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.
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?
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?
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.
Every well-run agency is consistently looking at their mix of clients and where their revenue is coming from. The better understanding you have of your current revenue forecast, the better prepared you will be for any bump or turn on the road ahead. During our last webinar (Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale) we discussed navigating this winding road by making sure your agency is following the 40% rule. The rule is simple: No more than 40% of your agency’s revenue can come from one client.
Now I know there are a lot of small agencies out there that got their start by landing one big client that contributes most of the revenue to your overall agency, and naturally, we all want more clients. While it’s easy for me here to say “diversify!” I fully understand that it is entirely something else to put into practice. There are so many reasons why you need to live by this 40% Rule and do everything you can to make sure your agency isn’t in this typical position, but here’s a few:
A wide building is sturdier than a tall one.
- I would much rather have 10 equal size clients, rather than 2 super clients because turnover happens. It does not matter how great your service is, how good your ROI is for your client, or how much the client loves you as a person, they are going to turnover at some point. It’s a lot easier to manage turnover from a revenue and employee standpoint if we have 10 clients, rather than 2.
Having to cut employees because of a lack of work is simply the worst.
- It breeds resentment and negativity in those employees that get to stay, and it’s an all around un-fun part of business. If we can mitigate that need by having 10 smaller clients rather than 2 large, we can not only give our employees peace of mind, but we can show them that we are doing everything we can to give them stability and room to grow.
We aren’t beholden to bad deals.
- I’m sure we have all at some point left an initial fee negotiation, in the beginning, feeling like we made a good deal, only to find out that this client is way more work than we bargained for. We then either need to change the scope of the work or raise the fee. This normally goes over like a lead balloon, so we need to be able to walk away from a bad deal, and by having the account only represent 10% of your revenue verse 60%, you give yourself the ability to actually walk away if necessary.
It makes our agency more valuable.
- Charles Fallon of SI Partners talked specifically how when acquirers are evaluating agencies and looking at their value multiplier, that number goes up if client diversity exists. This means that any acquirer is willing to pay you more money for your agency if they can see a larger range of clients by revenue and type. More money is a good thing, right?
If you find yourself in a position of being over that 40% threshold, it’s probably time to begin thinking about your new business development plans. Waiting for referrals will get you killed, so putting a new business process in place that can consistently generate new clients for your team should be an absolute priority for any agency that wants to be more stable, more predictable, and more valuable.
As an agency executive, it’s important to always have options for the future. If 2017 is the year you’re looking to increase the value of your agency, either for agency growth or a potential sale, this webinar will show you just how to do that. We’ll be co-hosting with Charles Fallon at SI Partners, a worldwide expert on all things Agency M&A. Whether you are looking to sell your agency now, or simply want to understand the options available, Charles will break down the steps required to strategically grow your agency and attract premium value.
We’ll cover specific topics like:
- What the acquirer landscape looks like, and how it’s evolving.
- Investors types and new market entrants.
- The different types of acquisition deals available today.
- What you need to do to attract a premium offer.
- How to find a strategic growth partner.
Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
At some point, every new business person has been presented with this situation: A prospect comes to us that heard great things about what our agency does from a previous client and they think we are a great fit for them. Unfortunately, we don’t think it’s a great fit. They could be too small of a partner, in an industry we don’t want to work in, or located in an inconvenient region of the world. Whatever the reason is that they aren’t a perfect fit, we are left with the problem of needing new business, having an “easy” win standing in front of us, but possibly taking on another client that could be more pain than they are worth. What do you do?
Whether or not you choose to work with the referral above, there is an easy solution to the dilemma. Actively seek new referrals and STOP WAITING for them to come to you. If you are trying to truly grow your agency this year, sitting back and waiting for those referrals will not lead to double-digit growth. We need to proactively build a referral machine that will generate conversations between our networks with companies that we actually want to work with. So how do we go about doing this?
Creating a true referral machine has a ton of different pieces that incorporate almost every piece of your agency. Your marketing, sales, account management, executive team, and social presence all need to be aligned in order to really build a scenario where referrals produce themselves naturally in an organic way. If you want a great book on referrals, I would recommend “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch. While he has gone through many of the points above, the one that I believe is most applicable for my new business directors and easiest to institute immediately is the idea that “the most easily referred companies are naturally social”.
