Having a steady stream of new clients is essential to almost all agencies, yet many of us operate in a feast or famine cycle. We start thinking about how to get more clients only when referrals dry up or clients leave.
In most industries, your customer lifecycle is not interminable. Even with a mix of long-term and short-term clients, you’ll always need to cultivate new relationships and close new deals.
This endless exercise can be buoyed by some core strategies that keep things from becoming too dire. These methods work whether you’re starting an agency or taking your business to the next level.
If finding new clients isn’t a strength of yours, there are plenty of ways to cultivate the skills you need for your agency to survive and thrive.
How to Find Clients
First, you need to know where your clients are. Understanding where to find your ideal clients will illuminate the best strategies to reach them. With some trial and error, you can establish reliable sources of leads from which to draw a steady stream of clients.
Again, even once you get your first clients, growth is only possible by venturing into new territories and finding new people who will buy what your agency is selling.
It all starts with the right leads. And most of them are hanging out somewhere online.
How to Find Clients Online
Even if your business has an in-person or brick-and-mortar component, you have to maintain a solid online presence. And this has to be strategic.
The internet is chock-full of marketing experts who are ready and willing to dominate any niche, but don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of innovative ways to make your brand stand out.
Finding clients online is a matter of showing up in the places where your ideal clients hang out. First, determine where your clients look for information, what platforms they tend to use, and what type of media they consume. Then, think about which of these strategies are most likely to reach your potential clients.
Run an Ad Campaign
Online advertising can be inexpensive and highly targeted. These two aspects make it an attractive way for many agencies to look for clients. However, running ads online doesn’t always get results and ad spends can quickly add up. You don’t want to take shots in the dark.
Start with solid, data-driven ideas about your audience, then refine your ads and strategies until you find a winning combination. You may want to consider hiring an ad specialist for platforms like Google or Facebook. You can also do it yourself with third-party tools or tools internal to the platforms themselves.
Monitor your ad spends carefully, only increasing if the clients coming in are worth the expense.
Create a Blog Tailored for Your Ideal Client
There are literally billions of voices on the internet. That said, yours is unique. If you are willing to share what you know, writing and publishing regularly on a blog may be just the ticket. Not only do people search out information and advice online, but when they find a good source, they revisit.
A well-executed blog has the benefit of increasing your web traffic. As you get new visitors, you can leverage your blog into a valuable email list of potential clients.
Be Present and Helpful on Social Media (Facebook Groups, Quora, Twitter, LinkedIn)
It’s tempting to think of social media as a static storefront, but that would be a wasted opportunity. Most social media platforms are designed (algorithmically-speaking) to give as good as they get. In other words, if you want people to engage with you, you have to be engaging. You may gain a voice in unlikely spaces.
Speak up by joining Facebook groups, writing thoughtful and expert Quora responses, Tweeting or re-Tweeting industry insights, and commenting like crazy on other people’s LinkedIn posts. By showing yourself to be relational and intelligent, you’ll show up more in feeds and get your name out there.
Guest blogging has a twofold impact: backlinks to your website are great for SEO and it broadens your audience.
When you guest blog (or guest on a podcast, for that matter), you gain access to someone else’s network. Akin to influencer marketing, this lets you sidle up to borrowed audiences for a brief time.
Hopefully, this brand promotion has the enduring quality of being found over and over as well as the immediate payoff of an uptick in followers and new client leads.
Up Your Website’s SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) goes hand-in-hand with blogging, and it’s essential if you want to get found online. It is always useful to increase organic traffic by optimizing your website and your content.
There’s a lot to know about SEO, but you don’t have to become an expert. Just learning some basic SEO best practices will go a long way. Some of these practices will make sure your website is functional and search-friendly. The rest of the job is making sure your pages and blog posts target valuable search terms.
How to get more clients with SEO is all about ranking for the right keywords. There are tools with free versions or limited queries (like Moz or Spyfu) and then elite software (like SEMRush) that can provide ample insight into what your website should be about. Keep an eye on SEO, and you’ll see slow and steady growth, which should eventually lead to form fills and new clients.
Host a Webinar or Podcast
If the podcasting craze has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can be a star. There are audiences for podcasts about everything, from comedy to plumbing. What’s more, the work-from-home culture has normalized webinars and virtual events.
All of this can benefit agencies as they seek to grow online. If you are so inclined, you can launch your own podcast or webinar series. These can be outstanding lead magnets.
Build Your Email List
Email addresses are worth a lot. Especially if your target client is a professional, email is a great way to build relationships with leads over time. Just like SEO, this strategy works well with a blog, converting website visitors to email subscribers.
To build a client base by building your email list, you need to offer a trade. This is best accomplished by developing some kind of freebie: an info sheet, a how-to guide, or a free resource. Also known as a lead magnet, this offer can be placed on your website, using email marketing software like ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign.
Developing this kind of resource is well worth it and can build your list much faster than a cold ask.
Join Groups on Slack, Discord, Reddit, Special Forums
Anywhere people have opinions or ask questions in your field is a place you need to be. It isn’t enough anymore to have a “build it and they will come” mentality.
As you build your agency, you need to go to the people. And the people are discussing relevant topics on forums, Reddit threads, in Slack channels and on Discord or Skype or WhatsApp.
Find out where your ideal clients are most frequently hanging out and join them there. These relationships can become the foundation of how to get new clients.
Create an Affiliate Program
If your agency has big plans, an affiliate program may be the way to go. Affiliates get a kickback for promoting your business and referring new clients your way.
This is a fairly risk-free way to get additional mouthpieces in the marketplace, because you can decide on the terms. You can pay affiliates when a client closes (and sticks around), or pay for every lead, depending on how you set up your affiliate program.
