Posts Tagged ‘agency’

New business is a race: Don’t stop for a water break in the summer

Agency race

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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(Webinar) Mandatory Technology for Agency New Business

Most agencies are running their new business programs with as few human beings as possible. With fewer people, the need to be efficient and effective is paramount. Considering the martech space has expanded at an incredible rate, it can be difficult to know exactly which technologies will help and which will hinder your new business efforts. Agency efforts are different from other sales needs, so we wanted to concentrate on where your money and time is best spent to make technology your best tool to drive new business.

Mandatory technology for agency new business from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.

In our latest webinar, we set out to give our agencies insight around technology that we see as the most effective for new business. Matt Chollet, EVP of Agency Growth at Catapult New Business, discussed which types of technologies that you need and then offered suggestions from our extensive experience with different brands.

What we covered:

  • The best technology stack for agency new business
  • Small staff? Where technology can make you more efficient
  • Where to best spend your tech budget for more leads
  • Specific technology reviews used in agency biz dev

 

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Why Agencies Need to Live By The 40% Rule

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 our last 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.

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(Webinar) Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale

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.

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Waiting for Referrals Will Kill Your New Business Efforts

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:

  1. Build a list of prospect companies
  1. Search each company in LinkedIn and find their most applicable contact for prospecting that is also a 2nd-degree connection.
  1. 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:

Hi (First),

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:

 -Or- 

(First Name),

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.

Best,

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.

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Time of Day Matters in Business Development

“How do I get more hours to devote to business development? I can’t give you more hours in a day, but I can give you times of the day that will make your hours more effective.”

In the new business development world, our time is everything. We are all trying to figure out how much time we need to spend prospecting vs cultivating vs RFPs. How we go about prioritizing this time and what we do very often depends on working around our schedules of executive meetings, client meetings, and putting out fires. What happens, time and time again, is that we wind up doing our prospecting and cultivating activities at odd times when we actually get a few minutes free. We have to change this mind set if we are going to really grow our agencies biz dev, by making our schedules work around the very best hours for business development.

“Time of day matters for outreach. People as a whole have certain, generally consistent behaviors across jobs and industries that typically occur at the same time each day. As business development professionals, we need to understand our prospect’s schedules and work to maximize our efficiency around them and the way they behave.”

Timing your Business Development:

6:00 8:00 AM – Action emails are most likely to get a response between these hours. This means that those one to one, text only emails where you are asking for a direct meeting or a call are best  to be sent first thing in the AM, before their inbox fills up.

8:00 – 9:00 AM – Get on the phone.  While most agency new business people I speak with are deathly afraid of phone follow up, the fact is that a real conversation can absolutely separate you from the barrage of stock emails that marketing decision makers receive every day. Most of these decision makers are available first thing in the morning, before the active work day gets started, and at the end of the day, once they are prepping for the next day. They are most likely to pick up the phone not only during this time, but you may be able to avoid a receptionist or two, as decision makers are typically in the office before most employees.

10:00 Noon – I’m on LinkedIn during this window either actively prospecting, working referral networks, or posting new content to Pulse or our blog. Studies show that LinkedIn is used heavily during the day for most professionals, and the chance for content reads increases after the 10am hour.

Noon – 1:00 PM – I use this time to scan and curate content through my social channels. Some of these posts I automate ahead of time (with a free Buffer account), but since Twitter tends to be used more as a feed that is reviewed on commutes or breaks, lunchtime is a great opportunity for me to  amplify any content messaging in order to increase views and hopefully clicks/reads.

2:00 4:00 PM – Back to email, but this time, I’m focusing on content related emails. This means that any of my marketing automation around content are typically either being written and sent at this time, or I’m scheduling them to go out for future dates around this time. The key is, these are content related for delivering knowledge and interesting reads. Research has shown that while replies are lower around this time, opens and reads tend to go up during these hours post lunch, so take advantage of a few free minutes where their mind may be open to reading a blog post or case study.

4:00 PM and later – I’m back on the phone trying to catch prospects that are wrapping up their day and planning their next day. Most times meetings are held before this time, so with less meetings and more planning occurring, now is your time to catch a few more people on the phone rather than earlier in the day.

