According to an Adweek survey fielded Oct – Nov 2020 among 70 brand marketers, 41% said they plan to retain their agency/agencies, 31% said they plan to make changes to their roster, and 22% weren't sure. That means up to 53% may be changing when you include the unsure group. That sounds like a lot of agency turnover is in the works.
20% of marketers rated their agency's performance as worse or much worse than expected, and 48% said no more than expected. In other words, only 30% said their agency performance 'exceeded' expectations. To me, that means up to 70% of accounts are vulnerable since marketers want their agency to exceed their expectations; be proactive, bring new ideas, better solutions, new thinking, and leadership, especially now when business pressures are severe.
The survey sample is tiny but seems credible knowing what we do about marketers' struggles during the last year, economic collapse, slashed budgets, customer quarantines, significant declines in revenue, turnover of senior-level marketers, and a prolonged recovery. When things get challenging for marketers, they usually take it out on their agencies.
Regardless of the actual numbers, there is likely to be unprecedented agency change this year. That should be a clarion call to agency business development. But where do you find specific opportunities to capitalize on in 2021? How can you know which of your prospects are in the 41% - 70%, the ones who are going to make changes? How are you gathering intelligence to make your prospecting more focused and more effective? Some tactics are tried and true while others are new and exciting. Today it’s possible to spot intent behavior that may lead to an upcoming agency change before anyone else knows it’s coming.
Job Changes/ Business Changes
The most popular indicator of changes to come, marketing decision-maker hires, is the top new business alert for agency changes ahead and media spending shifts. A change in marketing leadership means a change in strategy, most likely because the previous approach didn't work and inevitably results in a review of agency partners. Some roster agencies may survive, while others will not be so lucky. It's the ideal time to get on the new marketer's radar and demonstrate expertise in the areas they are looking to replace.
How can you know what the new leader is planning? Usually, a recent hire announcement will provide clues. Company earnings calls may also reference business or operational changes ahead, new product launches, change in market focus, and other events that may lead to a change in resources. Google alerts are a great source to bring this and other intelligence to your inbox every morning. In fact, they are so good it's easy to get overwhelmed. Try to be as specific as possible in your alert criteria. Stay focused on your top prospects; otherwise, you'll spend too much time reading and clicking through them. Most of these sources report things that have already happened, which means you have to be quick to act before it's too late.
The Holy Grail of business development sleuthing is to uncover early indications of changes to come. Intent data such as web searches, case study viewing, webinar registrations, subscriptions, industry media consumption, and similar behaviors associated with your prospects are all excellent clues about their intent. When a marketer is interested in a new social media agency, concerned about their social media efforts, wonders about best practices, or is curious about what their competition is doing, they go online and research. On a daily basis, there is a consistent baseline of search activity. When it significantly increases for any specific company, there is likely a change in the works. Since marketers want to remain anonymous as long as possible, no one knows about their activity until the company and marketer begin contacting agencies. Statistics show that B2B buyers are 76% of the way through their journey before engaging with a salesperson. Agencies who can intercept them during that period are in a much better position to influence decisions long before public announcements begin to emerge.
The best intent data, or first-party data, is a prospect or potential prospect's visit to your website. Having a service that can identify the visitor, track where they go, and how long the stay may indicate that your agency is being researched and evaluated for potential work. Several subscription services do this kind of website tracking. None do it better than my Ad Agency Prospecting Platform by SharpSpring. It has built-in tracking functions integrated with your contact database and outreach activities. You are immediately alerted when a prospect arrives, know where they visit and what content they are interested in. You can quickly follow up with the right message to shape and influence their perception and understanding. And, if you get that magical phone call from that 'anonymous' prospect, you'll have a better idea of what they want before you speak.
Other intent data, third-party data, can be gathered from various sources, both simple and complex. Even though many agencies claim to leverage intent data for their clients, I have yet to hear from any who apply it to their business development efforts. TrustRadius has a list of Intent Data providers and additional analysis on the various offerings and approaches. They also have a detailed primer on what intent data is and how it is done.
One of the resources in their review is out of Australia, Bombora. They've been at it for 6+ years, claim 6,000+ customers and 80+ integrations. Their data is a co-operative of B2B media companies around the world. Members contribute content consumption and behavioral data about their audiences, and Bombora funnels that data to paying customers. They are expensive, but their information is rich. They offer ten company alerts for free as a way to demo the product. They use their proprietary data and AI technology to establish a baseline of activity across your chosen companies and search categories and provide daily alerts to you when a company shows a surge in any of those search areas.
