We don’t rely on social media or referrals to market our copywriting agency

Instagram is over. Referrals are drying up. Here's how we approach marketing.

Word on the street is, times are tough in agency land.

The big guys are dealing with restructures, layoffs and resignations.

The little guys are dealing with stretched budgets, delayed payments and increased demands.

For both, attracting, engaging and converting new business has become immensely harder. And while most agencies are hunkering down, and waiting for the economy to pick up, there are some who sense a golden opportunity amongst the chaos.

Including us.

Our competitors? They’ve always relied on referrals and the occasional Instagram reel to get by. And, weirdly, they still are.

So while we still ask for solid referrals at any chance we get, we’re doubling down on our other channels.

Why we ditched the ‘gram for greener pastures

Traditionally, creatives have loved Instagram. And, in days past, I’ve loved it as well. It’s brought three aligned, incredible partners to my door (hello Jessie, Lukas and Taylor!).

But over the past few years, I’ve found the effectiveness of my Instagram page nosediving. I’m not alone here — Creative Boom recently found that a whopping 75.8% of creatives they polled reported that Instagram was “dying” for creatives in terms of reach and engagement. Yikes.

I’m not a Reels girl. You won’t catch me dead dancing around and pointing at invisible words. I struggle to speak eloquently at the best of times. So when Insta switched from an image-sharing platform to a video-sharing platform a la TikTok? It just wasn’t for me.

Full disclosure: we do have an Instagram profile that we use as a secondary portfolio. However, we don’t spend the amount of time that specialists recommend in order to see results from your social strategy. (Six hours per week in case you’re wondering!). But, overall, social is not a part of the Heydays marketing toolkit.

Why betting on referrals wasn’t doing it for us

Four years in, we’ve built a network of studios and agencies who know who we are and love what we do. They refer other agencies and studios our way. It’s a good system.

But it’s not foolproof.

Because regardless of how many times we specifically ask for referrals, or for our brand champions to share our stuff, it’s still a cross-our-fingers-and-pray sorta strategy.

And in 2024, crossing our fingers just ain’t gonna cut it.

What we’re doing instead

When we were choosing the advertising channels for Heydays Creative, we decided to focus our efforts on channels that met three criteria:

  1. They played to our strengths (writing — obviously)

  2. They provided a high return on investment

  3. They reached and spoke directly to our dream clients — not just other copywriters or creatives who would never hire us.

A year ago, a number of smarty-pants on the internet did the sums and calculated the best-performing channels (in terms of ROI). Here are the top-performing channels for marketing your business. Note: Instagram didn’t make the cut.

1. Advertising on Google

Yep, that’s right. Trusty old Google Ads delivers a whopping 800% ROI. That means, for every $1 you invest into Google Ads, you’ll receive $8 in revenue. We’ve been investing in Google Ads for three years now, and it has attracted some of our best clients because they were deliberately searching for a copywriter, and, well, they found us!

Now, there is a big caveat to this figure: the ROI you’ll receive on your campaigns is directly proportional to the quality of the ads that you’re running. And unfortunately, Google Ads can be a complicated beast for the average Joe. My recommendation? If you’re going to give it a go, cough up the cash and enlist the help of an agency to get your campaigns set up and running smoothly.

2. Blogging for engagement and SEO

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the name of the game when it comes to being successful on the internet. If we’ve worked together on a digital project, there’s a very good chance we’ve at least had a cursory chat about optimising your blog and website for the Google overlords.

In a nutshell, SEO is all about ensuring your website is as user-friendly as possible, packed with interesting and valuable contentand set up in a way that makes it easy for a Googlebot to crawl your site and understand what you’re all about. You invest in SEO every time you pay a website developer to build your site or engage a website copywriter (ahem) to develop online content.

SEO is a little trickier to measure ROI because its results are seen over the long term. However, the internet smarty-pants have provided a very useful formula for calculating your ROI from your SEO efforts. Check it out!

3. Sending out a monthly email

Dun-dun-dun! We finally arrive at the big kahuna — the one marketing channel that can deliver you an ROI of (wait for it) 4400%. That’s right. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, the internet experts calculate that you will receive an average return of $44.

That ROI is good news, but the even better news is that your competitors may not be using email marketing at all. That offers small businesses a 💥 huge opportunity 💥to win new business for less money. Email marketing is a breeze to set up, in many cases, it’s free to implement, and it’s offering you a competitive edge.

Why wouldn’t you?

4. Posting on LinkedIn three times/week

In the post I mentioned, LinkedIn didn’t make the cut — but it’s definitely delivered a high ROI in my business. It’s just networking on steroids, without the awkwardness of face-to-face conversation.

I’ve started connecting with everyone who likes, shares or stalks my profile and then reaching out in direct messages. This simple strategy has led to dozens of quality conversations, a number of new partnerships and a couple of really good jobs. So far, so good!

Where to from here?

If you’ve been leaning on Instagram and referrals to drum up business, and you’ve found it to be a useful and worthwhile channel, then I’m happy for you! Please continue on with no hard feelings from us.

But what if you’ve been marketing on social media and it’s taking up a bunch of your time, and not delivering results? It might be time to change your strategy.

If you have some strong feelings (either way!) about marketing on social media, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below! 👇

Ready to get started with a blogging or email marketing strategy to support your outreach efforts? Let’s chat!