For years, most agency/client relationships developed into close, long-term partnerships. However, increasingly more these days, that’s just not the case.
According to Forbes, CMOs now view agency relationships differently. The Client/Agency Relationship Survey showed that 62 percent said that they now view their agencies as suppliers or vendors, not partners.
Also, due to the fact that many companies are now building in-house marketing teams, agencies are being asked to do short-term, one-off projects instead of acting as a long-term agency of record (AOR). Of course, this also plays into the vendor vs. partner relationship shift.
Marketers have also expressed consistent frustration with various aspects of traditional agency relationships. Although there are a number of things contributing to their dissatisfaction, two of the most common reasons are:
1. Lack of transparency about how their money is being used in relation to campaign spend and MoM results.
2. They were sold on a “full-service” marketing strategy with all the bells and whistles only to find out after the fact that the agency didn’t have the expertise or bandwidth to execute against it.
When agency relationships begin with unrealistic expectations, it only breeds distrust over time — and that distrust is compounded by the fact that clients already don’t feel involved with (or in control of) the process and execution of .
Although client-agency relationships are changing, the good news is that agencies can still increase revenue and close new business as long as they take a strategic approach to business development.
Here are four tips to get you started on the right path:
1. During contract negotiations, never promise deliverables your agency can’t do just to get the deal signed. Also, don’t just assume that your team will simply “handle it” or figure it out on their own.
2. As tempting as it may be, avoid pitching your agency as a “full-service” provider. The most successful agencies are those that differentiate themselves by specializing in one area of marketing or advertising.
3. Although “growing pains” are normal to a certain extent, make sure that you aren’t doing a disservice to your current clients or operational staff by prioritizing new business revenue growth above revenue growth from retention and referrals.
4. Remember: Just because a company has money to spend with you, doesn’t mean they are a good client fit for your agency. Clients that don’t fit with your agency’s culture will create more work for you and your agency than they’re worth. More often than not, they will end up costing you money, time, employees, and worst of all, the clients that you actually like.
It goes without saying, but conferences and tradeshows are a big deal in the marketing and advertising world. These events present a unique opportunity for senior-level marketers to learn from industry leaders, and at the same time, network with a large pool of top prospects to generate new business leads.
However, every year there are more and more conferences to choose from and it can be a daunting task to try and figure out which ones present the best opportunity for business growth and leadership training.
To save you some time and help you win more new business in 2016, here is our list of the 11 best marketing and advertising conferences to attend this year.
A more intimate companion to the Masters of Marketing, ANA Brand Masters is an event that brings together CMOs and marketing thought leaders. These top marketers come together and share actionable tips on how to navigate customer insights, data analytics and technology to engage clients and prospects, and grow their businesses.
3. Intelligent Content Conference
When: March 7-9
Where: Las Vegas, NV
If your agency specializes in content marketing then this is a must attend conference in 2016. Speakers include Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, as well as Jeffrey Tambor, Scott Brinker, Robert Rose and more!
4. Social Media Marketing World
When: April 17-19
Where: San Diego, CA
With an estimated 3,000 marketers attending yearly, Social Media Marketing World is the world’s largest social media marketing conference. By attending you get the chance to network with industry leaders and top prospects on the brand and agency side. Definitely one you don’t want to miss!
5. Mirren Live New York
When: May 2016
Where: New York City
Every year, top agency marketers and CEOs from 400 different agencies gather in New York City to discuss innovative new business strategies and techniques. This conferences showcases over 50 speakers and includes more than 35 sessions.
Held at the luxurious Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, DIGIMARCON WEST is known for showcasing the most thought-provoking and innovative digital marketers in the industry. The speakers provide attendees with insight on cutting-edge strategies, the latest technology and best practices for content, UX, mobile marketing, social media, search marketing, marketing automation, analytics and more.
7. Content Marketing World
When: Sept. 6-9
Where: Cleveland, Ohio
Every year the best and brightest flock to Cleveland to attend the now infamous Content Marketing World conference. The event showcases more than 80 sessions with top content marketers. In 2015, the line up of speakers included big names like Nick Offerman, Jay Baer and David Beebe, the VP of Global Creative & Content Marketing for Marriott International. This is an unbeatable networking opportunity and a rare chance to get actionable tips from the very best on how to maximize results for clients’ content marketing strategies.
