Strong growth or recession? Increasing ad spend or cutbacks? Data or creativity? In-housing growth or decline? Talent feast or famine? Human or AI? Republicans or Democrats? What will the new year bring? There are so many variables in the marketplace today, more than ever before. Any of which can swing the pendulum one way or another. How are you coping with this new reality? How can you make sure, despite all the turbulence, that this will be a growth year for your agency?
No matter what is ahead, you can put your agency in the best place to take advantage of the changes. It starts with a high-performance business development plan adequately set up to attack and adjust whatever comes our way. A strategy that is focused on the future clients you want, built around their needs, challenges, and aspirations. It includes a sharpened positioning that addresses today's market, not yesterday, and a targeting approach that reaches your highest potential audience. A smartly planned journey intercept strategy to catch them in the process with well-articulated Leadership credentials and content that builds and expands trust. And, fresh, innovative ideas and experience to solve their needs at the moment.
The Holy Grail of new business success is how your agency translates the things it does in a way that your prospect will notice and pay attention. A positioning like 'We are Humans too' (apologize if that's yours) means about as much to a prospect as 'We eat breakfast.' (apologize again, if that's yours) If you were a marketer looking for a new agency, would this entice you, engage you, resonate with your problem? Sometimes creativity gets in the way of common sense.
You can read more about my thoughts on positioning:
Are you targeting the right prospects? Are you going after too many or too few? Both are important questions. The number of prospects should be determined by you and your team's ability to work them effectively. If you use marketing automation, that number goes up significantly. If not, you should gauge the total by the amount of time you have to do ample research on each one, effective outreach such as strategy development, emailing, calling, meeting, content creation, content customization, activity documentation, and prospect replenishment. The number depends on you, your time, and your ability.
Working the right prospects is a combination of upfront planning and ongoing optimization. When developing your prospect list, think about what we just covered – time. Each prospect represents a unit of your time. Your time is finite, so the number of possibilities is fixed to some degree. If you don't have a good prospect targeting strategy, you'll spend valuable time on bad prospects. What makes a good prospect? That's a much longer discussion that considers the agency's overall growth strategy, the realities of the marketplace, the capabilities of the agency, and other factors that need to be defined before separating the good from the bad. The right prospects and the right number of prospects have a significant impact on the success rate.
Finding the right prospects is another long discussion that I can't cover here. My go-to source is Winmo, the best collection of marketing decision-makers, and the insights to know when and how to engage. If you don't know about Winmo, check it out here. I'd be happy to show you how I use it.
Some additional thoughts about targeting:
Marketers who are looking for a new agency have their own process for discovering, learning, and vetting possible candidates. Statistics suggest they get about 60% of the way through their journey before an agency has any idea they might be in consideration. Recent data also shows they are doing it without the help of search consultants more often. Search consultants are still an important channel, not to be ignored, but self-directed searches account for the majority of new agency hires. Agencies who want to be more successful must align their efforts with the prospect journey to influence decisions during the covert stage.
The journey map above was compiled from surveys with marketing decision-makers showing what they do and where they go during the covert stage to identify and explore potential agency resources. Agencies who be present in more of these activities with the right kind of information will have a better chance of being discovered and make a better case for being considered. Agencies who aren't proactive during this stage leave their success to fate.
One more you might want to read:
Many agencies have a single method of outreach when trying to engage with new prospects at every point of their journey. Here we are! Look at us! We do great work! Unfortunately, that might not be the kind of information a marketer is looking for at the time and may result in being passed over, discarded as a possible candidate. Marketers have specific interests when searching that are different than their interests once engaged. Agencies must gear their messaging to satisfy the prospect's interests at each point in their journey. A one-size-fits-all messaging approach is easy for an agency to execute but may be more detrimental to their prospecting efforts in the long run.
Today, more agencies realize the benefits of marketing automation for their agency new business. A marketing automation platform can extend and enhance your outreach exponentially. At least that is the promise. To realize the benefits, it must be configured for agency business development, and the users must be adequately trained on the right features. I use SharpSpring because I've tried many and it is the best tool for ad agency prospecting. Check it out for yourself. I'd be happy to show you how I use it.
You can learn more about the information marketers are seeking in their covert stage here:
Prospects need to know your capabilities, experience, client roster, successes, and all the other qualities of the agency. Those are the foundational aspects a marketer may require to consider you. To hire you, marketers want you to solve their problems; declining sales, competitive threats, low awareness. When they look for a new agency, they are searching for one that they believe will advance the ball and do so fast, whether on a project, a specialty, or a full-service relationship. Changing agencies is costly, time-consuming, full of spin and hyperbole, confusing, inconsistent results, trust, leadership, and authority. The take-away for them has to be trust and confidence that your agency can develop a solution for them that solves their problem. Make sure your message strategy accomplishes that to see your results improve.
It's a common dilemma for agencies:
Leadership and authority
One of the more common characteristics of agencies, especially the good ones, is humility. Agency leaders do not like talking about themselves as an authority of what they do. Despite have an outstanding record of success, they avoid self-promotion. They confuse it with selling, that ugly four-letter word. And it sometimes comes across as a lack of confidence to marketers who are searching for leaders to entrust their budget, success, and career to. Prospects want to hire the top authority on a specific service, someone who is beaming with confidence, rock-steady in their convictions, and proud of their accomplishments. If those vibes don't come through as genuine and convincing, they may question every claim the agency makes. Don't be shy or reserved. Let them know how good your agency is and how confident you are that the team can achieve their vision, conquer their challenges, and accelerate their career.
Some additional post you might like:
Our industry has taken some pretty hard knocks lately; diversity, privacy, ad fraud, overbilling, and the list goes on. If you don't think it's severe and it doesn't taint your agency, ask Bob Hoffman. The point is, you are caught up in it all, and you've got to convince your prospects that you aren't. Honesty, transparency, and advocacy are the keys to setting yourself apart from the pack. Make sure you do everything you can to put your prospect's mind at ease. Try being proactive about it in the services you offer, the steps you take to safeguard against the things that can go wrong, and be an advocate for change. If a prospect wonders whether your ad impressions, clicks, views, CPMs are fake, good luck winning them over.
What's on your prospect's mind
With the increasing clutter in the marketplace, ad agencies will have a harder time getting the attention and time of marketers looking for new resources. Too often, our natural inclination is to tell prospects what we want them to know. Agencies that align their prospecting around what marketers want as opposed to what agencies want to say to them will see better results.
Check out these posts for more:
How to begin
A good place to start, in case you missed them:
Now you've got what you need to get ready to grow. Start planning today. Don't wait until the calendar flips. Start the process now and work through the steps above confidently so you and your agency will be ready for whatever next year brings. It may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, keeping it simple and realistic will ensure you get to an actionable plan. The building blocks are mostly common-sense steps that you use with your clients. Start the brief today. Not some ethereal, platitudes with ad speak. The objective is to sell. That's right, SALES. Craft the strategy that will sell the powerful things your agency can do for troubled marketers.
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 LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share your new business advice, successes, and failures. #LetsGrow!