To learn how to get more clients for your marketing agency in 2024, you need to understand how our industry has changed.
In the past 5 years the agency market has faced 5 big challenges:
- Extreme competition due to low barriers of entry
- High buyer skepticism due to scammy agencies
- Overreliance on referrals and word-of-mouth for new clients
- Looming recession which led to reduced marketing budgets
- Epidemic of low-ticket clients due to the explosion of online business post-COVID.
As a result, most agencies have struggled to stand out, differentiate, and acquire new clients beyond their network or referrals.
And this is especially true for agencies looking for B2B clients, who are much more sophisticated than regular B2C customers.
As an agency growth provider, we’ve spent the last 3 years heavily studying and experimenting with all marketing strategies available, with an eye to overcoming the 5 challenges we’ve explored above. Below you’ll find the top 9 ranked from best (number 1) to worst (number 9).
9. Paid Advertising
And the prize for the worst method of acquiring B2B agency clients goes to paid advertising. We’ve tried it on Google, Meta, and LinkedIn.
Our conclusion is that the more sophisticated your buyer is, and the larger their company, the less likely they are to pay any attention whatsoever to ads, regardless of what you say inside the ad.
In addition, many advertising platforms are facing an epidemic of fake traffic & attribution problems, which means that frequently you’ll get charged for bots clicking or viewing your ads. We’ve found that the problem is worst on LinkedIn in terms of expensive, bad-quality traffic.
The only situation where running ads may be worth it is if you’re marketing to unsophisticated, brick-and-mortar buyers who typically sell B2C. For example, plumbers or local tattoo shops may be responsive to advertising, since they’re relatively new to the digital game. Even so, expect to pay $2,000+ to acquire clients and face a significantly higher churn rate.
8. Cold Calling
Cold calling is the second least effective approach for getting new clients because of three main reasons:
- No trust – you’re a stranger, and stranger means danger
- Little scalability – you may be effective at cold-calling, but you can only cold-call businesses one at a time. The skill is also hard to teach to others.
- No authority – because many scammers rely on cold-calling, sophisticated prospects will tend to ignore your call regardless of what you say.
So think about it. If someone replies, are they more likely to be a low-value, demanding client, or a high-value, top-notch client who can pay what you’re worth? The likelihood is they’ll be the former.
Nevertheless, if you’re just starting your agency and you need your first few clients, it may help. Especially if you’re also targeting an audience that sells B2C locally (for example, home service firms), they typically rely on their phone to do business.
7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Next up is SEO. While SEO can attract quality leads, the big problem is the time it will require to produce blog content, get backlinks to it, and start ranking it on Google. You can expect this to take around 1-1.5 years, requiring a high upfront investment from you, whether in terms of time or money before you start seeing results.
The other issue with SEO is that it will usually also attract info-seekers, and info-seekers tend to be less sophisticated clients. After all, your best clients are too busy to be “Googling around” for information. They want to speak directly to an expert and get just the information they need, without any fluff.
6. Online & Offline Networking Events
Networking may not be predictable or capable of generating a high volume of clients, but it’s highly effective when it comes to building relationships & trust. And that’s key to selling in a low trust, highly competitive market.
At the same time, you need to make sure you attend the right networking events. Both offline and online, there are many events which don’t attract quality prospects.
A great organization to check out is Business Network International (BNI).
They have local (in-person) and international (via Zoom) chapters that you can join. Be careful: BNI costs, so make sure you find a chapter that frequently attracts your ideal audience before committing to it. You can expect to get a couple of clients per year this way, but many will tend to be smaller businesses.
5. Cold Email
On 5th place comes cold email. It has a big plus because you can do almost unlimited volume, and bigger businesses tend to be more responsive via email than other channels. Personalized email that actually delivers customized value has bigger conversion rates than the typical “spray and pray” approach the gurus promote, but you lose out on volume.
In our case, we’ve been using our LinkedIn Profile Assessment Tool to produce customized reports for our prospects about how they can improve their LinkedIn Profile. Then we would email them with a copy of the report and a summary created just for them. Because no one else was doing this, and we were providing personalized value, we got 13% to book a meeting.
The downside of email is precisely that everyone can send an unlimited volume, and as a result most companies are getting spammed by agencies, so even in the best of cases, it’s hard to not get ignored – many companies rarely even open emails from a stranger!
4. Social Media Direct Messages (DMs)
Direct messages via social media to your connections, especially through LinkedIn, work better. Most platforms will restrict the number of DMs that someone can send and prevent you from contacting strangers who don’t follow or are connected to you. This leads to less spam.
The big advantage over cold email is that it’s not 100% cold – the other people are connected to you, can view your profile which showcases your authority, and interact with you via live chat.
