Episode 241:

Very few agency owners are giddy about the prospect of prospecting for new clients. It feels uncomfortable and unnatural. But what if it isn’t that they hate biz dev but that they just weren’t doing it in a way that aligns with their strengths? If sales felt comfortable and easy, wouldn’t you do more of it?

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, we are joined by biz dev expert Jody Sutter of The Sutter Company, a new business consultancy that advises small agencies on organizing and operationalizing their growth strategy. Her programs make it easier for small agencies to embrace and sustain a new business strategy because they take both the agency’s strengths and available resources into consideration. Jody walks us through the steps we can take to bolster our biz dev strategy as agencies and clients emerge from the storm.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

biz dev | Biz dev for agencies in crisis

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Jody’s background and what she is doing to serve agencies
  • Common biz dev mistakes that agency owners make
  • How agency owners can overcome fear and rejection in business development
  • The four strength profiles of agency owners and the nuances of each one
  • How to identify your strength profile and build a strategy that caters to it
  • Jody’s “prescriptive approach to new business”
  • How to stay the course while you’re constantly changing your mind about your agency
  • How agency owners can move from inaction to action
  • How Jody is helping her clients redirect their sales efforts during the global pandemic

The Golden Nuggets:

“Biz dev tends to be neglected until it’s urgent. A lot of it has to do with fear and misalignment of strengths with the job at hand.” @jodysutter Click To Tweet “Biz dev is a process where you will be turned down more times than you will be told ‘yes.’ I work with agency owners to put the odds in their favor.” @jodysutter Click To Tweet “When opportunities come through, agency owners feel as though they can go back to doing something they’re good at. It’s easy to convince yourself to return to your comfort zone.” @jodysutter Click To Tweet “Agency owners mistakenly think that if they can find a clone of themselves to play the new business role, they’re gonna be fine.” @jodysutter Click To Tweet “A New business ecosystem is no different than a natural ecosystem—you choose things that align with your strengths so you can achieve your goals quickly.” @jodysutter Click To Tweet

Ways to Contact Jody Sutter:

Tools & Resources:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ, we’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable and if you want down the road sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew:

Hey, everybody Drew Mcclellan here from Agency Management Institute with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Welcome, I’m glad you’re with us. I feel the need lately to timestamp some of these podcasts because we’re recording them and the conversations are relevant because we are in the middle of the COVID 19 crisis here in the States and in many parts of the world. And so just for a frame of reference for you we recorded this on April 3rd. You’ll probably hear it a good month after we recorded it and I am sure that the situation is going to be different. And if you’re listening to this, not in real time, so it’s 2021 or 2022, then this is like a little time capsule for you of what we were facing in the spring of 2020 here in the States.

So it’s April 3rd and most of the U.S. is working from home and sheltering in place. Much of the world is working from home and sheltering in place, and it’s kind of shut down and here in the States, this is about week three or four for most of us and we’re still in what I would call that panic and shock stage. We’re still a little stunned that this has happened, we’re certainly stunned at the rapid rate of active cases and the growth of active cases and the number of deaths, unfortunately and so it’s an interesting time for us as business people because the reality is how much is happening for many agencies in terms of biz dev. So 20% of the agencies out there are actually busier than ever, their client base or what they do PR shops in particular are super busy right now. Another 20%, the opposite end of the spectrum is looking at a 50% or more loss of revenue. And then there’s the 60%, the rest of the agencies are somewhere in the middle.

And we did a little quick poll of about 125 agencies and I would say on average agencies were estimating that the virus was going to impact them in terms of their AGI for 2020, between 15 and 20%. So that gives you sort of a view of the landscape. But one of the places that it’s really impacted agencies is how we are selling. So one of the interesting things for me is that every single day, since the coronavirus got real for us here in the States, so three weeks ago, every single day I’ve heard from an agency owner, a client who has landed a new piece of business in some cases it was somebody who had been in the pipeline for a while or the agency had actually already pitched for the business, in other cases it literally was somebody visited an agency’s website, called them and later that day signed a project authorization.

So the interesting sort of common denominator is that the clients are driving that demand more than the agencies are creating the demand. And that’s one of the things that shifted because right now to be selling aggressively we would look super tone deaf if we were behaving that way. This is very much in the early stages of this cycle that we’re going to go through and most businesses aren’t listening for selling signals, they aren’t listening to find a new agency right now, right now they’re trying to figure out if they can afford not to lay people off, alternate delivery systems for their products and services, just dealing with how we work from home together. I do believe that’s going to change I think in a couple of weeks, clients are going to be ready to have sales conversations, and they’re going to be ready to start thinking about how do they engage with their audiences. They’re going to realize that this is not a couple of weeks activity, but we’re going to be doing this for probably another month at least, and that they can’t be dormant that long.

But today they’re not ready to have that conversation, in 7 days, 10 days, 14 days, I think they will be ready. Which is one of the reasons why this podcast about biz dev I think is super important because I want by the time this airs, which will probably be a month or so from when we recorded it, clients will be ready to talk about opportunities to connect with audiences, whether it’s internal or prospects or their current customers, they will have been dormant long enough, they will have come out of sort of the haze of the shock of all of this and they will realize that despite the fact that we’re working from home, despite the fact that people are being super cautious and not leaving their house much at all, that doesn’t mean for many businesses that they can’t still engage with important audiences and they can’t keep selling their products or their services, which will then allow us start to get back to sales, all right?

But before I tell you any more about our guest and introduce her and get started in the conversation, I do want to remind you of a couple of quick things. One, we have launched a Facebook group for the podcast. So just go to Facebook and search for Build a Better Agency Podcast, there are no other people there yet we’ve only been doing it for probably about a month and then of course we had a little pandemic happen and so it’s been a little slow as you might imagine getting folks to come in there, which means that it’s a great time to ask questions because you’re not going to get lost in the crowd. So we would love to have you there, we would love to have you help us build the community. So just search for Build a Better Agency Podcast on Facebook and then you have to answer three simple questions. Are you an agency owner or a leader? What’s the URL of your agency? What’s on your mind? What do you want to talk about in the group? And do you promise to be nice? That’s really it.

So I can’t let you in if you don’t answer the questions, so please don’t skip those. The other thing I wanted to remind you is as we think about biz dev in this episode, I am a firm believer and you’ve heard me say it over and over again, that there are good fit clients and then there are clients who are great clients they’re just not great clients for us. And knowing which clients and being able to recognize which clients are a sweet spot client for you, that they really fit the bill and you’re going to be able to delight them on a regular basis, I think is a vital sort of filter for us to be using as we screen prospects. So we’ve put together what we call as you might imagine, the Sweet Spot Client Filter and to grab that, to download that PDF and be able to walk through the exercises, which include creating sort of a checklist of criteria that you want your clients or prospects to match before you pursue them and make them a client. So go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/client-filter. So again, agencymanagementinstitute.com/client-filter, okay?

All right, so let me tell you a little bit about our guest, so Jody Sutter has spent a couple of decades working in biz dev teams and sort of driving biz dev for agencies large and small. And about six years ago she launched her own business called The Sutter Company with the intention of helping agencies do biz dev better because quite frankly, a lot of agencies can use some help in that arena and so Jody decided that she was going to do that. And she’s developed some very interesting view points and tools and insights around biz dev and she like I believe that the best sales person for most agencies, especially agencies under 50 people is the agency owner and certainly a team sport, no doubt about that, but that the agency owner should be out front and center. And that’s certainly what Stephen Woessner and I talk about in our book Sell with Authority and I know that a lot of what we believe in aligns with what Jody also preaches and teaches.

So I’m gonna jump right into the conversation because I know she has a lot to teach us and I don’t want to waste a second of her time, so let’s just get to it. Jody, welcome to the podcast. I should have done this a long time ago, I’m glad you’re finally on the show.

Jody:

I am too. You know, I was thinking about the number of years, it’s been a few years and so I’m thrilled to be back.

Drew:

Yeah, it’s great. Tell everybody who may not be familiar with you a little bit about your background and what you’re doing today to help and serve agencies.

Jody:

Sure. So my career has been pretty much dominated by business development for creatively oriented firms. A lot of ad agencies, but also design firms and digital agencies. So I’ve worked with a range of different types of firm, large and small, always on the business development side. And when I started my own firm about six years ago… I think that’s about right six years ago, initially I was a bit of as much of a generalist as I advise my clients not to be, and then I actually took my own advice and I did a bit of an ideal client exercise and what I realized is that I worked best with a smaller agencies and specifically with the CEO or founder or president of these small agencies. And what I found is that for an agency of a certain size, and I quantify it as being about 50 or less people, really that CEO is the best business development resource that agency has.

It’s not the only business development resource that agency has, but at that size no matter whether the agency wants to grow really big or stay that size, CEO has to be integrally involved and what I realized is that when I could put a prescriptive strategy in place that the CEO could embrace, then the agency tended to thrive when it came to winning new business. And when that didn’t happen, usually they don’t. So yeah, so that’s where I’ve focused now, smaller agencies, prescriptive approach to new business, getting the CEO to lead the charge and putting a strategy in place that helps him or her do that best.

Drew:

And prior to owning your own business, you came to have all of this insight and knowledge because you what?

Jody:

Well, I worked with a lot of different types of agency owners certainly. I think that’s where the experience where the breadth of type of business really comes in, so that this is going from small startups to mid-sized boutique design firms to running global departments for agencies of 1500 people.

Drew:

So you were inside agencies, you started on the inside.

Jody:

Exactly. Exactly.

