How to get more leads in 2021 Banner

Lead generation and new business has moved into prime position of importance in agency life.

When there are fewer new business opportunities flowing around, and budgets are evermore squeezed, agencies absolutely need to make a plan to proactively pull opportunities into their agency, rather than waiting for them to land in their inbox.

Here are 22 different tools, channels and tactics that do work to generate more new business leads for agencies.

1. Your website

Nearly all of your marketing or lead generation activities are going to drive people to your website, so you want to be sure that it’s doing the best possible job of getting visitors excited and taking the next step in contacting you.

  • With approximately 40% of your site visitors using their mobiles, make sure your site is 100% mobile friendly. Including a click to call phone number. Don’t make them copy & paste!
  • High quality photos or videos of your team are a must. Without that, you make it harder for a potential client to envisage themselves working with you. Are you a global corporate machine. Or a small independent team in a warehouse space. Both are great for different clients. Check out Bow & Arrow as an example of an agency website almost completely made up of videos of the team.
  • Last, but not least important – what do you do? What does your agency specialise in? This in itself is a big topic, but first and foremost, make it CLEAR. In the words of Treacle Copywriting “Avoid any buzzword-bullshit. Choose clear over clever. Your website’s headline needs to tell clients what you do, and what value they get from working with you.”
Pro tip –

Tina Fegent (a Marketing Procurement Consultant) says that a real bugbear of hers is the generic contact form on agency websites.

Make sure you give people a name to reach out to, and the option of an email, not just a form to fill in.

2. Testimonials

There’s nothing more compelling than social proof – other people saying you’re excellent rather than you saying it yourself.

Check out the video testimonials in this agency’s case studies.

You can use testimonials on your website, add them to your email signatures, and share them on social media.

3. Your team

You’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with your most powerful new business assets!

Involve your team in the agency’s growth ambitions and the reasons why new business is essential and exciting, and they should feel motivated to help where they can.

  • Suggest everyone exports their LinkedIn connections once per year. (Instructions here.) Grab a highlighter pen and identify all of the contacts that fit your new business strategy. With the rate at which people change roles accelerating, you might be surprised at what you find.

How do you make reaching out to an old friend or colleague not feel salesy?

  • Do your research! Demonstrate a genuine interest in their company and brand.
  • Have you seen their recent campaigns? Share your opinion on them.
  • Ask questions.
  • Clarify why any information you share about your agency is specifically relevant to them.
  • Be sure to make any email more about them than about you.
  • Propose a catch up to understand each other’s roles in more depth.

4. Awards

There are hundreds of awards for agencies to choose from. But there’s a reason more keep cropping up and even sceptical agencies keep entering. They get your name out there! (Awards are run by organisations with large audiences and large mailing lists.)

Furthermore, marketeers and procurement will often turn to awards results listings to compile their pitch longlist.

For smaller and less well-known agencies, an award win mentioned on your website or email signature can be the quality seal needed to grant your agency further consideration.

For better known agencies, award wins can be used to strategically re-position your agency or change perceptions of the kind of work you are known for creating.

Whether you win or not, after the results are announced, scan your eyes down the list of judges. Are there any top marketeers on the panel that you could reach out to? You’ve got your ice breaker ready.

If you do end up victorious you’ve got a great reason to get back in touch with prospects you’ve previously spoken to. An award win is a lovely way to highlight what’s been happening since you last spoke and touch base to see if now is a better time to explore work opportunities.

For a guide to the top 100 marketing industry awards, check out The Future Factory’s calendar of award entry deadlines here.

5. Advertising

Low and behold, not something done often by advertising agencies, but worth considering in your lead generation plan.

The agency London Advertising rolled out some self-promotion billboards in September 2020 and saw a 2,700% increase in website visitors as well as an immediate new client win.

👏🏼

6. Personalised outreach via phone & email

If you know which companies you’d love to be working with, but you don’t have any relationships within those companies, the quickest way to get known by them is to reach out to them directly with a call or email.

The good news is phones are in action for a large percentage of companies, despite WFH. Most big company switchboards are open for business, and will be able to forward your call to mobiles.

Definitely start by identifying which companies are a really solid fit for your agency. If you can combine relevant experience with a demonstration of strong interest in the brand you’re approaching, your email or call will stand out from the dozens of copy & paste or mass email approaches these decision makers receive each week.

