Posts Tagged ‘agency new business’

Top Tips for New Business Prospecting During the Holidays

Top Tips for New Business Prospecting During the Hollidays

The holiday season can be a tough time for new business pros as they try and navigate prospects’ holiday time off, end of year meetings, and planning cycles for the new year.  While there are certainly hurdles for prospecting during this time of year, at Catapult we’ve seen some serious new business opportunities created for our agencies purely because we continued to push for conversations when all of our competitors began to slow down. The key is that you keep your approach flexible with some creative ideas and language. Here’s some tips for new business prospecting straight from our experts at Catapult.

Top tips for new business prospecting during the holidays:

Actionable change takes time

With any big structural change, results can take time to show up, especially in the digital realm. Having those conversations with brands right now means they could see results within Q1, so our job as new business professionals is getting marketers to be thinking that far ahead and evaluating how we can help move that Q1 needle for them.

Don’t forget the phone

We’ve found our phone outreach to be more successful during the holidays. Execs are prone to answer the phone more often during the holiday “slow down” when there are fewer meetings on their books. Less meetings typically mean people are in better moods and more willing to take a chance on a cold conversation with someone new.

Set meetings for January

Calendars are likely more open at the beginning of the year, and prospects may appreciate you not asking to speak right then during the holidays. Our experts at Catapult have found success with reaching out in November and December to schedule a meeting for January. While typically we don’t want to schedule that far out, this is the one time of year where we may employ a delay tactic in order to ensure the prospect has time to commit to a real conversation.

Try weekend mornings

Mornings during the weekend and fringe holiday days, like the Friday after Thanksgiving, tend to be very productive for prospecting. Top executives and decision-makers are rarely away from their computers and it’s a way to reach people while many of your competitors take time off. Prospects also tend to have less crowded inboxes during the weekend. Just ensure that if you are going with this method that you are sending 1:1 ABM emails and not mass spam messaging (for that matter, don’t ever send spam messaging!).

Hone in on un-spent budgets

Don’t be afraid to send those “last-minute budget emails” to see if there is budget left in year-end that needs to be used. Encourage them to invest with you now and implement into their 2021 strategic plan. 

Be mindful of the season

This shouldn’t have to be said, but please remember that it’s not all about Christmas for everyone. Being understanding in your language to all of the major holidays and the fact that some people don’t celebrate any of them can ensure that you don’t land yourself in an awkward situation.  

Take advantage of New Year’s resolutions

It’s the biggest time of the year for gyms, weight loss programs, diet fads, healthy bars, drinks, vitamins, etc. and marketing efforts for those brands is crucial right now. Brands are looking to make serious shifts in how they market themselves as it relates to New Year’s resolutions given the COVID environment. In the same way that people make New Year’s resolutions, brands do too.  There’s always something they want to change in the new year, it’s up to you to find it!

Call the right people

C-level, EVP, and SVP executives are most likely working on the days most people take off. With their colleagues on PTO, there may be a great possibility of those prospects picking up a cold phone call or answering an interesting email.

Try handwritten notes

Handwritten notes to top prospects explaining your capabilities can help break through the emails and voicemails that haven’t caught their attention. This one may be tough given the current work from home status of many companies, but we are seeing some folks working back in their offices a couple of days a week. 

Keep it fresh

Continue to add new contacts to your pipeline and refresh the ones you have. With the current changes from COVID, a lot of your old connections have left or moved companies.  Regardless of COVID, we always see some of the biggest shifts in people around this time of year.

Be brief

Keep your messaging short and sweet. Break through the thousands of other sales and promotional emails with brief messaging, human tone, and well-crafted subject lines. And don’t forget to address a pain point. No one wants to read an email all about yourself and what you do.  This stands for post-holiday as well, but it’s even more important now when your prospects are being inundated with graphic heavy, self promotion from your competitors.

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Three Things Your Agency Can Do While Others Are Standing Still

Three Things Your Agency Can Do While Others Are Standing Still

You’ve built and run an agency because you wanted to change (or at least impact) the world. That’s what agencies do, right? They are the driving force for almost everything we consume – be it a product or perspective. Agencies connect consumables to consumers. And even though many things are fluid, we have not stopped consuming.

