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End your New Biz Cycle of Feast or Famine

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.

By |February 11th, 2019|

How to Use Voice Controlled Devices to Drive New Business Development

Voice controlled devices (VCDs) like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri are exploding in the marketplace. There is no sign that the trend toward voice search and assistance is slowing down, and I’m here to assert that this trend can be advantageous to agency business development. As a matter of fact, I believe strongly that voice represents that next opportunity, that next patch of fertile ground where you can plant your flag. The opportunity for business development with voice controlled devices is big—huge even. Let’s do a quick dive into the data on VCD usage and where it’s headed. Then I will share what I consider the four top new business development strategies around voice. These are great to use in building your own business, and also strategies you can easily employ with clients. Voice is Getting Louder The market for VCDs is exploding. Echo and Echo dot were the best selling items last year for Amazon, which makes them the biggest seller on the biggest online retail platform. That’s big. In addition, once purchased, these items are frequently used. Google did a study that found 72 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker or a smart speaker report that the devices are a regular part of their daily routine. Voice Controlled Devices are Doing More Last I checked, the Alexa Library is 30,000 skills, so 30,000 pieces of software that you can install into your Echo and then ask Alexa to do certain things for you. Google Home's library is less than 1,000. So in the assistance space, Alexa wins. But obviously, just like everywhere else, Google dominates voice search. Even more to the point, voice is on its way to becoming the default [...]

By |November 1st, 2018|

10 Tips for Planning Your 2018 and 2019 Agency New Business Activities

A finely tuned agency new business plan requires preparation and planning. Here are ten tips for planning a better, more successful agency new business effort: 1. Distinctly position your agency Some agencies try to be everything to everyone, or so their positioning would have us believe. As a service provider, that’s an understandable position to take, but it dilutes your offering when a prospective client comes along with specific needs (which is, really, all of them). The ability of an agency to differentiate itself begins with a compelling agency positioning. You don’t have to be so hyper-specialized as to become irrelevant for most AOR searches, but small tweaks in the way you talk about your agency can make a big difference in how you’re perceived. A great historic example was Kaplan Thaler Group’s “We make unknown brands famous. Make famous brands icons. And create ideas that become part of our culture.” Start with a philosophy that’s true to your work and style, and infuse that into everything else: work processes, interaction processes, and ultimately a positioning statement. 2. Focus on business issues This one is so obvious, yet so often forgotten in the rush to talk up your agency. Business issues should be an undercurrent to, if not the outright focus of, any conversation with a prospective client. Even if the client’s not willing to share all issues outright, there are ways to make the conversation more about them than you, and better yet, to show how you’re the solution they need. The successful matchup of client needs and agency offerings begins with an agency’s ability to draw explicit connections between the two. 3. Highlight service The importance of outstanding service delivery can’t be overlooked. [...]

By |October 23rd, 2018|

4 Questions You MUST Ask To Uncover Your Prospect’s Needs

The tone and outcome of the sales conversation are set into motion by how well you uncovered your prospect's needs early on. It’s impossible to adequately sell if you don’t even have a clear understanding of what your prospect needed in the first place! While that sounds like a no-brainer, many sales pros rattle off their list of differentiators and wait for the prospect to be impressed instead of asking clear, concise questions and listening to their responses actively. There are two types of need you can uncover during these interactions: aspirational needs and frustration needs. Aspirational needs include things that the prospect wants and does not yet have. Frustration needs are born out of the pain points the prospect is experiencing with their current solution that they’re looking to solve. Uncovering your prospect's needs is simpler than you think Believe it or not, the four key questions that drive the uncovering the prospect's needs portion of the sale are pretty simple. The first three should be answered by the prospect and the last one, which may be the most overlooked, should be answered by none other than you! So, let’s dive into the four questions you must ask to uncover your prospect's needs. 1. What do they need? Straightforward, right? So many sales pros tell leads what they need instead of asking the lead what they think their needs are. If you believe in your product or service and if you know it like the back of your hand; it’s easy to assume that your prospect knows they need it. But you need to ask thoughtful questions to see where they are at. You don’t need to bury the question here; you can simply [...]

