One of the common questions I get from agency owners is about how their peers handle new business. Whether large or small, owners can’t help but notice the successes of others. They often marvel at how one agency is constantly in the news with a new client or another had a big win, or yet another is constantly hiring. I want to be like that agency.
We are all guilty of the “grass is always greener” without stopping to think about the underlying reasons for why others appear to be more or less successful at new business. My job is to help agencies grow and I am always seeking to analyze and understand these issues to bring value and insight to my agency clients. I recently fielded a survey among 156 small, medium and large agency owners and business development leads. About 83% are full-service and 61% handle both B2C and B2B. One of the questions in the survey was this very subject. It certainly isn’t scientific but helpful in my quest to find answers. I fielded this survey in October to gauge current practices and plans for 2106. You can download the survey results at the end of this post.
According to the survey, 44% of Agency Owners handle new business exclusively while more have a prominent role. In my experience, that is a good number because prospective clients want to know who is responsible for the agency and ultimately responsible for their success. They want to understand the chemistry and culture that drives the agency. And they need to have confidence that the relationship will be effectively managed from the top. Trust starts at the top and permeates throughout the people who deliver the agency services. Clients also want to know and feel important enough to have the full attention of the agency.
One surprising data point is that 39% have a dedicated business development person. The industry average is less than 30%. I believe this is an upward trend brought about by increasing competition and fragmentation in the agency world. We’ve all experienced the growing number of firms responding to an RFP. I’ve heard from marketers about the increasing number of cold calls they get, specially designed mailings and emails. As the competition heats up, more agencies are putting dedicated resources to the task of new business as a reaction to declining success. The question is, are these the right resources and are they using the right strategy to be successful.
For 35% the account team plays a critical role in the process, either primary or shared. The biggest challenge here is the available time for account team members and the agency owner. As client demand peaks, agencies typically put new business on hold. Restarting the program or not restarting at all is very typical of that year’s new business performance. We all know how important it is to take care of existing clients. What about assigning a strong account lead to take on the agency as their most important client. Imagine the results!
Only 1% reported using outsourced business development like myself and the many other people and firms who provide such services. 36% report intent to do so in 2016. Why the big jump? Again, I think it is the increasingly competitive marketplace together with a recognition of poor performance and a commitment to improving in 2016. There are many different kinds of resources available to agencies that focus on all or separate parts of the funnel. My approach results in a new business program that the agency can take over and manage themselves. Others do it all and will continue to prospect for as long as they are welcome. Whichever approach is the right approach, agency owners should consider outside help to get their business development program properly set up and fine-tuned for results. In my completely biased opinion, the cost of such services verses the value and potential revenue for years to come are well worth the investment.
Other approaches reported:
- New business team and engagement management team handle together
- Agency partners have responsibility
- Executive leadership together with the practice leaders
- Agency owner and the NB Lead
- Account teams and new business lead
- Shared responsibility across our Senior Staff
- Outsourced resources managed by the account team
And my favorite – everyone in the agency. As it should be.
Approach your agency as your #1 client. If you can’t, think about hiring someone from the outside who can. 39% of your peers are considering doing so in 2016. Free up your time to focus on keeping clients happy, improving agency processes and profitability and mentoring staff. The competition shows no sign of letting up in 2016 and beyond. With the right new business program, you can expect to see 10% - 25% increase in opportunity for the agency and your peers will be wondering how you do it.
Download the full survey here. Lets Grow!
If you liked this post and want more new business advice delivered to your inbox sign up for the newsletter.