If new business is a race, would you say it’s better to spend your time looking forward or backwards? Do you run with your head turned backwards watching mile markers get further away? Or do you watch those mile markers in front of you get closer? I would highly suggest not looking backwards whenever you are running, and the same goes for your new business planning.
As any agency approaches this process of planning, it’s important to note there are two different types of measurements that can change not only how you evaluate the race that is your new business program, but also predict your future success. Those two are Lag Measures and Lead Measures. Let’s break them down.
- Lag Measures – These are backwards looking measurements of a result that has already happened.
- Lead Measures – These are forward looking measurements that are predicting a result that will happen.
In 2018 your agency needs to be looking at Lead Measures and how they can help you forecast revenue, new clients, and staffing needs. Too often, I see agencies looking at only lag measures to determine how they are doing with new business. They look back at measures like number of leads created or revenue generated and then try to determine what will happen in the future based off of those results. Closing a new client in August has no bearing on September’s chances of closing a piece of new business, so why do we forecast this way?
The best example I have seen of an agency using lead measures was based on two factors. First, my agency measured the number of “engaged conversations” that they have each month. An engaged conversation was defined as one where they determine money, authority, and need from a prospect. They knew that if they had five of those calls a month, that would lead to enough pitches to hit their new business goals. The second measurement was based on lead score. Any great new business program will have a marketing automation built into it and that will include lead scoring capabilities. This lead scoring mechanism gave my agency the ability to judge just how effective their sales and nurture campaigns were and allowed them to prioritize prospects to go after. They set a score level of 25 points as the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). The goal was to create 15 MQLs a month, because if they got 15 MQLS, then they could have at least 5 Engaged Conversations. See how each of these begin to predict one another?
As your agency begins to set your new business goals for the year, take a look at all of the different ways that you measure the success of your program. Take those measurements and put them either in a Lag or a Lead bucket. The majority of those will probably fall into that Lag bucket, and it’s fine to track those, but we want to start prioritizing the tracking of those Lead measurements. If you can find two dependable Lead measures, then you have not only simplified what you need to report, but you can also begin to set realistic goals for 2018 that will actually drive you to more new business wins!
If you were a baseball manager, would you send your best hitter to the plate without a bat? Everyday I see more and more agency principal doing just that thing. They hire a Business Development Director and then send them to bat without any of the tools or strategies needed to actually win and develop new business.
If you’re an agency principal and hiring a new Business Development Director is in your near future, make sure you commit to support them in the following ways before you bring them on board:
- Commit to financial investments beyond their salary. If you’re going to invest in new business than do it, for real. Hiring a person and then giving them zero dollars to invest in technology, data, process, or content is setting them up with failure at the very beginning. Yes, they should be able to use the phone and email, but expecting them to be able to do it at scale without a CRM, Marketing Automation, complete website, etc, is essentially tying their hands behind their back at the very beginning. This means that when you are committing to new business, you are committing to the financial cost of not only the human capital, but also the technology the profession demands.
- Commit to have a clear and differentiated agency promise. If you as the principle of an agency can’t describe your agency, what you do, and what makes you different in 1 sentence, then how can you expect your new hire to? Take the time to go through a positioning exercise with a professional and sculpt a unique position in your niche in order to help your new hire not only communicate to new prospects, but also find them easier. The clearer your position is the easier it is to drill down to exactly the types of prospects we should be chasing and ensure that we can better communicate with them.
- Commit to Always Be Creating. ABC. If you want them to Always Be Closing, you better Always Be Creating. This means they need thought leadership in the form of blog posts, white papers, or webinars. If you do amazing work for a client, actually track and get results so that the team can build a case study to share. There is nothing worse than having a great conversation with a prospect, the prospect is intrigued and asks the new business person for an example to see, and they have nothing tangible to put in front of them.
- Commit to set realistic timelines and goals. History comes into play here. If your agency has literally never won a piece of business from cold outreach, don’t give your new Business Development hire a three month runway to get a deal in. Set realistic KPIs based off of activity, engagement, proposals, and revenue. We all know that Business Development in our world takes time, so setting meaningful KPIs on each of those four areas allows them the comfort to know what is expected, shows your commitment to them for the long term, while also holding them accountable to performing the proper activities in order to build momentum. Transparency breeds positive interactions between sales and management.
