New business opportunities can transform a company. They have the potential to bring in the kind of income that can stabilise a business for years to come, to enable you to hire new employees and even to build your reputation within the sector. Quite often the problem with new business opportunities is that agencies place so much faith and belief in their ability to win the contract that it can be disastrous if they never make it to pitch or if they fall at the final hurdle and the prospect signs up with a competitor.
Marketing agencies are often the ones who live and die by the quality and content of their pitches. They may be the most creative agency pitching for a project with millions of pounds behind them, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the right “fit” for the client. When this happens it’s time to reflect on what went well with the pitch, and there may be plenty of positive feedback from the prospect, but it’s also time to evaluate what could have gone better, rather than what went wrong!
In order to grow a marketing agency – or any agency for that matter – it’s this period of reflection that is often key. You learn from your mistakes whether it’s a new business pitch or an actual marketing campaign, and there are always things that you can learn in order to grow as a company, department and employee. With that in mind we’ve spoken to a number of leading marketing experts and asked them for their top tips on how companies across all sectors can look to grow in the coming months.
Rob Weatherhead, Digital Consultant
Find the key topics you want to be associated with, and become a useful resource to stay front of mind
Digital Consultant Rob Weatherhead told us that within every industry there are different topics, products or service areas each with their own intricacies; but what is key for any business is to decide the key topics they want to be talking about with their marketing as these will build an association in the minds of potential customers.
“Take digital marketing agencies for example. Most offer the same services, so how do you differentiate yourselves in the minds of potential clients? A great way to do it is identify the particular areas you know are a challenge for businesses and through your marketing showcase your capabilities in these areas. So for example you may see that your clients are doing particularly well through Google Shoppings Ads within their PPC accounts due to how you have them structured and optimised. By having a consistent theme around this in your marketing communications you will attract more businesses looking for help in this area, knowing you have the capabilities to help them. And over a long enough period you will build association between your agency and optimising Google Shopping Campaigns.
“It may not always be a service area, it might be a type of client you work well with or a business challenge you can address. For example you might find you work well with SAAS companies looking to drive subscriptions and increase customer lifetime value. By feeding the key topics into your website positioning, content marketing, PR and SEO strategy you will attract more of these businesses and build association with your agency brand. This is a good way for agencies to stand out when they are all essentially offering the same services.”
Rob went on to talk about the importance of remaining at the front of your potential customers’ minds, biding your time until they are ready to make a purchase – by which time your great product and content offering will bring them back to you.
“With a lot of service based businesses one of the biggest challenges is not knowing when somebody is going to buy in the market for your offering. Typically potential customers are going to be in 6-12 month contracts so no matter how compelling your offering you are not going to secure a sale if you contact them at the mid point of their current agreement.
“In order to prompt them to get in touch when the time is right (without becoming the annoying sales person who calls every month) is to keep your business front of mind. Doing this through pushy marketing is not always going to work, but if you make yourself a useful resource to them then you can do so without them feeling intruded on or sold to.
“There are a number of ways to do this. Blogs can be a great way of doing this if you commit fully to knowledge sharing. Email newsletters that add value and share useful information about the industry can also be a good tool. Providing free tools which make their lives easier and they will use on a frequent basis are another one. Tactics such as these keep your brand front of mind so that when the time is right, you get the call to discuss what you have to offer.”
Treat your own business like a client
Anna Mason, who founded the content marketing agency Quibble, is a strong believer that focussing on your own marketing is every bit as valuable as focussing on your clients. She told us “When you’re growing a business, it’s common to leave your own marketing by the wayside. It’s often at the bottom of your “to do” list as you’re so busy doing client work and working on business development as a means to bring in new clients. But, if you want to generate business, managing your own marketing and keeping it consistent is essential.”
“Not only does it demonstrate to your customers that you know what you’re doing, instilling trust, it also shows you have a high level of professionalism, which prospective clients will see,” she said.
“The key is to treat your company as a client. Create a content strategy and marketing plan just as you would with any client. You should include a mix of activities, from blogs, digital PR and social activity, along with social and Google ads. “Writing a blog once a month simply won’t cut it. Consider what your customers’ problems are, what questions they have about what it is you do and look at what’s trending online or what your competitors are writing about.”
Anna Mason, Founder & MD, Quibble
“Once you have a plan, get creative. Ask other industry leaders to contribute to your articles and share it on their social channels. This will extend the reach of that piece and get you in front of an entirely new audience – these are your potential customers! Creating different forms of content attracts a much wider audience. Some people like the written word, others prefer more visual content including videos, whereas others prefer to listen to podcasts, for example.
“In a nutshell, if you want to grow your business, spend less time selling and more time providing advice.”
Chris White, Marketing Executive, Meet Hugo
Use data to identify opportunities for you, and your client.
Data-led campaigns resonate with business owners who can clearly see their position in the sector and any gaps in their own product or service offering. Information and data are everywhere, but many of us fail to use it to its full potential, according to Meet Hugo Marketing Executive Chris White.
“We have access to tools including Google Analytics and email marketing open rates, but many marketing agencies fail to utilise this data in a meaningful and impactful way,” he said. “By taking this data and interpreting it from a new business perspective we can look at both internal performance and business growth opportunities, applying similar methods and approaches to identify whether something is working or whether we have a genuine opportunity to pitch to a lead based on those all-important gaps.”
“Interpreting and displaying the data to the business owner in the right way can help them see, as clear as day, that something isn’t working for them and exactly how you and your product can help them fill that gap and transform their fortunes. It may be increased web traffic, it might be more sales or it could even be improved social engagement. Whatever their objective, if you really want to grow your marketing agency then you need to be able to deliver a powerful pitch that identifies the gaps in the market, engages the business owner and then plots out a clear pathway to achieve their goals that makes them think “yes, this is the agency I want to work with.”
