Most agencies struggle with sales. Honestly, I think one of the challenges of business development is that many agencies blur the lines between marketing and sales. Many agencies are getting better at marketing. Technology and social media, and all of that make it easier for you to create content or do an e-newsletter, or have a Facebook page. The challenge with that is — it’s not sales, it’s marketing. It feels like you have a new business program when really you have marketing activity. In some ways, the fact that agencies are better at marketing makes some even worse at sales. All of that marketing “stuff” makes them feel as though they can check the box of new business activity. But really that’s just erroneously putting two things in the same box that should be in separate boxes. Many agency owners say to me, “If we can get across the table from someone, we can make the sale.” And what that says to me is: A) they’re probably punching below their weight class because nobody wins all the time. B) they’re waiting for opportunities to present themselves as opposed to going out and creating an opportunity that really is the right kind of client, the right fit, the right industry, and the right size. Take a good look at your business development efforts. Do you really have a sales program or are all of your marketing activities blurring your vision? If you’re waiting for luck and referrals to completely fill your pipeline — is that helping you grow the agency you actually want to build?
Last week, one of my mornings was consumed with podcast recordings and interviews. In some cases, I was the subject matter expert but in most, I was the host, asking questions of other agency- centric subject matter experts. By sheer coincidence every conversation danced around some aspect of business development, retaining clients and creating a culture that had the capacity and passion for chasing opportunities. Interestingly, there was a thread that wove through all of these separate conversations. The theme was consistency and the overarching opinion was that agencies live and die by their habits and by the agency owner’s habits. What we do (or don’t do) on a consistent basis sets our course. That got my wheels spinning and I came up with a little quiz for you to take. Do you have at least 4-5 hours a week blocked off on your calendar for new business sales (not marketing) activity? Do you hold (and not cancel) a weekly new business meeting with your internal team? Do you have a list of no more than 25 “I’d love to have them on our roster” prospects that you proactively touch at least every 6 weeks? Have you defined your agency’s philosophy/point of view so you can differentiate yourself and does every agency employee know, understand and use the same language to describe it? Now, a tangential question. How many new clients that are individually worth at least 15% of your agency’s current AGI have you earned since January? My guess is that there’s a correlation between how you answered the quiz questions and your answer to my tangential question. You and your agency are a product of what you consistently do. Are you reaping the [...]
Hey there — folks have been asking me what tools I use to create our weekly videos, so I thought I would spell it out for you. Here’s the equipment I use. My criteria for anything I am using is that it has to be durable, reasonable small, and lightweight because every week, I am throwing it all into my suitcase and taking it on the road (except for my phone!) And I did not want to spend an arm and a leg. I'm sure you could go higher quality, but this works for me. Camera: My iPhone X Microphone: Shure MV88 iOS digital stereo condenser microphone (plugs into my phone) $149 App for the filming: Shureplus MOTIV video (get in app store) Tripod: Fotopro Phone Travel Tripod $23 (I needed two -- one for the camera & one for light) Lights: Rotolight NEO on-camera LED light $149 15 foot extension cord: Amazon recommended $7 I use an app on my iPhone (Shureplus MOTIV Video -- tied to the microphone) to record the video. For a long time, I was relying on natural light but some of the videos were just too dark so I decided to invest in a light (hence the 2nd tripod and extension cord) box which is about 4 inches square and about an inch and a half thick, so easy to pack. I don't use any sort of teleprompter. Honestly, I don't script these out. I have an idea of the main point I want to make and I just shoot from the hip. Usually, I shoot it a couple times before I'm happy with the flow of the message, but I am rarely shooting for more than 10 minutes. [...]
I totally get it. You’re busy putting out fires, delivering high-level strategy for your clients and trying to mentor and grow your team. Who has time for new business? This is one of those head versus heart things in agency ownership. You know you need to devote more time to new business but somehow something always pushes those best intentions aside. I’m here to tell you — you cannot afford to let your biz dev efforts ebb and flow. The only way it works is if you keep your foot on the pedal every day. MediaPost asked me to talk a little about this issue and how agency owners can overcome the lure of “I’ll do it tomorrow.” As always, I’d welcome your feedback. In January, we had one of the best live workshops we’ve ever had — and it was two days of talking about nothing but new business strategies with two agency search consultants who see agencies at their best and their worst. They were so generous with this knowledge and insights that everyone walked away raving about the content. In fact, it was so awesome that we’re doing it again next January. It’s going to sell out for sure — so if you want to do a deep dive on biz dev, check out the workshop and get your spot before they’re gone. However you fire yourself up and inspire yourself — let 2020 be the year that you finally embrace your role as Chief Prospect Hunter!
Business development is a challenge on many levels. If you don’t have every base covered...being good at all the other aspects may not be enough. Many agencies have not defined their sweet spot client — so they don’t bother chasing after prospects that aren’t a good fit Most agencies don’t have a consistent new business machine that is actively and regularly touching prospects and working a targeted list The lion’s share of agencies have a great win rate with smaller, less profitable clients but struggle to win with “stretch” prospects that could really change their agency and help them elevate their game About 50% of agencies do not have a retention program to actively and intentionally keep and grow their best clients A weakness in any of these areas can really compromise your efforts overall. As you begin to plan for 2020, having a holistic business development plan of attack (with action items, a calendar and most important — regular accountability meetings) may be one of the most important aspects of your vision for the next year. It’s not too early to start working on this. If you’re getting at-bats but not winning or if you’re not getting invited to the pitches/opportunities that you think you should be, we’ve got a great two-day workshop for you. AMI is partnering with the agency search firm Mercer Island Group to help you work all the bugs out of how you chase new business. These guys see proposals, RFP responses and live pitches from agencies big and small. They’re going to give you a sneak peek into the mistakes that you’re making, the missteps of agency positioning and so much more. This is a very hands-on, work ON [...]
I had a great conversation (podcast) with Andrew Dymski, the host of Inbound Agency Journey about how and where agency owners should be investing their time. We talked a little inbound but the lion’s share of the conversation would be relevant for any agency owner. Take a listen here. In the podcast, I talk about how a primary focus for any agency owner should be new business. In fact, about 50% of your time and attention should be devoted to it. How are you doing on that? To make that happen, you need to get out of the weeds of daily client work. You also need a plan of attack. Take a look at our online business course - AMI’s Agency New Business Blueprint. It just might be what you need to help you get out of the weeds. Like all AMI work, if you don’t like it, we’ll give you the money back. Check out the content here and hurry up before 2020 budgets and plans are created and you’re not part of the mix.
With all the buzz about establishing yourself as a thought leader and the long-term value of that effort, many agency owners have written or are thinking about writing a book to demonstrate their expertise. There is assumed esteem that comes from being a published author, whether you self-publish or choose to work with a hybrid or traditional publisher. No matter how your book comes to life unless you’re James Patterson, the promotion of your book is pretty much going to be on you. Odds are you didn’t write the book to make millions of dollars, but instead to use the book to build your position as a thought leader, open up opportunities to speak, or be sought out as an expert by the media. Some agency leaders write a book merely to be used as a three-dimensional business card! No matter what your end game, you have to get your book noticed before you can enjoy the benefits of going through the hard work of writing it. Here are some ideas on how to launch and promote your book. Ideally, you’ll have time to plan for all of this before your book comes out. But many of these tactics can be effective, no matter how long ago your book was first published. Build your audience before you need it: Depending on the subject matter of your book, start creating relationships with potential readers before the book is out. Focus on growing your social reach on the channels that you typically use and where you think your core audience is hanging out. You’re also going to want to build up an email list of people who are interested in your book’s topic. Hopefully, you are already [...]
I spend a lot of time in various agency conference rooms, critiquing their new business pitches. The invitation to do that usually comes after a streak of “we loved you, buts” or worse — not even making it to the final face to face meeting stage. The truth is — you are pitching your agency every day, whether it’s a formal review where you put on a suit and stand up in front of a committee or you’re sitting across the table from a prospect talking over coffee. Whatever the circumstance — the biggest (and most common) mistake agencies make is that we’re so enamored with our fill in the blank (proprietary process, programmatic prowess, award-winning creative, etc.) that we forget that is not what the prospect needs. They need results. They need proof that their marketing dollars are working. They need leads and sales. Go grab your last three proposals/pitches (word docs, PPT — whatever the format) and give yourself a score. How often do you talk about your agency (our work, our results, our team, our process, etc.) versus the tangible results that the prospect can reasonably expect if they hire you? If you’re honest and your proposals look like most — you are not going to get a passing grade.
I have a brilliant idea that I know could net me billions (with a b) of dollars. I should recruit/hire and train new business people for agencies. I could charge a premium for these sales superstars who not only understand the agency business but can have a deep discussion around any business issue and can also sell an agency’s abilities with passion and conviction. Sadly, the only humans who possess those unique qualities are you — agency owners. Yes — every once in a while, an agency spots and recruits the rare unicorn who can sell as well as an agency owner but for every success story I hear, I hear 99 tales of woe. The folks at Agency Post asked me to explore the idea of the mythical, magical new business guy and what agency owners should do instead and if you really want to dig into building a sustainable new business program for your agency — check out our online, on-demand course, Agency New Business Blueprint.
Everyone, even agency owners, makes mistakes now and then. However, the issue becomes more serious when the core of those mistakes (especially if they are repeated) is the agency's overarching business development strategy. If that is flawed, then the business is at risk. One of these common biz dev issues is what I call the “feast or famine” mentality. You recognize the cycle. You hunt down as much new business as you can find, then get so busy servicing clients that you stop chasing new business. All resources go to urgent matters like hitting deadlines, and meanwhile, blog posts don't get written and your monthly newsletter becomes a quarterly one. That can cost you a great deal…but it’s also 100% fixable. Hubspot asked me to write a series on new business challenges for agencies and the first piece covers this particular flaw in most agencies’ systems. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. If you really want to dig into building a sustainable new business program for your agency — consider our online, on-demand course Agency New Business Blueprint.