Two of the most significant barriers to ad agency new business success are time and resources, and this past year has made those barriers even worse. No matter how an agency handles new business, it is a struggle to allocate adequate time to do the minimum tasks necessary to be successful and find sufficient resources to get all the work done. There are only so many hours in the day and a limited budget to support it. Yet agencies have to work within these limitations and still find new clients.
For new business planning, agencies should lay out all the possible options they believe will help achieve their growth goals, prioritize them, assign time and cost values, and then decide what is achievable and realistic. Some agencies have tools that help expand and scale their tactics, provide data and tracking to improve results, and automate repetitive tasks where possible. Marketing automation, prospect databases, and other tools can be a big help. These are the kinds of resource decisions agencies must also make as a part of their planning.
Given these limitations, how should agencies decide what and what not to do? It starts with a formal planning process. Define the prospecting objectives and align tactics best suited to achieve them. The goals are straightforward, whereas the tactics can vary based on the agency's strategy. Like any marketing plan, every tactic should be managed with a test and learn approach to ultimately define with data what works best and the cost-benefit of each.
The key objectives for agency prospecting – you may have more or less
- Build Prospect Lists
- Trust and Authority
- Engage, Pitch, and Win
There are many choices for each objective, and it can be overwhelming to think about the time and cost associated when you look at all possible tactics. This is often the point in the planning process where agencies default to the easiest, cheapest, and fastest tactics, whether or not they are the most effective. Regardless of which tactics you implement, the goal is to be present wherever your prospect is; in their feed, in their media, in their inbox, in their conversations. When you consistently show up with relevance and authority, more of your prospects will want to know more because they are facing unprecedented challenges today and need solutions.
Given the time and resource challenges agencies face, how can they know what tactics will serve them the best? Welcome to the Prospecting Matrix, a simple planning tool. The matrix is simple, but the value in the tool lies in detailed estimating of the time, cost, and value of each tactic. It’s really no different from what agencies do for their clients when charged with developing a new campaign. If you put the same time and effort into your matrix as you would for your client, you will get the results you want.
Start by getting the whole team together for a brainstorming session. On a whiteboard, write down all possible tactics you think are effective ways to reach any of the objectives and then group them under the corresponding goals they support. Include everything possible that’s also reasonable. Most agencies won’t spend $10K a month on paid social but $1K might be reasonable. When you have a comprehensive list, prioritize the top 3 – 5 tactics under each goal.
Use a spreadsheet and input each objective and associated tactics under them in the first column. The layout is objective 1, and the 3 – 5 tactics, then objective 2, and 3 – 5 tactics, objective 3, etc., until you have the complete list of possible prospecting tactics to execute.
In the second column put TIME, the monthly estimated time of agency staff including your time, creative time, product time, etc., to complete the tactic.
In the next three columns, put COST. There are three cost categories under COST so label the three columns, People, Things, and Total. These represent the entire cost per lead or action, such as a sponsorship. Include the billable time estimated for that tactic and any outside cost for media, a writer, a webinar sponsorship, etc.
In the next, RESULTS, the expected results or the impact of a tactic such as the number of anticipated leads that the tactic will generate or the number of views, downloads, clicks, etc. If you don’t have historical data, guess. For example, LinkedIn posts might get 30 clicks a month. Of the 30, 3 will be valuable leads. The result would then be 3 leads per month, and the value might be 5 because of the quality of the lead. The benefit of the matrix is to continually update it with data to make it more accurate and informative.
In the next, VALUE, a number between 1, least valuable, and 5, most beneficial to achieve the objective, as a judgment call to help further prioritize the list in addition to time and cost.
In the next, PRIORITY, the priority you have assigned to the tactic. This may change when you calculate time, cost, and results.
In the next four columns, add Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, and Year. These allow you to collect historical data to report, optimize, and plan. You may find that some tactics aren’t performing as well as you anticipated. You may want to change a tactic for another you didn’t initially include or something new. Add a new row under the corresponding objective for the new tactic and monitor results. At the end of the year, you will have a quick reference of what did and didn’t work based on data to help plan for the next year.
You can add more or fewer column headings as needed, but I tend to start simple to avoid getting overwhelmed or overthinking. Some of the tactics will be relatively easy to fill in, while others may be very hard. In the absence of any data, make your best guess and then revise when you have a few months of data. For things with a one-time cost or time investment, amortize them over twelve months and use the monthly values for the matrix.
Each objective and corresponding tactics also have summaries to judge their effectiveness and contribution to the overall business development program. The last category at the bottom of the matrix is a summary of results for all tactics. In the first column add the rows MQLs, MEETINGS, PROPOSALS, WON, LOST, and FUTURE if results will occur beyond the time frame. Each of these summarizes the data in each column heading to give a complete picture of the metrics you can use to judge overall effectiveness and cost value relationships.
The matrix is an essential prospecting strategy tool to help make the right decisions based on cost, the time required, and expected results. You’ll have a clearer idea of the impact, both internally and externally, and can justify the decisions you make based on data. The tool is also a helpful discussion guide when presenting your plan and allocating time and money to execute it. Too often, a back of the napkin scribble is all you’ve got when schedules fall behind, and budgets evaporate.
The matrix is helpful for quarterly and year-end reviews. You’ll have a document that leadership helped develop and approved at the start of the year showing what you planned to do, what performed better or worse, and what you intend to change next quarter or next year. You’ll also have actual data to revise any assumptions, estimates, expected results, and the overall value of each tactic in support of your objectives. It also serves as your new business scorecard with overall performance.
Let’s Get Planning
If you would like to learn more about the Prospecting Matrix or need help setting up one for your agency, I would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please feel free to reach out at any time. #LetsGrow!