Episode 268

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Successful business development strategies are always a hot topic when I’m talking with agency owners. That was true before the pandemic, so you can imagine how often we’re talking about it now! Business development for agencies has made a 180 over the past decade. Have you changed the way you sell to keep current?

Greg Jacobs is the head of Strategic Partnerships at Schiefer Chop Shop, an Irvine-based brand transformation agency where he developed a unique recipe for successful business development strategies. He also led NASCAR’s unscripted content division and served as Head (SVP) of Monetization at Red Bull & Red Bull Media House. As you might imagine, with that background, he comes at prospecting for his agency in a very different way.

During our conversation, Greg walks us through his approach to creating successful business development strategies and offers up some suggestions for agency owners who are looking to hire a salesperson for their shop. It’s never too late to re-tool your own biz dev strategies and this episode is sure to point you in the right direction.

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.

 Successful Business Development Strategies

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Greg’s approach to building successful business development strategies and how agency owners can use it in their own niches
  • Greg’s transition from content creation to biz dev
  • How Greg mediates between biz dev and content creation teams
  • How to attract and retain the right biz dev talent
  • What Greg does to differentiate his agency and make it stand out from the crowd
  • How content plays a role in Greg’s biz dev efforts today
  • How newcomers can be successful in an agency biz dev role
“Content can be a universal language. If a brand has an interesting story and you can tell that story in a short form piece of content, the brand now has an asset they can use across their owned and operated channels.” @GregoryJacobs Share on X “The key metric of any piece of content is engagement. Will they click on it, will they watch it, and will they stay for a period of time?” @GregoryJacobs” @GregoryJacobs Share on X “There is no biz dev rep worth their salt that will do one of two things: A) Work on commission only. And B) Claim they can close business in less than six months.” @GregoryJacobs Share on X “Successful business development strategies give reps a window of time to figure it out, proper onboarding, some kind of retainer, and the ability to maintain relationships post-close.” @GregoryJacobs Share on X “Successful business development strategies are all about finding a balance between what you want to make and what fits your partner’s brand.” @GregoryJacobs Share on X

Ways to contact Greg Jacobs:

Additional Resources:

Speaker:

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, will 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 McLellan:

Hey there, everybody. Drew McLellan here, from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. If there is a common topic that I am often, when I say often probably daily, having these agency owners and leaders, it’s usually around some aspect of Biz Dev. And so this episode is going to take a look at Biz Dev from an interesting perspective.  But before we get into that, a couple things that I want to remind you about. So, if you are a regular listener of the Build a Better Agency Podcast, that we are doing a conference.

I had originally scheduled it for May of 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, we moved it to November of 2020. And then, unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t going to be ready for us in November. And so I am a firm believer that the third time is the charm. And so we have now moved it to August 10th, and 11th 2021. And I would love for you to be there. And let me tell you some of the reasons why I want you to be there. Number one, I want you to get out of your house. And I think by August of 2021, you’ll be ready to do that. Number two, I want you to be surrounded by people like you, people who have a passion for the business, people who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into starting or buying and building their agency.

And people who are out there, working it and trying to make it work and trying to be as successful as possible. And building these amazing agencies, I want you to be surrounded by that. And I want them to be surrounded by you. I want you to be with amongst your own kind, if you will. And, there really is not another conference out there that is built for small to mid-sized agencies. And so that’s why I decided to do this. I’ve known, I’ve felt the absence in the marketplace for a long time. And honestly, it’s a huge commitment and a huge financial risk. And I just didn’t have the courage to do it. So of course brilliantly, I decided at the end of 2019, to launch it in 2020 not, of course, knowing we were going to be in the middle of a global pandemic, but nonetheless, in for a penny in for a pound. So we’re going to do it. So I want you to get out of your house. I want you to be with like-minded people. I want you to learn from these amazing speakers that we have assembled together. So I’m talking the likes of Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer, and Robin Boehler and folks who are going to talk about how to get your agency ready to sell. We’re going to talk about how to build your wealth outside of the agency.

So that if you sell your agency or not, it really won’t matter because you’ll have built this nest egg outside of the agency. We’re going to talk about imposter syndrome. We’re going to talk about how to really figure out what is the core of your story? And how do you weave it through everything you do, whether it’s for your agency or for your clients. We are going to talk about diversity issues inside agencies and how do we have those uncomfortable conversations. So we’ve got all kinds of things happening, that I think you are going to find fascinating and helpful. And I think you’re also going to find it uplifting. I think you’re going to find it invigorating. I want to fill your bucket up. We have all had a hellacious 2020. And by 2021, I want to make sure that you are running with a full tank of gas and you’re inspired, and you’re ready to go.

And so I hope that this conference, I hope you come to this first one, this inaugural conference, because that’s going to say to me, “You know what Drew, we should keep doing this.” Because I really do think coming together once a year, in this relatively intimate setting it’s not going to be a huge 1000s and 1000s of agencies, it’s going to be a few 100 agency owners and leaders. Coming together in this intimate setting and talking about our craft, talking about the business of our business. How do we do this well? How do we make more money? How do we keep more of the money we make? All of those topics, I think are going to be critical. So we’re going to have a CPA there that’s going to talk to you about tax strategies.

We’re going to have an accountant there talking to you about cash flow. So, I really do think we have assembled the best of the best to help you build and grow your agency. And I really hope that you are inspired to join us, you can look at the speaker lineup, and you can grab a ticket at the agencymanagementinstitute.com website, in the upper left corner and have button says BaBA, so Build a Better Agency Summit, just click on that. And you can read more about it, you can buy a ticket, you can book your hotel room, you can do all of those things. And I just, I really hope that you can make it, make it work so that you can be with us. I really want that to happen. For you and for me, I would love to hang out with you for a couple days.

So, that would be awesome. Okay, so today’s topic is Biz Dev, and Greg Jacobs is a guy who works today out in Orange County, so little South of LA. And he works for an agency and he is their Biz Dev guy. And he goes about Biz Dev from a very interesting perspective because of his background. And so when I met him, I thought he would have some interesting things for us to think about. Whether you are the Biz Dev person for your shop, or you have a Biz Dev person in your shop, or you think you would like to hire someone to do Biz Dev for your shop. I think in all of those cases, Greg will serve up some nuggets that will be super helpful to you. So, let us not delay one more second. Let’s just jump into the conversation. Greg, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Gregory Jacobs:

Thanks for having me Drew. I appreciate it a lot.

Drew McLellan:

So give the listeners a little bit about your background. So you’ve been a content creator long before we called it content. But you’ve been doing this for a really long time. So give everybody a sense of, from your family background on, how you really came from a content background, and then how you shifted to really being focused on Biz Dev for your agency.

Gregory Jacobs:

So looking back on, the family business was started in 1970. And the family business was a company called Freewheelin’ Films. And it was a production company, a TV production company. And then we had a syndication company that we bolted on to that. And so, what we would do is go to Chrysler or Anheuser-Busch or United Airlines, and we would do half hour television shows that were brand supported. I’ll use Budweiser as example. They have a Clydesdale hitch, which is their horse hitch. We would do a show about the Clydesdale horses, we know where their farm is, how they’re raised, where they find them. And this half hour show, Equine Show would be about these horses. It would be sponsored or brought to you by Budweiser. But the branding within the show would be organically position.

Drew McLellan:

Great.

Gregory Jacobs:

So, [inaudible 00:22:22] this visibility, then we would take that half hour show. And we would syndicate it to broadcast television. And in those days, this is late ’70s, early ’80s. There were, basically for television networks in which he would syndicate you, right? So it would be ABC affiliate in whatever, DMR market, it would be. So it’d be the ABC affiliate in Kansas City or the NBC affiliate in LA or whatever. And we would aggregate that over across the 212 or 211 markets there were. And all of a sudden, this syndicated piece of content would have its reach. So the television or affiliate or network affiliate, would get the programing for free, they would get half the airtime, we would retain half the airtime. Or what we call was it a two four barter split. So we would hold four minutes of commercial time, they would have two minutes of commercial time, or conversely.

So we would put in the Budweiser spots, they would then have their own spots. So they get free programing, we got free placement. And then we would charge Anheuser-Busch one feeds do the production in the syndication. And that was where it was. So I got my start literally charging radios and getting craft services for a production company. And then went into the syndication side, and that’s when I got into the business side. I always joke with my family owned it cleaners or gas station, I’d be pumping gas. I just happened to be making television shows and syndicating content.

Drew McLellan:

Great. Back before we talked about it that way. I mean, clearly you guys were a little bit ahead of your time, in terms of the product placement inside the entertainment, and all of that people were really doing a lot of that back then.

Gregory Jacobs:

They weren’t and we look back at, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a way back when some of the early stuff and, if you look back even into the ’50s, there was some product placement. I think you might have actually mentioned it in your book, there’s-

Drew McLellan:

Yap.

Gregory Jacobs:

A product placement that’s way back when. So it’s new and I look I chuckle today because brand-centric content, brand-centric integration is still a new phrase. Well, it’s been around for a half a century.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Gregory Jacobs:

It’s just how we’ve modified it. So that was, our role of all of our clients were big brands. And then we would create television shows, we would do a show for Chrysler around them their pace car, leading INDY 500. They would have a special Luberon, they would customize it, it’d be a pace car. So we did a lot of this, we did in airline and flight programing for United Airlines, they have a seat back magazine, and in-flight magazine called Hemispheres, we wouldn’t do a television show that is a companion, we’d have Lauren Hutton, who is a model, posted and then that would air on the Travel Channel and also air on United Airlines in-flight. And that would be paid for by United and then it would be bartered on to a Travel Channel or what have you. So that market was great for us for years.

And then as I got more in the syndication side, I then also got on the business development side. And I was with a family business for almost 14 years. And then I decided that I wanted to have a change, and so I went out on my own. And that was in 2002 or so I went out on my own, I started my own production company called Magellan Media Production Company based in Orange County, California. And that’s when I really realized and you got to be your own pied piper to keep it going. And we had a little bit of a body of business. And we got really into 30 second spot that became a little bread and butter for us. But they’re really challenging. You don’t have a lot of margin in them, you’re stuck to what’s called an AICP form, or a certain budget form that you have to stay to. So there wasn’t a lot of creativity and to manage those numbers was tough. And we as a production company had a little bit of a break, when there was a series of shows called Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

Drew McLellan:

Yep.

Gregory Jacobs:

And it was [crosstalk 00:22:22], it was Ty Pennington. And so what we did, back to my brand hat, I would go to the brand, whether it was Shea homes, or Taylor Woodward or Lennar homes, and I would say we will you pay us and we will do a five, six minute clip about what goes on behind the scenes for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And so the brand Lenore would have this marketing piece that we would shoot, on set while they’re doing the house and building the house in five days or nine hours or whatever the model was. So I can put my brand hat on, and had the brands partner with the brands on funding that. So they had content.

And then I did that. And then we sold a big project to Toyota, and to Saatchi and Saatchi, Toyota’s agency, about Toyota coming into NASCAR and Toyota came into NASCAR in 2007 was the first race, Japanese auto manufacturer coming into an American sport, it was, challenging and how would the fan base view it. So we sold this half hour show that was going to air on Fox, right before the Daytona 500 in 2007. And we sold the show and produced the show. But while I was doing that show, for a large company in Orange County, NASCAR called and said, “Hey, who’s this guy that was doing the sales for Toyota? Who won this Toyota business?” And it happened to be me and so that NASCAR called and I went there to lead their unscripted TV division, and I was at NASCAR for almost five years.

Drew McLellan:

So all of that has nothing to do with Biz Dev for an agency. So how did you end up doing what you’re doing now? I can totally see the correlation. But-

Gregory Jacobs:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

How did that path finish up?

Gregory Jacobs:

So where Biz Dev came into play was when, I landed at Red Bull. And I was put into the role of senior vice president of monetization. And that monetization moniker landed on me. So Red Bull had his media division or has media division called Red Bull Media House. And that media division is strong, and they bring in partners, so BFGoodrich, and other partners Duct tape. And so my Biz Dev, I became actually out there talking to brands who wanted to work with Red Bull. And that’s where my Biz Dev shifted from. I did content distribution for Red Bull, but then I also ran the entire monetization team. And so I needed to get out there. And actually, basically, I sold Red Bull Media House as if they were an agency. We would bring a brand in, and we would bring them into our world, and our events, and our athletes, and all the things that Red Bull got into. And we plugged that brand in. And so I basically was Biz Dev for an in house agency, which was Red Bull to other brands. And that’s where my Biz Dev started taking off.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think a lot of people point to Red Bull as the poster child for incredible content creation far beyond just promoting their own products, but really building a whole new revenue stream, but really building the brand from a content perspective. So, that’s-

Gregory Jacobs:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

A pretty good place to, continue to grow your chops.

Gregory Jacobs:

To cut your teeth. And, when I was brought on board in 2010. We had literally just started Red Bull Media House and so it was only about four of us that started, to get it off the ground, and then it went from there and it was good. And one of my good friends who also runs all production for Red Bull Media House still, guy named Scott Bradfield and way we had to work with the content was, I have a line with him. I said, “Scotty, don’t make something that I can’t sell. So don’t make a piece of content that you think works, but I can’t sell it to the market, whether it’s a platform that I distributed to, or whether it’s a brand that I want to support it. But then I won’t sell something that you can’t make.” And so we would have platforms or networks come to us and say, “We want to do something around your brand, or your athletes that we think is cool.” Well, it’s not authentic to our brand or wouldn’t be authentic to our athletes. And so I wouldn’t be able to, I wouldn’t sell something that Scott’s team couldn’t make. And I would employ any agency or anybody that’s doing content, really think through, why are you making the content? And why are you making it for?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Gregory Jacobs:

And, I see it the last piece of this equation, I see it a lot many times. I still take large projects, and I put them out into the marketplace, and I sell them to Amazon or to Netflix or to networks. And I’ll be in a pitch and I’ll be there with another producer who’s pitching an idea. And I’m helping them coaching them along. And the network exec will say, “You know what, guys, this doesn’t fit for my hair, this just doesn’t work for us. But thank you for bringing it to our attention.”  And the producer will get upset. And the producer will say, “Well, I’d watch it.” And I always step back, go, “Yeah, you’d watch it because it’s your project.” But it doesn’t fit for the network.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Gregory Jacobs:

So I always say you got to find that balance of what you want to make, but also what will fit for the partner.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and ultimately it has to serve the audience, right?

Gregory Jacobs:

It has to serve the audience. And so I look at, the key metric of any piece of content is time spent viewing, engagement time. Will they click on it? Will they watch it? And will they stay for a period of time? And I see so many pieces of content. And you mentioned again, in your book about what is content? It’s a phrase we use, but does it mean a blog or a vlog? Or is it mean a podcast or what have you and the key piece is also the content, it can’t be too long. It can’t be too short. I know a lot of our stuff when we do webisodes for YouTube, a shorter piece of content, sounds better off we are, because we can have a higher engagement, higher time spent viewing. Because everybody who clicks on a piece of content on YouTube, looks at the bottom TRT line Total Running Time. They see how long that piece of content is. And they say themselves, “Am I willing to devote five minutes or 32 minutes ?” Or what have you to that piece of content.

And that’s immediately a deterrent. Depending on where they are in their life. If they’re doing something as snackable content at lunch at their desk, then fine, they’ll crank through some content. And I always caution clients, make sure you watch your TRT, how long it’s going to be, because you want to get your engagement up. And that’s what drives CPM. That’s what drives value. When you see somebody the other day was asking me about content on YouTube. And they said, “Well isn’t the place to go?” I said wouldn’t Quibi folded two weeks to go.” At the time that we’re recording this roughly. When Quibi folded and couldn’t make it’s two things. It’s almost a business school case study as to what how challenging it is to launch a streaming platform. I mean, they had I think 1.75 billion in capitalization. They had big, names behind it, and Quibi had a hard time, but it only goes to show how strong YouTube is in that space.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, very true. Alright, so today, you’ve taken all of that experience and all of that talent. And now you’re a Biz Dev guy for an agency.

Gregory Jacobs:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So how does all of that in this COVID or not COVID time, there’s a million agency folks, whether it’s the owners or the Biz Dev folks out knocking on doors of prospects, super crowded space.

Gregory Jacobs:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

I think, in many cases, a disingenuous place, right? Where agencies are not really all that concerned about the clients business, they’re concerned about getting the clients business, I think there’s a difference. And I think clients feel it, when we actually are invested in them and what they’re trying to do. But how do you use everything you’ve learned in the past parts of your career to do Biz Dev differently?