But as brands strive to navigate how to appropriately and effectively engage their consumers, they’ve found themselves in need of new perspectives, new capabilities, new expertise, and new trusted partners. We know that consumers are open to hearing from brands.

“A 4As research survey [conducted during the week of March 16] of 1000 consumers looking at changing consumer attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 43% of respondents said it’s “reassuring” to hear from brands they know and trust, while 40% want to hear what brands are doing in response to the health crisis. Only 15% said they do not want to hear from brands at this time.”

But brands need a guide to effectively dialogue with their audiences.

It is imperative to recognize that your agency has a unique opportunity to lead during this time. You’ve built a team with the capability to deliver unique insights and captivating executions. You are positioned to be the expert that brands need in order to navigate a challenging time. Your clients have depended on you for innovation and now is no different. Yes, there is a changing landscape, but you run an agency – adapting to new, critical information is nothing new for you.

If your agency stands still, another will step forward and move you further back from A) a position of impact B) a driver in economic recovery for our country, your clients, your company.

Here are three things your agency can do while others are standing still:

1. Provide a Guiding Perspective

There’s always noise. Especially now. But, given the circumstances, the impact of the noise feels a bit more overwhelming. Be the guide that your clients & prospects need. Help them cut through the noise with a perspective on what you know that matters to them and why it’s important for them to evaluate. Provide a few, clear insights that can drive effective communication between their org and their audience. Note – having a perspective doesn’t mean knowing everything. One of the most dangerous things you can do in this environment is to step outside of your expertise.

2. Balance Confidence and Humility

In our industry, “sales” is rarely a welcomed principal or desired activity. However, the world is driven by communicating the value of a product, service, or idea to those who need it. Right now, there are tens of thousands of brands that are in need of the value you offer. Be confident in that value offer but also engage with humility. Most of us are open to helpful insights but turned off by unnecessary egos.

3. Be a Good Human

Most humans aren’t so great at change. We are all disrupted right now. Be sensitive to the fact that every person you are engaging with may be dealing with different stress. Whether it’s closures, a remote work environment, children at home, or new budget cuts, we are all working around new challenges. Use your time and assets to build and invest in relationships and providing assistance. That goes a long way with most other humans.

 

We understand the agency world is perpetually volatile.

But, it’s a bit easier to be a good partner when the world isn’t confronted with a pandemic-induced lockdown. How you show up during a time like this will have a significant impact on the long-term health of your business and client/prospect relationships. The current landscape creates an opportunity for you to show your clients and prospects what a great partner is. Now is not the time to stand still. You’ve invested in a team of experts, position them to deliver. Leverage your expertise to educate clients and prospects in how they can progress, if not excel, during this time. Be mindful of others and your investment in relationships will be fruitful.

Leading from the front is not easy. It requires confidence, intention, willingness to be scrutinized, and perseverance. But when the world and our industry begin to normalize, you’ll be better off leading the way than trying to claw your way out of the bottom of the pile.

 

As always, if you have questions, feedback, or want to discuss agency growth, you can reach me at ericb@catapultagencygrowth.com.

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6 Interview Questions For Agency Business Development Directors

6 Interview Questions For Agency Business Development Directors

The average agency-client relationship lasts 36 months, which means at any given moment one of your competitors is about to lose a client. But what if you were the one that is losing the client? Do you have the resources in place to make sure you can protect your agency from the inevitable turnover of clients? 

The first resource your team needs to be investing in to protect against churn is a proactive Business Development Director.  It should come as no surprise that experienced business development professionals capture a bigger slice of the new business pie than those just getting started. The tough part is identifying those directors with the right type of experience to best grow your firm.

In order to help you identify those Business Development Directors with the right type of proactive experience, we’ve listed out 6 interview questions for your next internal or outsourced partner.  Being smart with these questions can make a massive difference in the amount of growth your team experiences this year.

6 Interview Questions For Agency Business Development Directors

How much “hunting” have you done?

New business—indeed, any sale—is about experience in the field.  Isn’t it amazing how the best new business people always seem a bit lucky?  A lot of “right place at the right time”. Well it isn’t luck, it’s hours and hours of experience working through what prospects want and need so that their message is the one bubbling to the top over all the other agencies out there pursuing new business.

How comfortable are you with approaching a prospect cold?

