Best Way to Get Clients for Your Agency | Episode 080

Written by Jake Hundley
Published on December 7, 2023
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**Cold Open (Cody is back from surgery)**

**Skip the Cold Open at 4:26**

Jake is seeing way too many people looking for “appointment setters” and “high ticket closers” for agencies and SMMAs in Facebook groups.

Building an agency off of this model will ultimately kill your agency.

This also brings up an interesting point — if you own a social media marketing agency… how good are your social media marketing services if you can’t even get clients using the services you provide?

Instead of complaining about the above, we talk about what you should be doing to get your clients and where to get them without appointment setters and high ticket closers.

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2 Comments

  1. AJ

    Hey Cody and Jake! Long time listener, first time disagreeing. Not completely, but I have a few counter points I’ve been wanting to share and just haven’t made time to do so. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, so TL;DR is at the bottom.

    Let me start off by stating I completely agree with your view on “appointment setters” and “high ticket closers”. Do not outsource your sales process or your delivery/services for that matter. This will only lead to poor quality clients, bad client experiences, poor reputation, and unnecessary costs both short and long term. If you’re trying to build a business, no else will know more about your service or care about the business needs more than you.

    Also, to preface the counterpoint, our business model is not a productized agency like Evergrow. We fall more into that boutique/custom marketing agency. As a result, when we look at attracting new clients, we look at both volume and value size. Smaller clients often need just as much attention as larger clients (overhead and admin time), impacting profitability. That being said, we’ve grown (gross profit) a minimum of 30% YoY since starting. While that is not explosive growth, it is steady and manageable for our size. Productization allows the ability to strictly focus on volume and scale more easily.

    – Cold Calling

    Here’s where I disagree. Cold calling should absolutely be part of your outbound acquisition strategy and it is completely underrated. To be clear, when I say cold calling I do not mean cold outreach on social media or email. I mean an actual phone call to one of your target clients that you have done your homework on and can offer something of value. This means prior to calling them, you should have an idea of their marketing efforts, who makes the decisions, and what they could be doing better. If you can engage with them, without selling, at a networking event or on social media prior to the cold call then even better. The goal is to get as close to a “warm call” as possible.

    However, people don’t like to cold call because they are afraid of objections and rejections, or it’s uncomfortable, or they don’t make time for it. I get it, it sucks. If you are in an early-stage marketing agency, you, as the owner, should absolutely be making targeted cold calls. If you have no budget, you definitely have time.

    1) It’s a fast way to learn the industry/niche you are pursuing
    2) You can better understand their needs and challenges
    3) You can pick who you work with

    I can’t stress number three enough for a non-productized business in its early stages. If you are doing both the sales and delivery/services, which you should be, your goal should be to maximize your internal hourly rate. Your time capacity has a limit and lower value clients will make it harder to grow and take the next step. Keep in mind, if you are productized like Evergrow, this is not as much of an issue I imagine.

    Additionally, you can control how much effort goes into it. Have a down month coming up or hired someone new? Double your cold calling efforts. Have a waitlist of clients? Take that time to develop your team, hire, and improve internal processes. The downside is the time intensity, but, if you’re looking to grow and need more work, cold calling is an effective answer.

    – Marketing Your Business

    Now, should you be marketing your business in the same way you serve your clients? That depends.
    If I primarily serve lifestyle brands (makeup, clothing, etc), why would the marketing services I offer to reach their audience work for me to reach a totally different audience; businesses? B2B marketing still involves marketing to people, but you can’t always use the same approach as you would for your clients. Just about every marketing agency could benefit from SEO or SEM (if you have the budget) and should be include this as part of your inbound strategy. However, what if your main service is graphic design or social media marketing? Trying to pickup clients will take longer if you are relying on only designing a cool graphic or posting on social media. Can it be done? Yes. Is there a more effective way? Also, yes.

    The beauty of marketing your own business, like SEO, is that it can continue to produce leads without much time involvement from you as the owner. Outbound efforts like cold calling are often 1:1, meaning the more time spent, the more leads generated. With marketing, once you are in a good spot and built it up, the number of leads per hour invested increases.

    However, even with SEO or SEM, you still rely on the demand of the market. The people searching for your services are either new to paying for marketing (small business or the owner doesn’t want to do it anymore) or they are really unhappy with their current marketing firm (either they are a tough client or the previous firm is bad at their job). This gives you about a 50% chance that they are a good client, not to mention they may or may not be a qualified lead. The huge benefit here, is you didn’t have to go hunting for them or have to convince them. They came to you. This makes the sales process much easier. You just don’t get to choose who comes knocking on your door so you need to consider client attrition/churn.

    – Networking/Referrals

    I didn’t value networking for the longest time. My previous experiences left me feeling the reason people “network” is because there was a belief system supported by an echo chamber in these groups. That is until a close friend of mine shared some tips and encouraged me to try it again. In 2023, we hit our contracted revenue goal for the year by May and had a waitlist through December, all due to referrals from clients and networking.

    Networking was effective for us because 90% of our business is local within one DMA (designated market area). Thus, local business groups where I can meet people in-person are accessible and effective ways to build relationships, if using the right approach.

    However, there are three big downsides to referrals. The first is it takes time to be effective. Lots of time going to events, meeting with people, and staying connected with non-clients feels like a waste. The second is referrals are usually the same size or smaller than the referrer. People tend to run in the same circles with equivalent interests, motives, and size of business. If someone in your network spends time with under $1M in revenue sized businesses, then you are likely to get clients of that size or smaller. This is similar for client referrals. A client is not likely referring larger businesses to you, just like a smaller business wouldn’t usually advise a larger one in the same industry. Usually, not always, but usually client referrals are smaller than the original client. This can be an issue from a value/capacity standpoint. Third issue, is that referrals are not scalable. You can’t “crank up” the networking efforts and expect more results.

    Again, this is the perspective from a custom/boutique marketing agency, not a productized one. I will say, if you are looking for a framework of a more scalable agency, productization is definitely the way to go. From what I hear, it sounds like you guys are knocking it out of the park with that model. We started with a different vision in mind and thus built a different model. It all depends on your goals.

    TL;DR
    Different point of view from a different business model: don’t rely on just one lead gen method. The ocean is filled with many streams.

    Here’s my rank, but use as many as you can *effectively*:
    1) Cold Calling – S tier, especially for early owners. Target who you want to work with and get clients quick. Do NOT outsource.
    2) Marketing Your Business – yes, but potentially not in the same way you do for your clients. Re-think for a B2B strategy.
    3) Networking/Referrals – It takes time, but can be valuable down the road. Ask clients for specific referrals.

    Do not: cold email, cold DM, outsource lead gen, buy leads, or do nothing.

    Cheers,
    AJ

    Reply
    • Cody

      Hey AJ,

      This is hefty. I appreciate the thoroughness.

      Two things:

      1. “Local” (i.e. a DMA region) as a niche is a different strategy, as you describe here. A good acquisition strategy can genuinely be golfing. I’ve seen it. It’s a thing, and it works.

      2. Playing to your strengths is always smart. If you’re good and comfortable on the phone, call people.

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

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