- Commit to having an open mind. As an agency principal sometimes it is very difficult to defer to a new hire. A new hire often comes in with all sorts of ideas on positioning or process that may very greatly from how you initially set up the shop. My advice is that you don’t have to change anything just because they say you should, but you should be open to them being critical of how we have been positioned in the past and open to at least a discussion of how a prospect may view you. Their outside insight may be just the thing that helps you break into the minds of new prospects.
If you set out at the very beginning of the hiring process with these commitments in mind, you should have two very positive outcomes. First, the hiring process should be easier, because your position will be more attractive to any experienced new business pro. Second, that new hire will actually have every tool, process, and strategy needed in order to succeed. At this point, you have done your part, now they just need to hit the home run.
If your agency’s social media participation isn’t developing new business leads, it’s important to know WHY and WHAT to do about it.
In order to help improve your social media presence, Michael Gass of Fuel Lines walks you through a seven step blueprint for using social media for new business as well as tools, tactics, and tips to get a return on your investment.
This webinar will take you through the following:
- Why most agencies aren’t having success with social media for new business.
- A seven step blueprint for using social media for new business.
- Tools, tactics, and tips to get the most return on your daily time investment.
- Examples of what a successful new business program looks like.
Social Media Isn’t Working for Ad Agency New Business from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
Two minds are better than one. At least that’s how the old saying goes. But what happens when those two minds (or three or four) get caught up in a groupthink cluster? While the idea of working together to gain consensus around important growth driving topics (like new business positioning) might sound like a great idea, it’s important to steer clear of the potential dead end road groupthink can take you.
So why is consensus so dangerous, especially for agency new business?
Similar past, similar future
Many times agency executive groups that are setting out to develop unique positioning come from places of similar past experiences. Most of our agency VPs and C Level execs started somewhere outside of new business. Perhaps they started within Account Management or creative, and as such, they have very little experience within the new business world. This then shapes our opinion of how new business is done, how it should be done, and what works and doesn’t work. Often, they have faced new business failure in the past when they tried something new, and because we all are hesitant of repeating a mistake, we agree to steer away from that “new” again.
The problem with steering away from the “new” is that an agency can wind up repeating their mistakes again and again, because they never truly change. True change comes from a holistic look at how you approach new business, not just purchasing one piece of new technology or a new website design. While those pieces are important and can affect some of our experience and results, they won’t fully change your new business for the better.
Let’s look at a real life example: ABC Agency’s executives have decided that their positioning is great… “we solve problems that can’t be solved”. Because they all have the same experiences in the agency world, nobody stops to ask questions like:
- Is this really interesting for new business?
- Is this positioning true of what we have done in the past and want to go in the future?
- Does this even make sense!?
So if your agency new business positioning discussion seems to be running uncomfortably smoothly with nobody challenging one another, think about applying some of these ideas:
- Invite someone outside of your exec team to the positioning meeting. Maybe even invite someone from outside the agency to get an outsider’s feelings on your positioning.
- If you’re the leader of the meeting, listen to other people’s ideas before expressing any of your own opinions. Leadership opinion can sway opposition opinion and accelerate groupthink.
- Challenge any assumption that has 100% approval. You may find it is a solid assumption, but challenging it can also be a great way to identify a blind spot.
Those few steps can help ensure that your new business efforts won’t get self-sabotaged with groupthink consensus. Having that outside perspective and the openness to challenge assumptions can ensure that your agency stands out among your competition.
Think of the calendar year and new business as a race. January 1st is the starting line and you line up with 100 competitors. Everyone is intent on proactively finding new business this year and tracking down their top prospects. When the gun sounds and the race begins in January, we see tons of initial email and social media activity through February. Then something happens: Everyone slows down. That Q1 sprint hits people hard and they begin to realize that this is actually a marathon, not a sprint. Many come out of the gate too fast and burn themselves out and we see agency after agency begin to put their new business efforts aside.
Meanwhile, the strong (smart) agencies are still out here fighting after Q1 and tracking those prospects in Q2. They have great content being distributed and a consistent stream of emails, calls, and social posts that will make up the base of their communications for prospecting throughout the year. Around the end of Q2, we typically see 50% of the original 100 competitors have dropped from the race completely. There are a myriad of reasons for why this happens, but the good news for you as a smart agency still running the race is that your competition is basically cut in half!
So your field of competition has been thinned out to just the strongest racers. This means that the summer months and Q3 is more important than ever to not stumble and to actually ramp up your efforts. Why ramp up our efforts?
Because your competition is at the water station taking a break.
