Posts Tagged ‘agency business development’

It All Starts With The Target List: Steps To Efficient Proactive Prospecting

When embarking on a proactive prospecting program, there are some core steps that can’t be skipped over on the road to success. And the foundation is developing a solid, well researched target list.  Below are the steps we recommend to clients to set that foundation.

1. Focus On A Vertical

Catapult programs are designed around core verticals or segments. Most often we build out lists with our agency clients by selecting target verticals they are best suited for, where they have subject matter expertise and case studies to provide credibility to prospects. A narrow focus enables you to curate and create outbound messaging to all companies within each selected vertical with a high level of relevance, leading to stronger engagement faster than a general message across verticals typically does.

2. Identify Your Right-To-Win Brands

…and research them well. For each vertical selected, the company list can be narrowed by such criteria as revenue, media spend and location. By targeting the companies that you can build credibility with, you’re able to laser-focus sales efforts around their unique needs. Don’t just rely on lists pulled from your criteria. Review top business rankings lists within specific verticals we are targeting to ensure we have all relevant companies included on the lists for our agency clients.

When researching each company to determine if it fits note challenges the company and/or industry is facing. These insights are later converted into talking points for email and phone outreach. 

3. Uncover Key Decision Makers

When the list is narrowed down to the top companies in a vertical, find the key decision makers within each based on job function and rank. Who the right contacts are will vary depending on your agency’s services. For example, a social media agency surely will want to connect with a social media director. However a branding agency likely would not.

Focus on C-suite, VP and director-level marketing professionals; depending on your agency, you may also want to target manager-level contacts. What’s important is that you’re only targeting decision-makers or influencers. Pro Tip: try to find at least 5 – 7 contacts per company/brand. Experience tells us that there is rarely just one decision maker, and it’s not always the obvious one that will respond and champion engagement with your agency.

It’s also helpful to scour the web for financial statements, press releases and trade articles for mentions of other relevant contacts at the company.

And, once you’ve completed the list, make sure to import it to a CRM database so you can effectively track your outreach. A few that our clients have used Salesforce, Pipedrive, and Hubspot to name a few.

4. Dig Deeper for 1:one or 1:few personalization

Uncovering information on your contact list through LinkedIn helps confirm the employee is still with the company and remains in the appropriate role. LinkedIn is also useful for mining additional contacts in the company – you may find additional relevant prospects you have not found previously.

During this process make sure to take notes of mutual contacts, past employers, links to presentations, schools attended or other points of connection that you can use in your outreach to that contact. You will need the email address information for these contacts found outside of the database. Try looking at the email naming conventions of the other contacts in the company; 90 percent of the time the naming convention will hold for the missing emails. If all else fails, there are a number of online tools available to help find alternative email address suggestions like Clearbit, Hunter.io, or RocketReach.

At this point, you may be asking yourself how to do all this with the resources you have.

At Catapult, we’ve heard, and done, it all to try to crack the code on list building. Calling the company’s main line, filling out a web form, or hoping you have a mutual connection in your core network are not efficient or effective ways to connect with senior decision makers.

And getting the decision maker information is not an easy task. All too often, agencies rely on new business people or account people to track down prospect contact information on their own. If the contact data is even found, it’s often inaccurate and incomplete. This process eats up your team’s time and takes them away from more important business activities.  

To solve this dilemma, many agencies subscribe to database services that provide accurate, direct contact information on prospects. And they supplement this data with their own due diligence to gain information that is relevant, current and provides insights for smarter prospecting messages.

There are a number of database providers available online, such as Winmo, our sister company, which offers vetted and current prospect contact information for relevant to ad agencies, marketing firms and creative agencies. A sophisticated database and intelligence service provides much more than contact information. It also can offer company financial data, existing agency relationships and recent news articles to help you better identify your best prospects.

When selecting a database provider, look for one that employs teams of researchers to validate and refresh the data on a regular basis, at least every 3-6 months. It’s also important that company specializes in advertising and marketing contacts so the prospects align with your target audience. 