As such, social media is a lot more effective at building trust and relationships than cold email, which, even in the best of cases is a lot more transactional.
We’ve discovered that 80%+ of B2B agency leads from social media come from LinkedIn, not Twitter, Facebook or any other source. In addition, LinkedIn also has the wealthiest users of any social media, and your highest-value clients will be on it, ready to discuss business. So if you’re an agency selling B2B, then you simply have to be on LinkedIn.
3. Strategic Partnerships
Many of the agencies we’ve worked with have obtained a lot of success by building strategic partnerships. For example, if your agency does brand identity design for startups, a strategic partnership with a VC firm can get you access to many startups at once.
Partnerships side-step the lack of trust prevalent in the market, and give you a direct, trusted connection with your audience. There are only 3 downsides:
- The risk of becoming too dependent on a few sources for all your clients,
- You’ll usually be introduced to customers only at the same level of development as your partner or lower, never higher and,
- It takes time to nurture & build a solid strategic partnership
Over the last 3 years we’ve helped over 30 agencies build strategic partnerships and obtain a steady-stream of clients this way. It takes expertise, but it’s definitely effective.
2. Thought Leadership
Is it really a surprise that in an environment that is dominated by competition and low trust those who appear as thought leaders stand out and garner a lot of business?
Thought leadership is highly effective. It requires:
- The development of outstanding knowledge,
- Building an audience and,
- Securing the distribution channels to spread it.
For example, I developed the NPOT Methodology™ for laying the foundations of a 7-Figure Agency, built an 8,000+ person audience via LinkedIn and then I shared my methods via podcasts, such as the episode I did with Brent Weaver from The Digital Agency Show Podcast.
The result of that was getting access to really high-value agencies who were interested to apply the methodology for themselves.
And finally, the most effective strategy is…
1. Personal Branding via LinkedIn
Yes, we may be a bit biased, but only because 90% of our own clients come from applying this method through my LinkedIn Profile. We have tried the others, but nothing beats this for us, or for our clients.
Personal branding is also a very potent combination of methods, including thought leadership, strategic partnerships and social media DMs, which are the previous 3 methods listed. It takes advantage of building relationships, rather than mere transactional selling.
And it works really well in current market conditions because it:
- Expands your network consistently & with top-tier clients since you control your targeting.
- Builds massive authority which helps promote you as a thought leader, creates barriers to entry for agencies trying to compete for the same market, and builds massive trust, sidestepping the general skepticism.
- Focuses on building relationships at scale, which facilitates deals even in periods of recession by demonstrating and building value.
In 2023, we gained over 100 clients ourselves through this method!
TL;DR – Most Effective Method to Get B2B Clients For Your Marketing Agency Is…
Personal Branding via LinkedIn. By a wide margin. If you’re looking to use LinkedIn to rapidly grow your agency, we’d be glad to help. Book in a 15-minute agency growth audit with us (you can do so by clicking the “Talk With Us” link in the navigation menu) and we’ll help you determine your biggest roadblock to growing and tell you if you we can help.
Looking to Grow Your Agency to 7-Figures?
Hey, thanks for reading this article, I hope you got great value out of it. My name is Tudor Dumitrescu (click to follow me on LinkedIn) and I've made my mission in life to help 25,000 owners build the agencies of the future, connect with their dream clients through LinkedIn and scale to 7-figures.
If that sounds like you, there are 3 ways for me to help:
1. Download Our Outbound Sales LinkedIn Playbook™
You can access my entire LinkedIn strategy for free. I've used these tactics to bring in as many as 24 new clients in a single month for our agency, and the 800+ agencies who have tried it were impressed by the results. Get it here.
2. Attend One of Our Free Workshops
Every month I run one of two workshops. One for beginners, which I define as agencies making less than $10K/mo and one for more advanced agencies who are already making $10K/mo and looking to take it to $100K/mo.
The Agency Ascendancy™ Workshop is for agencies making less than $10K/mo who want to lay up a 7-figure foundation for their business. You will get worksheets and you will work together with me to apply the NPOT Methodology™ to choosing your niche, crafting your offer, defining your positioning, and working on your pricing & guarantee strategy.
The N³ Agency Growth Model™ Workshop is for agencies making more than $10K/mo who want to install a marketing system that will take them to $100K/mo. You will get worksheets and you will work together with me to apply the growth model into your business by refinining your Network Expansion, Nurturing and Negotiation processes to close big deals even during recessions.
3. 15-min Agency Growth Audit
If you want to go really fast and get big results ASAP, then the fastest path is our N³ Agency Growth Service™. It starts with a super short 15-min call, where I will help you identify the major bottlenecks slowing your growth and help you get clear on the action steps you need to move forward. If you like the plan, then we can explore it further on another call.
You can book your agency growth audit here: