It’s been over a year since we all began the trial and error of remote working and virtual meetings, no matter the industry. Although the pandemic brought challenges and adversities, there is one thing we, at Catapult, all agree on – video meetings have drastically changed the business development process and improved client relationships. Whether it’s between us and our agency partners or our agency partners and their own clients, video meetings work to build trust, accelerate the sales process, and create a personal touch in even your most typical every day interactions.
Video conferencing is here to stay. According to a recent report from Transparency Marketing Research, “the video conferencing market is expected to show a compound annual growth rate of 8.4% between 2020 and 2027.” Even when we emerge from COVID and things start to “get back to normal” (whatever that looks like!), video meetings will be a significant part of how we work, how business is done, and how we communicate and interact.
Here are 6 ways video meetings have improved client relationships:
1. We are building a genuine rapport with our clients quicker than ever before.
We have gained deeper connections with our clients as we meet over video calls in their living rooms while their children or pets are in the background. It’s strange to think that while physical human interaction is so limited right now we actually feel closer to each of our clients than before the pandemic because we all truly know one another better.
2. Video calls have made meetings, in general, feel more human.
Before the shift in video, most people read emotions into an email that wasn’t actually present or heard a tone in a voice that wasn’t intended. Things no longer get lost in tone given that we can read body language throughout all meetings. It also helps your prospects remember you, as you’ll no longer be just another email in their inbox but now a face to a real person that they have spent time with.
3. Face-to-face meetings have improved the overall understanding of one another and allows everyone to communicate more clearly.
Because up to 93% of communication uses nonverbal cues, it makes sense that video conferences improve communication and understanding. Timing of when to speak, and more importantly when not to speak, is easily read through video, where a conference call can have people interrupting regularly.
4. The sales process is more efficient.
There is no more wasted time coordinating travel and schedules around meeting in person. We’ve used all of the extra hours saved from not traveling to connect with more potential leads to fill our agencies’ pipelines. That means more phone calls talking to prospects about new business, and less phone calls figuring out how to match calendars with travel plans.
5. Video conferencing allows for flexible pitching.
More effective communication means that we can be flexible in our sales approach as we take notice when a prospect leans in or becomes disengaged.
6. Screen sharing eliminates whether or not your prospect has seen your assets.
Instead of attaching presentations and other collateral in emails and hoping a prospect opens them, it is now easier than ever to simply share these things over a screen share during a video call. Long gone are the days of them having to download a screensharing software.
Sales is all about building strong client relationships.
Video conferencing is going to continue to be key in building a solid foundation of future client relationships. And with the lower costs, increased efficiencies, and more productive meetings, your agency can increase capacity, close deals faster, and generate more revenue.
By Jody Sutter
New business is one of those responsibilities that should be fully integrated into your daily schedule—some days in a more active and focused way, other days more passively and opportunistically.
But for a lot of agency leaders, it’s not.
New business is an activity for times when the pipeline dries up. Or it’s what you do when you’re in a competitive pitch. When it’s not a daily habit, consistent action is hard to sustain—because it means starting over again and again and again…
You’ll reach points when you conclude you can’t go on like this any longer. You’ll pause, gather your team, and brainstorm ideas for a better business development strategy.
There’s satisfaction in developing new ideas. It’s inherently optimistic and creative! You remove yourself from the daily grind and whisk your team off to an inspirational spot to think big strategic thoughts and reshape your agency’s destiny. And I encourage this! In fact, I conduct these kinds of workshops. They’re energizing and I get satisfaction from watching an agency team walk away excited about the plans they’re going to implement.
What I don’t enjoy is watching them neglect those plans as soon as the daily grind takes over again.
Good Habits are Helped by Strong Frameworks
Acting on new ideas requires us to form new productive habits, which is a challenge in and of itself. I’m not an expert on how humans form habits, but I can speak from personal and professional experience that good habits around business development are aided by strong frameworks.
I created such a framework a few years ago after I’d had an epiphany: if money, time, and resources were no object, an agency would do it all—blogs, Instagram Lives, webinars, proprietary research, PR, prospecting outreach… Anything that you didn’t like to do or have time to do, you’d hire someone else for or you’d outsource it.
But time and money is always an issue. And agency leaders are rarely going to do stuff they don’t like to do.
What I realized was that to make a business development strategy stick, it must be based on tactics that are right for that agency.
This inspired me to create the New Business Ecosystem™ framework.
A New Business Ecosystem includes anything your agency uses to support business development, from a pricing proposal to a website to social media strategy. Like a natural ecosystem, it promotes growth when the interconnected parts are suitable for the environment.
When I’m building a New Business Ecosystem with my clients, we look at all they’re doing and all the tools they’re using and we assess their utility against goals, resources, and strategic positioning. We ask:
- Are the tools and activities right for the culture and environment?
- Do they encourage and nurture growth?
- Do they support the agency’s goals?
- Are there too many tactics to easily sustain?
- Do they all interact in a healthy way?
Usually, the outcome of this exercise results in a sort of kanban board for new business. From there we can create a plan and define the activities required to get to the goals
Filling the Void between What You Want and How to Get There
This plan helps fill in the void between stating a goal, such as increasing revenue by 25%, and taking the right steps to achieve it.
A New Business Ecosystem offers you not only a bird’s-eye view of the activities that are most likely to get you closer to your goals, but a roadmap for what you must be doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
When you know exactly what actions to take, and those actions nudge you out of your comfort zone, you start to see progress. You can apply this to any goal you have in life, whether it’s to retire at age 50, learn how to juggle, or grow your agency’s total revenue by 25%.
Your New Business Ecosystem will be custom to your agency, but here’s my advice on the actions you should take on an annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily basis.
Your New Business Ecosystem is essentially your new business plan and you should evaluate it annually. Look for opportunities to systematize and scale what you’re already doing if it’s producing good results. And explore what can be added or taken out of your ecosystem to keep it at an optimal level of health.
Here are four areas to consider:
- Recommit to your core tactics. Analyze the core business-generating activities you’ve chosen based on your new business strengths. (Here’s a quick and fun quiz you can take to find out your new business strengths profile.) Are they working? Do they need improvement or optimization? Can they be delegated to others or are they still dependent on your involvement?
