be found. Particularly for local or web development agencies targeting smaller businesses, most of the time smaller businesses Twitter profiles are managed by the business owner or founder themselves.
I want to be found by other Twitter users for what we do, that is Marketing, Advertising and Digital so my Twitter profile reflects this and so does the content that I share. Speaking of sharing its a great place to share my content too.
PR agencies will already be aware of the strengths of Twitter as it is the perfect place to connect with journalists, other types of marketing agencies should do this also to improve their PR efforts. For SEO agencies it may mean just another back link. Add up all of these benefits and your agency should be using Twitter, for us it is a B2B essential.
7) Linked In
Speaking of B2B essentials. In wades Linked In. There are so many ways to use Linked in for business its unreal, after all that's why its there. To connect businesses. You are probably already aware of the huge amount of techniques and strategies you can use.
Our new agency business strategy started with and continues to use Linkedin as a core business development channel. Here's the minimum that you need to do.
a) Company Page: A great place to anchor yourself as a real world business, its a link back to your website too. But also a great place to share content. Sign up to my business page Improve Marketing on Linked in.
b) Personal profile: Yes, I am talking about you! Your profile should be optimised to your role in the company and what you do. You can check out mine Paul Lymer Linked IN. Take time to fill in your whole profile, add all the positive things that you have done, skills, qualifications and reach out and ask for recommendations. Make sure that your profile looks professional and reflects your business too. New business Directors and staff should all follow, engage and share your content.
c) To connect with people. Look for people who work at businesses that you want to work with, connect with them, say Hi.
d) Maintaining relationships. Not everyone will want what you have right when you want to sell it. So keep contact with people on Linked in. Share useful and relevant content so that you come up in their feeds. Wish them a Happy Birthday, congratulate them on their new position or promotion. Generally be a nice person.
(Image courtesy of 'The Next Scoop')
Linked In is a big subject, I'll probably write more on this at some point so make sure that you sign up for my newsletters.
8) Directories and Listings
Directories and listings are more than for SEO, their primary reason is to drive traffic, traffic that has the potential to turn into new agency business. Google my Business listings and Yell.com are great for generating traffic and leads. If someone searches 'Marketing Agencies' by location directories and or course Google listings will appear in the results page. So take some time to add yourself to the big directories. the bare minimum would be Google Business, Bing Business and Yell.com.
There are also some directories that create leads for you, such as Freeindex. Set up a listing and then sign up to receive enquiries in your inbox.
If you need help in setting up and optimising your directory listings for SEO do get in contact.
Clients sometimes use agency specific directories to put together agency targets for tenders. Build profiles on Design Rush and Clutch. Make sure that your business is included in all of the directories that your potential clients are using to find agencies like yours.
9) Content Marketing
Content marketing or inbound marketing is where you create content that is highly relevant and genuinely useful to your target audience and then publish it and or SEO it so that they will eventually find it enjoy it and subscribe to your newsletter or get in touch. Like this post.
Your content marketing strategy should centre around your clients. Obvious right? But what I mean is that you should be answering the questions that they are potentially looking for answers of. I have written many posts that do exactly that. For example, clients looking for a marketing consultant might first be looking at the reasons why they should hire one. So we wrote a post about that, you can read it here: The Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Consultant. Write lots of content, high quality content. Consider it an investment in time and eventually you'll start to get leads from it.
10) Clashing Agency Business
Previously you or members of your team worked somewhere else? Well what opportunities lie there? Is there some sort of way that you could work with other agencies? For me, prior to marketing client side, I was part of an agency team. Agencies usually work or specialise within a sector e.g. retail. They will target retailers and retailers will go to them reassured that they are doing a great job for retailer A, then they will do a great job for me, retailer B. However, some clients do not like to work with direct competitors in the same agency. By competitor I mean, directly competing. Rather than being Retailer A and B, they are Curtain Company A and Curtain Company B. The agency will probably only be able to work with one of the curtain companies and there lies the opportunity.
At Improve Marketing my team and I have got relationships with suppliers and media owners that have persisted throughout our careers. With all those meetings and socialising you are bound to have made a few friends along the way. Even if they aren't close friends there is sometimes the opportunity to help each other out. In this case, suppliers are usually well informed, know who's trading with who and they also know if an agency is doing a good job or not. If you have a really good contact sometimes they can even make the introduction for you. Make a list of your suppliers and talk to them about how you could help each other, find ways that are mutually beneficial.
12) Old clients
You may have worked here and there, no doubt you'll have clients that you used to work with. They have been sad to see you go. They may have made the wrong decision and parted company with you for a different reason. If you did a great job for this client you'll probably have a foot in the door already. Give them a call, see how they are. See if you can add some value to their marketing. A great new business strategy. Always maintain contact with clients that you have lost. Sometimes they'll regret their decision and want to come back to you. Make sure that door and communication is always open.
