I am not a search expert by any stretch, and certainly many can parse this data much better than I. My intent is to understand marketplace seasonality as it relates to ad agency business development. I’ll bet no one will disagree that December is the slowest month of the year. Google’s search volume confirms this. But what happens the rest of the year and how can we shape the business development plan around the activity of marketers?
We all know that 80% to 90% of marketers search for an agency before the agency knows that anyone is looking. And we know Google is one of the primary tools for marketers to discover new agencies. I turned to the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool to find the keyword volume trends for advertising agency related search terms. I picked just a few key terms to keep it simple. If anyone has done a deep dive into this, please share your thoughts with the rest of us.
It is important to note that according to Capterra, fully 30% of all Google searches are employment related. Removing job seekers from the equation shouldn’t skew the results all that much. Note that the peak months for general employment-related search is August then September and October, as well as January.
According to Google, the search volume for Advertising Agency related terms averages about 6,200 per month. If you remove job seekers, it may be closer to 4,340 however for the sake of discussion we’ll use the full number. Compare that to the search volume for Digital Agency at about 1,900 per month. (Who said Digital Agencies are taking over the world?) The average for Marketing Services is 1,600, and Social Media Agency is 1,300.
Overall search volume of combined and related terms was down about 15% in 2015 compared with 2014. I have to agree. While there were peaks in activity last year, overall 2015 was slower, particularly in the second half. You may have a different experience, but I recall data last year indicating a slow down as well.
My experience over the past 15 years suggests that the first quarter and third quarter are the busiest times for inquiries, RFPs, and proposal writing. Google says the monthly peak search volume for all these terms combined in January, with 12,400 searches, and October, with 12,100 searches. The trend in volume slowly declines from February to September and December is the lowest.
Separating the terms, Advertising Agency volume is highest in January, March and October, and lowest in June and December. Coincidentally, search volume for Advertising RFP peaks in February and to a lesser degree in September and bottoms out in May and December.
Of course, these are grossly simplified averages, and your experience may vary from year to year and prospect to prospect so take it as directional only. Throughout the year opportunity will come up at any time (including whenever I plan vacations). The implication is to align the business development timing with the seasonality of the opportunity. As the data shows, the marketplace is most active in the first quarter and at the end of the third quarter.
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 October the sequence might play out like this:
- Agency new business planning and budgeting for next year – October
- 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.
Some agencies are primed and ready to go on January 1. Others want to be but get buried in year-end billing, last minute client demands, holiday schedules, many other realities of the business, and can’t get their new business program up and running until sometime into the first quarter and not fully running until the second quarter. That means the agency can’t be on its game during the busiest time for new business and risks as much as 40% of the potential opportunity. Imagine if your agency started preparing in October. 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.
I help advertising agencies improve their new business development. If you struggle or want to know how to get better, I would enjoy sharing my ideas and experience. #LetsGrow!
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