- Add complementary tactics. If you’ve got the core activities running on autopilot, consider adding complementary activities that support them. For example, if you’ve got momentum behind a speaker strategy and it’s starting to generate leads consistently, complementary activities might include nurturing those leads with a webinar series, getting a better CRM tool in place to manage those leads, or adding functionality to your agency’s website to better engage leads.
- Assess the health of intellectual property. Review IP workhorses like case studies, team bios, and credentials documents to see if they need updates. These don’t change frequently, they do require care and attention if they are going to work effectively. Be proactive instead of being forced to make last-minute and hasty updates to fulfill an immediate need.
- Review and recalibrate new business policies and procedures. Are they still working smoothly? Do they help you make the right decisions about what new business to pursue?
I’ve become a big fan of quarterly working sprints to accomplish goals (I think they can be so effective I’ve re-engineered most of my programs to include them).
Quarterly sprints can be a great way to tackle both necessary projects, like a website redesign, that easily get pushed aside by daily emergencies and distractions as well as “always improving” projects—projects that push you into new areas and have a positive effect on your new business operations over time. These are often the complementary activities I mentioned in bullet #2 above—initiatives you’ve been wanting to start but never seem to have the bandwidth for.
For your first foray into quarterly sprints, choose one or two goals and make them manageable. Outline a plan for what must get done on a daily, weekly or ongoing basis and use that plan to assign yourself and your team weekly actions that, if taken, will lead you to successful completion.
This approach works because it deconstructs big, amorphous statements like, “we’ll improve how our agency generates leads” which can be hard for teams to convert into action, into a tactical road map that everyone understands and follows. Seeing progress being made instills a priceless sense of satisfaction.
Daily, weekly, and monthly
I lump these together because they’re all related to frequent and consistent action required to keep your new business ecosystem humming.
Plus, they tend to vary by goal, individual, and agency. For example, if your core activity is outbound sales, your activities will include things like daily list-building and sales calls. If your activity is content marketing, your weekly and monthly activities will be related to keeping the content engine running: writing, shooting, editing, formatting, distribution, and promotion.
And, of course, always include:
- A regularly scheduled new business status meeting. Many agencies have these weekly (a few neglect to have them at all, which astounds me). I like a biweekly cadence, which frees up time on the schedule and allows you a wider perspective to see progress over time.
- Pipeline report updates and distribution. I’m all for a wider distribution of the pipeline report, especially if you expect most people at your agency to be involved in new business. Consider having a modified report that omits sensitive financial information that you can share with your larger team. I bet you’ll find they feel more invested and willing to participate.
And, finally, document ongoing activities that won’t be going away any time soon in an operations manual so that you can grow and scale them as your agency grows.
I was recently a guest on Marcel Petitpas’s The Agency Profit podcast and Marcel and I talked in-depth about how to operationalize a new business strategy, including many of the points I make here (if you want to take a listen, click this link). He asked me how an agency owner can stay accountable to goals and objectives when it’s so easy to get pulled off track by client needs.
My answer: lean on your New Business Ecosystem.
Having a plan and supporting structure in place makes it much easier to regain the momentum you’ve lost. It eliminates that common and demotivating feeling of “starting from scratch”.
Because the fact is you will get derailed (I haven’t figured out how to crack that case yet but when I do, you’ll all be the first to know)—you just want to minimize its impact by going back to the actions that are right for you.
About The Author:
Jody Sutter, is the owner of The Sutter Company, a business development consultancy that specializes in working with leadership at small ad agencies who are underperforming when it comes to winning new business and would like to win the right clients consistently but also make the process less chaotic and exhausting for their teams. To learn more about how she can help your agency, schedule a free 45-minute consultation here. For more information about The Sutter Company’s programs for optimizing new business at small agencies, go to www.thesuttercompany.com.
In the past, we’ve talked about what qualities you should look for in a Business Development Director for your agency, but now we want to break down the different personas of Biz Dev people that will cross your path on your hiring journey. Throughout our experience, there are really three main types of people that are drawn to business development – The Storyteller, The Hunter, and The Builder.
Each of these new biz types can appear similar in an interview if you are asking stock questions, but when put to work, they operate completely differently. Your agency may be ready to thrive with a Hunter or stagnate with a Builder. Being able to identify which you need is vital to ensuring your growth in 2021. Let’s break down each of these business development personas.
What business development director persona is best for your agency?
- Ready to create a true differentiator for your agency
- Able to look at your value prop and understand how it is different from your competition, and more importantly, how interesting it is for your prospects
- Often great in pitches and late stage funnel activities due to their ability to connect and build rapport
- As a late stage funnel manager, most likely not desperate to start conversations cold
- Proactive top funnel outreach is often ignored for the comfort of working known relationships with current and potential prospects
- Typically not as comfortable with hearing “no”
When to hire (and not hire) a Storyteller?
If you find yourself with a full tech stack, all the data you need, and someone that can help own some of the top of the funnel proactive outreach, a Storyteller is going to provide a ton of benefit to your team by handling those 2nd and 3rd phone calls, managing the pitch process, and helping continue to define and tweak your value proposition. What they aren’t going to do is the constant touchpoints needed to make a new conversation happen, or build a sophisticated tech stack that creates a more efficient and repeatable process.
- High energy and high activity, you know these folks are working every day to make conversations happen with the prospects you want/need
- Understand that proactive new business is sales, and that means it takes time, energy, numerous touchpoints, and the willingness to hear “no” often in order to get the next meeting
- Do not get discouraged by an objection or rejection as it is all part of the hunt
- As an early stage funnel operator, the high energy that they operate under may not translate to highly organized thoughtful pitches, and as such balls can get dropped in later stages
- Living for the hunt can often mean being highly focused on what’s working, and may not always translate to flexibility in trying new approaches
- High energy also doesn’t typically lend itself well to create complex new systems within CRMs and automation tools
When to hire (and not hire) a Hunter?