Focus on the benefits of what you’re offering
Whatever industry you work in and whatever it is that you have to offer your clients and customers, be sure to keep your focus on what’s great about that range of products or services. What you tend to find is that companies start to write about subjects they think they should be writing about, when actually it is completely irrelevant to their audience.
Chris Newton, the Marketing Lead at BT Shop, says “When I implemented our marketing strategy I wanted to get away from the specifications and price element of a product. The reason is that by creating content that resonates with a customer it can be far more powerful than simply offering a discount or focussing on a particular feature.”
He added “My reasoning for this is constant price drops can lose their power and customers become used to it. They can get deals anywhere if they look hard enough and it’s more important to provide valuable, unique information about the product that convinces them not only to buy the product in the first place, but to buy it from you. Since taking this approach I’ve found that customers are far less price-sensitive, and much more confident making a purchase that they feel is right for them.”
Chris Newton, Marketing Lead, BT Shop
Aled Nelmes, SEO Consultant, Lumen SEO
Create great on-site content
We’ve spoken about it quite a bit already, but content really is a valuable tool – especially when you’ve got something brilliant and informative to say. A blog can be used for a range of different purposes from providing information to potential customers about what it is you do and how it could benefit them, to engaging and entertaining visitors to your site through great, conversational articles that showcase a personal yet professional side to your business that is full of expertise.
The problem is, a lot of blogs are started and fall by the wayside through either a lack of internal resources or the belief that time could be better spent elsewhere. This results in a neglected blog that is updated so infrequently that you can never build up any kind of value, or a dedicated following.
Aled Nelmes from Cardiff-based SEO agency Lumen SEO told us that “The biggest growth marketing tip I would recommend, and I recommend this to all my clients, is to start a blog with intent. Any blog can attract traffic but one that is specialised and designed to answer the web’s most searched questions in your industry can become a very fast way to gain long-term traffic.”
Your work isn’t done when you’ve created a few great articles though. Aled had a great additional tip, suggesting that “once these blog pieces are between 6-12 months old, go back and update the content a little with new information or updated data. Google will often give them a boost in return as you’re showing that you’re doing what you can to provide maximum value to users.”
Under-promise and over-deliver
There will be some that criticise this approach, but it’s a highly effective method of ensuring that you don’t just hit your targets, but that you are honest with your clients. Sure, they’ll love hearing how many leads you’ll generate for them, how many sales you can guarantee or how many people you’ll drive to the site through organic or paid search each month; but if you don’t hit those targets they’re not going to hang around for long.
By remaining realistic and doing all you can to surpass your targets you’ll be in a much better position. Creative Director and Founder of the Yorkshire agency, awesome, Daniel Rose told us that “You’ll gain repeat business and recommendations by delivering an incredible service that’s achieved more than what your client expected. Under-promising isn’t a bad thing, it’s showing that you believe the minimum requirements can be achieved, but know that you can go above and beyond to impress customers and keep them coming back.”
Daniel Rose, Creative Director and Founder, awesome
Deepak Shukla, CEO, Pearl Lemon
Let your success speak for itself
Deepak Shukla – the CEO of London-based SEO agency Pearl Lemon – said that “Your strongest marketing tool isn’t necessarily your sales or new business team: it’s a satisfied customer.”
He went on to add that “Potential clients want assurances that your company is a worthwhile investment. The best way to convince them is through success stories and testimonials which are published on your site and social media channels.
“Video testimonials are a powerful way for your successful case studies to be told, from the mouths of the customer themselves. Ask clients to record their reviews and post them on your website, encouraging them to be specific with numbers like their R.O.I and growth metrics.”
Have a vision, keep it simple, and be true to your brand values
Nathan Pound, Founder of unBRANDED Collective, gave us his opinion on what the key to business growth is “The key to business growth? If we all had the key then we’d all be millionaires, and that would be no fun, right?”
He went on to say that “It might not open the front door directly, but the cornerstone to growth is that lethal combination of direction and adaptability. Locking in your vision for the business is crucial. Do you want to be the best bakery, the best coffee shop, the best restaurant, or the best bar? Spoiler alert, you can’t be all of them, and if you think you are, you’re probably not any of them! What you’ll need is a true vision and identity, not just in the branding of the business, but its entire ethos, its goal setting and the story that you want it to tell.”
Nathan Pound, Founder, unBRANDED Collective
Hannah Parvaz, Head of Growth, Curio
Build strong foundations but continue to adapt
Hannah Parvaz, the Head of Growth at Curio, says “Increasing your customer base is a challenge which requires ongoing work. The best thing to do is start from the ground up and build your foundations as strong as possible, with users, product, and experimentation. It’s important to constantly be speaking to and connecting with your users, finding out what they want and don’t want, and feeding this into your product.”
This is a really useful piece of advice because companies who see a period of growth often rest on their laurels and see things plateau. They reach a point where the leads stop coming in, clients may start to drift away and before long they’re back to where they were the year before. By getting the foundations and fundamentals right you have a solid platform to work from, it’s then a case of ensuring that you keep taking the business to the next level and adapting to meet the ever-changing market.
Some of these recommendations are certainly applicable to most sectors, and especially the digital marketing industry. While many will be long-term projects that can be planned out and implemented over many months; others can have much more instant impacts on your fortunes enabling you to grow in the way that best suits you and your business. Some will naturally grow more quickly than others, but don’t be disheartened if you find yourselves slowly but surely climbing the ladder – progress is progress.
Of course, you could always partner with a sales intelligence platform like Meet Hugo to help generate additional leads allowing you to focus on the practical business side of things and the pitch stage!