There are many channels that advertising agencies use to connect with potential new clients. There is a wealth of research from a variety of sources about the most effective methods to use. I wanted to hear it directly from the marketer. I asked them to tell me their preferences so I can make sure my client’s business development practices align with what the customer wants. And they did. I just completed a survey of over 150 marketers representing companies small to large and brands in both B2B and B2C markets such as Hallmark, Disney, Lenovo, JK Moving Services, Brinker, CBL Properties, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Novartis, and more.
I asked them to select their first choice among a list of all methods to hear about a potential new advertising agency. As you can see, there are clear differences among typical agency practices. It is no surprise that 51% of marketers said their first choice was a referral from a friend or colleague over any other by a wide margin. It might surprise you that email was the second choice by 28%, and the rest of the methods made only single digits. How do your business development efforts stack up?
When asked what their second choice was, 33% said they preferred to learn at a conference. Their last choice? Over 50% said by phone call and 11% said by mail. In total among all choices, the infamous phone call is dead last.
A few marketer comments:
- There are just too many contacts. I receive 25-40 third-party solicitations a day.
- The relentless pursuit - multiple phone messages
- The phone calls. Constant cold calling. Unsolicited Calls by appointment setters! Call bombing! I will call you back if I am interested...please do not call me repeatedly.
- Calling during the day and going into their sales pitch without consideration for what the person may be in the middle of.
- It's an intrusion to my schedule and they don't respect my time and my priorities.
Considering what the customer wants, the best thing an agency can do to get new clients is to activate their personal networks to get a referral. Easier said than done. I’ve heard many agency owners admit they are the worst at networking and hate asking someone else to help. They prefer to be nose-down in work making sure they exceed their current client’s expectations. And, they are so often too humble to ask or worried about the perception of their firm if they have to ask. Not true.
When I work with agencies, referrals and networking is a central pillar of my program. I identify and leverage agency connections; past clients, friends, alumni, board members, charitable associations, media acquaintances, LinkedIn connections, business and trade associations, and other thought leader relationships. Agencies are always surprised at how far their networks go. I develop simple ways that agency leaders can reach out, reintroduce the agency and discuss how each other can help. It changes the conversation from can you help me to how can we help each other. The proverbial “win-win.”
I would love to hear your thoughts or disagreement. I’ll be posting more insights from the research so stay tuned. The more we share and collaborate, the smarter and more successful we will all be. We all have to work together to improve the practices of our profession. After all, new business is the future of your agency.
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