For budding agencies, finding new clients is a constant effort. Larger, established agencies often have enough word-of-mouth marketing to bring in more clients than they can handle. But smaller or early-stage agencies can’t rely solely on word-of-mouth promotion, simply because they don’t have the clients to do it for them. Although a marketing plan might seem like something for a more rooted agency, it’s in fact most important for younger agencies.
Design business expert David Baker looked at several hundred design firms over two decades, and his conclusion was that: yes, ok, you do need a graphic design marketing plan, but it’s not what will bring you most clients.
Understand Your Clients
Finding new clients as an agency is not like project management, accounting or IT. You must get intimately involved in the process. If you truly are after getting new – and worthwhile – clients, immerse yourself in your clients’ world rather than your peers’.
Understanding your clients’ needs will go a long way towards generating trust. Agency Scout Debra Giampoli says she won’t work with any agency who hasn’t done their homework. Agencies should know the roles of their potential clients and what they value in an agency. By finding out these things, you can more accurately target specific clients, with a higher success rate.
Build up Confidence and Expertise
Successful people radiate self-assurance. Get out there and profess credible claims, with the certainty that you’ll be able to deliver with ease. Price your work accordingly – underpricing yourself puts you in a lower-tier market, and gives the impression of a less-capable agency. Higher rates may scare away some clients, but they’re generally clients you can afford to lose. In reverse, lower rates may place doubt into bigger clients – the ones your agency needs.
Finally, deliver with solid design solutions. Your reputation is built around what you repeatedly do, so if you’re over-promising and under-delivering on a regular basis, it won’t make for good word-of-mouth advertising. Not to mention the stress this adds, having to deal with upset and disappointed clients.
You may be able to burst into any room (or email inbox), but if you don’t have compelling things to say when communicating with clients, you’ll quickly lose their attention. Craft a statement that people won’t easily forget. Again, understanding your clients and their needs goes a long way to creating a truly compelling pitch.
Sharing is Caring
The ultimate lead generation tool is content marketing: keep an awesome blog that targets and attracts the kind of people you’d like to work with. In time you can establish your agency as an authority and thought leader. Social media is an obvious supplemental tool, but always back up your tweets and Instagram pics with long-form, educational content.
Whether you’re writing case studies, blog posts or short and sweet punchy tweets, always keep in mind the entire user experience. Will your users reach your blog through social media, newsletters, or Google? How might this affect how they interact with your blog, and the rest of your website?
Don’t use your blog or social platforms for sales pitches. People will follow you if you’re providing useful and interesting content. If all you post is blatant advertising, followers will drop off as quickly as they sign up. Focus on posting up your best work, and let them speak for you.
Keeping it Organized
Make a name for yourself by getting organized and delivering on time. Don’t be in a rush to accept more projects when your hands are already full. With an outstanding portfolio, good clients will be more likely to contact you ahead of time, without the expectation that you’ll start the project yesterday. “Reputation is the foundation to generating new job leads and keeping a steady stream of orders lined up in your email”, says Kevin Harter of Hongkiat and owner of Crystalint Media.
Follow up on any leads as soon as possible. Every hour you delay responding to leads reduces your chances of converting them to a client. If you’re not already, set up an automated email response to any contact form submission. Zapier is a great tool to integrate to whichever form solution you’re using. Use this initial email response to give your client a next step that isn’t just “wait for us to reply”. The more targeted you can make this email, the better. If you’re not able to set up a next step based off the limited information gathered in a contact form submission, maybe ask for a little more information from them. They’re already invested enough to submit a contact form, so asking for some more information about their project won’t raise much resistance.
Some agencies disregard databases when tracking their client interactions. This is a big mistake: databases are priceless. Maintain an up-to-date lead database, and keep track of any prospective clients. Record the name, address, email and phone number of any potential clients you’ve contacted, regardless of how you communicated with them. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t convert a lead to a client on the first, second, third or even fourth contact. 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the initial meeting. 92% of salespeople give up before this 5th follow-up call, meaning 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales.
Find Your Niche
Set your agency apart from your competition by delivering what others can’t. Whether it’s punctuality, beautiful user-focused design, or the ability to creatively solve problems, let your prospects know about it. “Clients will buy from a place where they are likely to get something extra. Find the ‘extra’ for your business,” says Kevin Harter.
A Cohesive Marketing Plan
In spite of what you might plan or dream will happen, most great clients will come from indirect efforts such as client connection, a vendor, employee or supporter connection. But while it could be any of these things that cinches the deal, all of your efforts play a part. An agency with a good reputation, educational content marketing, a strong customer understanding and a little something extra will always beat out a rival agency with a weak spot in any of these aspects. If you can’t promote yourself well, how can a client expect you to promote them well?