If you want to achieve scale in your agency, you’d be crazy not to leverage marketing automation.
But it’s easy to give up on sophisticated funnels and fall back on what you know — sales, recruitment, and good old fashion hustle.
Take Sabri Suby, who founded his agency, King Kong, in 2014 — cold calling and emailing clients from his bedroom.
Sabri has since bootstrapped his business to a team of over 60, a valuation of 30 million, and an annual growth rate of 312 percent — making King Kong the fastest growing digital marketing agency in Australia.
The growth is impressive. However, great marketing agencies know how to generate leads (that’s your craft, after all).
But driving more volume than you can handle is a terrifying prospect. So, what the heck happened?
Well, in Sabri’s words:
“It wasn’t until I sat down and had a real audit of my time that I realized what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. So I asked myself, ‘what are the things I’m doing that are actually moving the money needle and driving the business forward or making more revenue?’ So I started to automate or delegate and take the grunt work out of the business.”
Automation folks. Automation.
If you’re ready to commit, this guide is filled with tangible agency examples, including a complete teardown of King Kong’s lead gen strategy to help formulate your marketing automation plan.
We signed up to one of their funnels, and holy Dooley, you’d think this agency is marketing a $20,000 training program!
Are you ready to transition your agency from a labor-intensive (and often unsustainable) prospecting culture to an attraction-based marketing machine with exponential scale? Then read on.
What is a marketing automation strategy?
Starting with the basics, marketing automation uses technology to perform marketing tasks that humans would typically compete with.
Automation tools are particularly useful for:
- Lead generation: capturing contact information from any prospect who potentially wants to do business with you.
- Lead nurturing: communicating with prospects until they feel comfortable buying your services.
- Behavioral segmentation: using technology and strategies like lead scoring to group prospects and clients by the actions and behaviors in response to your business communications.
In the agency world, it’s in these areas you’ll see the most growth with your automation efforts.
Marketing automation strategy for agencies
Below are 7 strategies to integrate into your marketing automation plan.
1. Utilize dynamic content to keep customers engaged
Marketing automation enables you to efficiently create dynamic content to adapt your narrative through the client journey.
For example, the marketing agency BankBound has seen an enormous lift in lead generation efforts due to implementing dynamic content into their nurturing sequence.
According to the Director of Marketing Brian Reilly:
“With automation, we can easily offer website visitors various whitepaper resources; then schedule relevant follow-up communications based on their engagement. Follow-ups can include additional resources, an invitation to book time directly with our team, or soliciting feedback for future content.”
BankBound keeps its sequence fresh with timely blog posts, interviews, guides, and social media. Here’s what their simple email nurturing flow looks like:
- Whitepaper download delivered via email that includes links to related blog posts
- Invite to schedule a conversation with a strategist
- Invite to view a related guide
- Invite to join our social media communities
- Invite to contribute to one of our guides
This flow sees 10% average clickthrough rates for each email in the series, showing that prospects resonate with the information.
2. Focus on efficiency and agility
The job of automation is always to make your marketing efficient and improve your overall agility as an agency.
This often means keeping your automation simple and adaptable as your strategy evolves.
Max van den Ingh, the founder of Amsterdam-based B2B Growth Marketing agency, Unmuted, keeps his marketing automation efforts efficient through simplicity.
“As for marketing automation to generate more leads: we’re huge fans of simplicity. We set up a simple Typeform leading to our ‘Growth Scan’ — a couple of questions that help pinpoint where a prospect’s biggest growth opportunities lie. We link to the ‘Growth Scan’ from several places on our website.“
“Automated Slack messages notify us every time a website visitor takes the “Growth Scan.” It’s a clear indication they are in need of our growth marketing services, and the automation that powers this was set up in just minutes.”
Everything about this automation is efficient. The tech stack is merely a Typeform linked to Slack through Zapier. That’s it!
Yet this simple automation has been mission-critical to the success of Unmuted.
Encharge integrates with Slack so you can effortlessly create client journeys like the Unmuted team.
3. Break down your sales funnel into manageable steps
When building your agency sales funnel, you risk oversimplifying or overcomplicating the sequence.
Too few steps, and it’s vague and useless. Too many steps and it gets convoluted and confusing for your team and clients.
Take a bird’s-eye view of your funnel and break it down into manageable steps. This process is a pinch with Enchage’s flow builder.
