How to Get New Clients: Top 6 Tips from Successful PPC Agencies


For up-and-coming digital marketing agencies, finding new customers can be a challenge. In fact, this seems to be an ongoing struggle for many of the smaller agencies that I work with. These businesses walk a fine line when it comes to prospecting clients; not only do they need to find advertisers who want to work with them, they also need to verify that these accounts are a good fit for their PPC managers—not an easy feat!

I have a soft spot for up-and-coming agencies, so I made it my mission to find the top ways that successful PPC agencies get new clients.

how to get more clients

To develop this list, I turned to a seasoned group of experts, many of whom work for, own, or consult to SEM agencies. Participants included Aaron Levy, Andrew Lolk, Andy Groller, Anisha Dattani, Bethany Bey, David Szetela, Ginny Marvin, Heather Cooan, Jeff Ferguson, John Rampton, Julie Bacchini, Lisa Sanner, Mark Kennedy, Melissa Mackey and WordStream’s very own Rich Griffin and Chad Larson. So, straight from the experts—here are our best ways to get new clients!

Get More Clients Tip #1: Let Your Clients Do the Work for You

new client referrals

This was, by far, the most common response I received. In fact, Jeff Ferguson from Fang Digital said that as much as 90% of their new business comes from client referrals. Referrals are awesome because these leads are attained at little or no cost, meaning you can allocate more of your marketing budget to different projects. Plus, since a third party has already endorsed your skills, referrals tend to be easier to close.

Getting referrals doesn’t always come easy. Sure, delivering good results in your clients’ accounts certainly helps, but we all know that paid search progress tends to ebb and flow. The key is knowing how to communicate with your clients about changes in their account. Andy Groller of Dragon Search explains:

Client education is one of the best methods for building trust with those potential referrers. Not only does education help make clients understand the inner workings of PPC, which you are creating and managing on their behalf, but it also leads to more strategy-based, in-depth conversations that typically lead to more exponential growth compared to if you need to walk a client through the basics all of the time. So essentially: Increased Client Education ---> Increased Trust and Performance ---> Greater Likelihood of Referral ----> Increased Agency Business

Get More Clients Tip #2: Foster an Internal Community of Brand Ambassadors

This tip, from Ginny Marvin at Search Engine Land, rings true for all agencies. As she puts it, “Every employee, from the junior account manager to the office manager to the CEO, should be an ambassador for the agency. If employees are excited about and confident in the agency's work, that will rub off in any number of contexts. It's also why all levels of employees should be encouraged to network and attend local and/or national conferences. It builds employee confidence and knowledge and expands an agency’s network.” I couldn’t agree more—your employees should be your biggest advocates!

Get More Clients Tip #3: Become a Thought Leader

Thought leadership is one of the most effective (albeit vastly under-utilized) methods of fostering a positive reputation for your agency. Many companies try to manage their paid search internally before joining forces with an agency. These do-it-yourselfers often rely on online educational material and marketing conferences for help. When the time comes to outsource their PPC accounts, they will gravitate to agencies that they recognize as leaders in the space. As a professional marketer, you have all the ammunition you need to become one of these experts!

get new clients with thought leadership

There are a variety of ways you can establish yourself as a thought leader. For starters, join the #PPCchat conversation on Twitter. Nearly all the big shots in the industry follow this hashtag and use it to discuss new AdWords trends, specific account challenges and PPC tips. Don’t just read the responses; actively participate in the forum and share your opinions. I recommend following the lead of Heather Cooan, who has truly established herself as a PPC guru via #PPCchat.

Blogging is another great way to gain PPC street cred. The key is to develop high-quality content that resonates with your audience, such as data-rich case studies or instructional material. If readers find your content to be helpful, they are bound to come back for more. For example, when I first started working with paid search, I really enjoyed reading articles by Bethany Bey on the PPC Hero blog. Because her suggestions have proven to be useful and trustworthy, I continue to share them with my clients and colleagues. If your agency doesn’t have its own blog, you’re not off the hook on this one. Prominent SEM publications are often looking to publish articles written by guest bloggers.

If you’re not a fan of writing, try presenting at an industry conference, such as PubCon or SMX. These events always include speaking sessions by paid search experts. Beware, the application process tends to close months before the actual event. Participating in these events, even if you are not featured as a presenter, will help to boost your agency’s prominence.

