Posts Tagged ‘agency’

New Business Trends of 2022 – Part 1 of 3

New Business Trends of 2022

Success in the new year hinges on our ability to understand and predict the current and future market conditions around our business. For agencies, the last year and a half have brought near-constant change and amplified some of our most difficult challenges. Notably, new business development is the challenge many face right now in order to rebuild their revenue streams.

For years, business development has been an exercise in waiting for word-of-mouth and referrals to work for your agency. The hope is that if you do good work, it will be recognized by others, and they will then in turn reward you with more work. While this does happen, in an environment like the one we have in 2021 and 2022, waiting on others just is not going to cut it. In order to proactively build back our revenue, we need to understand what trends are affecting our business and how to take advantage of them for our own gain. We see three major new business trends happening now, and the first is all about people movement.

The Great Resignation

We Are Rosie recently did a study and over 63% of their survey participants said that they plan to make a job change before the end of this year. This is probably of no shock to anyone running a business right now, as we have all felt the sting of employee churn in one way or another. Whether it is an employee leaving your agency or a valued client contact leaving a brand you work with, employee movement has been near an all-time high.  

What is key about this is understanding that this movement, while disruptive to almost every area of your business, is also a massive opportunity.

Disruption is good for new business

The biggest indicator of a brand about to go through an agency review are CMO shifts.  Change. Disruption. You know what follows a CMO shift in those reviews? VP, Director, Brand Manager shifts. All of those people moving around signals changes within brands and each new person that steps in to fill the open roles left by the leaving employee brings their own new preferences for partners. Each (no matter how small) employee disruption within a brand brings a new opportunity to network, learn, and eventually partner to solve that brand’s most pressing challenges.  

With disruption comes opportunities to proactively drive the type of word of mouth and referrals that your teams need and want to increase your overall revenue. The key here is to be proactive in driving those referrals and not waiting around like in years past. That proactivity comes from creating a simple networking process in place for all of your key executives. If there is no process, then we know it will not get done. Networking almost always takes a back seat to things like client work and new pitches, so if you are not committed to dedicating time and energy to this practice, then it will surely be a short-lived fad within your firm.

Core Network Activation (as we like to call it) is as simple as:

  • Dedicate 15 minutes every morning to your networking outreach.
  • Create an immovable calendar block, so that culturally you commit to doing this every day.
  • Within that 15 minutes, the plan is to do 3 points of outreach, 5 minutes each.
  • Each outreach will be a simple, direct message simply to stay visible in a time of isolation.
    • Comment on their brand’s latest news, check in on that vendor you always work with, if you have known them for years – ask about their family
  • Be proactive in your referral request:
    • “Who do you think would be interesting for me to know?”
    • “You know our best clients are similar to you, who comes to mind that you think I should talk to?”

 


At Catapult, Core Network Activation is something that we do every day for ourselves and our clients, and it is key to kicking up dust on conversations that may have gone dark or reigniting a spark that died down when life got in the way of a client we were trying to work with. The key here is that with all of the movement and disruption that The Great Resignation is bringing to brands (and agencies alike) your new business plan has to be one that takes advantage of that disruption.  Not every proactive new business outreach has to be a cold one.  There are plenty of warm opportunities out there if you take the time and energy to cultivate them. 

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Brands Are Searching for 2022 Partners Now

Brands are searching for 2022 partners now

When planning for the new year, the common perception is that most companies begin planning their new year goals sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday and will not firm up their final plans until the end of the year…at best.  In fact, with the hustle of closing out a year, most will not begin goal and execution planning of their new year until January when that new year begins.  Instantly putting themselves behind the eight ball.

Here’s what we are seeing from brands planning right now

Our team did a recent survey of 50 meetings held in the month of September with brands interested in their agency’s services.  What we found was that 30% of the meetings were strictly focused on solving 2022 needs.  Four months before the new year these brands are already identifying their growth needs and evaluating partners to help them solve those challenges.  

This same survey showed that the remaining 60% of meetings were a combination of solving year-end and 2022 needs, with just 10% of the meetings focused on affecting this current year.  Most of that 10% were smaller digital projects to fix an immediate issue with a current vendor that was not performing well.  Although 60% of meetings were talking about “combined” this year and next, the majority of those were “hopeful” that they could affect this year, with the focus being on effecting next year.

