Running a web design agency, like many service focused businesses, can sometimes be a never ending pursuit of leads and work.
After all, no work means no money, and no money is not a fun place to be.
Like many agencies, a large chunk of my project work comes from referrals. But the thing with referrals..... unless you're super active and focused on getting them, they usually aren't always all that reliable.
The problem with referrals
There have often been times when things would get really quiet. No referrals would come in for a month, which means no leads for me to talk to, which means no new work, which means not much money (again - no money is not a fun place to be). This becomes especially troublesome when there are team members to pay!
Reducing your reliance on referrals is a smart move if you want to have a consistent flow of new leads into your business.
Now the only problem - when you start looking up lead generation and how to get web design clients, it seems like a lot of the recommendations take ages to get you anywhere, or can cost a bunch of money. What we need is stuff that's going to help us right now, without eating further into our savings.
Here is a list of things you can do now to get leads in a lot more quickly, without spending a lot of money, as well as a couple longer term moves that would help you build a solid foundation for your ongoing lead generation efforts.
Short term lead generation
- Go and connect with every single one of your previous clients. Contact them to see how they’re going. Discuss their business, find out what their goals are, and talk about the future. This can often lead to opportunities for extra work.
- Since you're already talking to them, also ask these former clients for reviews on either Google My Business or Facebook, or whichever platform makes the most sense to you. While this alone doesn't bring in leads, it will help with everything else you do.
- Ask these former clients if they know anyone you could potentially help. One thing that I have done regularly is offer a commission on any work that comes to me from their referral. The financial incentive can often make people work that little bit harder to find you someone to talk to. Now obviously these are referrals - but you're being way more intentional about getting them.
- Put together a list of businesses you could work with, based on your previous clients that you've either enjoyed or had reasonably good results for. For example, if you’ve worked with a plumber and did a good job for them, find another 10-20 plumbers that you could reach out to. Contact each one to see if you could potentially add some value based on your experiences with the other plumber. Bonus points if your former client gave you a good review, since you can mention that as part of your process. Do this for a lot more than just one type of client. While this is cold calling (or cold emailing) which I don't like, when you have no work on you can't be too fussy about how you get more of it.
- Connect with potential referral partners like marketing agencies or business coaches. While this can pay great dividends in the long run, in my experience I've often encountered referral partners who actually had a project ready to go - which is why you definitely want to do this now.
- You could look at service directories or gig sites like Upwork and similar. Full disclosure, I have no personal experience with these but I know someone who offers a premium level of service with premium pricing, and has made some serious money on Upwork - you can read his original Upwork guide here (he's made a LOT more money since then).
Longer Term Lead Generation
- If you haven't already, focus on identifying a target market of some kind (aka a niche). You could focus on businesses in your local area. You could focus on a specific industry. You could focus on offering a very specific service offering, or delivering an outcome. When you have a specific target audience, you can be very specific in talking to their needs and their problems.
- Take your website, copy, social profiles, etc - and optimise it based on the target market you've selected. Make sure your design suits them, you've spoken about their specific problems, make your offer something that would appeal to them.
- Start creating regular content that would be useful for your target audience. This is something that compounds over time - while one post doesn’t do much, a post every week for a year results in a pretty awesome asset library. The more you build up your asset library, the better it is for you and the more ammunition you have for your marketing efforts.
- Build relationships both in your industry and in your target audience industry. This can help you get visibility to your content (as well as links which is awesome for SEO), and generally opens up more opportunities to speak to your ideal clients.
And of course, make sure you document everything. Document your processes around these steps, document the activities you do, and document the results and outcomes. This information can be invaluable as your business grows and develops.
Note: You might find that I haven't made any recommendations for paid advertising or marketing funnels in here. That doesn't mean I don't recommend those approaches - they're actually one of the best ways to have a steady flow of leads. The problem is that they're often super reliant on you knowing your target audience, so until that step is completed any campaign you run and any funnel you build is going to have minimal results at best.
If your leads have dried up and you weren't sure how to turn it around, you've now got 6 things that could help you get results in the short term, along with another 4 that will take a bit longer to pay off.
Time to get to work.