Gregory Jacobs:

Great question. So two and a half years ago, a couple of friends of mine who have owned different agencies came together to build one agency, and, it’s called Schiefer Chopshop. We’ve branded that now as SCS, it’s easier to understand easier to say. So it’s SCS. So I came on board on the Biz Dev team. And prior to COVID, it might have been a little bit almost a little bit easier, for on the outreach because it didn’t seem as cluttered.

Drew McLellan:

Great.

Gregory Jacobs:

So check the Ada challenge is, you have a lot of folks out there pitching business. And they’re doing it based on tonnage, as many emails as I can get out, it was many agencies, as many brands as possible without really having a message. So step one is they’ve actually driven the credibility of Biz Dev down. I think almost I’ll go dramatically. So you have bad actors. And I’m not saying they’re bad people, but they’re bad actors. They get out there-

Drew McLellan:

They’ve bad practices for sure.

Gregory Jacobs:

Bad practices.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Gregory Jacobs:

So you have a couple of models, you say, okay, you’re an agency owner. So you have a couple, I’m a big fan of your podcast, I listen to several of them. And you say many times that the agency owner is the best Biz Dev Rep that they can have. Okay?

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Gregory Jacobs:

Okay. The agency owner is the Pied Piper. Then you also say, and I like what you say is that, agency owners start to focus on Biz Dev, when it’s almost too late. We’re losing our biggest client, we’ve got some erosion. “Oh, boy, we better scrambled.”

Drew McLellan:

Yep, the feast or famine model.

Gregory Jacobs:

Feast or famine. And so I look at a couple of things, when I do this for, if you have a young, so if you are an agency owner, or running an agency, and you’re not Biz Dev classically trained. And there’s a real big thing when I say Biz Dev classically trained I actually mean that, there’s an art to it. So you have a Biz Dev, or you have an agency owner who comes on board and wants to start to build out their Biz Dev team. Well, with typically, like you said, it’s an afterthought so now they’re scrambling. Okay, I got to move the needle in 90 days.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Gregory Jacobs:

There is no Biz Dev Rep worth their salt, that will do one or two things, a work on commission only. Because if I work on commission only, you could find somebody, but don’t think they’re going to change for you. If you’re willing to invest in that person, they’re going to be willing to invest in you. So two things, try to find some retainer for your Biz Dev Rep. Don’t always put it on points is my opinion. And then secondly, no Biz Dev Rep worth their salt will guarantee you or say they can close business. And at least there has to be at least six months. If somebody tells me I can turn your model in 60 days, or 90 days or 120 days, I believe they’re lying to you, or they don’t have experience in the market.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Gregory Jacobs:

Because it takes you at least two months to figure out what it is the agency is selling.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, and what I think an agency if they’re going to invest in a Biz Dev person, they have to assume, it’s going to take at least a year for that person to make them whole on their salary.

Gregory Jacobs:

I will go, you know what? I would rather go with what you’re saying there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Gregory Jacobs:

I believe that, again, Biz Dev agency, [inaudible 00:22:22] agency owners start to panic, they plug somebody in, I think there’s skepticism, I think a lot of agency owners don’t know if they really believe in this stuff. Is it really going to work? Is it something and it’s to them, it’s a luxury item. And I never quite could figure that out, we’ll all be in meetings my past life, and I’ll have some of the younger folks in an agency, I think most agencies have a demographic which is 25 to 35 years old.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Gregory Jacobs:

And now, I’ll be on the Biz Dev team, and they’ll say, “Oh! Sales that’s such a tricky word.” And, “Oh! It’s so tough.” And I think to myself, well, if it wasn’t for the sales guys, you wouldn’t have a paycheck.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Right.

Gregory Jacobs:

Twice a month, it’s us out there on the front lines, like the Marines hitting the beach first, that do it. And so I think Biz Dev is, I don’t want to say taken advantage of, but, under respected in a way. So give them a year, you would say, give them time, pay them something, and give them the credibility to be out there and do it. And if you do that, and they’re good at it, it’ll show up.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Gregory Jacobs:

When I landed at our agency, and luckily, I was pretty good at it. And I did it the way I was classically trained to do it, and we generated some business. And that brings that note up. And then, my job once the clients in the door, and we’ve closed it, I fade away, and I go back out to hunt the new one. And if our we call it a business solutions team, our brand soluti