Now is the best time to evaluate your BD program, reset for the second half, and plan for next year. Traditionally the summer months are the slowest time for business development, vacation; annual plans are in mid-stride, budgets for the remained of the year are uncertain, plans for next year are in the works, you name it. Google search activity shows the trend as well with ad agency related keywords the lowest in July-August. I’m not suggesting you stop all prospecting, but you can divert some of your time and attention to reset your approach. When doing so, there are two periods to keep in mind, fourth quarter and next year.
They say that kids forget everything they learn over summer vacation. Prospects are the same way. Develop a strategy to reconnect after the summer lull. Look at the correspondence you’ve had with them so far this year and the overall story you’ve told. In hindsight, did you make the best impression, tell the most potent most direct story, and are there ways to complement and further position your agency for their needs? Can you better align your message with the requirements of today’s growing economy? A fresh set of eyes always helps. Ask someone objective to read your positioning and playback their interpretation of your story.
Be ready to greet them upon their return and rekindle the conversation from where you left off. Be selective. Focus on the most engaged prospects, so you have the time to research and personalize. Find ways to surprise and delight them when they get back to their desk and face the pile of to-dos and over-dos that await because you’ll be competing for their attention more so than ever. Think about break-through strategies to rise above everything else they’ve got to catch up with. One thing is constant. After summer, everyone has to sprint to the finish line, doing everything possible to end the year with excellent results.
July-August is the perfect time for the agency to begin strategizing for next year. Ideally, you want to be primed and ready to fire on January 1. Unfortunately, others are consumed by the here and now, buried in the agencies sprint to the finish line, year-end billing, last minute client demands, holiday schedules, and can’t think about new business until sometime in the first or second quarter. Imagine if your agency started preparing now. What a great way to start the New Year and build momentum for the rest of the year. I know it seems impossible but can be done. Schedule time when you can get it and piece by piece work through the pillars of new business, reviewing year-to-date results, sharing anecdotal feedback, reviewing market trends, discussing ways to shift and pivot with your ever-evolving prospects. Little-by-little, progress can be made, and by the end of the summer, you’ll have all of the pieces of the puzzle complete and ready to propose next year’s strategy.
The first step is to work backward and determine when your planning and budgeting should begin and what are the core topics necessary to cover – new hire, new verticals, new website, whatever is appropriate. Lay those topics across the calendar and beg, bribe, or scream to get your key leaders to commit. Keep each meeting focused and concise. Keep the agenda precise and manageable. The minute anyone feels they are wasting their time, they will disappear. And, keep excellent notes, your best weapon to achieve progress and consensus. When a topic splits the team, take a stand, choose a direction, and provide passionate support for why – then move on.
Start at the beginning of July
No one knows the agency better than you. Whether it’s once a week, every day, or something in between, set up a schedule that takes advantage of the slower months and will cover the information you need to prepare your plan. Keep an open mind going forward as second-half results may influence some aspects of your plan, and additional ideas may emerge in the remaining months.
W1 – year-to-date review and forecast for the 2nd half
W2 – the good, bad and ugly lessons
W3 – marketplace changes, prospect changes, positioning changes
W4 – discuss new initiatives
W5 – debate new initiatives
W6 – focus on the best opportunities, verticals, brands, prospects, table the rest
W7 – decide any further actions, schedule resolution deadlines
W8 – content plan and calendar, website updates, collateral, social, blog, PR, events
September arrives, and you’ve got everything you need from your leadership to create next year’s plan. You’ll know what you need to do in the second half of this year and be ready to launch on January 1 with any updates from the remainder of this year. You’ll even have time to think about a March blitz and an October surprise waiting in the wings to close out next year strong. Put yourself in the most effective planning cycle to ease the stress and frustration of new business planning when the agency is closing out the year and next year’s opportunities are passing you by. Take advantage of the summer months to tune up and tune in to the opportunity in a growing market.
I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share your new business advice, successes, and failures. #LetsGrow!