1. Nail your website messaging
Your website is vital to landing bigger clients with deeper budgets. In fact, you could write a whole book on how to nail your website messaging. Oh hang on... we did, so you should download it for free right now before you forget.
To summarise, your site is your agency’s 24/7 new business asset. It should be generating leads and enquiries. It should tell and sell. It should bring your story and strategy to life in a way that’s exciting and interesting.
It shouldn’t be a one-way monologue about ‘we do this’ and ‘we do that’. If every sentence starts with We, Our or Agency X, then your website’s probably pretty boring - however big your font is.
The single biggest tip for agency website copy is to make it about the potential client, what they get from working with you, how their business or brand is going to benefit. You should be opening more sentences with You or Your, like this one.
If you don’t know exactly who your target client is, work it out. If you think your target client is everybody, it’s not. The more specific you’re willing to be about your ideal clients, the more specific and resonant your messaging will be.
For example, if your ideal clients are B2B, then it’s hard to be specific because the sector is hugely varied - from software to events to paperclips.
If your ideal clients are sportswear brands, you can really lean into their specific pain points and language. You’re much more likely to get referrals. You already have a shared interest. You’re seen as the experts, not the everyman. Your copy can talk about the stuff they really care about - not vague claims and ‘delivering results’.
Your About page should be less about you, and more about why you’re a good fit for a potential client. Nobody cares about your agency’s boring backstory, when you started, your office dog, your cake-baking Thursdays or how you’re a ‘passionate team of talented experts’ (or some other tired agency About page cliche).
Have some personality. Give them a sense of what it’s like in the room with you. Do something different. Sure, show you’ve got skills and talent, but frame it around why it’s beneficial for them. Otherwise it’s just a tedious bulk of text everyone ignores.
Lastly, don’t be tempted to open your website with some big waffling statement that looks impressive but says nothing. Potential clients land on your site and need to know they’re in the right place and be compelled to carry on exploring.
Don’t bother with ‘Hi, we’re Agency X’ because that’s obvious. Avoid any buzzword-bullshit. Choose clear over clever. Your website’s site headline / hero section needs to tell clients what you do, and what value they get from working with you. That doesn’t mean it can’t be slick, it just needs to balance both style and substance.
2. Write an ultimate How-to Guide / eBook
Right, you’ve nailed your website positioning and messaging. Now you need to get people to actually read it. Some people swear by SEO. Personally we couldn’t care less. We already rank for some stuff naturally just by having a niche. We’ve certainly never written ‘SEO copy’ (whatever that is). It’s about quality, not quantity. You want the right kind of people coming to your site. And the best way to qualify them is to write a guide or ebook that’s so specific that only your ideal client would bother to download it.
Don’t get all worried about giving away your golden goose ideas. The reality is however detailed your how-to guide or ebook is, people won’t have the time, energy or talent to actually do it themselves. If anything, it’ll just show them how much expertise goes into your work. Make your guide simple in its language but specific in its steps. Show them everything. Lift the curtain. Don’t be another 2 -page pamphlet the world downloads and forgets instantly. Be the definitive guide to something specific.
Start at the very beginning of your process. Clarify all your thinking into micro-steps. Share every strategy and break them down into actions, tasks and exercises. Be concrete and give real-world examples when it gets a bit abstract.
Work chronologically through your process, explaining every step. Break up the copy into small chunks and get a designer to make it look good. Forget sloppy Word docs or naff homemade PDFs. Despite what your family tells you, these look shit. Your guide or ebook needs to look and feel like it’s a goldmine of information from industry experts.
Make sure your guide/ebook is branded with your agency’s colours and logo. Put a contact page in the back so people know who you are and where they can reach you. Hyperlink your website, email and number so people can contact you directly from their phone. Now you’ve got your big, definitive how-to guide, you can split it into shorter articles for your own website blog and/or socials. This means you can drip feed bits of information over time. It’s unlikely people will read all these articles in the right order. It’s not in competition with your guide. This means you have fresh, relevant content to release that ties into your new-business strategy. You’re taking one clear message to the market at a time, rather than a scattergun approach that most agencies fall back on. Make your how-to guide available for free download on your website. Give it its own page. Sell it with the copy. And importantly, ask people to subscribe to your mailing list to get it. Because these are all potential clients.
3. Run paid social media ads
Okay, got a slick looking guide that’s so big, detailed and impressive that no other agency would even bother to compete? Good, now you gotta promote the hell out of it.
First, post a chapter from your how-to guide/ebook on your own blog then run paid ads to promote it. We find Instagram way better than Facebook, but you might not. We’ll run a campaign promoting the blog to our target audience (aka you).
We’re not paid ad specialists, but it’s worth learning how to target your ideal clients. Watch videos. Pay a consultant. Hire someone. Whatever it takes because the targeting is half the battle. Because we have a clear niche at Treacle, this is pretty easy. If you’re a generalist agency, then you’re in for an expensive spray-and-pray campaign, sorry. It’s simple to run social ads to a specific URL - i.e. your blog post that’s a chapter from your new how-to guide. Anyone who reads this blog is likely to be interested in your services. The trick then is to retarget these people with a second ad.
This second ad might be another blog post, your website, a landing page or a free offer. We show people an ad for our 10-min website copy audits. Basically it’s one of us on a Loom video slagging off an agency’s website copy - and of course, suggesting ways it could be even better. By this stage, it’s likely that the potential client will have read one of our blogs, probably had a peek around our website, and now wants us to look at their own website copy. That’s a few stages of qualification, so when we get a request for a web copy audit we know they know us already.
