3 Prospecting Strategies for Rebuilding Your Portfolio During COVID-19


With many businesses reducing ad spend or pausing accounts after the initial impact of COVID-19, many digital marketing agencies have found themselves with losing both spend under management and clients. If your agency is one of the many that has lost clients, you need to start prospecting for new accounts to rebuild your portfolio.

person holding folders

Right now, that’s easier said than done.  That’s why we’ve identified three key prospecting strategies for agencies rebuilding their portfolios during the pandemic:

  1. Focus on industries experiences increased volume
  2. Target specific locations
  3. Time your outreach with reopening or rebounding performance

Here’s why these strategies work, plus how to get started.

1. Focus on industries experiencing increased volume

It’s clear that the pandemic has affected different industries to different extents. Travel and tourism, restaurants, and hospitality are verticals that have been especially hard hit and face a long road to recovery. Other verticals have been able to remain at least partially open and adapt their services to restrictions, while still others have remained steady or even experienced an uptick in demand.

For a detailed breakdown of how various types of businesses have fared over the last couple of months, start with our blog posts on Google Ads impact and benchmarks by industry:

Focusing on the industries with increased volume and performance during COVID-19 will help you put your resources into getting new businesses that need online advertising services the most right now. Here are a few we’ve identified:

  • Non-profits and charities
  • Health and medical
  • Business management
  • Finance
  • Beauty and personal care
  • On-demand media
  • Greetings, gifts, and flowers

Staying up-to-date with the latest news as countries and states begin to reopen can also help to narrow down which industries to target. This interactive map from The New York Times shows which states are reopening and which are still shut down, as well as state-by-state details on which types of businesses are open or restricted.

Let’s take the beauty and personal care industry as an example. This industry showed up on our list of industries with increased performance on Google Ads during the initial weeks of COVID-19. Scanning the details of states who are allowing certain businesses to reopen, those in the personal care category are among the first to have restrictions lifted. This indicates an opportunity for beauty and personal care businesses to have success with online advertising, and they provide some clear benefits as clients for you as an agency:

  • Demand: These businesses are among the first businesses to have restrictions lifted in many states, and people are excited to return to the sense of normalcy that personal care services provide.
  • Omnipresent: This business type is found everywhere, and nearly everyone interacts with them in some capacity.
  • Repeatable: Advertising strategies for this type of business should translate well across geos, meaning you can develop verticalized expertise as an agency and employ the strategies that worked for one client for others in non-competing locations.

While it may not be a vertical that your agency usually specializes in, these unprecedented times call for adaptability. So leverage WordStream’s industry data and your online advertising expertise and put together a comprehensive, winning proposal that is customized to any prospect’s vertical.

2. Target specific locations

COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, but various countries and regions have differed in their responses and, especially, in their plans to reopen. This means that two businesses in the same industry but located in two different states, for example, may find themselves in very different positions in the coming weeks and months. While you’re prospecting now, try targeting specific locations with higher demands.

Google Trends is a fantastic (and free!) tool that provides insight into exactly how various search terms are trending in different geographic areas.

Sticking with our beauty and personal care example that we identified as an industry with potential in the previous section, let’s analyze a high intent search term that is indicative of opportunity for those businesses.

Searches for “salon near me” show only a modest increase in recent volume across the United States:

"salon near me" in US

However, digging down to the state level reveals a much stronger rebound in certain states. In Colorado, for example, where personal care services were allowed to reopen within the past couple of weeks, search volume for the same “salon near me” query has spiked to nearly the highest level of any point in the past year:

"salon near me" in Colorado

As an agency, this information can not only help you identify prospects to reach out to, but it can also help you make a compelling case to any beauty and personal care business in states that show a similar trend that a huge amount of demand exists for their services at the moment.

3. Time your outreach with reopening or rebounding performance

As you approach prospects to present the online advertising opportunities you see for them, the timing of any reopening measures in their region is one important factor to consider. You can also take a longer-term approach to this and incorporate seasonality into your pitch. Recent months have made it difficult to think of anything other than the here and now, but looking a bit farther down the road can help you demonstrate lasting value to your prospects.

Let’s shift our example for this section to the more seasonal business of landscaping.

Home improvement was a sector that showed mixed results early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, but it was also at a natural seasonal low in March. As landscaping services have come into season, and people have been stuck at home with time to focus on household projects, Google Trends shows the same peak in search volume for these services that occurred at the same time last year.

"landscaping services" search trend

This type of business checks the same boxes as beauty and personal care businesses: There’s demand, it’s omnipresent, and your strategies would be repeatable. Furthermore, seasonal services like leaf removal will spike later in the year, when the economy will have hopefully recovered to a greater degree.

"leaf removal services" search trend

Rather than pitching prospects solely on urgent actions that need to be taken right away in their accounts, you can line up longer-term value by presenting a seasonal plan and use downtimes to get campaigns set up so that they’re ready to go as soon as their high season hits.

Follow up with your proposal

This isn’t a strategy, but it is something we need to talk about when we’re talking about prospecting. After all, your proposal is one of your best tools to sign your client. The best proposals always include a detailed analysis of your prospect’s advertising accounts with clear information about how your agency can help improve this performance.

Now, it’s important to also make sure to address current industry trends, like we talked through above.

For WordStream customers, the New Business Center will help you create a customized proposal (which can be white-labeled) in minutes. Our tool provides projections for three budget tiers (which can be edited) with impression, click, and cost-per-click estimates for each. Using our industry benchmarks for conversion rate allows the tool to generate conversion estimates, as well. And metrics for the proposal are pulled in real-time, so they reflect the current climate and any changes to paid search benchmarks that have occurred as a result of COVID-19, seasonality, or any other factors.

WordStream's New Business Center

So whether you’re using the New Business Center or creating your own, you should use your proposals as a sales tool and make sure that it’s up-to-date during COVID-19.

Use these prospecting strategies now

By taking a targeted approach to industries and businesses that are stable or experiencing increased volume, keeping up-to-date on changes to trends, and producing a high volume of high-quality proposals, you can keep your agency’s pipeline fresh and establish a client base that will help you emerge from this struggle even stronger than before.



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