If you find yourself with a well thought out, differentiated value proposition, and you have a full tech stack and data that is ready for a sales rep, then drop this person in and watch them go! BUT, if you don’t have an organized process or you have a sub-par story to tell at the moment, then you will have someone out there putting a ton of energy into conversations with them constantly going nowhere. The agency needs to properly channel this energy through organized easy processes and a clear story.
- Great at organizing a tech stack of CRM, marketing or sales automation, and data in order to compliment any new business efforts
- Constantly digging up research that can be beneficial to any new business effort at either the top or the bottom of the funnel
- Understands attribution, which allows them to better follow which approaches are working best and where
- These folks are analysts and thinkers, which is a positive, EXCEPT that eventually we have to stop analyzing and start communicating
- Often outreach does not happen, because we are looking for a perfect silver bullet for each individual prospect which in turn causes paralysis
- This is not a top of funnel warrior and as such, each opportunity that does get uncovered will be that much more important because there will be fewer in the pipeline
When to hire (and not hire) a Builder?
If you find yourself at the beginning of your new business journey and you feel like you have a hunter/storyteller already that can generate the conversations you need, but you have no back end system put in place, then get yourself a builder. Sometimes these people already exist within your organization in Account Management or Marketing, so take an extra look in house. Don’t hire them if you are looking for pure top of funnel activities as their energy will not be properly directed at hunting those new prospects you are aiming for.
Now, these are over-generalizations of people and certainly, people exist in the world that inhabits two or even all three of these new business types. The problem is that they can be hard to identify in the wild, and some may misrepresent themselves (knowingly or unknowingly). So as an agency owner, take your time thinking through exactly where your firm is at in your new business process. If you have everything covered, but just need those calls made – get yourself a Hunter. If you don’t have a great value prop identified and need to reposition your agency – think about a new Storyteller. If you want better attribution and to create a scalable and repeatable new business process – look harder at that Builder persona.
There is a reason that we here at Catapult are built-in pods of 3-5 people per client. We want to maximize the skills of each individual in order to help drive new business at each stage in your funnel process. If you want help identifying the persona you need next, or to hire a ready made team, get in touch!
By now, our “new normal” feels a little less weird and a lot less chaotic than it did in March 2020. But there are still so many unknowns for the foreseeable future. One thing we know for sure is that the agency conferences and events we look forward to every year will be virtual or with limited attendance and COVID safe guidelines. And now, more than ever, it is important for us to attend. The world is still writing a playbook on how to deal with a pandemic, so connecting with your peers, even if it feels different, in the agency world is crucial for learning from each other and growing our businesses as we all continue to pivot and adapt.
Here are 6 conferences your agency should attend in 2021:
1. 4A’s Decisions 2021 – January 25th – 26th
Details: In this all-virtual program, 4A’s Decisions 2021 will explore what’s new and unprecedented today, and what’s coming tomorrow. Discuss, debate, and collaborate on real solutions. Trade innovative, transformational ideas you can use immediately. Now more than ever, planning for a thriving future depends on all of us. Join us online for Decisions 2021 so we can unleash our power to change our organizations, our industry, and our world.
2. AdvertisingWeek Power Up Festival – January 26th
Details: After the year that was 2020, we could all do with pressing the reset button. Power Up is a one-day festival bringing you the skills, ideas, and inspiration you need to energize yourself for 2021 and perform at your best.
Across our three themed channels, we’ll bring you a day-long program of inspiring presentations and practical workshops to help you perform productively, be well in body and mind, and create a renewed sense of wellbeing and purpose for 2021.
3. Digiday Media Buying Summit – March 10th-12th
Details: It’s been a tough run for media agencies, between the novel coronavirus forcing employees to flee offices and ongoing social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, the last year has been tumultuous. Not to mention, they’ve been transformed by transparency concerns even as brands have begun to examine contracts more closely, and brand safety has been front and center as the online and platform environment gets murkier by the minute. New types of companies are transforming how brands are launched and marketed on various platforms, and the rise of new players in retail media has meant more complications. There’s also increased competition — across platforms, within agencies and with the rise of new in-house media buying teams.
At the Digiday Media Buying Summit LIVE, we’ll explore how agencies are changing the way they operate as remote working has become the new norm, as social platforms tumble and as regulations and client requests get stronger. From the ins and outs of brand safety to new technologies to working across platforms, join us for a look at the challenges and opportunities ahead in 2021.
4. SXSW Online – March 16th-20th
Details: Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, we expect that the City of Austin will continue its restrictions on large gatherings through March 2021, so it will not be possible for SXSW to stage a large, in-person event within our usual footprint.
The focus now is on SXSW Online 2021, and we look forward to bringing you the many aspects of our event that make it unique while connecting with our attendees in new and meaningful ways.
Register today to take advantage of the unique opportunities this event has to offer, including keynotes, Conference sessions, Music Festival showcases, Film Festival screenings, world-class networking, and the unexpected discoveries that are always a part of SXSW, all in a digital setting.
5. Mirren Live – May 19th-20th
Details: Mirren Live is an event entirely focused on rebuilding for growth, and it’s back in May to address agency revenue growth with a focus on new revenue streams, innovation, new business, and organic growth.
6. ANA Masters of Marketing Conference – Oct 5-8, 2021
Details: ANA Masters of Marketing Conference will focus on promotion marketing, relationship marketing, retailer marketing, experiential marketing, content marketing, and influencer marketing.
The holiday season can be a tough time for new business pros as they try and navigate prospects’ holiday time off, end of year meetings, and planning cycles for the new year. While there are certainly hurdles for prospecting during this time of year, at Catapult we’ve seen some serious new business opportunities created for our agencies purely because we continued to push for conversations when all of our competitors began to slow down. The key is that you keep your approach flexible with some creative ideas and language. Here’s some tips for new business prospecting straight from our experts at Catapult.
Top tips for new business prospecting during the holidays:
Actionable change takes time
With any big structural change, results can take time to show up, especially in the digital realm. Having those conversations with brands right now means they could see results within Q1, so our job as new business professionals is getting marketers to be thinking that far ahead and evaluating how we can help move that Q1 needle for them.