We also run general awareness campaigns that keep us front-of-mind with our ideal clients. It’s amazing how often we hear that it was Instagram where they first saw us. There’s a fair amount of experimentation needed with paid ads. Sometimes we squander cash. Sometimes we nail the campaign. Basically, test and tweak. And be prepared to lose some money at first while you feel your way forward.
4. Offer a valuable free service
We retarget people who’ve read our blog or downloaded our how-to guide with a second paid ad for a free 10-minute website copy audit.
This works for a few reasons. Firstly, who doesn’t want something for free? There’s nothing to lose, everything to gain. Secondly, it’s only ten minutes, which is easier for us than an hour consultation and it’s a cigarette-break duration for the person watching it. Also, because it’s a Loom recording, they can watch it at their leisure without any pressure.
The audit itself aims to add as much value as we can. Again, don’t hold back any information. We’ll discuss positioning, messaging, copywriting tips, website design, UX and UI etc. Some of our ideas might be transformational. Others might totally miss the mark. But we see their site with fresh eyes, as potential clients would, meaning we can see where the confusing parts are or where the message gets lost.
Video is great because it builds a human relationship. A written audit is a bit distant. Checklists are a bit dull. Consultancy calls feel a bit too weighty. Find some way you can add value for free, package it, and send it in a way that opens up a dialogue. You’re not looking to sell your services on the video. Nobody wants to listen to a recorded sales pitch. Only give value. Show expertise, never say it. Think of this video as the equivalent of bringing a nice bottle of wine to the party. It’s a genuine offer that opens up a chat. Not all of these videos will open up chats. Some people will ghost you. Others will gush. Just enjoy the process of being constructive and challenging to start a conversation.
5. Build an email list and actually send stuff
Once someone’s signed up for your free video audit (or whatever you choose), make sure they can sign up to your mailing list. It should be optional, but give them a reason to do it. Explain what they’re signing up for, and how they can unsubscribe. We tell people the frequency of our emails (rarely) and that they can opt out whenever. Transparency is key here because we all get emails we hate that actually put us off the company.
Also, have a subscriber box somewhere on your website. We were surprised to find people do actually sign up for our emails even though we rarely send any, and when we do they’re quite divisive.
For us, we’d rather have a smaller list of subscribers who might be clients one day. Remember, lots of people will sign up just to get your how-to guide or ebook. That’s fine. That was the deal. We sent an email to our list that reminded people they were on the list, and prompted them to unsubscribe if they just signed up to get the guide. It worked. Lots left. But that’s fine because they were never gonna work with us.
Writing the actual emails is down to your agency’s style, voice and values. Where possible, try to write to one person and add value. Send them free stuff before anyone else. Share ideas, articles and tips. Make it feel like an exclusive club.
Don’t sell too hard. Of course, your list is full of potential clients, but if you’re heavy-handed they’ll run for the hills. Trust us, we’ve tried it. It’s about finding ways to frame your services that add value for the reader. A subtle hyperlink to a relevant page can be enough sometimes. That said, it’s also okay to drop the occasional sales-focused email - just not too often. Aim to be personal, with emails coming from one person - not ‘the agency’. Build relationships and invite questions via direct reply. We like to be playful, sometimes pushy, sometimes a pain in the ass. Experiment, learn and be willing to lose some to galvanise others. In terms of frequency, be consistent but not clingy. Weekly works. Daily if they really love you. Monthly if it’s soft touch. Sporadically if you’re patchy like us. Remember, we all get emails and they all kinda blend into each other. The smart play is on doing something a little different to get attention, but not so different it’s annoying.
Again, use your emails to open up conversations. Aim to move chats onto the phone or video. People will feel like they know you a bit already, so there’s more common ground to work from. Again, don’t try to sell but rather find out what they’re struggling with.
6. LinkedIn posts
Love it or loathe it, LinkedIn is pretty useful for finding clients. Not always directly, but often through referral or networking. Isn’t it just for boring blokes in suits? Yep, mostly but there are some cooler folk on there too.
Now by no means have we nailed LinkedIn but we’ve learned a few bits of useful information. Firstly, it likes consistency. Posting small and often seems to work well for us. We have linked to blog posts and written longer articles but they’re hard work for less traction generally. In terms of content, we only write from my account (Roland Gurney) because LinkedIn’s company pages are clunky and underused. My posts tend to be short and sarcastic, because that’s more our house style. Other people use strategies such as:
- Whinge about something/everything
- Show the world every detail of your work and life
- Give tips and techniques
- Share industry articles
- Comment on ideal clients’ posts
To make my LinkedIn feed more relevant, we connected with a ton of ideal clients - without a note. Then we followed any clients we liked and optimised my profile so it was all about our client, their issues and their industry. Over a few weeks, the algorithm rewarded us with more content from relevant people and now it’s full of beautiful, brilliant agency people like you. Somewhere you’ll be able to download a much more definitive how-to guide to LinkedIn lead generation (also good to see other people’s guides). It’ll have much more useful and up to date information. For now, actually post, comment and connect because you’d be surprised how many chats start there.
The summary bit at the end
Look, this isn’t a silver bullet. We’re not funnel nerds. This isn’t growth hacking 101. We do these basic things well and it works for us. You might be reading this thinking: What a load of crap. That’s cool.
Of course you can go deeper with more steps and strategies. You can automate everything with an app. You can be more detailed. There are a million marketing ideas out there, all valid and valuable in their own way.
But these are our six simple steps that you’re welcome to steal if you think they could work for you. Oh, and if you need a strategic hand to help craft any copy, then you know where we are.