 

Your prospect data list is the most important part in agency new business outreach. If you don’t have a relevant and accurate list of prospects and an efficient way to get this data, even the best messaging will fall on deaf ears. Using the steps outlined above, supported by a database platform for efficiency and speed, makes this scalable so business development folks can spend more time on outreach, engagement and conversion to new business…and less time trying to track down contact information!

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The Ultimate Agency Growth Funnel

The Ultimate Agency Growth Funnel

Can you believe we’re approaching an entirely new decade? As you begin planning for 2020 new business, remember to plan the resources required to support that growth in the new year. While those resources will be unique to your agency’s specific growth plan, it never hurts to follow a proven formula to calculate what you need. To help with this forecasting, we’ve built an Agency Growth Calculator which evaluates your objectives and realistic requirements from each of the following steps of the agency growth funnel.

Understand Your Growth Requirements

Your KPIs are a direct reflection of your overall growth requirements. While this may seem obvious, some agencies find it extremely difficult to clearly identify their metrics for success. Here are some questions to answer during your initial planning meetings to ensure you set the right metrics:

What’s your overall revenue goal?
While there are many approaches for setting your revenue goal for the year, make sure it’s nailed down and clearly communicated prior to the new year so all parties can set operational KPIs off of that plan.

How much have you grown organically?
This gives you a good idea of the outbound effort you need after organic growth.

What’s your typical churn rate (loss of clients)?
You can only put so much on top of the funnel if you’re losing all of it at the bottom. This is why it’s important to understand how much revenue is falling off each month.

How big is this goal in comparison to new business amounts you’ve produced in years past?
Knowing how much you’re planning to grow new business Y/Y is important, particularly so you can understand the resources required to achieve that growth.

What’s your overall pitch win percentage and what’s the win percentage when they are inbound warm leads vs. cold opportunities you have generated?
Be honest when answering this question; the higher pitch win percentage you have, the less outbound effort will be required. Keep in mind that warm opportunities close at a higher rate than cold opportunities.

Have you ever generated a cold pitch opportunity before?
Many agencies rely on referrals for 100% of their pitch opportunities. While those are warm and close at a higher rate, they are not reliable or sustainable. Evaluating this gives you a better understanding for how long it can take to produce cold opportunities in the future.

Define Warm New Business Opportunities

It’s important to understand the amount of new business opportunities your agency brings in. These opportunities typically come from referrals, networking, and word of mouth. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love these lead sources? They are seen by most agency principals as the most attractive type of lead as it’s free business that came directly to you.

To help generate more of these we recommend activating your core 100 network. We define this as the core network of decision-makers with budget or marketing decision power that you have a 1st-degree relationship with. By connecting with this group at least once per month, whether a simple hello or providing them with relevant thought leadership, the likelihood of getting more referral leads increases significantly.

Lastly, while warm opportunities are nice it’s important you aren’t solely relying on them. Here’s why:

  1. They are unpredictable and you never know when your next project will be coming in.
  2. You have no control of how your portfolio expands.
  3. Losing one major client could drastically impact your revenue.

Now let’s talk about how you can warm opportunities with cold prospecting for ultimate success!

Add Proactive Prospecting For New Opportunities

Since you can’t solely rely on your referral network, you must find a way to incorporate cold prospecting into your mix. Often new business directors will wonder how much outreach is enough? How many phone calls and emails will result in a qualified meeting? We recommend tracking your success rate at each touchpoint. This allows you to know if you are consistently reaching out to enough prospects in your outreach cadence. Proper measurements typically include:

  • How many people typically reply to a cold email or call?
  • Of those replies, how many of them turn into a discovery meeting/call?
  • What number of discovery meetings turn into qualified leads?
  • How many qualified leads convert to RFI/RFP opportunities? 
  • What’s the win percentage of RFI/RFPs for your agency?

If you’ve never kept track of these numbers before, you can use benchmarks.

Our clients typically see conversion rates of:

  • 12% – 15% opens to cold emails (above industry average of 5% – 7%).
  • 7% – 10% conversion on call volume to live conversations.
  • Approximately 25% of leads moving to discovery and qualifying.
  • And 60% or more qualified leads moving to an RFI or RFP.   

