Marketing Agency Lead Generation 101

What is the biggest challenge you face at your marketing agency? Is it staffing? What about accounts payable? Keeping up with marketing trends? All are challenges that every agency leader faces daily. However, according to HubSpot, 61% of marketers rank lead generation as their number one challenge. Not just lead generation but traffic as well. Meaning, not all leads may be viable. However, the more traffic you generate through your business development efforts, the better chance you have to qualify appropriate leads and begin the lead nurturing process. 

So it's no longer recommended to use only the traditional methods of lead generation, namely referrals and recommendations from existing customers and partners. While word of mouth and reviews are still great marketing tools, these should not be the only business development strategies you use.  Your agency is most likely missing qualified leads by doing what has always been done. 

A deliberate multi-channel lead generation strategy is crucial for business growth. Without a steady flow of qualified leads, the effectiveness of your sales team diminishes.

What other lead generation tactics should you use? That can be a complicated question. The most successful lead generation tactics are the ones that best reflect your agency's work and the specific client you are targeting. So, there's strategic planning to do before you consider your list of tactics. Grounding your business development work in strategic planning is so important. By doing so, you will see positive results in every tactic.

To start, consider your marketing personas. If you have not created at least one marketing persona for your agency, now is the time. If your existing persona depicts a client in a market that has changed or become saturated, update the persona to reflect a new market goal or create a new persona to reflect a different strategy. The more detailed your personas are about their needs, pain points, fears, and goals, the easier it will be to choose lead generation strategies that will attract new qualified leads.

As you update or write your personas, think about your sales funnel process. Are the tactics you are using to attract new leads and then nurture them to conversion working? Which tactic has been the most successful and which has not? Should you try new tactics or messaging? Are you entering a new vertical or market that uses different channels or responds to new tactics? Brainstorm with your business development team and identify your new or updated marketing agency lead development strategic plan. Keep in mind different tactics work in separate areas of the funnel. While you can use similar strategies in different stages along the customer's journey, the content should not be the same. We'll talk more about that later in the blog.

Outbound Marketing Agency Lead Generation Strategies

Lead generation strategies are changing in 2021. Traditionally, agencies have used outbound strategies to generate leads.  Today, cold calling, trade shows, and traditional advertising are not as effective as strategic inbound marketing tactics. Only 18% of marketers still think outbound strategies provide the highest-quality sales leads. People are getting smart about filtering out messages they didn't directly ask for through caller ID, spam filtering, paid apps that filter ads, or satellite radio. Also, the cost of using the Internet or social media to retrieve information or recommendations regarding a product or service is considerably less than traveling to a trade show for a B2B lead. 

Of course, if you serve a more traditional market or vertical, traditional tactics may still be fruitful for your agency. As always, do what is best for your agency. 

Here's a list of outbound lead generation strategies.

  • Out of Home ads -- Billboards, bus shelters, busses, taxis, etc. 
  • Local radio ads
  • Local television ads
  • Print ads -- newspapers, magazines, newsletters
  • Tradeshows
  • Cold phone calls
  • Cold personal office visits
  • Cold emails
  • B2B directories

If your services are community-based or targeting a specific geographic market, advertising in the local business publication could be very successful in driving leads to your agency.

Trade shows may be beneficial if the market you are serving still has annual conferences or sales meetings. A 2018 study from Marketing Charts found events help B2B businesses to generate the most leads.

In B2B sales, cold phone calls and office visits were the gold standards for decades. Today, it can be difficult to get past gatekeepers so you can speak to decision-makers. Cold emails are a great substitute. With a highly targeted list and an eye-catching and readable email, it is possible to find new leads through this channel.

Many B2B organizations benefit from listing and promoting their business in a B2B directory for their chosen vertical or industry. This is especially true of B2B agencies. Marketing agency directories like are a fast and easy way for prospective clients to search and find possible outsourced help. Although your agency is almost completely reliant on the lead choosing you over the competition, the ability to message your services in a very targeted way can be effective in driving leads. Most directories offer you the opportunity to boost your listing with more content, images, and links. For a well-trafficked directory like, the expense is worth it. But don't stop at just one directory. Find as many relevant directories as you can to list your agency.

In general, it's not necessary to abandon your traditional outbound strategies completely. Spend some time updating and refining those strategies so you can continue to use them with success.

Inbound Marketing Lead Generation Strategies

Since marketing agency business development is primarily about building strong relationships in which both parties benefit, using inbound marketing strategies for lead development should be a no-brainer. Inbound marketing is the practice of bringing leads to your agency by offering useful content that addresses their pain points and marketing needs. Inbound marketing helps you present your agency to prospects as the only agency they need.

The fundamentals of inbound marketing focus on content creation. This content targets a certain marketing persona and presents valuable information that solves a problem or presents a new idea. When you produce content, keep in mind where the target persona is in the buying journey, the channel you are using to distribute the content, and what the intent of the content is. The format and the subject matter should be tailored to those three attributes.