Cold calling or cold emailing is a complicated business. Even with tools to increase your chances of setting appointments, you have to be able to handle rejection (or worse…the cold loneliness of no response) every day without letting it affect the next conversation. If you find someone that thrives on making conversations out of nothing, then you’ve found a keeper.

What role did you play in helping to win a new client?

There are many stages to a new business win. Your potential new employee may have been involved in the first outreach call, set the appointment, gave the presentation or closed the business.  It’s vital that they can recognize the value of their contribution—without over-valuing it. New business acquisition is often a team sport and we want to make sure that their expertise fits in the current team’s mix and brings value to any new business engagement.

Were you involved in face to face meetings with clients or teeing up initial conversations? What has been your involvement with client new business presentations?

While closing and prospecting are both important, they are two totally different skill sets. Many agency new business people come from a background of receiving RFPs and responding to them.  That’s a very different task than going out and creating opportunities out of nothing. If you’re moving into a more proactive new business approach, your new business person needs to reflect this move.

How do you go about building strong relationships?

Business development is all about maintaining and improving relationships. Transparency, honesty, mutual respect and shared interests are as vital in a sales engagement as they are in any other relationship, and sales professionals who excel at managing their relationships are more likely to be viewed as trustworthy by their clients.

What would clients you closed say about you?

No candidate is going to lead with a negative, but the reason you ask this question is to gauge their willingness to be candid and honest about their weaknesses.  We also want to find out what do they really value? Do they put emphasis on their ability to connect, to persuade, find a problem, or identify a solution? Their answers will open many new questions about their personal style and how they might go about helping potential prospects learn more about your agency.

Finally, if your reaction to a candidate isn’t an emphatic “yes,” it’s a “no.” If they can’t sell themselves then they certainly can’t sell your agency.  Time to keep looking!

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Agency Awards To Consider In Q4

agency awards to consider in Q4

Awards are the best way to get independent feedback on the quality of your work. We understand entering takes time and added resources, but the reward is worth the effort. Similar to our Q3 list, here’s a quick glance at the agency awards to consider in Q4. Winning, or just being a finalist, is a huge PR opportunity that differentiates you from your competition. Awards also help your prospects identify who is doing some of the best work and the impact they make on client success.

Your hard work and innovation needs to be recognized. These are the agency awards to consider in Q4:

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Brands are always looking for innovative outside partners, and showcasing an award you’ve won is that meeting point.  It helps validate your work and honors your team of experts. Not to mention, winning is guaranteed to enhance your credibility among clients and prospects.

Great agencies focus on their clients’ goals, and award programs provide you an opportunity to take a step back and review how others in your category are creating success stories for their clients. Make sure you are selective about the awards you enter. Your entry should accurately represent what you do best, and remember to always be honest with yourself about where you stand among the competition. And if you don’t win, make it a learning opportunity for your agency. Share with your team why you feel another agency won, and how you can elevate your entry next time. Insights and discussions around what your competition is doing will only make your team stronger.

As you plan for 2020, think about how you can start off the new year in a big way by earning a prestigious award!

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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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The Top Marketing and Advertising Associations to Join Right Now

As an agency owner, you’re overwhelmed. Just managing the everyday stuff – client emails, strategy sessions, vendor and freelancer partnerships, and even students who want an internship can be a challenge. We know you need help, too. Whether it’s advice from industry pros, access to more information, training, or industry news, a marketing and advertising association can be a good choice.  Here are the top marketing and advertising associations to join right now.

These associations will give you access to people who have been there before. The people who understand the complexities and processes of running a marketing firm. Networking with other executives and having open conversations about the challenges you’re facing can not only help you gain insight into better managing your business, it can also tremendously impact the success of your growth in an ever-changing landscape. 

Below, we’ve curated detailed information on the top marketing and advertising associations we think are worth your time to explore, along with their top recommended events.

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA)

The ANA arms members with the skills, tools, and resources to grow their careers. With best-in-class content, events, and training, the ANA helps members build stronger brands and provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA’s membership includes more than 680 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising. 

The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA) which operate as divisions of the ANA, and the Advertising Educational Foundation which is an ANA subsidiary.