Agencies that are just getting started on proactive outreach can see numbers a bit lower than these. Keep in mind many agencies underestimate how many prospects they actually need in their pool and keeping steady pipeline is a full-time job in itself. Make sure you have the resources and bandwidth necessary to fuel the fire.

Estimate The Investment: Time and Money

If you’re an agency executive responsible for driving new business and running the entire agency, be aware of what that double duty is costing you.

If you’re juggling too many tasks, it’s likely you are completing projects, but not doing them exceptionally well. As an agency executive, your time is best served strategically looking at ways to grow the overall business, not just through the lens of new business. If you’re worried about the time and investment it would take to hire someone in-house, we can manage this function for you at Catapult. There’s huge potential in having someone solely focused on bringing in both cold and warm opportunities for your agency.  

 

Now that you have a better understanding the agency growth funnel, what goes into forecasting your new business goals, and the resources required to hit them, check out our Agency Growth Calculator to see how the numbers line up for your business!

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8 Tips For Closing The Sale

8 Tips for Closing The Sale

Let’s set the scene here: You’ve managed to secure a meeting with a C-level executive for a global brand, and now it’s time to deliver your presentation and make your pitch. What happens during the next hour will determine whether you have a shot at closing the account or not. With that being said, many agencies say their biggest struggle is their sales approach and that they don’t fully understand what an executive hopes to get out of a meeting until it’s too late. So let’s rethink the entire process for your agency with these 8 tips for closing the sale.

If you ask a dozen sales people for their best tips on closing, you’d probably get a dozen different responses. While many sales techniques are as different as those who are executing them, there’s still some tried and true tips everyone should use to effectively close.

Here are 8 tips for closing the sale and winning big business.

1. Earn the right.

Before you can close the deal, you must earn the right to do so. You earn it by delivering on your promises, consistently following up, and showing up for meetings on time, every time. Make it clear during every interaction with the prospect that you are well prepared and eager to serve them and increase their bottom line. Focus each touchpoint on how you can help them instead of what you can get out of them, and you will eventually earn the right to ask for the sale.

2. Make the work the focal point.

Brands primarily want to see the work an agency has produced. Your opening remarks on a call or greeting during an in-person meeting should last no more than five to ten minutes. As the agency principle, you may provide some background of the agency’s culture, but should not waste time trying to impress the prospect with your industry philosophy or views of the landscape. Just get to the good stuff. It’s what your prospects want to see. 

Find a simple way to provide your current list of key clients or accounts, so they can see if there are conflicts or similar businesses. Make sure a creative director is available to give more detail on your work.

3. Provide context and results.

Brands want to know how your agency uses creativity to solve business challenges. Don’t just show the highlights – prospects want to see your full scope of work. Case studies work best in order to clearly articulate your client success. When presenting case studies, use context, action, and results (CAR). Give a brief overview of the challenge for each campaign, and discuss the action you took, and with some key results. We also recommend including a timeline of your project or cost data to show your efficiency. Be prepared to defend your creative choices while presenting case studies in a way that reinforces your client’s trust and makes it hard for your prospect to live without you.

4. Sell more value.

In a price-sensitive market, you win the business when you can show more value than the asking price. Value is determined not by the market, but by your customer. Show them your product or service is more valuable than the price, and the sale is yours.

You can also showcase how your ideas translate across different mediums to prove your value. Share at least a handful of case studies that represent your portfolio across various categories. Don’t worry if there isn’t anything specific to the vertical your prospect competes in. Brand executives will expect to see work that goes well beyond their own category. 

 5. Prepare and plan.

If you’ve spent the time to make your prospect understand your value is greater than the price you are asking, it’s time for you to prepare and to plan for the close. Preparing includes all the information, paperwork, forms, etc. you need to move forward and making sure you’ve had the right conversations with the right people. You should also anticipate any last-minute objections your prospect might have and how you will respond to them.

6. Make them understand you’re different.

Your prospects want to know your unique capabilities. Identify what makes you different from the agency down the street — those are your superpowers. Maybe you have a specialty in a particular vertical, like experiential activations or events. Maybe you have a lot of experience with a particular target audience, have done work in a specific product category, or you’ve launched new brands with tremendous success. Look for opportunities to consistently reinforce your superpowers to prospects.

7. Under promise and over deliver.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of promising something you cannot deliver. If your product or service takes some time to fully execute, never promise you can deliver something sooner. It’s common sense, I know, but you’d be surprised what someone will guarantee when they’re under the pressure to close the sale. 

If you under promise, you’ll have ample opportunity to over deliver. Why over promise when it already takes long enough to gain trust from your buyer? And when you exceed the expectation you’ve set, your prospect will realize your agency can be an essential part of their business.

8. Ask for next steps.

After any touchpoint with your prospect, ask the customer what the next steps would be. If they are unsure, make suggestions of steps that move you closer to closing.  Keep in mind – the next step could be to finalize the deal, but often, inexperienced sales people add too many steps before trying to close.

We hope these 8 tips for closing the sale guide you during your sales cycle with the prospect you’ve always dreamed of working with. Being skilled at closing is arguably one of the most important techniques to master in sales. If your agency wants to improve your current sales process including positioning, pitching and closing, contact us today.  Whether you need to elevate your existing business development plan or don’t know where to start, Catapult can assist in creating new business opportunities that will help scale and sustain your agency’s growth.

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4 Essentials to Sustainable Agency Growth

What does growth even mean? We find most agencies think growth is about adding more and more new clients to their portfolio. Other agencies believe growth is about long-term marketing efforts to build stronger awareness with prospective clients, and driving inbound new business. From our 15 years of experience working with agencies of every size and kind, we see two core things that successful agencies do well under the banner of “growth”. First and foremost, they focus on building success for clients with quality work and measurable impact in order to drive retention and organic growth. Second, they have a clear plan to drive new business through these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth:

1. Have a workable, proactive sales process in place.

Without a structured sales process, you may take on any opportunity thinking it’s essential for the financial health of your agency. However, the cost of the client can sometimes be more expensive than the revenue it brings in. Taking on any and every opportunity happens when your sales team doesn’t have appropriate guidelines to work with. If a proper sales process is designed to help them drive quality leads, you’ll save time and money, allowing them to work more strategically and more effectively.

We find every great sales process includes:

  • Understanding the buyer’s journey and using it as your starting point to an approach based on the needs of your prospect.  
  • Clearly defining each stage of the journey and what activities are involved.
  • Identifying the value for your agency in each phase of the process.
  • Creating a strong connection between the marketing and sales team.
  • Finding the pain points of potential clients and highlighting your solutions in solving them – this is what makes your agency hard to dismiss.

2. Define your ideal client.

Buyer personas are not a new concept, but in today’s competitive agency landscape, it’s more important than ever to understand who your ideal client is, what their needs are, and whether your agency has a “right to win” with them. An effective buyer persona answers the following: 

  • What industry do they work in?
  • What is their company size?
  • Who are the key decision makers (and influencers)?
  • Where do they look for agency partners?
  • What are their key pain points?
  • Which services do they need?
  • What kind of budget are they working with? 

These questions will help focus your efforts and generate the opportunities you want.

3. Upsell and retain clients.

Many agencies are a bit passive when it comes to expanding scope with current clients. Account teams are not natural sales people, and are (rightly) focused on billable time and the business at hand. So how can your new business team help? Create a plan for each client that helps them understand other ways you can help their business. It’s an effective sales approach that benefits the client who has already experienced the quality of what you have to offer. And think about the energy and resources you’ll save as opposed to looking for new accounts. Focus on keeping current clients happy and identify new ways your expertise can bring even more value.  

4. Hone your unique selling proposition.

To understand your current unique selling proposition, ask your existing clients where they look for a new partner and how they found you. Most importantly, why they chose your agency and the measurable impact you have on their business. Your USP should not be centered on a philosophy or theoretical outcome, but rather a quantifiable one focused on your particular expertise. This is critical to differentiating yourself to prospects, helping your agency evolve, and supporting your growth. 

