Working from home is now the new normal. It used to be a guaranteed path to obscurity within the corporate world. Then it became a trendy option and a growing number of experts started touting the benefits. An ever-increasing pool of research eclipsed conventional wisdom to support the idea that remote works are more productive, happier, and likely to stay loyal. Progressive companies slowly signed on with a bit of trepidation over lack of control and accountability.
Fast-forward to today. Governments, corporations, schools, even whole countries have made it mandatory to work at home, all thanks to the Coronavirus. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that automatic email replies have gone from “I’m out of the office traveling on business” to “I’m working from home, so my response may be delayed.” Does a remote workforce change your ad agency business development practices?
Yes and no. I had my first stint as a remote worker at Sony back in ’98 – ’99. For the past five years, I’ve been working from my home office as a new business consultant. My 9 to 5 day is anything but. Things get complicated when schools are closed, both spouses or roommates are home working together, especially when there is no toilet paper to be found. Add to that the uncertainty of the pandemic and its impact on business, employment, and all other aspects of life.
The impact of this crisis has created chaos and uncertainty. Millions of marketers are forced to keep their projects and initiatives going or rethink and adjust what they are doing, all while changing their work environments and habits. If you are not accustomed to working from home there will be additional anxiety, dysfunction, and ambiguity, in addition to how the crisis impacts us professionally and personally. Above all, be patient, empathetic, and understanding. Come with solutions that solve immediate needs, guide the transition, and show confidence in the road ahead.
Contact windows of time
Whether you work remotely or not, typical business hours are still the optimum window for call times, email opens, and social media engagement. However, there are additional factors to consider. No commute time opens up earlier and later windows. Family responsibilities including mealtimes and nap times have some impact. My experience shows the opportunity to connect earlier, later, and on weekends. I’ve been doing some A/B testing and have seen an increase, albeit small, outside the traditional windows. I’m betting that will grow significantly in this new reality. Consider the circumstances for each prospect and explore new possibilities. Try asking when the best time to connect is.
No office, no conference room, no worries. If you aren’t comfortable with video conferencing, skype, Zoom, facetime, and myriad others, you might want to brush up on your on-camera skills. More business will be conducted virtually, and that requires different skills. Entrepreneur has a simple Dos and Don’ts article to help. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238902. And, Wirecutter has some great tips. https://thewirecutter.com/blog/professional-video-call-from-home/
Internet speed and attachment size
I’ve had a few experiences where file sizes became an issue with remote workers. Corporate environments may have size restrictions, and depending on how remote workers are configured, those may still apply. Others may be running off their home internet provider where speed, capacity, and reliability become more of an issue. It might be wise to ask the recipient about any such limitations and be mindful of document sizes when sending a capabilities PDF or a video.
Mail and FedEx
FedExing office addresses are fairly predictable. Shipping to a home address is anything but. Mail is the same way. If you use tactics like ship and call, you should consider requiring a signature to have proof of, and time of delivery otherwise, you can track when delivered but no way to know how long it sits on the porch before opened. You should also realize that large packages and excessive packing materials are a real annoyance to discard. USPS has improved its delivery however, depending on the city or town, the number of days in transit will vary as well as the time of day. When possible, it is better to ask the recipient when they normally receive mail and packages so your timing can coincide.
Socializing ideas and new resources
One of the most significant disadvantages of working from home is the isolation from bosses, coworkers, subordinates, and other decisionmaker colleagues. That adds complexity and time to any process. It also makes it harder for your contact to influence decisions. What used to be a walk down the hall becomes phone tag, voicemails, emails, and the lag of conflicting schedules. It requires more patience and proactive measures. At the same time, it may open up new doors.
When you develop a relationship with the VP and move that relationship to a proposal, you know the difficulty she will have getting all her remote colleagues in alignment. Take the initiative to help her out by offering to do the leg work by connecting directly with her manager, department head, finance, whoever else is involved in the decision. Not only will you demonstrate great account service, but you may also get direct access to make your case.
Motivation and call-to-action
Whether your prospect is working in the office or at home, calls to action won’t change; download the case study, free audit, or audience insights. Are there additional motivators for remote workers? Consider the previous paragraph. Remote works have additional challenges, such as the time and complexity tracking down and aligning coworkers. A new call to action might be to automatically schedule a group video presentation or a proposal template that she can easily customize for each decision-maker. Depending on local proximity, it could be a lunch presentation at a local restaurant. Think about the new challenges she encounters and the ways you can help out.
Temporary or permanent
Once the dust settles and this crisis passes, I bet we’ll have a lot more permanent remote workers on our prospect list. The implications will have a lasting impact on ad agency business development. Savvy new business pros will have to make a few adjustments, some good, some not so good.
Good luck, and stay well!
I’ve got more advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please feel free to reach out at any time. #LetsGrow!