Starting an SMMA is remarkably simple: all it takes is a laptop, an email and a name for your agency. It’s part of what makes it such an attractive business model.
But signing your first client is much harder. Many agency owners become frustrated and actually quit running an agency before they’ve even signed a single client.
It’s why I’ve created this guide to signing your first SMMA client.
Running a social media marketing agency is all about momentum. The more clients you work with, the easier it becomes to sign clients.
Just like first learning to drive, it takes a great deal of practice and concentration to pass your test. But once you start, you realise there’s little difference between a Honda Civic and a Bugatti Chriron: they both have pedals, a steering wheel and windscreen.
But just like new drivers, new agency owners are often overwhelmed with ‘imposter syndrome’, a well-recognised psychological pattern in which you are inclined to believe that you do not deserve to be where you are, do not have the necessary skills, and that you are not good enough. In agency owners, this often manifests as a lack of belief in your ability to run an agency, and that you don’t ‘deserve’ to sign clients.
That’s why at GrowYourAgency.com we focus so much on mindset: because we recognise that students’ success is directly linked to their self-belief, motivation and the correct mindset.
Overcoming imposter syndrome is vital to your success. To do so, you need to accept three things:
>You are not alone. One of the most incredible things about the GYA community is that new students joining at the same time can speak to each other, and more experienced agency owners.
> You deserve success. Many would-be entrepreneurs suffer from an enormous lack in self-belief. Practice affirmations and set goals for yourself.
> You know what you’re talking about. If you’ve done the necessary research into the niche you’re prospecting, you’ll be able to converse confidently with the business owner. Confidence comes from competence.
In general, you should avoid ‘networking’. Especially for newer entrepreneurs, ‘networking’ is more often a byword for procrastination and mixing with other people who don’t know what they’re talking about: this is a recipe for disaster.
But as a human being, you should already have a strong ‘personal’ network surrounding you of family members, friends, colleagues, fellow students and rogue acquaintances.
It’s time you leveraged this for your own benefit. You know what you’re looking for: a business owner. A business owner who can benefit from social media marketing. And it’s more than likely that your network contains a business owner.
Arrange to talk with them, sit down and explain what you’re trying to do. Politely explain how social media marketing can benefit their business. Be honest: they would be your first client, but that you desperately need experience and that you will work extremely hard to bring them fantastic results.
In the unlikely event that your personal network does not contain a business owner. Don’t give up. Speak to your family members, your friends and everyone you know and explain what you’re trying to do. Ask if they know anyone who may be able to benefit.
Every person you speak to and explain will be able to refer you on to someone who may benefit from your services.
One of the biggest mistakes that new agency owners make when looking to sign their first client is focusing on single businesses.
To give you an example of how this looks. You start your day by going on Google Maps. After finding a local dentist, you get their number, muster up the confidence to cold call, get through and speak to the receptionist. They explain that the dentist isn’t currently available but offer you an email address you can use to get through to them. Excitedly, you spend half an hour composing the perfect message, put together a detailed proposal and then fire it off.
You get up, get a coffee, and celebrate, you’ve reached out to a client. You feel hopeful.
The next day, you receive an email from the dentist. Unfortunately, they are not interested in your service at this time, although they appreciate you reaching out. You feel dejected. But you find another business, call again, get put through to someone else, send another email and repeat the process until you become more and more pessimistic about ever signing a client.
By focusing on one business at a time, it’s easy to lose days or weeks on outreach and to become more and more disappointed as you go on.
Playing the numbers game means approaching outreach dispassionately. Instead of reaching out to individual businesses; prospecting for hours at a time, compiling long lists of names, phone numbers and email addresses.
Then reaching out to multiple businesses at a time, and taking each rejection in your stride, and focusing on the little wins.
The numbers game also allows you to test your outreach methods. In a recent student interview, I spoke with an agency owner who managed to double his open rate on emails to prospective clients just by removing a single word in his subject title.
There is an age-old question in SMMA: what’s the best outreach method?
It’s one I refuse to answer. Because, and I genuinely do mean this, there is no ‘best’ method.
Personally, for my agency, I use a combination of cold targeting to drive traffic to my agency case study funnel, along with outreach via DMs, and referrals. But when I first started out, I worked almost entirely by sending DMs and then soon graduated to sending Loom audits.
But not only does every type of business benefit from different types of outreach (real estate agents are perfect for cold calls because they are always on the phone, while dentists genuinely are better served by emails), different agency owners are also better suited to different types of outreach.
In my own team, the GrowYourAgency.com coach is trained in cold calling and can out-call me all day long but I wouldn’t trust him anywhere near a keyboard. Whilst my product manager lives for emails and DMs but gets flustered on the phone.
You need to assess what your skills and strengths are and what you can reasonably dedicate time to. If you’re a student and have classes during the workday, cold calling won’t suit you. But if you work from home full time on your agency, you’re going to be better suited to dialing all day long.
The one piece of advice I continually give agency owners is that when they are on the phone to the client, they are not selling the service. To a business owner caught off guard, the last thing they want is to hear in excruciating detail about Facebook ads, or how social media management can save them time and money.
Instead, you should pitch the meeting. Explain to the business owner, using a simple script, the gist of what you do as an agency. That you help businesses similar to themselves, and that they are in a position to benefit from what you are offering.
Then explain that by arranging a simple meeting with yourself, you can explain in detail how you can help That there’s nothing to lose by setting up a meeting with you, and that it won’t cost them anything to learn something that could help them grow their business.
Pitching a meeting won’t get a business owner to put the phone down on you, but selling your services straight away will.