Seriously! Send an email to your friends in the agency world. How many out of office vacation reminders do you get? Our agency newsletter during the summer months sees a near 200% increase in vacation responders. These are all agency new business people that are out enjoying their summer. I envy them on the beach, but while they are there, my agencies are doubling their efforts to fill the void that prospects are feeling.
So what’s so wrong with taking a quick water break? Momentum, consistency, and starting over. It is really damn difficult to pick back up your content efforts at full speed when you’ve been at a stop. Not to mention, every moment you aren’t talking to a prospect, I can guarantee that someone else is. I choose to be the agency that is talking to them.
Of course, my agencies take vacations too. Here is what we do to combat a lull during vacation, and avoid taking that water break:
- We build content in 2-3 month chunks. This means that we are always working ahead in order to have as much content planned, created, and scheduled as possible. In order to better plan content like this in advance, you better have your audiences clearly defined and broken out, so that you can tailor each message as much as possible. This is key for the next step.We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points. This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.
- We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points. This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.
There is nothing wrong with resting and recharging during the summer for the end of year push. In fact, we encourage it. But if you were smart, you would take advantage of this huge opportunity of quiet time from your competitors and fill the void with your own content in order to keep your name in front of those prospects that are most important to you. Staying strong in the summer can get you to the finish line a whole lot quicker than your competition.
Most agencies are running their new business programs with as few human beings as possible. With fewer people, the need to be efficient and effective is paramount. Considering the martech space has expanded at an incredible rate, it can be difficult to know exactly which technologies will help and which will hinder your new business efforts. Agency efforts are different from other sales needs, so we wanted to concentrate on where your money and time is best spent to make technology your best tool to drive new business.
Mandatory technology for agency new business from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
In our latest webinar, we set out to give our agencies insight around technology that we see as the most effective for new business. Matt Chollet, EVP of Agency Growth at Catapult New Business, discussed which types of technologies that you need and then offered suggestions from our extensive experience with different brands.
What we covered:
- The best technology stack for agency new business
- Small staff? Where technology can make you more efficient
- Where to best spend your tech budget for more leads
- Specific technology reviews used in agency biz dev
Here at Catapult we are all about understanding our agency’s prospecting and pipeline needs. If you don’t know what it takes in terms of activities and numbers to generate a winning piece of business, how can you develop a successful plan to do just that? As an easy tool, we created a Pipeline Calculator that breaks down this process into three simple chunks to help our agencies get a head start on understanding their pipeline numbers.
The goal section is made up of three main pieces – revenue goal, the number of contacts in the database, and average first-year value of a deal. Your revenue goal should be pretty straightforward in this calculation. We are looking at the amount of new revenue generated from new business (not organic growth). The number of contacts in your database is essentially how many individual contact prospects you’re currently reaching out to in your content marketing. This is a number that is easily changed and can have a major impact on your new business success. Often though, we see people trying to adjust other numbers and holding to very small databases with zero success. Resources like Winmo allow for focused growth in these databases to hit the quantities needed to be successful.
Lastly, the average first-year value of a deal is limited to just this first-year value, so in these calculations we are not over-valuing each deal for our short-term prospecting efforts.
This is the area where many agencies struggle. Understanding each stage of the sales pipeline process is something that most have never done. We broke this section out into four main parts – Initial Approaches, 1st Meetings, Needs Analysis, and Pitches. For many of our clients, turning the amount of Initial Approaches into 1st meetings is the biggest area where we can provide improvement for them. Most agencies aren’t making a lot of proactive introductions to new brands. As a result, they are limiting themselves from an initial database size perspective, and their conversion rate in this area is also very low. For any sales person this is going to be a smaller number, as we are fighting through initial qualification, awareness, and timing issues to move these prospects to first meetings. With that knowledge, increasing your database size and improving your approach are paramount.
We also find that many of our clients initially overestimate their win rate on pitches. Anecdotally, I can tell you that when I talk to agency principals and owners, the win rate is often overestimated while a New Business Director may often underestimate. I think this is purely a function of perception given how much they are both involved in conversations with new prospects. Our advice: Be conservative on your pitch rate win percentage and if you overperform it, all the better.
From here, we should have a good understanding of both the number of new clients that we will win based off of percentages, and the total revenue generated from new client wins. Disclaimer: There are many factors that go into your individual success, such as time, skill, resources, etc. This calculator should be used with the understanding that it is giving you a baseline of understanding of different areas of your pipeline process that you need to consider when both setting goals at the beginning of the year, and as your year progresses.