13) Colleagues that started their own Businesses
I was fortunate enough to work with some serious marketers, digital marketers and advertising agents in my time. Some of these marketers started their own businesses and are thriving today. What do they offer? Think about how you could help them and vica versa. How could you partner up?
14) Colleagues that didn't start their own Businesses
Colleagues have the benefit of seeing how you work. They know how good you are and how hard you work. They are walking, talking advocates for your business. Keep them up-to-date with what you are up to and ask them to refer any opportunities that they see (get them to follow you on social too).
15) Previous Bosses, Managers and Business Influencers
The saying that birds of a feather flock together is never more relevant than is this point. Successful entrepreneurs, business owners and senior managers attend the same seminars, conferences and talks that other successful people do. They are privy to lots of information, can make introductions and generally be good souls when helping you to develop your new business strategy. Try asking someone successful to mentor you too.
16) Paid Advertising
By Paid Advertising I mean the utilisation of Paid search or PPC. Dependent on your budget, skill or ambition you can set up campaigns to target those keywords best suited for your business. 'Marketing Agency', 'Advertising Agency', 'PR Agency' etc etc. If you are super small startup with no budget this is still available to you. As Bing and Google both offer free vouchers to trial their products of you set up in their business listings. See Google Business & Bing Business.
Need help with your PPC? Looking for a PPC partner? Click the link.
17) Consulting with your Previous Role
As a Marketing Agency, we offer Marketing Consultancy. For various reasons one of the companies that I was working for preferred to recruit me as a consultant rather than replace me. Great, I thought. First client in the bag and I haven't even got a website yet! Perhaps their is consultancy opportunities where you used to work?
18) Google, Imagination and Cold Communication
Not my preference but it is the most obvious way to target businesses that you want to work with. For me these are usually businesses that I know by name or by sector. I find them, find their contact pages and then contact with a view to meeting them for a coffee and having enough time to discuss their current marketing objectives and see if I can add value. This can also work in conjunction with a Linked In strategy. See point 7.
This is a relatively well worked and traditional agency new business strategy. But it works.
19) Recruitment Agents
Not an obvious choice but prior to making the definite decision to start up my own agency I contacted a number of recruitment agents and shared my CV. Now I have redefined my search with them in favour of part-time roles so that I can see what businesses are looking for help. You can then contact them directly.
20) Offer services for Free
Startup or well established agency it is always good to give back. But there are opportunities for lead generation here to. Say you wanted to get into the charity sector, you are a web dev agency and you wanted to help a charity to rebuild their website. That's great, but why not use the opportunity to build a list of charities that want to build new websites. Create a campaign, a referral campaign that asks people to propose charity websites that needed a freshen up. You could build a lot of momentum with a campaign like this. As the list builds you obviously pick the winner and choose which charity to build the new website for. However, after you have built the website you still have a list of prospective targets to contact, but this time with a live example of a website and no doubt a glowing case study to go alongside it.
21) Strategic Partnerships - Other Agencies
Creating a strategic partnership with another agency can be very lucrative. Look for 'no conflict' partnerships where you can refer each other business. Creative agencies could partner with an advertising agency or print supplier. PR agencies with SEO agencies. Paid Search with Organic Search and so on. Create a strategic network of partner agencies. Pay good referral fees and look after them with new business, before you know it you'll have the new business teams of all of your network hunting and converting new business for you.
22) Strategic Partnerships - Consultants
Consultants are usually broadly skilled, excellent new business persons who need a little expertise every now and then. One issue that consultants have is that they can't be the masters of everything - even though they try! It is also difficult for single consultants to scale. Partnering with consultants allows them this opportunity. Bring consultants into your business closely and you'll be amazed at the leads that they are generating and soon enough you'll be cooperatively pitching their client base.
23) White Label Services to other Agencies
This is the area that I am focusing on the most. There is a whole host of businesses out there that want to add to and diversify their offering but don't want to invest heavily in it, permanently recruiting the specialists that they need to do it effectively. Here's where consultants come in. By bringing in consultants, businesses can offer and benefit from symbiotic services that obviously compliment and add value to their own services.
For example, PR agencies do a lot of the heavy lifting for SEO in link building, why not offer SEO as an additional service? Then they can shout about those additional benefits and most importantly make revenue from it. Creative agencies are preparing the advertisements and building campaigns, why not offer media buying alongside it? Traditional marketing agencies can offer advanced digital marketing services without taking on more overhead and hiring more people.
In short, adding complimentary services help you to diversify your offering an create new revenue streams. By recruiting consultants you can reduce risk by not adding cost or overhead to the business whilst trialling a new product or service.
If you are an agency or marketing business that would be interested in generating additional revenue and white labelling one of our services please get in touch and contact us here.