  • How do you demonstrate interest?
  • Have you read their annual report or company mission statement? Highlight which points resonated with you.
  • Are you a fan or customer of their products? Share your anecdotes!

The more personal you can make your email, the better.

Don’t feel that you have to be overly formal just because you’ve not met before. Warmth and showing some personality will go a long way to ensuring you hold their attention beyond the first five seconds.

The ultimate adage “people buy people” definitely holds true. Get your personality across and they might be wishing they were working with you.

Don’t ask for a pitch opportunity in your first call or email. Simply aim for an opportunity to introduce your agency, your expertise or your insights.

Once you get that opportunity you can start fishing for what their pipeline of projects looks like.

Pro lead gen tip –

Don’t send emails on a Friday! You’ll get a higher rate of out of office bounce backs than any other day. If Fridays are when you work on your agency’s new business, just draft the emails and schedule them to go out on Monday.

7. Podcasts

By Isabelle Jarvis, agency podcast Producer

In order to be effective as a new business tool, any podcasts concepts should be developed in line with your marketing and new business plan.

  • Identify your audience and their challenges first, before you even start cooking up content ideas.

Once produced and ready to share, upload to all the leading podcasting platforms. Apple doesn’t have the monopoly. Spotify and Amazon Music are also key platforms.

Despite these having huge audiences, the best way to get shared is to put a social media strategy in place.

I would recommend considering recording live episodes – which when working alongside your social media are a good way to get your rankings up.

You can track your analytics via sites such as Chartable which gives you the opportunity to tweak your content for future episodes.

As well as a tool for growing a new audience, your podcast should also be used as a lead generation tool with your existing network of prospects.

  • The finished product will be an excellent conversation starter and will keep your audience up to speed with what your agency is up to.
  • Invite prospects on as a guest to contribute or be interviewed.

Check out Overthrow II: Challenger strategies for a new era which is a collaboration between media agency PHD and Brand Consultancy eatbigfish. It’s a series of conversations with brands and industry experts on the role of the challenger mindset – playing nicely into the specialism of eatbigfish.

If creating your own podcast feels daunting, start by finding an opportunity to be interviewed on someone else’s! You’ll be promoting your agency with a whole new pool of prospects, and hopefully generating new leads in the process.

8. Industry Listings

Just like awards, appearing in respected industry listings can increase your chances of being selected for a roster review. In addition, it can be a shortcut to appearing on the first page of Google.

If you search “Best Digital Agency UK”, none of the first page organic results are actually for agencies. You’ll be served up the Econsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies, and other similar listings.

  • Becoming a member of a trade body will automatically see your agency featuring in their member listings.

Other websites worth submitting your agency to include:

  • The Drum top 100 independent agencies
  • Adweek 100 fastest growing agencies
  • Campaign School Report
  • PR Week Best Places to Work
  • FWA Website of The Day

And don’t forget to put your agency leaders and employees forward for the titles that celebrate the industries best talent, including:

  • Forbes 30 under 30
  • Ad Age 40 under 40
  • BIMA 100
  • PR Week 30 under 30
  • The Drum 50 under 30

9. LinkedIn

By Martin Williams, Founder of The B2B Marketeer

How can you improve your chances of generating leads on Linkedin?

We use ‘The Linkedin A-to-E’, and it goes a little something like this…

A is for ATTRACT

Optimise your profile – most people’s Linkedin profiles represent online CV’s only. You need to turn your profile into a client-attracting front window that’s focused on calling out your client’s problems, not your services! A simple way to do this is to remove references to your ‘responsibilities’, and replace them with statements about the outcomes that you have achieved for your clients.

B is for BUILD

Build your audience. Put simply, connect to people. But before you go connecting to every Tom, Dick and Harry, you need to work out exactly who it is you want to connect to in the first place (i.e. your target audience). The way we do this for clients is to begin with target industries, then specific role holders within those industries. We kick-off with a list of 1,000 people that we aim to connect to. Linkedin Sales Navigator is essential for this. Be prepared for long-term connection acceptance rates of 1 in 3 on average.

C is for CREATE

Entertain and educate your audience by creating content. I recommend posting once a day on personal profiles, and 2-3 times a week on a company page. What should you post about? Start with the problems and opportunities faced by your target clients. Support this with educational information on how to overcome those challenges. Mix in with this some examples of client successes, and your own journey in whatever role you play in your agency. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable with your posts! Be daring! Be bold! Be controversial! Most importantly, be prepared to repel those people who you don’t want as clients. You do this by simply having opinions and not being afraid to share them. If it feels uncomfortable to make your post, it’s probably about right!