Get More Clients Tip #4: Be Laser-Focused on the “Right” Prospects

Getting more PPC agency clients

Julie Bacchini, from Neptune Moon Marketing, suggests: “Think of it like dating – know your short list of must haves and deal breakers and stick to it. Stay focused on good fits.” Successful agencies know how to identify clients that they can deliver good results for and target their sales efforts accordingly. Remember, onboarding a new client requires a great deal of up-front investment. Before the account manager even touches the account, he or she must become familiar with the industry and learn the ins and outs of the clients’ business. Before embarking on this undertaking, consider whether you truly believe this client will be with you for the long term.

Rich Griffin, who leads WordStream’s Managed Services team, has created an RFP process to assess prospective clients. We use this set of information to assess their paid search goals, past performance, and business model before committing to work with them. Doing this analysis up-front has helped us to build a happy, successful client base.

Get More Clients Tip #5: Honesty Is the Best Policy

When it comes to selling PPC management, transparency is key. Sure, lofty promises may bring plenty of sales through the door, but if you can’t deliver on these promises, your client lifetimes will be short and your negative reputation will precede you. Instead, be honest, realistic and set prospects’ expectations accordingly. Melissa Mackey takes this one step further and recommends taking an under-promise/over-deliver approach. Many new agencies are hesitant to do this, but it certainly pays off in the long run. In fact, our Managed Services Sales Manager, Chad Larson, credits this policy of transparency to helping him close many deals in which competing agencies guaranteed infeasible results. Savvy prospects will see through agencies who promise “smoke and mirrors” and appreciate your refreshingly honest approach.

CMO of White Shark Media, Andrew Lolk, recommends applying a similar approach when working in client accounts. He explained:

My best advice is to be honest. Challenges arise when you try to squeeze a client into a market that’s already heavily populated or where their budget, website, or product can’t compete. Many agencies try to do right by these clients and help them, but sometimes the best help is to give an honest assessment and just say no.

Get More Clients Tip #6: Get Your Google On

I tried to limit this blog post to only five tips, but I couldn’t resist throwing in this gem from David Szetela, CEO of FMB Media, which is particularly useful to agencies looking to work with local advertisers. David recommends that you:

Identify the biggest companies in your area, then perform Google searches to discover whether they're advertising. For those who are, determine whether they're employing best practices. Are their ads appearing for pertinent searches, and are they well-written? Then email or fax a top marketing executive or the CEO, listing the mistakes and offering a free mini-audit.

This is an excellent way to show these companies that their current management strategy is not optimal and showcase that you have the expertise to improve it. Even if they aren’t ready to make a move, your call will certainly make a lasting impression. If you want to take this one step further, recommend that your prospects run our AdWords Performance Grader, which will help to pinpoint their account’s weaknesses.

It’s Your Turn to Get New Clients!

So, for all you up-and-coming PPC agencies out there, what strategy will you use to make your mark? Will you proceed with a combination with our experts’ top tips, or do you have other client acquisition tricks up your sleeve? Feel free to comment below!

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Jan 16, 2014

Thanks so much for the helpful tips. We are trying to get into PPC so this and a lot of your other articles have been very helpful. Thanks again!

Jan 16, 2014

Kathryn, I am so happy to hear that!  If there is a particular topic that would be useful to you, please let me know.  I love to help new agencies get started on the right foot! 

Rick Noel
Jan 16, 2014

Great post Erin. The format and information it contents is excellent.  #4 may seem counterintutive as focus generally means less, but for those prospects who become clients, a higher percentage of those will become advocates while less will become disgruntled customers. In our expreience, some of the accounts that we worked hardest on where the ones that were not the right fit to begin with. Saying no when their is not alignment can be a HUGE success factor. Of course, finding enough with the right fit is equally important.

Jan 16, 2014

Hi Rick, I honestly could not agree more.  Usually the clients you know are "bad apples" from the start give the team the most grief--it's almost like you kick things off in defensive mode.  Plus, they can distract you from some of your best clients!  Weeding the wrong fits out from the start may drive our sales team crazy, but it is totally worth it! 

Tony Test
Jan 16, 2014

Nice write up, Erin!

Jan 16, 2014

Thanks, Tony!!

Nicole Stanley
Jan 17, 2014

I had look over so of your post and I really enjoyed them thoroughly. I am definitely going to use some of your tips for my online business. Look forward for your more informative posts like this.Thanks!

