How to get clients as a marketing agency
Marketing your own services as an agency can be daunting. You’ll be competing with other experts in your niche and according to this research, there are 88,225 marketing and advertising agencies in the United States alone.
Let’s rationalize what this means:
- All marketing channels will be competitive
- All marketing channels will be crowded
- The average quality of marketing materials will be higher
- It’s competitive for everyone
So how do you compete in a market like this?
- You need to drill down your niche : your customers average company size, industries and the services you offer is a good starting point.
- Also consider if you will be a local player (more in-person) or strictly digital. If you opt for local, you can use more local marketing channels and go a bit wider on your industry and target company sizes.
- Remember that your competition struggles with the same challenges. They’ll give up easily, you will not.
- Having strong client cases, ecstatic client reviews and testimonials will be more important than having high brand awareness and reach.
- You’ll overdeliver from the start of the sales process till a final invoice is sent
Creating your ideal customer profile
Let’s start by creating an “ideal customer profile”. Don’t overthink it, just answer these questions:
- Which type of customer will see the value of my service the moment I present it?
- Which type of customer am I capable to deliver value within the first month?
- Do my services make up a very small portion of the ideal customer's budget?
From personal experience, I would also add:
- The larger the target company, the more important your credibility, reference cases, and connections become. You will not walk into a Fortune 500 company and sell your services. You’ll need to convince a lot of stakeholders, make a lot of revisions to your slide deck and compete with other agencies on a proposal.
- The smaller the company, the easier the sales process becomes as you’ll often be speaking to the decision maker directly. Often you’ll be the only person pitching, but it will be harder to unlock large budgets.
My advice: Stick to 10-50 people companies that have a stable business. These will have a shorter sales process and reasonable marketing expectations.
Tailoring your service offering
In marketing, it’s easy to get to know the basics. After all, there’s a guide for everything on Google. But getting a certificate doesn’t make you an expert. In marketing, you’ll learn by doing and after some years experience kicks in and you can place more accurate bets on which tactics or experiments will work.
When starting out, I would focus on nailing one a few specific types of service until you have some clients. Build a process for these services and repeat with your new customers. This will make your internal operations much smoother (sales, execution, reporting, ..), will deliver customer satisfaction much sooner in projects, and will open the door for renewals and upsells. This is how you will lay the foundations of your agency.
Consider partnering with another agency that specializes in complementary skills and earn a commission while retaining the customer, or start hiring mediors & seniors if you have the capacity for it.
Your competition has the same problems
The market is crowded and while there are often quick fixes to be found for your customers, there are no quick wins for agencies left. Instead, the top 10 results on Google are often claimed by large service providers like Hubspot, SEO-dominant companies like Forbes, or crazy high PPC ads from your competitors.
If you ask me, there is no industry with as many paid ad campaigns, poor SEO content blogs, and as many gated e-books (with totally useless content) as the one we’re competing in.
So how do we stand out?
We need to go back to the principles: How can we create value for our customers?
To keep this relevant for every type of agency I’ll try to summarize in a couple of principles:
- Don’t sell. Focus on educating and inspiring your customers with social posts and good, written content.
- Stand out from the crowd. Writing opinions on how you see marketing can resonate very well with your target audience. Instead of writing the next “10 tips for B2B sales” ebook, write a Linkedin post that challenges the industry on lazy content e-books, followed up by e-mail marketing campaigns that everyone marks as spam or unsubscribes too.
- Show the better alternative when working with you. Use results and examples from past campaigns (or % increases) to show how your approach does deliver results.
- Deliver a WOW moment as soon as possible. Show you understand the customer when you reach out to them, and show them how you will deliver value by creating strong mock-ups; processes, and relevant examples in your pitch deck.
- Be helpful. There are tons of places where your target audience goes to ask questions. Just help them out for free. My rule is, if I can answer their question in a comment I will. If they have more questions, I’ll try to answer those over a call. no strings attached, if they find it valuable they will come back.
Overdelivering from start to finish
You would be surprised how many agencies go into sales meetings without properly researching the customer, trying to understand their business need instead of just trying to close the sale.
Here’s my advice:
1. Preparing your sales meetings
Perform a quick audit on their website and make notes on what could be better. Go broader than what they initially asked for, after all you’re the expert they’re looking to hire.
2. Always make a personalised sales deck
Always bring a personalised sales deck. Add some slides of your findings from point 1, and create some mock-ups of what it would look like when they work with you.
**3. Don’t be shy to go over budget **
A lot of agencies pump the brakes when results are moving in the wrong direction. Remember: KPI#1 is to deliver customer success. If you sold the project too cheaply, increase your price next time. But don’t generate angry customers, take ownership of your mistakes.
**4. Don’t sell bullshit **
It’s easy to meet customer demands in the sales process to close the deal. Don’t do this. Instead, show your prospects that their expectations are unrealistic. Going against the prospect with evidence will make your proposition much more trustworthy and authentic, I can’t stress this enough.
The same goes for projects that are 1-3 months in and are on track to fail. Ring the alarm, get leadership together, and come up with a plan on how you believe the results can turn around. Often this is a great opportunity for upselling too, as you’ll be taking on more work. You do need to signal this on time, otherwise, you’ll lose your credibility and they’ll be very hesitant to increase your budget.
bonus: The perfect marketing agency pitch deck
This template should make a 15-20 slide deck that you can easily replicate for each customer. It shouldn’t take longer than 1 to 4 hours to personalize this for most customers:
The pitch deck:
- the ask : Rewrite their question into clear KPI
- The challenge: The deliverables you will create to meet their KPI
- The approach: What does the process look like to create these deliverables
- Timeline: How long will it take? When are the check-ins?
- Team: who will work on this? Both agency as customer side
- Pricing: How much will it cost?