Other than lead generation, there is another benefit to using content marketing. By presenting relevant content, you are building brand awareness in your chosen market and presenting your agency as a thought leader. You are also deepening existing client loyalty by providing them something they need for free. Win-win-win!

According to Demand Metric, content marketing is three times more effective at generating leads than outbound marketing while costing 62% less.

Here is a list of inbound lead generation strategies:

  • Blog
  • Ebooks
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • SEO
  • SEM
  • Digital advertising, retargeting, PPC, native ads
  • Website
  • Webinars

As you've probably noticed, these strategies are delivered digitally. Statistics show 93% of B2B buying processes begin with an online search. The Internet has certainly changed how we drive leads, build awareness, and communicate with prospects. Our buying journeys as a consumer and as a business leader can be entirely online. It's important to keep that in mind when creating content.

Strategies During the Awareness Phase of the Customer Journey

Not sure which piece of content would work for your marketing funnel? Let's discuss. At the awareness stage, prospective clients are searching for a solution to a problem. They need to become aware of your services. They most likely are searching Google, scrolling through social media, or asking peers for referrals. You can get their attention through your SEO-based website, social media channels, and SEM. Make it as easy as possible for a prospective client to find your agency and learn what you provide. Give them just enough information to pique their interest and want to learn more.

Let's review some of these channels. SEO is crucial to lead generation. Consider your SEO-based website your most reliable sales colleague. With tested and optimized keywords, meta tags, and backlinks on your web pages, prospects will find you easily on Google and visit your website first. According to HubSpot, SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, which is outstanding. A 2012 study from Marketing Charts found both B2B (59%) and B2C (49%) marketers thought SEO had the biggest impact on their lead generation goals. SEO is a long-term strategy that needs to be managed and tweaked as search algorithms and marketing trends change. Don't just "set and forget" this channel.

SEM is a natural extension of your SEO strategy. By creating search ads that reflect your SEO keyword strategy, you increase the chances your website will be at the top of prospects' search list. Utilize a strategic PPC campaign that addresses your target persona by providing a solution to the problem they face.  Or entice searchers to get more information about an innovation only your agency provides. Make sure you use the same keywords in both the creative and the bidding and are optimized on your site.   

It may seem to you that B2B agencies do not need to market their services on social media. That is not exactly true. B2B agencies do not need to sell their services on channels your target personas are not visiting. LinkedIn is the leader in generating B2B leads. 80% of all B2B leads are driven from this channel.  LinkedIn posts and ads support data-driven content, images, and links professionals find useful. This could include links to downloadable content from your website, videos, case studies, and live events. Twitter is also a valuable social media channel for B2B leads. Although the character limit for Twitter may seem like a downfall, it actually forces marketers to get to the point and create ads that are snackable and memorable. For some agencies, Facebook may be worthwhile for brand building and awareness if you can post ads that are highly targeted to the right audience and your content tells a story. 

Strategies During the Consideration Phase of the Buyer's Journey

During the consideration phase, prospective clients are looking for more information. They are most likely doing some comparison shopping with your competitors. This is a crucial phase for your sales team. Some of the strategies used in the awareness phase can be used again here, but the content should address the knowledge the lead has already discovered and then add to it. The content should speak to the client's pain points and address how your agency can fix them. Highlight what sets your agency apart from the competition

New channels should also be used. Email is one of those channels. The Content Marketing Institute says 79% of B2B marketers said email is the most effective channel for demand generation.  Create a "thanks for contacting us" email drip campaign of 3-4 emails offering applicable content in every email, always including a strong CTA for a meeting or call. Other channels to use in the consideration phase are videos, testimonials, case studies, and retargeting.

Case studies and testimonials  that highlight your past successes are extremely valuable at this stage. Show your prospect you have the experience and knowledge to get the job done. Link your content to your website so you can capture more information about your prospects, your prospects can learn more about you, and you can further solidify your relationship.

Webinars are a new way to produce in-depth content that is easy to consume. It's become a popular alternative to in-person meetings and conferences. Use this medium for topics that sell your services and show your expertise.  Make sure the webinar is led by a staff member who has media training and is personable. Include relevant images and stats in a visual manner to complement your speaker's words.

Strategies During the Conversion Phase

During the conversion stage, the relationship is hopefully solid and positive. Your business development team should create content to seal the deal. Create demo videos, customized offers, online manuals, other tech how-tos, and free trials. Many of these pieces of content can be delivered both online or in person. At this point, your content should be highly tailored to your prospects' unique needs.

Need Help?

Building and nurturing your lead list is a crucial part of your job as an agency leader. But you don't have to do it alone. There are business development agencies like BIGWAVE that can take that task off your plate and book meetings for you with ready-to-convert leads. Agencies are great resources for strategic long-term business development planning as well as more immediate traffic expanding services. Don't be afraid to ask for help from the experts. 

It all comes down to you and your agency. Every company needs its own set of sales strategies to be successful. Always keep your short and long-term business goals in mind when planning your marketing agency lead generation strategies. 

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