Self-marketing for agencies – escaping the recommendation trap

They professionally present their clients in the best possible light – but many agencies struggle when it comes to strategic self-marketing. But if you only rely on recommendations, you are in danger of a rude awakening, especially in times of crisis.

Many agencies rely on recommendations and do not actively market themselves.
Image: © Friends Stock / Adobe Stock

Agencies invest too little time in self-marketing

When it comes to self-marketing by agencies, the saying “the shoemaker’s children always go barefoot” often applies. Ongoing client projects usually enjoy top priority – the maintenance of the agency website, corporate blog or active social media use are quickly pushed into the background in the busy day-to-day workload. However, if the order situation in the volatile agency business changes, neglecting self-marketing can quickly have dire consequences. In times of crisis, such as the current corona pandemic, many budgets are on the line and budget plans are reconsidered. When that happens, the visibility and strategic positioning of the agency will play a crucial role in the development of the business.

Agencies too often limit their marketing to recommendations and personal networks

Even under normal circumstances, the acquisition of new clients represents the greatest challenge for agencies. This was the finding of the industry survey “Growth in Marketing Agencies 2018” carried out among 1,000 international participants by Hubspot, a service provider specializing in marketing, sales and CRM solutions. Almost two thirds of the agencies surveyed see new client acquisition as their most important challenge. It is astonishing that around one in two survey participants stated that they generate new leads almost exclusively via recommendations and private networks. A huge proportion of agencies therefore do not engage in further, active self-marketing, or only do so rudimentarily.

of marketing agencies rely mainly on recommendations and private networks to acquire new clients.

Pushing strategic self-marketing via several channels

To avoid the “recommendation trap” – especially with regard to unforeseen situations – agencies must engage in strategic and scalable self-marketing. Those that have positioned themselves more broadly and are active on several channels have a better chance of winning over existing clients and potential new clients with their services, even in times of crisis. The potential and the structures for this are certainly in place. According to a survey published by the magazine new business in fall 2018, 90 percent of the agencies surveyed stated that they actively use at least one social media account for image cultivation, raising brand awareness or expert positioning.

At this point it should be noted that social media is only one of the possibilities for agencies to market themselves. They have the entire range of marketing tools at their disposal, including:

  • PR
  • Content marketing (e.g. creating and expanding a company blog)
  • E-mail marketing
  • Paid online marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • (Online) events (e.g. presentations and expert panels)
  • Webinars
  • White papers, studies, etc.
  • Online (magazine)
  • Guest contributions in trade magazines and blogs
  • Local marketing
  • OoH advertising

Draw on the agency’s expertise for self-marketing

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for successful self-marketing. The choice of the appropriate strategy, formats or channels depends on the agency’s individual circumstances and field of activity. What is important is that you regularly check the efficiency of the measures you choose with the time available in mind. This also includes putting on hold or terminating cherished projects that do not contribute sufficiently to lead generation in favor of other measures.

When it comes to self-marketing, an agency’s expertise is its greatest asset. Whether expert knowledge, industry developments, future trends or practical tips for everyday work – shared know-how in the context of self-marketing strengthens your reputation and creates trust as the basis for strong, long-term business relationships. When preparing the topics, the focus should be on the needs of your target group in addition to your own specialization. Above all, this calls for user-oriented content which offers solutions for business challenges instead of trite advertising promises.

Schedule regular time for the agency’s self-marketing

Strategic self-marketing is one of the most important assignments for agencies, even with full order books, if they do not want to fall into the “recommendation trap”. Time and resources should be invested in the future of the agency at least once a week. Plannable and scalable self-marketing, in other words the development and implementation of a promising marketing plan, is the best insurance against fluctuations in orders and sales. With a stronger reputation, you can also tap new target groups that have never had your agency on their radar before.