As an agency, clients are your bread and butter. And like bread and butter, you always seem to be running low just when you want to make a sandwich. Landing new clients is a continual process for any agency, and it's vital that no matter how busy you are you take the time to market your agency to potential new business.
Here are our top tips for landing more clients at your agency.
Have a Story to Tell
This is a big one. Debra Giampoli for Mondelez International spoke at the Adage Small Agency Conference in Portland about how small agencies can get the attention of larger clients, and her talk kept coming back to story. "If you're really good at what you do, I will find you… When you do get found, have a great story to tell" says Giampoli. So what's your story? Where did you come from? Where are you going? What is your brand about? A compelling story makes your agency memorable and relatable.
Polish that Portfolio
An agency lives and dies by their portfolio. Potential clients want to see what you can do – they want tangible evidence of your skills to back up your claims of awesomeness.
Every 3-6 months you should be updating your portfolio to feature your latest projects. Don't let your portfolio get out of date – it makes you appear as though your agency isn't working. As you add in new work, remove older jobs that don't show off your skills as well or aren't related to the direction your agency is going. Constantly tweaking your portfolio will keep your agency's image fresh and of-the-moment.
When I did agency work, we would tweak our portfolio for every client we pitched, so we were always showing work relevant to their industry, project and style.
Be a Connector
Networking with other business owners is definitely a big part of business. But too many agencies don't network in an authentic way. Networking is so much more than thrusting your business card under the nose of anyone who'll take it – it's about forging relationships with others and connecting people to each other through your relationships. People are much more likely to use your agency if they feel as if they know you, or if they have a personal referral from someone in your network.
Click here to learn 7 Networking Tips for Creative Directors.
Use Social Media Wisely
As an agency you probably understand the importance of being on social media. Tools like LinkedIn and Twitter can be powerful allies in the search for new clients, but only if they're used in an effective way. Social media should be part of your repertoire for strengthening your network – don't contact people only when you want something from them, but focus on building those lasting, reciprocal relationships.
Don't ask to connect with people you don't know. Social media overload has made many people extremely protective of their connections. Don't simply ask people to do things for you without first establishing that connection. Involve your agency in industry conversations through hashtags and sharing links.
It's better to do one or two things really well than offer a wide range of mediocrity. This is especially true if you are a smaller agency – focus on getting one thing right and becoming known for it. You can always expand into other areas later.
If you're going to offer different types of services, don't pitch them as an "integrated marketing" approach. "Integrated marketing" doesn't make you sound unique – integrated marketing has been around for a long time, and it's a tired phrase that doesn't mean much anymore. Holistic marketing, native marketing – these are more of-the-moment concepts.
Be Easy to Contact
These days, an email address or a contact form on your website is simply not enough. More and more people are browsing on their smartphones, and they want a live phone or email link that will make their life easier when contacting you. If a potential client is browsing three agencies and all three offer a similar service, that client is going to choose the agency that makes their life easier.
Telling someone to "be memorable" – doing it is a whole other story. But if you want to stand out from your competition as an agency, then it pays to think about ways to set yourself apart when pursuing new business.
The Cornett agency in Lexington, KY, targeted a dream client, A&W Restaurants, with what they termed a "LinkedIn Bomb". A&W had recently moved their headquarters to Lexington, and as a way of welcoming them to the area, the agency had each of their 35 employees send a personalised note at exactly the same time welcoming them to the area and sharing their favourite experiences at A&W's restaurants.
A&W wasn't even looking for a new agency, and, as they had no contact at the company, Cornett were taking a huge risk – but it paid off. After several months of meetings, Cornett is now A&W's agency.
While the "LinkedIn Bomb" is a pretty extreme case of how being memorable can pay off, it is definitely not the exception to the rule. If you take the time to come up with a unique idea, brand or way of doing things, sing it from the rooftops, because it is what will make you stand above the rest.
Every agency, no matter the size, needs to constantly set its sights on new projects and clients. How you go about procuring those clients will depend on the time and resources you have available and the type of work you do. But one thing is certain – telling your story in a memorable way will help clients to notice and relate to you.
What tactics does your agency use to generate new business? What methods do you find most effective?