It's not an easy question to answer. In fact, 95% - 98% don't want anything, at least not right now. Better said, don't want anything when you try to reach them. Marketo says that only 4% of website visitors are ready to buy. Does that translate to your visitors? Other research has defined it more precisely. Only 3% of your prospects are in the market to buy at any given time. These are the one's many agencies target, making them extremely hard to win. But some lucky agency will. For the rest of us, there are some stats that, when applied to your prospect list, help define the right content to satisfy what a prospect wants.
3% are interested in finding a new agency right now.
7% are 'open to considering' or actively seeking a new agency.
30% are dissatisfied but are not thinking about change or are not being proactive.
30% aren't interested, are locked in a contract, or aren't the decision-maker.
30% will never replace their agency and are too afraid of change and disruption.
What a prospect wants depends partly on which of these groups they are in and where they are in their journey. Think about when that journey starts. A marketer realizes or is forced into a need. That need likely exists while that marketer works with an agency or agency. That means they have this need despite having familiar resources who know the business and processes to get things done. That need must be pressing. We've all been on the wrong end of that circumstance. Maybe you have been the AOR for ten years, and suddenly your client informs you that they will invite some other agencies to pitch. Your client is now in that 7%, and you are most likely on your way out.
Whatever lead up to that moment may have been long in the making. During that time, your client started feeling dissatisfied. Maybe their account team let them down; they became disappointed in the creative product, frustrated with production times, or whatever issue festered until she decided a change was necessary. You likely sensed the strain and doubled down on service, responsiveness, account team, and whatever else you thought might turn things around. Your client was in the 30% of people who had a need but weren't thinking about making a change.
Rewind even further. In the earlier age of the relationship, you and your client are busy executing numerous strategies, and all seems good. You hear many compliments, and your client is approving work, supporting your decisions, agreeing with your direction, and spending to the max. Deadlines drive you and your client daily, leaving no time to think about anything else. The work looks great, exceeds performance expectations, and everything is good. Could another agency push their way in between you and your client and take the business? Could another agency get your client's attention? Many agencies are likely trying, but your client is head down in work and not paying attention to anyone talking about their agency. Your client is in that 30% who don't believe they have a need and therefore won't spend any time on unsolicited introductions.
Now turn the table, and it's you trying to connect with this client. You attempt the usual efforts to introduce your agency. In the second 30%, you are totally ignored, your emails go unopened, and your calls go unanswered. There is nothing you can do to break through unless you have a good friend who can break through to introduce you. But even that isn't enough during this stage. You try to connect on LinkedIn and but little else comes from it. You may meet up at the Tedx conference, but no response afterward. As aggravating as it is, it's not you. It's that stage they are in that results in a wall to keep out all unwelcome solicitations. In other words, these are a part of your unopened emails, unanswered calls, and ignored posts.
When that client moves to the first 30%, things change. Any effort you made is likely long forgotten or completely unnoticed. It's a whole new ballgame in this phase. When you think about your prospect list overall, only 40% are potentially viable opportunities. Of that 40%, 30% may be possible later. 10% are viable in the short term, and 3% want to find you now and buy something. That means that 60% are not open to anything from you. Half will never be, and the other half may engage some time down the road. A lot can happen in the long-term, considering the average tenure of a BD person is 2.5 years, and the average client-agency relationship is three years.
The challenge is that you don't know which prospect is in which category. You might say that 60% of your list is worthless but which 60%? For prospects, you have a relationship with and have nurtured that relationship over time, you can get a better sense of what stage they are in and act accordingly. But for those hundreds or thousands who are cold prospects, the challenge is genuine. The question becomes significant. What do these prospects on my list want? If you figure that out, your odds of success go way up.
What they want depends on where they are in their journey. Where they are on that journey is another mystery. We know from research that prospects get about 60% through their journey before engaging with a select list of agencies. That means they have done their research, analyzed and evaluated the choices, and decided whom they want to speak with to determine the finalists for a pitch, proposal, or whatever next steps are.
Put it another way. For every ten prospects on your list, one actively seeks to hire a new agency as soon as possible. If you fit their criteria, they will be open to a conversation if they know you. Three are beginning or in the early stage of the journey and are working incognito to identify and vet potential new agencies. They are reluctant to engage anyone until they know their needs and who might match their criteria. That leaves six prospects who aren't thinking about change and are not open to that conversation. There is no way to change their mind unless you have something completely unique or novel to offer.
Wouldn't it be great if you could know what group they are in? You'd be able to provide them with precisely the right information based on where they are in their journey. Instead, marketers are overwhelmed with vendor outreach every day. One senior marketer told me he used to answer every call out of professional courtesy and politely say no. Today, he would have to spend his entire day responding. Like most marketing decision-makers, he stays incognito as long as he can out of self-preservation. When their intentions become public, the emails and calls never end.
Strategically, you want each of those ten prospects to have the information about your agency that fulfills their needs at whatever point in their journey. You would send that 1 looking to hire now a compelling analysis of why your agency is a better choice, what clients you've achieved great success for, and what solutions you provide they need. For that 30%, you would send information and examples of industry experience, cases of companies and work that aligns, the background and experience of your team, and the style and culture of your agency. For that 60%, you'd send trade articles about you and your client's success, stories about exceptional, intriguing, or compassionate work, and provocative, stimulating, countercultural thought leadership. Unfortunately, you can't know where most are in their journey.
Some outward clues can help—for example, significant changes at a prospect organization, a new CMO, CEO, or CGO. An acquisition, IPO, new product introduction, etc., are well-known clues that the organization will make agency changes. Industry conditions often foretell change, such as a recession, a surge, or a sustained plateau. Aligning your contacts with these events will help you understand what each wants. And there is your network of peers, vendors, media reps, etc., who might provide some intelligence about a marketer and their agency.
Of course, you've heard me often talk about the benefits of a subscription to Winmo. Winmo provides way more than just contact information. It connects the dots for you across the marketing ecosystem, from decision-maker changes to accurate agency change triggers. It reports daily on industry changes, providing the clues you need to identify where your prospects are in their journey, what to say to get their attention, and when to reach out before your competition. In this ever-changing turbulent market, no other resource can give you the edge as Winmo can.
Let's get back to those ten prospects. For those you can find clues, you can make assumptions about what they want–results, industry experience, cases, culture, leadership, according to their stage. For the rest, you must collect a range of information, assess where they are, and track their behavior for engagement clues. Did they open your email or click on your LinkedIn post? Did they visit your website? What pages did they spend time on? Did they download a whitepaper or sign up for your newsletter? These and other actions help identify and guide your efforts based on where they are in their journey or not and what you can say to stay in contention throughout that journey. Marketing automation is another essential tool. You can see how in this post. Your odds of getting on their list will increase significantly. Getting to the top of their list will be the subject of my next post.
Let's talk if you'd like help gathering clues to identify your prospects' journey. There's no better time than now to rethink and reset your efforts, especially in these uncertain economic times. I am always open to discussing your challenges and offering my opinion on possible solutions. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. And find me on LinkedIn for daily tips and insights. Feel free to reach out at any time. #LetsGrow!