Many UX agencies struggle to generate new business to survive, let alone grow consistently.
If you're so good at design that you had to hire people to help you with your workload, chances are marketing and sales are not your specialty. We can only be outstanding at a few things.
Not being well-versed in marketing and sales makes UX agency founders fall prey to some spammy "make money online" gurus that say cold outreach is the best way to generate leads.
This is far from accurate and creates more unwanted noise in the UX industry than needed.
The Problem With Cold Outreach
Here are the three main reasons I do not recommend cold outreach as your primary source of generating UX leads:
- It Hurts Your Brand Reputation
- You Have No Time To Earn Their Trust
- It Reduces Your Negotiating Power
Cold Outreach Hurts Your Brand Reputation
Advertising is, for the most part, unwanted and unliked. In some cases, advertising is thoroughly detested. – Al Ries & Jack Trout (1980)
The reality is, most people hate ads. And they hate cold calling and cold email even more.
Yes, some companies play the numbers game and generate sales by sending hundreds of cold emails to complete strangers every day. But that tactic hurts your reputation because it annoys the hell out of 99% of the people you reach.
Nobody wants your ads to interrupt their YouTube video.
Cold Outreach Gives You No Time To Earn Their Trust
People do business with people they know, like, and trust, in that order. When all you do is cold outreach, you dramatically reduce your chances of earning your client's trust.
When you do get a qualified lead out of cold emailing or calling, it forces you to justify your value in front of your prospect. That's an uphill battle that requires a lot of skills and time to master.
It's very hard to earn someone's trust on a 20-second phone call or a short email, and most prospects won't even give you that much.
Cold Outreach Reduces Your Negotiating Power
When a client doesn't trust you, they see you hiring you as a high-risk decision. To offset that risk, they'll try to negotiate you down on price, change the terms of the engagement in their favor, and micromanage you.
In other words, you start the relationship from a level of disadvantage in terms of negotiating power.
Why Inbound Is A Better Marketing Strategy For UX Agencies
An alternative to cold emailing and pitching strangers online, and what I recommend for generating SMEs UX leads (small and medium enterprise) is Inbound Marketing.
Inbound Marketing is a strategy to build an online reputation around providing upfront value for your ideal customer.
This is not a new idea but is powerful.
Creating content that's useful for your audience accomplishes three main things:
- It Exposes Them To Your Brand
- It Helps You Earn Their Trust
- It Triggers The Law Of Reciprocity
It Exposes Them To Your Brand
People expect free information. And it's okay to give it freely as long as it's tied to your agency's core values and it helps your audience.
When you share freely, you create opportunities for your audience to get to know you.
Make sure you have a clearly defined target and that your tailor your message. Then share your knowledge around that topic. Eventually, your potential prospect will associate your brand with the type of expertise they need.
It Helps You Earn Their Trust
Sharing value builds your authority in a particular niche.
Sharing what you know demonstrates you have a deep understanding of the most common UX problems companies face in your niche and makes them trust you.
Like we mentioned before, trust makes for far smoother sales processes. Your clients will be open o pay higher fees because they know you can get the job done.
As an additional side effect, sharing what you know creates a phenomenon called Parasocial interaction in which your audience will start feeling like they actually know you even if you've never exchanged a single word.
It Triggers The Law Of Reciprocity
The Law of Reciprocity is one of the most powerful of all determinants of human behavior. This is because nobody likes to feel that he or she is obligated to someone else.
When someone does something nice for us, we want to repay that person, to reciprocate. We want to be even. Because of this, we seek an opportunity to do something nice in return.
This law is the basis of the law of contract, as well as the glue that holds most human relationships together. – Brian Tracy
After a long string of unidirectional value exchange, your audience will be more receptive when you sell your UX services to them (what Gary Vaynerchuk calls a right hook).
They'll lower their guard and make for a more straightforward sales conversation.
I'm not saying you should avoid outbound at all costs. But it would be best if you didn't rely on it as your primary source of business because it makes it more difficult for your agency to close sales.
Instead, try building an inbound strategy in your main channels. You'll have more control over the quality of leads you get, and your sales process will become smoother.