Agencies must prospect for new business if they want to stay in business and grow. Some say they don't. Leads and opportunities come through their network, friends, past clients, and other sources. Others say they do, but they don't do it well; on and off, no strategy, weak messaging, ill-defined prospect list, and so on. At the other end of the spectrum are the agencies with new business machines firing on all cylinders every day—hat tip to them. No matter where your agency is on the spectrum, it all goes in cycles. A steady flow of leads, too many leads, and then no leads at all.
When the leads dry up, every agency scrambles to do something, call old clients and lost prospects, reach out to their client’s competitors, challenge their leadership to bring in one new client each, or cut prices to breathe life into a failing quarter. Eventually, they commit to ending this vicious cycle and put together a consistent systematic prospecting program, and promise to keep it going come hell or high water. Like those New Year resolutions, the gym looks pretty empty come February.
One thing is certain, when agencies are ready to prospect, they go fast. They’ve got to get a new client or two to keep the ship sailing. It’s all hands on deck or a committee of overworked leadership that creates the plan and pulls together the people to make it happen. It’s usually a new website, new cases and blog posts, sourcing prospect lists, subscribing to emailing technology, writing sales copy, and away they go. Or worse, they sign up for one of those 100 leads in your inbox each week, 10 guaranteed meetings every month, meet with 50 top CMOs at the luxury resort, or any of the too good to be true scams.
Regardless of how you get there, or what you do, prospecting is your lifeline. That said, not all prospecting will achieve the desired results so before you unleash the hounds, take a moment to see if you are ready to prospect. These 3 signs mean you are not ready to prospect.
- No plan
- No differentiation
- No urgency
You can send 1,000 emails, call 10 contacts, get coffee with 4 prospects, and end up with no success unless you have done these 3 basic building blocks right. Everyone has a plan but is that plan defined, resourced, and measurable? Every agency thinks they are different, but is that differentiation no different than the competition? Every agency has a huge sense of urgency to win clients, but do you have a way to create urgency among your prospects? Get these right and you are ready to prospect, otherwise don’t waste your time. Instead of going through the motions knowing you are not ready, go back to the beginning and do the process right.
A prospecting plan will fail, be ignored, or pushed aside unless it is adopted and integrated into the agency’s processes and operation. It must be clearly defined, roles and responsibilities must be spelled out and delegated across the agency. All aspects of the plan must be measurable with personal accountability for each part. It must be incorporated into all the agency systems, traffic, project management, and resource allocations, financial, reporting as if it were a client of the agency. The head of BD must be held to the same performance standards and rigor as every client leader. Unless the plan is treated like it’s for your best client, the results will be less than you can do for your worst client.
Additional thoughts on planning.
Every agency does strategic wizardry, creative magic, deep insights, and one tactic after another that every other agency does too. Every agency has nice people, an open culture, a trendy purpose, happy customers, happy employees, happy pets, but none of these things stands apart from what every other agency is saying. It’s meaningless to say ‘we are collaborative, we are professional, we are creative technogeeks. It is so hard to make a prospect see and understand what your agency offers that is different from all the rest unless you define it and articulate it clearly, substantively, and convincing.
Additional thoughts on differentiation.
I'm not saying you aren't anxious to get prospecting. I'm referring to prospects. If a prospect is actively looking for a new agency, (about 5% of your prospect list) they are determined to do it as quickly as possible. Their need is urgent. For those who know they need a new agency but aren’t ready, (about 30%) and those who aren’t thinking about a new agency, (about 40%), they have no reason to respond, reply, or engage. You’ve got to create urgency to move any of these future prospects into the present. Urgency can take many forms. It can be the benefit gained by capitalizing on a current trend. It can be exploiting a weakness in a competitor. It can be pending legislation or regulatory changes. It’s the idea, ‘act now and you’ll gain, save, rise, profit, with compelling support and logic.
You can mine this data for potential issues to create urgency.
There is nothing worse than whipping up passion and enthusiasm, charging out the door to bag the next big client only to return with nothing. If you don’t have these three things covered, don’t push forward until you do. There is too much time, money, and personal capital at stake, not to mention the future and vitality of the agency.
Let's Get Prospecting
If you need help tackling these things, let’s talk. I enjoy discussing all kinds of business development challenges and meeting new agency pros. 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!