Are you fishing for bigger clients in the wrong spot… or the wrong river?

Are you fishing for bigger clients in the wrong spot... or the wrong river?Are you fishing for bigger clients in the wrong spot... or the wrong river?
Written by: Karl Sakas

Have you ever said, “I know I need to charge more—but my prospects could never afford it”? Maybe your agency’s looking for clients in the wrong place.

To get bigger clients, imagine you’re fishing in a river. When you say, “my clients are cheapskates,” the core issue might be:

  1. Are you fishing in the wrong river? That is, are you targeting an industry with a structural problem, where almost no one can afford your help?
  2. Are you fishing in the wrong spot on the river? Have you picked the right industry, but you’ve pigeonholed yourself into serving only those cheapskate clients?
  3. Are you using the wrong bait? Are you poorly positioned, and failing to convey the value you offer to clients?
  4. Are you using the wrong technique? Are you getting the rest right, but doing a bad job at executing self-marketing?

It’s always easier to get bigger clients by finding new clients; it’s harder to raise prices for current clientsThis article is for you if you find that even new clients are unwilling to pay higher prices.

Let’s take a closer look at each root cause, including how to fix the cheapskate-client problem at your agency.

Wrong river = Wrong industry

Some industries are never going to pay much for marketing. Sometimes it’s lack of budget—for instance, residential real estate agents need marketing help, but marketing for a specific property comes out of their own pocket.

Other times, lack of budget is industry-wide. For instance, after a change in tax incentives, solar power recently became less attractive to homeowners. For solar power installers, that likely meant they were now weighing “spend money on marketing” vs. “lay off my team.”

In other cases, decisionmakers have budget, but choose not to spend it. Years ago, I met the owner of a specialty manufacturing firm who got 90% of his business from referrals. He said it didn’t make sense to spend money on marketing. Even if you disagree with his logic, it’s not a great use of your time to try to change his mind.

To fix this, you may need to change industry verticals. Or if you’re a generalist now—and at the whim of anyone—finally choose a vertical.

Wrong spot = Wrong clients in the industry

This is where the “cheapskate factor” comes in—are you targeting low-end industry players, or people who have enough money?

A client lamented that her agency’s prospects didn’t have money. I encouraged her to pursue clients who’d made capital investments in their business—it meant a bank was willing to lend to them, and the client needed the assets to produce revenue.

Dentists need marketing help, while most oral surgeons don’t. Why? Because dentists rely on consumer marketing, while oral surgeons get most of their business via referral from dentists.

In some cases, clients may not need to increase demand for their services. For example, if demand is high and supply is limited. A hot restaurant that’s sold-out months in advance, or commercial real estate brokers in a market that’s at 97% occupancy don’t need your help.

To fix this, update your buyer personas to target prospects with sufficient budget. If you like working with small businesses, keep in mind that your preference will limit your ability to grow the agency.

Wrong bait = Poor positioning

If you’ve picked the right industry and you’re focusing on the right targets, what about your positioning?

You have to convey your value to the right prospects. If your value isn’t clear, you’ll struggle to get in front of the right people.

Cover the logo on your website and read your homepage and your About page. Could one of your competitors say the same thing? That’s not a good sign.

To fix this, hone your positioning. You may need to hire another agency for outside perspective; I can help, too.

Wrong technique = Poor self-marketing

If you’ve chosen wisely but you’re struggle to make time for self-marketing, you’re making it hard to get bigger clients.

After all, your pricing power is related to supply and demand—your agency’s supply is [relatively] limited, so you need to generate demand. If you aren’t generating leads, it’s harder to get bigger clients.

To solve this, fix the “Shoemaker’s Kids” problem. You need to make time for self-marketing, or your pipeline will dry up… or get even more dry than it currently is.

If you’re like most agencies, you’re likely experiencing one or more of the four problems. Not fun to hear—but now you can fix things.

Question: Which of the four (Wrong River, Wrong Spot, Wrong Bait, Wrong Technique) is your agency’s biggest sales obstacle right now?

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