Whether you're selling ad agency services or accounting software, knowing what your prospect is looking for and what's behind their quest for a solution is the holy grail. Your prospect may say they are looking for a full-service agency or a new loyalty program. You jump into action, pull your latest capabilities deck, dust off the full-service cases studies, and hit submit. It's an exhilarating feeling. Your work is great. Your experience is just right. Your agency is a shoo-in. Wait, why haven't they replied? Why didn't we get invited to pitch? What are they thinking?
There are thousands of full-service agencies, all with the same capabilities. Hundreds of full-service agencies have the same industry experience, powerful case studies, great people, industry awards, and quirky culture. It's not that you don't line up with what they asked for. It's more likely you didn't satisfy what they want—a full-service agency who has this, can do that, or understands the specific things they need to solve their marketing problem. The very reason they want to leave their current agency and find someone new.
Let's face it. You can't know what they really want unless they are honest and forthcoming from the start. If there is a search consultant involved, that puts you even further away from the truth. There may be a question period where agencies submit, and answers are shared with all. There may be a Zoom call to clarify the requirements. To the best of their ability, Agencies will try to get to the truth and, at the same time, try not to reveal any clues to their competitors. It's a cat and mouse game for both the marketer and agency, one that ultimately hurts the process.
Wouldn't it be great to know ahead of time what they really want? A full-service agency with industry experience and great case studies is table stakes. There is always something more to the ask. While that prospect's specific wants may be impossible to know for sure, it is possible to develop a hypothesis based on her peers and competitors. If you can't find out what she is seeking, she is probably after the same thing as her peers. That's why I search for everything I can find that includes marketing leaders' thoughts on the industry, marketing, social and cultural issues. I collect some of those sources on my website in BD Insights.
A great example, this hit the press last week.
Jeremy Tucker, CMO, Planet Fitness, commenting about the move from 16 agencies to one, Publicis.
"Looking at where we want to go in the future... led us to consider reevaluating the entire marketing ecosystem, to see how we can really drive scale, efficiency, more data-driven decisioning, more precision and personalization, nationally and locally, and most importantly, integrating them all together."
Five clues into this marketer's mindset
- drive scale – I want to do more with the same budget
- efficiency – I want to do more for less
- data-driven decisioning – I want to do more with data
- precision – I want to do better targeting
- personalization – I want to do better personalization
Of course, this is after the fact. It won't help with Planet Fitness, but these clues are gold if you are going after a franchise, a fitness brand, retailer, etc. In fact, these 'wants' appear over and over in industry research, thought leadership, webinars, marketer interviews, blog posts, and keynotes over the past year, most of which are free on the web, like the quote above that I found on prnewswire.com, marketingdive.com, adage.com, and many other sources.
Another very recent example from an article posted just after a Gartner event concluded.
Gartner Marketing Symposium 8/30 – 9/2/2021
95% of CMOs believe brands should take the lead in finding solutions to major societal and cultural issues.
If you are engaging with almost any marketing leader, this clue is a good one to consider.
Another example is this quote about why Travelocity picked Doner.
Laura Molnar, Director of Brand Marketing. Travelocity
"In Doner, we've found a partner that has experience in our category, and has exceptional understanding of what is driving our country culturally."
Understanding what is driving our country culturally shows up repeatedly as one of the top 'wants' of marketers across industries. Agencies who do understand and can apply that to the benefit of a brand are in great demand.
Finally, not a new idea, but tried and true, Home Depot chose BBDO because of their ability to combine art and science. Science, as mentioned earlier means data, precision, personalization. All good clues.
Adolfo Villagomez, Chief Marketing Officer, Home Depot
"We're thrilled about our new partnership with BBDO. They do a fantastic job of combining art and science throughout the creative process."
Whether it's an RFP, a prospecting outreach, or an informal conversation at an event, talking about what's on the marketer's mind is far better than what your agency has done or can do. You'll get around to that eventually, but only if the marketer believes you understand them and what they need. The clues are out there. It may take some digging or creative searching. Do your homework thoroughly, and the effort will serve you well.
A Bonus Clue
If you need help, I'm here to talk, consult, train, or do it all for you. I work exclusively with agencies that want to reset their business development approach. No gimmicks, no secret formula, just pragmatic, hard-earned marketing sense. (Hint, it's the same thing you do for your clients.) 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!