Generally speaking, agencies fall woefully short when it comes to prospecting for new business.
And although there are always certain case-by-case factors at work, in our experience, agencies’ inadequacies with new business largely come down to two things: limited resources and ad hoc sales strategies.
Sound familiar? If so, we highly recommend reassessing your entire business development strategy. Also, if you are not already doing this, start supplementing reactive prospecting with proactive business development as soon as possible. Of course, this is always easier said than done, especially if you don’t have expert guidance on where to start.
We know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be for agencies. For that reason, we’ve provided a list of strategic elements our own business development advisors and agency clients have used with great success.
Make sure your agency has clearly defined and compelling positioning
Many prospects and clients operate under the perception that all agencies are alike; the only real difference being the people they will work with.
Because of this, it’s important for you to communicate differentiated value in order to position your agency as the stand out candidate in the minds of prospective customers. Also, make sure that your “elevator speech” clearly speaks to the agency’s core competencies in a few simple sentences.
Develop a consistent, ongoing prospect outreach program and stick to it
If you do this right the first time, this strategy will be a sustainable and scalable framework for proactive business development in the long-term. Many agencies don’t have anything like this, choosing instead to be reactive and wait for new business opportunities to come knocking on their door.
An effective prospect outreach program should be consistent and involve multiple strategies and a variety of touch points – i.e. e-mail marketing, event marketing, telemarketing, attending conferences and events, etc.
Only present relevant case studies to prospects
Want to know the quickest way to undermine or discount your agency’s results? Send a random case study that is completely irrelevant to a prospective client’s industry or business objectives.
Be sure that every case study presented in a sales pitch or RFP response showcases results that are relevant to that prospect’s industry, pain points and marketing goals. This will enhance your ability to engage the prospect.
Use the sales funnel as a road map for your prospecting strategy
In order to build an effective new business pipeline you have to reach out to enough prospects on the front end to give you the best chance to “win” on the back end. That way, as you nurture leads down the funnel you have a solid base of prospects to pull from at all times.
Your outreach strategy should be targeted to top prospects in priority vertical categories. Remember, only a small percentage of the prospects you reach out to will turn into meetings and clients.
Befriend the Admin!
Administrative assistants can be your best friends. If you cannot reach the top decision maker in your outreach efforts, make it a priority to reach out to the admin to develop a relationship and ask for their help in scheduling a call or meeting. Befriending the admin can lead to enhanced new business success!
As the CEO or co-founder of an agency, finding your unique selling proposition (USP) is an important step to long-term success. Your value proposition can go a long way in positioning your agency well in an already saturated market.
You could almost go as far as saying that your USP is what is going to make or break your business. However, it is also hard to define and showcase a USP for prospects when you are still laying the groundwork for your entire business model.
In an effort to help you and your agency, we’ve compiled five simple steps for creating a USP that not only positions your agency well, but also generates new business opportunities as you grow.
1. Hold a company brainstorming session
Come together as a group and throw all of your ideas on the table. Hold discussions on the company vision and the values your company culture is built on. Get feedback on what employees thinks the agency’s strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to client work or overall strategy.
2. Put together a SWOT analysis
Get with your leadership team to go through all of the feedback and ideas from the company brainstorm. While you and the team are sifting through all of these notes, categorize each point as a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat.
Once you’ve gone through all of the initial feedback, talk with the team on a higher-level about your strengths, weaknesses and the kind of talent you can leverage within the company.
3. Take a walk down memory lane
We’re not talking about taking out old company photos. Think about what you have done for clients up to this point. What is it that clients consistently say that you do well? This can be anything from sales and marketing to operations and account management.
Think about the challenges you’ve overcome with previous campaign tactics and strategies. What lessons or useful tricks came out of those situations? If you can take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly, it will give you a clear sense of where your agency wins the most.
4. Study the competitive landscape within your market segment and industry
Once you have this information, do your research to identify the pain points of your target markets as well as gaps in coverage between competitors. Ideally, you want to find a market segment that the agency has the best opportunity to own and scale with.
5. Define your comfort zone and where your best work as been done
It’s important to look at the work you have done and establish which projects you felt the most comfortable doing, and which ones were a little shaky. Analyze current challenges and establish how you can fill those in the future. Make sure you measure your performance; where have you done your best work?
Take note of who you were working with, what type of industry it was, and why you think you fit well with that particular job.
6. Thought leadership
Think about it as good karma – and a great way to get your USP in front of target audiences. Put content out that will help people solve problems, and in return, your agency will be at the forefront of conversations in your industry.
This is a great way for your agency to stand out against competitors while also building your brand. It is critical when it comes to generating new business opportunities. By showcasing your knowledge through syndicated content you build authority and trust while creating top of mind awareness with target audiences.
