August is prime summer vacation month, and most prospecting activity slows to an agonizing halt. Prospects are on the beach, toes in the sand recharging for the all-important fourth quarter. This is the time when most BD people question their very existence, hiding in the shadows, hoping no one asks how it’s going for fear of shouting back, it's going terrible, we’re dead, I’m a failure, it’s over. Don’t ask your BD how things are going in August. Just don’t.
Instead, August is the time to prepare. August is the time to make sure you are ready for the rush of agency opportunity in the fourth quarter that traditionally begins when your prospects return from their vacations. The fourth quarter is planning and budgeting for many industries and also the time when budgets have to be used up, or incremental budget is released to maximize results, battle competitors and drive year-end sales. Google search trends confirm this. The question in August should be – are we ready?
They say that kids forget everything they learn over summer vacation. Prospects are the same way. Don’t let all your hard work warming up your prospects fade with the summer sunset. Be ready to greet them upon their return to remind them of you and to keep the conversation going from where you left off. According to Cubeyou, a research firm specializing in helping agencies win pitches; The average client-agency relationship has shrunk from 7.2 to 2.8 years. That means there is a lot more opportunity to get ready for in the coming months. Find ways to surprise and delight those returning prospects when the get back to their desk and face the pile of to do’s and not done’s that await.
August is also the perfect time for the BD team to begin strategizing for next year. Some agencies are primed and ready to go on January 1. Others are too focused on the here and now and get buried in year-end billing, last minute client demands, holiday schedules, and can’t get their new business program up and running until sometime in the first quarter and not fully operational until the second quarter. Agencies that aren’t ready for the busiest time for new opportunity risk losing out on as much as 40% of the potential opportunity in the year. Imagine if your agency started preparing now. What a great way to start the New Year and build momentum for the rest of the year. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
The first step is to work backward and determine when your planning and budgeting should occur to be ready for the first quarter frenzy. If you start in September the sequence might play out like this:
- Agency new business planning and budgeting for next year – September
- Prospect list review, updating, segmentation, augmentation – October and November, and ongoing
- Content plan and calendar, website updates, collateral designs, social and blogging plan, PR plan, events plan – November and December
You will be ready to launch your business development program on January 1, have a March blitz in your back pocket and an October surprise waiting in the wings to close out the year strong. You will put yourself in the most effective cycle for planning and doing that will eliminate the stress and frustration that always occurs when the agency is behind, and the opportunities are passing you by.
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I help advertising agencies improve their new business development. If you struggle or want to get a jump on 2017, I would enjoy sharing my ideas and experience. Let’s Grow!