Two minds are better than one. At least that’s how the old saying goes. But what happens when those two minds (or three or four) get caught up in a groupthink cluster? While the idea of working together to gain consensus around important growth driving topics (like new business positioning) might sound like a great idea, it’s important to steer clear of the potential dead end road groupthink can take you.
So why is consensus so dangerous, especially for agency new business?
Similar past, similar future
Many times agency executive groups that are setting out to develop unique positioning come from places of similar past experiences. Most of our agency VPs and C Level execs started somewhere outside of new business. Perhaps they started within Account Management or creative, and as such, they have very little experience within the new business world. This then shapes our opinion of how new business is done, how it should be done, and what works and doesn’t work. Often, they have faced new business failure in the past when they tried something new, and because we all are hesitant of repeating a mistake, we agree to steer away from that “new” again.
The problem with steering away from the “new” is that an agency can wind up repeating their mistakes again and again, because they never truly change. True change comes from a holistic look at how you approach new business, not just purchasing one piece of new technology or a new website design. While those pieces are important and can affect some of our experience and results, they won’t fully change your new business for the better.
Let’s look at a real life example: ABC Agency’s executives have decided that their positioning is great… “we solve problems that can’t be solved”. Because they all have the same experiences in the agency world, nobody stops to ask questions like:
- Is this really interesting for new business?
- Is this positioning true of what we have done in the past and want to go in the future?
- Does this even make sense!?
So if your agency new business positioning discussion seems to be running uncomfortably smoothly with nobody challenging one another, think about applying some of these ideas:
- Invite someone outside of your exec team to the positioning meeting. Maybe even invite someone from outside the agency to get an outsider’s feelings on your positioning.
- If you’re the leader of the meeting, listen to other people’s ideas before expressing any of your own opinions. Leadership opinion can sway opposition opinion and accelerate groupthink.
- Challenge any assumption that has 100% approval. You may find it is a solid assumption, but challenging it can also be a great way to identify a blind spot.
Those few steps can help ensure that your new business efforts won’t get self-sabotaged with groupthink consensus. Having that outside perspective and the openness to challenge assumptions can ensure that your agency stands out among your competition.
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
Here at Catapult we are all about understanding our agency’s prospecting and pipeline needs. If you don’t know what it takes in terms of activities and numbers to generate a winning piece of business, how can you develop a successful plan to do just that? As an easy tool, we created a Pipeline Calculator that breaks down this process into three simple chunks to help our agencies get a head start on understanding their pipeline numbers.
The goal section is made up of three main pieces – revenue goal, the number of contacts in the database, and average first-year value of a deal. Your revenue goal should be pretty straightforward in this calculation. We are looking at the amount of new revenue generated from new business (not organic growth). The number of contacts in your database is essentially how many individual contact prospects you’re currently reaching out to in your content marketing. This is a number that is easily changed and can have a major impact on your new business success. Often though, we see people trying to adjust other numbers and holding to very small databases with zero success. Resources like Winmo allow for focused growth in these databases to hit the quantities needed to be successful.
Lastly, the average first-year value of a deal is limited to just this first-year value, so in these calculations we are not over-valuing each deal for our short-term prospecting efforts.
This is the area where many agencies struggle. Understanding each stage of the sales pipeline process is something that most have never done. We broke this section out into four main parts – Initial Approaches, 1st Meetings, Needs Analysis, and Pitches. For many of our clients, turning the amount of Initial Approaches into 1st meetings is the biggest area where we can provide improvement for them. Most agencies aren’t making a lot of proactive introductions to new brands. As a result, they are limiting themselves from an initial database size perspective, and their conversion rate in this area is also very low. For any sales person this is going to be a smaller number, as we are fighting through initial qualification, awareness, and timing issues to move these prospects to first meetings. With that knowledge, increasing your database size and improving your approach are paramount.
We also find that many of our clients initially overestimate their win rate on pitches. Anecdotally, I can tell you that when I talk to agency principals and owners, the win rate is often overestimated while a New Business Director may often underestimate. I think this is purely a function of perception given how much they are both involved in conversations with new prospects. Our advice: Be conservative on your pitch rate win percentage and if you overperform it, all the better.
From here, we should have a good understanding of both the number of new clients that we will win based off of percentages, and the total revenue generated from new client wins. Disclaimer: There are many factors that go into your individual success, such as time, skill, resources, etc. This calculator should be used with the understanding that it is giving you a baseline of understanding of different areas of your pipeline process that you need to consider when both setting goals at the beginning of the year, and as your year progresses.
You should be using this calculator to understand where you might be underperforming. If you find yourself lower than average on initial approaches, then you can fix that area. If you are generating enough meetings and pitches but not winning business, no worries. We fix our pitch materials. If we are fine on all of our pipeline stage percentages but still not getting enough meetings, then most likely we need to look at how many prospect contacts we are reaching out to in our database.
Hopefully, this calculator gives you an initial guide to your proactive prospecting 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:
- Build a list of prospect companies
- Search each company in LinkedIn and find their most applicable contact for prospecting that is also a 2nd-degree connection.
- 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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
We’ve seen more than a few agencies who aren’t seeing the results they were looking for with their current new business strategy. Many new business teams are stuck with an old mindset that proactive email marketing is just spam and not worth their time. When done right, email marketing can be a terrific way to maximize your ROI of time and money for new business growth.
So why is email such an important piece of your new business strategy? Email as an outreach approach has fewer barriers to implementation and is a relatively inexpensive process to begin. It’s also a great way to deliver the tangible results you’re looking for, because you can track everything and easily attribute leads to different campaigns. There is no mystery where leads come from.
The biggest obstacle to adopting a marketing automation strategy is “not having a strategy at all,” according to Marketing Automation Trends Survey.
Email marketing—specifically email automation campaigns—offers an inexpensive approach that will not only drive growth, but build your agency a sustainable prospect database from which you can always mine new opportunities. It’s the most effective way to grow your business, relative to the amount of money you spend. In fact, your ROI should skyrocket by implementing an email automation campaign. Consider these statistics:
- B2B marketers see an average 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads compared to non-nurtured leads after deploying a lead nurturing program.
- B2B marketers who install marketing automation increase their sales to pipeline contribution by 10%.
- 54% of companies using marketing automation capture intelligence for the sales team. This compares to only 25% of companies without marketing automation.
It all boils down to one simple fact: Agencies that adopt an email marketing and marketing automation strategy outperform those companies that do not.
Resist the stories about emails and email marketing. Not all email is spam you need to filter. If used properly, email can be your least expensive means to grow organically and gain new business.
Agencies that focus on nurtured lead programs with great content via email, will find themselves starting any new relationship with a client at a much warmer spot. Rather than viewing each other as “seller vs buyer,” good email nurture programs allows for a “teacher and student” relationship. We trust our teachers while we don’t necessarily trust someone selling something.
Our most successful agencies keep this in mind. They build a marketing automation program, implement a CRM and combine it all with a business intelligence platform such as Winmo. As you build out your new business strategy, don’t discount email’s importance, just because it’s a discounted rate to get it started.