D is for DRIVE

You need to drive engagement in your content. Don’t stand by passively waiting for engagement, Go and get it! Use hashtags, tag people, etc. Share links to your posts elsewhere. Ultimately, invite people to engage in your content. And always, always reply to comments.

Also, we have a concept at The B2B Marketer to: ‘Never take people to a dead-end’. For a Linkedin post, that typically means finishing with a question to invite engagement. But it could also mean providing a link for them to go and visit, or a video to watch, etc.

E is for EXIT

No-one made a sale on Linkedin alone ever! You need to get people off of Linkedin. I prefer to use things such as inviting people to webinars, sending them links to relevant blog articles and infographics. I’ll then follow up a few days later with another offer of content or a suggestion of a call.

Pro tip –

Don’t use automation tools! Not only are they against LinkedIn’s T&Cs, but you can spot automated and painfully salesy connections a mile off.

10. Freebies

Could you tempt clients to step foot into your world with a freebie?

Something that not only gets them one stage closer to a working relationship with you, but also demonstrates the value you can add?

  • Perhaps an audit?
  • A workshop?

Take a look at Kindred’s Positive Hour as an example.

Or an even more creative example was the Digitas LBi Family Days that invited parents and children in their networks to come for a free day out in the agency office and enjoy some hands-on play with the latest advancements in tech.

11. Teach!

All part of positioning yourself as a leader and expert in your field, consider putting your agency or your agency chiefs forward to deliver training.

Either create and deliver a bespoke course for a real-life university, or develop a training session for one of the many online learning platforms.

See TopLine PR’s courses on Udemy or Ogilvy & Rory Sutherland’s session on 42Courses.

Also check out Jolt and Learnerbly as alternative platforms.

Whilst of course university students aren’t your target market, the association with a prestigious organisation, and the content the teaching will produce, can both be used in your broader marketing to generate leads and raise your agency’s profile.

(Access to your training session could be freebie you offer to prospective clients and their teams!)

12. SEO

By Ben Cooper, Digital Strategist at Web Hands Marketing

With search traffic thought to drive somewhere in the region of 75% of B2B traffic, it’s vital to get your website ranking and generating leads.

There are three main areas of search engine results pages in which your site can appear:

  • Paid ads
  • Local listings from Google My Business
  • Standard organic listings

So, let’s work backwards, starting with:

Organic SEO
  • Basic website optimisation

Identify what you do and communicate your proposition clearly. Specify in plain language: what type of agency you are, and where you’re based.

Through keyword research*, lay out a top-to-bottom hierarchy of keywords for which your prospective clients search. (*For some free search data, try Ubersuggest.)

  • Create service pages

This is an opportunity to rank for other services that you offer. The more pages that rank in search engines, the more opportunities you have to get in front of a prospective client.

  • Invest in content

Create content that people want – that’s useful, informative and expert. It can sit under blog/research/updates/news – whatever you want to call it. Your blog content must fill a known need (verifiable through search analysis) for information. DON’T always use it to sell.

  • Technical SEO

“53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.” – Google.

Keep on top of the technical side of your website – get someone to check in on page speed, structured data and error page spotting as these are all factors that can help or hinder your site’s ability to rank. A mini site health check once a year is necessary.

  • Goal tracking

Through Google Tag Manager/Analytics you can track key user interactions on your site – like newsletter signups, social media icon clicks, and crucially email/phone number clicks and enquiry form completions.

These can be attributed to marketing activity to see where your enquiries/leads are actually coming from.

Pro tip –

Include your location(s) in your messaging and optimisation. While you may want to rank globally, if you’re based in London the vast majority of searchers who’ll find you will be London-based and have local intent (will be looking for a London agency).

Google My Business

Set up a Google My Business account. It’s critical to make sure you get your category right, then fill out all relevant info (name, address, phone number must be consistent and match Google Maps), add photos, encourage reviews and keep it regularly updated (including posts).

The majority of search visibility in a crowded market will be through your Google My Business listing, not your website.

Paid Search

Once you feel you’ve got your SEO game down, and your website is generating and converting lots of lovely, qualified organic traffic, you can think about moving on to paid search.