Don’t forget the phone
We’ve found our phone outreach to be more successful during the holidays. Execs are prone to answer the phone more often during the holiday “slow down” when there are fewer meetings on their books. Less meetings typically mean people are in better moods and more willing to take a chance on a cold conversation with someone new.
Set meetings for January
Calendars are likely more open at the beginning of the year, and prospects may appreciate you not asking to speak right then during the holidays. Our experts at Catapult have found success with reaching out in November and December to schedule a meeting for January. While typically we don’t want to schedule that far out, this is the one time of year where we may employ a delay tactic in order to ensure the prospect has time to commit to a real conversation.
Try weekend mornings
Mornings during the weekend and fringe holiday days, like the Friday after Thanksgiving, tend to be very productive for prospecting. Top executives and decision-makers are rarely away from their computers and it’s a way to reach people while many of your competitors take time off. Prospects also tend to have less crowded inboxes during the weekend. Just ensure that if you are going with this method that you are sending 1:1 ABM emails and not mass spam messaging (for that matter, don’t ever send spam messaging!).
Hone in on un-spent budgets
Don’t be afraid to send those “last-minute budget emails” to see if there is budget left in year-end that needs to be used. Encourage them to invest with you now and implement into their 2021 strategic plan.
Be mindful of the season
This shouldn’t have to be said, but please remember that it’s not all about Christmas for everyone. Being understanding in your language to all of the major holidays and the fact that some people don’t celebrate any of them can ensure that you don’t land yourself in an awkward situation.
Take advantage of New Year’s resolutions
It’s the biggest time of the year for gyms, weight loss programs, diet fads, healthy bars, drinks, vitamins, etc. and marketing efforts for those brands is crucial right now. Brands are looking to make serious shifts in how they market themselves as it relates to New Year’s resolutions given the COVID environment. In the same way that people make New Year’s resolutions, brands do too. There’s always something they want to change in the new year, it’s up to you to find it!
Call the right people
C-level, EVP, and SVP executives are most likely working on the days most people take off. With their colleagues on PTO, there may be a great possibility of those prospects picking up a cold phone call or answering an interesting email.
Try handwritten notes
Handwritten notes to top prospects explaining your capabilities can help break through the emails and voicemails that haven’t caught their attention. This one may be tough given the current work from home status of many companies, but we are seeing some folks working back in their offices a couple of days a week.
Keep it fresh
Continue to add new contacts to your pipeline and refresh the ones you have. With the current changes from COVID, a lot of your old connections have left or moved companies. Regardless of COVID, we always see some of the biggest shifts in people around this time of year.
Keep your messaging short and sweet. Break through the thousands of other sales and promotional emails with brief messaging, human tone, and well-crafted subject lines. And don’t forget to address a pain point. No one wants to read an email all about yourself and what you do. This stands for post-holiday as well, but it’s even more important now when your prospects are being inundated with graphic heavy, self promotion from your competitors.
Given the recent market shifts, everyone’s asking themselves, “How do we get incremental new revenue coming into the agency given our latest hit to the economy?” The key to accelerating your agency’s lead generation is through proactive prospecting. It’s understandable that clients are seemingly dragging their feet, but there is still budget to be had. Client aren’t feeling confident in their plans just yet, but soon the current market conditions will settle and we will know what we are heading into for the rest of this year. Identifying and predicting these shifting budgets before they happen is the goal of an agency new business person right now.
During budget shifts and rebuilding of brands, our goal needs to be reaching out with the right message, to the right prospect, at the right time. You can no longer put one message out in front of the masses and hope it works. All your outreach must be tailored to the specific individual and brand.
In order to find success during this time, you will have to drop your old, tired concept of sales. Rather, embrace sales as the idea of lead generation and lead conversion. Sales is not a dirty word, particularly if you approach it from the perspective of helping your prospects. It’s not about selling the great new services or strategic tools you have – that would mean you’re selling your features rather than your benefits and not leading with the prospect’s needs or helpful insights. Sales, now more than ever, is about being active and leaning in.
What can your agency do to accelerate your lead generation during a market shift?
- Identify shifting budgets.
- Predict where those new budgets will fall.
- Most importantly, retire your old view of sales to an Account-Based Sales approach.
Imagine if you could accelerate your pipeline and shorten your sales cycles. Or what if you were able to focus on just those high-value prospects and the ones that are already predisposed to your agency. Think less waste on leads that are ultimately just going to fall flat. ABS is more strategic and more efficient while being hyper-focused and hyper-personalized in selling to a smaller number of better prospects. The ABS approach allows you to target only your most qualified prospects much harder with personalized messaging and content.
In our opinion, ABS is more focused and faster while consuming fewer resources. For agencies at Catapult, this is the approach we use for the majority of our proactive prospecting efforts. One way you can think of Account-Based Sales is the 80/20 rule. 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results. Most likely, if you did an analysis of your prospecting list you will find that a small percentage of prospects were actually worth all the effort you put against your proactive efforts. With ABS, you can ensure you are leveraging your limited resources and applying them to a smaller number of better prospects that are more likely to work with your agency.
When it comes to ABS, qualification is key. We often see qualifications at most agencies happening too late in the pipeline. This means agencies are doing a ton of work trying to get in the door only to find out the prospect isn’t really a good fit for the agency overall. So how do you start qualifying prospects much earlier in your process? Hone in on prospects with an urgent need that your agency has a right to win and can credibly fulfill. Most agencies can’t be everything to everyone, so you want to pre-qualify your leads much earlier in the process and target them with more personalized content. We find that most agencies are spreading themselves too thin across too many unqualified prospects with generic messaging and then finding themselves in an uphill battle during the pitch process.
Here’s how you can start shifting from the typical agency prospecting method to an Account-Based Sales approach and get better results.
1. Start all your outreach plans with the accounts, not the offer. Who needs help that your agency can successfully support?
2. Then think through the insight against those accounts. What is their specific urgent need based on the research and insights you have into their brands?
3. After you have your insights, start curating your sales content. How can we help them?
Keep in mind, you aren’t creating content with the intent of just making them a client, but rather how can you provide value through your sales and marketing messaging. This actually marries a little bit of inbound marketing with ABM and can be very powerful.