7. Proof Points
This is where you use actual results (case studies, testimonials) to establish your value proposition in the marketplace. When it comes to nurturing a lead or pitching a new client, no amount of charm or smooth talking will ever go as far as proven results.How can you prove that the skills you have claimed are, in fact, your actual expertise? Take a look at all of your previous successes, and use them as case studies with current and future prospects.
Looking for advice tailored to your unique situation? We’re happy to provide tips and tricks that have been successful for our clients. Feel free to contact us anytime, or tweet your question to @CatapultNewBiz
Winning new business boils down to the chemistry and trust between the agency and the prospect.
According to agency search consultants surveyed on agency new business, chemistry is very important, and for many of them, it’s a top priority.
Differentiate your agency by finding your niche
Many agencies think that being everything to everyone will allow them to bring in all sorts of new business, but more often than not the opposite is true.
The truth is that the more you tailor your service offerings, the more valuable you are to prospects. The more specific you are about how and why your agency is the best solution, the stronger your value proposition will be. When creating a differentiated agency brand, make sure it is relevant and compelling to companies in your target markets.
Do your research
This might seem obvious to some, but the best way to show a client that you are serious about their business is by knowing just as much about that client as they know about themselves.
Know their competitors, use examples from their company and know their team. This way, you and your client can see eye-to-eye when discussing potential business ideas.
Be outcome focused
This is important because it allows your client to see the bigger picture and to focus on the end result, which is ultimately what they want. Do your research and pitch clients on the results you will drive and how you plan to grow their business.
Be honest about the challenges ahead, and have solutions for those challenges already prepared. This gives prospects a clear picture of what to expect when they work with your agency.
Of course, there are many more ways to win new business for your agency and a great deal goes into growing a pipeline of prospects.
At Catapult, our mission is to help you identify and win more new business for your agency. Click here to learn more about the services we can offer your agency.
Now in its 20th year, Mary Meeker’s Internet Report continues to be a virtual gold mine of actionable intelligence for digital marketers.
As a VC and former Wall Street analyst, Meeker has become a leading authority on consumer research and global economic patterns. Her yearly report offers the kind of insight that makes global campaigns successful, and puts ad agencies in the position to generate new business opportunities with multi-national corporations.
With that, here are the key takeaways for digital marketers from Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Report.
There are currently 2.8B internet users around the world, accounting for 39% of the population.
Takeaway: If you work with any globally relevant companies, especially those with key demographics in Asia, be sure that you are reaching high-usage audiences with digital marketing efforts. It’s an added bonus if you build an effective campaign that drives results and use it as sales collateral to bring in leads from other global brands.
Internet users have more control over content – and content discovery channels – than ever before.
Takeaway: To really move the needle with content marketing, your content promotion and social media strategies have to be on point if you are going to attract and engage different audience segments. Also, don’t be afraid to continuously showcase high performing evergreen content.
Advertising dollars are being used to create interactive experiences on social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp, LINE and Snapchat.
Takeaway: Marketers who capitalize on this now will have an advantage in the U.S. market. This kind of forward-thinking strategy is beneficial for client retention, pitching new clients and attracting new business. We recommend focusing on messaging apps since six of the top 10 most used apps fell in this category.
User-generated content and content aggregation platforms continue to grow in popularity.
Takeaway: Strategies that consistently focus on user-generated content through reviews and social media channels will increase the effectiveness of brand awareness efforts and build authority/trust with target audiences.
Visual content is the most effective way to reach millennials, especially when it is optimized for mobile usage.
Takeaway: As millennials continue to shape new advertising trends, effective marketing strategies will be defined by their adaptability and agility.
If your agency can successfully integrate even just one of the strategies mentioned above, it will serve you well. Your clients will see dramatic results. And better yet, you will have a guaranteed value proposition with supporting material to use for pitching, prospecting and lead generation.
The field of marketing is always changing and for agencies of all sizes, it’s important to stay connected to – and in conversations about – emerging technologies and new topics in the marketplace.
A great way to stay up-to-date on industry news is to take advantage of social media tools like LinkedIn Pulse and lists on Twitter. These resources allow you categorize posts, people and organizations into buckets, which makes it easier to sort through all of the information you care about most.
While Twitter lists can be a valuable resource, it takes time to build them and we understand the ambitious goals and time limitations that business development teams face at agencies. In an effort to help you quickly and easily find resources that interest you, we have put together a comprehensive list of top-rated blogs for agencies.
Business Development Strategy
- The Sales Lion
- Seth Godin’s Blog
- HubSpot Sales Blog
- Salesforce Blog
- Business Growth Zone
- General Assembly
- Open Forum
- B2B Lead Roundtable
- Hubspot Lead Generation Blog
- Influence & Co.