The opportunities to drive relevant traffic to your site are practically endless. You can target people making top-level searches (‘type agency + location’, say) or specific service offerings (‘type service + location’). Or you could bid on terms with information intent – driving users to tips/advice/thought leadership, and showcase your expertise.

13. Newsletter

For most agencies, your newsletter won’t generate leads from cold.

HOWEVER, where it will be super valuable is keeping you front of mind with all of the people and prospects that you and everyone in your agency meets with.

And that WILL generate leads!

Check out the content that innovation consultancy Wilson Fletcher share in their newsletter.

  • Beautifully designed
  • 100% focused on their specialism
  • Genuinely educational and in-depth
  • Positions the agency as a prolific thought leader
  • Covers the challenges that their clients (and prospective clients) are facing

Prompt your team quarterly for any new email addresses to add, to ensure your mailing list keeps growing.

Pro tip –

As long as the email address you are adding is a work email address, GDPR doesn’t require you to get prior permission. Just ensure you have a clear & easy unsubscribe option.

14. Referrals

This one is just a case of having the courage to ask!

  • Start by asking current clients that you have a strong relationship with.
  • Ideally ask face to face. It’s a lot softer, and harder to say no, than an email which can be ignored.
  • Explain why you’re asking for a referral. Share your agency’s growth plans!
  • The more specific you can be in your request, the easier it will be for the other person to think up someone in their network who fits the bill. And of course it increases the likelihood that the referral will actually turn out to be someone you’d love to work with. Either specify the types of challenges your agency is best suited to working on, or the types of brands that make up your portfolio.

As well as asking current and past clients to put you in touch with relevant people in their network, identify any agencies or consultants who might offer services complementary to yours and who might be open to establishing an ongoing referral program for an agreed fee.

15. Instagram & Twitter

Your Instagram and Twitter should regularly showcase why you’re awesome – speaking at events, winning awards, opening global office, rubbing shoulders with A Listers, working towards a greater purpose – whatever makes up the hot selling points of your agency.

Particularly when clients can’t come to your office to soak up your vibe, having a little glance at your social media will give them a quick overview of who you are and whether you’re a good fit for their brand. This is a vital part of the buying journey.

However, amongst the content that showcases your agency culture, you should also create two types of lead generating content:

  1. Posts that celebrate and share agency projects or thought leadership that feature collaborators from outside your agency. This will create an easy way for the collaborators to share the piece (and your name) with all of their network. Win!
  1. Posts that encourage people to click through to your website.

Have a look at how social media agency Born Social tease their case studies on Instagram as a means to move traffic to their website (whilst also showing off great work).

And how Engine use their Instagram to increase awareness of their thought leadership and move traffic off Instagram and over to their own space.

Consider putting some paid spend behind these types of posts that have a call to action, to boost their reach.

Alternatively, if your work is simply visually mesmerising, like this CGI film by Builder’s Club, absolutely put some paid spend behind it to increase the number of eyes landing on it and falling in love with your agency.

Lastly, your Instagram and Twitter can also be great channels to run live chats and Q&A sessions. These should be promoted ahead of time and can be a low pressure way for leads to engage with you, find out more about working with you or better understand how your expertise could impact their brand.

16. PR

By Adrian Ma, Founder of Fanclub PR

Given that on average, up to seven people are involved in a business purchase decision, building broad brand awareness helps drive consideration and conversion. This is where PR comes into play.

One tried-and-tested PR tactic is the industry report. It goes like this. Your agency writes an industry report. It’s hosted behind a gated page on your agency’s website, so that visitors need to fill in a form to access it. Then, your PR team works hard to promote that report in the media to generate interest in it, with the call to action being to visit your site to download the report.

In this instance, your webform captures the lead from visitors who have seen the report in the media. This data can be passed on to your new business team to follow up on. In one instance, when Fanclub did this, the agency fed back that their new business team had used the activity to generate £330,000 worth of leads.

17. Downloadable report or guide

Following on from the point above, creating a meaty report or industry-leading guide is the most time-consuming type of thought leadership to create. BUT, this type of ‘evergreen content’ will deliver leads to you for years to come. Plus, it can be broken down into newsletter snippets, social posts, shorter blogs, and speaking topics. So when measured in eye balls on your logo, it could be your best new business investment.

