| May 14, 2024 | | 6 min read

10 Lead Generation Best Practices Marketing Agencies Should Swear By

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Whether you’re building a new marketing agency or trying to grow your existing business, having a system for finding new clients is a must. Lead generation best practices for small businesses can take many forms, and the ideal mix of strategies depends on your marketing niche, goals, and other factors. By understanding lead gen best practices, you can more readily create a tailor-made plan to find—and successfully close—more of your dream clients.

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By the end of this blog post, you’ll be armed with 10 strategies that pros are using to grow their agencies today. Adjust them to suit your industry and preferences, and watch your lead pipeline fill up. 

1. Define your ideal client profile

Effective lead generation for small businesses requires clarity on who precisely your target audience is. The best way to bring your audience into focus is by creating an ideal client profile (ICP). 

This time-tested exercise has survived the transformation to digital and new media for a good reason: it’s simple, and it works. The idea is to craft a fictionalized character that represents your agency’s dream client. As humans, we’re naturally empathetic and drawn to narrative, and an ICP taps into that natural tendency. 

For example, let’s say your agency works primarily with clients in the restaurant business. You could say your ideal client is a local trendy business generating over 800,000 in revenue per year. That doesn’t give you much clarity about how to communicate to attract leads that fit your criteria.

Instead, you could create the following ICP:

  • Demographics:
      • Name: Anthony Ngo
      • Age: 38
      • Location: Downtown Boise, ID
      • Profession: Restaurant owner
      • Annual revenue: 825,000
      • Education: Regional culinary school
  • Preferences:
      • Passionate about exploring new culinary experiences and trends, and bringing innovative menus to his hometown
      • Values quality food made with fresh, local ingredients
      • Values building strong partnerships with local farmers 
      • Seeks partnerships with businesses and influencers who share the same socially and environmentally conscious values 
  • Behaviors:
      • Regularly uses Instagram and TikTok to discover new restaurants and culinary trends, and to share content for his business
      • Likes to attend food festivals, pop-up events, conferences, and other industry gatherings
  • Challenges:
    • Balancing creativity and profitability in menu development
    • Managing labor costs and staff turnover
    • Getting press outside of his city
    • Filling the restaurant on slower days mid-week

 

By creating the ICP, it’s now much easier to create a lead generation process that will get your agency directly in front of clients like Anthony. You don’t have to review the list of characteristics every time you craft your messaging, because it’s much easier to intuitively connect with and remember the key characteristics of an ICP compared to a more general abstraction.

To create your own ICP, follow the template above and fill it in with information for your ideal customer. Feel free to add more points in each category. It can also be useful to find a stock image to associate with your ICP since this makes it easier to visualize the character as a real person.

2. Leverage local SEO

Optimizing for visibility in local search results is an easily overlooked lead generation idea since many businesses focus on their broad SEO results rather than their local performance. But when it comes to finding more local digital marketing leads, those local search engine results pages (SERPs) are where the magic happens. 

Here are some strategies to make your agency more easily discoverable in local search:

  • Create a Google Business Profile and make it as complete as possible, with updates, an FAQ section, and images
  • Use local-based keywords in your website content
  • Build local citations across directories like Yelp and YellowPages
  • Build backlinks on other local websites
  • Create content on locally relevant subjects

3. Implement an incentive-based referral program:

The best evangelists for your business are your existing happy customers. Make it easy for them to spread the word about how great your agency is by incentivizing them to make referrals. 

This lead generation idea is effective regardless of your agency’s size or location because people tend to value personal recommendations from trusted individuals more than other types of messaging that feel more deliberately salesy. 

Consider these incentives for your referral program:

  • Discounts on future services
  • Freebies or perks for both referrers and referees (for example, one free month using your white-label ad management platform)
  • Cash or gift cards for successful referrals

4. Use podcast advertising

The explosion in popularity of podcasts has created a new opportunity in lead generation for small businesses. Whatever your niche is, there’s sure to be a podcast—or several—out there that caters to your target demographic. 

The key to success in podcast advertising is to choose shows that your ideal customer is likely to listen to. Then, make sure your advertisement is a reflection of your agency’s brand identity. Whether you or the podcast host read the ad, it should use language and a tone of voice that feels like an honest representation of your brand personality.

To track business that comes from this lead generation idea, create a discount code unique to each podcast on which you advertise. This makes it easy to gauge the return on investment (ROI) of your podcast ads.

5. Produce high-quality, valuable content

High-quality content remains a cornerstone of inbound lead generation even as new formats and platforms emerge. Whether you’re creating blogs, photos, videos, or podcasts, quantity should never trump quality. Your output should reflect the genuine needs, interests, and challenges of your target audience, offering them insights and solutions.

You can use your ICP to guide your content creation, but don’t stop there. Here are some more strategies for generating content ideas:

  • Survey your customers about their interests and pain points
  • Review competitor content 
  • Look at Google search trends in your niche
  • Analyze social media engagement to see what resonates with your audience
  • Collaborate with industry influencers for guest contributions or interviews

6. Optimize your website for conversions

You can try different types of lead generation for your small business, but if your website doesn’t convert, your efforts will be worthless. Your website and landing pages are critical nodes in your marketing agency lead generation process because this is where lead contact information is captured.

To optimize for conversions, make sure your site is beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and reflective of your brand. Offering visitors an incentive to share their email addresses, apart from just signing up for your newsletter, can be effective. This can be any kind of free lead magnet, such as an ebook or template. 

Make sure your call-to-action buttons are visible, with at least one appearing above the fold. Finally, don’t get too attached to your design: always A/B test to continuously optimize it for more conversions.

7. Leverage social media platforms

So much of agency networking takes place online today, whether it’s with potential partners or prospective clients. The best way to generate leads for small businesses on social media platforms is by being active and engaged. Creating regular high-value content and interacting with followers will expose your agency to new audiences and bring leads your way.

For insights on how to use LinkedIn for lead generation, check out this insight-packed episode of the Conquer Local podcast:

8. Implement email marketing campaigns

Trendy lead generation tips come and go, but one you can rely on year after year is good old-fashioned email. Thanks to its relatively low cost and ease of implementation, email marketing is a powerful engine for small business lead generation and nurturing. Plus, unlike some more hands-on strategies like social media, email can function as a largely automated lead gen channel.

To maximize the impact of your email marketing platform, use these strategies: 

  • Personalize your content: Personalizing content based on user preferences or behaviors is a great way to make it more resonant and memorable.
  • Segment your audiences: Instead of sending the same automated email flows to everyone on your list, split it up into smaller segments. This gives you the ability to create more targeted, relevant content. 
  • A/B test every email in your flow: To improve your ROI over time, try different headings, content, colors, and send times to see what gets the best open and click-through rates.

9. Use account-based marketing strategies

Not all leads are created equal, and account-based marketing (ABM) acknowledges that high-value accounts may require special attention. These accounts are worth more revenue for your agency if they close, so spending more time on outreach and nurturing them is warranted. 

For example, instead of just letting your automated email flows do the work, you as the agency owner might personally reach out to a high-value prospect to see if they have any questions and ensure they know you’re available to help them.

10. Invest in paid advertising

Lead generation for small businesses doesn’t have to be limited to methods for gaining organic traffic. Paid advertising on platforms like Google and Meta can play a role in your strategy by helping you get more eyes on your agency today, rather than waiting for SEO optimizations to kick in or social media accounts to grow.

To create ad campaigns that convert, return to your trusty ICP. Test different on-brand ad creative and copy, and don’t be afraid to kill ads that aren’t producing results. Iterative optimization is the key to using paid ads for lead generation.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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