Agency new business development is at its peak of importance for several reasons. To start, clients understand the significance of marketing more than ever, and with there being over 77,500 agencies in the US alone, there is more competition today than there ever has been before.
To stand out among the heavy competition and get your agency in front of the brands you want to work with, old business development practices need to be put away, and new ones need to be implemented. Optimizing these efforts begin with five areas to focus on.
If you are ready to take the plunge towards a predictable and sustainable pipeline of new clients, read on:
Hire a New Business Director
It may sound obvious to say that you need someone concentrating on new business, but building demand for your agency is a full-time role. It’s not OK anymore to have five entry-level employees spending 10% of their time on new biz. At minimum, one person needs to spend 100% of their time owning the proactive outbound process and as the agency owner, you have to supply them with the tools they will need to be successful.
When searching for this person, there are three qualities you will want to seek in your new hire:
- High Energy– Your agency needs someone who can sustain a high touch point outreach plan. No one and done emails, but an intelligent multi-touch outreach program. This takes someone willing to put in the time and energy (and hear a couple “no’s” along the way).
- Strong Communicator– A strong communicator in any situation. This isn’t selling a subscription. There is no one size fits all for agency new business so you need someone who can change up the pitch at any given notice to fit the prospects needs and pain points.
- Process Driven– You want someone who will build a repeatable and scalable process over time that will allow your new business engine to be running, regardless of turnover.
Time is a leading agency growth challenge, so if taking the time to hire and onboard an additional employee is a problem for you, check out outsourced options that may be a better, more convenient fit for your agency’s needs.
Positioning Your Agency
With the increasing amount of competition, positioning your agency to be different than the competition has never been more critical. Simply saying you “can do it all” tells clients that you haven’t quite figured out your niche, and if you have, why hide it under a cloak of vagueness?
Many agencies fear that narrowing down their focus will make them seem small or may result in missed business opportunities. The reality is, highlighting the services you thrive in will position you as a leader in that space and lead you to more desirable, better fitting opportunities.
A few questions to ask yourself when building your agency’s positioning include:
- Why does your agency exist? (less about what and how)
- How are you different for every other firm?
- What are you an expert in?
- Why do you get hired?
- Which brands do you have an absolute right to win?
- What DON’T you do?
- What problems do you solve better than anyone else?
If you can’t answer these questions clearly, succinctly, and in an interesting way, then you aren’t quite ready to proactively reach out to new business prospects.
Know Your Audience
Regardless if you’re going to be driving new business in a vertical that you’ve been servicing for 10 years, or if this is your first foray into a new vertical…you need to know everything possible about the audience group you want to attract.
A couple of questions you may want to ask when researching your audiences include:
- What problems are keeping them up at night?
- How do you solve those problems for them?
- What’s happening within their industry?
- What’s your POV on their industry changes?
After answering these questions, you will want to segment your audience so that you can create messaging that appropriately fits each ideal customer’s needs. These three groups serve as a good starting point segmenting your lists:
- Right To Win
Your right to win clients are those that are a perfect fit for your services. To identify them, set parameters for what a perfect client for your agency looks like. What issues do they have? Where are they? What do they specialize in? If a prospect fits all your criteria, you need to be working with them. Keep in mind a “perfect” client is hard to come by – so this list most likely will be smaller than others.
- Great Fit
This will be a much larger list, probably the largest you have. These prospects have problems you can solve, but may not be a “perfect” fit. Maybe they are outside of your geographic region, have slightly lower revenue ranges, or they’re in an industry you have limited experience in. But if they reach 90-95% of your criteria and you can recognize/solve their problems, you should be highly considering approaching them.
These are those whale clients your team dreams of working with. While chasing them isn’t where you should spend the majority of your new business time, landing one could be a game changer for morale and/or revenue. Keep these prospects in your drip campaigns to get them warm and keep your agency top of mind, but put most of your focus on those potential clients that will build a stable base of revenue in the future.
