The Complete Guide to Client Acquisition for Agencies [2021 edition]

I am pretty sure that if you run an agency, one of the things that’s on top of your mind is:

How can I get more clients for my agency?

To answer this, here’s a visual representation of your agency marketing strategy:

In other words, your marketing strategy = Your unique value proposition + Your ideal clients + Your website + Your marketing.

Let’s dive in!

Chapter 1: Your unique value proposition

Let’s start with some basics.

There are too many agencies doing too much of the same.

You don’t need to create something entirely new but you need to find ways differentiate yourself so you can stand out from the competition and come up with a unique value proposition for your agency.

There are two ways to do that:

1. Niche down
2. Creating a core offering for that niche

If you don’t have a solid value proposition and/or are not targeting the right clients, no amount of marketing will help you grow your business.

So how do you find a unique value proposition?

a) Niche down

As a first step, I always advise the following: Niche down.

Niching down means… You narrow your focus.

Instead of going wide, you focus on being really good at solving 1-2 problems for a select group of clients.

Let’s take the example of Will, from Hatchly, an on-demand design service in the UK:

Instead of offering web development, maintenance, advertising (like most agencies that do it all) he only focused on one service: Design.

He also further niched down on UK small and medium businesses.

And finally, he focused on one core offering “On-demand design service for a flat monthly fee for small businesses”

This brings us to our next point…

b) Create a core offering

Your core offering is the main service you offer. What your company will be known for.

In the case of Will, it’s “Graphic design for a flat monthly fee”

What he offers is basically being able to get design done, on-demand, without having to interview designers, and contracts.

All in all, finding a niche (UK small businesses that want regular graphic design done) + your core offering (on-demand design at an affordable cost) gives your business a clear, and unique value proposition.

This makes Will’s business stands out from the competition.

Chapter 2: Your ideal clients

Once you’ve established your unique value proposition it’s time to ask yourself this question:

Who are my ideal clients?

The truth is, even if you have an awesome service, not everyone will need it. Your service will be great for a small subset of clients, but not to everyone.

I usually take two steps to answer this questions:

1. Create client personas
2. Understand my client buying journey

a) How to create client personas for your agency

Let’s take again the example of Will, here’s an example of what his ideal client persona could be:

– Based in the United Kingdom
– 5-10 employees
– between $250k to $5m in annual revenue
– Has a social media page and needs to create marketing assets on a month-to-month basis
– Willing to spend at least $5-15k a year on graphic design services
– Mostly spends time on Facebook and some of them are part of some UK entrepreneurs groups.

Think of client personas as the “profile” of your ideal clients:

– How many employees they have
– Their industry
– Their geography
– The keywords and phrases they use to describe their business
– Their goals
– Where they hang out online, what they read, which podcasts they listen to, etc.

There are two ways to build client personas:

1. Interview your prospective clients

Ask a potential client if they’d be willing to get on a 15-min call with you.

You could reach out to them and say “Hey, I launched this new service. I am looking for feedback. In exchange, I’ll do one free design for you.”

Here are some questions you can ask your clients during the interview:

– How are you currently doing X or Y?
– What solutions have you tried in the past? What worked with them and what didn’t work?
– What’s your biggest goal with your business this year?
– What’s your biggest obstacle you anticipate in achieving that goal?

Pay attention to the words they use in describing their problems you can use them in your marketing copy as well (on your website and in your emails)

2. Communities

Another great way of building client personas is to research communities such as Quora, Reddit, or Facebook groups.

Say you’re targeting again UK small business owners.

I would focus on looking at communities. Here’s an example from Facebook.

You can also check on Reddit or Quora.

Once you’ve got a clear idea of who your ideal clients are, this brings us to step number 2: Your client buying journey.

b) Your client buying journey

Once you’ve defined your client persona, it’s important to understand how they will find out about your service.

In other words, understanding which steps they take from understanding which problem they have, to evaluating solutions, and finally purchasing.

Each step will require different marketing tactics to solve the problems your prospective clients have along their journey.

A good way to visualise your client journey is to see it as a funnel, with the following stages: Awareness, consideration, decision.

