Today’s guest post comes from Jesse P. Gilmore, Founder of Niche in Control. Alright, let’s get into it!
The marketing agency landscape is changing, and with it comes new challenges. For many, the goal has always been to grow the agency. But now that everyone in the market is focused on blasting out a million messages in hopes of catching the 2-3% of people ready to buy now, we need to be smarter than ever about how we approach this challenge.
According to SiteCore, “In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, delivering contextual customer experiences is no longer a “nice to have” — it’s an expectation.”
In my experience, as both a marketer and consultant for agencies, I have found that when client avatars are humanized and then reached out to using personalization (e.g., hyper specific target market), it becomes a better experience for everyone involved. In addition, the selling process becomes more like having a conversation rather than trying to get them to buy from you.
Personalization from the beginning and throughout the client relationship leads to long-term partnerships. This solves the agency churn problem that leads many agencies to focus on new clients rather than retaining their existing ones.
Simple economics tells you that keeping a client longer makes you more money than constantly acquiring new clients to replace the old ones.
The easiest way to grow your marketing agency in 2022 is to be different. Care about the client experience and personalize the experience from the beginning.
Here are four reasons why personalization is key to growing your marketing agency in 2022 and how to start personalizing your marketing today:
Personalization Tip #1 – Be Authentic – The personal touch will always win over impersonal, automated messaging
The truth is that people don’t want to be talked about as a business. I’ve never met a single person who likes when you call them a “consumer” or when you talk to someone about their business without getting to know and relate to them as an individual first.
Why do so many agencies focus on relationship building as a means to an end? They believe that all they are trying to do in a message is to find the 2-3% of interested people that are ready to buy and disregard the other 97% that aren’t ready. Then when they find someone that is in the 2-3%, they do everything in their power to convince the person to buy their service.
The focus on a transactional relationship leads to the thought that an automated message sequence just needs to get in front of the 2-3% and then our business will grow.
This is a short-sided strategy that will provide long-term success for many reasons.
People are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages daily. Mailboxes and inboxes are filled with junk and people have adapted by getting really good at sorting the junk from what they will pay attention to.
Your messaging needs to pierce through the noise and not be labeled, by your potential client, as “junk”.
Today’s customer is seeking connection–they hunger after authenticity far more than anything else. Partly due to its rarity these days.
Accenture Study in 2018 shows that “48% of consumers have left a company’s website and made a purchase elsewhere. The only reason: the experience was poorly curated.”
People want to be heard. They want to be understood. They want to know that you get them and then they may be more receptive to what you have to offer, if it gets them closer to where they want to go.
Action – In your next client interaction or sales call, be aware of how much each party is talking. Aim for them to talk 80% of the time and for you to only speak 20% of the time.
Make sure to learn more about them and their relationship to the business before talking at all about what you do. Get out of the mindset of the transaction or outcome and show up authentically in the conversation.
Only after they are understood and heard will they be interested in hearing more about what you do and how you can help them.
Personalization Tip #2 – Understand Them – Create Message Resonance Through Client Avatars
Once you have learned the importance of being authentic and genuine with your potential clients and existing clients, the next step is to truly understand your ideal client and how to find them.
The word “ideal client” has been used by many marketers but the definition has been misused.
For this article, I will define the “ideal client” as having three main elements:
- Current State: Individual is experiencing a specific problem that they either want to remove or prevent from happening
- Desired Future: Individual has a specific desired future that no longer has that problem
- Transformation: You are able to solve their specific problem and transition them from their current state to desired future through your product/service.
The ideal client is simply an individual that has a specific current state, desired future and you are able to get them results with the transition.
So what does this have to do with personalization and agency growth? Everything.
According to Review Robin’s article, 5 processes for scaling your digital marketing agency, Tip #5 is to Serve a niche. Bill Balderaz of Futurety states “Our secret to scaling is to get very good at serving specific types of clients. If you serve all industries, you are constantly losing ramp-up time. We chose to focus on highly regulated industries like healthcare, financial services, and government agencies. This allows us to not only get very good and efficient in our deliverables, but it also makes our sales cycles shorter with higher win rates. Because we know these industries, we know how to market to them. We know their buying cycles. We know their decision-making process. We get great referrals.”
In order to serve a niche, you need to know your ideal client very well.
Your #1 goal in the growth of your marketing agency should be to create an ideal client avatar.
Before I get into how to do so, I would like you to think of yourself as a journalist. Your mission is to know your ideal client so well that you could write an article of the day in the life of your ideal client. If you could do this successfully, they could pick up the article talking about their typical day and their desired future and say, “Wow. That is me!”
When you are able to do this, you know that your message is resonating.
Marketing agency owners say this about my live webinar or free training/case study all the time. “I watched your video and I was like, are you reading my mind?”
Do I appeal to every business owner? No. Do I want to appeal to every business owner? No.
I appeal and attract my ideal client. That is it.
My ideal client is a 6-figure marketing agency owner that is looking to get to 7-figures without burning out in the process and desires more of a CEO role in their agency as it grows. They typically have a good grasp on the marketing aspect of their business but need help with the operations, human resources and strategic planning aspects of scalability.
When I have this level of specificity in who I am looking for, those that fit that profile take action and watch my training or webinar and become clients.
Same thing goes for my clients that have built client avatars and are attracting their ideal clients.
So why does this work?
When you have created messaging that speaks to the individual and their specific experiences and dreams, you cut through the noise and your message resonates. As a result, those that fit that criteria raise their hand and move forward.
When they do this, you know that your message is resonating.
Message resonance is when you change your message from being simply noise and becoming a signal.
Think of how radio signals broadcast messages. Let’s say that you are scanning the radio frequencies to find your channel.