By |October 18th, 2018|

The New Business Development Strategy: Turn Your Efforts Upside Down

Agencies everywhere are finding new business development to be a greater and greater challenge. And, unfortunately, the business development strategies of most agencies are destined for failure. 1.  Unattainable growth rates are often needed to achieve agency growth objectives 2.  The investment required and the low odds of winning pitches is debilitating 3.  The stress on organic growth is intense and rarely achieved 4.  Too much reliance is placed on a small group of senior “sellers” 5.  Difficulty “standing out” in pitches leads to expensive, wasteful theatrics 6.  Cold calling experiences are generally unsuccessful and de-motivating If you experience some of these challenges, your team is not alone! Most agencies face these challenges – hence an opportunity exists to re-invent the industry’s new business development strategies. The Problems with Agency New Business Development Strategies Today Most agencies approach new business development in a three step fashion that is fundamentally flawed: 1) Competitive Pitches and Reviews These are by far the biggest area of focus for most larger agencies. Reviews get most of the business development resources – in people, focus and money. Reviews, however, can be a fools’ paradise: you must make it through the questionnaire stage against a dozen other agencies just to be a finalist (1 in 12 odds) – and then, upon becoming a finalist, the odds are generally only 1 in 4 that you will win. If you do the math, there is a 2% chance of being awarded the business at the time you receive the questionnaire. There must be a better strategy! And yet, while this is such a bitter place to invest – because many of the largest accounts are awarded through a review – it is easy [...]

By |October 2nd, 2018|

Consistency Beats Perfection In Agency Marketing

To make it in business, we need three main things: A viable, valuable product or service that solves a real problem A way to sell and deliver it A defined group of people to sell it to But checking all three boxes will not do anything for your bank account. You must let people know every day that you have a business, that you love what you do and that you want to solve their problems. No agency survives without consistent marketing. So many of us delay sharing about our businesses because we don’t feel ready. We wait for the perfect pitch, platform or process to get started. We wait for our website to be built, or for our About Page to be perfect or for our new head shots to be ready for our fabulous business cards. We wait for the perfect newsletter template before sending an email to our list. Common barriers to consistent agency marketing Here are some common barriers that prevent people from consistent agency marketing that I just gathered from business owners on Facebook: I am too busy delivering services to clients to market my business I don’t know what to do in what order Marketing technology feels too complicated I don’t have my pitch nailed I don’t want to waste my time Boy, do I get it! No one wants to feel sloppy or unorganized. And I am not advocating that you are. Building a clear, effective brand story and agency marketing system takes planning, money and time. But given your current level of information, tools and resources, couldn’t you do something each day that would increase your chance to get ideal clients? Our starting point without a big [...]

By |September 20th, 2018|

9 Steps to Picking a Niche for Your Digital Agency

As a digital agency owner, you probably tell your clients all the time that they need to refine and focus in on their service or product offerings. But have you applied the same logic to your own digital agency? Finding a niche for your digital agency allows you to connect with your prospects and deliver a unique selling proposition that speaks directly to them. To make this connection with a prospect on the first impression though you must have clear and targeted messaging. If you’re trying to tell ten different stories and appeal to ten different audiences, then you’ll lose them all. This is why you’ve never seen an Asian-Italian-Greek-Burger-Smoothie fusion restaurant. Sounds silly when you think of it like that. So why then are you and your digital agency trying to help so many people, in so many different industries, by providing so many different services? Instead of focusing in on on being really good at one thing and developing a killer value proposition along the way, you’re spreading yourself too thin. Find a niche for your digital agency now. Every day you waste, the competition is getting more focused, more precise, and more skilled at the niche you could be in. However, it’s important to pick the right niche, one that provides enough opportunity for new business without being oversaturated. You need to be able to carve out a unique section for your agency and there needs to be a demand for it. Follow the nine steps below to find your digital agency’s perfect niche and start growing your agency today. 1. Find a niche that is digitally friendly Is the industry digitally friendly? A lot of industries have done as little as [...]