At a glance, you get a visual representation of:
- What needs to be done
- When it needs to be done
- Who it needs to be done for
Getting visibility will give you the clarity to make those calls and get your team to buy into the process.
4. Take your marketing automation strategy one step at a time
We get it. You want your marketing automation done yesterday.
While it’s tempting to jump in head-first and knock out your entire automation in a weekend, rushing without preparation will give you dismal results.
Your automation is a living, breathing system that’ll evolve. This is just version 1.0. By the time you get to version 24.1, you’ll have incredible conversions to match.
By building your automation strategy one step at a time, you allow for organic growth. More importantly, you can collect data, analyze results, and make iterations as needed.
5. Use drip campaigns to nurture your leads better
Marketing agencies tend to underutilize email drip campaigns to develop relationships with prospective clients. This is a big mistake.
Signing on with an agency is a significant financial commitment. On top of that, working with a dedicated marketing team is often a new and foreign experience for your average business owner.
Using a drip campaign, you can feed relevant information to your leads at a more digestible pace instead of overwhelming them upfront.
Take seoplus+, one of the top digital agencies in Canada that have mastered drip campaigns to close more deals.
Co-Founder and COO Brock Murray, seoplus+ first segments their prospects by industry triggering tailored email campaigns:
“We will serve a vertical-specific drip campaign to leads. This means that eCommerce prospects will get served with advice and resources specific to eCommerce, such as setting up your advertising campaigns for holiday success. In contrast, local businesses will get served with relevant information, such as leveraging the switch from Google My Business to Google Business Profile.
Prospects will be able to opt-in to this series on our website or be manually added with consent by their sales representative.”
You may be thinking, “okay, I know how to capture and segment leads, but what information do I send to my contacts?”.
According to Brock, the answer is simple. Anything new.
“We will have an automated series that goes out to prospects and active clients alike. This series will be more about thought leadership, sharing new information about our new services and positionings, as well as industry news and updates. “
Think about how much changes in the world of marketing. Any shift in tactics or trends is an opportunity to share with your list.
Or, if you’ve evolved your business in any way, add it to your campaign.
Further reading: 15 Drip Campaign Examples That Help Engage & Nurture Lead
The drag and drop flow builder in Encharge makes it super easy to add new messages and updates to your nurturing sequence to keep your leads interested.
Lastly, don’t sleep on your past clients. Clients are always looking for the best option and sometimes feel like they’ll get better results with another agency or do it themselves.
Brock and his team run a drip series targeted at past clients, which increases retention.
“We will have a stream to re-engage previous customers, keeping them informed about our improved service offerings and investments in world-class talent and technologies to serve them better. Often clients leave with a “grass must be greener” mentality, and we have success re-engaging past clients for new projects.”
6. Establish a nurturing campaign within your funnel
Despite the word “marketing” in marketing automation, don’t be mistaken. Marketing exists to elevate sales.
When MQLs and SQLs work in harmony together, that’s when you get magical results. Before we go on, let’s briefly break down these fundamental concepts.
MQLs, short for Marketing Qualified Leads, are any leads generated from marketing efforts. MQLs are primarily focused on inbound techniques that attract prospects to your brand and are executed by a marketing team. For example:
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
These strategies require sophistication and time to establish enough trust with people for them to sign up with your agency.
SQLs, short for Sales Qualified Leads, are leads generated from sales efforts. SQLs are focused on outbound tactics, a.k.a prospecting, requiring you to reach out to potential clients directly and are performed by the sales team. For example:
- Cold emailing
- Cold calling
- Door knocking
These methods are straightforward to implement and often lead to quicker results. However, prospecting is commonly seen as intrusive and labor-intensive.
The best agencies create sales funnels that leverage both MQLs and SQLs. For instance, you build a nurturing campaign to help guide the MQLs to continue the sequence while moving the SQLs towards the final conversion.
In their sales funnel, Joey Randazzo, founder of SEO Growth Partners, has found the perfect balance between MQLs and SQLs.
“95% of our leads come through our free SEO analysis page. Then an automated Slack message is sent to our sales team –> sales team uses a template to send an email within 2 hours (and personalizes it!!!! So important to have personalization!!!) –> our SEO expert is automatically notified to put together the personalized audit –> the sales team sends the audit and encourages the lead to schedule a call with their Calendly (which automates the scheduling process)”
Joey’s nurturing funnel switches seamlessly between inbound and outbound techniques to increase conversions.
