No start-up agency has ever succeeded without asking themselves the most vital of questions: “Where do I find new clients?” and “How do I win more clients?”

All agencies target growth but your agency is sure to see times of turbulence and will inevitably lose some clients along the way. Sometimes you’ll lose them through entirely unavoidable circumstances. Sometimes you’ll just plain screw up. Every agency leader knows that a healthy sales pipeline for winning new clients is vital.

Ignoring the obvious irony, we will assume that your digital marketing agency is doing at least the basics in terms of your own digital marketing activity to try and lure in new client prospects. But there are often some simple avenues for finding new clients that are missed.

#1 Referrals: Lean on Existing Clients

Referrals are a digital marketing agency owner’s dream. Not only because they come at practically zero cost, but because winning referral opportunities are concrete evidence that your clients are happy with your work and you’re doing a great job – and they’re willing to spread the word about you to their friends. New clients from referrals are earned by consistently performing excellent work for your current accounts (which makes new referral clients extra rewarding!)

One area where many agencies fall is they don’t proactively make any effort to facilitate new client referrals. This is often through a misconceived view that approaching existing clients for referrals could appear desperate or in some way damage your current client relationships. Most clients will be more than happy to assist you where they are able when it comes to introductions to new leads and contacts. There are a few things to consider as you get referrals.

When it comes to proactively approaching your existing clients, ensure you pick clients who are up to date with their own workload and any deliverables. (You don’t want to be searching for more work and new clients through a client that is still waiting on current work from you.) Make it personal by saving the referral request for a monthly review meeting (which is typically in person, over the phone or via Skype) — the request will seem more genuine and you can gauge your contact’s state of mind and satisfaction with your services before popping the question. Asking for referrals off the back of a period of success or a major milestone in your relationship with your current clients is always a smart move.

#2 Partner with Other Agencies

There are several reasons that agencies choose to pass on clients – heck, you probably have even turned down clients yourself for any number of reasons. Typically, agencies will pass on projects that are either too low budget for their agency model or because the project in play may require skills or expertise they simply don’t have. Or perhaps they have the skillset but simply do not have availability to timely deliver for that new client. Regardless of the reason, collaborating with other agencies is a great way to win new clients because the lead generation and vetting process is already taken care of for you.

One of the simplest ways to find a mutually beneficial agency partner relationship is to exploit two of the most common reasons for passing on clients:

Go Big – Partner with an agency considerably larger than you with a noticeable difference in pricing structure. These partners will have no problem making an introduction to you for a potential new client that simply can’t afford their services.

Exploit a Niche – Find an agency that doesn’t offer what you offer. Ideally one of your strongest service offerings. Many digital marketing agencies have found success partnering with web development and design agencies who simply don’t have the expertise in house to deliver ongoing digital marketing services post production of a website for example. If winning new clients through referrals like this isn’t appealing to them, you may want to consider offering some of your services as a white label solution.

#3 Thought Leadership: Blogging

Finding new clients can often simply be a case of making it as easy as possible for you and your agency to be found — or even simply stumbled upon. Leaving traditional paid advertising aside, casting your net wider can be achieved with a less direct approach. Rather than advertising what you do, just talk about it.

Blogging is a great route for discovery. You can build yourself, your talent and your agency as an authority in your industry and as thought leaders by producing killer content. Talk about challenges in the industry, share an opinion or simply facilitate conversation via blogging. This can be as simple as keeping an agency blog which is contributed to regularly and shared via social media and through email newsletters. Or you can branch out even further and try your hand at guest blogging for industry leading sites. Offer your content and expertise for others to share and make an impact on their regular readership.

Pick clever, topical titles and pay attention to current trends to make the greatest impact. Ensure your content is unique and credible and you’ll be surprised how a relatively low cost piece can increase your agency’s exposure to a wealth of potential new clients.