By |September 18th, 2018|

Podcasting For Advertising Agencies: How to Win New Clients, Part II

This is part II in a series on podcasting for advertising agencies. Read part I here, then come back and join us for part II. Earlier this week, I shared with you why and how podcasting for advertising agencies can help you win new clients. I even shared with you how to line up stellar guests (and new business prospects!) for your podcast. If you followed my advice, you've likely got some podcast guests waiting in the wings now. So, you might be wondering: Now that I have podcast guests, what do I talk about with them? I think the real question here is: how do I turn this interview into a sales/partnership conversation. I’ll get to this. For the interview itself, though: Rule #1: Serve the audience. It needs to be something your core audience will actually find interesting. So, you can talk about that. But the benefit of an interview, is that your guest is the content. Be curious about what they do, their story, and treat it like a conversation so you bring out the best in them. Aside from that, the topic of conducting a great podcast interview is for another post entirely. I won’t get into it here. It is 80/20 though: you can extract the vast majority of value from a guest simply by asking them questions like you would ask someone at a dinner party. But serve your audience: what do they want to learn about from your guest? You will probably find the same questions you have in your mind, are the same your guests have in their minds. Ask those questions. Remember, your guest is the content—you’re just facilitating. What’s important is that you don’t launch [...]

By |September 12th, 2018|

How Agencies Can Execute on Strategic Selling

“I hate selling.” I hear that so often from agency owners and agency leaders. I especially hear it from junior agency staffers. I think the key to solving this problem is moving away from “I hate selling” and moving toward “I love helping others succeed.” My years of agency experience have taught me that the most successful agencies have a specific mindset. They have embraced the art of being the very best at understanding their clients and have a deep desire to make their lives easier and better. The agency business is a relationship business; it’s about putting the needs of your client front and center. Your success is based on their success. Their good days are your good days; and conversely, their bad days are your bad days. So, if agency success is about building great relationships, I would pose to you that for agencies, executing on strategic selling is very much like dating. If that’s the case, then imagine thinking of the prospect the same way you think about a prospective date - that person you’ve wanted to date for oh, so long. As you get ready to make the ask… what’s first? The answer: the first thing is understanding the prospect. Strategic Selling Requires Understanding the Prospect First and foremost, remember that you must think about this from their viewpoint – the viewpoint of the prospect. What’s on her mind and how has the landscape changed since the last time she looked for agency services? Budget and headcount pressures are enormous in most companies today There are heightened expectations that marketing supports sales – it’s no longer enough to simply produce great creative Sales and revenue are typically the top marketing success [...]

By |August 28th, 2018|

The Specialist Agency: An Argument For and Against

Earlier this year I had the honor of serving as the morning keynote speaker for PRGN’s semi-annual member summit in Toronto. My topic was on the five indicators of new business success that I consistently see in the agencies I work with (and, likewise, the corresponding indicators of agencies that stay stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle). One of the indicators is a specialist mindset, as opposed to an “all things to all people” approach. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They tried this specialist agency strategy at his agency and it didn’t work. It had the opposite effect; they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that? (Gulp) Before I tell you how I responded, let me explain that I’m not a specialist agency hardliner. In fact, this time last year, I wrote about this. To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business. Pitching for new business is a big investment. The more specialized your pitch, the more efficient your investment. That’s because: Generalists seek out clients; specialists are more likely to be sought Generalists differentiate based on price; specialists can afford to charge a premium Generalists will always be tempted to reinvent themselves to suit the nature of the prospect; specialists find it easier to home in on a consistent message that’s effective for the right audience But I also don’t see it as a stark choice. In my piece, I referred to the proverb about the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes. This is a favorite to describe agencies that can’t seem to take their own advice when it [...]

By |August 7th, 2018|
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