Initial Steps to Take When Starting Your Digital Marketing Agency

how to start a digital agency with nick calabro

Initial Steps to Take When Starting Your Digital Marketing Agency

Before you actually enter the market you need to know what you’re entering with.

Figuring out what the value you’re providing is one thing, productizing your services, finding the people who will want to buy them, and selling is a whole other thing.

As soon as you start your agency, you should be focusing on finding clients. Networking, scraping the web for emails, and marketing yourself is going to be the best ways you can go about this at first. Next, you’ll want to sort out your products and/or services and figure out how you can most effectively sell packages that might fit anyone and everyone’s business.


Maximizing your efficiency in the office and in your business is helpful when you’re a CEO wearing many different hats. Productizing your services increases your efficiency and effectiveness because your packages are already sorted out and can be more off-the-shelf.

Productizing is a highly productive practice since it, effectively, automates some of the sales processes. Instead of packaging together a complex and bespoke option for each client, you can figure out what everyone needs and fit it all in one service. This is how you can produce systems and eventually automate these systems so they can get done in a timely fashion. Operations and automation can turn your business around.

Once you build out products that you can then sell, you’ll have a clearer idea of what you’re selling and how you can help.

Sell Results

Since you’re likely working on a digital marketing agency, examples of your products might be Facebook advertising services, blogging, and other content strategies. This means you build out the ad campaigns, posts, engagement, and whatever else you feel you should include in that product.

The result of this product is that they have a maintained Facebook page, constant updates to their websites, and an overall responsive web presence. You’re not selling the Facebook management, you’re selling the ramifications of the managed Facebook presence — this is part of your product’s package.

Facebook ads and Google Adwords is another product that you can serve that will allow your users to have ads running on multiple platforms thus diversifying their reach.

The service is you building out these ads and curating the audiences and their result is covering more ground and generating leads through multiple channels.

Google Adwords and SEO is another service you could consider. Once you move from advertising to other services you can give them a taste of what else you can do. SEO falls under digital marketing but is technically a separate service. now you have to determine what your SEO services are — you have to productize your SEO services and determine the results you’re selling.

There are so many things you can do with SEO and it’s important to actually determine what you’re going to be doing so they’re not caught off guard. We find many people selling ripoff SEO services that don’t actually do anything at all.

Their results may be: “get me on the front page of google”.

If this is the case, if they’re willing to dump all the money in the world for you to accomplish that by any means necessary, great, take it. but some companies won’t be so willing and will need actual deliverables.

  1. 2 blog posts per month + keywords research will involve you actually giving them blog posts and optimizing their site for keywords.
  2. 4 blog posts per month, link building, and local business indexing is another one.
  3. Even 8 blog posts per month is a viable SEO strategy.

Start Selling

Once you’re aware of what you’re going to be selling you have to actually get out there and start selling it.

There are many ways you can win clients

  • Knowing people
  • Networking
  • Your own online presence and SEO
  • Referrals

These are all great to have and you will get them after even only landing one client to show off your work.

Perceived value is when you go in and make them so pumped for your services that they see nothing but value and they are astonished at the rate you’re giving them. Actual value of whatever you’re doing is less important than the perceived value — make people believe you’re worth your premium prices and they’ll happily pay it.

If they think it’s too expensive, they don’t perceive the value correctly — that’s your fault. If they think they don’t need certain services or packages, they don’t perceive the value — again, your fault.

Getting them to understand the value is going to be the hardest part here because they may want to see results first or simply don’t trust you to deliver on your promises — do not work for free and just refine your sales approach so they can sign on the dotted line.

Reputation. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do here if you’re just starting out. No one is going to refer you or vouch for you if you haven’t done any work for anyone yet.

However, your reputation can rely on other facets of your being than just your previous work.

I was at a networking event with a prospect I’ve met with a couple times. We haven’t signed anything and it wasn’t looking too promising as far as aligning an agreement that would work for both of us — however, we were very friendly and happy to continue discussing it even at this networking event. Later in the event, we stroll around together meeting other business owners and he’s touting Calaboration as the best marketing firm in the venue and that he uses us — he doesn’t even use us! This was him simply giving us good reviews in the open so we can make a better impression on everyone. This goes to show you can build a brand and reputation without actually doing any work!

Sales ability: This is the one thing that you have complete control over and can refine to such a degree that no matter who you’re in the room with you can sell them. Your sales skills are going to be exponentially more valuable than your actual technical ability once you land these clients. Even the smallest amount of work that monkeys can do can bring companies so much value and it’s your job to sell them on that idea before they even have any leads coming through.

How you sell is going to play a massive role in how you run your business and what types of clients you get. Clients are the only thing that matter to your business since nothing else differentiates you from the top agencies except that you’re landing local real estate agents and they’re landing fortune 50 companies.

A good salesperson can sell a product no matter how good or bad it may be. This is crucial to master because you don’t even really have a product to sell just yet. You have fairy dust that you’re going to figure out how to turn into results later on.

How to Find Clients

Now that you know how to win the businesses, you need to know where to find them.

You’re going to learn that there are no great spots to find clients, many terrible spots to find clients and that you’ll find amazing clients totally unexpectedly based on connections alone.

We were in a big lunch meeting one time with someone looking for a large website deal along with some services to go along with it. Everything was going well. After lunch, we head back to the office and in the elevator run into one of his friends who runs another business in the same building. He told him what we do and he expresses how he’s in the market for digital services — we ended up closing a deal with his friend before we ever did with the other prospect we were there for!

