Are you sat scratching your head, wondering why your dream clients haven’t found their way onto your client roster yet?
Whether you’re wondering how to drive new clients towards visiting your website, or finding the best way to take an enquiry from potential client to raving customer, you’re not the only one.
37% of marketing agencies say getting new clients is their biggest struggle:
But, finding new clients could be even tougher if you’re a new (or startup) marketing agency without a huge history of work to showcase.
...But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to get clients for your startup agency by building credibility.
What do clients look for when searching for an agency?
Clients working with your agency need to trust you. They’re signing contracts, handing over sensitive information (like passwords for their social media accounts), and are likely spending a sizeable amount of money on your services.
They want to know it’s worth it before putting pen to paper - hence why they’re more likely to go with an agency they’ll trust will do a good job.
...But they don’t assume you’ve got the opportunity to do this face-to-face.
Potential clients will judge a book by its cover. (The “book” meaning your new agency.) They’ll browse your website, check your social media presence, and read a handful of reviews before deciding to enquire about hiring you.
You’ll need to build trust by showing your credibility. And more importantly, prove you’ll deliver on their investment.
7 ways to boost your agency’s credibility
Are you looking to win new clients and work with awesome companies? It’ll take some work, but it’s not impossible to add dream companies to your client list.
Here’s how you can build credibility as a new agency, and prove you’re worthy of their trust.
1. Build a strong portfolio, which includes case studies
Agency portfolios showcase the work you’ve done before. Every new agency should have one visible on their website, regardless of how much experience your team has, the number of staff you employ, or the clients you work with.
Why? Because a strong portfolio proves you know what you’re doing. It shows you’ve done the work before, and gained results… Not to mention, have tons of relevant experience.
If you’re a new or start-up agency, you might not know where to start.
But I’ve got one nugget of advice: Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t have enough content to put in a portfolio.
Passion projects, unpaid jobs and work you’ve done for a non-profit could feature in your agency’s portfolio. You’ve done the work; it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve been paid!
Take a look at this entry in Medico Digital’s portfolio:
They’ve featured the assets they created, and explained how their services matched their client’s brief.
Any potential client would look at that and think, “wow - they know their stuff!”
Before you rush off to create your agency’s portfolio, make sure you’re only including your best, most-recent work. You want anyone viewing your portfolio to be bowled-over with your knowledge and expertise.
Then, for each project you worked on, write a short case study that includes:
- The client’s brief
- The work you did
- The results you saw
- A testimonial from your happy client
All four will look incredibly impressive, and prove you really know your stuff!
2. Build a solid “about us” page
The about us page of your website is typically one of the most-viewed. Your potential clients will read it before enquiring about hiring you for one reason:
They want to know who they’re working with.
Your agency’s about page could include:
- The story of how your agency started
- Photos of your team members and their skills/experience
- How you can help your client through the services you offer
Cultivated Wit, a creative agency, have an excellent About page:
Not only do they have photos of their team to boost relatability, they also include their agency’s mission statement, and the story behind their name:
This type of storytelling is a fantastic way to build credibility.
Research by Pennsylvania University discovered people are more receptive towards stories than dry facts - helping your prospective clients build a relationship with your agency way before they begin writing their outreach email.
The about page on your website is a fantastic way to cater to that!
3. Ask for referrals
Did you know that half of all agency owners report referrals as being their main source for acquiring new clients?
Referrals are an incredible tool your agency should be using to find new clients because you’re asking someone who already trusts you - such as a past client or industry friend - to introduce you to someone in need of your services.
(Think of it like client <> agency matchmaking.)
So, how can you ask for client referrals and get more clients for your agency? It’s not easy to make the ask, especially in a world of spammy outreach emails.
The simplest way to get client referrals is by sending a personalized outreach email to one of your contacts, and letting them know you’re taking on new clients. Ask them whether they know of anyone looking for your services, and tell them you’d be grateful for an introduction.
This works for two reasons:
- The contacts you’re asking are already impressed with your work. You’re not asking them to refer you without any prior knowledge on your experience. They already trust you’ll do a great job, hence why they’re likely to pass on your name.
- You’re asking someone to refer you to their contacts. Whoever they’re referring to you has already expressed a need in what you offer.
Fancy getting started? Here’s an email template you can shoot off to land more referrals:
“Hey, NAME! I won’t take too much of your time, but I just wanted to ask a quick favor. Do you know of any companies in the INDUSTRY who’re currently looking for YOUR SERVICES? We have some space open to take on new clients starting from MONTH, and given the project we worked on to RESULT YOU ACHIEVED, I’d really appreciate an introduction to anyone you know who could benefit from this type of work. Thanks!”
