1. Make the client the hero
Everyone wants their 15-minutes of fame, so give target clients theirs. Set up a series of interviews with them as a way of opening up the conversation without pushing your agency’s new business agenda. Yet.
Ask them some questions they never get asked, flatter them, shine a light into their corner of the business. Then write it up and publish it. Chances are they’ll share it internally, and possibly externally too. This is free PR for you, but above all it gives you the chance to build relationships from a positive place, not a cold sales pitch.
Or why not ask your target client if they’d like to write something for you. They get the kudos of blogging for a cool agency, you get some insight into their thinking. Win-win.
Okay, so this all takes some time and effort investment but it could open up a handful of new conversations that turn into paid work. But don’t approach it cynically, it has to be genuinely interesting and shareable - not just a sham interview to get your foot wedged in the door.
2. Solve your target client’s day-to-day problems
Chances are you’re looking for decent sized brands and businesses as clients. Remember, these people don’t work in agencies - they work for one business and often one department. That’s great because you can start to dig into their day-to-day problems.
They’re probably not that concerned about the latest design trends or Magento updates. They’re more likely to care about getting a bollocking for hiring an agency that does average work. So you need to build a list of things these people actually care about; the general headaches and problems they encounter when engaging agencies.
That might be how to streamline their pitch and selection process, how to know if they’ve hired the right agency or even how to fire an agency. Okay, so you don’t want to dedicate your whole blog to these kinds of topics, but they add meaningful value to clients - which gives you an easier way in than; hey - read our latest case study of an unrelated brand on a totally different project.
3. Make a stand, don’t be bland
Okay, so this takes some balancing. A strong and interesting opinion is provocative. Pointlessly calling people out, being argumentative or using hollow shock tactics will backfire. But sometimes there’s something that needs to be said, and you can either wait until everyone’s saying it or you can lead from the front.
Maybe there’s something in your industry that’s broken, but seems to be systematically ignored. Maybe you don’t like the way something works. Perhaps there’s a whole industry that needs bringing down a peg or two.
Because look, lots of agency blogs are bland. There are a few waffly words around some steaming pile of kit, a new launch or something similarly nerdy. If you can be seen as an agency with a viewpoint and a personality, your blog’s more likely to get read and shared - putting you top of mind with potential clients.
Then send it to them and see what they think. Because nobody reads your newsletter.
4. Show your shit side
Schadenfreude is the pleasure we get from other people’s misfortunes. Everyone loves to hear more about the times when it went tits up than when it went well. So rather than a boring, boastful blog of how you nailed that campaign, why not wear your heart on your sleeve and show how it all went to shit.
Why? Because clients will be disarmed by your honest approach. It establishes a deeper sense of trust. It’s the same reason that Facebook Ad copywriters make deliberate spelling mistakes. Because we secretly love a fuckup. It’s innately human. It’s endearing.
5. Write an industry report
A bit of a weightier task but potentially worth that weight in gold. The idea is that you reach out to potential clients in your industry and ask them a few basic survey questions. You then gather all the data and insight into a glossy industry report that you can share around. Who wouldn’t want to know what other businesses said?
It’s going to take some time and resources to get it right, but it could set you up as an industry authority. Not only can you use the survey as a way to contact clients, the end report will keep drawing clients in long after it’s published.
There’s a balance to be struck though. You don’t want the report to be all about you, after all it’s about the industry. But at the same time you’ll need to weave in a subtle call-to-action for potential clients.
6. Let’s get physical, physical
So a blog by its very nature is digital, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. if you’ve got a great piece that’s getting traction, why not package it up and print it. Clients love getting something in the post - and if you handwrite the envelope you’re more likely to get it opened.
It could be a physical copy of the blog, report, article or whatever. Or it could be a quirky item with a QR code that takes them to your blog. Because potential clients aren’t spending their days reading agency blogs - so write something that’s genuinely relevant to them and then prove your creativity with an unusual way of getting their attention. After all, that’s what they’re often hiring you for anyway.
The inevitable conclusion bit
Agency blogs often feel like a begrudging box-ticking exercise. They’re seen as a time and energy drain, there to please the Google gods and show that you’re still alive. But with some strategy and creativity (hey, isn’t that what we actually sell?) you can build a blog that bags you some shiny new clients. And if you’re too busy, lazy or bad at writing to do it, then…