Don’t miss out on Q1 revenue for the new year

Understanding ahead of time what your prospects are looking to affect and when they need to affect it is massively important to how you approach your prospecting efforts and language.  It also means that your goals for your new business plan need to be adjusted properly.  The work you do in late Q3 and Q4 to drive new business growth is revenue that won’t be seen until Q1 of the next year.  If you, like many agencies we have seen, wait until after the holidays to start your new business approaches, you will miss out on all of the Q1 revenue because those decisions are being made now.  

The holiday season can be a powerful time to make meetings and opportunities happen specifically because so many agencies are slowing down their new business efforts.  We have always felt that when your competition slows, you should accelerate, and if you want to be leading in 2022 you better be accelerating your efforts now in Q4.  Q4 conversations equal Q1 dollars.

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Get more out of your case studies

Get more out of your case studies

Case studies are useful guides to educate and influence your prospective new clients. While there seems to be a general consensus on the case study structure most prospects expect to see, there are real issues in how firms are presenting them. These issues can cause one of two things to happen:

  1. The case study is not read at all
  2. The case study is not convincing or impactful

Here are a few tips to get your case studies read and help your agency new business efforts:

Focus on the problem, not the solution

Human nature is wanting to talk about yourself (in this case your agency) and all the great things you did to provide an amazing solution for your client. The problem of course is that human nature from your prospect’s side is that they care about themselves, and prospects don’t identify with your solution, they identify with the problem. Help them identify that you understand their problems better than anyone else by focusing the majority of your case study on recognizing and outlining the problem they face from a brand and market perspective.

Shorten your case study

Early buying stage prospects are short on time and attention span. Help get directly to the part where they have identified their similar problem and are intrigued by an amazing result quickly. This means you need to have a graphic of your results (ie, 205% ROI) at the very beginning of your case study, and you need to give either a brief or dive right into a short description of the problem at the outset. Also, you don’t need to go through every detail of a campaign in the solution, just highlight those largest areas of impact and save some words for either your pitch or break them down in breakout areas (see below).

Make multiple versions of the same case study

Landing page, 1 sheeter, Deep Dive, Breakout Page. When you are in the new business process, a case study may have different uses. Create a landing page to use for gathering interest during a drip campaign with the goal being a lead conversion. Use a 1 sheeter as a teaser or interest driver for someone that you are in early-stage conversations with. A Deep Dive deck or page is where you can get a bit more long-winded and is useful once you have talked to a prospect about a past project and they are now interested in those solutions.

Lastly, use a Breakout Page as a mini-case study for an individual action that you took in a larger campaign to highlight that particular part of the case study’s effectiveness. If you can match up the proper version of the case study with where someone is in the buying journey you are more likely to generate a positive response.

After a year and a half of the market going through radical changes, the way you present your case studies at each stage of the new business cycle is incredibly important. Don’t forget that some of your case studies may also have prematurely aged because of the pandemic forcing massive changes to the market. If this happens, it doesn’t mean that you have to toss an old case study, just find ways to focus on specific aspects you believe can be used across verticals by focusing on the specific problems.

Case studies are important for any agency’s new business effort, don’t let yours get ignored. The work you have done is no doubt amazing. Let’s make sure people actually see it.

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Win More Podcast

Win More Podcast

Recently we had the opportunity to join team Winmo on their Win More Podcast to talk everything agency, or at least as much as you can cover in 40 minutes.  Throughout our conversation we talked about:

  • Challenges facing agencies pre and post pandemic
    • Generating agency new business in a sea of sameness
    • Finding your Right to Win clients
    • Keeping your employees passionate about your new clients
  • Diversity & Inclusion
    • How this is more than a trend and why agencies have been and need to continue to focus on this in order to better serve their clients, employees, and consumers
  • The rise of RFPs
    • They’re baaaack…what to do, and how to avoid falling in the same old RFP trap
  • Campaigns that we like right now
    • From the socially aware and more serious campaigns like Absolut’s #mixresponsibly to the slightly less serious Dr Rick from Progressive teaching millennials to sit down without making a sound
  • Case Studies in the new reality
    • What do you do with your case studies in your new business efforts after those case studies have prematurely aged because a little pandemic changed your prospect’s entire market?
  • Hot to continue to grow
    • Omnichannel outreach includes outbound biz dev, inbound efforts, SEO, PR, Paid Media…which should you use?

We have a lot more to come on these different topics around agency new business, but hopefully this great conversation with John Zaldonis at the Win More Podcast will get things started!  