At each stage of the funnel, your clients will have different goals (or problems they want to solve):

The first stage (awareness), is when they’ll start looking for solutions to their problems.

Again taking the example of Will it could be the client searching on Google : “How to delegate design work?” or joining a Facebook group and asking “Where do you find designers for your business?”

The second stage (consideration) is when they evaluate different solutions. For example by googling “Upwork alternative” or getting on a demo call.

Finally, the decision stage is when they finally opt to purchase your service. This could be starting a trial.

You can also add an extra step which is loyalty, where clients refer your service to others.

Each step of the funnel will demand different marketing tactics, here’s an example:

Chapter 3: Your marketing website

Next step: You need to have a website that communicates clearly your value proposition, conveys trust, and converts leads.

Let’s dive in!

a) Communicate your value proposition

The first thing that visitors will ask themselves when landing on your agency website is :

What’s in it for me?

The goal of your website is to answer this. Talk about the following things:

– Tell visitors about the problem you solve (what you do and why)
– Show how your solution can solve it (how it works)
– Convince visitors by showing proof and examples of your work (social proof)

Here’s a great example from Video Husky, a video editing service:

They clearly mention what they do (“Your talking head videos editing right in 2 days’), mention their social proof (“We’ve helped 812 video creators…”), and have a clear CTA (“Get your videos edited”)

In addition, they also added a video from the founder which further helps convey trust.

b) Create trust with social proof

Social proof and case studies are an amazing way to convince clients: Use it!

Here are some ways to add social proof to your website:

– Create video testimonials
– Create landing pages with case studies
– Show logos of the clients you’ve worked with
– Create a portfolio of your work

c) Convert leads

Lastly, I would design your agency website with one goal in mind: Having a micro conversion.

This could be:

– A new email subscriber
– A new lead asking questions on chat
– A new demo appointments

A way to get those micro conversion is to create a lead magnet.

For example:

– A free ebook
– A chat with a 1-2min video demo of your service
– A free 15-min strategy call
– A quizz/questionnaire that your leads have to fill out

Once you’ve got those email subscribers or appointments, you can then aim to convert them into clients for your agency.

Chapter 4: Your marketing

Last step: Your marketing channels.

Depending the type of agency or service you run, your goal will be to find profitable marketing channels to acquire leads, and ways to scale that channel.

If you’re just getting started with marketing, the best way is to run experiments. Once you’ve found something that works, double down on it.

Let’s dive in!

1. Cold outreach

Cold outreach is probably of the best ways for agencies to find clients.

Here are some reasons:

You can get in front of your prospects right away + there is no costs (apart from your time and a LinkedIn Sales Navigator subscription or email outreach tool).

Here is a key lesson in doing outreach successfully:

Focus is on building relationships, not selling.

Most companies start by just mass messaging prospects either on LinkedIn or email.

That’s not the right way to do. Companies are already receiving tons of messages (even personalised ones!) and will likely ignore your messages.

Instead, ask questions.

For example, say you’re running a design service. Reach out to prospect and say:

“Hey John, awesome guide you wrote on content marketing. I was wondering, how do you currently do the illustrations? Do you do them in-house or are you working with freelancers?”

Personalizing your message and understanding the goals of your prospects and helping them achieving them is key to build relationships and turn those prospects into clients.

Your goal when doing outreach is thus not selling, but building relationships with your prospective clients.

Read more:

Our guide on LinkedIn Outreach
Cold email scripts for agencies

2. Networking

Another effective way of finding clients is for your agency is networking.

There exists plenty of communities including Slack communities, Indie Hackers, Reddit, Twitter.

The best way to network on those communities: Create value.

Share learnings, milestones, or ask feedback.

Reply to other members offering tips. Once they are familiar with you, you can connect with them and ask them the same qualifying questions you did for your outreach.

Read more:
How to find B2B clients on Facebook groups
Slack communities for agencies

3. Referrals

Probably the best way to get clients: Referrals.

Brett grew his design service to $50,000/mo mostly through word of mouth marketing.

Do great work for your clients, and then ask them to refer you.

You can also incentivises your existing clients to refer you more clients. For example by offering them a discount on their existing plan.

4. Content and SEO

Another way of generating leads for your agency is to create content.

