At the end of last year, I surveyed 156 small, medium and large advertising agency owners and senior leadership about their business development practices. A wide variety of organizations participated, with a good distribution of sizes by employees. 28% were 1- 10 employees and 26% were 100+ employees, while 11.5% were 51 - 75 employees. Interestingly, size doesn’t matter when it comes to the common issues inherent in business development.
My guess is that you won’t find these results to be surprising. What you may find is an affirmation in your challenges and inspiration that there is a better way. Keep in mind that half of all agencies are below average. But who wants to be average or below? After all, new business is the future of your agency. My take on the survey results is that the many challenges agencies face can be overcome or improved by a few fundamental steps that have been proven effective across industries and among superstar agencies, those hitting new business success rates of 75% or more. Yes, some claim to win 75% of the business they chase. But don’t feel bad if your rate is less. Many more are slugging it out in the 20% - 30% range, and a few even lower.
Great new clients only come consistently with critical upfront planning and investment in success. Agency owners don’t have time to do it alone, which may be why they settle for a 25% or less win rate. BD pros can’t be successful without the proper steps taken beforehand, which is why they get fired after only 18 months, the average tenure of a BD pro. Respondents claim prospect quality at 35%, chasing too many prospects at 28% and too much competition at 25% are the key impediments to success. To me, this indicates that agencies aren’t doing the necessary work up front to actually position themselves how and where they perform best. Weak agency positioning at 16%, outdated cases at 15% and weak industry experience at 13% suggest that agencies aren’t focusing on the few things that make them great but rather the many things they do or have ever done. Three well-told relevant cases will speak louder than 25 or 50 experiences that may or may not resonate with your prospect.
I also fielded a separate survey among the business development staff to understand the difference between the CEO’s perspective and the people who do the day-to-day work. As you might imagine, the gap between the two is telling. I’ll share the results in the coming months. In the meantime, you can find additional implications of this survey in posts here and here.
The problems agencies face acquiring new clients are pretty common and well documented. Yet, the solution is no surprise and much easier than agency leaders expect. It boils down to fundamental marketing - the thing most agencies do so very well for their clients but can’t seem to do for themselves. And it happens to be the thing I do very well for agencies. If you struggle or want to learn more about how to improve your new business success, don't wait another day. Schedule a call and I'll gladly share what I think you can do to make a difference. Lets Grow!
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