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Your agency has a sales culture and it may be holding you back

Your agency has a sales culture and it may be holding you back

Every day there are more and more articles posted about the importance of your overall corporate culture.  Like this one from CEOWorld.  Agencies, in particular, tend to put an emphasis on ensuring their attitudes and beliefs are front and center on their websites in order to show their overall corporate culture.  What many of them fail to realize is there’s a secondary culture that may be holding them back, and it has to do with the way that they bring on new clients. Your sales culture is different from your corporate culture. It specifically revolves around the people, processes, and approach that you take to bring on new clients.

Corporate culture vs. sales culture

While your overall corporate culture certainly impacts this subculture, your sales culture does have a life all its own.  Now many agencies would say “we don’t do sales, so that doesn’t apply to us.”  False.  You do bring on new clients, whether they come through WOM, referrals, or outbound sales, so any interaction you have with a new client is what makes up your sales (or business development) culture.

The way you speak, interact with, present, and deliver proposals to prospective clients is massively important to ensure they are not only impressed with your work, but feel connected to your culture in a positive way.  Many agencies spend so much time ensuring culture is felt internally that they miss the ways culture is reflected externally by those in charge of new business. 

Three things that can hold back your new business and negatively impact the way your culture is viewed

1. You are too attached to the sale. 

A LOT of blood, sweat, and tears can go into a great client pitch. And while that’s important, you should care about winning business that you are passionate about!  BUT, there is a tipping point where prospects can feel you are invested in only the win and closing their business.  In the sales world, we call it commission breath.  People know when they are being sold to make the seller money vs when they are being sold to actually help solve a problem.  The best way to show a client you care about their needs is to simply be willing to walk away if it’s not a true fit.  Tell them that upfront.  Let them know you aren’t a perfect fit for everyone.  Scarcity is value.  The more you pull back from people and let them decide, the more those same people will push forward to hear more about you and your business.

2. Your sales process isn’t a process at all.

We started this off by talking about how many agencies believe they “don’t make sales”, and that tends to show up during the overall courting process.  This means mistakes are routinely made when it comes time to have a needs analysis call or the proper follow-up after a first or second call. It also happens when a proposal deck should be submitted or how to push for those final pitches and closes.  A well-structured approach that feels organized and on time is easily recognizable from a prospect. It also gives them comfort that this is not new to you and your team.  You’ve been here before and will give them confidence that you can be a trusted partner.

3. You don’t understand what your prospects are trying to achieve.

Certainly, you know they want a new website, I mean they told you that.  What you may have missed is helping them diagnose the real problem. The problem that is keeping them from achieving their larger goals that they may believe a new website will fix.  A great new business process will properly uncover those buried problems. It also helps your ability to pitch the work and your prospects better understand exactly what they need.  Prospects need to realize you are not just a service. You are a true expert ready to have a higher-level conversation that uncovers their needs. Only then will be positioned above others when choosing who is getting their work.

 

Keep focusing on your total culture. But don’t ignore that the way you view, prioritize, and organize your new business efforts is a culture unto itself and it is on the front line every day.  For your prospects, your actions speak louder than words on a website.

 

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Q2 is Over, But 2021 is Only Getting Started

Q2 is Over, But 2021 Is Only Getting Started

It’s been six months. Six months of a slow, methodical, pragmatism by the market to get back to some sort of normal. Slow employment and rising inflation have caused the recovery to go a bit slower than hoped, but the advertising world has been coming back faster than the individuals spending dollars. Brands recognize the recovery, feel it, and the smart ones have been investing heavily to get in front of it.

A Well-Rounded Outbound and Inbound Strategy is More Important Than Ever

Agencies have felt the brand investment this year as inbound RFP requests soar. Good news right? More RFPs, more projects, more retainers, things are starting to get back to better than normal. Yes, in this instance, more is good, BUT we can be better than the old “normal”.

The old “normal” for growth, for many agencies, was dependent on those inbound efforts and waiting for word of mouth to eventually work its way over to you. The old “normal” also had many agencies wasting thousands of dollars on pitches that they knew were longshots at best and cannon fodder at worst. This is why when inbound is high, it is more important than ever to be well-rounded with an outbound and inbound strategy. You need to know which RFPs to turn down and which companies to pursue with your outbound strategy, which all revolves around your Right to Win category.

What’s Your Right to Win?

Right to Win is defined as the prospects/brands that best fit your prospective client profile of a perfect client. Whether it is focused on an industry, size company, regionally located, etc. They are a brand that essentially should have been a client yesterday because there is no other firm more qualified or set up to work with them to achieve their marketing goals.