- Entrepreneurial Insights
Agency New Business Insights
- Advertising Age
- Fuel Lines | Michael Gass
- DDB Blog
- Social Media B2B
- The Social Selling Blog
- Social Selling University
- Business 2 Community
- Small Business Trends
- CMS Wire
Tell us about the blogs you follow by tweeting @CatapultNewBiz!
One misnomer in the marketing services world is that some agencies are bullet proof. They are immune from ever really needing a new business plan because they are never going to lose clients. They revel in how much their clients love them, their work and their relationship.
They will never get “the call that can change it all.”
It’s been said before every agency is one phone call away from losing a client – perhaps losing their biggest or most long-standing client.
One agency that recently reached out to us actually got that fateful phone call. In one, 30-second period two thirds of the agency billing was gone. A new wave of leadership was bringing in their beloved set of agency teams.
Luckily for the agency’s staff, their leaders never bought into the “we’ll never get the call” philosophy. The leadership team didn’t panic so there was no reason for the staff to panic.
It’s not to say that call didn’t have impact on the agency. Without question, it did. In examining the situation from a practical side, the agency leaders felt it was an opportunity to shore up their operations and get stronger.
What this agency chose to focus on was their steadfast approach to agency new business. They were in control and not forced to be reactive. For them acknowledging “that call” could come long before it did proved to be a “call that did change it all.”
As 2014 comes to a close, a number of agencies are telling the Catapult New Business team they are experiencing a disruption in their day-to-day business operations because they lack a new business development plan. Some started out 2014 charging a small internal team with the task of lead nurturing. For some, they left it to agency leadership or someone dedicated to new business. Others simply didn’t make any effort to secure new clients, or most importantly, build a legitimate pipeline.
Taking your eyes off the ball for a minute, a day or even a week can lead to major agency disruption. It’s likely that type of disruption will impact the agency for 12 months or more. Worse yet, it has potential for immediate impact in the form of staff layoffs and operational reductions because there isn’t enough client work to support expenses.
For many agency leaders the year coming to a close sounds the “disruption” alarm igniting their own realization of not hitting their growth goal in 2014. Many agency leaders will panic. Some agencies will heed the alarm and diligently formulate a plan for 2015. Others will not and they will find themselves in the exact same spot at this time next year.
Not preparing for a year of agency new business development can be a major disruption in the agency far longer than those 12 months. A lack of consistency is the single biggest killer of failed new business programs and it’s a universal problem faced by global agencies and independent agencies.
The best agency new business development advice comes down to a few key sentences: Seek advice from a trusted new business expert. Map out a detailed and accountable strategy that will engage prospects into opportunity defining conversations. Then, put your best agency face forward and close them! You will appreciate not having the “disruption” throughout 2015.
Is the head of the agency the best person to keep the new business plan on track? Perhaps they are, but likely they are not. Regardless of annual revenue, size of staff, location or agency discipline all agencies should have that one go to person to advise them and guide them along a growth path.
The advisor’s role in new business is critical in a number of ways. First, objectivity in what’s reasonable and practical for the agency to scale over the course of a year. Second, if they understand your agency they will be able to coach and guide you on more than verticals you should be playing in or the agency’s allure.
An experienced trusted advisor will know the keys to creating disruption and generating consistent awareness with a desired decision maker set. The advisor should also understand whatever problems your prospects may be wrestling with. Their job is not only to guide you to your goal, they are also accountable for helping you understand and identify where you have a wedge to open a new business conversation.
In other areas of new business, the advisor can also help you steer clear of new business danger zones. For example, encouraging you to, evaluate the impact of a tactical opportunity that may not put you on a path to achieve your larger scale goals.
An outside new business ally is often one of the best agency assets. Keeping a champion of your agency brand in your corner can help you truly develop and more importantly adapt your new business strategy to the needs of marketers you want to win as new clients.
Tri-athletes around the world train hard. As anyone who has aspired to become a tri-athlete knows the key is preparation. If you don’t dedicate the time to weight train, strength train, swim, run and cycle the triathlon event itself will just about kill you.
Not preparing for a year of agency new business development can cause a major disruption in the agency far longer than those 12 months. A lack of consistency is the single biggest killer of new business programs.
In January, the finish line of achieving a $2 million or $10 million new business goal may seem far off. You may fool yourself into thinking, “there’s plenty of time.” Even if you parcel off the overall goal into digestible portions, you still have to find a way to get there.
Collectively the account directors at Catapult New Business have more than 30 years of agency new business experience. If you polled each of them on the best training technique for new business they would each tell you new business is a triathlon, requiring discipline and consistency. They would also tell you without accountability, identifying, engaging and converting a prospect is next to impossible.
What happens then is that come December the probability of you and your agency reaching the new business finish line is next to none. As 2015 approaches, take time to prepare and seek out the best trainers to help you map out a plan to get you to your desired growth goal.