As one of the leading associations within the advertising and marketing industry, we highly recommend joining the ANA if you’re an agency executive. Their events are highly relevant to agencies and companies and most of the members are corporate marketing executives.

Save The Date

Event: 2019 ANA Masters of Marketing Week
Date(s): October 2-5
Location: Orlando, FL

Mirren

Mirren works closely with CEOs and their management teams to support agencies through consulting and training regarding best practices in new business development. Their membership gives you access to their resource center of On-Demand Learning and Advanced Webinars. Although Mirren is technically not an association, we included them because they are a household name for agencies. 

Save The Date

Event: Mirren CEO Summit
Date(s): November 7-8
Location: Chicago, IL

4A’s

Founded in 1917, the 4A’s is the national trade association representing the advertising agency business in the United States. As a management-oriented association, the 4A’s offers members the broadest possible services, expertise and information regarding the advertising agency business. Its membership produces approximately 80 percent of the total advertising volume placed by agencies nationwide. Although virtually all of the large, multinational agencies are members of the 4A’s, more than 60 percent of our membership bills less than $10 million per year.

The 4A’s is the ultimate organization for agencies of all types and sizes. They offer valuable training, conferences, and best practices in how to drive agency sales, profits and develop new business.

Save The Date

Event: 4A’s Mothers@Agencies
Date(s): August 28 – December 4
Location: Online Program

Event: Launch for Leaders
Date(s): September 18-19
Location: New York, NY

Event: 4A’s Stratfest 2019
Date(s): October 15-17
Location: New York, NY

Insights Association (IA)

The Insights Association is a founding member of Privacy for America, a coalition working with Congress to modernize data privacy protection via a bold new national paradigm. Their members are the world’s leading producers of intelligence, analytics and insights defining the needs, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers, organizations and their employees. 

IA more wide-reaching content designed for easy consumption. You’ll find videos and case studies on particular trends, as well as frequent editorials on the latest marketing news. Membership is divided into multiple levels, but the focus is primarily on research and data as opposed to more social aspects of marketing.

Save The Date

Event: CEO Summit Europe
Date(s): September 11-13
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Event: CRC 2019
Date(s): October 22-24
Location: Orlando, FL

Event: Converge
Date(s): December 10-11
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)

The IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. 

The IAB has many tools and classes for free without requiring membership or certification which is always a plus. This includes fee calculators and ad view-ability guides. Certification is divided into several different specialties and levels of expertise, allowing you to customize your training based on your position and goals.

Save The Date

Event: 2019 NewFront West
Date(s): September 11-12
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Event: Direct Brand Summit
Date(s): November 20-21
Location: New York, NY

Agency Management Institute (AMI)

Founded in 1995, AMI provides training, consulting, and original survey data on salaries and benefits for small- to mid-size agencies. But the core focus is the owner peer networks, where members meet for two days twice a year to discuss financials, business development, marketing, and staffing.

AMI wants to help agencies “increase their AGI by at least 25%, attract better clients and employees, and best of all — exceed the agency owner’s life/financial goals.”

Save The Date

Event: Build a Better Agency Summit
Date(s): May 18-20, 2020
Location: Chicago, IL

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The CMO Sweet Spot for Agency New Business

As the business development lead at your agency, you may already have a solid understanding that the CMO has more turnover than any other c-level position. What you may not know, however, is why and how it directly affects your prospecting efforts.

In December 2018, our sister company, Winmo, released the annual CMO Lifecycle Tenure Analysis report and it’s full of new business opportunities that you can bank on. The report analyzed over 2,400 CMO tenures across a variety of industries and also by gender.

So before you kick off the new year by pounding the phone with cold calls and shooting out emails to every CMO in the US, here are a few items that will help you build a strategic plan and reach CMOs more efficiently:

Who’s Coming In, Who’s On Their Way Out

When a CEO hires a CMO, they expect a complete brand transformation…and fast. We’ve found that CMOs typically rotate up or out of their positions around the 43 month mark. Six to 18 months later is usually when the new CMO will shake up their AOR. What does this mean for you? Start paying attention to this ‘new biz sweetspot.’ Not only do you have a possible win with the incoming CMO, but potentially with the outgoing CMO…if you know where he/she lands.

