agency, B2B Marketing, PPC Agency, Lead Generation

10 Ways Digital Agencies Build Their Email Lists

Most digital agencies devise creative strategies for their B2B clients to capture website leads. Yet if you look at the primary customer acquisition channels for agencies, you'll see that most of them rely on just three things: networking, referrals, and the good ol' "Contact Us" form.

While it's true that most of the new agency business still comes from offline activities, no digital strategy is a very bad strategy as you scale your agency business.


Source: WebDesignerDepot. Growing an agency business will require a scalable customer acquisition strategy.


So how should an agency start scaling their customer acquisition online? I looked at the websites of top digital agencies to gather some competitive intel on how they build their email lists. What I’ve found is that these agencies use most of the tactics of their B2B clients:

  • Partnership with an industry publication
  • Offline-to-online email capture through events
  • Network partnerships
  • Blog and newsletter sign-ups
  • Proprietary data reports

This article will share examples of how top agencies including Catalyst, Forward 3D, iProspect, Merkle, Performics, Acronym, and SapientRazorfish capture email leads on their websites. I’ll also suggest a few more ways for agencies to grow their business online.

1. Catalyst: Partner Up with an Industry Publication

Catalyst, a digital agency focused on search, captures contact information through gated white papers. Catalyst partnered up with ClickZ to cover Amazon advertising -- the hottest topic for e-commerce marketers this year. The white paper shares tips on optimizing Amazon strategy and seizing the voice search opportunity.


whitepaper download Source: Catalyst


Best Practices

Why write a white paper if you can have the experts do it for you? Media giants and industry publications from the New York Times and HBR to ClickZ and MarketingProfs monetize their audiences through branded content -- whether it’s a webinar, white paper, or sponsored article.

branded content

2. Forward 3D: Offline-to-Online Email Capture via Events

Forward3D captures new leads by hosting private roundtables for current clients and their wider network locally -- and promoting them online. The event promotion features previous attendees from Fortune 50s. While offline activities are not necessarily "scalable," Forward 3D makes it work by keeping the format (and online invite forms) standard across all of their locations globally. Whether your website visitor is from London or San Francisco, you can customize which events to show based on the incoming IP address.


online events for lead generation Source: Forward 3D

 Best Practices

Take it offline for an immersive experience that will drive high-quality engaged leads. To boost attendance, experiment with different event formats and bring in industry thought leaders as speakers. Plan out your post-event strategy (such as a closed online community or bonus content for attendees) to maximize the return on investment.

3. iProspect: Engage Your Network Partners

To capture more whitepaper downloads (and email form-fills), iProspect partnered up with Pinterest to share the insights the agency learned by marketing on the visual search platform. Most agencies that work closely with advertising networks run co-marketing initiatives to build thought leadership and generate new leads.


gated white paper with network partners Source: iProspect


Best Practices

Agencies that have close partnerships with Google, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other ad networks have the opportunity to tap into the partner’s data and resources and collaborate on initiatives to drive awareness and revenue for both parties.

4. Merkle: Put Your Proprietary Data to Work

Each quarter, Merkle runs its Digital Marketing Report with key metrics across a variety of digital channels, including SEO, paid search, traditional display advertising, and paid social. (We do that at AdStage, too -- check out our latest Q4 PPC Benchmark Report).


Merkle quarterly data report Source: Merkle


Best Practices

Digital agencies often store troves of data that could be aggregated, anonymized, and distilled into meaningful insights. The best reports are timely, have comparative data to benchmark trends, and are structured for easy scanning and quick access to the most important data.

5. Performics: Showcase Third-Party Endorsements

Performics gates the latest Forrester report which features the agency's leading position in the Search Marketing Agencies Wave for Q4’2017. Third-party buyer’s guides and reports build authority and trust -- and help capture the information of those who are actively researching and ready to buy.


forrester download page Source: Performics


Best Practices

Granted, to capture email leads from such reports, you need to first get on the “Wave,” which is Forrester’s evaluation of vendors in a software, hardware, or services market. According to Forrester’s VP, the analyst is “an objective voice in the marketplace,” and “not influenced by client relationships or solicitations.” The criteria for evaluation vary from “Wave” to “Wave.” Melinda Byerley of TimeShareCMO says “it all depends on how much revenue your company makes and how well you can leverage the personal influence/leverage/credibility you have with the analyst.”

Forrester is not the only resource for such purposes (albeit one of the most influential). G2Crowd, self-reported “Yelp for business software” asks real customers to rank software in exchange for a gift card and captures emails of prospects who opt in to learn more about your company.

Check out AdStage’s reviews on G2Crowd.

6. Acronym: Sign Up for Blog Updates

Acronym, a digital agency with a bold claim of “pioneering the science of search since before Google was a word,” captures email leads from its website through its blog. Titled “Insights & News,” the blog relies on internal experts who publish articles or “checklists.” For example, the most recent one features Acronym’s head of analytics who shares trends and strategies for 2018.


sign up for newsletter page Source: Acronym


Best Practices

Blogs are generally seen as a top-of-the-funnel marketing tactic with the goal to drive a conversation, not leads. Yet a study of 2,300 HubSpot customers revealed that businesses that blog witness their monthly leads rise by 126% more than those who don't.


business that blog generate more leads Source: HubSpot


7. SapientRazorfish: Gated Articles

SapientRazorfish actually gates every single article on their blog. The digital agency owned by Publicis Groupe requires users to leave their contact information if they want to read beyond the first paragraph of their blog articles. Once you leave your email, you can download articles in a PDF format.


Download as pdf Source: SapientRazofish


form fill email capture sapient razorfish

Best Practices

There’s a book to be written on the topic of “to gate or not to gate” your B2B content. Sirius Decisions wrote (and gated) a whole white paper about it. Giving away content for free could mean passing up expensive lead data. It could also mean you’ll generate less inbound links and social shares that build domain authority -- and your brand awareness, too. Content strategists recommend a mix of free and gated content for the best ROI.

More Ways to Generate Email Leads for Agencies

8. Customize Opt-in Messages Based on Visitor Behavior

Use personalized pop-up widgets (such as BrightInfo, Nosto, Optimonk, Personyze, and tons of others) to segment your audiences by location, time on page, or specific site pages they visited.

9. Use Email Sign-Up CTA on Social Media

Customize your Facebook business page to include a “sign up for our newsletter” button to capture social media leads.

10. Add a Sign-Up Link to Your Email Signature

Offer your email contacts to sign up for your email list by adding a CTA to your signature.

Keep It Short

Don’t ask too much information. In many cases, email is enough, and you can always ask more questions, or “progressively profile” your users later.


As you scale online customer acquisition for your agency, here’re 10 tried-and-true tactics from top agencies for you to copy:

  • Partner up with industry publication that shares the same target segment
  • Organize private events and round tables. Promote them online to capture contact information
  • Leverage network partnerships and collaborate on mutually beneficial content initiatives
  • Blog well and often to entice website visitors to opt in for weekly/monthly updates
  • Share first-party aggregated and anonymized data
  • Consider context and segment your website users if you choose to add pop-ups
  • Collect emails from your social media pages
  • Add a sign-up CTA to your email signature

How are you building your agency’s email list? Let me know in the comments.

Anya Pratskevich

Anya manages content marketing at AdStage. With half a decade of experience in digital marketing, she has marketed award-winning mobile apps and created content for advertising technology companies globally.