If new business is a race, would you say it’s better to spend your time looking forward or backward? Do you run with your head turned backward 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 backward 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 backward 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.
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.
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!
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.
At some point, every new business person has been presented with this situation: A prospect comes to us that heard great things about what our agency does from a previous client and they think we are a great fit for them. Unfortunately, we don’t think it’s a great fit. They could be too small of a partner, in an industry we don’t want to work in, or located in an inconvenient region of the world. Whatever the reason is that they aren’t a perfect fit, we are left with the problem of needing new business, having an “easy” win standing in front of us, but possibly taking on another client that could be more pain than they are worth. What do you do?
Whether or not you choose to work with the referral above, there is an easy solution to the dilemma. Actively seek new referrals and STOP WAITING for them to come to you. If you are trying to truly grow your agency this year, sitting back and waiting for those referrals will not lead to double-digit growth. We need to proactively build a referral machine that will generate conversations between our networks with companies that we actually want to work with. So how do we go about doing this?
Creating a true referral machine has a ton of different pieces that incorporate almost every piece of your agency. Your marketing, sales, account management, executive team, and social presence all need to be aligned in order to really build a scenario where referrals produce themselves naturally in an organic way. If you want a great book on referrals, I would recommend “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch. While he has gone through many of the points above, the one that I believe is most applicable for my new business directors and easiest to institute immediately is the idea that “the most easily referred companies are naturally social”.
So what is “naturally social”? In the new business world, to me it means that you are creating content that invites conversation, telling stories via blogs or video, working with partners to deliver content that is of value, and most importantly, actively having conversations within your immediate and extended networks. The last part is where we tend to see people who fall off the most, reaching that extended network. We all work to build these LinkedIn networks, and then we find ourselves only really “liking” content or posts that come from those that we know the closest. Well, those folks are already the most likely to send us a referral if they come across one, right? What I want to push my new business directors to do is find specific companies that they want to work with and then utilize those extended (and less used) network contacts to generate a conversation. There’s a really simple process that you can take advantage of tomorrow to do this:
- Build a list of prospect companies
- Search each company in LinkedIn and find their most applicable contact for prospecting that is also a 2nd-degree connection.
- Identify your shared connection with that prospect and request a referral directly to that prospect company from your shared connection.
Seems simple right? Here’s the key part – make the referral EASY for your shared connection. Too often we either a) simply don’t ask our shared connection for a referral or b) we put the onus completely on them in terms of coming up with the reason for the referral. The idea here is that we want the referral ask to be specific, time sensitive, and pre-written for our connection. This allows them to simply forward on a message with as little work as possible for them. And because your message is time sensitive in nature, we have a built-in urgency to the request for referral.
Here’s an example:
I was hoping you could help me.
You’re connected to (John Smith) of (Company) and I have some (Valuable Marketing Intelligence) that I’d like to put into their hands, and it’s a bit time sensitive.
Since you two are connected on LinkedIn, I hoped you’d be open to introducing me today with the message below? Feel free to edit as you desire:
It’s been a while since we last connected – hope all is well! I thought you’d be interested in this introduction to Matt Chollet (cc’d) who has competitive market intelligence on (Company) that he wanted to ensure got into your hands today – it’s time sensitive and may impact your competitive media investments in Q3.
I’ll leave it with you both from here, hoping this is a valuable connection for you.
The essence of the above sample is the fact that all your referrer has to do is hopefully copy and paste two sentences, sign their name, and move on with their day. By making it simple like this, you take away the hurdle of creating a whole new message themselves.
By building a very simple, straightforward referral plan like this, with a straightforward referral request, we can begin to proactively create referrals around prospects that we actually want to work with. Hopefully, this pushes us from a place of hoping and wish for referrals, to actively pursuing and engaging referrals on a daily basis that can convert the types of prospects we really want to work with.
“How do I get more hours to devote to business development? I can’t give you more hours in a day, but I can give you times of the day that will make your hours more effective.”
In the new business development world, our time is everything. We are all trying to figure out how much time we need to spend prospecting vs cultivating vs RFPs. How we go about prioritizing this time and what we do very often depends on working around our schedules of executive meetings, client meetings, and putting out fires. What happens, time and time again, is that we wind up doing our prospecting and cultivating activities at odd times when we actually get a few minutes free. We have to change this mind set if we are going to really grow our agencies biz dev, by making our schedules work around the very best hours for business development.
“Time of day matters for outreach. People as a whole have certain, generally consistent behaviors across jobs and industries that typically occur at the same time each day. As business development professionals, we need to understand our prospect’s schedules and work to maximize our efficiency around them and the way they behave.”
Timing your Business Development:
6:00 – 8:00 AM – Action emails are most likely to get a response between these hours. This means that those one to one, text only emails where you are asking for a direct meeting or a call are best to be sent first thing in the AM, before their inbox fills up.
