How to Start a Lead Generation Agency — the Step-by-Step Guide

How to Start a Lead Generation Agency — the Step-by-Step Guide

Any business that wants to succeed needs to get in front of the right audience. However, working out exactly who that audience is and reaching out to them isn’t always easy.

As a lead generation agency, that’s where you come in helping other companies attract, qualify, and nurture leads, so they can focus on actually running their business. 

Yet, solid lead generation skills and understanding of different marketing channels isn’t enough to get your own agency up and running.

Whether you’re still in the early planning stages or almost ready to open your agency’s doors, this guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to start a lead generation business that succeeds.

What is a lead generation agency?

Before you even think about starting one, you need to know exactly what’s involved. 

A lead generation agency helps other businesses attract prospects and convert them into leads.

This means more than just collecting a big list of names and contact details though. First of all, a lead generation agency has to identify the right people – those who would benefit the most from the business’s solution and, at the same time, would be the most valuable to the business in terms of potential revenue or by otherwise contributing toward the business’s goals.

Many agencies take this a step further and will also engage with the potential customer, verifying that they’re a good lead and nurturing them until they’re ready to be handed over to the client’s sales team.

Agencies typically use outbound prospecting and different forms of outreach to find and engage these potential leads. For instance, an agency might connect with prospects on LinkedIn, then follow up with a direct message, a phone call or an email.

Why should you start a lead generation agency?

For most businesses, having a continuous source of new customers is essential (actually, there are many benefits of starting outbound lead generation now). So an agency that can consistently supply high-quality leads is always going to be in demand. 

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get started. Even as a one-person business, with the right tools and strategies, it’s entirely possible to work with companies and start finding them leads. Then, as your reputation grows, you can build up your agency.

Lead generation can prove to be a highly lucrative business opportunity, especially when you consider the types of clients that typically need such services. Companies that sell high-ticket items or SaaS businesses can gain immensely from high-quality leads, as these often translate into high-value customers with a high lifetime value (LTV).

A lead generation agency can also be a flexible business to run, with team members and clients based around the world — all you need is a laptop and a reliable internet connection. This can significantly reduce overhead costs such as office space, commuting costs, and other associated expenses.

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How to start a lead generation agency

We’ve already seen that there are significant advantages to starting an agency, but where should you begin? If you’re seriously thinking about starting your own lead generation agency, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you going. 

1. Find your business niche

Before you can even think about generating leads for clients, you need to understand who those clients are. While it’s obviously a good idea to pick a market where you have personal experience or expertise, that’s no guarantee it’s the right market for you. Is there a big enough demand for lead generation services in the market or industry you’re interested in? 

Alternatively, is that particular market already saturated with well-established agencies that would make it difficult to get a foothold? Even if you manage to get started, is there enough potential to grow and scale?

There are plenty of ways to find out. Tools like Google Trends can help you understand keyword popularity, while relevant industry reports from reputable sources provide valuable insights into both your potential clients and competitors. 

2. Create a business plan

As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. While a lead generation agency may seem like a straightforward enough business, you’re much more likely to succeed if you have a clear plan in place. 

This doesn’t have to be a complicated 100-page plan with a five-year sales forecast — an overly elaborate business plan can often become an obstacle, a time-sink that stops you from actually getting on with the work. Instead, try to keep it simple. 

At a high level, this could include your mission and values, which can then be used to guide your business decisions and overall direction. On a more practical level, your plan should include clear definitions of your target market and the specific services you intend to offer them. 

Note: One more important thing to do at this stage is to ensure you’re legally compliant. Any business should be registered according to your local laws and regulations, but lead generation agencies in particular need to consider privacy and data protection laws as well. If your practices don’t comply with these regulations, you could end up facing a fine or a lawsuit.

3. Determine your fees and costs

Building on your plan, it’s also important to consider the financial side. As we’ve already mentioned, you might be able to save on office costs with a remote setup, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any expenses. 

For example, you may have to deal with:

  • Setup costs
  • Legal fees
  • Software subscriptions
  • Marketing expenses
  • Operational costs 

These all add up and must be taken into account when setting your pricing. You also need to consider not just what you’ll charge but how you’ll do it. For example, your pricing could be on a per-lead basis, a flat monthly fee, or a percentage of the sales closed from the leads you provide.

4. Build a top-performing team

While it’s entirely possible to start as a solo operator, the fact that you’ve made it this far through the guide tells me you’re probably thinking bigger. To create a fully-fledged agency, you’ll need the support of a team. 

Start by identifying your potential team’s skillset. For example, if your strength is in sales but not the technical setup, you might hire someone to manage those processes. Depending on your budget and proposed range of services, you could hire digital marketers, content writers, and other professionals to strengthen your agency. 

At the same time, hiring too quickly or hiring the wrong staff could cripple your agency before it has a chance. If hiring full-time employees isn’t feasible, consider outsourcing specific tasks to freelancers or other agencies.

Whatever you decide, you can use platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Upwork to find and recruit employees or freelancers.

5. Pick the right tools your agency’s software stack

Before you go any further, make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job. You don’t need a great deal to get started, and you can always add more tools to your agency stack as you expand your services. However, there are a few essential sales enablement tools for agencies you should have in place from the very beginning.