4. Once you have curated your content, now you start thinking about channels. How should you best communicate this content in a way that the prospect can take your insights and learn from them, regardless if they are ready to have a discussion with you?
Consider if social, email, or phone is the right way to deliver your value-added message based on the insights you are providing. Each communication channel provides value in their own unique ways.
This approach is more powerful than the typical agency prospecting. Gone are the days where you tell a prospect why you’re a great agency because you’re really creative, you’re nimble, have a great culture and you’re a “one-stop-shop”. Blending in with the other tens of thousands of marketing services firms during your prospecting efforts is a huge mistake. There is also a notion that you have to start a relationship with a prospect and after a while, they will become a client. That is not the case anymore. Relationships play a role in new business, but they are not the defining factor that will close the deal anymore. Yes, relationships will help get you in the door quicker, but they won’t necessarily help convert the business.
ABS is also far more methodical. Ideally, you will have multiple categories, but you will be targeting them one at a time with segmented messaging. Then you confirm the organizations within the target category, and then the individual people. You really want to infiltrate the organization you are targeting. The biggest shift will be reaching out from one to many to now one to one.
Once you have your highly targeted group of individuals you are then identifying the urgent need, developing your sales call-to-action and messaging strategy, then curating your content for the “hook” to open the door for your lead generation and conversion process. At the same time, you have articulated and optimized your pipeline and will monitor which messaging, which insight, which needs, which prospects you’re having more success with. And then you must optimize on an ongoing basis with ABS technology.
As far as ABS technologies, here are a few software platforms we recommend. Make sure you confirm the tools you need to be the most effective and keep it simple by sticking to the basics. Keep in mind most of these technologies are used throughout our partnerships with agencies.
- Targeting – Winmo, LinkedIn sales navigator
- Purchase intent data – Bombora,
- Content Development – Zerys, Contently
- CRM – Salesforce, Hubspot, Pipedrive
In short, here are the 8 steps needed to shift your prospecting program:
- Identify high-value prospects: Leads with an urgent need that your agency can credibly fill from a category, company, and individual level.
- Identify urgent needs: Identify the most urgent category needs that your agency can support. Think of what is holding organizations back the most, what are their biggest constraints and opportunities that you can help them capitalize on?
- Sales CTA: Based on the need, what is your messaging strategy?
- Sales and marketing content: This is directed by your sales strategy and you’re creating insight0rich content that you are distributing through very specific channels to surround the individuals on your highly targeted pipeline.
- Lead generation: Once you start pushing your content you are now trying to generate a response from an individual.
- Lead conversion: You nurture each active lead with the goal of confirming an opportunity to work with them.
- Pipeline optimization: Based on your funnel, you are evaluating the performance.
- ABM technology: Implement marketing technologies to increase the scale and effectiveness of your program.
Being more targeted and more specific against more qualified leads will increase your lead generation and lead conversion. Right now prospects are not going to increase total spend, but they are reallocating and optimizing during this time. We encourage you to make the shift in your prospecting efforts, get organized, and start your ABS outreach to get the most effective results.
The conversation around email is different than what it would have been just three weeks ago, and certainly before that. So let’s talk about what’s working, what’s not, and what makes a great email. Obviously, with the pretty radical changes over the last few weeks, everyone’s been adjusting to this new normal, and what worked yesterday, doesn’t necessarily work today. But let’s be clear in saying, there’s no perfect email and there’s no perfect approach, especially now that we’re all going through something nobody has ever gone through before. It’s really new ground for all of us. This is the time to take an extra minute in any outreach that you’re doing. Be thoughtful, empathetic, and intelligent about how you’re going to be approaching any new conversations with brands or prospects that you want to work with.
The truth is, we’ve already seen commerce will continue. Once we get through the initial shock of everyone saying, “Hang on, freeze, let’s figure out what the heck is going on here,” everyone is still going to have to find ways to go about their day. Brands are going to continue to have to market to their consumers. They’re just going to have to find new ways to do so. And budgets will be moving from one area to the next. With that being said, our priority at Catapult is to ensure our agency partners are the ones actually guiding brands while they’re examining this new marketplace.
There are two very different approaches with regard to emails.
These approaches are the mass email approach and the account-based marketing approach. From our perspective, the ABM approach is where we typically find ourselves seeing the most value in our prospect interactions. Certainly, within the current climate, we would see all of our agencies needing to double down in the ABM approach even further.
What is a custom one-to-one ABM approach?
The ABM approach focuses on getting the message of your value proposition and what you’re trying to sell in a very customized way using things you know about the brand and the prospect and incorporating that throughout your messaging. An example of that, in a normal world, would be doing specific research on an individual or company. You can look at earnings reports and try to anticipate what they’re looking for, or if they’re shifting dollars into eCommerce you should write a message about that. You could include language like, “I read recently that you’re shifting dollars into eCommerce, and you want to grow your eCommerce efforts 9%.”
And then, the account-based portion of that, you would write a different message to different stakeholders within that company. Each level of seniority is looking at things through a different lens, so use that same value prop with your stakeholder in mind as well. As far as quantities of email, I think there’s a lot of teams that are out there plugging into something like a HubSpot or an Act-On and saying, “Here are 1000 people we’re going to send out our new business emails, and get those out and about.”
So what should be the quantity goal when you’re creating these more highly customized emails? You’ll want to keep in mind when you are creating a highly customized piece that’s going to be focused on an individual stakeholder, or group of stakeholders within the organization, it’s going to be small because it’s a lot more time consuming to dive into the research. In terms of the number of people in a cadence, it could be anywhere from 5 – 15, depending on what types of similar themes you might be able to weave through each of the individual stakeholder groups. So, it’s certainly much smaller in scale than would be a broader-based approach.
Within those groups, if you’re sending a lower quantity and you have 15 really highly targeted messages that are going out then your response rates are obviously much higher. We know this greatly changes depending on the category, vertical, title, etc., but you’re typically looking at an average of 10 – 20 percent higher open and/or reply rates.
