The Secret to Agency Growth: How to Leverage LIGHTHOUSES for Client Acquisition (Even if You Don’t Have Big Clients Yet)

Agency owners ask me every day how to generate clients.

In this Scaleblazer session, I sat down with Domenica Martinello and discussed spammy sales tactics and how you can differentiate yourself.

Someone messaged me yesterday and said “you have to send at least a thousand emails per day to get results.”

My question to them was:

“Who the heck are you anyway? What are you doing?”

Most come off like relentless salespeople– bloodthirsty mosquitos that are “just following up” to get a 15 minute slot on my calendar.

Unfortunately, this outreach method isn’t limited to cold emails.

Here’s an example of a pitch on Twitter (I get 5 – 10 of them per day)

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Poor DM Pitch Example

Does this seem personalized to you?

The agency owner messaging me doesn’t know who I am or what I do.

Yet, they expect me to give up my valuable time to schedule a meeting?

Here’s another example:

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2nd Poor Cold DM Example

If the agency owner really loves my content, why not take the 5 seconds to find out where I live?

The problem with these messages are the same:

They lack value.

Think about it this way: the more valuable the client, the less time they have to entertain generic outreach attempts.

They’re looking for quality, not quantity.

And let’s face it, the best clients are the ones who are willing to invest in meaningful relationships – the ones who see the value in what you offer and are willing to pay for it.

So, what’s the secret sauce to capturing their attention? It’s simple: add value. Instead of bombarding them with messages like, “Just following up,” have proof that you’re good at what you claim to do.

The best way to do that is by demonstrating expertise with a LIGHTHOUSE.

A LIGHTHOUSE is a client well known in the industry that you’ve had success with. This is an example of a client who you can reference to others for successful implementation of your services.

A recent example of a LIGHTHOUSE client is my friend Roger Wakefield.

Roger is a plumber with a combined following of almost 1 million, with 500,000 active subscribers on YouTube alone.

And because Roger Wakefield is a friend, because we’ve done SEO for Roger Wakefield, then anyone else who’s a plumber understands that our agency has experience with plumbers and their goals.

The next question you’re probably asking is “What if I don’t have a Roger Wakefield?’

You Have to Build Perceived Authority

To do that, you partner with someone else who has driven the kinds of results you want.

So if you don’t have a Roger Wakefield, partner with somebody who does and do whatever’s necessary to get experience working together.

You can tell them:

“Hey, I want to work for you. I’m willing to work for cheap. The reason is because I’m trying to get my experience because eventually I’m going to break off and do my own agency.”

Most business owners are fine with that so long as you’re clear on communication.

Then you do a great job for them, publish it, and get permission to share their results.

So when someone goes “Hey I know Roger and if Dennis is doing good work for him, I can trust him too.”

This comes in direct contrast to cold outreach. 

We’re not selling or asking for testimonials – we’re demonstrating our expertise while elevating others.

Which ironically, is the most efficient way to get clients instead of pitching strangers.

There are a myriad of tools to assist with this, including on Vendasta to provide the best possible experience for the types of clients you want to work with.

Don’t Lie to Get a Client – It Always Backfires

Back when we ran ads for Nike and the Golden State Warriors, some of the kids we worked with thought to themselves “Oh this is easy! I’m just going to start my own agency.”

So they put in big letters on their website that they ran ads for Nike.

Then, when asked for who at Nike they worked with, they go quiet.

As tempting as it is to get a client by any means possible – understand that clients talk and reputation is everything.

It’s certainly not worth lying over.

In conclusion:

  • Find your own LIGHTHOUSE in a unique vertical (plumbing, landscaping, HVAC, etc.).
  • Deliver them outstanding results while documenting the process.
  • Get their permission and elevate their success online.
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.