Generating new agency business and retaining existing clients has just gotten a whole lot harder in the current climate. While client marketing budgets may be reducing, brands still need to be active in market. Client-side teams may also be suffering from reduced resources and/or capacity so the need for agencies to fill these specialist functions is vital.
We've put together 6 tips below for digital agency lead gen and retention in the time of COVID-19:
1. Run virtual training workshops / seminars
For any agency, its most valuable asset is its people. Within your agency you have an array of highly skilled professionals who live and breathe digital marketing. Education is a powerful lead generation tactic as well as a fantastic retention tool and with the sudden surge in e-learning, the time is right for your agency talent to share their skills and knowledge with clients or potential clients.
Three Sixtee are a full-service digital marketing agency in London who run free 1hr online webinars across a range of digital marketing topics. These sessions put Three Sixtee in front of many potential clients at scale and help start the conversation and build relationships.
2. Ramp up social content (organic paid)
Publishing valuable content frequently on your agency's Facebook page, LinkedIn page, YouTube channel, Instagram and Twitter is advantageous not just because more people are spending time online but also because of the SEO benefits. Being active during this time also showcases how your agency is responding and adapting during this crisis. Look for relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups to join where you can add value too.
Running paid promotion of content especially on Facebook and LinkedIn to targeted audiences is a cost-effective strategy especially if you can lead visitors to a landing page with a value-add download, report or some kind of opt-in.
Don't forget to run paid campaigns to these great Custom Audiences you can retarget across all the social channels:
- All visitors to your website
- Visitors to your website who view particular pages (eg: Contact form)
- People who have engaged with your previous social posts
- Export of your email subscriber list (MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, etc)
- Lookalike audiences of any of the above audiences
3. Go niche
Focusing on niche disciplines within digital marketing is a great way to stand out. Think of service and industry combinations like Keyword Research for B2B Brands, Conversion Rate Optimization for E-Commerce Brands, Instagram Campaigns for Beauty Brands, etc.
Whether you market your services within a niche or you white-label these niche services to other agencies, growth marketer Ryan Stewart recommends identifying your agency's niche areas rather than competing in broader service offerings that are overflowing with competitors. He also aims to land speaking gigs at niche conferences. With some conferences going virtual, this could be a great time to search for relevant conferences and pitch the organizers insightful presentations you could deliver.
4. Develop strategic partnerships
A very typical partnership that exists between digital agencies is when a marketing & communications agency partners with a web development agency. This is a great pairing since there is next to no competitive cross-over and the services are completely complimentary. Look for these kinds of partnerships that you can create with other agencies, consultants or even tech solutions & software tools (like us!).
Check out Entrepreneur's 10 Steps to Forming Long-Lasting Strategic Partnerships.
5. Think like a customer success team
In the tech world many software tools have customer success teams. These differ from customer support teams in that they are proactive rather than reactive. The goal of the customer success team is to prevent churn long before the customer is even thinking about it. To accomplish this, customer success assigns a customer health score based on a variety of factors.
For agencies, this could mean regular check-ins, 360 reviews and indeed performance monitoring of campaigns. Digital agencies can easily emulate customer success strategies by providing clients with proactive ideas or optimization suggestions in weekly WIPs. Perhaps you could put in place a continual 'test and learn' program which iterates each week or month through different creative, messaging or technical tests to gauge the change in performance against KPIs. This process can also reveal potential upsell opportunities to grow the retainer or result in new project work.
Marketing Agency Insider recommends this approach because "proactivity turns you from a knowledgeable agency professional into an indispensable advisor". A powerful difference indeed.
6. Help your clients navigate through the Twilight Zone
Sure its about your agency surviving but you also want your clients to survive during this time and thrive during shelter in place restrictions as well as once normalcy returns.
Akvile DeFazio from WordStream recommends implementing a focus shift across your clients away from hard-selling, venturing further up the funnel and deploying campaigns which are more engagement-based rather than conversion-based. This shift will reset expectations around any lower-funnel goals you once had in place pre-COVID-19 which are difficult to achieve in the current climate.
Chris Savage from The Savage Co says there are three distinct phases to help navigate your clients through during the COVID-19 crisis:
Phase 1 - The Twilight Zone: This is where we are now. Largely WFH, severe lock-downs. We need to energize our clients with sharp ideas to engage, market and sell when consumers are at home. Ideas need to add value and solve real problems for them now. As an agency, look for the work, not the budgets. Build goodwill.
Phase 2 - The New Dawn: Things start slowly moving back into gear - but its more like second gear. Some people are back in the office, planes start flying, schools start coming back. But life is not back to normal. International travel is still grounded. Many elderly are still socially isolating inside the home. You should start working with clients now to plan what their businesses will look like and how they need to market and engage during this time. This will potentially be a long, weird, half on / half off period of time. It will require fresh and new marketing strategy and comms - true creative thinking.
Phase 3 - The New Reality: This happens much later. But this is the time to sell, with the right tone and in a vastly different landscape. Plan for this way down the track and start roadmapping these phases with your clients. Some brands are planning for this phase to kick in during the last quarter of 2020 but it could be sometime in 2021 - no one knows. How will you communicate during each phase and how does each segue into the next? Doing this together will build great shared longer-term thinking and showcase your agency's understanding and commitment to the client's business and objectives.
Finally, we'd like to give a big shout out to one of our loyal customers, Kyle Smendziuk and the team at WebMarketers in Ontario. Check out their great article including their 6 step plan to make the best of the current situation: Beating COVID-19 - How Smart Entrepreneurs Are Adapting.
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