There are several ways to do that: Organic search (on Google and YouTube) as well as building your email list.

Here is some example of content you can create for your agency:

a) SEO

SEO is a great way to generate leads for your agency. With 3 billion searches daily (provide source), many leads go to Google to find answers to their problems.

You can create content that answers their questions and introduces your service in the answer.

You can also guest blog on other agency website to improve your backlink profile as well as drive leads to your website.

Here’s an example from WPBuffs:

They get most of their traffic from search.

b) YouTube

Another way of driving leads to your agency is to create a YouTube channel.

A lot of people look at YouTube first (the second biggest search engine) to solve their problem.

Let’s say you run a WordPress maintenance business. Creating a video such as “How to speed up WordPress website” could drive a lot of leads.

d) Newsletter

Finally, building a newsletter and sending monthly updates as well as email sequences is another great way to get clients for your agency.

To grow your newsletter, create free products (for example: An e-book, or a mini course).

5. Personal branding

Another way to generate leads is to build relationships through personal branding.

Here are a few ways to do it:

a) Twitter

Share interesting tips or insights about your journey. Follow people that might be in your target market and comment under discussions.

Here’s an example from the founder of, a service matching developers to startup companies.

While the founder of Lemon only has about 2500 followers, he got almost 1000 likes. The engagement on Twitter is huge and he might have landed a few clients just from that single tweet.

Twitter is especially great if your target clients are tech startups or venture capitalist funds.

b) Podcasts

Another way of generating brand awareness and leads is to ppear on podcasts that your target market listens to.

You could identify a list of podcasts from Spotify that could interest your target market and reach out to the podcast host to be featured.

Have a compelling story to tell and make sure to personalise your email when reaching out.

c) Create your own community

Another way is to create your own community (for example by creating a Facebook group) and sharing helpful tips and advice to your audience.

Here’s an example from Dofollow, a link building service:

They created a 5000+ members Facebook group where they share best practices about SEO (and especially link building). The majority might not convert to clients but it is still a great way to build up brand awareness.

6. Industry directories

Another way of getting leads is to feature yourself on directories such as Product Hunt, TrustPilot, Angel List, Clutch, Sortlist, G2, and other directories.

Once you’ve completed work for one of your clients, ask them to leave a review and start trying to rank on those directories (you can also advertise on some of them to appear higher in the search results)

7. Marketing engineering

Marketing engineering is a lesser known way of getting clients, yet one that can be very profitable.

Marketing engineering is basically creating a side project (usually free) that has the goal of generating leads for your main agency services.

Take the example of Pixel True which created free templates which in turns grows awareness for his newsletter and service:

They created various free templates as well as a free illustration gallery.

Marketing engineering helps Pixel True hit two birds with one stone:

1. They get leads that are interested in their free templates (and who eventually learn about Pixel True services)

2. They get free PR from other websites (and backlinks) who link to their illustration gallery and templates.

Here are some other examples of marketing engineering you can do for your agency:

– A free course
– A free email newsletter series
– Templates and checklists
– Calculators, cost estimates, etc.

8. Paid advertising

Finally, paid advertising can be a great way to drive leads or grow your email list.

Here’s an example again from Video Husky:

You could run ads to retarget your visitors or simply to drive awareness.

Here are some examples of ads you can create to generate leads for your agency:

– Testimonials / reviews
– Founder introducing service
– Examples of past work

Wrapping up

Marketing is mostly about solving problems.

Having a strong value proposition and knowing who your ideal agency clients are is the most important step to start the marketing journey of your agency.

If at heart, your agency doesn’t solve problems for your clients, it will be difficult to generate leads.

Next to this, having a website that communicates well your value proposition, conveys trust (with case studies) and is optimised for conversions is key to ensure your marketing efforts converts visitors into sales opportunities.

Once you’ve got those basics in place, there are multiple ways to generate leads (and demo appointments) or traffic to your agency website: From cold outreach, to content creation, as well as personal branding and other tactics.

If you’re starting out, make experiments. Once you’ve found a profitable channel, double down on it and create processes to scale.

If you’d like to discuss how you grew your agency, consider joining our Facebook community!

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