With 27% of the total internet time being spent on social networking platforms, it comes as no surprise that small, medium and large businesses are investing time in improving their online presence for brand positioning, data crowdsourcing, lead generation and customer relationship building opportunities. Given that more and more customers are relying on social media to make a purchasing decision, there’s no better time than now to venture into the marketplace offering social media management services.

If you’re planning to launch a social media agency or already are operating one, here’s a quick guide outlining the best ways to land long-term clients:

Join hands with a non-competing service provider:
An excellent source of brand-new business referrals can be other service providers and agencies in your niche, who have a similarly-sized clientele and non-competing benefits to offer. For example, if you’re managing social media for a local coffee shop, you can team up with a someone that provides loyalty reward schemes and SEO for small independent businesses.

You can always reach out to these third-party vendors by empathizing with a challenge they’re facing and explaining how you can be of help, before proposing a mutually beneficial partnership. Once you’ve developed a trustworthy and reliable relationship with them, you can use cross-promotion to spread the word about your brand, attract potential customers, break into a new market and effectively grow your business. A recent successful brand collaboration was between the peer-to-peer cab aggregator Uber and Spotify, where they essentially launched a ‘DJ your ride’ campaign, where customers could play their own music while hailing a cab.

Utilize Linkedin to find your ideal prospects:
LinkedIn Advanced Search allows you to discover professionals that match your target audience criteria, including educational background, work experience, skill-set and other attributes that you’re after. Use a spreadsheet to document basic information about these people, especially their social media handles and try making soft contact every few weeks, for example, a comment or like on their daily updates. Following several subtle interactions, tag them in a helpful article or an interesting photo they’d like to encourage further engagement.

After one to two months, you can directly reach out to these people by mentioning how you have really enjoyed their content as a follower and would love to know more about their business or brand. “A person’s favourite subject to talk about is themselves,” explains Hunter Wills from Wovv.com, “After that, 90% of the people will then ask about you and your business. Talk about the parts of your business that answer the pain points they brought up. See if you can (gently) advance them down the sales funnel.”

Conduct a free webinar:
As a social media agency/business, your biggest challenge is to been seen as an expert in your domain for companies looking to do a better job with their online presence. Host a series of webinars on topics relevant to your target audience, for example, ‘best social media resources for small business’ or ‘facebook paid advertising in 2018’ and make a simple landing page for people to register on. Make sure you emphasize on the webinar being free with no upfront commitment, so the registrants are more inclined to sign up and show up.

Tools like Join.me, GoToWebinar, and Cisco Webex are great for hosting several hundred people for a webinar or conference and offer various functionalities (like, in-session polls, audience Q&A, third-party integrations, etc.) to increase engagement. You can also record the session and upload the same on your blog, Youtube and other online channels.

Plan for scalability:
While it’s important to focus on getting more clients on-board, a lot of social media-based businesses don’t take adequate retention measures when they’re starting out. Growing your customer-base and scaling your operations should not be at the expense of service quality, therefore, you should always have an answer to, ‘How should I offer the exact same level of customer experience to all my clients, despite the number being 10 or 100?’

Here are a few tips:
Create a unified social inbox: Tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social can help you manage multiple social media accounts for your clients from a single platform. From post-scheduling to performance analysis, you can easily enable cross-functional collaboration between account management, creative control, content strategy and more, by choosing a cohesive social media business solution for your agency.

Automate your daily tasks: Lead generation and growth hacking can be extremely time-consuming, especially when you’re trying to stay in-tune with the latest trends in the unpredictable marketing landscape. Marketing automation tools not only simplify the exhausting process of targeting and measuring for each client, but also help your team streamline daily workflow. Customer.io, Hubspot, Pardot and Marketo are only a few automation software that makes it easy for you to nurture leads, run customized ad campaigns, supercharge your analytics, manage pipeline, and deliver powerful emails.

Generate in-depth reports: When you’re able to show reasonable progress against the client goals, you will be in a better position to retain customers that are already using your services. After all, why wouldn’t your clients keep coming back if you promise them regular updates on how you’re improving their social media presence? Transparency and frequent engagement with your clients helps you build trust and ensures a longstanding relationship.

Leverage your professional network:

Your immediate network of friends and professional acquaintances can especially come in handy when you’re trying to get initial traction. However, simply getting your name out there is not enough and you need to have an ‘x-factor’ that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Your prospective clients need a thorough understanding of why they should pick you instead of the several other agencies offering the same services. For starters, define your USP, showcase your previous experience and introduce your panel of experts, so that your customers know the people they’re investing their money in. Remember,  the best referrals come from clients who can vouch for your services. According to Stever Robbins, successful author and serial entrepreneur: “One entrepreneur wanted to meet one of the richest men in the world to fund his company. It took eight months of nurturing relationships and asking for introductions, but he got the meeting, made the sale and now has a board member so prominent that he can attract virtually anyone else to his venture.”

When you’re creating a website for your social media agency, make sure that your homepage talks about at least one challenge that your target businesses usually face and then explain how you can solve it. Your customers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get in touch with you, so make sure you have a visible section consisting of your contact details. Platforms like Unbounce are great for testing dedicated landing pages, sticky navigation bars and website popups to improve post-click conversion rates and generate more leads.

The rapidly changing technology combined with the universal shift towards short-term projects has contributed towards a significant churn in social media agencies. Moreover, complacency is always a killer, so as a business owner in the social media marketing space, you have to keep evolving to ensure a steady growth rate. Learning to thrive in a project-based environment is a business imperative and delivering a great customer experience will help you immensely in staying ahead of the curve. Don’t hesitate to try something new that can potentially help you build long-term, resilient relationship with your clients.