When a small business decides to invest in their marketing channel, they’re likely looking for an agency that understands their limitations but can maximize their efforts while keeping within a small business budget. Small businesses run a tight ship and need to focus solely on the tasks that will move the revenue needle, which means they’ll rely on the agency to become an extension of their business and a partner in growth. If you’re looking for ways your marketing agency can appeal to these smaller businesses, below are five ways to get you started.

1. Initial Discussions

When you begin your initial discussions with a potential client, have a frank conversation about budget. Find out what they’re willing to spend each month before you develop their proposal. Be up-front about your line item and hourly costs, and be sure you’re not committing to projects that would be a great price for the small business but not worth your agency’s time. It’s best to openly discuss the types of services that you can deliver that work within their needs. If you’re uncomfortable with initiating a frank budget conversation, there are smart ways to get around this. One of the tactics I’ve used at my own marketing agency is to send a client survey using TypeForm, which asks within the survey what their ideal budget would be. This helps kick-off the conversation.

2. Proposal Development

When creating marketing proposals, offer packages in different pricing increments that the company can choose from, so your new client can choose the level of involvement and investment that works best for them. And be sure to show them what they can accomplish within each pricing level — both deliverables and goals for each price. Within the proposal, consider creating “add-on” services and options to help tailor the budget to their needs even further. For example, allow customers to add on the option for your agency to also manage their email campaigns or social media accounts, even if all they’re looking for is help with creating content.

When creating the proposal, include metrics of any kind that you can attribute to your services. Every business is held to specific key performance indicators (KPIs), but small businesses specifically, need to show how their investment is impacting their business. They will want to see the return on their investment. For example, maybe the lowest budget option in the proposal has initiatives that fit within their budget but won’t deliver the KPIs they want to deliver. To reach their KPIs, they may need to look into the next level options. This option may be more of an investment, but it will help reach their goals, which may be more important (if they have extra budget to spare). It’s better to be upfront about what you can guarantee they’re going to achieve at what level not to waste their time and budget.

3. Project Timing & Structure

As an agency working with a client that has a small budget, you have a maximum amount of time to dedicate to this client, based on their budget and your hourly rate. Establishing their goals and objectives, and sticking to their asks, will help you maximize their budget and not stray away from deliverables and promised hours. If you keep to a very tight plan and structure, you won’t waste time and money trying to get back on track. A great way to do this is to create a six-month or one-year plan that tracks everything you’ll deliver each month. This keeps both you, and the client, on track.

4. Agency Talent

Consider bringing on entry-level contractors or freelancers at a lower hourly rate who can work within small business budgets. With more administrative tasks, have a junior level account executive execute with management’s oversight. Entry and junior level account service talent tends to have a lower hourly rate than upper management. However, be sure to make a point that just because the small business client has a smaller budget, doesn’t mean their work is less important.

5. Agency Tools

Traditionally, your agency may need to add extra costs to your execution prices for software you need to deliver materials. This might be social media management software or a content production platform. Offering these tools to your clients free-of-cost is a benefit for them to sign-up as a client with your agency. But, there are also a number of free tools on the web that allows you to maximize a small business’s budget further. A few of my favorites:

  • Pexels: Stock photography can be pretty costly. This tool is free to use and has over 30,000 free stock photos, with the goal of adding at least 3,000 newly-licensed photos each month. These photos are beautiful and can be used for blog images or other content pieces.
  • Guest Post Tracker: Guest blogging is a great way to build a brand’s presence and build links to a website. Pitching repurposed materials to different outlets is an excellent way to stretch your client’s content marketing budget. However, a costly aspect to guest blogging is trying to track when the post is live, where you’ve pitched or which outlet is interested in your materials. This tool is free and allows you to track material you’ve submitted.
  • AHREFS: If your client is looking to ramp up their SEO, this is a low-cost tool that can help shape their strategy. It helps you learn more about your competitor’s SEO rankings and how you can outrank them.
  • GatherContent: This is a great, inexpensive tool for content production — from getting organized and setting a structure, to executing the content with freelancers and an editor. GatherContent is also a great tool to help with website redesigns, new builds or new landing pages.

For small business owners, their business is their lifeline and livelihood instead of a steady corporate paycheck. When it comes to making any investment, business owners are looking for someone to dive in and share the same passion they have for their business. Just being conscious of this, as well as employing the strategies listed above, will help your agency gain stronger appeal to small business owners as agency clients.



Jeanna Barrett is the Founder & Chief Strategist of First Page, an award-winning online marketer and an expat entrepreneur. Through content, social media and SEO, Jeanna uses the power of words and data to drive growth in brand awareness, organic traffic, leads, revenue and customer loyalty. She has a combined 12 years of inbound marketing experience at venture-backed startups, digital agencies and Fortune 500 companies, with an expertise focus on small business and technology. She’s been named ‘Top 40 Under 40’ of brand marketers and ‘Best in the West’ for financial technology marketing. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize.