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!
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.
Every well-run agency is consistently looking at their mix of clients and where their revenue is coming from. The better understanding you have of your current revenue forecast, the better prepared you will be for any bump or turn on the road ahead. During a previous webinar (Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale) we discussed navigating this winding road by making sure your agency is following the 40% rule. The rule is simple: No more than 40% of your agency’s revenue can come from one client.
Now I know there are a lot of small agencies out there that got their start by landing one big client that contributes most of the revenue to your overall agency, and naturally, we all want more clients. While it’s easy for me here to say “diversify!” I fully understand that it is entirely something else to put into practice. There are so many reasons why you need to live by this 40% Rule and do everything you can to make sure your agency isn’t in this typical position, but here’s a few:
A wide building is sturdier than a tall one.
- I would much rather have 10 equal size clients, rather than 2 super clients because turnover happens. It does not matter how great your service is, how good your ROI is for your client, or how much the client loves you as a person, they are going to turnover at some point. It’s a lot easier to manage turnover from a revenue and employee standpoint if we have 10 clients, rather than 2.
Having to cut employees because of a lack of work is simply the worst.
- It breeds resentment and negativity in those employees that get to stay, and it’s an all around un-fun part of business. If we can mitigate that need by having 10 smaller clients rather than 2 large, we can not only give our employees peace of mind, but we can show them that we are doing everything we can to give them stability and room to grow.
We aren’t beholden to bad deals.
- I’m sure we have all at some point left an initial fee negotiation, in the beginning, feeling like we made a good deal, only to find out that this client is way more work than we bargained for. We then either need to change the scope of the work or raise the fee. This normally goes over like a lead balloon, so we need to be able to walk away from a bad deal, and by having the account only represent 10% of your revenue verse 60%, you give yourself the ability to actually walk away if necessary.
It makes our agency more valuable.
- Charles Fallon of SI Partners talked specifically how when acquirers are evaluating agencies and looking at their value multiplier, that number goes up if client diversity exists. This means that any acquirer is willing to pay you more money for your agency if they can see a larger range of clients by revenue and type. More money is a good thing, right?
If you find yourself in a position of being over that 40% threshold, it’s probably time to begin thinking about your new business development plans. Waiting for referrals will get you killed, so putting a new business process in place that can consistently generate new clients for your team should be an absolute priority for any agency that wants to be more stable, more predictable, and more valuable.
As an agency executive, it’s important to always have options for the future. If 2017 is the year you’re looking to increase the value of your agency, either for agency growth or a potential sale, this webinar will show you just how to do that. We’ll be co-hosting with Charles Fallon at SI Partners, a worldwide expert on all things Agency M&A. Whether you are looking to sell your agency now, or simply want to understand the options available, Charles will break down the steps required to strategically grow your agency and attract premium value.
We’ll cover specific topics like:
- What the acquirer landscape looks like, and how it’s evolving.
- Investors types and new market entrants.
- The different types of acquisition deals available today.
- What you need to do to attract a premium offer.
- How to find a strategic growth partner.
Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale 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.
At the beginning of every year we all make resolutions to change something about ourselves either personally or professionally. If you’re an agency, you’re likely vowing to be more proactive with your new business resolutions and strategy in 2017. Don’t worry, about 85% of all agencies are in the exact same boat.
For any resolution to be successful however, there must be a plan in place and accountability against it. Throughout our discussion we will cover the following problem areas and also share KPI’s to ensure you’re tracking your progress.
- Dedicate more time to solely focus on new business
- Make a more compelling first impression via email
- Leave a phone message someone might actually respond to
- Build a social referral machine
- Write better content for our website
5 Resolutions Agencies Need to Make (and Keep) in 2017! from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
The most effective new business processes turn prospects into leads by educating those prospects on how your products and services can solve their specific problems.
But when creating a proactive new business program, many teams struggle to know where to begin. We always point to these three areas to start your plan of attack: Audience, Content and Execution.
The first and most important step you should take when deciding how to begin your proactive outreach to prospects is to determine who your audience is. You need to know who your target audience is so you ask the right questions – who, why and what – to help narrow who you are marketing to. You must clearly define who your “right to win” clients are. If your team is perfectly positioned to provide the best service possible to a prospect in your niche, that’s a right to win client, and they should be working with you.
After you create your right to win list, you can begin including additional targets you see as great fits, which are a slight reach from your perfect right to win group. Agencies will often limit themselves by “fishing in too small of a pond,” or creating lists of prospects that exclude too many winnable clients. Create a realistic and appropriately sized group of contacts to attack with your approach. A great way to start thinking about Audience is to ask the following questions:
- In what areas is the agency most profitable?
- Who are you talking to now?
- What kind of business do you walk away from?
- What brands should be clients?
- What areas are most interesting to the team? What is the team passionate about?
By asking these questions, you’ll be able to determine who your audience is in a very specific, lead-driven way.
Content drives just about every aspect of what we do in our lives—professionally and personally. In new business, you need to provide content that your new, specifically targeted audience wants to consume and share online. When getting started with your content strategy, start slow and don’t overextend yourself.
We’ve found that when teams commit to too much, too soon, one of two things happens: a) they burn out quickly on the process and it becomes a chore creating unique, branded content or; b) they begin building too much around a single whitepaper/eBook. Long-form content can be beneficial to your content strategy, but be careful not to let it consume hours of labor or hinder your ability to pivot across multiple audience groups.
When deciding what content should live on your editorial calendar, ask yourself questions like:
- Why does your agency exist? (less about what and how)
- What’s the one thing you do better than anyone else?
- What are the benefits of working with your agency?
- What type of work is outside of your scope? (this will help you drive more qualified conversations)
- What business problems do you solve for the identified prospect categories?
Content plays a key role in advancing your new business strategy, and increasing your prospects both within your targeted audience and outside of it.
We all dream big about winning new business, but you can’t approach that dream in an ad hoc manner. You need to have a plan set in place that is consistently repeatable, with very defined goals, measurements and activities. Your plan should involve everyone in the new business process—from Sales and Marketing to Management. At Catapult New Business, our goal is to always set a process in place that can be seamlessly transferred when changes to the team take place. During the execution phase, these are important questions you should ask:
- Who from the in-house team will be fulfilling each role in the sales/marketing process?
- What technologies do we currently have in place?
- How do we want to approach new prospects?
- How have we approached prospects in the past? What has worked best?
- Who has typically been the most receptive to our messaging?
A critical part of execution is how you leverage the content you’ve created, and the process your sales and marketing team uses that content to drive 1-1 sales conversations. By using your content to engage more often with prospects, you’ll see more opportunities to win clients.
Need help identifying a strategic plan of attack for winning new business? Contact us to learn more about how Catapult New Business implements successful new business processes for agencies.
“2017 is the year my agency is going to stop relying on business to find us, and the year we start proactively finding new clients.” We are only two weeks into this year and already I have heard this statement from over two dozen agency principles who are absolutely convinced this year they will finally turn that proactive corner in their agency growth. In order to make that turn, those agencies have to make investments into its processes and the people in charge of it.
Here’s a quick list of investments that, if made this year, can actually make a difference in your 2017 new business plans:
Invest in People
Finally, after all of these years, somebody will have an exclusive focus on new business development! This means you are either going to hire someone in-house to manage new business full time, dedicate an existing employee to this full time, or outsource to a new biz partner. By not selecting one of these three options you could quickly find yourself accumulating wasted resources, meaning the opportunity cost of having employees work on new business while juggling other responsibilities. Investing in the focus of a full time employee to run this important task for you can save money in the long run, and more importantly produce a better ROI.
Invest in Data
You want to find new prospects? Well then you better have a resource to help you find exactly which companies are the best fit for your team, who their main points of contacts are, and what their most recent marketing activities are. There are plenty of data resources that exist (I am partial to Winmo), but without a resource the amount of time wasted in the “research” phase of prospecting can easily drain the enthusiasm of any new business director. Being more efficient in our prospecting efforts with quality data can be the difference in talking to 5 prospects a day and talking to 20 qualified prospects a day.
Invest in Content
One of my favorite quotes from Inbound this year was from Brian Halligan in which he said, “In 2006 your website augmented your salesperson, but in 2016 your salesperson augments your website”. While your New Business Director is vital to creating and cultivating a relationship, your website and the content you put out into the world is vital to establish credibility for your New Business Director. Too often we see New Business Directors left on an island unto themselves, where they are told to produce new business, but have no resources to show the value the agency can bring to the brand. Take the time, whether through a content person in-house, or outsourced, to create multiple quality content pieces that are easily sharable for your new business team.
Invest in Technology
Yellow note pads are not a CRM. I’ve walked into multiple agencies over the last month, sat down with the principal and seen a yellow note pad on their desk that is “tracking” all of their open opportunities for new business. Occasionally, I see someone tracking sales opportunities on an excel spreadsheet, but even then, there is no real automation or process around ensuring new business is handled in consistent way no matter who begins the sales process. At this point, a CRM and Marketing Automation tool should be mandatory for any agency, no matter how small. Salesforce is the most robust CRM out there, with plenty of connections to Marketing Automation tools like Hubspot and Pardot. My personal favorite for any agency just beginning their outbound efforts and starting from scratch is SharpSpring, which includes both a CRM and Marketing Automation tool.
Invest in Networks
Let’s face it, you can do everything alone, but why would you want to? If you are an independent agency, there are tons of independent agency networks out there that can be a real benefit to your team in the form of sharing ideas, successes, and failures. The ability to learn from others can make beginning any new business effort that much easier in the upcoming year. Aside from your typical agency networks, there are plenty of executive networking groups where you can share experiences with people in similar positions across industries. Vistage is fantastic group executives that provides its members a structured environment to learn and grow in small groups.