Not Every Industry Is Created Equal

According to Winmo’s report, more traditional industries such as financial services, education, associations, and travel average longer tenures. Other sectors such as consumer goods, digital business providers, restaurants and retail, however, show higher turnover rates. When prospecting, prioritize those top turnover categories to fuel your prospecting lists with new potential opportunities.

Prioritize Your Right To Win Categories

After analyzing the tenure report take a look and see if there are particular industries in which you specialize. These right to win clients will be low hanging fruit for prospecting. If you are experts in retail and consumer goods, prioritize your prospecting and spend time crafting your messaging to appeal to the CMOs and decision makers in those spaces. Your credible portfolio in these spaces will make them much more inclined to have the initial conversation.

Unfortunately, no crystal ball can tell you exactly when to contact a CMO, but this Winmo report is pretty close!  Keep an eye on those brands you’ve been hoping to work with and use this resource to your full advantage! If it’s creeping up on their 3 year anniversary, get your messaging ready. Tailor your outreach strategy by prioritizing your right to win categories. Now you’re ready to go out there and win over those dream clients! Happy prospecting!

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On-Demand Webinar: What Drives Value in the New World of Marcoms M&A

As an agency executive, you need to know what is happening in the industry from an M&A perspective and how it can affect your agency. Luckily, Catapult has an amazing partner in Charles Fallon from SI Partners who provides first-hand industry insights throughout this on-demand webinar.

Regardless of whether you are looking to sell your agency now, 10 years from now, or simply attract a growth partner, Charles will walk you through this complex world step by step.

We will cover specific topics like:
  • Understanding the new buyers in our market
  • Looking at the acquirer landscape as a whole and how it’s changed since last year
  • Attracting a growth partner
  • Becoming a more attractive agency before selling
  • Getting the most value out of your agency

 

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Does Your Agency’s Thought Leadership Pass this Test?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content marketing and thought leadership continue to be hot buzzwords. But, the market is flooded with blogs, white papers and infographics. Is any of this leading to new business for agencies?

It’s impossible to keep up with all of the webinar invitations, trend reports and industry news. With so much content out there today, yours needs to do more than simply demonstrate that you’re “smart.”

Consider this maxim: Your thought leadership should be so valuable to your dream client, that they’d pay for it. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be out there.

The only difference between $1 and $100 is the message on the paper.

To capture and hold the attention of your dream clients, your content needs to share new insights from your agency’s unique point of view. Agencies with this content strategy are dramatically more likely to breakthrough, get meetings and win more new business.

Standing Out in a Content Crowd

The overuse of thought leadership as a marketing tool has created a real challenge for driving agency new business. Today, everyone is publishing and distributing content.

With such a strong belief in the need for content, agencies are falling into a trap. They’re regurgitating material that was already done … and often done well … by a competitor. What’s needed to stand out among thousands of agencies is to be a true thought leader, not a thought follower.

For agency new business, the challenge is figuring out how to stand out from among thousands of agencies.

Here is a scenario playing out among agency principals today:

We’re great at what we do, but we’re struggling to get that message in front of our dream clients.

Our emails and calls are going unanswered. Our website traffic hasn’t moved. We need more meetings, and we need them fast.

We’re producing thought leadership, but it’s not resulting in meetings or new business. We thought content marketing would lead to more inbound leads, but it’s merely been a few nibbles from unqualified prospects.

Why are we spending all this time and money on the creation and distribution of thought leadership if we’re not getting any results? It’s frustrating. It isn’t worth it unless we start getting a better return.

If we don’t start winning business, we might not make payroll, may need to downsize the staff or, even worse, close the agency. At a minimum, the outcome could be embarrassing. At worse, it could be a disaster.

Thought Leadership or Thought Follower?

Playing it safe does nothing to differentiate or create a meaningful competitive advantage.

The data backs it up. According to Forrester Research, 82 percent of buyers have viewed at least five pieces of content from a winning vendor. Among buyers, 74 percent select the sales rep that demonstrated insight and brought value.

Look at it from the buyer’s perspective. There’s lots of content written by experienced, smart and insightful experts. There’s a lot less time to consume it and react to it. Reading content that’s not truly insightful is underwhelming and feels like time wasted.

It’s no longer good enough to just have content. The successful agency’s thought leadership must provide new insight from a unique point of view.

That POV needs to be through a brand-driven lens through which all communications – particularly content – is delivered. The POV must reinforce the agency’s story in the marketplace and through its thought leadership. An agency’s content strategy has to align with its brand strategy. It needs to provide a roadmap for creating thought leadership that others are not providing.

Sharing new insights from your agency’s point of view is what differentiates between thought leadership and thought followship.

Avoiding the ‘Me Too’

New business is essential for economic viability of agencies. For professional services firms, thought leadership is one of the most powerful approaches to new business.

Yet content often fails to deliver. Why?

  • A lack of understanding about the intended audience
  • Failure to distribute content to the desired audience
  • Content lacks value via new insight from a unique POV.

Content that reproduces from another thought leader means the agency is saying “me too” instead of “me first.” It hinders an agency’s ability to differentiate or be seen as an authority.

That said, there is a place for calculated re-purposing, but only if it offers new interpretations, better insights and stronger solutions.

A Case Study

While working at Catapult, a client believed it was doing everything right. Experts within the agency were writing industry-specific content regularly. The website was robust. There was a targeted list of prospects, a CRM, marketing automation and people, including me, picking up the phone and sending emails.

But the thought leadership was not moving the needle. The few responses often were, “Thanks for sharing, no questions,” “Not interested” or “Appreciate you sending, but we’re already doing much of this.”

It became clear the content wasn’t adding enough value to their dream clients. The thought leadership was not sharing new insights from the agency’s POV.

While the agency had experts and a unique POV, in the haste to produce quantity, the content lost quality and value.

After some soul searching the agency started producing less content, but going deeper and sharing new insights from a point of differentiation.

Almost immediately, the dynamics changed. Dream clients were eager to meet and new business was soon thereafter won.

Are You Really a Thought Leader?

Evaluate your content to decide whether it’s thought leadership. Does it meet the following?

Trait #1: It provides true insight.

Your content should add to what’s in the public domain. It needs to enrich an understanding and influence behavior. Does your content help people see things differently, provide new solutions, or find new opportunities?

Trait #2: It reframes.

Thought leadership gives the audience something to think about. It helps readers learn, seek information, and challenge accepted presumptions. It embraces new approaches. It shows your agency’s unique point of view.

Trait #3: It’s credible.

Thought leadership content needs validation. There needs to be evidence about how it was discovered, who discovered it and whether it’s been independently verified. Insights today can have short lifespans, so you need to confirm that the insights remain relevant.

Trait #4: It’s forward-looking.

Thought leadership must look forward. Good thought leadership does more than inform. It frames an idea, provides foresight and is bold. That notion can be risky because it means taking a stand and pronouncing that stand. But that’s the difference between leading and following.

What Happens Next

If your agency takes a bold approach to thought leadership, you’ll see results. You’ll feel back in control. Confident. It will lead to more meetings. And the dynamics of your meetings will change. Instead of selling, you’ll be teaching. You’ll be viewed as the expert that you are. You’ll close more business with your dream clients.

Does your marketing content pass the test? Before you publish your next thought leadership, honestly ask yourself, if you didn’t already have this information, would you have paid for it?

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It’s Okay To Be Different: Positioning Your Agency to Stand Out from Competitors

It’s OK to be different.  When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation.

Given the near-demise of the Agency of Record concept, differentiation has never been more critical. Today, clients work with a network of agencies they can draw on, assigning work on a project-by-project basis that plays to strengths. Singular relationships (and the retainers agencies long enjoyed) are practically extinct.

One of the first things I’m usually asked when I first speak with prospects is, “What makes you different from my current agencies?”

If you can’t articulate concisely and clearly what you do, for whom you do it and how, your agency new business program is dead in the water.

 

Standing Out in the Crowd

Today, you really need to stand out. According to Ibis World, there are more than 66,000 advertising agencies in the United States. Most of these agencies look and sound the same. Their pitches also look and sound the same:

  • Full service
  • Collaborative
  • Wide range of experience
  • Committed to our clients
  • Customize our services
  • Results driven
  • Our clients are our partners

If you see phrases like “wide range” or “full service” in a brand statement, it’s usually a sign the agency has been unable or unwilling to name what it stands for.

Economists would call the market for agencies “perfectly competitive,” with low barriers to entry and products and services that are all too easy to copy.

