In today’s digital marketing landscape, the biggest challenge many agencies face is generating a strong pipeline of quality leads. According to B2B Marketing Technology Community, nearly 50% of B2B marketers’ lead generation budgets will increase this year, compared to 44% that will remain the same and 7% that will decrease. So how should marketers be allocating their lead generation budgets in the most effective way?

Here are 14 ways SEO and digital agencies can best utilize their budgets to generate more leads:

Content Marketing

According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less. However, many SEO and digital marketing agencies are still figuring out how their content marketing strategy can extend beyond campaigns and more successfully close sales. To be truly successful at using content marketing for lead generation, brands today need to act more like publishers rather than advertisers. A new era of branded storytelling is rapidly replacing traditional advertising and sales-led marketing, which poses both new challenges and new opportunities for agencies. 

The key to successful content marketing (beyond obviously creating stellar content) is creating content for all stages of the sales funnel. This approach allows your agency to deliver useful information and resources to impact buying decisions whether a customer is just discovering you, starting to follow and trust you, or comparing you to competitors in the final stage of their purchasing decision.

Here’s a great visual for mapping your content strategy to the conversion funnel to better generate qualified leads:

map content to sales funnel

However, your content marketing strategy must also include content promotion – your content is only good if your audience sees it! Social media is essential to amplifying your content, and well as other tactics like genuinely participating in online forums like or Quora. For agencies with bigger budgets, consider content promotion platforms such as Outbrain to assist in syndicating your content.

Free Downloadable Resources

In addition to blogging, offering your potential customers free downloadable resources as part of your agency’s content marketing strategy is a successful tactic for building your credibility and earning the trust of your buyers – that will ultimately generate leads. When potential customers view you as their go-to for knowledge and resources, you’ll build a loyal following and ensure multiple touch points for lead nurturing. Plus, if you optimize your free downloads for social media by using tools like Pay with a Tweet or adding share buttons to your thank you pages or follow up emails, you can generate low-effort social buzz.

Understanding what your audience needs and wants is the key to getting them to download your content and return later for new resources. Be strategic about what you create, make it visual, enticing, and useful, and be sure to promote your free download via all online channels.


Networking seems like a no brainer, but is an essential part of generating buzz about your agency. Pitching your elevator speech to like-minded individuals at conferences and seminars can be a great way to spread the word about your brand and make connections. Sending your team to these events a few times a year with a business card and a smile can be a great investment, but networking today extends beyond in-person events, too. LinkedIn, the social media world’s exclusively professional network, is an excellent place to market your agency. According to Reachforce, 44% of B2B marketers have generated leads via LinkedIn, whereas only 39% have generated leads through Facebook and just 30% through Twitter.

What’s the best way to leverage LinkedIn for generating leads? Research relevant LinkedIn groups and start contributing to gradually get your brand in front of prospects. Search for potential customers by industry and job function, send them a connection request, and direct mail them with a well-written pitch. And, make sure your company page is well put together and that you’re sharing content and knowledge to build your credibility.

Gated Content

Gating robust resources that provide value to your audience behind a form is a great strategy for collecting leads. If done right, an intelligent ebook or whitepaper can make a huge impact, making it worth the time and cost to create it. However, knowing when to gate and when not to gate is a balancing act. Having a healthy mix of free downloadable resources (as we mentioned before) and gated content is the recipe for success.

Here are some ways to ensure your gated content works:

  • Create really good, valuable content that’s worth giving out personal information for
  • Ask for as little of information as possible – keep your forms short and only ask for truly necessary contact details
  • Don’t gate everything – provide free resources as well
  • Be clear about what your customers are getting, and what they’re signing up for – if you’re going to use their contact information in other ways, be up front about it

Here’s an example of how Hubspot is using gated content:

Gated Content

Email Marketing

According to BtoB Magazine, 49% of B2B marketers spend more time and resources on email than on other channels, and 59% of marketers perceive email to be the most effective channel in generating revenue. With a strong strategy in place, email marketing is the tried and true channel for not only generating and nurturing new leads, but also retaining customers.

Successful email marketing has many variables. For starters, you must understand your different audiences, and how to segment your lists and craft compelling copy. Not sure where to start? Check out Mailchimp’s Email Marketing Field Guide.

Business Partnerships

Business partnerships or affiliate programs allow similar companies to refer customers to one another or offer a reward in exchange for a lead. While affiliate programs are often associated with products, business partnerships make sense for many digital agencies – partner with companies with services that compliment your agency’s but which you don’t offer, and potentially even offer a special discount to further entice potential customers referred through a partnership.