Invest in Time
The most valuable of all resources. Where you spend your time is where your priority lies. If you are going to change your new business outcome for the better in 2017, then you better be committed to putting time aside every single day to the process. Non-negotiable. You can buy all of the technology above, but if you do not consistently set time aside to properly utilize all of these, nothing changes. The easiest way to put that time aside – put an event on your calendar immediately, make it recurring, and do not allow it to be moved because of another priority. This is the priority, and it needs to happen if anything is to change in the New Year.
Growing an agency is not cheap. There are investments that absolutely have to be made, but if done thoughtfully and with an eye on creating repeatable, scalable processes, the returns will more than make up for the cost of building the processes. If 2017 is your year to change, then make the investment in yourself, and the returns will come.
There are a few reasons why agency executives decide to dedicate their time to volunteering in an industry association. One, they want to learn more about what their peers are doing to achieve success or two, they’re simply looking to expand their network and drive a few sales on the side. Regardless of your intentions, participating in different groups within your industry can provide tremendous benefits for your business. In this post, we’ve organized the top 5 marketing and advertising associations we think are worth investing your time in.
Brief Bio: The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA’s membership includes more than 680 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising. The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA) which operate as divisions of the ANA, and the Advertising Educational Foundation which is an ANA subsidiary.
My Take: As one of the leading associations within the advertising and marketing industry, I highly recommend getting involved if you’re an agency executive. They host a large amount of conferences throughout the year, all highly relevant to agencies and companies. Since most of the members are corporate marketing executives, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and network with some of the leading global brands.
Event Recommendation: The ANA has an impressive list of industry events each year however my personal recommendation is the Masters of Marketing Conference, held in October, which typically brings together top brand marketers around the world.
Brief Bio: Working closely with agency CEOs and their management teams Mirren supports agencies with consulting and training regarding best practices in new business development. Through their membership you get access to their resource center which includes their Daily Leads, On-Demand Learning and Advanced Webinars.
My Take: Although Mirren isn’t technically an ‘association’ I wanted to include them on this list because Mirren is a household name for agencies, specifically those responsible for new business. Across events, on demand training and their new Mirren Talent platform agency professionals leverage Mirren to crank up their growth by staying on top of the cutting-edge best practices.
Event Recommendation: One of the go-to annual events for those responsible in driving agency new business, Mirren Live consistently brings together an impressive group of leading agencies and search consultants each year to learn about hot topics and growth drivers for successful agencies. A newer event they’ve recently added to their calendar, the CEO Summit, is also highly recommend. Note – only agency executives are allowed to attend this one.
Brief Bio: Founded in 1917, the 4A’s is the national trade association representing the advertising agency business in the United States. As a management-oriented association, the 4A’s offers its members the broadest possible services, expertise and information regarding the advertising agency business. Its membership produces approximately 80 percent of the total advertising volume placed by agencies nationwide. Although virtually all of the large, multinational agencies are members of the 4A’s, more than 60 percent of our membership bills less than $10 million per year.
My Take: In my opinion, the 4A’s is the ‘mother organization’ of agencies, and is a great fit for agencies of all types and sizes. They offer valuable training, conferences, and best practices in how to drive agency sales, profits and develop new business.
Event Recommendation: In addition to national events such as the Transformation Conference, they also offer Regional Forums for small to mid-size agency principals to discuss business issues and challenges that they all face.
Marketing Research Association
Brief Bio: Founded in 1957 and based in Washington, the Marketing Research Association is the leading and largest U.S. association of the opinion and marketing research profession, which delivers insights and strategies to help guide the decisions of companies providing products and services to consumers and businesses.
My Take: The MRA – still a common moniker, despite the different connotations of that acronym these days – has a bit more wide-reaching content designed for easy consumption. You’ll find videos and case studies on particular trends, as well as frequent editorials on the latest marketing news. But underneath this sort of aggregation is a solid foundation of research and marketing communities available to those who take the next step. Membership is divided in multiple levels, but again the focus is primarily on research and data as opposed to more social aspects of marketing.
Brief Bio: IAB serves as digital media’s biggest tent, comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. Working with its member companies, IAB develops technical standards and best practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising, while educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing.
My Take: Like the MRA, the IAB is a polished and news-friendly association that covers a broad number of topics across the marketing and advertising space. They provide many tools and classes for free without requiring membership or certification which is always a plus. This includes fee calculators, ad viewability guides, and much more. Certification is divided into several different specialties and levels of expertise, allow you to customize your training based on your position and goals.
Event recommendation: Like others, IAB has a large list of trainings, webinars and conferences. My preferences would by the IAB MIXX, typically held later in the year in NY.