Too many agencies are fearful that a narrow focus feels small. Consequently, they are unwilling to plant a stake in the ground that says: “This is what we stand for” because they fear missing out on business.

Firms compensate by saying their work is better than that at other firms, and that that’s what makes them different.But simply being better isn’t different. Only different is different.

 

Positioning Creates Value for Potential Clients

Your firm exists to create value for clients. Positioning is how you articulate that value to clients. Brands sell themselves based on the perceived value, not the costs. But the ever-popular refrain, “We’re creative” is not a credible statement for value-creation.

Positioning is the way to approach prospecting strategy. That means focusing your firm not on a wide approach but on specific markets where you can create uncontested value. Think of this space as the “blue ocean” where no one else is sailing. With today’s multi-agency model, clients want best-of-breed agencies. Think of it this way. If your child was experiencing an irregular heartbeat, would you feel better taking them to a general practitioner or would you seek out a cardiac specialist?

Today’s most interesting and powerful brands are at the edges because they’re doing different things and doing them differently. It may feel like common sense to play in the middle, but it’s actually the least desirable place to be. Safe doesn’t cut it.

 

Placing the Value Proposition

Your value proposition for agency new business should sit at the crossroads of relevance and differentiation.

Your work needs to be highly relevant to your dream client to meet a need, whether it’s a certain audience, a platform, a style, a technology, or an approach. You can then establish your position within that nuanced space and show how your agency is different than all the others.

For your agency to be profitable, you need to position yourself not just for where the profits are, but for where the profits will be. Your value proposition will produce the most profit when you select a place on the value chain where the offerings are still scarce and underdeveloped.

For an agency used to being a generalist, this isn’t always easy. Positioning means deciding not only what business you’re in, but what business you’re not in.

If you’re still skeptical about the value of positioning, consider the impact it makes in three critical areas:

  • Sales Advantage. By choosing when and where to compete, you gain a real advantage in those sectors. You’ll win more often.
  • Price Premium. Positioned as a true expert in certain spaces means you can charge more for the privilege of working with you.
  • Control. Positioning gives the agency more ability to guide the engagement. Clients are buying the expertise as much as if not more than the service.

Finding the Position

What differentiates an agency from the competition?

Not personality. Not process. Not price.

Expertise.

It is expertise and expertise alone that will set an agency apart in a meaningful way. Expertise allows the agency to interact with clients and prospects from a position of power and knowledge.

How do you determine that expertise? Begin by asking yourself these questions. The answers to these questions will help create a position statement that should concisely articulate the following:

What do we do?

  • What are we selling?
  • Where are we excellent?
  • What are our outcomes?
  • Where are we best in class?

Who do we it for?

  • Audience types
  • Clients
  • Industries
  • Who is our ideal client?

How do we do it?

  • Attitudes
  • Philosophies or point of view

Why do we it?

  • Purpose (Ask if your purpose transcends money.)
  • What motivates us

It’s important at this stage to focus on substance first and style later. Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about “how to say it.”

 

Showing Results

Services that can command the absolute highest prices are those that the client could never duplicate, no matter how much time and money is thrown at the issue. That’s where differentiation is powerful.

With a clear strategy that makes it obvious that you stand for something, not everything, you’ll stop chasing business and start having business chase you.

You’ll find staff more energized with a more resonant articulation of what makes the agency unique. Their pitches and presentations will be more compelling, delivered with more confidence and conviction.

By playing to these strengths, you’ll see a stronger win ratio. This differentiation will also help align your sales and marketing in a unified approach to themes, messaging and consistency.

 

Where to Start

Before you begin taking the steps outlined here, it is wise to take step back … way back … and take a good hard look at your current positioning. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does your value proposition feel authentic?
  • Does it make your agency innately and intensely appealing?
  • Does it have strong barriers to entry?
  • Is it hard to find an exact substitute?
  • Does it result in fewer competitors?
  • Can you charge higher prices?
  • Does it make your sales cycle shorter and less expensive?
  • Have you created a new category?

If you answer yes to all those questions, congratulations. My bet is the answer to most is no. That’s the litmus test that a new approach to positioning that emphasizes differentiation is the right path to take. That differentiation will make all the difference. And it’s okay.

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