8. Digital Strategy Innovation Summit
When: Sept. 14-15
Where: Sydney, Australia
If you have the budget and are looking for a conference with a little adventure, the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit in Sydney is a fantastic choice. This internationally renowned conference brings together the most innovative thought leaders in the industry for two days of inspirational discussions. This summit also presents a rare opportunity to network with top prospects from around the world for agencies targeting international audiences.
No surprise here, but HubSpot’s INBOUND conference has quickly become the number one event of the year for most senior-level marketers. And with a line up of speakers that includes the likes of Seth Godin, Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Clinton, Marc Maron and Jonah Peretti, how could it not? Every year, thousands of top advertisers and marketers come together and have a great time. If you only attend one event next year, this is the best choice you could make.
10. Internet Summit
When: Nov. 16-17
Where: Raleigh, NC
The Internet Summit presents a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with industry leaders from every area of digital advertising and marketing. For 2015, the star-studded line up of speakers included Russell Simmons, Rand Fishkin, Chris Brogan, Melanie Deziel and Tina Moffett — and that’s just a few of the unbelievable sessions attendees can look forward to. As one of the few conferences priced below $500 right now, this is one of the top three events to mark on your calendar next year.
11. Digital Summit
When: Varies by City
Where: Phoenix, AZ | Charlotte, NC | Atlanta, GA | Denver, CO
Digital Summit is a two-day conference held throughout the year in different cities. Thousands of top digital marketers come together and present innovative strategies, new technology and discuss trends emerging in the marketplace. According to Steve Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple, “this is where people get inspiration. Everything going on here is so important.”
13. Sales and marketing teams that use marketing automation software have more than 650,000 contacts in their database, which is 30% more than non-automation users. (Source: Autopilot)
14. Triggered emails – those sent in response to a specific user action on a website – have a 70.5% higher open rate. (Source: Gleanster)
15. The average length of the sales cycle has increased 22% in the past 5 years as more decision makers are involved in the buying process. (Source: SiriusDecisions)
16. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their buying journey without talking to a human. (Source: Gartner Research)
17. Businesses that use marketing automation average 4,200 leads per month. (Source: Autopilot)
18. Marketers who send out communications to prospects every two to four weeks generate 2x the leads. (Source: Autopilot)
19. 35% of marketers using marketing automation solutions consistently capture intelligence for the sales team, compared to 19% without marketing automation systems. (Source: The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups)
20. Only 30% of agencies aren’t using marketing automation to distribute content, prove inbound marketing ROI, and improve inbound effectiveness with personalized targeting. (Source: SharpSpring)
21. Gartner estimates a 15% savings on creative production when businesses use a marketing automation system. (Source: HubSpot)
Generally speaking, agencies fall woefully short when it comes to prospecting for new business.
And although there are always certain case-by-case factors at work, in our experience, agencies’ inadequacies with new business largely come down to two things: limited resources and ad hoc sales strategies.
Sound familiar? If so, we highly recommend reassessing your entire business development strategy. Also, if you are not already doing this, start supplementing reactive prospecting with proactive business development as soon as possible. Of course, this is always easier said than done, especially if you don’t have expert guidance on where to start.
We know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be for agencies. For that reason, we’ve provided a list of strategic elements our own business development advisors and agency clients have used with great success.
Make sure your agency has clearly defined and compelling positioning
Many prospects and clients operate under the perception that all agencies are alike; the only real difference being the people they will work with.
Because of this, it’s important for you to communicate differentiated value in order to position your agency as the stand out candidate in the minds of prospective customers. Also, make sure that your “elevator speech” clearly speaks to the agency’s core competencies in a few simple sentences.
Develop a consistent, ongoing prospect outreach program and stick to it
If you do this right the first time, this strategy will be a sustainable and scalable framework for proactive business development in the long-term. Many agencies don’t have anything like this, choosing instead to be reactive and wait for new business opportunities to come knocking on their door.
An effective prospect outreach program should be consistent and involve multiple strategies and a variety of touch points – i.e. e-mail marketing, event marketing, telemarketing, attending conferences and events, etc.
Only present relevant case studies to prospects
Want to know the quickest way to undermine or discount your agency’s results? Send a random case study that is completely irrelevant to a prospective client’s industry or business objectives.