Here’s how using Right to Win can get your 2021 really booming in the 2nd half of the year:

1.  Right to Win clients close faster 

This is because they are brands you are familiar with, you understand their business at an intimate level, and the brand most likely recognizes that expertise because of your team’s language, pitch, and website focus. Faster deals mean more growth and profitability.

2. Pitch when you are the front runner

Pitching is far from an exact (or even fair) science. It is a costly and timely process that can pull your team’s focus to a project that, potentially, you never had a chance to win in the first place. Unfortunately, you do not know that until the end of the pitch, so let’s be sure we are only pitching those that we know are the front runners, or in the case of proactive outbound pitching, are the only ones pitching.

3. The right clients maximize all areas of your business

The inbound are low hanging fruit and the revenue feels like it’s just right there, only we know from decades of experience that taking a client because they generate revenue, rather than them being our strategic best fit can have many unintended consequences on profitability, churn levels, and employee engagement. Right to Win clients are set up to maximize profit, reduce churn, and increase employee engagement…don’t settle for revenue, aim to maximize everywhere.

Brands Are Hungry For an Expert to Help Them Stand Out

The rest of this year is going to be full of people on vacations (finally) and brands looking for help to get back out there and in front of their competition. Now more than ever, they want to hear from an expert that understands them and can help them stand out in a meaningful way. It’s time for your agency to focus on that expertise and drive those Right to Win clients right into your agency’s open arms.

 

 

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4 Essentials to Sustainable Agency Growth

What does growth even mean? We find most agencies think growth is about adding more and more new clients to their portfolio. Other agencies believe growth is about long-term marketing efforts to build stronger awareness with prospective clients, and driving inbound new business. From our 15 years of experience working with agencies of every size and kind, we see two core things that successful agencies do well under the banner of “growth”. First and foremost, they focus on building success for clients with quality work and measurable impact in order to drive retention and organic growth. Second, they have a clear plan to drive new business through these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth:

1. Have a workable, proactive sales process in place.

Without a structured sales process, you may take on any opportunity thinking it’s essential for the financial health of your agency. However, the cost of the client can sometimes be more expensive than the revenue it brings in. Taking on any and every opportunity happens when your sales team doesn’t have appropriate guidelines to work with. If a proper sales process is designed to help them drive quality leads, you’ll save time and money, allowing them to work more strategically and more effectively.

We find every great sales process includes:

  • Understanding the buyer’s journey and using it as your starting point to an approach based on the needs of your prospect.  
  • Clearly defining each stage of the journey and what activities are involved.
  • Identifying the value for your agency in each phase of the process.
  • Creating a strong connection between the marketing and sales team.
  • Finding the pain points of potential clients and highlighting your solutions in solving them – this is what makes your agency hard to dismiss.

2. Define your ideal client.

Buyer personas are not a new concept, but in today’s competitive agency landscape, it’s more important than ever to understand who your ideal client is, what their needs are, and whether your agency has a “right to win” with them. An effective buyer persona answers the following: 

  • What industry do they work in?
  • What is their company size?
  • Who are the key decision makers (and influencers)?
  • Where do they look for agency partners?
  • What are their key pain points?
  • Which services do they need?
  • What kind of budget are they working with? 

These questions will help focus your efforts and generate the opportunities you want.

3. Upsell and retain clients.

Many agencies are a bit passive when it comes to expanding scope with current clients. Account teams are not natural sales people, and are (rightly) focused on billable time and the business at hand. So how can your new business team help? Create a plan for each client that helps them understand other ways you can help their business. It’s an effective sales approach that benefits the client who has already experienced the quality of what you have to offer. And think about the energy and resources you’ll save as opposed to looking for new accounts. Focus on keeping current clients happy and identify new ways your expertise can bring even more value.  

4. Refine your unique selling proposition.

To understand your current unique selling proposition, ask your existing clients where they look for a new partner and how they found you. Most importantly, why they chose your agency and the measurable impact you have on their business. Your USP should not be centered on a philosophy or theoretical outcome, but rather a quantifiable one focused on your particular expertise. This is critical to differentiating yourself to prospects, helping your agency evolve, and supporting your growth. 

 

Creating, understanding, and working these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth will create a sustainable pathway to revenue generating opportunities. We know it seems challenging to navigate the overcrowded, undifferentiated landscape at time. But by making these key areas a priority, your agency will be on the right track to repeatable, revenue generating opportunities. 

