We are all witness to the change in marketing occurring all around us. Consumers, buyers, or more to the point, marketers are also in the middle of this change. Declining response rates, unwilling consumers, decreasing store traffic, scrutiny of transparency, skepticism, despondent brand loyalty, and many other symptoms are as real to your next client as they are to ad agency new business. We should all dust off that David Bowie song, Changes, and give it a listen.
For those who have been doing ad agency business development for some time know well how these changes impact their craft. What used to be five attempts to get a prospect on the phone is now fifteen or more, a thirty percent response rate is now 3 percent, a willingness to give a new resource a try squelched by the fear of getting fired if results don’t turn around this quarter. What used to be three to five legitimate agency options is now thirty-five or more flavors; digital, social, PR, consultant, crowdsource, mobile, direct, experiential, content, micro, macro, and whatever the agency du jour.
Don’t get left behind
If you don’t change as the industry changes, you will be left behind. It’s a slow painful death where you experience the symptoms first in your business development results and sit idle wondering why. Why don’t more prospect respond? Why can’t I get anyone on the phone? Why haven’t I won a pitch in so long? These are not always the result of bad business development practices. These symptoms aren’t the fault of too few leads in the pipeline. It isn’t necessarily a failing new business director. It may be the result of change, the change happening all around but not within you.
Marketers feel the change
Recent surveys among marketers make it abundantly clear. They believe that our industry has changed more in the last couple years than the last fifty. And they expect the speed of change to continue. If they perceive change as a reason for their diminishing performance then naturally, they will be looking for resources that can help them keep up with and leverage the change to their success. Are you that resource? Does your agency look and act like it is at the forefront of change or left in the past, confused and ill-equipped to handle what is ahead? Can you define the change for them? Does your business development program embody the change all around them?
It isn’t just capabilities
It’s not just a matter of your digital capabilities or the style of your website, although those things are important means to demonstrate where you are on the change continuum. It’s more of a cultural thing, one that permeates everything you do. A mantra to embrace new ways, celebrate new thinking, encourage new ideas, and advances new approaches. It is an ongoing and relentless curiosity for what is next. That doesn’t mean abandoning the past but rather applying the proven practices of yesterday to what’s trending today. And, accepting the fact that some ideas won’t pan out but others will.
How do you stay ahead
How do you stay ahead or at least in the middle of this change? It is easier said than done but important nonetheless to keep an open mind and your old biases in check. I’ve found that looking across all industries to spot signs of change is a good way of bringing new ideas into your world. Keeping track of influencers and thought leaders to borrow from new thinking. Keeping tabs on the trendsetters and pioneers to see what’s relevant to what you are doing and most importantly, what is relevant to what your prospects are struggling with. Talking about change in every conversation and listening to other’s experiences is a good source especially with younger generations and people outside of your industry. Subscribe to trend spotting newsletters and follow trend spotters and trend makers in social media. Set up Google alerts like “new advertising,” “digital innovation,” and “marketing trends” to bring forward new ideas. And onced armed with the right insights, talk to your clients and prospects like you can see the future.
A word of caution
You can get buried in all the noise and content about what is new. And, you must have an unyielding filter to separate the “fake news” from the rest. Like any other habit, you can easily become complacent. You should be as disciplined about sampling and as turning it off. A little bit every day or week helps maintain a fresh perspective. When I dig through the news, I keep my clients in mind and how this idea or that activity applies to their needs. By doing so, I keep a practical perspective, and that helps separate the nonsense from the useful. When I have a new problem to solve, I dig into the trends with the client's needs as a reference point to review and weigh the possible applications. I approach it with Design Thinking. Nine times out of ten it’s a dead end. But that tenth time could be gold.
The decision is simple
You can rest on what you’ve learned and accomplished, those things that made you successful last year. You can look at your business in the rear-view mirror, or you can look forward with the same relentless curiosity and purpose that compelled you to start your agency long ago. You can adopt change as a critical part of your business, or you can watch the rest of the world pass you by. It is nothing more than a choice not unlike the thousands of choices you’ve made to get your business where it is today. But this choice has become increasingly important as the speed of change for your prospects accelerates. You can’t resist. You can’t ignore. And, you can’t wait. If you do, more and more of your prospects will ignore you, will resist your overtures, and will not wait around for you to catch up. Sing along with me; Turn and face the strange Ch-ch-changes.
I’ve got some ideas about how you can keep your agency and your business development in tune with the changes, and I’m happy to share them with you. If you like this post, click the thumbs up so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. #LetsGrow!