As the business development lead at your agency, you may already have a solid understanding that the CMO has more turnover than any other c-level position. What you may not know, however, is why and how it directly affects your prospecting efforts.
In December 2018, our sister company, Winmo, released the annual CMO Lifecycle Tenure Analysis report and it’s full of new business opportunities that you can bank on. The report analyzed over 2,400 CMO tenures across a variety of industries and also by gender.
So before you kick off the new year by pounding the phone with cold calls and shooting out emails to every CMO in the US, here are a few items that will help you build a strategic plan and reach CMOs more efficiently:
Who’s Coming In, Who’s On Their Way Out
When a CEO hires a CMO, they expect a complete brand transformation…and fast. We’ve found that CMOs typically rotate up or out of their positions around the 43 month mark. Six to 18 months later is usually when the new CMO will shake up their AOR. What does this mean for you? Start paying attention to this ‘new biz sweetspot.’ Not only do you have a possible win with the incoming CMO, but potentially with the outgoing CMO…if you know where he/she lands.
Not Every Industry Is Created Equal
According to Winmo’s report, more traditional industries such as financial services, education, associations, and travel average longer tenures. Other sectors such as consumer goods, digital business providers, restaurants and retail, however, show higher turnover rates. When prospecting, prioritize those top turnover categories to fuel your prospecting lists with new potential opportunities.
Prioritize Your Right To Win Categories
After analyzing the tenure report take a look and see if there are particular industries in which you specialize. These right to win clients will be low hanging fruit for prospecting. If you are experts in retail and consumer goods, prioritize your prospecting and spend time crafting your messaging to appeal to the CMOs and decision makers in those spaces. Your credible portfolio in these spaces will make them much more inclined to have the initial conversation.
Unfortunately, no crystal ball can tell you exactly when to contact a CMO, but this Winmo report is pretty close! Keep an eye on those brands you’ve been hoping to work with and use this resource to your full advantage! If it’s creeping up on their 3 year anniversary, get your messaging ready. Tailor your outreach strategy by prioritizing your right to win categories. Now you’re ready to go out there and win over those dream clients! Happy prospecting!
As an agency executive, you need to know what is happening in the industry from an M&A perspective and how it can affect your agency. Luckily, Catapult has an amazing partner in Charles Fallon from SI Partners who provides first-hand industry insights throughout this on-demand webinar.
Regardless of whether you are looking to sell your agency now, 10 years from now, or simply attract a growth partner, Charles will walk you through this complex world step by step.
We will cover specific topics like:
- Understanding the new buyers in our market
- Looking at the acquirer landscape as a whole and how it’s changed since last year
- Attracting a growth partner
- Becoming a more attractive agency before selling
- Getting the most value out of your agency
Content marketing and thought leadership continue to be hot buzzwords. But, the market is flooded with blogs, white papers and infographics. Is any of this leading to new business for agencies?
It’s impossible to keep up with all of the webinar invitations, trend reports and industry news. With so much content out there today, yours needs to do more than simply demonstrate that you’re “smart.”
Consider this maxim: Your thought leadership should be so valuable to your dream client, that they’d pay for it. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be out there.
The only difference between $1 and $100 is the message on the paper.
To capture and hold the attention of your dream clients, your content needs to share new insights from your agency’s unique point of view. Agencies with this content strategy are dramatically more likely to breakthrough, get meetings and win more new business.
Standing Out in a Content Crowd
The overuse of thought leadership as a marketing tool has created a real challenge for driving agency new business. Today, everyone is publishing and distributing content.
With such a strong belief in the need for content, agencies are falling into a trap. They’re regurgitating material that was already done … and often done well … by a competitor. What’s needed to stand out among thousands of agencies is to be a true thought leader, not a thought follower.
For agency new business, the challenge is figuring out how to stand out from among thousands of agencies.
Here is a scenario playing out among agency principals today:
We’re great at what we do, but we’re struggling to get that message in front of our dream clients.
Our emails and calls are going unanswered. Our website traffic hasn’t moved. We need more meetings, and we need them fast.
We’re producing thought leadership, but it’s not resulting in meetings or new business. We thought content marketing would lead to more inbound leads, but it’s merely been a few nibbles from unqualified prospects.
Why are we spending all this time and money on the creation and distribution of thought leadership if we’re not getting any results? It’s frustrating. It isn’t worth it unless we start getting a better return.
If we don’t start winning business, we might not make payroll, may need to downsize the staff or, even worse, close the agency. At a minimum, the outcome could be embarrassing. At worse, it could be a disaster.