No matter what your personal schedule looks like, it’s important to consider how you go about timing each prospecting activity in order to maximize the effectiveness of each.  With so few hours in every day, maximizing our prospecting time is key in order to drive the number of quality conversations we can have each day.

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The Right Way to Expand and Segment Your Target Audience

Any successful new business strategy starts with knowing who your target audience is. As an agency you have likely already honed in on your unique value proposition and are ready to start engaging with prospective clients.

“A critical piece many agency new business professionals miss out on is making sure they have a broad enough target audience to sell and market to. We find that the key to fueling your marketing and sales efforts is an effective, targeted AND substantial audience.”

When working with our clients, we’re often asked, “How many prospect records do I need?” To get the most from your outreach, we recommend a minimum of 3,000 with the goal of having 5,000 that you can continuously engage with.

Those numbers might seem like a lot but keep in mind there are tools to help you build out your prospecting database. In fact, many of your agency peers are likely using one. According to the 2016 Mirren/RSW Mirren New Business Tools Report, 9% more agency executives are investing in list building tools (compared to 2014) to help grow their new business. Our clients typically use Winmo, however there are other resources like Hoovers, Data.com and LinkedIn to help you create hyper-targeted data sets.

The importance of audience segmentation.

As you continue to grow your prospecting audience, segmenting the data into relevant batches is very important as it keeps our content highly relevant, even when we begin to do outreach in groups of hundreds or thousands. We are not looking to spam the world with emails and phone calls, we are trying to deliver less often, but with more impact.

“By properly segmenting our audiences, we are able to ensure that the right content gets in the right hands at the right time.”

When I begin to look at a new agency list, I often segment prospects into these three groups to help us prioritize outreach and customize content:

1) Right to Win

Right to Win clients are those that are a perfect fit for our solutions. We set parameters for what a perfect client is for our agency: what issues they have, where they are and what they specialize in. If they fit those criteria, then they HAVE to be working with us and we need to talk to them in such a way that shows our perfect fit. This is likely to be a somewhat smaller group, as we are talking about perfect here. The goldilocks zone of prospects!

2) Great Fit

This will be your biggest group of prospects. They have a problem we can solve, but may fall just outside our parameters on a few criteria here or there. Maybe they are a bit outside of our typical geographic region, slightly bigger or smaller in revenue ranges, or they’re an industry adjacent to our sweet spot. If they fit 95% of our criteria and we can recognize and solve their problems, then I want to be sending them content. Too often I see agencies immediately give up on quality prospects because they put so many restrictions and criteria on who they can work with. If you want to grow, consider widening that net just a bit.

3) Stretch

This is may be the smallest group, as they are more of ‘passion projects’ from the team – or the ‘great white whales’ that would be incredible to land. They are probably not worth committing the majority of your 1 to 1 new business time to chasing, but landing one could make a huge difference in morale or revenue. Putting them in your drip content is a great way to keep them warm and fish a bit, without taking away from your time that you spend on those prospects that are going to be your stable base of revenue in the future.

Keep in mind this is just one way to segment your data. Every agency has a different strategy, and how you go about slicing your sales intelligence might be very different. Some find that the easiest way to group prospects is simply by industry vertical, while others choose to base their groupings off of job titles. Taking the time to think through who you want to be working with, and more importantly, what your prospects care about, will help you determine just how your agency should be dividing your prospect target list.

Lastly we need to remember, we are segmenting these groups because we want to get bespoke, quality content in front of the most appropriate people. Each new group you create is going to require their own set of targeted communication and targeted content, so do not break these into ten different target groups if you do not have the bandwidth to create ten different content tracks. We want to do everything we can to broaden our reach while staying highly targeted and focused in order to remain relevant. Taking the extra time to think through these audience segmentation lists and properly grouping them can save you an immense amount of time on the back-end.

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(Webinar) 5 New Business Resolutions Every Agency Needs to Make & Keep

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.

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3 Ways to Kickstart Your New Business Process

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.

Audience

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

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.

Execution

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.

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New Year – New Investments for Agency Growth

“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.

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