8:00 – 9:00 AM – Get on the phone. While most agency new business people I speak with are deathly afraid of phone follow up, the fact is that a real conversation can absolutely separate you from the barrage of stock emails that marketing decision makers receive every day. Most of these decision makers are available first thing in the morning, before the active work day gets started, and at the end of the day, once they are prepping for the next day. They are most likely to pick up the phone not only during this time, but you may be able to avoid a receptionist or two, as decision makers are typically in the office before most employees.
10:00 – Noon – I’m on LinkedIn during this window either actively prospecting, working referral networks, or posting new content to Pulse or our blog. Studies show that LinkedIn is used heavily during the day for most professionals, and the chance for content reads increases after the 10am hour.
Noon – 1:00 PM – I use this time to scan and curate content through my social channels. Some of these posts I automate ahead of time (with a free Buffer account), but since Twitter tends to be used more as a feed that is reviewed on commutes or breaks, lunchtime is a great opportunity for me to amplify any content messaging in order to increase views and hopefully clicks/reads.
2:00 – 4:00 PM – Back to email, but this time, I’m focusing on content related emails. This means that any of my marketing automation around content are typically either being written and sent at this time, or I’m scheduling them to go out for future dates around this time. The key is, these are content related for delivering knowledge and interesting reads. Research has shown that while replies are lower around this time, opens and reads tend to go up during these hours post lunch, so take advantage of a few free minutes where their mind may be open to reading a blog post or case study.
4:00 PM and later – I’m back on the phone trying to catch prospects that are wrapping up their day and planning their next day. Most times meetings are held before this time, so with less meetings and more planning occurring, now is your time to catch a few more people on the phone rather than earlier in the day.
No matter what your personal schedule looks like, it’s important to consider how you go about timing each prospecting activity in order to maximize the effectiveness of each. With so few hours in every day, maximizing our prospecting time is key in order to drive the number of quality conversations we can have each day.
The road to agency new business Nirvana is paved with never-ending training, consulting, workshops and self-help guides. Undoubtedly, growth through a systematic business development program often eludes agencies, but there’s no reason for agency business development professionals to go at it alone.
The reality is, like anything worth doing well, its hard. Really hard. New business is work that the vast majority of those within the professional marketing services industry didn’t sign-up for, and have no inclination to be held accountable for now, or in the future. I see it and hear about it from out of work agency new business people and frustrated agency owners every day.
The good news? It is possible for your agency to have an effective new business process in the year ahead. While it can be difficult to know what your competition is doing to be so successful, we have found that the invisible trend has increasingly been to outsource your new business.
Over the past five years, for more agencies than you’d guess, the answer to solving the business development equation has come from partnering with an outside firm for proactive prospecting. More recently, the trend has evolved to include organic client development too, once the exclusive domain of the agency account and leadership team.
Why are more agencies increasingly handing the reigns of client growth over to a third-party? It’s a daunting thought for some, but for those who’ve experimented with this model, success has come quickly. “I’ve seen agencies win more business from our involvement in their organic client development efforts this year than any other,” said Dave Currie, President of List Partners Inc. “Its often the low hanging fruit that everyone can see, though rarely is there a systematic and accountable plan to harvest it,” he continued.
What value do agencies find in outsourcing?
A Systematic Approach.
Agencies often find that creating a new business process from scratch is difficult. It’s usually thrown together last minute at the onset of a lost account and the strategy and tools are often lacking. Outsourcing to new business professionals, like Catapult, allow agencies to implement a systematic approach to how they win new business. Teams are able to move swiftly into market because there is a proven model of success, and the tools to back it up.
We come across agencies every day that have multiple people working on new business, but not dedicated to it with 100% of their time. Once you have this “we all chip in approach,” when it fails, who is accountable? All? Nobody? With this outsourced model, it is very clear who is accountable for success and we can put clear objectives and goals at each stage of the process. This leads to greater transparency and understanding to who the responsibility of driving new business lies with.
A Specific Focus on New Business
Similar to our Accountability point, according to Hubspot’s Agency’s Pricing & Financial Report, 66% of agencies do not employ a full-time new business person. What does this mean? Those in-house people that are working on new business do not know where to spend their time every day. If I have learned anything during my time as a new business professional, it’s that you cannot minimize the importance of focus. Focus ensures greater success by keeping all efforts dedicated to prospecting and driving conversations with those most sought after prospects.The invisible trend of outsourcing may always remain slightly hidden due to the nature of the business, but we are seeing more inquiries than ever from agency execs that are seeing the benefits of having a systematic approach that provides accountability and focus. I’m confident we will continue to see an increase in adoption of outside resources to manage new business in 2017.
When you can win more business at a lower cost, why would you not outsource?