Our Group Directors and Business Development Directors say the same is true for them when working on behalf of our agency partners. The open rates for highly customized messages are incredibly higher, and the reply rates are sometimes as high as 5%, which is substantial if you’re reaching out to enterprise businesses as it’s far above the industry average. Our way of going about this at scale for our agency partners is by utilizing SalesLoft, which is different from a marketing automation tool like a HubSpot, or Pardot because it allows our team to take those really targeted groups and customize each one of those emails without entirely recreating the wheel.
How do you still take an ABM approach if you’re customizing 50% of the email? This is definitely possible if you are filtering vertical information, especially, because there is a common theme people will recognize and that will resonate with a particular audience with a certain industry. Just balance your messaging with a little less personalization based on an individual or what you might know with a higher focus on their industry or vertical.
Here are three key elements of a successful email in today’s climate:
There are three parts to successful emails in today’s climate which are research and insights, focus, and ensuring we’re being human in our tone and in our actions within these emails.
Research and Insights
Here’s the kind of research our team is doing on a person, and then on a company before deploying any outreach. We’ll break this up into two parts – pre-pandemic, and then post.
We research any senior-level stakeholders, C level and above, and even a step underneath that. Those people typically have been interviewed by multiple different organizations, where you can go find them talking in their own words to see what they’re saying about their business. For those people, it is absolutely best to communicate on a personal level, because you’re usually getting a personal point of view during those interviews, directly, on their business. So regurgitating that back to them, answering some of the things that they’ve said is their focus. Multiple times they’ll say, “We’re going to shift everything to creative this year. We’re going to shift everything to this. We’re trying to do this.” They’ll tell you what their attempts for the year are in those types of interviews. And the interviews are everywhere. Just Google their name and you’ll be able to find them.
Whenever you get lower into brand managers and senior-level marketers, you’re not going to find a personal point of view, so it’s best to do your research on the company. Find what’s going on in the organization, especially if you get down into what their typical responsibilities are, and speak directly to that. A lot of times they will want to introduce you to someone more senior than them if you can nail down what is going on in their world. So essentially, do your research for messaging to lower titles on a company level and for higher-ranked titles, get really personal. You can also reference earning reports and use direct quotes from almost the entire C suite. Those are extremely helpful as well.
Now, in our current pandemic climate, it’s harder to do that, because things that C suite executives said last month are no longer relevant in most cases. Their focus before the pandemic was completely different than what their focus is right now.
So now that we are here, in the middle of this pandemic, it is still important to connect with individuals on a personal basis, but really focusing on what is going on in their industry and how they are affected by this new normal. If you are reaching out to CPG brands, for instance, hone in on the brand and category level, and understand the challenges they’re facing in today’s world. Position the agency in a way that the brand knows you understand the challenges they are facing. This is your opportunity to connect the dots between what your value proposition is, and the strengths and expertise that your agency has.
Keep in mind, you never want to reach the point where you have over-researched and over-customized. Our goal should not be to write a 100-page white paper on every single one of the companies and individuals you are reaching out to, so how long should your emails be and what is the right amount of research to include?
The email size can depend on the touchpoint that you’re on. If it’s your first one, try a few paragraphs of customization, or a few paragraphs in total. As far as customization, if your email is customized over 62%, then at that point there is the potential that you lose everything to say and you just end up sounding more like a stalker. We recommend customizing about 50% of your email which is a true ABM approach without overdoing, and sometimes even just 25% can still be a super powerful email. If you’re just talking to beverages and non-alcoholic beverages, or even if you go into just functional beverages, it sounds very targeted, very customized, but you’re only probably customizing the first 25%.
In terms of how much time you should spend researching, Google makes it easy. You can spend 5 – 10 minutes finding most of the information you need for multiple stakeholders. Occasionally, it may take you longer, but for the most part, it doesn’t take hours to find what you need with the resources available to you these days. And a really good piece of insight can be used against different people. We’ve had much success at Catapult with our agency partners when we have done so. You can repackage your data and your narrative in outreach that you’re doing for multiple companies within the same category to save a lot of time.
When customizing emails right now, use a lot of caution in what you’re saying. If you’re trying to anticipate what the brand is planning or referring to anything that’s dated longer than yesterday, you might be better off keeping your messaging shorter, simpler, and to the point, just because there are landmines everywhere within every bit of the economy right now. Assuming you know everything that’s going on within a brand will be challenging to do right now.
A lot of times, what we see from agencies when they first come on board with Catapult is a lot of over-research when we discuss what they’ve done in the past. They want to put together a huge insights piece that requires significant time from their research team before they ever send out the first email to whatever brand it is that they’re aiming at. They usually aren’t thinking about the fact that it will take three weeks to get the first email out once it’s built. The goal of your first email is to secure a conversation and not to sell anything, but just to provide value in what your agency can do for a brand. That kind of email can be achieved through a very short message, that maybe pulls out one little piece of an insight that maybe they already know, but it’s just showing you understand their business and then you can carry on to the next step. You don’t have to blow their mind with a single great insight and piece of research but to assume you know more about the beverage industry than the person that’s sitting in the beverage industry all day is slightly offensive. It’s all about balancing your understanding and expertise and how you can help a brand solve a problem and doing it in a very empathetic way.
One of the best places we go for research is Winmo. We use Winmo alerts for our agency partnerships to bring information to us on a particular category, person, or company as it changes. The alerts allow us to through the right communication and messaging to put out in front of clients or potential prospects. Also, the search engine universe gives you B2B publications that focus on a particular category.
When we talk about concentrating on a particular category, it also translates into our second point around your focus. The idea of focus is about understanding the position of your agency’s core promise which is what you do best and where you bring the absolute most value to any of our prospects.
Why is the focus around your agency’s promise so important for your messaging given everything that is going on in the world today?
Especially right now, people are busy. They don’t have the time to connect dots between if you’re referencing a bunch of different case studies and past work. They need to know exactly what you can do, what your core capabilities are, how you can help them at this moment. Anything other than that in your messaging will be ignored right now. It’s important to be crystal clear. If your email answers the questions: What does your agency do? What do you excel at? And How do you help? You are on the right track. It’s more important than ever to just remove the fluff and quickly get to the point. That way, if a brand is having the same problem that you can solve, then you are at the forefront of their minds when looking for a partner.
