If you were a baseball manager, would you send your best hitter to the plate without a bat? Everyday I see more and more agency principal doing just that thing. They hire a Business Development Director and then send them to bat without any of the tools or strategies needed to actually win and develop new business.
If you’re an agency principal and hiring a new Business Development Director is in your near future, make sure you commit to support them in the following ways before you bring them on board:
- Commit to financial investments beyond their salary. If you’re going to invest in new business than do it, for real. Hiring a person and then giving them zero dollars to invest in technology, data, process, or content is setting them up with failure at the very beginning. Yes, they should be able to use the phone and email, but expecting them to be able to do it at scale without a CRM, Marketing Automation, complete website, etc, is essentially tying their hands behind their back at the very beginning. This means that when you are committing to new business, you are committing to the financial cost of not only the human capital, but also the technology the profession demands.
- Commit to have a clear and differentiated agency promise. If you as the principle of an agency can’t describe your agency, what you do, and what makes you different in 1 sentence, then how can you expect your new hire to? Take the time to go through a positioning exercise with a professional and sculpt a unique position in your niche in order to help your new hire not only communicate to new prospects, but also find them easier. The clearer your position is the easier it is to drill down to exactly the types of prospects we should be chasing and ensure that we can better communicate with them.
- Commit to Always Be Creating. ABC. If you want them to Always Be Closing, you better Always Be Creating. This means they need thought leadership in the form of blog posts, white papers, or webinars. If you do amazing work for a client, actually track and get results so that the team can build a case study to share. There is nothing worse than having a great conversation with a prospect, the prospect is intrigued and asks the new business person for an example to see, and they have nothing tangible to put in front of them.
- Commit to set realistic timelines and goals. History comes into play here. If your agency has literally never won a piece of business from cold outreach, don’t give your new Business Development hire a three month runway to get a deal in. Set realistic KPIs based off of activity, engagement, proposals, and revenue. We all know that Business Development in our world takes time, so setting meaningful KPIs on each of those four areas allows them the comfort to know what is expected, shows your commitment to them for the long term, while also holding them accountable to performing the proper activities in order to build momentum. Transparency breeds positive interactions between sales and management.
- Commit to having an open mind. As an agency principal sometimes it is very difficult to defer to a new hire. A new hire often comes in with all sorts of ideas on positioning or process that may very greatly from how you initially set up the shop. My advice is that you don’t have to change anything just because they say you should, but you should be open to them being critical of how we have been positioned in the past and open to at least a discussion of how a prospect may view you. Their outside insight may be just the thing that helps you break into the minds of new prospects.
If you set out at the very beginning of the hiring process with these commitments in mind, you should have two very positive outcomes. First, the hiring process should be easier, because your position will be more attractive to any experienced new business pro. Second, that new hire will actually have every tool, process, and strategy needed in order to succeed. At this point, you have done your part, now they just need to hit the home run.
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.
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
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.
Websites are revenue generators; in fact, I’ve written about it before. If you’re like most agencies, you want to represent your business in the best light which often means refreshing your website once a year, or possibly create an entirely new one. When undergoing changes it’s critical to not sacrifice your business development efforts.
Often times I hear from clients that they’d prefer to put their prospecting on hold until their website is just the way they like it. Their fear is: I talk to a prospect, they visit my site, they don’t like our old site, and we have now burned that prospect forever. Because of that fear, outreach efforts are put on hold, and new business takes a back seat to web design. If it’s like most website redesigns, timelines get dragged out and that one month projection somehow turns into three.
Don’t fall into this trap. A four-month hiatus is something your new business outreach can’t afford. Business development is a process that should happen consistently throughout the year, regardless of your website redesign. There are options however to keep your new business machine up and running through situations like this.
Play to your strengths, and drive conversations to those areas with these workarounds:
Landing Pages – I find these are grossly underused in the agency new business world, which is crazy. They are the easiest way to create specific content attached to your site that is directly relatable to your new business conversation. Need a page highlighting a particular service, vertical, or expertise? Create a single new page and link to that while your new site is being build. This allows you to drive people to something relevant and there is less distraction to some of the weaker parts of your site.
Hosted content – Every good marketing automation platform at this point has the ability to host media content. That means we can utilize the hosted media links to not only send people to a safe space for content, but we can track every one of those clicks and reads in order to follow up with them at the right time. For those of you trying to avoid your website completely, there is the added benefit that it is entirely away from your site.
Trying to perfect the imperfect can be a long, daunting task. Losing sight of your new business goals while obsessing over a website redesign can put you behind your revenue goals by 4-6 months in the blink of an eye. So if you are starting that site redesign, I’d encourage you to build a few new landing pages, get yourself a few pieces of content hosted, and keep selling!
