One of the common questions I get from agency owners is 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. They 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 trying to analyze and understand these issues to bring value and insight to my agency clients. I fielded a survey among 156 small, medium and large agency owners and business development leaders. 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 used this survey to gauge current practices and plans. You can download the results at the end of this post.
According to the survey, 44% of agency owners handle new business themselves and even 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 manage the agency as if it were 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. 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. 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 versus the value and potential revenue for years to come is 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. With the right new business program, you can expect to see a 10% - 25% increase in opportunity for the agency and your peers will be wondering how you do it.
Download the full survey here.
I want to help you get your business development program in sync with the marketplace. Click on Schedule a Call and let’s talk about how you can get ahead of the competition just by adjusting your timing. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me: Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!