24) Grow existing business and scale - Companion Selling
If you are an established business you'll already have a client base. Perhaps some nice clients that are ticking over and generating good revenues for you. Examine these clients, is there anymore that you could be offering them? How can you take a greater share of their marketing spend? How can you grow their business? Companion selling services may be the answer. For example. Web design and development agencies rarely offer digital marketing or SEO. To do SEO you need to be an expert in it, so bring in an SEO consultant and offer specialist SEO as part of your after sales. This can be recurring revenue for little effort. Adding SEO or digital marketing services as an after sales offer will allow you to continue your relationship with the client, grow them and generate additional income. Pre-sale, that is services that come before your core offering could be an opportunity too. Using the web development agency example, customer research, market research and in-depth competitor analysis will assist the design process and generate revenue too.
PR agencies can offer media training as an after sales service, marketing agencies can offer marketing audits or market research. The list goes on.. The easiest clients to convert are the clients that you already are doing a great job for, this will help you scale your business. New agency business can come from growing accounts as much as looking for new clients to offer existing services too.
25) Specialise - Offer Niche Services
In cluttered marketplaces sometimes the options and choices available to clients is huge. When clients are fishing in large pools the chance of being chosen can be reduced - however good your agency is. But let's say that you are a paid search (PPC) specialist. You know that the financial sector is both lucrative and reliant on PPC. So why not take your agency in this direction and become a PPC agency that solely manages financial services clients. If you are a specialist in this area, you'll stand a far better chance than the generalists. You'll have the case studies and industry knowledge to prove it.
26) Diversify your Services
Similar to creating strategic partnerships with another agency, this new business strategy involves recruiting a specialist into your business so that you can offer complimentary and after sales services instead of subbing it out.
27) Scale with Tech Providers
Marketing software is diverse. Different agencies in different sectors will be using a whole host of different platforms to monitor, manage or optimise their services. A lot of these platforms offer partnership programmes that generate recurring revenues, a prime example of this would be Hubspot but there are many more. Other platforms such as Wix also offer the opportunity for lead generation with their preferred partners programme. Find the tech that you love, become a partner and resell their services whilst making use of their client introduction services as well.
28) Competitors to lost Agency Business
This may feel like sour grapes and you of course have to be careful with the information that you share. However, if your agency has been doing a great job for a client and they move on you can use them as a case study to pitch their nearest competitor. If you have been working with the client for some time you will probably be very aware of their competitors strengths and weaknesses and you can rest assured that they'll be interested in talking to you to find out more.
29) Lead Generation Services - Agency Dating Services
There are whole platforms designed and built to generate new business for agencies. From touting your agency services on People per Hour and Bark to Meet Hugo there are a large number of paid services where you can pay to pitch or pay a referral fee for being introduced to potential new business.
30) Outsourced New Business
If you are on Linkedin you'll already be aware of these services. As an agency owner I am regularly contacted by businesses who offer to generate me leads and appointments. Some of these services are good, some are poor. Take the time to gather and research the company before signing over your profile. Take time to position their messages politely (particularly the follow ups) and only sign up for a trial to see how they perform.
31) Create a new business team - Hire a New Business Director
Larger agencies always have a new business director to manage the sales process. From prospecting to nurturing, pitching to converting business it's good to have someone who is solely responsible for this function. Graham Smith (Warman & Banister) once said that 'the new business director is the account director for all of the business an agency does not yet have'. True indeed. New-business directors, new-business managers, business development directors and managers, marketing directors with a new-business responsibility.. Whatever you call them, having someone solely responsible for this function will hugely improve your success rate.
32) INVEST in getting New Business
Our point here is simple. If you want to get new business you need to invest in it. Whether that be hiring staff, committing time, outsourcing or by offering commissions and referral fees. Let's be clear, we tell our clients to invest in their marketing all day every day. Why should agencies be any different? You need to set aside a budget, target a cost per lead, understand your conversion rate (lead to sale) and know the lifetime value of a client. When you understand this and know your targets, how much you want to grow your agency business then you'll know what to spend. Agencies tend to spend very little on client acquisition averaging just 1.5% of turnover. Invest in winning new business to grow your agency.
33) 30 more ways for Agencies to get New Business!
There are a whole host of other ways for your agency to generate leads and get new business. So in case you have not had enough inspiration here is another 30+ ideas.
There are so many ways and mans to generate new business for an agency that this post could go on for ever. But be sure to create a marketing plan and in turn an agency new business strategy. Don't go off half cocked and do a bit of this and a bit of that. Keep your targeting tight and don't give up. You'll get there! When you do, why not share your favourite strategies in the comments below?
Thanks for reading and best of luck.
If you are an agency or marketing business that would be interested in creating new revenue streams and white labelling one of our services or partnering up please get in touch and contact us here.
Want to set up your own marketing agency? Find all the information and resources you need by reading the Definitive Guide To Starting Your Own Marketing Business!