So what is “naturally social”? In the new business world, to me it means that you are creating content that invites conversation, telling stories via blogs or video, working with partners to deliver content that is of value, and most importantly, actively having conversations within your immediate and extended networks. The last part is where we tend to see people who fall off the most, reaching that extended network. We all work to build these LinkedIn networks, and then we find ourselves only really “liking” content or posts that come from those that we know the closest. Well, those folks are already the most likely to send us a referral if they come across one, right? What I want to push my new business directors to do is find specific companies that they want to work with and then utilize those extended (and less used) network contacts to generate a conversation. There’s a really simple process that you can take advantage of tomorrow to do this:
- Build a list of prospect companies
- Search each company in LinkedIn and find their most applicable contact for prospecting that is also a 2nd-degree connection.
- Identify your shared connection with that prospect and request a referral directly to that prospect company from your shared connection.
Seems simple right? Here’s the key part – make the referral EASY for your shared connection. Too often we either a) simply don’t ask our shared connection for a referral or b) we put the onus completely on them in terms of coming up with the reason for the referral. The idea here is that we want the referral ask to be specific, time sensitive, and pre-written for our connection. This allows them to simply forward on a message with as little work as possible for them. And because your message is time sensitive in nature, we have a built-in urgency to the request for referral.
Here’s an example:
I was hoping you could help me.
You’re connected to (John Smith) of (Company) and I have some (Valuable Marketing Intelligence) that I’d like to put into their hands, and it’s a bit time sensitive.
Since you two are connected on LinkedIn, I hoped you’d be open to introducing me today with the message below? Feel free to edit as you desire:
It’s been a while since we last connected – hope all is well! I thought you’d be interested in this introduction to Matt Chollet (cc’d) who has competitive market intelligence on (Company) that he wanted to ensure got into your hands today – it’s time sensitive and may impact your competitive media investments in Q3.
I’ll leave it with you both from here, hoping this is a valuable connection for you.
The essence of the above sample is the fact that all your referrer has to do is hopefully copy and paste two sentences, sign their name, and move on with their day. By making it simple like this, you take away the hurdle of creating a whole new message themselves.
By building a very simple, straightforward referral plan like this, with a straightforward referral request, we can begin to proactively create referrals around prospects that we actually want to work with. Hopefully, this pushes us from a place of hoping and wish for referrals, to actively pursuing and engaging referrals on a daily basis that can convert the types of prospects we really want to work with.
“How do I get more hours to devote to business development? I can’t give you more hours in a day, but I can give you times of the day that will make your hours more effective.”
In the new business development world, our time is everything. We are all trying to figure out how much time we need to spend prospecting vs cultivating vs RFPs. How we go about prioritizing this time and what we do very often depends on working around our schedules of executive meetings, client meetings, and putting out fires. What happens, time and time again, is that we wind up doing our prospecting and cultivating activities at odd times when we actually get a few minutes free. We have to change this mind set if we are going to really grow our agencies biz dev, by making our schedules work around the very best hours for business development.
“Time of day matters for outreach. People as a whole have certain, generally consistent behaviors across jobs and industries that typically occur at the same time each day. As business development professionals, we need to understand our prospect’s schedules and work to maximize our efficiency around them and the way they behave.”
Timing your Business Development:
6:00 – 8:00 AM – Action emails are most likely to get a response between these hours. This means that those one to one, text only emails where you are asking for a direct meeting or a call are best to be sent first thing in the AM, before their inbox fills up.
8:00 – 9:00 AM – Get on the phone. While most agency new business people I speak with are deathly afraid of phone follow up, the fact is that a real conversation can absolutely separate you from the barrage of stock emails that marketing decision makers receive every day. Most of these decision makers are available first thing in the morning, before the active work day gets started, and at the end of the day, once they are prepping for the next day. They are most likely to pick up the phone not only during this time, but you may be able to avoid a receptionist or two, as decision makers are typically in the office before most employees.
10:00 – Noon – I’m on LinkedIn during this window either actively prospecting, working referral networks, or posting new content to Pulse or our blog. Studies show that LinkedIn is used heavily during the day for most professionals, and the chance for content reads increases after the 10am hour.
Noon – 1:00 PM – I use this time to scan and curate content through my social channels. Some of these posts I automate ahead of time (with a free Buffer account), but since Twitter tends to be used more as a feed that is reviewed on commutes or breaks, lunchtime is a great opportunity for me to amplify any content messaging in order to increase views and hopefully clicks/reads.
2:00 – 4:00 PM – Back to email, but this time, I’m focusing on content related emails. This means that any of my marketing automation around content are typically either being written and sent at this time, or I’m scheduling them to go out for future dates around this time. The key is, these are content related for delivering knowledge and interesting reads. Research has shown that while replies are lower around this time, opens and reads tend to go up during these hours post lunch, so take advantage of a few free minutes where their mind may be open to reading a blog post or case study.