Recently Winmo integrated Bombora's data into their platform so you can see what products and services your prospects are researching and the level of interest in those categories. There is a cost to add this service to your subscription, but imagine the benefit of identifying specific people at your target accounts and discovering their intent for the resources that you provide. While the cost is steep, it is a significant discount from the published rate. Winmo with Bombora has a combined cost that is less than the published price of Bombora alone for one user. With Bombora, you'll know very early in the process and can start your outreach long before your competition catches on. For example, wouldn't you, as a branding agency, like to know if Acme Widgets suddenly increases search activity on branding topics?
Intent data can also be used as a defensive tool. Wouldn't you like to know when a client starts searching for new services or new agencies? Wouldn't you want to get a notification that your client is researching a service you provide but they don't use? Or know when your key contact is searching for a new job? While intent data has its limits in terms of specificity, being forewarned about any activity of interest could mean the difference between initiating proactive remediation and that dreaded Friday afternoon call.
Once you've identified who to go after before your competition has any clue, how do you know what to say to get that prospect's attention, build trust, and consideration? Another relatively new feature in Winmo is Crystal Personality Insights, which is included in the subscription. Crystal Knows analyzes millions of data points and validated assessments to accurately identify anyone's personality using their DISC personality type (Dominant, Influencing, Steady or Calculating) and their preferred communication style. When you research a prospect, Winmo includes Crystal Knows' analysis and quick tips for communicating with that prospect, what to say over email, the best words to use, how to build trust in your outreach, and more. Winmo's Crystal Personality Insights integration is a big confidence booster as you improve your outreach style, tone, and content to open the door.
Once you know who is in play and why, how do you discover what marketers are looking for in new agency partners beyond services and technical expertise? I've collected informative reports, thought leadership, surveys, and other resources from across the web to help guide your new business planning and better understand what is most important to your prospects today and tomorrow. Be sure to check out the BD Insights page on my site. Winmo provides many other prospecting reports daily that you can't find anywhere else. They have a team of researchers scouring media, PR, industry, and financial channels to uncover actionable nuggets that allow you to get early indicators about what your prospects want before major announcements or organizational changes hit the press to give you an edge.
If you are interested in what your prospects are spending in social, Winmo includes Pathmatics reporting integrated into the platform at no extra cost. You can see your prospect's social spend, impression data, and ad units on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, on a monthly basis. A beneficial feature for identifying and qualifying opportunities with brands active in social media and those who aren't but should be. You may have your resources to do the same however the time-saving benefit of having it all in one place makes a huge difference.
Winmo also sends you predictive sales analysis to identify companies and brands which are likely to change agencies based on various data they collect and a history of interpreting disparate data to make their predictions. They have a 74% accuracy rate. You get alerts that highlight the sales opportunity at hand, sharing the data and insights to support it, and providing the decision maker's direct contact information to begin your outreach immediately. They also call out struggling companies and how they plan to pivot their advertising strategy. They report on companies with recent funding and where they plan to allocate it. They highlight new product launches and changes in go-to-market strategy. They identify new market expansions, new customer targeting, and shifts in ad spending. No other platform on the market provides as much data, sales intelligence, and expert analysis exclusively for ad agency business development. If you'd like to see how I use Winmo, schedule a call, and I'll let you look under the hood.
Business development is tough, especially in these unsettled times. Successful BD pros have the network and resources to pounce on opportunities as they begin to emerge before they get inundated by everyone else. The better you can spot emerging opportunities, the higher the likelihood your agency will get into the conversation and advance through to the win. There are several tools available, from free to expensive, and more coming in this new frontier. You've got to calculate the investment amount compared to the potential new revenue and the long-term value of new clients to your agency goals. I always welcome any insight or experience you have on the topic and enjoy sharing what I know with you.
If you'd like help beating your competition to the lead, let's talk. Considering all the changes we've witnessed in the past year, you must rethink your business development program to improve results. I am always open to discussing your challenges and successes. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. Let's connect on LinkedIn to network, share resources, new ideas, or talk about the latest ad agency business development news. #LetsGrow!