 

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Agency Myth: Narrowing Your Focus Results in Missed Opportunities

agency focus

You hear it all the time – brands are moving more advertising and marketing functions in-house. From media buying to SEO to full service offerings, every day brings news of another brand deciding it’s better, and cheaper, to do it themselves. Brand experience is the same. As brands embrace experience-led thinking, they tend to hire internal experts who understand creative through the traditional experience lenses of activations, pop-ups and live events.

This leaves your agency with two options – either expand your offerings and cast a wider net for more opportunities or waste time going against the current. But moving out of your niche causes your agency to be spread too thin. As a result, you’ll find yourself relying on freelancers to fill in the gaps and run the risk of damaging relationships and reputations by underdelivering. We’ve also seen agencies start to create friction with clients’ internal agencies who are trying to protect their shrinking piece of the pie. Both approaches can create barriers to sustainable agency growth.

We suggest a third option for success. 

Focus. It’s not a dirty word. Go narrow, clearly identify where you excel, and make it your mission to be absolutely best in class in that area. All too often we see agencies who have a fear of focusing and differentiating themselves because they are afraid of leaving money on the table.

Brand marketers continue to turn to those who know a subject area, a target audience, a technology or tool, or a sub-discipline of marketing and advertising. They want genuine expertise over generalization.  This should resonate with you more than anything. Whether you are partnering with in-house teams or part of a multi-agent effort, in order to adapt to today’s landscape, narrowing your focus should become your new normal. While it may mean closing off certain revenue streams (in the short term), it ultimately future-proofs your agency by making you an ideal partner with valuable expertise.

But how do you narrow your agency focus? To get started, here are two things to consider.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

This one is trickier than most think. If may seem risky to lower the number of revenue generating avenues in front of you, especially when times get tough, but the truth is, expertise will always be valued. It is critical to assess what your agency does well, and strengthen in these areas. At the same time, be intentional about removing offerings that aren’t at the core of your business, or within the capabilities of your own team. Expertise will ultimately lead to increased trust and more honest, profitable relationships. 

Build relationships with trusted partners.

“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
-Steve Jobs

We know you don’t want to say no to a prospect or client, but it doesn’t mean you should be quick to say yes. As you eliminate your non-essential offerings, reach out to partners that are experts in that field, and cultivate new relationships with them.

If clients ask you to take on something outside your narrow focus of expertise, suggest sharing the load with a trusted partner. The benefit of this is you keep your trusted relationship with the client while also building a strong relationship with partner agencies. As a result of this, there could be reverse opportunities as those partners begin recommending your team when in similar situations. It can feel risky to ask for help, but if you’ve laid a solid foundation, you should be able to avoid a situation where you underdeliver. 

Here are the benefits of narrowing your focus and finding your true point of difference. 

Fewer competitors.

When you offer everything, you’re really competing with everyone.

A few things happen when your agency finds the importance in narrowing your focus and becoming the best at your niche. You may notice your competition is virtually eliminated. The more you focus on your niche, the less other companies will offer what you offer. Once you determine your focus, your competition will be a fraction of what was there before, and you’ll realize only a handful of agencies are doing exactly what you are. 

More partners.

When you narrow your focus, your competitors can become partners. 

After eliminating thousands of agencies that were once your competition, you’ll find you now have many potential partners. You’ll also realize there are so many companies with complementary services to a similar client. This aspect of narrowing your focus could lead to the greatest amount of growth for your agency. Coming together with other partners who specialize in different skills in the same industry can help achieve the greatest outcome for clients. 

Improvement at a faster rate.

Practice one thing for hundreds of hours instead of hundreds of things for one hour. 

Once you eliminate the other things that were dividing your attention, you’ll soon realize your can spend so much more time learning and practicing on your area of focus. You will find you can keep up with the latest methods and trends within your niche that you never had time for before. A narrow focus helps you improve at a much faster rate. 

Higher value.

The most important benefit of narrowing your focus is the increased value you can bring to your client. When you provide a specific service for a specific industry, you are better and faster at solving problems. You’ll understand the needs of your client quicker with less of a learning curve on each new project. It may seem like you are eliminating potential clients once you find your niche, but remember how valuable you’re making your agency to the clients that are right for you. Ultimately, you’re growing your pipeline and your business. 

We are all living in a world of sameness that needs more specialists.

Think of all the revenue generating opportunities you will create when you excel in your uniqueness. A tight focus on your core expertise ensures your agency is easy to buy and difficult to dismiss. That’s what true differentiation is all about. 

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Does Your Agency’s Thought Leadership Pass this Test?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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Setting your pace – Lead or Lag?

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.

  1. Lag Measures – These are backward looking measurements of a result that has already happened.
  2. 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!

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