7. Evaluate leaders in your industry and how they use automation
When Michael Jordan was asked if he could think of anyone who could beat him one on one in a basketball game. His response:
“I don’t think I would lose, other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”
Kobe was smart. He saw that MJ was the best of all time, so he copied all of his moves and went on to become one of the greatest in his own right.
Why reinvent the wheel when you can reverse engineer what the top performers are doing?
We do this in every industry, and it’s no different with agencies.
So find the top agencies and analyze their lead magnets, nurturing sequences, content marketing, everything.
Luckily for you, we’ve saved you hours of research. Next up, we’re going to show you how to develop a marketing automation plan for your agency by tearing down the super agency, King Kong’s marketing funnels.
How to create a marketing automation plan for your agency
When developing your automation plan, you need to decipher essentials vs. non-essentials; otherwise, you’ll waste time and get poor results.
A survey by Liana Technologies found the top 3 benefits of marketing automation are:
- Improved targeting of messaging
- Improved customer experience
- Increased number and quality of leads
In other words, any repeatable action, including sorting and organizing customer data — automation excels.
However, an activity that involves irregular human touch is better served by your team. For example, negotiating your marketing fees is a nuanced event that requires a level of emotional intelligence that technology simply can’t replicate.
As you’re developing your marketing automation plan, think about what tasks are repeatable and data-driven versus tasks that are irregular and EQ-driven.
In the next section, we share 4 steps for developing your agency marketing automation strategy using King Kong’s sales funnel as an example.
1. Capture the attention of your leads
Before you automate anything, you need to make your leads stop what they’re doing and pay attention to you. This starts with an earth-shattering call to action.
For instance, King Kong’s primary CTA is a free 30-minute strategy session — which they position as free marketing advice.
If the prospect is not ready to commit to the strategy session, King Kong has dedicated lead magnets for each of their core service offerings, including; PPC, SEO, and CRO. This enables them to develop sophisticated nurturing sequences based on what services people want.
King Kong leverages automation to deliver relevant messages to leads based on conditional logic (Filter steps, in Encharge). So if you start watching a free video workshop but don’t complete it, you’ll receive an email prompting you to keep watching.
Whether it’s through your primary CTA, free video training, lead magnets, or other types of content, leverage automation to keep your prospects on their toes straight out of the gates.
2. Keep their attention with nurturing sequences
It’s not enough to merely get your prospects to notice your agency. You have to hold attention and keep your agency top of mind through nurturing sequences.
Once you’re in King Kong’s automated email sequence, you’ll receive a variety of offers, updates, and other helpful resources to keep the relationship going. For example, they drip feed a client case study over 5 days with videos and concrete numbers to tell a story.
Notice how they set expectations that you’ll receive 1 short video every day for the next 4 days? This gets prospects intrigued to open future emails and engage with the content.
3. Encourage conversion, but wait for the right time
It’ll take time to determine the right balance between sales messages and marketing communication in your automation sequence.
Some prospects will respond well to a strong early CTA in the sequence to get on a sales call, while others will need to see more proof before feeling comfortable to take the next step with your agency.
In 30 days, we received 23 emails from King Kong in their lead nurturing sequence. The emails contain a combination of content marketing and pitches to jump on a 30-minute strategy call.
Out of 23 emails, King Kong pitches their CTA 13 times, making for a 57% pitch rate.
But even most of their pitches came in conjunction with a marketing video or some sort of value-added content.
So the frequency and timing of your pitches depend on how much value you can give to your prospects in the customer journey.
4. Continue to add value
The last step is to keep leads in the loop and repeatedly drive them to your resources.
In King Kong’s automation, they’ll routinely send a follow-up email if you don’t engage with a video.
They also use scarcity and social proof to create urgency for booking a sales call.
But even if your prospects don’t bite on your sequence, send them regular newsletters with company updates and industry news to keep them top of mind for when they change their mind.
Conclusions and takeaways
Don’t fear growth. Having systems in place will give you the confidence to scale your agency.
Keep your marketing automations simple and slowly ramp them up over time.
Some agencies are crushing it with ultra-simple automations, while others like King Kong show that sophisticated lead generation can yield incredible results. Suppose you’d like to try building multi-channel marketing automations. In that case, Encharge makes the process seamless with behavioral segmentation, A/B testing, visual flow builder, SMS all wrapped in a sleek user-friendly UI.