How to Find Clients the Old Fashioned Way
All of the ways to find new clients listed above leverage new platforms and tactics. But they aren’t the only opportunity your agency has to get new leads. In fact, sometimes old-fashioned ways work best.
Ask Existing Clients for Referrals
Referrals may form the backbone of how to build your client base. If you can get them, referrals from current or previous clients are a slam dunk. Most often, you’ll get hooked up with leads that are already vetted and most likely qualified to buy from you.
Your agency would benefit a lot from having a templated way to ask for referrals from existing clients. Just like having a standard client onboarding questionnaire, you should have a standard process to remind satisfied clients that you are open for new business.
Partner With Agencies
Now that the agency model has become more popular, networks of agencies are popping up everywhere. It’s common now to find collectives, which are groups of agencies that specialize in various facets or offerings. This can provide clients with more services, which increases the value of the collective.
For example, you may have a collective that includes a paid ad agency, a copywriting agency, a business consulting agency, and a graphic design agency. The scope of what that group can offer a client is hugely superior to what any of them could offer alone. Be on the lookout for your peers. They may be your ticket to more leads and new clients.
Follow Up With Lost Pitches
Gone, but not forgotten, lost pitches aren’t closed until they’ve blocked your email address or phone number. There are thoughtful, strategic ways to retouch “lost” leads from pitches that went nowhere.
Maybe you have a new product or service that addresses what you couldn’t provide before. You can also send blanket emails if you create new freebies, resources, or lead magnets. You never know when you might reach a potential client at just the right time.
Turn Your Service Into a Product
Productizing something you do well is a powerful way not only to get passive income but to generate new leads. For example, if your agency does any kind of auditing, you could template and sell spreadsheets. The possibilities are service-specific… and endless.
Attend Business Conferences
A good old fashioned happy hour, water cooler conversation, and conference session breakout gives you unparalleled access to have real conversations with real people.
Even if you go online to network this way, you can be sure that you’re interacting with people who have a higher-than-average level of interest in the industry. This enormously traditional method of gaining new contacts still works.
Always be Proactive (Reach Out and Follow Up)
Email marketing, social media marketing, and other efforts to fill your lead pipeline can be discouraging. The reality is, the competition is steep. Even if what you offer is truly unique, it is very easy for people to ignore you. Obviously, it’s best to have relationships before you actually pitch or ask.
Whether or not you do, you can have proactive strategies to follow up and pursue leads even if they don’t respond at first. Sometimes, it takes multiple touches and forms of outreach to get someone to respond. This doesn’t always mean they aren’t interested; it just means that they’re hearing a lot, have a full inbox or are barraged by your competitors. A little persistence may pay off big time.
How to Approach Potential Clients
Because the world is full of noise, you want to implement lead-generating strategies in which your voice rings clear. To amplify your impact in any market, you need a mix of surefire methods and a dash of creativity.
You don’t have to be a full-on salesperson, but you do need to use sales strategies that have generations of data-backed success.
Create a Target Client Persona
Even in an agency, there will be a certain type of client you’re looking for. Your ideal client can be personified. In the sales and marketing world, this personification is called a “client persona.” Give your client persona a name and a personality. Identify its behaviors, habits, and household.
In some agencies, you’ll have more than one type of customer, and you’ll need a persona for each one. This is especially true if you offer different services. Limit yourself to three max and really flesh out who this person is, where they hang out, how they communicate.
You can already see how this will provide you with the right information to reach them and connect.
Shape Your Branding and Marketing Efforts to Fit Your Client Persona’s Needs
Say you’re marketing to a 35 year old nurse who uses Pinterest and crafts, has an average income of $75k, and has three kids. Knowing that will help you identify the pain points and needs to appeal to in your client pitches.
If this individual is harboring a dream of launching an Etsy shop (and you happen to design eCommerce graphics, write copy, or implement funnel strategies), then you know how to answer this person’s questions.
The better developed your persona is, the more targeted your messaging can become, and the more likely you are to get new clients.
Define Your Unique Selling Point
The value proposition is an all-important part of marketing, and it essentially means that you have something no one else does. What is most valuable about your service is not how it is the same as someone else. “We’re almost as good as Amazon!” isn’t turning any heads.
What’s valuable is how you are different. Your differentiators—what you can provide that no one else can—should be shouted from the rooftops. Because those elements are why most people are likely to buy from your agency.
Create a Brand Image for Your Business
The most successful brands in the world have recognizable branding. Imagery may or may not be your thing, but it is important if you’re going to consistently get new leads.
Being distinct and consistent is important to cultivating brand recognition and brand loyalty. People like what they recognize. Sure, Starbucks can make the cup red once a year but when you walk in that building, you know where you are.
Whether you are building your agency online or also have in-person components, there should be thorough and thoughtful brand imagery in every client interaction.
Aim at Getting Recurring Clients
It’s always cheaper to get repeat customers than it is to get new ones. Same goes with agency clients. If your clients come back, or stay on for longer contracts, not only do you know you’re doing something right, you didn’t have to pay anything to acquire them the second time around.
If you remain unconvinced, it’s probably a good idea to crunch some client acquisition cost numbers. Keeping clients will depend on how well you take care of them, the consistent quality of your services, and your ability to offer new services at strategic intervals.
Never Stop Networking
All of the best outbound marketing in the world is for naught if you aren’t consistently building new relationships. An authentic and relatable online presence is important. Making personable connections on every occasion is the best way to grow your agency.
You don’t have to be flashy or impressive. People are attracted to genuine people who are good at what they do and who clearly have solutions to their problems. Even if you don’t generate new leads from every relationship you make, broadening your network will always pay off in the end.
Getting more clients is not easy, but you’ll find it gets much easier (and more consistent) when you build some of these strategies into your routine. Don’t forget to sign up for more agency-building tips in the video course below.