Be sure that every case study presented in a sales pitch or RFP response showcases results that are relevant to that prospect’s industry, pain points and marketing goals. This will enhance your ability to engage the prospect.
Use the sales funnel as a road map for your prospecting strategy
In order to build an effective new business pipeline you have to reach out to enough prospects on the front end to give you the best chance to “win” on the back end. That way, as you nurture leads down the funnel you have a solid base of prospects to pull from at all times.
Your outreach strategy should be targeted to top prospects in priority vertical categories. Remember, only a small percentage of the prospects you reach out to will turn into meetings and clients.
Befriend the Admin!
Administrative assistants can be your best friends. If you cannot reach the top decision maker in your outreach efforts, make it a priority to reach out to the admin to develop a relationship and ask for their help in scheduling a call or meeting. Befriending the admin can lead to enhanced new business success!
As 2014 comes to a close, a number of agencies are telling the Catapult New Business team they are experiencing a disruption in their day-to-day business operations because they lack a new business development plan. Some started out 2014 charging a small internal team with the task of lead nurturing. For some, they left it to agency leadership or someone dedicated to new business. Others simply didn’t make any effort to secure new clients, or most importantly, build a legitimate pipeline.
Taking your eyes off the ball for a minute, a day or even a week can lead to major agency disruption. It’s likely that type of disruption will impact the agency for 12 months or more. Worse yet, it has potential for immediate impact in the form of staff layoffs and operational reductions because there isn’t enough client work to support expenses.
For many agency leaders the year coming to a close sounds the “disruption” alarm igniting their own realization of not hitting their growth goal in 2014. Many agency leaders will panic. Some agencies will heed the alarm and diligently formulate a plan for 2015. Others will not and they will find themselves in the exact same spot at this time next year.
Not preparing for a year of agency new business development can be a major disruption in the agency far longer than those 12 months. A lack of consistency is the single biggest killer of failed new business programs and it’s a universal problem faced by global agencies and independent agencies.
The best agency new business development advice comes down to a few key sentences: Seek advice from a trusted new business expert. Map out a detailed and accountable strategy that will engage prospects into opportunity defining conversations. Then, put your best agency face forward and close them! You will appreciate not having the “disruption” throughout 2015.
Is the head of the agency the best person to keep the new business plan on track? Perhaps they are, but likely they are not. Regardless of annual revenue, size of staff, location or agency discipline all agencies should have that one go to person to advise them and guide them along a growth path.
The advisor’s role in new business is critical in a number of ways. First, objectivity in what’s reasonable and practical for the agency to scale over the course of a year. Second, if they understand your agency they will be able to coach and guide you on more than verticals you should be playing in or the agency’s allure.
An experienced trusted advisor will know the keys to creating disruption and generating consistent awareness with a desired decision maker set. The advisor should also understand whatever problems your prospects may be wrestling with. Their job is not only to guide you to your goal, they are also accountable for helping you understand and identify where you have a wedge to open a new business conversation.
In other areas of new business, the advisor can also help you steer clear of new business danger zones. For example, encouraging you to, evaluate the impact of a tactical opportunity that may not put you on a path to achieve your larger scale goals.
An outside new business ally is often one of the best agency assets. Keeping a champion of your agency brand in your corner can help you truly develop and more importantly adapt your new business strategy to the needs of marketers you want to win as new clients.
Tri-athletes around the world train hard. As anyone who has aspired to become a tri-athlete knows the key is preparation. If you don’t dedicate the time to weight train, strength train, swim, run and cycle the triathlon event itself will just about kill you.
Not preparing for a year of agency new business development can cause a major disruption in the agency far longer than those 12 months. A lack of consistency is the single biggest killer of new business programs.
In January, the finish line of achieving a $2 million or $10 million new business goal may seem far off. You may fool yourself into thinking, “there’s plenty of time.” Even if you parcel off the overall goal into digestible portions, you still have to find a way to get there.
Collectively the account directors at Catapult New Business have more than 30 years of agency new business experience. If you polled each of them on the best training technique for new business they would each tell you new business is a triathlon, requiring discipline and consistency. They would also tell you without accountability, identifying, engaging and converting a prospect is next to impossible.
What happens then is that come December the probability of you and your agency reaching the new business finish line is next to none. As 2015 approaches, take time to prepare and seek out the best trainers to help you map out a plan to get you to your desired growth goal.