Thought Leadership or Thought Follower?
Playing it safe does nothing to differentiate or create a meaningful competitive advantage.
The data backs it up. According to Forrester Research, 82 percent of buyers have viewed at least five pieces of content from a winning vendor. Among buyers, 74 percent select the sales rep that demonstrated insight and brought value.
Look at it from the buyer’s perspective. There’s lots of content written by experienced, smart and insightful experts. There’s a lot less time to consume it and react to it. Reading content that’s not truly insightful is underwhelming and feels like time wasted.
It’s no longer good enough to just have content. The successful agency’s thought leadership must provide new insight from a unique point of view.
That POV needs to be through a brand-driven lens through which all communications – particularly content – is delivered. The POV must reinforce the agency’s story in the marketplace and through its thought leadership. An agency’s content strategy has to align with its brand strategy. It needs to provide a roadmap for creating thought leadership that others are not providing.
Sharing new insights from your agency’s point of view is what differentiates between thought leadership and thought followship.
Avoiding the ‘Me Too’
New business is essential for economic viability of agencies. For professional services firms, thought leadership is one of the most powerful approaches to new business.
Yet content often fails to deliver. Why?
- A lack of understanding about the intended audience
- Failure to distribute content to the desired audience
- Content lacks value via new insight from a unique POV.
Content that reproduces from another thought leader means the agency is saying “me too” instead of “me first.” It hinders an agency’s ability to differentiate or be seen as an authority.
That said, there is a place for calculated re-purposing, but only if it offers new interpretations, better insights and stronger solutions.
A Case Study
While working at Catapult, a client believed it was doing everything right. Experts within the agency were writing industry-specific content regularly. The website was robust. There was a targeted list of prospects, a CRM, marketing automation and people, including me, picking up the phone and sending emails.
But the thought leadership was not moving the needle. The few responses often were, “Thanks for sharing, no questions,” “Not interested” or “Appreciate you sending, but we’re already doing much of this.”
It became clear the content wasn’t adding enough value to their dream clients. The thought leadership was not sharing new insights from the agency’s POV.
While the agency had experts and a unique POV, in the haste to produce quantity, the content lost quality and value.
After some soul searching the agency started producing less content, but going deeper and sharing new insights from a point of differentiation.
Almost immediately, the dynamics changed. Dream clients were eager to meet and new business was soon thereafter won.
Are You Really a Thought Leader?
Evaluate your content to decide whether it’s thought leadership. Does it meet the following?
Trait #1: It provides true insight.
Your content should add to what’s in the public domain. It needs to enrich an understanding and influence behavior. Does your content help people see things differently, provide new solutions, or find new opportunities?
Trait #2: It reframes.
Thought leadership gives the audience something to think about. It helps readers learn, seek information, and challenge accepted presumptions. It embraces new approaches. It shows your agency’s unique point of view.
Trait #3: It’s credible.
Thought leadership content needs validation. There needs to be evidence about how it was discovered, who discovered it and whether it’s been independently verified. Insights today can have short lifespans, so you need to confirm that the insights remain relevant.
Trait #4: It’s forward-looking.
Thought leadership must look forward. Good thought leadership does more than inform. It frames an idea, provides foresight and is bold. That notion can be risky because it means taking a stand and pronouncing that stand. But that’s the difference between leading and following.
What Happens Next
If your agency takes a bold approach to thought leadership, you’ll see results. You’ll feel back in control. Confident. It will lead to more meetings. And the dynamics of your meetings will change. Instead of selling, you’ll be teaching. You’ll be viewed as the expert that you are. You’ll close more business with your dream clients.
Does your marketing content pass the test? Before you publish your next thought leadership, honestly ask yourself, if you didn’t already have this information, would you have paid for it?
It’s OK to be different. When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation.
Given the near-demise of the Agency of Record concept, differentiation has never been more critical. Today, clients work with a network of agencies they can draw on, assigning work on a project-by-project basis that plays to strengths. Singular relationships (and the retainers agencies long enjoyed) are practically extinct.
One of the first things I’m usually asked when I first speak with prospects is, “What makes you different from my current agencies?”
If you can’t articulate concisely and clearly what you do, for whom you do it and how, your agency new business program is dead in the water.