“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.
The road to agency new business Nirvana is paved with never-ending training, consulting, workshops and self-help guides. Undoubtedly, growth through a systematic business development program often eludes agencies, but there’s no reason for agency business development professionals to go at it alone.
The reality is, like anything worth doing well, its hard. Really hard. New business is work that the vast majority of those within the professional marketing services industry didn’t sign-up for, and have no inclination to be held accountable for now, or in the future. I see it and hear about it from out of work agency new business people and frustrated agency owners every day.
The good news? It is possible for your agency to have an effective new business process in the year ahead. While it can be difficult to know what your competition is doing to be so successful, we have found that the invisible trend has increasingly been to outsource your new business.
Over the past five years, for more agencies than you’d guess, the answer to solving the business development equation has come from partnering with an outside firm for proactive prospecting. More recently, the trend has evolved to include organic client development too, once the exclusive domain of the agency account and leadership team.
Why are more agencies increasingly handing the reigns of client growth over to a third-party? It’s a daunting thought for some, but for those who’ve experimented with this model, success has come quickly. “I’ve seen agencies win more business from our involvement in their organic client development efforts this year than any other,” said Dave Currie, President of List Partners Inc. “Its often the low hanging fruit that everyone can see, though rarely is there a systematic and accountable plan to harvest it,” he continued.
What value do agencies find in outsourcing?
A Systematic Approach.
Agencies often find that creating a new business process from scratch is difficult. It’s usually thrown together last minute at the onset of a lost account and the strategy and tools are often lacking. Outsourcing to new business professionals, like Catapult, allow agencies to implement a systematic approach to how they win new business. Teams are able to move swiftly into market because there is a proven model of success, and the tools to back it up.
We come across agencies every day that have multiple people working on new business, but not dedicated to it with 100% of their time. Once you have this “we all chip in approach,” when it fails, who is accountable? All? Nobody? With this outsourced model, it is very clear who is accountable for success and we can put clear objectives and goals at each stage of the process. This leads to greater transparency and understanding to who the responsibility of driving new business lies with.
A Specific Focus on New Business
Similar to our Accountability point, according to Hubspot’s Agency’s Pricing & Financial Report, 66% of agencies do not employ a full-time new business person. What does this mean? Those in-house people that are working on new business do not know where to spend their time every day. If I have learned anything during my time as a new business professional, it’s that you cannot minimize the importance of focus. Focus ensures greater success by keeping all efforts dedicated to prospecting and driving conversations with those most sought after prospects.The invisible trend of outsourcing may always remain slightly hidden due to the nature of the business, but we are seeing more inquiries than ever from agency execs that are seeing the benefits of having a systematic approach that provides accountability and focus. I’m confident we will continue to see an increase in adoption of outside resources to manage new business in 2017.
When you can win more business at a lower cost, why would you not outsource?
On average, it takes 7-11 proactive touchpoints to schedule a first meeting with a prospect. In the world of agency new business, relevant persistence is key, and having a solid content distribution strategy to back it up is a requirement. Our last webinar discussed the types of content successful new business teams use in their sales outreach. In this webinar, we’ll specifically show you how to leverage certain pieces of content through targeted channels to increase engagement with top prospects and speed up sales cycles. Simply producing content will not drive results. You need to put it into action.
Watch now to learn the difference between sales and marketing content, what channels are best for amplification, and how often you should be publishing your content for new business success. Other questions we will answer throughout this webinar include:
- Should I segment my prospects to receive different types of content?
- What types of content are best for new business prospecting?
- How do I distribute content for sales vs marketing approaches?
How to Amplify Your New Business Strategy with Content Distribution from AgencySquared on Vimeo.
Agencies might go about generating new business differently than large ad sales teams, but it doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of great sales techniques through marketing automation.
You’re likely spending a ton of time creating what you believe to be relevant, compelling content you hope your prospects find engaging. But, after all the time you spend researching, prospecting and crafting the perfect email copy, are you truly getting the results you expect? Is your new business development audience even big enough or segmented effectively to truly receive the results you’re looking for?
In this Webinar Matt Chollet, President of AgencySquared, discusses what a successful new business audience should look like and the tools available to help you build robust, hyper-targeted prospecting lists that drive more revenue.
If these challenges sound familiar, we encourage you to watch the recording:
- My email click through rate is embarrassingly low.
- My outreach efforts aren’t generating many leads.
- I’d like to learn how hyper-targeted prospecting lists can benefit my outreach efforts.
- I’m in need of a better way to refresh and grow my prospecting lists easier & faster.
How to Build Prospecting Lists That Convert from AgencySquared on Vimeo.