If you’re looking for a way to quickly talk about yourselves in any of your outbound emails or LinkedIn/social messaging, we recommend thinking about it as a sentence which answers these four questions:
Who are you?
Who do you actually serve?
What is the problem that you’re actually going to solve?
Why are you different?
If you can answer those four things in one sentence, then you are giving a clear view of exactly where your focus is, what your promise to a brand is, and then pushing into that area of what’s going on with them. Keeping all of this in mind while being really empathetic in the beginning shows that we’re all human and we’re all going through a whole new reality. After you have shown your empathy, we recommend including the messaging around your focus. But always remember to lead with empathy and ensure that your message doesn’t sound fake.
Let’s talk about how your tone changes now that a brand’s focus is very different.
In terms of where we are today, one of the most important things to be is really empathetic to what everyone’s going through, and having an understanding tone. That means acknowledging what’s happening in the world, but also acknowledging the fact that you’re in business, they’re in business, and there’s still business to be done. You can do this in a very tactful way by always offering up assistance in areas where they might need help. This is crucial for emphasizing the value proposition and strengths of your agency and communicating it in an effective, tasteful way.
From there, it is important to keep in mind that you’re not so much trying to do a hard close, even though that’s what you want in a perfect world, but rather end up with a conversation that moves the relationship along. Understand that people are a lot more sensitive now with everything that’s going on in the world, so a softer close may sound like; “If now’s not the right time, perhaps sometime when it feels right based on where you are with your business.” That sort of an approach represents the fact that “Hey, this is my job to reach out to companies and create and nurture relationships. And I know you have a job too, so let’s talk when the time is right, based on whatever is happening in your world right now.”
Your tone should never lead with fear or sound fake.
We all know that it’s going to be a tough couple of months. You don’t have to remind your prospects of what is going on or scare them into working with you. Never lead with fear, instead be as positive and optimistic as possible, while still being realistic.
The other part to mention about tone is sounding fake. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from just all sorts of different providers offering help. And just the term “help”, comes off very fake. In that instance, I don’t know who you are, we’re not connected on LinkedIn, we’ve never had a conversation, and you just offered your help, but you’re an email testing software that has nothing to do with what it is that we’re doing, or what we’re going through right now. So the idea of just that word “help” feels very manufactured to me.
We encourage you to position your messaging regarding help around something very specific. You could say something like, “Hey, we know that those dollars from conferences and events are going to be moving to digital, and we specialize in digital services.” Offering to help guide someone through those kinds of shifts, and where you should be prioritizing or getting the most out of those dollars, it’s a very different conversation than, “We’re here to help with anything you guys need.” It just feels very fake and cold.
We know this is going to look different for every agency. If you do have information to leverage that’s of value, like published reports or relevant content, use it. That’s certainly a way to help without saying you’re helping, you’re providing a service. And if you don’t have those resources, it’s about using empathy and understanding to show you can solve a unique problem.
Keep in mind, just because your agency may not have the global reach, data, and analytics as others doesn’t mean that you don’t have something of value to offer for free, which is nothing more than your own expertise, and your own ability to help provide analysis on something very specific. That’s key when we’re talking about offering to help in any of these different areas. We’re offering our help or our expertise on something that we believe they are thinking about and that’s keeping them up at night. Offering something for free can be as simple as just a conversation. Maybe that’s all they need, is just to be able to sit down and say, “Holy crap, we have no idea what we’re going to be doing with our budget over the next few months, and we’re sitting right here.” And you can say, “You know what? I actually work with three other companies just like yours, and they’re in the exact same boat. Does it make sense for us to sit down and talk this through? Would it be helpful for me to be a sounding board for you?” It’s not a crazy ask, and it sounds very personal and human and empathetic.
There’s not a brand out there that will say, “We’ve got this, we know exactly what to do.” They’re exactly like everyone else in this situation. No one has a coronavirus playbook or a pandemic playbook, it wasn’t on anyone’s radar to do this homework, and everyone’s kind of figuring it out as they go. So people do appreciate it if you do have any sort of advice that’s actually helpful. If you do have something for free, we’re seeing some success with webinars right now, whether it’s a one to one webinar, or hosting a group of like-minded people.
It’s okay to be human and tell people, “No, I don’t know what’s going to happen two or three months from now, and no, I’m not an expert on pandemics and the way brands are going to react to every single pandemic. But what I am is an expert in is crisis communications, or SEO/SEM, or video production. And I can give you an expert’s viewpoint on those things, what may or may not happen, but more importantly, how we can potentially help you put your dollars, your budgets, your time, and everything in the right places as you go about trying to make the best decisions for your brand.”
The most important thing for agencies right now is to be consistent, be on point, and be smart about what you’re doing and how you’re saying it because, at the end of the day, this world pandemic is going to be in the rearview mirror. And if you’re being thoughtful about your outreach and communicating in a meaningful way, brands are going to be interested in you even if they’re not raising their hand right now.
A positive free conversation right now, that means absolutely zero revenue to your agency, may absolutely turn into real revenue a year from now. All because you were the trusted, decent person who had a good conversation with them while all this was going on.
The new year is here. And now is the time you’ll activate the plan you’ve spent countless hours on to ensure a successful, profitable year. So what are your top priorities for 2020? New business is probably at the top of the list. And creating a pipeline of the highest value, qualified prospects that are ripe for conversion is the key to success. At least part of your business development efforts and pipeline should be focused on winning the game changer client this year. I’m talking about the client that will significantly improve the health and wealth of your agency. We want 2020 to be the year you attract the game changer client for your agency.
The biggest challenge? Getting your sales positioning spot on and specific to your target list. Clear positioning will differentiate you from the competition, and should be based on how you can help your highest value prospects create competitive advantage. With that being said, it’s also important to clearly define the highest value prospects, the Game Changers, for your agency.
So which do you tackle first when they both need to be addressed simultaneously as they inform each other? A good starting point is to gather your team and work through the questions below to ensure your positioning is spot on and a target prospect list you have the right to win business with.