 

Creating, understanding, and working these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth will create a sustainable pathway to revenue generating opportunities. We know it seems challenging to navigate the overcrowded, undifferentiated landscape at time. But by making these key areas a priority, your agency will be on the right track to repeatable, revenue generating opportunities. 

 

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Agency Myth: Narrowing Your Focus Results in Missed Opportunities

agency focus

You hear it all the time – brands are moving more advertising and marketing functions in-house. From media buying to SEO to full service offerings, every day brings news of another brand deciding it’s better, and cheaper, to do it themselves. Brand experience is the same. As brands embrace experience-led thinking, they tend to hire internal experts who understand creative through the traditional experience lenses of activations, pop-ups and live events.

This leaves your agency with two options – either expand your offerings and cast a wider net for more opportunities or waste time going against the current. But moving out of your niche causes your agency to be spread too thin. As a result, you’ll find yourself relying on freelancers to fill in the gaps and run the risk of damaging relationships and reputations by underdelivering. We’ve also seen agencies start to create friction with clients’ internal agencies who are trying to protect their shrinking piece of the pie. Both approaches can create barriers to sustainable agency growth.

We suggest a third option for success. 

Focus. It’s not a dirty word. Go narrow, clearly identify where you excel, and make it your mission to be absolutely best in class in that area. All too often we see agencies who have a fear of focusing and differentiating themselves because they are afraid of leaving money on the table.

Brand marketers continue to turn to those who know a subject area, a target audience, a technology or tool, or a sub-discipline of marketing and advertising. They want genuine expertise over generalization.  This should resonate with you more than anything. Whether you are partnering with in-house teams or part of a multi-agent effort, in order to adapt to today’s landscape, narrowing your focus should become your new normal. While it may mean closing off certain revenue streams (in the short term), it ultimately future-proofs your agency by making you an ideal partner with valuable expertise.

But how do you narrow your agency focus? To get started, here are two things to consider.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

This one is trickier than most think. If may seem risky to lower the number of revenue generating avenues in front of you, especially when times get tough, but the truth is, expertise will always be valued. It is critical to assess what your agency does well, and strengthen in these areas. At the same time, be intentional about removing offerings that aren’t at the core of your business, or within the capabilities of your own team. Expertise will ultimately lead to increased trust and more honest, profitable relationships. 

Build relationships with trusted partners.

“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
-Steve Jobs

We know you don’t want to say no to a prospect or client, but it doesn’t mean you should be quick to say yes. As you eliminate your non-essential offerings, reach out to partners that are experts in that field, and cultivate new relationships with them.

If clients ask you to take on something outside your narrow focus of expertise, suggest sharing the load with a trusted partner. The benefit of this is you keep your trusted relationship with the client while also building a strong relationship with partner agencies. As a result of this, there could be reverse opportunities as those partners begin recommending your team when in similar situations. It can feel risky to ask for help, but if you’ve laid a solid foundation, you should be able to avoid a situation where you underdeliver. 

Here are the benefits of narrowing your focus and finding your true point of difference. 

Fewer competitors.

When you offer everything, you’re really competing with everyone.

A few things happen when your agency finds the importance in narrowing your focus and becoming the best at your niche. You may notice your competition is virtually eliminated. The more you focus on your niche, the less other companies will offer what you offer. Once you determine your focus, your competition will be a fraction of what was there before, and you’ll realize only a handful of agencies are doing exactly what you are. 

More partners.

When you narrow your focus, your competitors can become partners. 

After eliminating thousands of agencies that were once your competition, you’ll find you now have many potential partners. You’ll also realize there are so many companies with complementary services to a similar client. This aspect of narrowing your focus could lead to the greatest amount of growth for your agency. Coming together with other partners who specialize in different skills in the same industry can help achieve the greatest outcome for clients. 

Improvement at a faster rate.

Practice one thing for hundreds of hours instead of hundreds of things for one hour. 

Once you eliminate the other things that were dividing your attention, you’ll soon realize your can spend so much more time learning and practicing on your area of focus. You will find you can keep up with the latest methods and trends within your niche that you never had time for before. A narrow focus helps you improve at a much faster rate. 

Higher value.

The most important benefit of narrowing your focus is the increased value you can bring to your client. When you provide a specific service for a specific industry, you are better and faster at solving problems. You’ll understand the needs of your client quicker with less of a learning curve on each new project. It may seem like you are eliminating potential clients once you find your niche, but remember how valuable you’re making your agency to the clients that are right for you. Ultimately, you’re growing your pipeline and your business. 

We are all living in a world of sameness that needs more specialists.

Think of all the revenue generating opportunities you will create when you excel in your uniqueness. A tight focus on your core expertise ensures your agency is easy to buy and difficult to dismiss. That’s what true differentiation is all about. 

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Setting your pace – Lead or Lag?

If new business is a race, would you say it’s better to spend your time looking forward or backward? Do you run with your head turned backward watching mile markers get further away? Or do you watch those mile markers in front of you get closer? I would highly suggest not looking backward whenever you are running, and the same goes for your new business planning.

As any agency approaches this process of planning, it’s important to note there are two different types of measurements that can change not only how you evaluate the race that is your new business program, but also predict your future success. Those two are Lag Measures and Lead Measures. Let’s break them down.

  1. Lag Measures – These are backward looking measurements of a result that has already happened.
  2. Lead Measures – These are forward-looking measurements that are predicting a result that will happen.

In 2018 your agency needs to be looking at Lead Measures and how they can help you forecast revenue, new clients, and staffing needs. Too often, I see agencies looking at only lag measures to determine how they are doing with new business. They look back at measures like number of leads created or revenue generated and then try to determine what will happen in the future based off of those results. Closing a new client in August has no bearing on September’s chances of closing a piece of new business, so why do we forecast this way?

The best example I have seen of an agency using lead measures was based on two factors. First, my agency measured the number of “engaged conversations” that they have each month. An engaged conversation was defined as one where they determine money, authority, and need from a prospect. They knew that if they had five of those calls a month, that would lead to enough pitches to hit their new business goals. The second measurement was based on lead score. Any great new business program will have a marketing automation built into it and that will include lead scoring capabilities. This lead scoring mechanism gave my agency the ability to judge just how effective their sales and nurture campaigns were and allowed them to prioritize prospects to go after. They set a score level of 25 points as the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). The goal was to create 15 MQLs a month, because if they got 15 MQLS, then they could have at least 5 Engaged Conversations. See how each of these begin to predict one another?


As your agency begins to set your new business goals for the year, take a look at all of the different ways that you measure the success of your program. Take those measurements and put them either in a Lag or a Lead bucket. The majority of those will probably fall into that Lag bucket, and it’s fine to track those, but we want to start prioritizing the tracking of those Lead measurements. If you can find two dependable Lead measures, then you have not only simplified what you need to report, but you can also begin to set realistic goals for 2018 that will actually drive you to more new business wins!

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Before you hire your next Business Development Director make these commitments

If you were a baseball manager, would you send your best hitter to the plate without a bat? Everyday I see more and more agency principal doing just that thing. They hire a Business Development Director and then send them to bat without any of the tools or strategies needed to actually win and develop new business.

If you’re an agency principal and hiring a new Business Development Director is in your near future, make sure you commit to support them in the following ways before you bring them on board:

  1. Commit to financial investments beyond their salary. If you’re going to invest in new business than do it, for real. Hiring a person and then giving them zero dollars to invest in technology, data, process, or content is setting them up with failure at the very beginning. Yes, they should be able to use the phone and email, but expecting them to be able to do it at scale without a CRM, Marketing Automation, complete website, etc, is essentially tying their hands behind their back at the very beginning. This means that when you are committing to new business, you are committing to the financial cost of not only the human capital, but also the technology the profession demands.
  2. Commit to have a clear and differentiated agency promise. If you as the principle of an agency can’t describe your agency, what you do, and what makes you different in 1 sentence, then how can you expect your new hire to? Take the time to go through a positioning exercise with a professional and sculpt a unique position in your niche in order to help your new hire not only communicate to new prospects, but also find them easier. The clearer your position is the easier it is to drill down to exactly the types of prospects we should be chasing and ensure that we can better communicate with them.
  3. Commit to Always Be Creating. ABC. If you want them to Always Be Closing, you better Always Be Creating. This means they need thought leadership in the form of blog posts, white papers, or webinars. If you do amazing work for a client, actually track and get results so that the team can build a case study to share. There is nothing worse than having a great conversation with a prospect, the prospect is intrigued and asks the new business person for an example to see, and they have nothing tangible to put in front of them.
  4. Commit to set realistic timelines and goals. History comes into play here. If your agency has literally never won a piece of business from cold outreach, don’t give your new Business Development hire a three month runway to get a deal in. Set realistic KPIs based off of activity, engagement, proposals, and revenue. We all know that Business Development in our world takes time, so setting meaningful KPIs on each of those four areas allows them the comfort to know what is expected, shows your commitment to them for the long term, while also holding them accountable to performing the proper activities in order to build momentum. Transparency breeds positive interactions between sales and management.
  5. Commit to having an open mind. As an agency principal sometimes it is very difficult to defer to a new hire. A new hire often comes in with all sorts of ideas on positioning or process that may very greatly from how you initially set up the shop. My advice is that you don’t have to change anything just because they say you should, but you should be open to them being critical of how we have been positioned in the past and open to at least a discussion of how a prospect may view you. Their outside insight may be just the thing that helps you break into the minds of new prospects.

If you set out at the very beginning of the hiring process with these commitments in mind, you should have two very positive outcomes. First, the hiring process should be easier, because your position will be more attractive to any experienced new business pro. Second, that new hire will actually have every tool, process, and strategy needed in order to succeed. At this point, you have done your part, now they just need to hit the home run.

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New business is a race: Don’t stop for a water break in the summer

Agency race

Think of the calendar year and new business as a race.  January 1st is the starting line and you line up with 100 competitors.  Everyone is intent on proactively finding new business this year and tracking down their top prospects.  When the gun sounds and the race begins in January, we see tons of initial email and social media activity through February.  Then something happens:  Everyone slows down.  That Q1 sprint hits people hard and they begin to realize that this is actually a marathon, not a sprint.  Many come out of the gate too fast and burn themselves out and we see agency after agency begin to put their new business efforts aside.

Meanwhile, the strong (smart) agencies are still out here fighting after Q1 and tracking those prospects in Q2.  They have great content being distributed and a consistent stream of emails, calls, and social posts that will make up the base of their communications for prospecting throughout the year.   Around the end of Q2, we typically see 50% of the original 100 competitors have dropped from the race completely.  There are a myriad of reasons for why this happens, but the good news for you as a smart agency still running the race is that your competition is basically cut in half!

So your field of competition has been thinned out to just the strongest racers.  This means that the summer months and Q3 is more important than ever to not stumble and to actually ramp up your efforts.  Why ramp up our efforts?

Because your competition is at the water station taking a break.

Seriously!  Send an email to your friends in the agency world.  How many out of office vacation reminders do you get?  Our agency newsletter during the summer months sees a near 200% increase in vacation responders.  These are all agency new business people that are out enjoying their summer.   I envy them on the beach, but while they are there, my agencies are doubling their efforts to fill the void that prospects are feeling.

So what’s so wrong with taking a quick water break?  Momentum, consistency, and starting over.    It is really damn difficult to pick back up your content efforts at full speed when you’ve been at a stop.  Not to mention, every moment you aren’t talking to a prospect, I can guarantee that someone else is.  I choose to be the agency that is talking to them.

Of course, my agencies take vacations too.  Here is what we do to combat a lull during vacation, and avoid taking that water break:

  1. We build content in 2-3 month chunks. This means that we are always working ahead in order to have as much content planned, created, and scheduled as possible.  In order to better plan content like this in advance, you better have your audiences clearly defined and broken out, so that you can tailor each message as much as possible.  This is key for the next step.We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points.  This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.
  2. We utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively making contact with prospects yourself, your new business machine is still running that race for you with content touch points.  This automation makes that audience and content exercise in step one even more important, since we are going to flip the switch to go and step away.

There is nothing wrong with resting and recharging during the summer for the end of year push.  In fact, we encourage it.  But if you were smart, you would take advantage of this huge opportunity of quiet time from your competitors and fill the void with your own content in order to keep your name in front of those prospects that are most important to you.  Staying strong in the summer can get you to the finish line a whole lot quicker than your competition.

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Interactive calculator for your agency’s new business pipeline needs

Calculator

Here at Catapult we are all about understanding our agency’s prospecting and pipeline needs. If you don’t know what it takes in terms of activities and numbers to generate a winning piece of business, how can you develop a successful plan to do just that? As an easy tool, we created a Pipeline Calculator that breaks down this process into three simple chunks to help our agencies get a head start on understanding their pipeline numbers.

Goal

The goal section is made up of three main pieces – revenue goal, the number of contacts in the database, and average first-year value of a deal. Your revenue goal should be pretty straightforward in this calculation. We are looking at the amount of new revenue generated from new business (not organic growth). The number of contacts in your database is essentially how many individual contact prospects you’re currently reaching out to in your content marketing. This is a number that is easily changed and can have a major impact on your new business success. Often though, we see people trying to adjust other numbers and holding to very small databases with zero success. Resources like Winmo allow for focused growth in these databases to hit the quantities needed to be successful.

Lastly, the average first-year value of a deal is limited to just this first-year value, so in these calculations we are not over-valuing each deal for our short-term prospecting efforts.

Pipeline Calculator

Pipeline

This is the area where many agencies struggle. Understanding each stage of the sales pipeline process is something that most have never done. We broke this section out into four main parts – Initial Approaches, 1st Meetings, Needs Analysis, and Pitches. For many of our clients, turning the amount of Initial Approaches into 1st meetings is the biggest area where we can provide improvement for them. Most agencies aren’t making a lot of proactive introductions to new brands. As a result, they are limiting themselves from an initial database size perspective, and their conversion rate in this area is also very low. For any sales person this is going to be a smaller number, as we are fighting through initial qualification, awareness, and timing issues to move these prospects to first meetings. With that knowledge, increasing your database size and improving your approach are paramount.

We also find that many of our clients initially overestimate their win rate on pitches. Anecdotally, I can tell you that when I talk to agency principals and owners, the win rate is often overestimated while a New Business Director may often underestimate. I think this is purely a function of perception given how much they are both involved in conversations with new prospects. Our advice: Be conservative on your pitch rate win percentage and if you overperform it, all the better.

Results

From here, we should have a good understanding of both the number of new clients that we will win based off of percentages, and the total revenue generated from new client wins. Disclaimer: There are many factors that go into your individual success, such as time, skill, resources, etc. This calculator should be used with the understanding that it is giving you a baseline of understanding of different areas of your pipeline process that you need to consider when both setting goals at the beginning of the year, and as your year progresses.

You should be using this calculator to understand where you might be underperforming. If you find yourself lower than average on initial approaches, then you can fix that area. If you are generating enough meetings and pitches but not winning business, no worries. We fix our pitch materials. If we are fine on all of our pipeline stage percentages but still not getting enough meetings, then most likely we need to look at how many prospect contacts we are reaching out to in our database.

Hopefully, this calculator gives you an initial guide to your proactive prospecting efforts!

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(Webinar) So many agencies. So little difference.

Is your agency truly unique?  Or are you one of the thousands of agencies selling the same products and services? Almost all agencies claim to be unique, different or better while using essentially the same descriptors as the others. The truth is, most prospects (advertisers) can barely tell the difference in your agency and your biggest competitor.

In this session we looked to fix that by discussing:

  • Your differentiator isn’t different at all
  • How to find your difference
  • Using your differentiator to generate more opportunities

For any business development program to be successful, we need to take this first step of identifying a truly unique position.  Once that positioning is in place content and distribution becomes much more effective.  Hopefully this webinar will give you a great first step in finding your uniqueness!

Our guest host this month was John Heenan.  Be sure to check out his website for other great insights and content!

So many agencies. So little difference. from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.

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