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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|

How Do Digital Marketing Agencies Find Clients

Vetting new clients is a lot like choosing who you’re going to marry. No one gets married after a handful of dates, and no company makes a strong client connection after one meeting. Just like jumping into a marriage can lead to disaster, moving too fast with a prospect can also spell trouble for a business. So, how do digital marketing agencies find clients? Unfortunately, because many business people are Type A personalities, the patience needed to grow relationships with prospects is lacking. We’re aggressive and competitive, always pushing for the win. Sometimes, that’s a great thing. But too often, we can jump the gun. To prospect smarter, agencies should focus on the four Ts: teach, trust, told apart and timing. Agencies that follow these strategies should have no issues securing new clients who are a perfect fit. The Four Ts of How Digital Marketing Agencies Find Clients 1. Teach: Use provocation-based selling as a learning experience. Too many agencies continue selling long after they’ve secured a new client. Selling is necessary at the beginning, but it becomes overkill after a certain point. Once you’ve started working together and you’re investing in the relationship, it’s time to switch gears. No one enjoys being constantly sold to, but everyone loves learning. Teaching clients something new builds relationships. It shows you’re passionate about their brand and want them to grow. You don’t need a doctorate degree to educate, but you do need to do your homework. When you go to trade shows or conferences, soak up insights, trends and case studies clients might be interested in. Even better, use that information to provoke problems they didn’t even know they had. Shining a light on things your agency [...]

By |August 1st, 2018|

Speaking Engagements: Every Agency Owner’s Ace in the Hole

Stereotypically, speaking engagements may seem reserved for high-profile authors, nationally recognized experts, and former presidents. And while not as obvious, marketing professionals should seriously consider how securing the right speaking opportunities will not only elevate brands but they also hold the key to developing successful business opportunities. A common misconception about speaking engagements is they only serve to build a personal brand for thought leaders or authors. As an agency owner, your goal is to establish credibility with your audience. And by presenting at a conference or trade show with an audience of prospective clients and referral sources, you can successfully demonstrate your insights and expertise. In today’s world, when a single tweet, post, or video shows your brand to the rest of the world, booking the perfect speaking gig has never been so invaluable. Securing Multiple Speaking Engagements There’s no one right formula for securing the ideal speaking engagement. There are several different tactics to try, with speakers’ bureaus being a great resource. And most big conferences have an open call for speakers. So you can pitch yourself as someone with something an audience is hungry to hear. Aside from these more straightforward methods, do everything you can to prove your expertise and give people a reason to book you for their event. I’ve written a weekly column for Iowa’s business journal for more than a decade, and my weekly podcast has passed its two-year mark and shows no signs of stopping. Both serve as evidence to conference planners: Not only do I have relevant content, but I can also knit thoughts together in a coherent way to teach and inform. The key is to establish your credibility so you’re invited to do the same thing on [...]

By |July 25th, 2018|

How to Build Your Agency’s New Business Machine Without Over-hiring or Over-automating

When it comes to sales, marketing agencies are at least 20 years behind the most cutting-edge industries. According to a Hubspot survey, 44 percent of agencies don't use a CRM, 42 percent haven't defined their ideal client, and 90 percent describe referrals and word of mouth as their main source for new business. It’s understandable. Historically, agencies were helmed by creatives. In the agency of record era, a competent shop could forge relationships, win several lucrative accounts, and keep them for decades. Ambitious sales activity was often seen as unnecessary or even distasteful. But it’s not the 1980s anymore. Nowadays, with internet-induced competition, industry fragmentation, and low distribution costs, agencies have to hunt. Agencies would do well to heed Peter Thiel’s advice: "Look around. If you don't see any salespeople, you're the salesperson." Thiel was speaking to startup founders, but it’s just as applicable to agency owners, or anyone else in a sales position who might not know they are. Okay, so what are we supposed to do about it? Below are seven lessons that will help get you started. Think Like a Medici Not DaVinci  If you know your history, you might know that The House of Medici was an Italian banking family who rose to prominence in the 15th century and created a humanist environment that empowered numerous Renaissance artists and helped them flourish. There was a dash of skullduggery along the way, but if you can factor that out and build a culture that personifies being a patron to your artists, you’ll be in good shape. However, there’s a twist here. Instead of being a creative organization that’s supported by salespeople, focus on being a sales organization that supports creative work. With [...]

By |May 1st, 2018|

What’s Your New Business Strengths Profile?

Have you ever found yourself in a position of being forced to do something you felt you weren’t suited to do, that was a poor fit for your business strengths? My life partner has a small 4-seater airplane, a Piper Cherokee, in which we make occasional trips to Newport or Boston, or even an impromptu flight to Block Island for dinner on a summer evening. He thought it would be a great idea for me to be a pilot too, and I didn’t disagree. How cool would that be to have two pilots in the family? After my first flying lesson, the answer to that question was, “not cool at all.” I’m not afraid of flying—in fact I love being a passenger—but I was surprisingly petrified sitting in the pilot’s chair. I was overwhelmed by all the information a pilot is required to juggle and, what’s worse, I found it all pretty uninteresting. Fear and boredom – not a good combination. Some people feel the same when confronted with business development responsibilities at their agencies, and just like in life, you can't force someone to do something they don't enjoy or that don't align with their strengths. In fact, there are four distinct types of personalities that can fall into the business development category. Hunters Promoters Communicators Thinkers Hunters  Hunters have an instinct for selling among their most prominent business strengths. They’re energized by making connections with other people and feel at ease when interacting with strangers, whether on the phone or in person. Most agencies are not filled with natural-born hunters, which is why they usually fail to sustain any sort of plan that entails outbound prospecting. Neither carrots nor sticks seem to make [...]

By |March 21st, 2018|

Why New Business Development Should Never Leave The Top Of Your List

Raise your hand if you’ve used one of these excuses for why you haven’t gotten around to putting a strategy in place for business development: “We grow based on referrals.” “We’re going to hire somebody.” “We’re too busy with our current clients.” You wouldn’t be alone — many agencies make the same gigantic mistake of putting off planning for the future. They run from fire to fire, putting one out just as another is starting. It’s all too easy to delay the agency’s vision for moving forward until another less hectic day. Those excuses might seem justifiable in the moment, but if your agency is going to thrive — not merely survive — you’ve got to prioritize getting a plan in place. It’s a difficult task, but the ROI is huge. Don’t Wait for Disaster. An unavoidable reality of agency life is that it ebbs and flows. New clients sign on, old ones move on, and business continues as usual. But when you have a plan in place to consistently uncover new business opportunities, the ebbs won’t hit as hard. Too many agencies only consider a new business plan when their big, gorilla clients are unhappy or threaten to leave. By that point, it may be too late. It just takes one call from that valuable client to send an agency into a tailspin. You’re left scrambling to find a major replacement for the lost revenue. This is an especially dangerous tactic in the modern business world. It’s getting tougher to find great client prospects and get them signed quickly. The time period from the initial meeting to the moment the client signs the dotted line has stretched out considerably. That process cannot begin after [...]

By |June 19th, 2017|

Business development insurance

Drew's note: I've invited John Heenan, an agency growth consultant to share a little bit of his expertise with us here at the AMI blog.  Without further ado -- here's his take on business development insurance. I’ve asked other agency owners and new business directors to talk about about their own business growth advice and as you can imagine there are as many opinions as there are agencies. But what everyone does agree on is that new business is the priority. After all, winning new business is the future of every agency. So why is it so frustrating? There are so many complicating factors that play into the client-agency mating game. A little business development insurance can help. In theory, getting a new client shouldn’t be so tough. Not so fast. LinkedIn has a little over 1 million marketers, and the government counts over 30 thousand advertising-like firms in the U.S.. That is a lot of competition for new business. If you were a brand marketer, how would you sort out the differences among the hundreds or thousands of agencies knocking on your door? How would you distinguish between all those who claim the same things; innovation, creativity, great results, cool processes, big data expertise, and the list goes on. Most marketers say they all look and sound the same. The struggle to differentiate is one of the fundamental challenges for agencies and the reason there are many resources to turn to. The challenge is further complicated by the way marketers choose their agency partners including how they go to market, what services they need, what experience they value, size, geography, resources, culture and many more. There are also many tools to help find and engage [...]

By |November 5th, 2015|

Essential Business Building Strategies You Need to Grow Your Agency with Jason Falls

As an agency owner, you know that if you're not ready to evolve your agency with business building strategies, you'd better get ready to retire. The agency business is undergoing an incredible metamorphosis and most agency owners are running at full speed to keep up. That's where my conversation with Jason Falls, Senior Vice-President, Digital Strategy at Elasticity and author of several books on social media and email marketing, started. (listen to the podcast here) From there we move to agency hierarchy and structure, the impact of millennials on current day politics and the importance of building strategic alliances. It's a whirlwind hour of debate, stories and a few good laughs.  I think you'll not only enjoy it, but you'll also get some business building strategies you can put into play right away. To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/jason-falls/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web. If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below. If you're going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn't you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan. Drew: Hey everybody, this is Drew McLellan, and I am really excited to be with you today. As an agency owner, I know all too well the risks we take every day. This podcast is about making sure if we're going to take [...]

By |October 19th, 2015|
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