Drew:

Yeah. So what are the mistakes that you see agency owners making around biz dev because I’m curious if they’re the same ones that I spot.

Jody:

Yeah, I know. Well, they probably are and of course I think about that question like, “Where do I start?” But some of the areas where I have been focusing most of my energy is around the mistakes that agencies make is around inaction. So I think there are a lot of reasons why new business tends to be neglected until it’s urgent. And I think a lot of it has to do with fear and misalignment of strengths to the job at hand.

Drew:

So tell me more about that.

Jody:

Yeah. So I think fear actually plays a big part it. Fear, doubt and I think that the fear plays out in certain ways. Number one, I think there’s just a fear of rejection. So especially if you’re talking about a small agency CEO who is not necessarily a business development expert, and their agency is really only going to thrive as long as they are really involved in it, so you have this real fear of rejection. I think most people, business development is one of these things where you’re probably going to be turned down more than you’re not, now a lot of times I always work to help put the odds in their favor so they’re turned down less and pursued more.

So there’s a fear of rejection, I think there’s also a really big fear around simply knowing where to start. There’s a fear that once they do start, whether they’re going to be able to sustain it for the longterm, and there’s a fear around knowing what’s really going to work. So I think that leads a lot of people to inaction and they sort of put their hands together and pray that while they’re trying to figure out a couple of big pitches, we’ll come over the transom and then they can forget about it for a while as they chase opportunistic dollars.

Drew:

Right. I call that the feast and famine pattern, right? So they don’t do much with biz dev and then all of a sudden, a big client leaves or they get the sign that they’re leaving and then they pull out all the stops. So they’re doing everything to everyone and then they land a client or two, and then they get so busy onboarding and nurturing that client that all of the efforts for biz dev go away and then it’s just this repeating cycle of going from zero to 60, zero to 60 and never sustaining any sort of an effort.

Jody:

Yes, absolutely. And so there’s that part and then the other part that I found is that I realized that I think one of the reasons why that happens too is that when those opportunities come in and either of those reactive opportunities or the agency gets busy again, then that agency leader can go back to doing something that she or he is good at, right? So there’s a sense of relief.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

Like I don’t have to make all those cold calls because I’ve got existing clients I got to keep happy and that’s a legitimate reason not to do business development or seemingly so.

Drew:

It’s easy to convince yourself to go back to your comfort zone, right?

Jody:

Exactly.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

Exactly what I say.

Drew:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jody:

So I’ve found I used to be in a position where I was trying to persuade and control and sometimes threaten my clients to embrace what I would call this holistic approach to business development, doing a little bit of everything. And so when it didn’t work enough times I thought, “Okay, I have to do my own analysis here and figure out why that is.” And what I realized is that we don’t tend to do things that don’t play to our strengths. So then I thought, “Well, what if I could re-engineer what I do to help these agencies’ CEOs do things that play to their strengths?” And that’s been a lot more successful and I’ve come up with this rubric for new business personalities that I think most agency owners personify and for each one there’s a slightly different strategy. So if I can make an agency owner feel comfortable that their strengths can be applied to business development, then they’re much more likely to sustain it over time.

Drew:

So walk us through because you have four sort of strength profiles, right?

Jody:

Exactly.

Drew:

Walk us through those and help us understand the nuance between each one, if you can.

Jody:

Yeah. And just a huge caveat, this is thoroughly unscientific although as you know, I started working in this fashion in the last couple of years, and I have actually been gathering real data on who I’m encountering and sort of brushing up these profiles. I will say it’s still pretty unscientific especially next to some other profiling stuff that’s out there.

Drew:

Right, but it’s based on your own experience and you’re seeing agencies thrive when you put them in sort of the right profile category. So it’s not that this is untested, you just couldn’t prove it in a court of law yet.

Jody:

Exactly.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

Maybe the one day, give me a few years and I will for sure-

Drew:

Yeah, right.

Jody:

So here are the four strengths profiles that I see. First of all there’s the hunter, and the hunter is your natural born sales person. They are the type of person who thrives on the energy of one-on-one relationships. I described them as that kind of person who gets on the plane in New York’s JFK to go across the country and they get off the plane five hours later in Los Angeles and they’ve got a business card of the person they’re sitting next to and a potential opportunity for business, right? A lot of people are really good at that, a lot of people aren’t. They tend to be pretty good with details, they appreciate them although they may not be that great with them themselves.

And they tend to be hyper focused on customer service. Customer is always [inaudible 00:18:29] all about the relationship. So I have found hunters, but in general I find that they are a relatively rare breed.

Drew:

Yeah, I call them unicorns.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

Because it is not the most common.

Jody:

No.

Drew:

Is dev’s person or agency owner out there, absolutely.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

So the other second one is the communicator, and the communicator is the big idea person. They are exceedingly good at taking complex information and boiling it down to concepts that are easy to understand. They are the type of people who thrive in doing a Ted Talk or doing a big address to a lot of people. They potentially are the ones who are perennially on the pitch team, the people who always complain about how they have to do another presentation because they’re so good in front of an audience. They’re so good with boiling down information to its essential bits. They often are not that great on the details and because they are so good in front of a large audiences, they can also skew a little bit arrogant. So customer service is not always their best feature, but really good with a large audience.

And then I have the promoter. So the promoter is the type of person who has got something to say, and isn’t afraid to say it, so look out. Their business life bleeds into their personal life and vice versa. Gary Vaynerchuk is my poster child for the ultimate promoter. So the guy completely practices what he preaches and hopefully everyone out there knows Gary Vaynerchuk. I have actually been in agencies especially in other countries where I’ve gotten looks because people don’t know who he is, but Gary Vaynerchuk, the owner of VaynerMedia, the owner and founder of Intermedia started out running his family’s wine business, right? And then that grew it into one of the biggest digital agencies out there today. So the guy practices what he preaches, he’s always on, he’s always promoting himself. And whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that VaynerMedia has been shaped by him.

Now, unlike a communicator, I don’t think Gary Vaynerchuk for all his strengths is a terribly good speaker. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him speaking live, but he’s usually pretty disorganized and [inaudible 00:20:49].

Drew:

And I’m not sure his speech would have more than three words in it if you drop all the F-bombs out of it.

Jody:

That’s right. That’s right.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

But I would also venture to guess that VaynerMedia still gets a lot of their new business leads because of the strength of his personality.

Drew:

Sure without a doubt. I’m sure he’s one of those things where people either run to him or run away from him, right?

Jody:

Absolutely. Then you have the thinkers. The fourth profile is a thinker, and the thinker is the introvert of the bunch, they tend to be the heads of research. A lot of times people have modeled the thinker on especially one head of research study I worked with a bunch of years ago. So what’s interesting about them though like any introvert, they get energy from more introverted intellectual pursuits. Like the communicator however, they tend to be quite good at taking complex ideas and boiling them down into easy things to understand. Also interestingly, they tend to have a lot more than you would think in common with a hunter because they can actually be pretty good on a one-on-one level, you just have to frame them in the right way or frame the situation up in the right way.

Drew:

They’re certainly going to be more comfortable in that than a big group setting.

Jody:

And what I’ve found is that there are a fair amount of thinkers out there. Agency owners, agency CEOs, agency leaders who are thinkers and if I can give them a strategy that makes them feel comfortable, they usually embrace it. And often that strategy will be around things like working on having the agency do an annual or a semi-annual original research or have them write a book and then support them in the way that they need to be supported for that. So being a thinker, it is possible to be a good and successful and effective business development person if you’re a thinker, but those are the four personalities hunter, communicator, promoter, and thinker.

Drew:

So go back and give us… Because what you’re talking about is basically you’re coaching them to do things that lean into their strengths. So for example, what would be some things that you would encourage a hunter to do that is sort of natural to them besides fly on planes and talk to perfect strangers?

Jody:

Well, they are the ones out of those four for whom it makes the most sense to do a fairly traditional outbound prospecting led new business strategy, but usually they need the support of someone who’s going to help them maintain the lists, who are going to help them stay on track, making sure they stick to their schedule of when they’re going to be doing their outreach, getting them out there and doing the networking and getting them to events. But they are the ones that are most likely to be successful and comfortable with this idea of walking up to a perfect stranger, whether it’s in a live setting or a virtual setting on a call or even an email.

Drew:

Okay. What about the communicator?

Jody:

So the communicator, not surprisingly would be more of a speaking strategy. So a lot of agencies always say, “We want to get up there. We want to get onto the keynote circuit and we want to start speaking, but they don’t always have a great idea.” Like there’s not something strong enough that would make an event organizer say, “Yeah, I want that person on my stage.”

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

Communicators usually have that, so that’s the other thing. I’m sort of digressing a little bit, but sometimes the key is to look at not only the CEO or the owner of the agency, but his or her team. So sometimes it’s smart if an agency is led by a thinker to look at her deputy and realize that she’s actually a really great communicator. So let’s do a business development strategy more around that. Anyway, so a communicator would be a speaker led strategy supported by publicity, and supported also by a lot of coordination to make sure you’re sort of gathering up the leads that are being generated when they’re going out to these events and speaking.

Drew:

Okay, and how about the promoter?

Jody:

The promoter in some ways can be similar to the communicator, but that’s going to be a little bit more harnessing the energy that they have and sometimes it’s also a little bit more of… The other person that I use as an example of a promoter is Bob Greenburg, who is now the chairman of R/GA. And I’ve worked with Bob, I’ve worked for him a couple of times in my career and he’s very different from Gary Vaynerchuk, but he is a master of building his brand. And I don’t think there’s anything negative about that, but he innately understands that the more that he can promote himself as a brand and a brand that reflects the ideals and the character of his agency, the better it’s going to be for his agency.

So I think promoters naturally understand that and are willing, I think that’s why I say their business bleeds into their personal and their personal bleeds into their business, but it takes a very specific type of person who’s going to be willing to do that. In some ways it’s the hardest to prescribe without an actual personality in front of me, because it’s about as I said, harnessing that unique energy that each one of them has.

Drew:

Well, and I think one of the things that’s interesting about that group is when you use an example like Gary people are probably like, “I don’t want to be like him.” or “I’d love to be like him.” Right? And it doesn’t mean you have to have the same personality as another promoter that you’re looking at. In fact, I would assume that it has to be born out of the personality of the promoter. So it might be that somebody is much more soft-spoken, but equally passionate than a Gary, or it might be that somebody is cut out of a very different cloth than either of the two gentlemen you’ve mentioned, but they still are willing to be the brand, right?

Jody:

That’s right. In fact, I have a relatively specific example of that, it also ties into the thinker. I worked with an agency that had a strong positioning, which by the way, all this conversation is based on the premise that for this to work the agency has to have a viable positioning. This is a small agency, woman run, they have quite a strong positioning with a clear target of women over 40. It’s run by a pair of thinkers, but they are so passionate about their mission they’ve got a bit of that promoter in there. They’re willing to let that bleed into things. And so they’ve been super good at embracing a sort of a speaker-led new business strategy to get themselves out there and promoting themselves. And it’s really worked, it’s resulted in leads, but that’s kind of an example where it was sort of more like a thinker with a bit of a promoter backup. And that’s the other thing I find, is that usually it’s rare to find agency leaders that are just one personality. Usually they say, “Well, I think I’m mostly that but with a strong dose of that.”

Drew:

And do you find that most agency owners are able to self-diagnose which of those they are?

Jody:

For the most part once they’re introduced to the framework, then yes. And the couple of times I haven’t had people who are able to self-diagnose and to be honest, it sort of stumped me because I think once people see themselves, it becomes easy and when they don’t see it, then we have to dig a little bit deeper and figure out which one they really are.

Drew:

And do you sometimes find people who may either self-diagnosed or you diagnose them, but that’s not the profile they want to be? Or do people embrace, “Yep. That’s me.”

Jody:

I’ve never had that situation happen in general. When they see the personalities, they actually get pretty excited, they’re really enthusiastic about kind of stepping into the role that they recognize they are.

Drew:

And probably a little relieved.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

Right. That I don’t have to do stuff that… I think when I hear a lot of agency owners do is, “I don’t want to fill in the blank, make cold calls, give speeches, whatever it is. I don’t want to do that part.” and in your model is because those tasks don’t align with their profile.

Jody:

That’s right.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

That’s right.

Drew:

Yeah, makes sense.

Jody:

What’s interesting also is that you do have to… The other thing I’ve been working on lately is sustaining that over the longterm, like year one, year two, year three plans for the different personalities, because the fact is even an agency run by a thinker there’s going to have to be some element of sales.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

And so the question then becomes who else on the team can do that? And I think the other mistake that agency owners or agency leaders tend to make is this, they mistakenly think as long as they find a clone of themselves to bring in, there’s that deputy who’s going to play the new business role, then they’re going to be fine. And of course the clone is a mistake because it’s usually more of one thing that you don’t need and you don’t have the complimentary talents. So if I can work with the CEO to then say, “Let’s first work with what you have now, the resources you’ve got now and then look to the future to see how you need to fill in the strengths you don’t have.”

Drew:

Yeah. So you’ve mentioned a couple of times sort of this prescriptive approach to new business. So I want to talk about that, but first let’s take a quick break. And when we come back, we’ll have you tell us what that’s all about. Okay?

Jody:

Sure.

Drew:

Sorry for the interruption, but I wanted to make sure you knew that for a limited time, probably till the end of June or so, we are offering all of our on-demand courses at 50% off. I know that all of you are trying to maximize any spare time that you or your team have and this may be a great time for you to think about is biz dev gear, AEs tuned up, or think about how you’re going to manage the money inside your agency. So we have those three courses. We have the AE bootcamp, we have the Agency New Business Blueprint, and we have Money Matters all on demand and for now are all at 50% off. All you have to do is head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/online-courses. Again agencymanagementinstitute.com/online-courses and you will see the description for all three courses and you can register there and all you have to do is register and it automatically calculates the 50% off, I hope it helps.

Okay. Welcome back everybody. I am here with Jody Sutter and we’re talking about biz dev and right before the break, I mentioned that one of the things that Jody coaches and teaches is what she calls anyway, a prescriptive approach to new business. So can you define that for us?

Jody:

Yeah. So it’s an approach based on a few elements. One, your new business goals. So how you want to grow your agency and that doesn’t necessarily have to mean doubling in size, sometimes it’s more of a qualitative growth, or sometimes it’s more about shifting into different categories. So there’s the goals, there’s the strengths of the individuals who are running the agency and we will be talking about that a little bit, and then there are the things that you can do to get there. And I developed this idea that I call the new business ecosystem. So one of the things I started thinking about when I thought about all the things that an agency could be doing I thought well… When I realized that that was really unrealistic, I started getting my clients to say, “If you could only do one thing, what would it be?” And then once that was established, we would add in another layer of it.

And so I started thinking about, “Well, maybe it is really more about the idea of an ecosystem.” And so an ecosystem is defined as a system or a network of components that work well together and that when you introduce things that are conducive to that environment, it nurtures growth and so a new business ecosystem is no different from a natural ecosystem. So the idea is you choose things that are going to align to your strengths, that are going to get you to meet your goals fastest and you build a system around that. Another mistake I see agency owners doing is… It just happened to me this week on a call with a new client where he said, “Well, I’ve tried all these things, but they haven’t worked.” and he’s still a new client so we’re still figuring out why they haven’t worked.

But my hunch is that one, he either didn’t do them for long enough or two, he did them without a strategy or three, he did them in isolation. So, “I’m going to try blogging and that didn’t work. And now I’m going to try speaking and that didn’t work. And I’m going to try hiring a lead generation firm that didn’t work.” when really everything needs to work together. Your success will be exponential if everything can work together.

Drew:

Right. And so how do you help them stay the course? Because I think that’s the hardest part. They get great ideas, they get all excited, they maybe come up with a direct mail campaign or whatever. I mean, we as agency people are great at coming up with big ideas and making the stuff.

Jody:

Yes.

Drew:

But I think part of the challenge is we’re so easily bored and to your point of, “He tried this for a little while, tried this for a little while.” and nothing took root immediately. He plants the bulb and he goes out the next morning and there’s no plant. So it’s like, “Screw it. That [inaudible 00:35:05].” Right? So how do you help them stay the course?

Jody:

So a couple of things, usually what I also try to do is we try to identify those tactics that are going to produce some wins quickly. And it doesn’t always work but that’s… Because I think that psychologically, if I can give them something that’s going to produce a pretty quick win, then they’re going to want to keep doing more. It’s like, I don’t know if you’re a golfer, I’m not much of a golfer, but when you hit that perfect shot, you’re willing to endure rounds of really badly played golf just for the hope that you’re going to hit the perfect shot again.

Drew:

That’s how I feel about putt-putt golf. That once you get it through the clown’s mouth, you’re good for the next several holes.

Jody:

Oh, it’s so satisfying.

Drew:

Yeah. Right.

Jody:

So something I’ve been doing fairly recently, because what I realized is that I would find I’d have these productive workshops one day or two day workshops and then nothing would happen or even I’d have successful long-term coaching arrangement, and by successful I meant that they kept coming back but two years later I would look at what we were trying to achieve and we hadn’t met those benchmarks yet. So I’ve started to work on a 12 week sprint basis and I’m not the first to do it. So you have lots of other business experts out there who are big believers in the 12th week or 90 day sprint or 90 day goals, like…

Drew:

Like traction.

Jody:

Exactly. Exactly. So I’ve been influenced by a lot of different people who believe in that and I’ve created a system based on 12 week sprints. And there are a few things that are important about these 12 week sprints. One is we set goals at the beginning and the goals aren’t necessarily… I used to let my clients get away with goals like, “I want to double my revenue or increased revenue by 30%.” The thing is that that’s a lagging indicator so we start adding goals that are also leading indicators. Like what are they going to do in order to change their current habits, to make the change that they ultimately want to see? So that might be the willingness to review and redo materials or the willingness to carve out the time each week or the willingness to learn new skills.

And then we set it up with a 12 week goals and we break them down into weekly tasks. And the key thing is we score those tasks so at the end of every week my clients send to me how they did and we keep tab and if they are above a certain level, the likelihood is that they’re going to meet their goals. And if they’re below for a couple of weeks often there are good reasons for it. If they’re below that goal consistently, then we go back and we find out, is it the wrong goal? Is it the wrong tactic? Or what else is getting in the way that is preventing them from doing it? And that’s been fairly successful in keeping people on track and also seeing a real difference.

Drew:

Yeah. I think one of the challenges is the goals are lofty and they’re so far away that it’s easy to allow… I often talk about an agency owner’s life is they walk in the door and they look around and there are fires all over the place and they just identify which is the biggest fire? They run, they put out that fire and that’s what they do all day. They assess fires and they put out fires.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

Unfortunately biz dev is rarely a fire. It is a fire the day your biggest client fires you or there are moments when biz dev becomes a fire and all of a sudden they’re very-

Jody:

There’s time to do it.

