The simple answer is Yes. After all, marketing execs are people, and people do the craziest things. Think Nigerian Prince with $10,000,000 dollars to deposit in your bank account. So, yes you can talk certain people into hiring your agency using charm, an infectious personality, a compelling argument, blue-sky promises, even good old logic, or a cost-benefit analysis. If you have spent any time in ad agency business development, you’ve probably talked a cold prospect or two into a project. However, can you repeat it, scale it, or base your business development strategy on it? Then the simple answer is No.
Companies like Catapult New Business aren’t successful because they talk people into hiring their agency clients. They execute a strategic, systematic program incorporating, among many other things, the right positioning, the right messaging, the right prospects, relentless pursuit, and yes, good talkers. If you’ve worked with them or others you know they don’t go after the exceptions. They base their plan on the best possibilities and invest their time in converting those who fit the strategy. After all, they only stay in business by winning new clients and don’t waste their time chasing exceptions or anomalies. It doesn’t make good business sense for them and it shouldn’t for you.
Regardless of how you manage business development for your agency, there is a lesson to be learned by watching the most successful firms like Catapult or agencies that manage business development in-house. That lesson is not about spinning the golden Rolodex or making more cold calls, sending more emails, or searching for that special marketer who hasn’t yet lost all their money to the Nigerian Prince. It’s not Hollywood’s tail about the Wolf of Wall Street or Glengarry Glen Ross. They are entertaining movies but hardly the model for successful business development. The agencies who are successful have a strategic program that they execute relentlessly to keep the pipeline flowing, and the opportunities teed up consistently. And, then they talk, they present, they pitch, they convince the prospect that their agency is the best choice to grow share, grow sales, and make the most money.
I come across too many agency leaders with this kind of new business expectation. Usually, their first questions are; how many prospects in your list, how many phone calls do you make, how many meetings will you get. Those kinds of questions indicate an orientation toward quantity, not quality. Don’t get me wrong. Those are legitimate questions but farther down the list than how to differentiate, how to build relationships, how to rise to the top of the list. Sadly, there is still an expectation among some that outdated tactics will win the day. Some think what they need is a media rep or a copier salesperson (no disrespect to either) to reverse a failing business development program and win new clients. They quickly realize that ‘selling’ media is far different than advertising agency relationships.
To be clear. In my last survey of marketing execs, I asked how many agency cold contacts have turned into a contract for services. Surprisingly almost 38%. I’ll bet that the majority of those were for unique services not readily available to most, but our industry is full of exceptions. That is the curse of the ad industry. Those once-in-a-century exceptions sometimes drive agency leaders to think it can happen again, so they hire a ‘salesperson’ with the expectation of success. When success doesn’t come, they blame it on the person and the downward cycle starts all over again.
When you are ready to consider a more strategic approach to your agency business, you should think like a marketer. What do they do to find a new agency? What do they want to know when considering your agency? How do they want to engage and what steps are most effective to close that relationship? Consider how you would incorporate the right positioning, the right messaging, the right prospects, and the right prospecting tools. Base your plan on the prospects that fit your agency’s long-term vision and invest your time in those who are more likely to value what you do. Don’t waste your people’s time on low-probability exceptions. Happy hunting!
I’ve posted a lot of advice on new business, and I’m confident you’ll find something that resonates with your agency and your challenges. If you are interested in help getting your business development program started or restarted, click on Schedule a Call and let’s talk about what keeps you from being successful and how to fix it. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!