Your website is new. Your prospect list is fresh. Your business development program is full speed ahead, but the results are not what you had hoped for. All this effort and investment doesn’t seem to move the needle. Why don’t more prospects respond to your business development efforts? It's pretty simple.
When I asked ad agency business development people why they don’t get more prospects to respond, they told me that “company differentiation” and “positioning” are the top two reasons. You can read more here and more here. If the agency doesn’t have anything different or better to offer or it is unclear what you offer that is of value, your prospect will move on to the many other agencies they are considering? If your differentiation is nothing more than sophisticated processes, award-winning work, industry-beating success or years in the business, you are no different than thousands of other agencies.
Many answers from the survey reveal the gap between the agency’s perception about positioning and differentiation and the marketplace. I know this to be true based on hundreds of conversations I’ve had with company owners. This gap is a big problem. Unfortunately, it too often results in personnel changes rather than solving real problems. Job tenure confirms that business development people become the scapegoat when in fact the problems are within the agency. Have you ever heard a lost prospect say the reason you didn’t win was the BD person?
Figuring out what makes the agency different will result in a real competitive edge and a more compelling reason for marketers to pay attention. It will lead to more prospects responding. It will also help improve lead quality because the top of the funnel will contain brands who know why what you offer is better or different and will want to have a deeper conversation. In many respects, they will self-qualify resulting in higher overall success rates.
Are you a smart strategic digitally forward collective of creative minds and relentless thinkers? Are you a team of senior-level, seasoned, well-marinated marketing cooks? Are you the A-team with no B-team? Are you an oracle of industry experience? Are you the hipster squad with an unconventional office space and glittering awards with a cute dog running across the screen? Do you have a way cool name? Randomly pick out twelve agencies and you’ll see why you all look alike to a marketer who is in search of a solution and not a new friend.
I get it. It’s hard. It is the most difficult part of ad agency new business but the most important. I know that somewhere between your people, experience, work, culture, competitors, marketplace trends, cultural trends and marketer needs there is a differentiating positioning for your agency. You just can’t see it, which is why you need an objective outside view. Isn’t that the very reason your clients value you? You bring objectivity to them. But who brings blunt, unabashed, non-PC objectivity to you? ...it’s nice to meet you. My name is John.
Whatever kind of agency you have, I’m pretty sure you spend a lot of time and energy helping your clients find their difference so your work for them will achieve the best results. Why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? Think about your agency as your number one client and you’ll soon see significant growth, happier people and a much healthier organization overall.
I’ve got a lot more advice on how to improve your business development program and would enjoy sharing them with you. If you want to talk about your challenges, I’m always open to a conversation. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!