When there is not a signal, there is simply noise.
When you find the right channel, your signal is found and the music can play and be enjoyed. No one likes the white noise of not finding the signal.
Same goes for your messaging. People are looking for the signal, not more noise.
McKinsey also reports that personalized experiences yield 20% higher customer satisfaction rates and 10-15% higher CVRs.
So how can we make this actionable?
Create a client avatar.
What is a Client Avatar?
A client avatar is a description of the ideal client profile that allows an inside glimpse into their world, what they are currently experiencing, what they desire, some of the blockers they have, and what has led them to where they are now. Client avatars can be a powerful way to understand your clients and prospects, so the client acquisition process is smooth for you and them.
What is the difference between a buyer persona and client avatar?
Buyer personas tend to be more focused on demographics, company details, and left-brain type data. Client avatars, when done correctly, are more human based and understanding that it is not B2C or B2B, it is Human 2 Human. Client avatars allow you to speak to the human that receives your messaging in a way that connects.
Why Do Most Agency Client Avatars Attract Terrible Prospects?
Human-specific components. Speaking to one single person and understanding them on a very deep level. Finding the commonalities between the ideal clients and crafting an ideal client avatar that allows you to speak to them in a way that makes you an “insider” to their world.
In the article, 9 Ways to Boost Client Retention on Review Robin, Tip #2 is to Understand Your Client’s Needs. Joe Worden of 5150 Digital Marketing Group says “Connecting with clients on an emotional level is key to client retention. Understanding their goals, interests and pain points is how you build a meaningful relationship with people. Gone are the days of strictly transactional business. We cannot forget that humans are emotional beings and they want to be heard, understood, and respected. If you take care of your clients it builds trust, providing safety and security.”
So it is time to make it happen by creating your own client avatar.
Action – Create your own client avatar. Make a copy of this worksheet for yourself – Client Avatar Worksheet (don’t request access). Watch the training and complete the avatar for your own ideal client.
However, what are the other reasons that personalization can lead towards the growth of your marketing agency in 2022?
Personalization Tip #3 – Build Real Relationships – Personalization leads to client partnerships and fixes the agency churn problem
When you are being authentic and understanding your ideal client, start this process from the beginning of your marketing.
Initial impressions are the key to the entire client experience.
On your website, are you talking about how great your company is and how qualified you are to serve them?
Or are you speaking to their current experience, dreams and aspirations and letting them know that you understand them?
In your outreach campaigns, are you personalizing the beginning part of the message to fit them specifically?
Or are you simply introducing yourself and asking them for their time so you can pitch them?
In your initial introductory call, who is doing the majority of talking? Are you trying to see if they will buy from you before knowing whether they fit your ideal client profile?
In your sales call, do you talk about all of the features of your service and tell them what you are going to do for them?
Or do you focus on diagnosing their situation and prescribing a solution to get them to their desired outcome?
According to the Review Robin article, 10 tips for successfully onboarding a new client, tip #5 is Understand the Client Goals. Cam Killpack of Brandefenders says “Go over your client’s internal marketing goals. As an agency you may have your own goals that you would like to reach but unless they align with the customers goals they won’t be successful. Always work together as a team.”
When they are a client, are you keeping the internal dialogue open for feedback and improvement? Or are you simply going through the motions and sending them automated reports directly?
As a client, do they feel that you are able to serve them and that you truly have their best interest in mind? Or do they feel that you are simply taking their money and not living up to the expectation that was set in the sales call?
The key to fixing agency churn comes down to an amazing client experience and results. This happens when personalization has occurred throughout the entire experience. The perceived value of your client experience increases.
Clients are no longer customers. Clients are open to creating partnerships with you.
McKinsey’s article of The future of personalization—and how to get ready for it states that “Empathy will Scale. Empathy—the ability to relate to and understand another person’s emotions—is the basis of strong relationships. Understanding social cues and adapting to them is how people build trust.”
Action – Ask yourself the questions above about the difference between relationship building and simply trying to make a sale. Then audit your own process to see where you can build more authentic relationships with potential clients and existing ones. Find ways to help existing clients that are relationship building focused instead of upsell focused.
How can you bridge the gap between someone who has heard about your service and starting to take action towards becoming a client?
Personalization Tip #4 – Offer free consultations or provide free value to them so they know what is possible before they commit their time and money into your products/services
Make it easy for someone to take the next step with you.
Depending on whether you are on the productized or customized track when it comes to your marketing strategy, the free value that you offer will be different.
For productized or low ticket offers (i.e. under $2k/month, no contract, cancel anytime), your free value would be similar to a product business’s. Things like ebooks, lead magnets, etc. The goal for your personalization is more based on high volume and automations that have retargeting campaigns based on audience behavior.
For customized or high ticket offers (i.e. over $2k/month, minimum term contracts, custom packages), your free value would be a free strategy session or initial consultation. This will allow them to get to understand what it would be like to work with you. The free value could be a training, case study, webinar or some other educational material that leads those that are interested to book a call with you.
The key is that personalization can happen in many ways and finding the right way to personalize for your marketing agency is the key to growth in 2022.
Here are a list of personalization ideas that might get your brain going:
- Personalized LinkedIn connection messages
- Personalized emails with a positive compliment
- Personalized website headings based on their business name (Hyperise)
- Personalized handwritten cards to your existing clients
- Personalized video outreaches to your pre-qualified ideal clients
- Personalized consultation with ideal clients that provide a strategy for them to follow
The only way to fail at personalization is by not personalizing.
Figure out what works best by trying things out and split test results to find the winning combination.
2022 is the year of agency growth to those that set themselves apart from the rest and create personalized messaging that resonates.