It’s that time of the year when ad agencies begin to plan next year’s new business strategy. More likely, not. Too often the right intentions get pushed aside for client work, staff turnover, personal emergency, and many other good reasons. Fall turns to winter, and you turn to your team wondering where the plan is. If only you had taken advantage of those slow months. Maybe next year. Read more about the seasonality of ad agency new business and the potenital opportunity lost if you don’t plan ahead.
No matter when you start or how you approach planning, be sure to cover the essential ingredients in a solid new business plan. Each task plays a critical role in your success. Some things you may already have done. Others you might not have considered. You may even think one or two aren’t relevant. You may be right, but I would caution you that there is a reason why, out in the market, there are so many agencies but so little difference.
Year to date performance
Look at the current year and how you spent your BD time, what was successful and what wasn’t, goals and KPIs. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you’ll never be able to improve. If you just keep doing the same thing over and over, you’ll get the same results, probably worse. If you don’t have any systems in place that will easily allow you to track your time or if your time tracking system isn’t working the way you do, there are many great tools to plan, track and optimize all your agency projects and resources, including business development.
Set your aim
Research industries and categories that are growing to understand where you should be aiming and tweak what you offer to be most relevant to the highest areas of growth. If you are targeting a slow or no growth category, you are going to see declining results or worse. Go where the money is and retune your value and expertise to fit. Even within your core verticals, there are segments and brands that offer a better opportunity and those you should avoid. Mintel and cubeyou are great resources.
Look at the top trends influencing your prospects this year and what is predicted next. There is a wealth of information and thought leadership available from countless sources just a Google away. I've got some research you might find useful here and here. Find the ones most relevant to your prospects and determine their top priorities. Shape your value proposition, services, and expertise around the things that are most important to your prospects. Throw away all the hype and spin about how great you are and focus on the ways you can help them.
Review the competition
Look at agencies you are most similar to and those you want to be more like. But be realistic. Everyone wants to be Droga5 but few can. Be bold but be practical. Compare yourself with your peers and aspirational agencies to understand where you excel and where you fall short and develop a strategy that plays to your strengths. Make necessary changes that will move you closer to where you want to be.
Take a truth pill
The hardest thing for anyone to do is to step outside of their bubble. If you are like most agencies, you’ll benefit from a third-party perspective. Find someone outside your world who can give you an objective perspective on the things you want your prospects to perceive about you. You can accomplish this in many ways but, of course, the best way is to seek out someone like me, or the many other great agency consultants who will help you swallow that truth pill.
Commit to a budget
Using your financials, develop a realistic budget to support new business activities. You have to spend money to make money. Prioritize needs and allocate spending accordingly taking in to account cash flow, forecasts, and monthly tracking against the plan. Read more about budgeting for new business here.
Invest in tools
Prepare a wish list of martech and other investments, prioritize and factor an investment plan into your budget. There are many great martech tools that can save you time and improve your results. I use the marketing automation platform SharpSpring because it gives me exactly what I need without all the other functionality I’ll never use. You can learn more about why here.
Enlist the troops
Develop a plan to get everyone in your agency on board such as training, coaching, and incentives. Business development is a team sport, and everyone in the agency should be on the team. While you may be the lead BD person focused on your strategic business development plan, new opportunities can and do come from the most unlikely sources. Everyone should be sharing the agency through their social channels. Every event, every award show, every backyard barbeque is an opportunity to network, create awareness and identify possible leads. Read more about it over here.
Rethink your prospect list
So many agencies are guilty of chasing too many opportunities outside their area of focus. Prospect lists tend to grow and expand beyond the core strategy. Take a fresh look at your list and make the hard decisions to set aside marginal ones so you can spend your precious time on the best ones. I use Winmo + WinmoEdge to find people and companies that should be on my list because it is the most comprehensive collection of ad agency new business information available.
Prospect Opportunity Timeline
Plot on the calendar the triggers for each prospect, those events that often lead to a search for new resources. Build a prospect opportunity timeline. Make a note of their seasonality, the timing of their agency contracts, new product launch dates, and whatever else creates a need. Work backward and develop a contact strategy that grows awareness and gets you on the radar when opportunity surfaces. I’ve more details over in another post.
Define your content plan, schedule, and assignments. You know what you need to say and to whom, and when you need the right content to support your strategy. Create a detailed plan so you and the agency can produce it. Get your needs on the agency schedule and keep the agency on deadline and accountable. Every slip delays new business, new revenue, and agency success. You don’t want to step into the boxing ring with one hand tied behind your back.
Ready, aim, fire
You know what the market is talking about. You know what your prospects are thinking about. You know which prospects are your priority. You know what you have to offer that they need and how you differ from your competition. You know when they will probably be looking for an agency. And you know how you are going to reach and connect with them. You can now develop a prospecting plan and the right tactics to go after the prospects you want to win. Day by day, week by week, month by month, plan out the steps and include the metrics to track progress and results, and the milestones to keep you on your plan.
I’ve got some ideas about how you can rethink your business development approach and supercharge your new business program, and I’m glad 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!