Jan 17, 2014

Anytime, Nicole! I'm happy to hear that you found it to be useful.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions/topics that you would like to see covered. Best of luck with your business!

Jan 17, 2014

i would simply say great tips and these tricks will help me to explore more clients i mean potential clients instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on testing and other experiments. thanks and i will try out these techniques on bing and yahoo as well. 

Jan 17, 2014

That's great to hear, Elixabeth! Best of luck to you.

Mark McCulloch
Jan 17, 2014

 Fantastic article, I really enjoyed reading it. I have been online full time for many years yet I still got very useful info from this which then tells me others will also get great benefit. Many Thanks Mark

Jan 17, 2014

hi mark, happy to hear that the post gave you some new ideas!  thanks for the comment!

Midas Media
Jan 18, 2014

Great post Erin, made us realise we weren't following you on Twitter so we've fixed that! :)

Jan 20, 2014

Ha! That is awesome! Always glad to score a new follower 

Jan 20, 2014

Very happy to hear that! I'm always happy to have more friends out in the Twitterverse 

Jan 19, 2014

I liked this post especially the part abot Google because I think Google and Goole+ are providing heaps of qualified leads to the majority of businesses online

Jan 20, 2014

Absolutely--PPC through Google can do wonderful things for a business, when executed correctly.  Glad you liked the post!

Jan 20, 2014

I’m always looking for fresh and effective ways to gain new clients. Cold calling is one avenue but in this ever evolving age of technology, business developers should be open to other techniques. Learned a lot here, thanks.

Jan 20, 2014

I agree--nothing wrong with cold calling (especially if you have a good strategy), but it's not always the most creative, nor effective way to score new sales!  I'm happy to hear that this post got your creative juices flowing.  Best of luck to you and your agency, Nina!

Isaac Rudansky
Jan 23, 2014

Hey Erin, Thanks for the great post. Interesting to note no mention of running PPC for your PPC :)Our agency has had some pretty good results with this approach . I also think it's a good approach to get those very first clients. After all, if you don't have one client - how can you get any client referrals? PPC management is a highly competitive landscape, but we've found some good searches that have converted new clients (small budget clients) at arounf 3-6 bucks a click. Overall though, a very insighful and supportive article. Keep it up!By the way, any recommendations of SEM blogs/sites that regularly look for guest bloggers? Thanks! Isaac Rudansky 

Feb 05, 2014

Hey Arin ,Really great and wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

Jonathan Rodriguez
Feb 17, 2014

This is great!  PPC can go such a long way, but one of the points of having your clients do the work for you is a great idea.

M. G. Rabbi
Feb 23, 2014

A visually refreshing and knowledgeable blog. Thanks for help.

Feb 25, 2014

Great tips but for me there is lack of Social Media ideas / tools / tips. Currently without proper Social Media monitoring you can not run true online business.PPC operates based on "big / small data". We often forget that our clients aren't robots. They don't think through bits and kilobits. They are humans and talk to each others. If you want sell something to them, you have start conversation or inject yourself in that conversation.

Mar 27, 2014

hi all This artical has been eye opening for me , all i have been doing is call companies ask if i can send the company profle , that was andis not working because No one is getting back to meso i will deffenatly use the Tips givin  Thanks

Dinesh Dhiman
Jun 27, 2014

Getting clients for a new business is always challenging owing to rigorous competition and SEO Efforts take time to show results.Networking on business events is an effective way to get new clients.   

Mar and associates
Sep 26, 2014

Nice post! It's definitely hard to find writing jobs on sites like Elance and oDesk because you have to compete price-wise with all the writers in India and China unfortunately. Great for sites that need content written cheap, but bad for freelance writers looking to make a living. Great tips for finding jobs in other places though!

Randy Garcia
Apr 12, 2015

Definitely some very detailed information on getting clients, this is great thanks. Leadership is definitely important as well, I agree.

Aidan Lehane
Apr 24, 2016

Hey, Great post, If it wasn't tough to get clients, everybody would do it. If you ever need some guest blog posts, let me know :)

Oct 25, 2016

Thank you very much, Im sitting at my desk frustrated with my agency (i've lost 4 of my 7 clients in last couple of months for non-performance related issues) and have been swinging doors the last few days. I will put some of these in practice, especially poking holes in bad campaigns locally!

Yasin Aberra
Dec 05, 2016

Do you guys have any tips that involves the groundwork to getting more clients? Do you recommend going to network events and chamber of commerce events?

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