You should be using this calculator to understand where you might be underperforming. If you find yourself lower than average on initial approaches, then you can fix that area. If you are generating enough meetings and pitches but not winning business, no worries. We fix our pitch materials. If we are fine on all of our pipeline stage percentages but still not getting enough meetings, then most likely we need to look at how many prospect contacts we are reaching out to in our database.
Hopefully, this calculator gives you an initial guide to your proactive prospecting efforts!
If you have ever spoken to an agency new business consultant, they would all tell you that consistency is key. Our team likes to compare agency new business to a gym membership. It’s easy to get started every new year with a new gym, the excitement of having a six pack by summer sounds appealing. Inevitably, without a personal trainer, we slow down how often we go to the gym, or we put everything on hold (just for a few months of course). Those temporary pauses in our gym membership (or business development) are absolute momentum killers and prevent us from having the abs and revenue of our dreams.
So how do we become more consistent and what parts of our business development process to we need to be more consistent about? We put together a quick list to help ensure that you’re still moving the new business process forward in the middle of the year.
- Content – Mirren/RSW recently published a report that showed Content Development tools being used by 87% of agencies, an increase in 4% over last year. Clearly agencies have caught on to the idea that content is king in driving new business over the year. What will separate your agency from the others this year? Creating content during the summer months. Look at any agency blog or insight page and you will see large holes very often during the summer months when they should be dramatically adding new, insightful content. 3,500 words on your site every month should be your minimum goal, are you there?
- Conversations – In the sales world, we love counting calls or emails and judging whether or not we have had enough activity to generate revenue. My challenge to any new business person is that they need to count conversations. We aren’t paid based on effort, but results, so get who cares how many times you pick up the phone or send a cold email. All that matters is how many qualified new business conversations we can drive, especially at this time of the year when most of your competition is slowing down and only “going to the gym” once a day. Now is the time for you to be the vocal agency that is consistently reaching out via phone or email to drive those conversations.
- Planning – For an agency that consistently has to create and manage long term campaigns and plans for our clients, very often we have trouble ourselves creating a long term plan for our new business efforts. This means that we need to prioritize new business efforts and create a plan that we are going to consistently execute, no matter what is going on around the agency. Too often we see new business take a backseat as soon as we begin to either have success or even struggles. Anything gets in our way, we throw our plan out the window and focus on other items. It is the biggest mistake agencies make every day in that it kills all your momentum and when you finally decide three months later to pick up your efforts again, you are starting back over at ground floor.
Recently, our CEO Dave Currie spoke with the AMI on consistency and this quote really stuck out:
“I haven’t seen a successful agency that doesn’t treat itself as its most important client.” – @NewBizDingo
If you are going to be successful and treat yourself as your most important client, that doesn’t mean you just turn on and off your new business program randomly throughout the year. It means that every day you come in with a purpose to create content, drive more qualified conversations, and live by the plan you created on the first day of the year. If you can retain that focus all year long, the new revenue will take care of itself.
Is your agency truly unique? Or are you one of the thousands of agencies selling the same products and services? Almost all agencies claim to be unique, different or better while using essentially the same descriptors as the others. The truth is, most prospects (advertisers) can barely tell the difference in your agency and your biggest competitor.
In this session we looked to fix that by discussing:
- Your differentiator isn’t different at all
- How to find your difference
- Using your differentiator to generate more opportunities
For any business development program to be successful, we need to take this first step of identifying a truly unique position. Once that positioning is in place content and distribution becomes much more effective. Hopefully this webinar will give you a great first step in finding your uniqueness!
Our guest host this month was John Heenan. Be sure to check out his website for other great insights and content!
So many agencies. So little difference. from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
Ever struggle to predict exactly how much new revenue your agency will be bringing in next year, next quarter, or even next month? You’re not alone in this. Most agencies find themselves lacking the processes and strategies to create a consistent, predictable pipeline of new business opportunities.
In our most recent webinar, we partnered with Jason Swenk to solve this once and for all – providing you with an easy-to-follow framework that both generates and predicts new business opportunities. Jason covered suggested technology systems, agency positioning, new business prospecting techniques, and provided example case studies of how other successful agencies are finding success. There was a lot to cover in the hour, but Jason is an agency pro that will give you some immediately actionable takeaways to start growing your pipeline.
What we covered:
- How to integrate the right systems in order to grow your agency.
- How to position your agency as “the choice” vs “a choice.”
- How to utilize Milestone Marketing to better prospect and drive engagement.
- How an agency tripled retainer revenue in 2 months by improving their former process.
How to Build a Predictable Pipeline from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.