For example, customer relationship management (CRM) software is vital for DashDevs company, or any agency, to keep track of its pipeline. You’ll also need a reliable source of data, sales engagement tool (preferably with team management capabilities), and analytics software. 

With an all-in-one platform like Reply, you’ll be able to manage every aspect of the process from a unified space.

Power up your agency with AI-assisted sales engagement

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Take advantage of Reply’s core capabilities while enjoying additional features and perks.

6. Grow your customer base

It’s taken 5 steps, but you’re finally ready to start attracting customers for your agency!

First of all, take a closer look at your ideal buyer and create an ideal customer profile (ICP). You should’ve already researched your target market in the first step, but having as much information about the people you’re going to target is vital.

Going beyond demographics (Where are they based?) and firmographics (What size is their business?), dive into psychographics. What are their goals and objectives? What are their biggest lead generation challenges? 

This can be challenging, as there’s always a temptation to try and appeal to as many types of clients as you can. Resist that urge and get as specific as possible. Identify your target audience and tailor your services to meet those goals and pain points.

Once you set your audience focus, make use of those lead generation skills to get the matching companies on board. We won’t get into too much detail here as you’re probably in the know on how to find and engage the right leads.

7. Nurture meaningful relationships

The best lead generation agencies realize that they’re not in the data business — they’re in the relationship business. You’re literally connecting people: your clients and their potential leads. The better you are at creating those kinds of connections, the more successful you’ll be. 

Participate in industry events, join online forums, and leverage platforms like LinkedIn to build relationships with potential clients and industry professionals. You should also consider forming strategic partnerships with complementary service providers who can refer clients to you and vice versa.

Remember that any relationship needs to be nurtured. Keep in touch and focus on offering value (rather than just what’s in it for you). So, if you meet a potential client at a networking event, send a follow-up email the next day to grow the relationship. Share something you know they’ll find useful based on your conversation and you’ll soon find that these relationships are your most valuable asset.

8. Set up internal and customer-facing processes

Once you land a few clients, the first thing you need to know is what kind of leads they’re looking for. Having a clearly defined and documented customer onboarding process for your agency is invaluable here. Learn more about your clients’ businesses, their strategic goals, and the kind of results they’re expecting. 

The next step is to build a scalable data prospecting process to collect and validate the necessary information. A common mistake here is to think purely in terms of quantity. Rather than just trying to find as many contacts as possible, focus on generating high-quality leads that are more likely to convert. Use dedicated lead generation software or a CRM system to track your leads, manage follow-ups, and maintain those all-important client relationships.

Next, figure out how to plan and run your outreach for each client. Having a shared knowledge base with best practices and proven playbooks for your agents to tap into when they are creating email templates or setting the campaigns could help you streamline your team’s performance and deliver predictable results to the clients.

Also, make sure you’re on the same page with the clients when it comes to deadlines and deliverables. This is a common agency pitfall that can ruin your business. 

Client Onboarding Checklist & Questionnaire for Agencies

Make your customer onboarding smooth and effective with a ready-to-use checklist (+ questionnaire) based on the hands-on expertise of established agencies.

9. Analyze and optimize your lead generation system

No matter how much time you spend planning out your lead generation strategy for each client, there’s always going to be room for improvement. As those leads start coming in, you need to keep an eye on the client’s results and see if there are any patterns. 

Regularly track and analyze key performance metrics, such as

  • number of leads generated,
  • lead conversion rate, and
  • cost per lead.

Use the insights gained from your analysis to improve your lead generation strategies, enhance your services, and grow your business. For example, if your data shows that you can increase your lead conversion rate by first connecting on LinkedIn, you can add that as a standard step in the client’s future campaigns.

10. Lay the foundation for future growth

Once you’ve created a solid foundation for your agency, you can start looking for ways to scale your business. This growth can be achieved through expanding your services, targeting a wider market, and investing in advanced tools and technologies.

For example, if you started by focusing on SEO as a lead generation tool, you could diversify your services by adding social media lead generation, or content or email marketing. 

Similarly, if you followed our suggestion to go narrow on your niche, you could start to look wider at this stage. Let’s say you begin by helping out local software providers in the healthcare industry. You could potentially expand your market by additionally targeting

  • hardware providers, 
  • national or international businesses, or
  • health insurance providers

As you grow your business, you may need to revisit step five and invest further in your team. Hiring specialists can enhance the quality of your services and free up your time for strategic decision-making. Remember, maintaining service quality during growth is vital for long-term success.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of reasons to start an agency. It’s relatively to get the ball rolling (especially if you’re already skilled in lead generation) and it’s the type of service that will always going to be in demand.

However, for the very same reasons, there’s a lot of potential competition out there. To stand out, you’ll need to think carefully about the lead generation strategies you will utilize. This includes knowing your target market, defining your services, and building long-lasting relationships in your industry.

Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight. However, with consistent effort, continuous learning, and adapting to change, you’ll be able to start a lead generation agency that thrives for years to come.

Looking for ways to grow your agency? Reply can help you become the best-in-class sales service provider and grow your business with AI-powered automation, advanced team management, and in-depth analytics. Start your free trial now or talk to sales.

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