Here’s our recommended checklist for creating the right positioning and target lists to attract the Game Changer client:
Question 1: Who is your agency?
To evaluate your agency’s positioning to prospects, first get laser clear on the core of what differentiates your agency by exploring these key questions:
- What’s your agency’s purpose?
- What gets management up in the morning?
- Do you know what are your employee’s core passions?
- What are you exceptionally good at?
- What can your agency build a strong POV around?
- What can your agency own versus your competitors?
Question 2: What will the agency look like in 18-24 months?
- What are the agency’s revenues goals?
- Which industries/technologies do we want to be “experts” in?
- Do we have the services to be competitive?
- Do we have the talent to lead the agency at that level?
- What will our thought leadership look like?
Question 1: Which type of client is the agency Game Changer?
To narrow down the highest value potential clients you want on your roster in 18-24 months, consider the following:
- What industry(s) should we focus on?
- What is the revenue potential?
- Where are they in their product lifecycle?
- What types of marketing programs do they utilize?
- Are there any geographic constraints?
- What type of prospect shares your agency POV and Philosophy?
Now that you’ve clarified your positioning and the game changer prospects you want to attract, it’s time to focus communications about the agency on what your customers are interested in (it’s about them, not you), so that they will want to learn more. This is the first step in building credibility with prospects.
Question 2: Do you have credibility to engage the Game Changer?
As you create your prospect list (against the above criteria) you also need to determine how ready the agency is NOW to engage them – or what adjustments need to be made for success:
- Do you understand the Game Changer prospect’s pain points and business challenges?
- What content (Intellectual Capital) do you have to share and engage them?
- Is the content campaign able to generate multiple outreach occasions?
- Does your web site and other collateral speak to the prospect’s pain points and needs?
As you work through these positioning and prospect checklists, you may find your target opportunities become significantly more qualified for your agency to win because you can focus on the ones where you have right to win. And when you attract qualified prospects that are right for your agency you will inevitably attract the Game Changer. Here’s to a game changing 2020!
When embarking on a proactive prospecting program, there are some core steps that can’t be skipped over on the road to success. And the foundation is developing a solid, well researched target list. Below are the steps we recommend to clients to set that foundation.
1. Focus On A Vertical
Catapult programs are designed around core verticals or segments. Most often we build out lists with our agency clients by selecting target verticals they are best suited for, where they have subject matter expertise and case studies to provide credibility to prospects. A narrow focus enables you to curate and create outbound messaging to all companies within each selected vertical with a high level of relevance, leading to stronger engagement faster than a general message across verticals typically does.
2. Identify Your Right-To-Win Brands
…and research them well. For each vertical selected, the company list can be narrowed by such criteria as revenue, media spend and location. By targeting the companies that you can build credibility with, you’re able to laser-focus sales efforts around their unique needs. Don’t just rely on lists pulled from your criteria. Review top business rankings lists within specific verticals we are targeting to ensure we have all relevant companies included on the lists for our agency clients.
When researching each company to determine if it fits note challenges the company and/or industry is facing. These insights are later converted into talking points for email and phone outreach.
3. Uncover Key Decision Makers
When the list is narrowed down to the top companies in a vertical, find the key decision makers within each based on job function and rank. Who the right contacts are will vary depending on your agency’s services. For example, a social media agency surely will want to connect with a social media director. However a branding agency likely would not.
Focus on C-suite, VP and director-level marketing professionals; depending on your agency, you may also want to target manager-level contacts. What’s important is that you’re only targeting decision-makers or influencers. Pro Tip: try to find at least 5 – 7 contacts per company/brand. Experience tells us that there is rarely just one decision maker, and it’s not always the obvious one that will respond and champion engagement with your agency.
It’s also helpful to scour the web for financial statements, press releases and trade articles for mentions of other relevant contacts at the company.
And, once you’ve completed the list, make sure to import it to a CRM database so you can effectively track your outreach. A few that our clients have used Salesforce, Pipedrive, and Hubspot to name a few.
4. Dig Deeper for 1:one or 1:few personalization
Uncovering information on your contact list through LinkedIn helps confirm the employee is still with the company and remains in the appropriate role. LinkedIn is also useful for mining additional contacts in the company – you may find additional relevant prospects you have not found previously.
During this process make sure to take notes of mutual contacts, past employers, links to presentations, schools attended or other points of connection that you can use in your outreach to that contact. You will need the email address information for these contacts found outside of the database. Try looking at the email naming conventions of the other contacts in the company; 90 percent of the time the naming convention will hold for the missing emails. If all else fails, there are a number of online tools available to help find alternative email address suggestions like Clearbit, Hunter.io, or RocketReach.
At this point, you may be asking yourself how to do all this with the resources you have.
At Catapult, we’ve heard, and done, it all to try to crack the code on list building. Calling the company’s main line, filling out a web form, or hoping you have a mutual connection in your core network are not efficient or effective ways to connect with senior decision makers.
And getting the decision maker information is not an easy task. All too often, agencies rely on new business people or account people to track down prospect contact information on their own. If the contact data is even found, it’s often inaccurate and incomplete. This process eats up your team’s time and takes them away from more important business activities.
To solve this dilemma, many agencies subscribe to database services that provide accurate, direct contact information on prospects. And they supplement this data with their own due diligence to gain information that is relevant, current and provides insights for smarter prospecting messages.
There are a number of database providers available online, such as Winmo, our sister company, which offers vetted and current prospect contact information for relevant to ad agencies, marketing firms and creative agencies. A sophisticated database and intelligence service provides much more than contact information. It also can offer company financial data, existing agency relationships and recent news articles to help you better identify your best prospects.
When selecting a database provider, look for one that employs teams of researchers to validate and refresh the data on a regular basis, at least every 3-6 months. It’s also important that company specializes in advertising and marketing contacts so the prospects align with your target audience.
Your prospect data list is the most important part in agency new business outreach. If you don’t have a relevant and accurate list of prospects and an efficient way to get this data, even the best messaging will fall on deaf ears. Using the steps outlined above, supported by a database platform for efficiency and speed, makes this scalable so business development folks can spend more time on outreach, engagement and conversion to new business…and less time trying to track down contact information!