4:00 PM and later – I’m back on the phone trying to catch prospects that are wrapping up their day and planning their next day. Most times meetings are held before this time, so with less meetings and more planning occurring, now is your time to catch a few more people on the phone rather than earlier in the day.
No matter what your personal schedule looks like, it’s important to consider how you go about timing each prospecting activity in order to maximize the effectiveness of each. With so few hours in every day, maximizing our prospecting time is key in order to drive the number of quality conversations we can have each day.
Any successful new business strategy starts with knowing who your target audience is. As an agency you have likely already honed in on your unique value proposition and are ready to start engaging with prospective clients.
“A critical piece many agency new business professionals miss out on is making sure they have a broad enough target audience to sell and market to. We find that the key to fueling your marketing and sales efforts is an effective, targeted AND substantial audience.”
When working with our clients, we’re often asked, “How many prospect records do I need?” To get the most from your outreach, we recommend a minimum of 3,000 with the goal of having 5,000 that you can continuously engage with.
Those numbers might seem like a lot but keep in mind there are tools to help you build out your prospecting database. In fact, many of your agency peers are likely using one. According to the 2016 Mirren/RSW Mirren New Business Tools Report, 9% more agency executives are investing in list building tools (compared to 2014) to help grow their new business. Our clients typically use Winmo, however there are other resources like Hoovers, Data.com and LinkedIn to help you create hyper-targeted data sets.
The importance of audience segmentation.
As you continue to grow your prospecting audience, segmenting the data into relevant batches is very important as it keeps our content highly relevant, even when we begin to do outreach in groups of hundreds or thousands. We are not looking to spam the world with emails and phone calls, we are trying to deliver less often, but with more impact.
“By properly segmenting our audiences, we are able to ensure that the right content gets in the right hands at the right time.”
When I begin to look at a new agency list, I often segment prospects into these three groups to help us prioritize outreach and customize content:
1) Right to Win
Right to Win clients are those that are a perfect fit for our solutions. We set parameters for what a perfect client is for our agency: what issues they have, where they are and what they specialize in. If they fit those criteria, then they HAVE to be working with us and we need to talk to them in such a way that shows our perfect fit. This is likely to be a somewhat smaller group, as we are talking about perfect here. The goldilocks zone of prospects!
2) Great Fit
This will be your biggest group of prospects. They have a problem we can solve, but may fall just outside our parameters on a few criteria here or there. Maybe they are a bit outside of our typical geographic region, slightly bigger or smaller in revenue ranges, or they’re an industry adjacent to our sweet spot. If they fit 95% of our criteria and we can recognize and solve their problems, then I want to be sending them content. Too often I see agencies immediately give up on quality prospects because they put so many restrictions and criteria on who they can work with. If you want to grow, consider widening that net just a bit.
This is may be the smallest group, as they are more of ‘passion projects’ from the team – or the ‘great white whales’ that would be incredible to land. They are probably not worth committing the majority of your 1 to 1 new business time to chasing, but landing one could make a huge difference in morale or revenue. Putting them in your drip content is a great way to keep them warm and fish a bit, without taking away from your time that you spend on those prospects that are going to be your stable base of revenue in the future.
Keep in mind this is just one way to segment your data. Every agency has a different strategy, and how you go about slicing your sales intelligence might be very different. Some find that the easiest way to group prospects is simply by industry vertical, while others choose to base their groupings off of job titles. Taking the time to think through who you want to be working with, and more importantly, what your prospects care about, will help you determine just how your agency should be dividing your prospect target list.
Lastly we need to remember, we are segmenting these groups because we want to get bespoke, quality content in front of the most appropriate people. Each new group you create is going to require their own set of targeted communication and targeted content, so do not break these into ten different target groups if you do not have the bandwidth to create ten different content tracks. We want to do everything we can to broaden our reach while staying highly targeted and focused in order to remain relevant. Taking the extra time to think through these audience segmentation lists and properly grouping them can save you an immense amount of time on the back-end.
At the beginning of every year we all make resolutions to change something about ourselves either personally or professionally. If you’re an agency, you’re likely vowing to be more proactive with your new business resolutions and strategy in 2017. Don’t worry, about 85% of all agencies are in the exact same boat.
For any resolution to be successful however, there must be a plan in place and accountability against it. Throughout our discussion we will cover the following problem areas and also share KPI’s to ensure you’re tracking your progress.
- Dedicate more time to solely focus on new business
- Make a more compelling first impression via email
- Leave a phone message someone might actually respond to
- Build a social referral machine
- Write better content for our website
5 Resolutions Agencies Need to Make (and Keep) in 2017! from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.