Standing Out in the Crowd
Today, you really need to stand out. According to Ibis World, there are more than 66,000 advertising agencies in the United States. Most of these agencies look and sound the same. Their pitches also look and sound the same:
- Full service
- Wide range of experience
- Committed to our clients
- Customize our services
- Results driven
- Our clients are our partners
If you see phrases like “wide range” or “full service” in a brand statement, it’s usually a sign the agency has been unable or unwilling to name what it stands for.
Economists would call the market for agencies “perfectly competitive,” with low barriers to entry and products and services that are all too easy to copy.
Too many agencies are fearful that a narrow focus feels small. Consequently, they are unwilling to plant a stake in the ground that says: “This is what we stand for” because they fear missing out on business.
Firms compensate by saying their work is better than that at other firms, and that that’s what makes them different.But simply being better isn’t different. Only different is different.
Positioning Creates Value for Potential Clients
Your firm exists to create value for clients. Positioning is how you articulate that value to clients. Brands sell themselves based on the perceived value, not the costs. But the ever-popular refrain, “We’re creative” is not a credible statement for value-creation.
Positioning is the way to approach prospecting strategy. That means focusing your firm not on a wide approach but on specific markets where you can create uncontested value. Think of this space as the “blue ocean” where no one else is sailing. With today’s multi-agency model, clients want best-of-breed agencies. Think of it this way. If your child was experiencing an irregular heartbeat, would you feel better taking them to a general practitioner or would you seek out a cardiac specialist?
Today’s most interesting and powerful brands are at the edges because they’re doing different things and doing them differently. It may feel like common sense to play in the middle, but it’s actually the least desirable place to be. Safe doesn’t cut it.
Placing the Value Proposition
Your value proposition for agency new business should sit at the crossroads of relevance and differentiation.
Your work needs to be highly relevant to your dream client to meet a need, whether it’s a certain audience, a platform, a style, a technology, or an approach. You can then establish your position within that nuanced space and show how your agency is different than all the others.
For your agency to be profitable, you need to position yourself not just for where the profits are, but for where the profits will be. Your value proposition will produce the most profit when you select a place on the value chain where the offerings are still scarce and underdeveloped.
For an agency used to being a generalist, this isn’t always easy. Positioning means deciding not only what business you’re in, but what business you’re not in.
If you’re still skeptical about the value of positioning, consider the impact it makes in three critical areas:
- Sales Advantage. By choosing when and where to compete, you gain a real advantage in those sectors. You’ll win more often.
- Price Premium. Positioned as a true expert in certain spaces means you can charge more for the privilege of working with you.
- Control. Positioning gives the agency more ability to guide the engagement. Clients are buying the expertise as much as if not more than the service.
Finding the Position
What differentiates an agency from the competition?
Not personality. Not process. Not price.
It is expertise and expertise alone that will set an agency apart in a meaningful way. Expertise allows the agency to interact with clients and prospects from a position of power and knowledge.
How do you determine that expertise? Begin by asking yourself these questions. The answers to these questions will help create a position statement that should concisely articulate the following:
What do we do?
- What are we selling?
- Where are we excellent?
- What are our outcomes?
- Where are we best in class?
Who do we it for?
- Audience types
- Who is our ideal client?
How do we do it?
- Philosophies or point of view
Why do we it?
- Purpose (Ask if your purpose transcends money.)
- What motivates us
It’s important at this stage to focus on substance first and style later. Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about “how to say it.”
Services that can command the absolute highest prices are those that the client could never duplicate, no matter how much time and money is thrown at the issue. That’s where differentiation is powerful.
With a clear strategy that makes it obvious that you stand for something, not everything, you’ll stop chasing business and start having business chase you.
You’ll find staff more energized with a more resonant articulation of what makes the agency unique. Their pitches and presentations will be more compelling, delivered with more confidence and conviction.
By playing to these strengths, you’ll see a stronger win ratio. This differentiation will also help align your sales and marketing in a unified approach to themes, messaging and consistency.
Where to Start
Before you begin taking the steps outlined here, it is wise to take step back … way back … and take a good hard look at your current positioning. Ask yourself the following:
- Does your value proposition feel authentic?
- Does it make your agency innately and intensely appealing?
- Does it have strong barriers to entry?
- Is it hard to find an exact substitute?
- Does it result in fewer competitors?
- Can you charge higher prices?
- Does it make your sales cycle shorter and less expensive?
- Have you created a new category?
If you answer yes to all those questions, congratulations. My bet is the answer to most is no. That’s the litmus test that a new approach to positioning that emphasizes differentiation is the right path to take. That differentiation will make all the difference. And it’s okay.
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 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.
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.