Drew:

Right, they are very enthusiastic about working on it, but the minute it’s not on fire and there are fires burning all around them it’s super easy to get distracted because I think you feel like you’ve accomplished something. “I talked that employee off the ledge. I caught a problem with this creative and worked with the creative team to make it better. I had a great call with a client and got them to buy a new program.” or something else. Those are wins and they’re immediate. And when your biz-dev goal is, “12 months from now, I want to have more revenue.” it’s pretty easy on Tuesday to go, “Not today.” right?

Jody:

Right.

Drew:

So I can see how the 12 week sprint with more closely defined goals, would be not only more impactful, but it would feel like that’s an itch I have to scratch now, right? I can’t put that off for another three months.

Jody:

That’s right.

Drew:

Yeah.

Jody:

I think also giving yourself the freedom to have some leading indicators, like a number of new contacts or the stuff that you know you need to do in order to see that final result. And then also the satisfaction, if you can score your week well, of thinking, “Well, I did a great job. I know I did everything I said I was going to do this week.” and so if these are truly leading indicators, then I’m going to get to my goal.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

It’s also pretty motivating when you don’t get a great score too.

Drew:

Right. Right. We’re very competitive people we agency owners, right? Yeah.

Jody:

That’s right.

Drew:

As I’m listening to you, I’m also thinking this is a technique that agencies could also use with their own clients. Because again, our clients also set these lagging indicator goals that are super far away and then they look at us and they go, “Well, how come we’re not there yet.” right? But if we helped our clients dissect, “Okay, what does it take to make sale?” “Well, it takes 10 presentations.” “What does it take to get 10 presentations?” We keep backing it up till we get to the point of, “Okay. Well, we’ve got to touch 5,000 people in some way this week with an email, with an ad, with a coupon, with a social media post, whatever it is.” Now, we can also help them pace themselves better and hold us accountable to those leading indicators rather than just the lagging indicator.

Jody:

That’s right. And I find that people are so much more willing to take responsibility for their own actions.

Drew:

Right. Right.

Jody:

Absolutely.

Drew:

So for you, we’ve hinted at this a couple of times that agencies and agency owners are brilliant at planning and thinking and white boarding and strategizing, how do you get them done with that and actually doing stuff?

Jody:

All right. Well again, having a framework I think makes a big difference so that they know that when we say go, they’ve got stuff they got to do that week. So typically what I’ve been doing with a lot of my standard coaching package, it used to be a six month minimum and now I’ve expanded it to an eight months minimum because it gives us time at the beginning to set things up, to set goals, to set standards of time management, figure out what those leading and lagging indicators are. And then it gives us time in the end to reassess, and I’ve been doing 2, 12 week sprints back to back. So it’s time at the beginning, sprint, short break, reassess, another sprint, and then sort of wrap things up and decide if we’re going to keep going or not. So once we start, once we say go and they’ve got their list of things that they got to do that week and they got to tell me at the end of the week whether they did them or not.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

No. Look, it’s not foolproof. There are agencies who fall short and it ends up being a bad investment on their end because they’re not willing to do what they need to do, or it’s not the right technique for them. But for those agencies where it works, it keeps them on track.

Drew:

Yeah. I often say the best thing about being an agency owner is you’re accountable to no one. And the worst thing about being an agency owner is you’re accountable to no one.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

And I think a lot of what you’re talking about is just baking in accountability to a coach like you, or to themselves, or to their own team because it’s easy for us to be distracted by the urgent and feel like we’ve spent our day well but when we make promises to ourself or a coach or a team that we’re going to accomplish these things, whatever they are, now we have to fess up if we did them or not.

Jody:

And I think what also is useful with a coaching relationship is that there’s no like what happens here stays here. You don’t have to go to your team and say, “I’m sorry, I failed you this week.” What that person is doing-

Drew:

And there is no shaming.

Jody:

Exactly. It’s between them and me. I mean, if they want to share it with a team, that’s great.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

So I tend to be a relatively empathetic nurturing person, so if there are few scores that I want to help them, I want to make the tweaks that where we need to get them up to a higher score and get rid of those [inaudible 00:44:21] scores.

Drew:

Right. Right. Right.

Jody:

Yeah.

Drew:

We’re recording this in the midst of the COVID crisis, I’m curious how you’re helping your clients redirect their sales efforts in this time.

Jody:

Yeah. So, with a few different approaches. But in general, we’ve been taking more of like… If I had to generalize my advice it’s to take much more of a marketing oriented approach. So do I think it’s the right time to do outreach especially that initial introductory outreach? Probably not. I don’t think anyone is in the mindset for that.

Drew:

Not yet.