Walking your local main street is the easiest way to find some local businesses that you can easily help. They’re probably run by a generation who have never even thought of doing any type of digital marketing — this is great because it gives you a perfect opportunity to sell them on the idea and you can provide so much value off the bat since they will be starting from scratch.

Check out local chamber of commerce and business related meetups where you can find like-minded business owners that you can then start pitching to.

You can easily find conferences, events, and other things that are specific to a certain industry. Where are all the dentists hanging out if you are specializing in that? Every single person there would then be a potential client.

Go to real estate investor groups (there are tons) if you’re targeting that demographic as well — again, every single person there will need your services and since it’s not a marketing meetup and instead are meetup you may be the only one there.

Business listing sites are where we’re actually going to start because you can literally begin right now. You don’t have to register for any events, accounts, or memberships. You can actually start reaching out to businesses right now using some sites like yellow pages yellow book and yelp.

There are a few approaches you can take from here are we’re going to talk about them next.

How to Reach Out to Prospects

Cold calling

Cold calling is not dead. Anyone who tells you it is is too lazy or scared to do it themselves so they don’t want anyone else doing it.

Go through local businesses, look at their websites and understand what they’re selling. Then, immediately go in for the call — spend too much time prequalifying and thinking and you’ll talk yourself out of the call altogether.

Here’s your step by step regarding cold calling

  1. Speak confidently and clearly
  2. Make them like you
  3. Express interest in their company
  4. Set up the meeting

This should be your only goal while on this call — to get in the door and speak to them one on one in person. once you’re here, your sales skills will come in handy and you’ll land clients.

Some common objections you can handle right then and there while in the cold call are:

  1. What do you charge?
    This isn’t even so much an objection since they’re showing some type of interest. the truth is, you don’t want to work with someone who’s interested in cost before you even had a conversation. Doctors don’t prescribe medications before you came to an appointment, just like you can’t give a quote on services you don’t even know yet until you meet with them.

    Say something like, "we have a range of services starting at $1000/mo with some clients on our $8 or $10,000/mo plan. They always see a return within the first three months.

  2. We don’t need marketing.
    This is harsh and you should question their business. Some businesses truly don’t need marketing if their product is so good and viral that everyone does marketing for them for free. The truth is, if a local pizzeria doesn’t have a Facebook page, they’re leaving money on the table. That alone is something easy enough for you to do and low-budget enough for them to justify.
  3. We’ve been burned in the past.
    This is unfortunately true (and common). Since so many individuals call themselves digital marketers, they think they can build out a site and run some ads and eventually fail at it and give up. This will require top-notch sales ability since you’re now forced to prove your legitimacy over the phone.

Ultimately, getting on the phone is going to put you over most digital marketers out there bc so many of them just communicate on Facebook and email. business owners like seeing other hungry entrepreneurs pitch them and will respect you. Never apologize for bothering anyone on the phone and never feel like you’re pestering them by following up aggressively.

We once landed a client after only one call and one meeting. He said to me, "Nick, you’re actually here. You showed up to the office in the snow and are pitching me this marketing which you clearly know very well. I know I want to work with someone like this since the majority of people pitching me similar things are too afraid to even get on the phone".

Showing up and being human will differentiate you.

Cold Emailing

Cold emailing, though less powerful than calling, can be just as effective because you can send out 2000 emails in the time it takes you to make one call.

You can effectively accumulate 200 emails of local businesses, bars, and real estate agents and blast out the same email to all of them.

Once some of them reply, they’re warm leads to follow up with a call and they’ll already be expecting to get pitched.

Here are some examples of effective cold emails:

Hey <name>,

I noticed your latest listing in <city> near my hometown — love the listing.

I actually help other agents in the area get more listings like that through digital marketing.

Is <phone> still the best number to reach you?

Thanks and talk soon!


You can mail merge and put in more information like listings if they’re a real estate agent, recent projects if they’re a construction company, and even areas of interest that they do business in so they know you’re giving them the most personal email possible.


  1. Write out your products
    Get some pen and paper and draw out 3 or 4 productized services you can provide with clear results that you’ll be selling.
  2. Aggregate emails
    This process will take you longer than you think. You can always buy leads but that isn’t recommended just yet since you want to at least land one client so you’re not breaking the bank and you can sustain the business.
    look through local MLSs, yellow pages, and other resources that will have emails and phone numbers. Keep them all in one spreadsheet with partitioned email, company name, first and last name, phone number, and the channel you found them on.
  3. Email blasts
    This is when you take your database of 50, 100, or more emails and finally craft your personalized email merge to them all.
    Download some email software and go to town.
  4. Start cold calling
    The best time to cold call will be around lunchtime or late afternoon. If you’re working a full-time job this might be tough which is why we have multiple avenues like email as well. However, even if you call after work, say at 5 pm or even anytime before 8 pm, you will have a pretty good shot at catching business owners since their lives are their businesses and they will likely be working longer hours than just the typical office hours.
  5. Repeat getting emails and sending out emails
    Ideally, you want to send out new emails to new sets of contacts every day. This might not be viable since the aggregation process will take so long, but do it whenever you find a spare minute.
  6. Repeat cold calling and follow up
    By later in the week you should have some email responses and interested people from your cold calling campaign. This is the perfect time to allocate some resources and follow up with them through email, calling up prospects that emails you back, and cultivating these contacts to bring them to a sale.
  7. Refine
    You’re going to want to take a day and look back at how you’re doing and figure things out. This is going to be valuable so you can ensure you’re not missing people calling you back or emailing you without your knowledge.

    The worst thing that can happen to a sale is time. let too much time pass and they’ll forget about you and you’ll never close.

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