I remember when my father loaded us all in the station wagon and off we went to Disneyland. You can imagine the excitement from brother to sister, all seven of us. I, in my usual spot far back in the cargo area bouncing around without any knowledge of seat belts or distracted driving. Those were good times, at least once we got there. The journey seemed like the longest ride ever. The odometer turned in slow motion, how may more miles, how many more miles now. The guardrails streamed by at half speed. All I could ask a million times, are we there yet, Are we THEEEEERE YEEEEET?
One question that always comes up when discussing my services is how long will it take to get there. No one wants to go on the trip but everyone wants to end up at Disneyland, and I am exactly the same. I want to get there as soon as my client, but not too soon. It is the result we are after, always. It is the result of the work that makes the work worthwhile and that, in a nutshell, is the money phrase, and worth repeating. The result of the work makes the work worthwhile.
The answer to the question “how long will it take” is as always, it depends on. The reason it depends on are the many factors that influence new business success, both internally and externally. You can see specifically what I do here. The longer more time-consuming part of the journey is external. Let’s be frank. The real question is how long do I have to wait until I get a new client or more aptly put, how long until this huge investment in you will pay off? Are we there yet? For one agency, within the first month, we were invited to pitch but didn’t win. Within three months we had a new client. For another agency, no new clients until eight months. Another, 12 months. It varies and is unpredictable. In every case, the clarion call “are we there yet” rang again and again.
It would be great if we could flip a switch and the clients start rolling in. Or, we could say with certainty three months, plus or minus. But we can’t, no one can and if they do, run away. Some believe it’s simply a matter of getting on the phone and dialing for dollars. They might uncover someone by brute force but is it a good fit? Others offer access to 150 senior decision makers who are ready to buy now, while they are on a cruise with their family that was paid for by agreeing to sit with you. Some have even told me their golden Rolodex will get me a client in weeks. The truth is that some people will promise anything which is why, sadly, ad agency business development consultants have such a bad reputation. And why ad agency owners are so skeptical about spending their money on a low probability of success.
Let’s face it; no one can predict the future. As in my earlier examples, new clients have come as soon as one month and as long as never. To make a more quantitated guess think about these factors that influence “are we there yet.”
Only 3% of your market is ready to buy
According to recent sales statistics, only 3% of your market is ready to buy. That means the rest are getting ready or will get ready at some time in the future. Getting to that 3% on day one is a needle in a haystack. In the future, you should have a pretty good sense when that 3% is ready. For the rest, the process takes time. For example, if a marketer decides today to get a new resource, the process of identifying resources, interviewing resources, evaluating proposals or pitches, negotiating, take months. And they might not be ready to start for months. For agencies, according to recent statistics, the average time from the first contact to close is three months. If you factor in a 25% - 30% win rate, the average for agencies, you have to start the process with four to win one. In this scenario, with an average three-month contact to close timeframe, you are at best four months out but more likely, statistically, 6 - 8 months out.
Industry cycles determine when
Another guiding factor is the kind of business you are going after and the specific cycles in that industry. I shared the Prospect Opportunity Timeline in a previous post which aligns prospecting activity with the empirical cycles of the prospect’s industry. At certain times they are content with their current agency, and no change will be made. At other times, they are budgeting for next year and open to discussions. At a fixed date, their agency contract expires. When those dates are overlaid on your schedule, depending on when you start, will give a better sense of when an opportunity might arise. For example, if you start your new prospecting outreach in September, and your target typically begins an agency search in May to correspond with a new fiscal budget in July, the likelihood of getting a new client is going to be approximately ten months.
You have to first build awareness and value
If you agree that a prospect must first know you and appreciate your value before they consider you as a viable resource, regardless of their need or timing, how long does that process take? How long will it take for a time stressed marketer with a million deadlines pending, to find the time to visit your site, read your materials, schedule a call, find time for a meeting, coordinate the schedules of the other decision makers around him, determine a fit, and develop a process to propose or pitch? It takes time, the time she has to run her existing agency through whatever current efforts are in place before considering a new resource. I have never heard a marketer say, stop the presses, I want this new agency now. Maybe you have.
Are we there yet?
Almost. The curse of this industry is that there are always exceptions. When an agency wins a piece of business by chance or fortuitous events, they get fooled into thinking lightening can strike twice. What I strive to do is develop a program that makes new business possible in a predictable and forecastable way over the shortest time possible while ensuring the integrity of the work. That’s what makes it worthwhile, remember? If you need a new client immediately, I urge you to contract a telemarketer tomorrow to find someone, anyone to say yes before you go under. If you are an agency with a future, consider the factors that influence the unpredictable timing of a smart new business program. I can tell you with certainty that the agencies who have a smart plan and work the plan are the most successful ones. They are the ones who, in my survey, answered the question about win rate in the highest group. And so yes, they are there!
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