The start of a new year means an all-out scramble for new business. Missed opportunities, lost pitches, even lost clients last year put the pressure on the new business team to make up for the missed forecast. Panic sets in. The stares you get walking down the hallway. The pain from no year-end bonus fades. How did we get here? How are we going to turn this around? Where is my next new client! Who wants to hire my agency? Relax. I know at least six clients who are looking for you.
A small percentage of opportunity is in the market today and the rest is down the road. For companies on a fiscal year cycle, the new business strategy is the same as the beginning of the calendar year. For the rest, marketing budgets are fully allocated, programs are well underway, agency contracts are in place. What opportunity is left? Where do you find it? And most important, how do you position your agency differently to win it?
First, a Prospect Opportunity Timeline strategy will help keep you out of the year-end scramble. This strategy is used to identify the future need and deploy the right tactics to keep the agency top of mind when that need arises. Correctly implemented, your pipeline will have identified those opportunities among the clients you want at the time of the year when they are likely to need a new agency, which may be in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Moreover, you’ve been engaging with them so that they know you, know what you offer, and will have you on their list when their time comes. Over time, your pipeline will be more consistent all twelve months of the year.
If you haven’t been using a Prospect Opportunity Timeline or your strategic prospects aren’t second-half possibilities, there are some key indicators of potential opportunity that you should be watching. We tend to get distracted by the day-to-day battles and end up jumping at anything and everything. Refocusing your time and attention on prospects using these clues will keep your time, and resources aimed at higher probability opportunities within your current new business strategy.
Brands that aren’t performing
Bad news can be good news for you. Marketers are under ever-increasing pressure to perform. When sales are off, or a new campaign doesn’t deliver, change comes sooner than it did just a few years ago. Among your core verticals look for news reports, trade association data, stock market analysis to spot companies and brands that are in trouble and go after them with solutions, especially quick fixes. Figure out how what you do can impact their results in the short term, and they will likely listen. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, and with success, more work will follow. Keep in mind that these marketers already have tactics and agencies executing parts or pieces of an overall plan and your role will be to work with those other resources and within an existing program, so be a team player, a fresh spirit, and an optimist to inspire the war-weary troops.
New product or service launches
New products mean new budgets. Usually, companies plan far ahead, and agency resources are contracted long before any news about a launch appears, but not always. Competitive threats, sluggish sales, marketplace changes can cause an urgent need to get a product or service into the market before year-end. In the same way, you look for brands that aren’t performing spot the signs of a possible new product launch, and make a timely offer to help. Given the urgency and short timeline, a hyper-accelerated launch plan and quick to execute tactics are likely to interest a panicking marketer. In this case, your agency has to have experience doing this kind of work before in the category and the capacity to execute rapid-fire.
Mergers and acquisitions
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When a company sells off a division or joins forces with another, agency services are essential. When it happens late in the year, it is the perfect opportunity. Investors want a quick and smooth transition without interruption to sales or profits. They have immovable deadlines to change the brand, inspire the troops, and excite their customers. Late in the year, they will be more interested in quick, discreet projects that give them the minimum things in the shortest amount of time.
It’s a classic indicator of change to come but in the mid-year, there is more urgency and pressure to trying something new that will turn around whatever problems caused the personnel change. The new executive is going to want a few quick wins so bring those kinds of ideas, and you will get the attention you want. Don’t overshoot. Like the previous example, there are probably other people, programs, and agencies already under contract so be a team player. A quick win will put the agency in a better position when more dramatic changes come in the new year.
Past clients and colleagues
Tapping into past clients, friends, and colleagues is always a good idea no matter what time of the year, and the second half is no exception. Too often we forget to mine our relationships or put that task on the back burner for a slower time of year. Don’t put it off. Reach out to share something new such as a recent campaign, a new hire, or a new service offering. Be sure to let them know you have the capacity to help no matter what the challenge. Also, don’t forget to ask if they know anyone who might be struggling or have any of the above circumstances that you can help them with.
And by all means, look at your current clients
Organic growth should always be the focus of your account team. Too often they become buried in the day-to-day execution and can’t see other opportunities that are within arm’s reach. Have your business development team review current client relationships with an objective “sales” perspective to uncover new possibilities. Your client may have one of the above circumstances brewing and who better to help out. Just make sure they know that in addition to the great work you are currently doing you can also help with new product launches, recovering from sales losses, mergers and acquisition support, and whatever else they might need. You can be sure that it won’t happen if you don’t ask.
These six things can be potentially rich sources of new business opportunities throughout the year. Strategically thinking about them will help you focus your limited time and resources on things that have a higher probability of timely success. Don’t fall victim to the daily chaos of new business development. Stay above it, at least for part of your time so you can spot the best opportunities to go after in the second half. Turn a good year into a great one or a weak first half into a big year-end bonus.
I want to help you make both halves of the year better for new business. I’m always open to a conversation regardless of your needs. 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 LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!