Agency owners and consultants know how to build business. That is, after all, the job. The whole job.
But having hacks for building even more business never hurts. Especially if you want to help your own agency grow bigger. Or if you're having trouble standing out among your competitors.
If you've just launched your agency, some of these ideas can help you ramp up your business a little faster than relying solely on the same methods we use on the client's behalf.
Client Roster Boost Strategy #1: Mail Time
Remember when checking snail mail used to be fun? Now nobody sends fun mail anymore. The bills, circulars, and pre-approved credit card offers keep coming. But not much else.
Sending snail mail to potential clients can be effective because it's unusual. Email's easy to ignore.
But if you don't do mail right, that's easy to ignore too! When's the last time you opened up a sales letter and read it all the way through?
Marsha Kelly, President of Best4Businesses
No, the hack here is to make mail fun again.
"I send snail mail packages that arouse curiosity because of bulk or shape, that beg to be opened. An interesting item with a cleverly written note yields inquiries that result in contracts," says Marsha Kelly, President of Best4Businesses.
You can get as creative as your budget allows, but you don't have to spring for expensive branded pens or coffee cups.
Kelly says seed packets, with a note saying she could help the prospect "grow their business," was her most successful campaign.
Think inexpensive and interesting.
Client Roster Boost Strategy #2: Make New Friends
Talk to agencies and consultants about how they build their business, and face-to-face marketing comes up a lot. Networking events and informal one-on-one lunch meetings have worked for a lot of people.
But some people can never get comfortable enough to make it work. It's hard to escape the knowledge that you're only doing this because you hope to get a client. Even if you follow all the advice about asking great questions because everyone wants to talk about themselves. It works for those who aren't bothered by the underlying ulterior motive.
But what if you just...made new friends? Doing something you'd do anyway? That's what Sagar Kogekar, CEO of Webwingz, did. His own standard marketing campaigns were breaking the bank. He still wasn't seeing too much business.
But Kogekar is a tennis enthusiast, and had a morning game. The first time he invited all the other players to breakfast he did so out of boredom. Not much going on. Might as well.
But then something happened.
"This breakfast chat went beyond the game. Having a close bond in sport made everyone comfortable sharing their business problems with each other," Kogekar says. "With problems came solutions. With solutions came business relationships."
He then happily listed six or seven new sports he leapt into, all with the goal of connecting with other players. Some players became clients and some didn't, but the informal nature of the follow-up brunches, lunches, and breakfasts helps. In a group, nobody feels singled out as a "prospect." When you're talking about all sorts of things, nobody feels like they're being sold. In fact, real friendships form.
And when a friend becomes a client, you begin with a foundation of trust.
Client Roster Boost Strategy #3: Create a Starter Product
Price structuring is all over the map for agencies and consultants alike, but for quite a few of them the initial ask represents a pretty hefty chunk of change. It's enough to make any potential client nervous, and nervous clients shop around.
But what if you had a smaller starter product that still helped your prospects grow their business, one that didn't require you to actively engage with their company until they're ready for your main event offerings?
James Pollard, The Advisor Coach, has a $99 per month physical newsletter he sends out. His main marketing goals center on getting people to subscribe. Once his target client base has a taste of the value he can provide he becomes the natural next step when they're looking for someone to handle their marketing.
James Pollard, The Advisor Coach
"I love doing it this way, because even if someone doesn't decide to work with me on a one-on-one basis, he or she will still get value from the newsletter," Pollard says.
He is, of course, also making money while people decide whether to work with him, which hardly hurts.
Client Roster Boost Strategy #4: And Now, A Word from Our Sponsor
Want to get out in front of potential clients and build a link at the same time? Find your community fun runs, festivals, and other events, and sign up as a sponsor. Sometimes sponsorships are less expensive than you might think. And most local events do link back to their sponsor's web page.
Of course, you get something a lot more valuable than links when you do this.
"Local events are a great way to get face-to-face with your local audience." Danny Peavey of One Week Website uses this technique on a regular basis. And face-to-face time isn't the only benefit. In fact, I can think of several more.
Danny Peavey of One Week Website
1. Your agency becomes known as a company that supports the community.
2. If you go to the event, and you should, you get lots of new pictures for your social media properties. Photos that aren't promotional, and which don't seem forced, are solid gold on any social property.
3. You can blog about your participation, too.
4. The people who are running the event might just refer you when someone they know is looking for an agency.
Because most of our work happens in the digital world, it's easy to forget there's a whole physical one out there. Taking the time to get away from your desk can be magical.
Client Roster Boost Strategy #5: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Your existing client base can be a big help. And while in an ideal world you'd get referrals just because your company is that awesome, people are busy. Distracted.
Cale Loken of 301 Consulting
Incentivizing referrals can help. You can use big rewards, like Cale Loken of 301 Consulting. "We typically offer them a $200 credit for each client that signs on with our agency."
Or you can use small ones, like Allison Lancaster, a solo consultant. "I offer current clients Amazon or Starbucks gift cards in exchange for referring me to a new client. The new client they refer to me also receives an onboarding gift."
Solo Consultant, Allison Lancaster
Whatever gift you choose to give should be valuable and helpful to the client. A cheap or thoughtless referral reward might backfire by making your clients angry, instead.
What's your business building hack?
Got a great strategy that wasn't covered here? A "hack" would be anything other than the content marketing, SEO, SEM, social and other methods we typically use for both ourselves and our clients. If so, let us know in the comments below!