Optimized Web Forms

Every digital agency should be using web forms to generate leads, but best practices definitely apply – and your best leads are likely not coming from your contact page. According to Formstack’s 2015 form conversion report, here are three important ways to make sure your forms are optimized:

  • Length matters – more often than not, name and email fields are enough to ask for. When they’re not, build a “smart” form that automatically shows or hides questions based on how users respond.
  • Consider your mobile users – more than 50% of Internet access occurs on mobile devices, where tiny touchpad keyboards can increase how long it takes to type long answers.
  • Change it up – try placing different types of forms in different areas of your website, and create new one altogether for special campaigns (contests and events are among the highest-converting forms).

A/B Testing

A/B testing can be intimidating to non-technical marketers or those unfamiliar with it, but it’s actually rather easy to master – and it can make a huge impact on your website’s ability to generate leads. Optimizely, a common A/B testing tool, can help you test multiple elements of your website while also providing insight into the behavior of your site’s visitors.

Here are just a few potential tests that can have a great impact on your lead generation:

  • Calls to action – test varying phrases such as contact us, learn more, or get info to see what best resonates with your audience
  • Copy – write different headline tests to learn what style and tone work best – creative? professional? casual?
  • Forms – test out the length of your forms, and what information you request

Free Audits

Providing potential clients with highly valuable free audits and proactive recommendations is a surefire way to instantly prove your value. Digital agencies can generate qualified leads by embedding an SEO audit tool on their website, which instantly generates visual, white-labeled reports for potential customers, pinpointing specific actions your agency can help them with. Cater your follow up pitch with solutions and ideas specific to their website and company, and you’re at an instant advantage over competitors.

Other companies utilize their strategists to conduct manual audits and provide customized recommendations via email or a sales call. This approach can work too, though is more labor intensive.

seo audit report

Online PR

Increasingly, the worlds of SEO, digital marketing, and public relations are overlapping, and marketers must adapt to these trends. While all PR is geared towards ensuring a brand’s reputation and gaining visibility among target audiences, traditional PR has focused on press releases, print media, and events and press conferences, where online PR focuses on branded content, influencer marketing, and SEO.

Despite the differences, both forms of modern PR are here to stay. However, many agencies are reaping the benefits of digital PR solely because it’s impact is more measureable. What’s more, online PR is evolving, and basically void of rules – so the possibilities for creatively spreading your message and interacting with your audiences are endless.

Highlight Your Team

People want to buy from people. In today’s digital marketing landscape, just being another marketing brand with a website and a logo will get you nowhere with potential customers. Connect with your audience by highlighting your team in fun and engaging ways – add photos and bios of your employees to your company about page, and include their personal interests and/or social media profiles. Create a company video that puts your account managers front and center and displays their expertise and personalities. These fun content projects will show your potential customers who they’ll be working with if they choose you, and can be the piece that ultimately wins them over.


Conferences aren’t just for large agencies or big industry players – smaller agencies that make an effort to present at and participate in important industry events not only create opportunities for lead generation, but also present themselves as experts and authorities in the SEO and digital marketing worlds. Potential clients will be impressed to see your agency’s name on speakers’ lists when searching for vendors or partners, and you may have the opportunity to meet potential clients who frequent conferences in person.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a strategy that must be done right in order to be beneficial to your agency. Matt Cutts warns against guest blogging strictly for SEO purposes, or for trading links in a spammy way. However, guest blogging that’s not geared towards follow links alone and that adhere’s to Google’s quality guidelines can actually be very beneficial for increasing brand awareness and leading potential clients to your website in a natural way. But, in order to do guest blogging right, keep these points in mind:

  • Vet guest blogging sites thoroughly. Be careful about where you associate your brand, and only guest post on relevant industry-related sites that you’d be willing to personally advocate for.
  • Post authentic content. Don’t attempt to create guest blogs that are basically advertisements for your brand and post them to different guest blogs all over the internet – this is exactly what Matt Cutt’s warns against. Instead, create true thought leadership pieces that are useful and engaging to your industry.
  • Measure your results. Use advanced segments in Google analytics to learn if and how your guest blogging is impacting your lead generation.

Referral Program 

Some of your best business is likely to come from having a solid referral strategy in place. The first step to any successful referral program is to build your reputation – make sure you’re aware of how your current customers perceive you and that you’re providing them with excellent customer service. You want to be known for taking care of your clients, generating results, and being personable and fun to work with. Once you have a good reputation in place and referral deals start rolling in, you’ll quickly see the benefits of a referral program: high close rates, low cost of acquisition, and great long term business.

Referral programs are great for smaller agencies and larger agencies alike. Those just starting out in the digital marketing field will likely rely on referrals for their main source of revenue more than larger agencies, but referral programs remain a good investment no matter the size of your agency.

How do you start a referral program, you ask? Here are 10 strategies to get your agency referral program started.

Read more: Billion Dollar Buyer: Smart LED Concepts Earns $105,000 Offer from Tilman Fertitta