Simply personalize the script for each contact, and start receiving a steady stream of potential clients who are interested in working with your agency.
4. Enter (and win) agency awards
A fantastic way to prove credibility is to enter and win agency awards.
Winning awards shows your work is recognized by industry professionals, since experts who are well-versed with the services you offer often form the judging panels.
Plus, awards help your agency stand out from the competition. It’ll help to show you’re an agency committed to delivering value for your clients, and in a world where anyone can offer marketing services, it’s an awesome way to differentiate your agency from the rest.
Here are a handful of agency awards you could enter:
- The Drum Agency Business Awards
- The Drum Recommended Agency Awards
- Campaign Media Awards
- Social Media Marketing Awards
- European Search Awards
Schedule in some time every month to put together your nominations. But if your agency enters these awards and unfortunately gets pipped to the winning post, don’t feel disheartened. A nomination will still go a long way!
Whether you won the award or simply made the shortlist, display your entry on your website’s homepage to show new visitors and potential clients that you’re a credible agency.
Spin Brands do this with their homepage banner:
They’re proving their services have been recognized by industry leaders, which is bound to impress any potential client browsing their website, and wondering whether to enquire.
5. Use HARO for industry coverage
It looks impressive when your agency’s name is attached to huge publications. Why? Because it proves to potential clients that you have industry knowledge, and you’re being recognized by the well-known influencers who run these websites.
Luckily, you don’t have to rely on getting lucky to land this type of coverage.
You can use Help A Reporter Out (HARO) - a free service that connects journalists looking for quotes, and people who’re able to give them.
Get started using HARO by signing up as a source, and joining the vertical your target clients operate within. That could be:
- Business and finance
- Lifestyle and fitness
- Entertainment and media
You’ll then have three daily emails containing a list of journalists looking for sources:
Huge publications use this service to get quotes from experts.
So, spend 20 minutes per day responding to relevant queries, making sure the tips you’re contributing are unique. Writers are more likely to use your quote if you’re not sharing the same, well-known tip as other sources.
If the journalist chooses to include your link, congratulations!
Not only can you say you’ve been featured in that publication, but you’ll likely receive a backlink to your website as credit. This can help to prove credibility with Google, helping your agency’s website rank higher in the SERPs when dream clients are searching for your services.
6. ...Or write guest posts
Fancy taking HARO a step further, and beefing-up the “Featured In” section of your website? Contribute guest posts to industry publications your target clients read.
Guest posts are impressive because it’s tough to get featured, and only the best writers can get their work published.
Here’s a 3-step process you can follow to boost your agency’s credibility through guest posts:
- Search for blogs accepting guest posts by Googling [“INDUSTRY” + write for us]
- Read the content they’re already publishing, and pitch of 2-3 content ideas you could write that fit within this theme.
- Write a long-form blog post that’s jam-packed with value, which teaches their audience something new. Include a backlink to your agency’s website in the author bio box for readers to connect with you.
Here’s the most important thing to remember when guest posting: Only contribute an article to websites your audience are likely to be interested in.
When we collaborated with AWeber, each company wrote a guest post for the others’ blog.
This partnership worked really well because it provided an exchange of knowledge that was relevant to each companies’ customers and leads.
Another example could be if you offer social media services, write a guest post for Social Media Examiner. On the other hand, if you help clients manage their Google AdWords campaigns, contribute an article to PPC Hero.
(You can find the publications your audience reads by asking them! Run a quick survey that asks your current clients which blogs they read, and use their list as your guest post targets.)
People actively reading these blogs are looking for advice around the services you offer.
If you’re able to provide them with it, you’re instantly proving you’re a credible agency that could take the job off their hands.
7. Show you use industry-standard tools
The clients you’re working with don’t want to feel ripped-off.
The average marketing agency charges between £1,200 and £5,000 per month, which can feel like a huge expense - especially if your clients are also small, new companies.
A fantastic way to prove your credibility is to show them you use industry-standard tools. Show them you’re using their cash wisely, and investing in software that will benefit them.
Take a look at how one of our customers, Olive and Milo, list themselves as a “Sendible Expert” on their website:
Showcasing the software you’re familiar with shows you understand their industry.
More importantly, you’re subconsciously telling potential clients that they can benefit from the same tools if they hire you to work on their marketing strategy.
Final thoughts on building credibility
Whether you’re trying to land industry coverage or wrapping-up a client project before writing a case study, it can take time to build credibility as a new agency.
But that’s not to say it’s impossible; you just need to be patient with the process.
Remember that with each tactic we’ve listed here, you’re gradually building your agency’s credibility - meaning you should continue to get bigger and better clients, the more you build (and show!) your expertise.