How groupthink just killed your agency new business goals

Two minds are better than one.  At least that’s how the old saying goes.  But what happens when those two minds (or three or four) get caught up in a groupthink cluster?  While the idea of working together to gain consensus around important growth driving topics (like new business positioning) might sound like a great idea, it’s important to steer clear of the potential dead end road groupthink can take you.

So why is consensus so dangerous, especially for agency new business?

Similar past, similar future

Many times agency executive groups that are setting out to develop unique positioning come from places of similar past experiences.  Most of our agency VPs and C Level execs started somewhere outside of new business.  Perhaps they started within Account Management or creative, and as such, they have very little experience within the new business world.  This then shapes our opinion of how new business is done, how it should be done, and what works and doesn’t work.  Often, they have faced new business failure in the past when they tried something new, and because we all are hesitant of repeating a mistake, we agree to steer away from that “new” again.

The problem with steering away from the “new” is that an agency can wind up repeating their mistakes again and again, because they never truly change.  True change comes from a holistic look at how you approach new business, not just purchasing one piece of new technology or a new website design.  While those pieces are important and can affect some of our experience and results, they won’t fully change your new business for the better.

Let’s look at a real life example:  ABC Agency’s executives have decided that their positioning is great… “we solve problems that can’t be solved”.  Because they all have the same experiences in the agency world, nobody stops to ask questions like:

  • Is this really interesting for new business?
  • Is this positioning true of what we have done in the past and want to go in the future?
  • Does this even make sense!?

So if your agency new business positioning discussion seems to be running uncomfortably smoothly with nobody challenging one another, think about applying some of these ideas:

  • Invite someone outside of your exec team to the positioning meeting. Maybe even invite someone from outside the agency to get an outsider’s feelings on your positioning.
  • If you’re the leader of the meeting, listen to other people’s ideas before expressing any of your own opinions. Leadership opinion can sway opposition opinion and accelerate groupthink.
  • Challenge any assumption that has 100% approval. You may find it is a solid assumption, but challenging it can also be a great way to identify a blind spot.

Those few steps can help ensure that your new business efforts won’t get self-sabotaged with groupthink consensus.  Having that outside perspective and the openness to challenge assumptions can ensure that your agency stands out among your competition.

Agency race

New business is a race: Don’t stop for a water break in the summer

Think of the calendar year and new business as a race.  January 1st is the starting line and you line up with 100 competitors.  Everyone is intent on proactively finding new business this year and tracking down their top prospects.  When the gun sounds and the race begins in January, we see tons of initial email and social media activity through February.  Then something happens:  Everyone slows down.  That Q1 sprint hits people hard and they begin to realize that this is actually a marathon, not a sprint.  Many come out of the gate too fast and burn themselves out and we see agency after agency begin to put their new business efforts aside.

Meanwhile, the strong (smart) agencies are still out here fighting after Q1 and tracking those prospects in Q2.  They have great content being distributed and a consistent stream of emails, calls, and social posts that will make up the base of their communications for prospecting throughout the year.   Around the end of Q2, we typically see 50% of the original 100 competitors have dropped from the race completely.  There are a myriad of reasons for why this happens, but the good news for you as a smart agency still running the race is that your competition is basically cut in half!

So your field of competition has been thinned out to just the strongest racers.  This means that the summer months and Q3 is more important than ever to not stumble and to actually ramp up your efforts.  Why ramp up our efforts?

Because your competition is at the water station taking a break.

Seriously!  Send an email to your friends in the agency world.  How many out of office vacation reminders do you get?  Our agency newsletter during the summer months sees a near 200% increase in vacation responders.  These are all agency new business people that are out enjoying their summer.   I envy them on the beach, but while they are there, my agencies are doubling their efforts to fill the void that prospects are feeling.

So what’s so wrong with taking a quick water break?  Momentum, consistency, and starting over.    It is really damn difficult to pick back up your content efforts at full speed when you’ve been at a stop.  Not to mention, every moment you aren’t talking to a prospect, I can guarantee that someone else is.  I choose to be the agency that is talking to them.

