In this episode I’m talking with Alex Berman of experiment27, an agency marketing company that helps agency owners get more high-value leads. In this episode he shares the strategies he uses to get his clients new business.
Alex is the former director of marketing at the 60-person design and development studio, Dom & Tom. In that role he developed, tested, and refined strategies that ultimately led to $2.5 million dollars in closed business. Not $2.5 million dollars of pipeline or some other vague metric, but $2.5 million dollars in the bank.
Originally I had a list of questions for Alex covering a few different areas of his business and expertise. But he went so deep on each of these 8 strategies that there wasn’t time for anything else. I’m glad it worked out this way because this episode turned into one of the most actionable ones I’ve done.
We talk about strategies ranging from cold calling to podcasting, to in-person events. And best of all, these aren’t things Alex thinks work; they’re strategies he’s tested and used to get more leads for his agencies, month after month.
This episode is not just for new agency owners. It’s for everyone. No matter how sophisticated your agency’s new business efforts are, I guarantee you will learn something today that will help you get more clients.
8 Strategies for Agency Growth
1. Enterprise Outreach (3:00 – 5:00)
Alex suggests reaching out directly to companies you would like to work with through cold calling and emailing. The secret is to never take a standardized approach. Too many outreach attempts fail due to bad, generic cold calls and emails.
Pay attention to the the company’s recent projects and pitch them an idea. Start a conversation. And don’t be afraid to cold call. Cold emailing is effective, but a lot of agencies ignore emails, so calling may be the only way to get in touch.
2. Agency Partnerships (5:00 – 11:00)
Alex makes the case that reaching out directly to a large company that you’d like to work with is the wrong approach.
Most large companies have a standing contract with a large agency and aren’t going to break it for the sake of a good startup. Instead, reach out directly to the agency your target company works with. Odds are they have overflow work. If you offer the right services for the right price, you can become a trusted partner of larger agencies and build your client base off their side projects.
Again, the secret here is cold calling. Plenty of larger agencies are willing to sit down and discuss projects with you even if they don’t know you. Just make sure you come in with a customized approach and offer to take some of the work off their hands.
3. Directories and Sponsorships (11:00 – 19:00)
Alex suggests that the best way to get noticed through online searches is to tap into a resource you’ve probably already utilized: online directories.
Find out which services people are using to find you (Behance or Dribble) and figure out how to get highly listed on those sites. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but most directories give you an account manager when you sign up. If you don’t know how to move your customer up the ranks, ask your account manager. Improving your standing is literally their job.
Once you’ve seen some results from a particular directory, the next step is to sponsor them, pushing you even further up the ranks.
4. Meetups, Networking, and In-Person Events (17:00 – 29:30)
According to Alex, Meetups, networking, and in-person events are invaluable. Set up a regular Meetup for people in your field in your area. The trick here is to be persistent. Meetup will promote your event for you if you make it a regular occurrence, and that will attract more people.
Once you have some people attending, introduce yourself to people, find out what they do, explain what you do, and try to find a way to make yourself attractive to them. Alex emphasizes making contact as soon as possible after a Meetup. Set a meeting with interested parties to discuss what you touched on at the Meetup. Otherwise you’re throwing business away.
The other side of this coin is paid speaking events. Alex stresses the merits of charging for your event, even if it’s only five dollars per person. For one, it makes you money. Plus, people who pay to play are going to show up, and they are going to be interested in your topic.
Finally, go as in-depth as possible about your expertise. By getting into the nitty gritty details, listeners will recognize you as a leader in the field and want to seek out your help to meet their needs.
5. Podcasts (27:30 – 35:30)
Alex argues that podcasts are a powerful tool to generate sales, but only by taking a focused approach. Businesses should always be angling to get on the most respected podcasts in their field, but first they have to work through smaller podcasts to build interest.
Again, cold emailing and calling are techniques that pay great dividends. More importantly, going on a podcast for 45 minutes might seem like a waste of time, but it’s a more concise method than writing guest posts or creating other forms of content.
6. Paid Acquisition (34:00 – 39:30)
Pay-per-click is the gold standard for ROI, but the price can be prohibitively high for startup businesses without much capital to spare. Alex suggests focusing on retargeting advertising to start. The initial investment is much lower and still generates excellent return.
7. Managed Content and Social Media (39:30 – 44:00)
As far as social media and content production goes, Alex argues that having a consistent content presence is less about using that content to reach an audience. Instead, an active social media presence reassures customers that your company hasn’t gone dark.
8. PR (44:00 – 47:00)
Alex points out that quality in content matters more than quantity. You can pay someone to upvote your content on Reddit, but it won’t matter if you’re not producing something people actually want to read.
Again, leverage your expertise. Be so exhaustive that people don’t want to go out and do your process themselves. Instead, make them want to come to you to make sure it gets done right.
How to choose what’s right for your agency (47:00 – 49:30)
While some large agencies use all eight of these channels to actively grow their business, for most agencies, picking a smaller number of channels to put their efforts behind makes the most sense.
To help agencies make these decisions, Alex and his team start by identifying the goals for the agency. They then work backwards to see what has to happen to reach those goals.
The channels listed above are ordered in terms of how quickly they turn around leads. For agencies looking for quick wins, enterprise outreach, directories, and agency partnerships are the best options. But as an agency’s goals get bigger, they need to start planning for the long term. That’s where the other channels come into play.
One point Alex makes is that regardless of your goal, you need to make sure you have a web presence that looks alive. If you haven’t updated your blog in months, clients aren’t going to take that as a good sign. Make sure your own house is in order before ramping up your sales efforts.
How Alex grows his own agency (49:30 – 51:30)
Anyone who tells you cold email doesn’t work is wrong. It has been the largest lead generator for Alex and the x27 team.
In this Reddit post, he talks about how they quickly scaled to $400k ARR on the back of cold email. In addition to their enterprise outreach, they have seen great results from content and PR, especially appearing on podcasts. While they’ve been able to quickly build a real agency from scratch with these tactics, Alex knows there is always more that can be done.
Since he is a full time nomad, it’s difficult to make local events and meetups work, but he thinks there is a lot of potential with PPC. That being said, through his own experience with the channel, he isn’t comfortable venturing into that without $30,000 set aside for testing, and they aren’t quite there yet.
Alex says that cold emailing is almost completely illegal in Australia and never really works in China or Japan
- What We Learned Sending 1 Million Cold Emails
- The Framework to Write a Partnership Email
- Casey Cobb on Avoiding Accidental Evil
- Four Disciplines of Execution
- Dom & Tom
- Agency Spotter