Jody:

Yeah, not yet. Not yet. And it could be next week, it could be a month from now, but eventually they’ll be back there, it’ll be okay to do that again. We’re trying to figure out messages that communicate value and even there, I think you have to be careful because I know that I’ve certainly been besieged by a lot of “value oriented messaging” which has actually had zero value to me.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

And it’s also amazing how quickly I found that I couldn’t attend all the webinars and open office hours that I was curious to attend that might even help me as a professional.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

So it’s also a lot of sort of taking the temperature and figuring out what’s going to be most valuable to your audience. So the other thing, and I hope at this point most people have done this, is making sure that my clients are reassuring the prospects that are at the end of the sales funnel. So this ones that are closest to closing, to not take for granted that those people really need to be reassured that you’re open and ready for business and you’re in a position to take that business on and do well with it, assuming that’s actually the case. So I think a lot of people are scared now to continue on with their pitches or their reviews, or maybe to award a piece of business and I think the more an agency can say, “You don’t need to wait because we’re in a position to be successful with us.” then I think that’s important as well.

Drew:

Yeah. And I will tell you that every day this week I’ve gotten an email from a client saying they landed a new piece of business.

Jody:

Wow.

Drew:

And so there are businesses out there that are still working, they’re still looking for a good agency partner so I think being available and receptive to that opportunity is key, you just have to make sure that you don’t look or sound tone deaf in the effort, right?

Jody:

Yeah. And I think that there are some categories of business that are clearly suffering a lot more than others. But I think the companies that are either thriving in this environment, because I think there are some, or are able to pivot in order to thrive, are the ones that still need work to be done. You may be familiar with ID Comms that they do agency reviews, as well as research and commentary mostly on media agency and on the media business, media buying and planning, one of the things they just came out with a report this week, and they pointed out that these especially larger businesses, larger corporations, it’s not necessarily to their benefit to put a hold on major marketing initiatives.

Drew:

Right.

Jody:

So I think that most agencies have to be aware that there are companies that got to keep moving and so they also can’t be too sensitive. For some, there’s a real reason to get out there.

Drew:

Yeah. It’s an interesting time, that’s for sure. But you know what? Whether we’re in the midst of COVID or we’re back to normal, which I know we all are anxious to get to, I think biz dev is always going to be a challenge for agencies. And so I think what you’ve shared with us today is applicable now, and it will be applicable in a couple of months when we’re back on firmer ground, so I’m grateful for you being here and for sharing your expertise. Thank you. Thanks for making the time, I appreciate it.

Jody:

Oh Drew thank you very much. I appreciate it too.

Drew:

So if folks want to learn more about your work, you produce a lot of content that is super valuable to agencies if they want to be able to make sure they’re on the receiving end of all of that, how do they track you down and make sure they can avail themselves of that.

Jody:

Sure. Well, they can find me on my website, that’s probably the best way. And that’s www.thesuttercompany.com. And I’m also happy to make available in your show notes a couple of links to some tools, I’ve got a very simple new business ecosystem, a worksheet that if people would like to download I’m happy to make that available to them and they can find me that way too.

Drew:

Awesome. So we’ll include all of that in the show notes. So for those of you that are out and about walking the dog or doing something where you can’t jot this down, have no worries we’ll have it in the show notes for you and you can connect with Jody there. Jody, thanks for being with us, appreciate it.

Jody:

Thank you very much for having me.

Drew:

Of course. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. There was a ton of things in this episode that you can take action on right now. And again, regardless of when you’re listening this, if you’re listening to it in real time, and we’re still wrestling our way through the COVID situation, or you’re listening to it in 2021, because you just found the podcast, what Jody shared with you is very evergreen and very actionable. So this is not an episode that you should just listen to and go, “Oh yeah, that was good.” I want you to do something with it. So commit to doing something, even if it’s just identifying which of the four new business profiles you are, and maybe leaning into those strengths a little bit and giving yourself permission to not do things that feel really uncomfortable to you. But lots of actionable items here so please take advantage of that.

I want to put out a big thank you to our friends at White Label IQ, they as you know are our presenting sponsor, they make it possible for me to hang out with you every week. So if you’re looking for a White Label PPC design or web dev, they are your go-to source, head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami because they’ve put together a special deal just for you the podcast listeners. And a reminder that every month we give away a seat at one of our workshops and all you need to do to qualify for that is leave us a rating and review on the podcast, wherever you happen to download your podcast and remember that I need a screenshot of that because your username bikerchick63 does not tell me who you are or what agency you own.

So grab a screenshot, send it to me and we will put you in the drawing for one of our workshops. That’s one of our live workshops or one of our on demand workshops and those retail for a couple of thousand bucks on average so five minutes of work on your part, not a bad deal. All right, I’ll be back next week with another guest. In the meantime, you know how to find me at agencymanagementinstitute.com. I’ll see you soon, thanks for listening. Thanks for spending some time with us, visit our website to learn about our workshops, owner peer groups and download our salary and benefits survey. Be sure you also sign up for our free podcast giveaways at agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway.