We are all guilty of being creatures of habit. That’s the way our brains are wired. But it’s not the way we break through barriers. There is profound truth to the old saw, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So often agency business development seems like you are doing the same thing over and over but getting no results, or much fewer results than you expect. I think you are right.
So how do you get out of that rut? The easy answer is to think differently. But it isn’t that easy. Changing direction is hard, can be expensive, and will take time to develop fully. Changing a single step is much more manageable. When it comes to business development, it is more prudent to make changes incrementally so you can keep whatever pipeline flow you have while doing the things necessary to change and doing them right so that they will have the greatest impact in the long term. Taking that first step is hard, confusing, and uncertain. Having someone experienced at doing it with agencies is, well, priceless.
The first step
Summer months are typically slower for agencies and the best time to change your new business strategy. The goal is to have your plan in place and running by the busy fourth and first quarter. Planning should begin with an agency audit, competitive analysis, and market analysis to see where you stand compared to your competition and what you offer compared to what marketers are looking for today and tomorrow. When you put all that up in the war room, you will soon realize what you should say or not say about your offering and your agency brand to be the most competitive in this new era. For example, a Dentsu Aegis report just out says that in 2017, spending in digital overtakes TV, mobile overtakes desktop, and paid search overtakes print. Are other agencies overtaking you?
Reimagine your customer
Rethink your prospect list because your prospect has probably changed. Who you target has as much to do with your success as what you offer. The spectrum of services is as wide as it’s ever been and marketers are picking and choosing what they want a la carte. Trying to be all things to all prospects has never worked well, especially not now and most certainly not tomorrow. Defining your ideal prospect based on what you do and what you offer together with the proper F.I.T criteria specifically for your agency will result in higher probabilities of success. The more refined your criteria, the more likely you will win more often.
Engage the right way
Inbound and outbound are essential tactics, but preferences have changed. When you look at the latest statistic, better yet look at the trends, the way prospects engage and consume vendor content is different. Inbound is their content of choice. Email rates are abysmal. Social is even worse. Phone calls are detested. And, mail is dead last. Sure, there are many who claim otherwise, and I’m certain they are right, but when you ask marketers what they want, it is pretty clear they don’t want those. There will always be exceptions, but most prospects will be far into the funnel before you even suspect they are looking. Today, prospects are proactive and focused on what kind of agency they want and how they go about engaging.
Reconsider your funnel
We all know funnel basics inside out. Awareness, consideration, conversion, or whatever the term du jour is. Your prospects must be aware of you and have the right perception before anything can start. Creating awareness and shaping perception is hard and time-consuming. Calling is easy. That is why calling or emailing will likely end in delete, ignored or worse, annoyed. Putting thought leadership, relevant and compelling insights, how-to's, client stories, etc., while hard, will allow them to discover you and learn enough about you to be motivated to take the next step. Once engaged, outbound can be a good tool to move the journey forward but always at their pace and level of interest. Keep in mind; your prospect is operating on their time defined by their business and not your time defined by your impatience.
Walk before you run
Take your prospect list and prioritize it by best F.I.T. What? Don't you have a prospect list? See me after class. Start with the top ten and do your homework. Find out what they think, what’s important, and what their challenges are in their current role. Also look for clues to their interests, passions, and extracurricular activities. Us that data to define a strategy for each. That strategy includes where you can put provocative, relevant and inspiring content in front of them. It may be a guest post on an industry website, comments on their LinkedIn post, retweets, or face to face at a conference. Each will show you the likely places. Within that strategy, determine when in their business cycle it is appropriate to shift from inbound to out
It looks like you aren’t insane after all
When you retool a program that is rooted in the practical realities of today you gain a solid foundation from which you can build bridges to where you want to be tomorrow. As an example, you’ve defined your sweet spot in healthcare, and your pipeline is showing success. While you keep that going, you can take the necessary steps to go after Pharma without jeopardizing your core opportunities. You know Pharma will be hard, but you’ve got the confidence in your core business to take that risk. And, you’ve got a business development program running that you can replace for any vertical. Check out my post Ch-ch-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!