“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.