How Fishing Can Help Win Agency New Business

Are you finding lead generation to be a frustrating part of your work as an agency principal? If so, you’re not alone. Many agencies are struggling to find enough leads to fill their pipelines. What’s more, many of those leads – especially from inbound marketing efforts – are unqualified. Agency new business is critical to success, yet without strategic approaches, your bottom line suffers.

For you and your business development team, the lack of leads and the poor quality of those leads can result in desperation and frustration. If there’s no consistent methodology and strategy in place for outbound sales leads, your agency will flounder.

However, agencies can take a cue from a time-honored activity to develop a new, balanced and strategic tack when it comes to outbound: fishing.

For centuries, fishermen have understood that you need different types of approaches to be successful. Each method has its advantages and challenges. There’s no one best method for landing a catch. In some cases, hand-to-hand spearfishing is the smart choice. At other times, trawling – casting a big net – will get you the best results.

To be a successful fisherman, you need to identify the types of fish, quantities of fish, and approaches that are going to secure the haul you’re seeking. You need to know which method works best and create a plan for the fish you want to bring in. The same is true in your approach to agency new business.

Using Account-Based Sales for Agency New Business

Your sales reps are likely struggling to find the balance between scale and personalization in their outbound approaches. Do they spend their time crafting highly personalized emails or should they rely on more general templated emails that can reach more prospects?

Account-Based Sales (ABS) takes a strategic approach to how your team spends their time. It’s a sophisticated, strategic approach to agency new business that uses a combination of outbound activities that include personalized, multi-channel, and multi-threaded messages.

ABS creates a layered approach to your fishing activities that results in reps spending their time on activities that are designed to target different types of accounts.

At its heart, ABS uses tiers that each have their own outreach strategy. Not all accounts are the same. Organizing them into tiers, based on how valuable and viable they are to your firm, helps determine how much research to do and how much personalization each account gets.

Build the Tiers that Drive Agency New Business Success

When fishing, you need to understand the type of catch you’re after, how long you’ll be out on the water and how much gear you have to get the job done. You’ll also need to base your decisions on how successful you’ve been in catching a particular kind of fish in the past and, finally, how much attention and commitment you have to the type of fishing you’ve decided to take on.

Ranking your accounts is very similar. To determine how many accounts you want to target for each tier within your ABS strategy, you need to have a clear understanding of the following:

  • Your expected deal sizes
  • The length of the sales cycle
  • Your available sales resources
  • Your current level of engagement with significant prospects
  • The intensiveness of your account-based strategy

Here is a closer look at the tiers you should be using for your agency business development.

Tier 1: Highly Personalized

Your most ideal target prospects belong in this tier. These are the accounts where the opportunity is greatest, and you have a strong right to win the business.

Think of tackling these accounts like spearfishing, which uses sophisticated diving equipment and is often favored for fishermen wanting to zero in on a particular species. Spearfishing is usually most effective in clear water that makes the targets easy to see and follow. It also takes patience, specialized training and equipment, and deep knowledge of the species you’re after.

In ABS, Tier 1 accounts are often considered a “market of one,” and require deep research and planning. With clear insights about the target’s business and needs, your interactions can be personalized and customized for the account and, ideally, the person being approached.

Tier 2: Personalized

While requiring a lighter approach to research than Tier 1 accounts, the goal is still to ensure that each outreach is personalized or customized. This is the tier where most of your prospects will fall, where you have a right to win the account.

With a Tier 2 approach, sales reps spend time researching ‘3 things in 3 minutes,’ where they find facts or insights about the industry, company, persona or contact. Sales reps then use those data points in a 10/80/10 approach to emails (10 percent personalization in opening, 80 percent templated content, and 10 percent closing personalization).

Rod-and-reel fishing, known as angling, uses the same approach. Sports fishermen try to find the hook that can be attached to a line and baited in an attempt to lure fish. All these tools are controlled by the fishing rod and reel (akin to the lightly personalized research and emails) that add more line as necessary. While you may not know what kind of fish you’ll catch, you’ll catch more of them than spearfishing with less personalization.

Tier 3: Customized

When fishermen want to cast the widest net, they call it trawling. Boats pull large nets (trawls) through the water. Dragging these nets lets a fishing vessel catch a large number of fish quickly. However, there’s not as much art as in rod-and-reel or spearfishing. You don’t know what you’re going to get and you’re likely to entangle some sea turtles and spare tires along the way.

In Tier 3, the messaging is templated and targeted to the industry or persona. It’s a catch-all approach to see what’s out there. These may be possible clients in the same or similar category as your ideal prospects, but you have less of a right to win the business.

Cast a wide net and see what gets caught. While this may unearth some potentially good clients, it is not typically where you will catch a prize fish and thus not an area where you want to spend much time.

The Impact of ABS on Agency New Business

ABS is all about optimization. You’ll be applying an appropriate level of personalization to the accounts that will have the most impact on your agency. Your sales reps will be able to spend the right time on the right accounts at an appropriate level of engagement.

Your fishing for new business requires the use of multiple techniques to find the right range of accounts, discover what works best, and make adjustments accordingly. Doing so will give you a healthy balance of the types and quality of new accounts.

ABS is a strategic approach that will lead to more clarity of the work that needs to be done, better systems and processes for approaching outbound work, and more confidence and success throughout the agency.

The next step is to plan for your next outbound round. Rank your target prospects and place them into the right tiers. That work will help guide what messages are personalized and customized for each potential account. Decide what fish you’re going for and use the right gear to haul ’em in.

Christian Banach

As VP, Group Account Director, Christian leads Catapult's team of Sales Directors and is focused on helping generate new business opportunities for our advertising and marketing agency clients.