  • To get the maximum number of leads from your thought leadership, consider asking for an email address to access it.
  • The less personal info you ask for, the better. We’d advise asking for an email address only. (In 99% of cases, you’ll be able to find their name, job title and company from that.)
  • Once you have visibility on who is downloading the report, ensure you factor in time to follow up (by phone or email) with all relevant contacts.
  • Go beyond asking “did you download it” or “did you find it interesting”? Ask them if they’re also facing the challenges identified in the report. Ask them if you could meet with them or their team to expand on the topic or bring it to life in the context of their organisation. Ask if you might be able to schedule a time to introduce your agency and why you’re the best positioned to help them navigate the challenges in the report.

18. Webinars

With no travel costs or travel time to factor in, you can now be speaking at more (online) events than ever before.

  • Share any upcoming speaking engagements on your social channels. You’re giving your network a fresh reason to engage with you, whilst reminding them of your topic of expertise.
  • When researching events or webinars you’d like to speak on, research not only discipline specific (digital, marketing…), but sector specific (travel, automotive…) events. You’re likely to find less agency competitors and more potential clients at sector specific events.
  • To help you generate leads from any speaking engagements, ask the organiser to supply you with the names of all attendees – so that you can drop them a line afterwards and offer to continue a conversation with them one-on-one on the topic.
  • Save a recording of the webinar and offer to share it with prospects who weren’t able to attend the live event.

19. Networking at events

When it comes to networking in a real-life room full of strangers, the majority of people find that near on impossible (🙋🏻‍♀️).

The positive of events moving into online formats this year means you can (in smaller Zoom events) gather the names of the other attendees (from their profile photo) and add them on LinkedIn afterwards!

  • Take a sneaky screenshot and add people at your leisure afterwards.
  • Reference that you were on the same talk.
  • Reference why you are interested in connecting with the individual.
  • If they accept, send them an email with more info and propose a chat.
Pro tip –

Mary Agbesanwa, Now You’re Talking Network, recently shared via Twitter:

A major game changer for networking is following up. Not just a day or two after the intro but telling them how you found the book they suggested or the intro they made.

This is how you build relationships, and many people are too lazy to do it.

20. Re-engage with past clients

Be they from your current agency or a previous role, this should be rich stomping ground for conversations and leads.

Look back through past invoices to remind yourself of long forgotten clients.

21. Write a book

How better to position yourself as an authority on a subject!

This route to being a published author needn’t be as time consuming as it may seem. You can hire a ghost writer to do the bulk of the work.

See the example of the digital innovation agency that published a book about disruption in the finance industry (Bye Bye Banks) and creative agency Snask who created a book exposing their unique take on entrepreneurship (Make Enemies & Gain Fans).

If you actually want to generate significant sales, you’ll need to do a hell of a lot of public speaking in the first year.

However, if the goal is lead generation, profile raising and brand building:

  • Post the book to relevant prospects (and be sure to follow up with a call!)
  • Get PR around the release
  • Pick out excerpts to generate a year’s worth of marketing material
  • Buddy up with organisations or events who might like to give away your book to attendees or members as a value add.

22. Proprietary projects & stunts

If your client work isn’t giving you the opportunities to shine in the spaces you’d like to, then invest in your own projects!

This demonstrates gumption and putting your money where your mouth is!

This sweary little project by Impero went viral and won the agency a handful of awards.

Summary

Pick your tactics and get busy.

Planning is important. Getting your brand tone of voice right is important. But you’ll learn so much by doing that you’ll be rewarded richly for doing something imperfectly, rather than doing nothing perfectly.

Ensure you measure KPIs for each tactic.

  • So that you can analyse and optimise.
  • So that you can streamline your investments next year to cover only the ones that are most effective for your agency.

Once you’ve got the leads, the next huge job is converting them!

That’ll be a whole separate report.

But in the meantime, get in touch if you’d like to book in a training session on the topic of new business conversion. Not how to pitch, but how to nail the new business meeting, how to uncover more in the exploratory chat or how to turn the friendly intro into a discussion about a brand’s challenges. (kimi.gilbert@thefuturefactory.co.uk)

Need a hand implementing any of the above? Give us a shout. We can look after your agency’s lead generation on your behalf. Recommend experts who can help you with other areas. And leverage everything you’re doing yourself. (sam.wheatman@thefuturefactory.co.uk)