Improve Marketing was a new agency, a startup, I set the business and the website up in late February 2017 and at the time of writing this piece it was mid-April 2017. 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, at previous agencies and I was confident that it would work. I needed a strategy, I needed to generate new business.
What I thought I would do though is share my plans and observations on how I intended to build up my own marketing business from scratch. As well as share a few of the tactics that I am employing to achieve this. If you are an agency or new business person, perhaps you are a start up marketing agency or freelance marketing consultant like me, then you'll be interested in this piece. If you are interested in adding our services to compliment your offering then don't be shy and say hi by contacting us here.
So here it is, for other startups and agencies out there, my new agency business strategy and tactics, the ways and means that I am focusing on marketing my marketing agency and how I got my business off the ground.
Before I made the decision to leave my former position I had already started the process of actioning my new business strategy. I think that subconsciously I had always known that I was going to start my own marketing agency. Every new connection on Linked In that had 'Marketing' in their title drew my attention, made me curious and want to investigate them and their business a little further.
Before making the final decision to leave my salaried role I also wanted to reassure myself that I wasn't being foolish and had a chance of getting clients of my own - I am fully aware that new business, finding and converting new business is the trickiest part of starting my own business, I needed a strategy.
What I decided to do was write all of my options down, every angle that I could think of to generate new business and then pick out the ones that I thought best suited me and my marketing business. I seem to be able to absorb and understand imagery and structure better than in any other form, its how I strategise with arrows pointing in this direction and that. I started with what I saw as the centre of my new business strategy, my website, in the middle of a piece of A3 paper and then started to draw bubbles around it, connecting them to the central website or, if they were related to an existing subject I would connect them to that. One idea led to another and before you knew it I had a whole page of opportunities. I prioritised those opportunities and also ranked them with potential success rates and importance. Those new business opportunities ranked in order became my new business strategy, some of these tactics I have listed below.
20 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. This was a big bubble on my chart that had many off shoots. 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 guy, 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 start up 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.
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 honestly 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? Are you best placed to be a business to business marketing agency? Perhaps you are a small business marketing agency? Have you got case studies to back those sectors up?
Also, do some competitor analysis, see how they 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.
2) Build a great website
My website is the centre of the universe for me like it is the majority of other businesses. It's where I display all of my key information, show clients what services I offer, case studies and ultimately this is how they will contact with me. Remember, whatever your strategy or tactics, potential customers will always check out your website before making contact. I spent a huge amount of time creating a good looking, easy to navigate, well optimised website so that I can direct clients to it. 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 yours works too!
Read: Build your own marketing website in 6 steps
So this was always going to rank highly on my list, because I love SEO. I can't help myself and whilst I was writing the content for the pages in my mind I was already SEO copywriting the pages and targeting them on juicy keywords. My website and URL is 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 is only going to keep going up from here. I see SEO as the lumbering giant of my marketing strategy, slow to start but once it gets going it really delivers.
Need an SEO Consultant? Click the link.
4) Build a Lead Generation website
Whilst we are on the subject of websites and SEO, I 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 my new business strategy.
5) Social Media
A big category. As a B2B targeted business the obvious social channels are Linked in and Twitter. At the very least I needed to be active within these channels but in addition to this there was also Facebook and Instagram. Although I did not initially consider using these platforms, for a startup 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 too.
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.
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. My profile is all set up and optimised. It's a great place to find and contact businesses and its a great place to be found. I want to be found by other Twitter users for what I do and 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. For me a B2B essential. Check out Improve Marketing on Twitter
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 but here is a few that I use it for.
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.
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.
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
You were probably thinking 'at least he's not talking about SEO anymore, but this post is going on!! Then I started to talk about directories and listings and you think 'Hey wait a minute that was point 3!!'. Directories and listings are more than for SEO, their primary reason is to drive traffic. Google Business listings to Yell.com are great for generating traffic and new business. If someone searches Marketing agencies by location within a directory you want to be there. 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.
Blatant sales push warning. If you would like us to optimise your directories for SEO and submit you to all of the relevant and high traffic directories whilst boosting your Local 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. Comme ci.
Your content marketing plan 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 I 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 worked somewhere else right? Well what opportunities lie there? Is there some sort of way that you could work with your old team or business? 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 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.
I have got relationships with suppliers and media owners that have persisted my whole career. With all those meetings and socialising you are bound to make 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 friend 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.
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 business. 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 start up 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
17) Consulting with your previous role
As a Marketing Agency, I 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.
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. I have since redefined my search with them in favour of part-time roles so that I can continue to build my business. Although this hasn't driven any work for me yet opportunities do arise and I am sure that some marketing consultancy opportunities will arrive via this means. An old boss of mine used to follow the recruitment pages looking for businesses that were recruiting senior marketing hires. New hires like to shake things up when they join a new business, a timely call can sometimes create new business opportunities.
20) 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 white labelling one of our services please get in touch and contact us here.
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. Paul
Post created April 2017. Updated in December 2019.
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!