Every agency professional knows that sinking feeling -- you pursued what you thought was a warm lead for weeks, only to have them pass on your services. You don't understand where it all went wrong. Your agency has a lot to offer, so why aren't any of your prospects taking the bait?
It's time to stop getting your hopes up and start incorporating these strategies into your agency's business development plan.
6 Strategies for Winning More Clients
1) Make sure they're worth it.
It's easy to get excited when a lead starts to warm up, but hold yourself back from jumping into a contract before you've determined they're a good fit. The last thing you want is a new client that your agency can't entirely accommodate or who isn't actually prepared to invest the necessary time and money in your services.
Start by writing up your ideal client profile -- a list of qualities that your agency can use to determine if a prospect will be a sustainable and profitable client down the line. As a starting point, look to your past or current accounts that have resulted in rewarding business relationships, and think about exactly what made them work so well. This will enable your team to more selectively seek out and nurture leads that fit your ideal profile, leading to a pool of prospects who are more likely to close as valuable new accounts.
Once you know exactly what to look for, make an effort to get to know your prospects. Remember: Qualifying a new lead shouldn't feel like swiping left or right on a dating app. You need more than a fleeting first impression to make an informed decision. Learn to ask smart qualifying questions that help you understand your prospective client's motivations, goals, challenges, and resources. In turn, your prospect gets to see that your agency is thoughtful and deliberate about pursuing serious contracts -- it's a win-win.
At any point in the qualification process, don't be afraid to be picky. If leads don't meet your agency's criteria -- or if you don't think you can fully get behind their product or service -- disqualify them and move on.
2) Don't let your leads go cold.
Cultivating a productive lead generation campaign is important -- but it's only one component of winning more clients for your agency. Before you can close the deal, you need to spin up an effective lead nurturing program.
Leads don't have a long shelf life, leaving you with a limited window of time to engage with them. But unfortunately, when it comes to business development, many agencies simply fail to actively prioritize a nurturing strategy, resulting in cold leads and missed opportunities. And we get it -- you're pressed for time, and at the end of the day, your current clients are your absolute top priority. Just keep in mind that 73% of all B2B leads are not sales-ready. You need a strategy for moving them closer to the point of purchase.
So what's an agency to do? This is where targeted lead nurturing comes in. And it doesn't have to be complicated and time consuming. With email automation, you can set up nurturing workflows to engage with potential clients, familiarize them with your services, and personalize content to fit their stage in the marketing funnel. Leads don't warm up on their own -- convince them to invest in you.
3) Gain trust by selling quick win projects.
The best way for your agency to prove value to a lead is to start demonstrating value as soon as possible. Consider offering hot prospects an initial project that gives them a sampling of your team's expertise. Create a simplified version of what your agency would usually offer new clients at the beginning of a contract, such as keyword research, buyer persona development, an educational workshop, or even a brief brand audit.
Keep it relevant to what the potential client is looking for, and keep it short. Nobody -- absolutely nobody -- wants to read a 25-page proposal. Focus on big bullet points and quick wins for the prospect. This is not a big project proposal. It's an enticing sample of what your agency is capable of.
4) Avoid fights you can't win.
Nurturing a lead, generating a proposal, selling your agency's services -- these things all take time, and it's realistically not worth putting in the hours if there's only a slim chance of a prospect converting. A big company showing interest in your agency is exciting, but don't drop everything and spend hundreds of hours to create a pitch and even spec work if your chances of winning are slim. In a fight that big, nobody has great odds, and you'll have to work harder to really get noticed.
You should also be wary of businesses who are prematurely looking for a marketing agency. Maybe they can't afford to pay an agency yet, or they're still under contract with another agency. Either way, pitching them isn't likely to result in actual paid work, so don't waste your team's time.
To generate more business for your agency, focus primarily on the safe bets -- bids where your agency has a realistic chance of closing the deal.
5) Narrow your sights on a niche.
Take a look at some of your past clients and ask yourself: Is there a pattern here? If the answer is "yes," you may already be on your way to becoming a niche agency. There are definitely benefits to tailoring your offerings to appeal to a single business type or industry -- there's a less crowded playing field, you can gaining a strong reputation with a targeted audience, and there are more opportunities for referral generation.
Not to mention you'll reap major SEO benefits. Try searching for "marketing agency boston" and your search yields 56,500,000 results. Now try "marketing agency for law firms boston." You get a pared-down 1,210,000 results. When potential clients search for agencies online, they use specific, long tail keywords, not broad terms.
If you focus on a niche, you tap into a pool of clients who have similar goals and challenges -- and you can become an expert at meeting them. If a law firm in Boston is seeking out a new marketing agency, and they see that you've worked with several other law firms, you're going to be at the top of their list. There are many more opportunities to get discovered when you concentrate your efforts on an individual area.
6) Build your brand to increase credibility.
It's your job to make other businesses look good -- but don't forget about yourself. The way your agency presents itself -- from your website down to your email signatures -- really matters to prospective clients. You don't want anyone to ask you, "If your agency is so good, why does your website look like it hasn't been updated since 2006?"
Your brand should be reflection of all that you're capable of, so think of yourself as your most experimental and creative client. Try out your best ideas on yourself, and don't be afraid to experiment. Remember that prospects seeking out a new agency are sifting through tons of agency websites that look the same and all claim the same things. It pays in a big way to differentiate yourself.
Originally published Jul 26, 2016 6:00:00 AM, updated August 29 2017