Other ways to segment your audiences may be by industry vertical or even by job title. These are just some examples that will help you get started. Take the time to really think about who you want to work with, and more importantly, what your prospects care about. This will help you determine just how your agency should be dividing your prospecting lists.
Content That Supports Your Positioning With Your Audiences
Many business development pros give a prospect a call, send one follow-up email and move on. Why doesn’t this work? Well, on average, it takes 7-12 touchpoints to generate the first meeting. Decision makers are busy people and if you aren’t sending content that is eye-catching or relevant to them, you’ll be lucky if they even skim your emails.
The content you are sending can come in a variety of forms including:
Your prospects are not looking for you when they visit your website, they are searching for themselves. If your website doesn’t immediately indicate that you understand their needs, they will find someone else who’s website does.
There are marketing emails and sales emails, and there is definitely a difference between the two. Marketing emails are about awareness while sales emails are about stirring up a conversation. Any content you create on your website should be able to be used as a call to action within your marketing or sales emails.
Blogs, again, are not supposed to highlight your agency and it’s culture. Your blog should show that you are an expert. Share your knowledge, experience, and expertise to be a teacher. Don’t hide your knowledge from competitors, but educate your prospects on how you solve those problems for them.
- Case Studies
Keep these simple. Make sure your case studies are easily digestible and that they show real results. Three main things to focus on in your case studies is the problem your client had, the solution you provided, and the results you drove for your client. If it is any more than one page, you will begin to lose people’s attention so be sure to keep it simple and to the point. Highlight the results, not the solution!
- White Papers
White papers are all about educating your prospects, showing that you understand their problems but remember, you are not writing a novel. It just needs to be interesting and add value to your prospects. This is an education tool, not a sales pitch- write them solely to provide extended insights and value to your audiences. On that note, write white papers for specific audiences so it really hits home with your readers. If you are writing a white paper for everyone, it will most likely resonate with no one.
Webinars are a great way to drive third-party advocacy to your audience. You are interacting with your audience in a very personalized way, that can eventually lead to a lot more word of mouth referrals, something we all want more of. They can be key to getting social credibility and are a fantastic way to educate your audience.
At the beginning of a sales strategy, your prospects are likely not familiar with your agency, and they don’t care about your awards or your culture- they care whether or not you can solve their problems. Your content should serve to effectively answer that question to assist your sales process.
Here are some key ways to position your content in a way that will provide your audiences value while also demonstrating what your agency brings to the table:
This is arguably the most important, as a trigger is defined as the problem that is keeping your prospect up at night. Your prospects are actively seeking solutions for these problems (triggers), so you better be speaking their language. These are great for capturing the interest of your prospects when they visit your website or even through a prospecting email.
The Wedge in your content is the proprietary solution to fix a prospect’s triggers. This content provides insights on how your prospect should go about solving their problems. The Wedge is the least important as it is about you and your agency, mention it in order to get to the proof!
- Proof Point
Exactly what it sounds like, proof points are content pieces that show how your agency has solved these problems before with dramatic results. This might be demonstrated through webinars, case studies or even white papers, but the point is that they are firm numbers and results that speak to your expertise and ability to solve your prospect’s problems.
It’s important to hold your team accountable for producing content that will be of interest to your prospects. A good way to do this to have a mix of both junior and senior level members of your team responsible for writing one blog per week. You can rotate the responsibility in order to prevent burn out on writing posts and also to ensure that fresh perspectives are bubbled to the top.
Invest In Technology
You are investing a lot of time and money in a new business person, strategy for the business, and content to back up that positioning…don’t forget to invest in your new business lead’s success by providing them the correct technology to actually get the job done in an efficient and effective way.
This means they will need a Sales Automation technology CRM, a research database, and possibly a marketing automation tool. Check out our webinar on top technology, but the point is, don’t send a hitter to the plate without a bat!
Setting up a sustainable and scalable new business development program takes strategy, dedication, and patience, but once it’s up and running, there is nothing keeping you from hitting those aggressive revenue goals you’ve set for the agency.