Of course, my agencies take vacations too.  Here is what we do to combat a lull during vacation, and avoid taking that water break:

  1. We build content in 2-3 month chunks. This means that we are always working ahead in order to have as much content planned, created, and scheduled as possible.  In order to better plan content like this in advance, you better have your audiences clearly defined and broken out, so that you can tailor each message as much as possible.  This is key for the next step.We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points.  This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.
  2. We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points.  This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.

There is nothing wrong with resting and recharging during the summer for the end of year push.  In fact, we encourage it.  But if you were smart, you would take advantage of this huge opportunity of quiet time from your competitors and fill the void with your own content in order to keep your name in front of those prospects that are most important to you.  Staying strong in the summer can get you to the finish line a whole lot quicker than your competition.

Calculator

Interactive calculator for your agency’s new business pipeline needs

Here at Catapult we are all about understanding our agency’s prospecting and pipeline needs. If you don’t know what it takes in terms of activities and numbers to generate a winning piece of business, how can you develop a successful plan to do just that? As an easy tool, we created a Pipeline Calculator that breaks down this process into three simple chunks to help our agencies get a head start on understanding their pipeline numbers.

Goal

The goal section is made up of three main pieces – revenue goal, the number of contacts in the database, and average first-year value of a deal. Your revenue goal should be pretty straightforward in this calculation. We are looking at the amount of new revenue generated from new business (not organic growth). The number of contacts in your database is essentially how many individual contact prospects you’re currently reaching out to in your content marketing. This is a number that is easily changed and can have a major impact on your new business success. Often though, we see people trying to adjust other numbers and holding to very small databases with zero success. Resources like Winmo allow for focused growth in these databases to hit the quantities needed to be successful.

Lastly, the average first-year value of a deal is limited to just this first-year value, so in these calculations we are not over-valuing each deal for our short-term prospecting efforts.

Pipeline Calculator

Pipeline

This is the area where many agencies struggle. Understanding each stage of the sales pipeline process is something that most have never done. We broke this section out into four main parts – Initial Approaches, 1st Meetings, Needs Analysis, and Pitches. For many of our clients, turning the amount of Initial Approaches into 1st meetings is the biggest area where we can provide improvement for them. Most agencies aren’t making a lot of proactive introductions to new brands. As a result, they are limiting themselves from an initial database size perspective, and their conversion rate in this area is also very low. For any sales person this is going to be a smaller number, as we are fighting through initial qualification, awareness, and timing issues to move these prospects to first meetings. With that knowledge, increasing your database size and improving your approach are paramount.

We also find that many of our clients initially overestimate their win rate on pitches. Anecdotally, I can tell you that when I talk to agency principals and owners, the win rate is often overestimated while a New Business Director may often underestimate. I think this is purely a function of perception given how much they are both involved in conversations with new prospects. Our advice: Be conservative on your pitch rate win percentage and if you overperform it, all the better.

Results

From here, we should have a good understanding of both the number of new clients that we will win based off of percentages, and the total revenue generated from new client wins. Disclaimer: There are many factors that go into your individual success, such as time, skill, resources, etc. This calculator should be used with the understanding that it is giving you a baseline of understanding of different areas of your pipeline process that you need to consider when both setting goals at the beginning of the year, and as your year progresses.

You should be using this calculator to understand where you might be underperforming. If you find yourself lower than average on initial approaches, then you can fix that area. If you are generating enough meetings and pitches but not winning business, no worries. We fix our pitch materials. If we are fine on all of our pipeline stage percentages but still not getting enough meetings, then most likely we need to look at how many prospect contacts we are reaching out to in our database.

Hopefully, this calculator gives you an initial guide to your proactive prospecting efforts!

Consistent new business development

Focused consistency powers agency new business

If you have ever spoken to an agency new business consultant, they would all tell you that consistency is key.  Our team likes to compare agency new business to a gym membership.  It’s easy to get started every new year with a new gym, the excitement of having a six pack by summer sounds appealing.  Inevitably, without a personal trainer, we slow down how often we go to the gym, or we put everything on hold (just for a few months of course).  Those temporary pauses in our gym membership (or business development) are absolute momentum killers and prevent us from having the abs and revenue of our dreams.

So how do we become more consistent and what parts of our business development process to we need to be more consistent about?  We put together a quick list to help ensure that you’re still moving the new business process forward in the middle of the year.

  • Content – Mirren/RSW recently published a report that showed Content Development tools being used by 87% of agencies, an increase in 4% over last year. Clearly agencies have caught on to the idea that content is king in driving new business over the year.  What will separate your agency from the others this year?  Creating content during the summer months.  Look at any agency blog or insight page and you will see large holes very often during the summer months when they should be dramatically adding new, insightful content.   3,500 words on your site every month should be your minimum goal, are you there?
  • Conversations – In the sales world, we love counting calls or emails and judging whether or not we have had enough activity to generate revenue. My challenge to any new business person is that they need to count conversations.  We aren’t paid based on effort, but results, so get who cares how many times you pick up the phone or send a cold email.  All that matters is how many qualified new business conversations we can drive, especially at this time of the year when most of your competition is slowing down and only “going to the gym” once a day.  Now is the time for you to be the vocal agency that is consistently reaching out via phone or email to drive those conversations.
  • Planning – For an agency that consistently has to create and manage long term campaigns and plans for our clients, very often we have trouble ourselves creating a long term plan for our new business efforts. This means that we need to prioritize new business efforts and create a plan that we are going to consistently execute, no matter what is going on around the agency.  Too often we see new business take a backseat as soon as we begin to either have success or even struggles.  Anything gets in our way, we throw our plan out the window and focus on other items.  It is the biggest mistake agencies make every day in that it kills all your momentum and when you finally decide three months later to pick up your efforts again, you are starting back over at ground floor.

Recently, our CEO Dave Currie spoke with the AMI on consistency and this quote really stuck out:

“I haven’t seen a successful agency that doesn’t treat itself as its most important client.” – @NewBizDingo

If you are going to be successful and treat yourself as your most important client, that doesn’t mean you just turn on and off your new business program randomly throughout the year.  It means that every day you come in with a purpose to create content, drive more qualified conversations, and live by the plan you created on the first day of the year.  If you can retain that focus all year long, the new revenue will take care of itself.

(Webinar) So many agencies. So little difference.

Is your agency truly unique?  Or are you one of the thousands of agencies selling the same products and services? Almost all agencies claim to be unique, different or better while using essentially the same descriptors as the others. The truth is, most prospects (advertisers) can barely tell the difference in your agency and your biggest competitor.

In this session we looked to fix that by discussing:

  • Your differentiator isn’t different at all
  • How to find your difference
  • Using your differentiator to generate more opportunities

For any business development program to be successful, we need to take this first step of identifying a truly unique position.  Once that positioning is in place content and distribution becomes much more effective.  Hopefully this webinar will give you a great first step in finding your uniqueness!

Our guest host this month was John Heenan.  Be sure to check out his website for other great insights and content!

So many agencies. So little difference. from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.

(Webinar) How to Build a Predictable Pipeline

Ever struggle to predict exactly how much new revenue your agency will be bringing in next year, next quarter, or even next month?  You’re not alone in this.  Most agencies find themselves lacking the processes and strategies to create a consistent, predictable pipeline of new business opportunities.

In our most recent webinar, we partnered with Jason Swenk to solve this once and for all – providing you with an easy-to-follow framework that both generates and predicts new business opportunities.  Jason covered suggested technology systems, agency positioning, new business prospecting techniques, and provided example case studies of how other successful agencies are finding success.  There was a lot to cover in the hour, but Jason is an agency pro that will give you some immediately actionable takeaways to start growing your pipeline.

What we covered:

    • How to integrate the right systems in order to grow your agency.
    • How to position your agency as “the choice” vs “a choice.”
    • How to utilize Milestone Marketing to better prospect and drive engagement.
    • How an agency tripled retainer revenue in 2 months by improving their former process.

How to Build a Predictable Pipeline from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.

Cost Is Not Why You Lost

In our most recent webinar, Chris Martin from Advertiser Perceptions went through some interesting statistics around what factors are most important during the agency buying decision.  You know what factor came up almost dead last?  Cost.

Feels counter-intuitive to everything we are told from clients, right?  We have all received that dreaded phone call or email from our prospect that our competitor just came in at a better rate, or that they aren’t moving forward because we are just too expensive.  The truth is, the majority of the time, this is just the easy way out when having to give negative feedback.  It makes the buyer feel better because they don’t have to come right out and say “we don’t like you or what you pitched.”  Most people want to be liked or at least somewhat polite, so using cost as an excuse is absolutely an easy way to keep things from feeling personal.  And, it’s just simple numbers.

Here’s the deal, though:  The importance of cost changes depending on how good of a job your team has done showing value during the sales process.  We all know there is a clear correlation between Perceived Value and Cost Tolerance.   When the perceived value of something goes up, so does my willingness to pay more.  Obvious, right?

If we have shown a tremendous amount of value in that they can see exactly how the strategy will be executed, how it will generate results, and how it will possibly decrease other costs, then why would a prospect not be willing to pay a little more for this extra value?  We do it in our personal lives all the time.  We pay a little extra for a Lexus, or a bigger house, or an Apple product that we think will bring more value than their counterparts.

The next time you leave a prospect meeting and they say “your price just came in a bit too high,” don’t start changing everything within your pricing model.  Start asking yourself these questions:

  • Did my proposal focus on their #1 problem?
  • Did I show value beyond just solving their problem?
  • Did I show real value at all? Did I have results (hard numbers) from previous campaigns and projections of what we can do for them?
  • Was our value prop unique? Were they easily able to distinguish what we can do from the competition?
  • Was there anything in my proposal or pitch that could have distracted from the value we bring?

Unfortunately, we lose sometimes because of our failings as a new business person, not our price.  Having the ability to go back through your process and be honest with yourself around each stage of that process, will allow you to ensure that the next time you pitch, you’re showing value where it matters most to the client – results.

 

(Webinar) What’s Driving the Agency Selection Process

Agencies win more business when they can better connect to the marketing decision makers they are pitching.  We want to arm our agencies with as much information as possible, so your new business approach is flawless.

We co-hosted this webinar with Chris Martin from Advertiser Perceptions, an expert on making decision makers pick your agency.  Chris will take you deep into the minds and decision processes of marketers so that you can feel confident in your new business approach.

We will cover specific topics like:

  • What drives the decisions during the agency selection process for marketers?
  • How do they compare your agency competitors during a pitch?
  • Which areas of your agency are marketers analyzing before/during a pitch?
  • What aren’t marketers telling you about their decision process?

 

Mandatory Technology For Winning More Agency New Business

So you want to take your new business development game to the next level? Well, you better be more than just a smooth voice on the phone. The right technology can allow you to collect targeted prospecting data, broadcast your message to more prospects, accelerate the sale funnel, organize more effective meetings, – ultimately refining your entire sales process.

Here’s a tech stack we use in-house that maximizes our efficiency and helps us win more business:

  • Organize: Salesforce – Every new business tech stack should start with a good CRM. We use Salesforce because it’s truly best-in-class, and allows for integrations with basically every single add-on functionality for email or social. This doesn’t mean that every agency has to choose Salesforce (some Marketing Automation suites have great and simple CRM options), but we feel that it does give our agency team what they need to best track and understand their prospect funnels.

 

  • Amplify: SharpSpring/Hubspot – It still amazes me every day how many agencies do not currently take advantage of a full marketing automation (MA) suite. We encourage our agencies to check out Hubspot or SharpSpring for your MA needs. We use both systems depending on our in-house efforts or client efforts and what each need. SharpSpring gives our clients that have more straightforward email and CRM needs a low-cost approach to getting this setup. For more enterprise level teams, we would look more at Hubspot’s market leading solution as the complexity in new business rises.

 

  • Accelerate: Cirrus/Salesloft – When you get passed mass email communications, there still needs to be tools to help a new business person accelerate their one to one communications. This is where Cirrus and Salesloft Cadence come into play. Cirrus is a great Gmail extension that allows for better one off email tracking of clicks and opens, that syncs all communications with Salesforce, and even allows for some minor automation. Salesloft Cadence is great for small to medium groups of one to one contact engagement where we want to schedule a series of emails, but keep them at a relatively manual and bespoke messaging cadence. These tools give you acceleration of those personal emails without plugging them into the larger mass drip campaigns handled by your Marketing Automation platform.

 

  • Inform: Winmo/DailyVista/Mintel/Kantar – Lots of options here for data on prospects. At CNB, we utilize Winmo for individual contact details and company level information on agency relationships and more. Mintel gives us some great insights into certain industries we are prospecting into, and Kantar is there to give us ideas on brands that are spending in ways that are attractive to our clients. The biggest driver of new business is DailyVista, which gives us predictive insights into brands that are going into review in the next 3-18 months. An insanely important piece of information as we do any outbound prospecting. (disclaimer: Catapult is sister companies with Winmo and DailyVista, so we really like what they do!)

 

  • Share: Join.me/GoToMeeting – Again, this is an instance where we use two different technologies. Join.me is our go to screen share for anyone off quick meeting or screen sharing that we may need to do on a prospect or initial fact finding call. GoToMeeting is used when we have more scheduled ahead and larger group meetings that need to be shared across locations.

These are just some of the tools our new business team utilizes every day for proactive sales outreach. Keep in mind there are tons of resources out there. Aside from those listed above, we also leverage platforms like Crystal Knows, Slack, Rapportive, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and SponsorPitch. Everyone has different needs, so your stack may look a little different than ours. What are you using to drive your agency forward?

Your Agency Website is a Revenue Tool, Not an Experiment for Creative

There’s a saying around our office that if you look at a company’s website, and you can’t tell what they do, they are probably an agency.  That ambiguity might be considered cheeky when the visitor knows who your agency is, but it spells certain doom for any agency looking to generate new business and leads through their website with prospects that are visiting them for the first time.  While your website can be a fun, creative playground for your team, we need to remember that the primary goal of any good website is to convert prospects into new revenue.

The fact is 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load.  (Source: Adobe).  What does this mean for your design?  It means that we need to be conscious of where our visitors come from, what devices they are using to research you, and make sure that while your site is attractive, that attractiveness does not take away from the experience of finding out just what you do.  For creatives (non-sales people) I understand the push back here.  Nobody wants a plain or salesy feeling agency website, but we do want to be sure that it is a revenue generator, not a confusion generator.

The most successful agencies I’ve seen all have their past creative prioritized on their site, but it’s important to remember – it’s not the website itself that is the creative showcase.  This is an important distinction, because when a prospect is visiting your website, they want to know:

A) Can you solve my problem?  (clear and unique agency positioning on all pages)

In the case below, the positioning is very clearly and cuts directly to the problem they solve for their clients.  Within 3 seconds, we know exactly who they are and what they do that is unique. 

B) Have you done it previously? (clear view of past creative and case studies)

Love this use of Case Studies – short and clear problem, solution, results.  This is a great CTA target for any outgoing communication.

C) How do we get in contact? (contact page for key agency decision makers)

Multiple places to take action on this homepage, giving prospects a place to convert from anywhere on their site.  They do a nice job of consistent positioning as well, along with vocalizing that immediately.

If we can simplify this online journey for our prospects, then we can greatly increase our chance of converting them from an anonymous visitor to a lead conversation.  I would encourage you to sit down and go through this journey yourself with your current website.  If you can’t find a truly unique positioning statement on each page, we need to edit.  If you are not led quickly to outstanding results and work, then we need to edit.  If you have to click a few times to find someone to contact, we need to edit.

This isn’t meant to say that your site should be boring and plain, or that you should just have random “contact us” buttons on every page like you are pushing a free trial.  Be creative, show off your digital chops, but just be thoughtful in where and how you do that.  If they have to sit through a five minute video, or go through an interactive hide and seek on the home page to find your agency’s past work, they will probably run rather than seek.