Our recent article, Referrals and how to get them for your agency, looked at the importance of referrals as a source of new business development, particularly in the early phases of agency evolution. However, it came with the caveat that over reliance on referrals alone, or even primarily, can be a limiting factor to agency growth.

So how can you market your agency effectively in a more balanced way?

Many agencies evolve their marketing approach and capabilities over time as they scale, influenced by time, affordability and gradually forming their purpose and target market based on their expertise.

When fully fledged, effective marketing can support the growth and development of an agency, reaching core target markets and generating new business opportunities. But to do that effectively, several priorities must be met to position the agency towards its target audience and make a meaningful contribution to growth:

  • Developing a compelling value-based proposition is at the heart of all marketing and communication. A clear and concise statement of who you are, who you are for and the value that you bring to your prospective clients, is the bedrock for any effective business.

That central proposition positions you towards the target audience by aligning the benefits that you bring with the needs that they have. Audiences, particularly prospects, need to immediately and clearly understand the problems that you solve and the value you deliver.

  • Solutions over services are important here too. Remembering that clients buy the outcomes of your work, not the work itself, is critical to effective messaging.
  • Demonstrating those outcomes reinforces an agency’s credentials and credibility. Compelling and relevant case study materials, metrics of success, strategic outcomes attained for clients as well as testimonials will all cut through to your prospective buyers. The more that target prospects can see how you might solve similar problems with strong outcomes and results, the more relevant and suitable you will be to them.

Building your brand and network

Of course, marketing your agency isn’t limited to specific potential buyers within your prospects. Wider work on generating awareness, brand building and establishing a position within your market sector is important to ensure that audiences are ‘warm’ to your agency.

In this sense, thought leadership is a great way of demonstrating your expertise and opinions, as well as getting your agency style, tone and personality across to the wider market.

Whilst we see lots of great examples of thought leadership that show progressive and deep subject matter expertise, (I’ll leave you to consider whether this is one of them), the more this is connected to the downstream impact of solving business problems for clients, the more effective it will be.

Using your network and channels to gradually seed more content requires concerted effort and endeavour. Hence why, particularly in smaller agencies, marketing activity can be sporadic. But carving out more time and having a structured plan to reach core audiences will pay back dividends and help to drive sustained growth in awareness, positioning, leads and revenues over the medium term and beyond.

To your existing ingredients, add more time

Most agencies have some, if not all of the above required to form and execute a planned approach to marketing. Few agencies have a crystallised value proposition, but most have aspects of it that, when drawn together, can act as a masthead for external communications and engagement.

Similarly, almost all agencies have expertise – it’s the reason for their inception – and so they have the ability to drive thought leadership and form opinions and stimulate conversation that can expand beyond their immediate network and, in turn, expand the network itself, creating more brand awareness.

The primary challenge for all agency leaders, particularly in SME and early scaling mode, is finding the time to prioritise, structure and execute against a marketing plan.

Those that can harness that approach, who can build the skills and assets and, eventually, bring them in-house, will be able to use marketing effectively to drive awareness, connect to viable prospects and build leads from target markets, sectors and buyers to fuel agency growth.