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Archive for the ‘New Business’ Category

imagesIf you’ve recently started an agency or you are thinking about your next stage of growth, chances are you’ve won most of your business so far through word of mouth, existing relationships and recommendations. At some point however, if you want to continue growing your agency, you’ll need to implement some sort of dedicated business development programme, but there are so many varying opinions and mixed messages out there at the moment that it can be difficult to know where to start.

You might have heard the on-going debate about the pros and cons of cold calling (for the record, although we do use the phone, we think there’s nothing worse than an unsolicited sales call and our research shows that client side marketers feel the same way). You’ve probably heard people talking about attraction marketing and might be wondering about the best way to apply its principles to your own business. You almost certainly use social media but might not know the best way to tailor your output to build relationships and attract potential clients.

To help give you a head start in developing an effective and sustainable business development programme, here are some useful tips:

Know what your vision is for your business: What is your “why”?

Your “why” drives the passion and purpose in your heart and in your business – as the renowned speaker and author Simon Sinek says, start with “Why” before moving on to “How” and “What”. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. If you haven’t addressed this question you’ll come across as lacking passion, and who wants to work with someone who doesn’t have passion for what they do?

What differentiates you?

If you won a new piece of business from a client who was completely undifferentiated from their competition, chances are, the first thing you would do is help them to develop a strong brand that enabled them to stand out and occupy a niche in the marketplace. In that case, why do so many agencies fail to do this for themselves? There are more than 17,000 agencies in the UK, many of whom are saying exactly the same thing: being “results focused” “Integrated” “a new breed of creative” is not being differentiated, and in this situation, how can we expect clients to know what sets one agency apart from the rest?

It’s not always easy to turn the mirror on your own business – getting a fresh set of eyes to take an impartial look at your business at this stage can give you a new found perspective.

What kind of work do you need to be doing to support your vision?

You might be tempted to pursue every single opportunity you come across, but if you want to drive your business forward you’ll have to work out what sort of work you need to be doing to achieve your vision and stick to it. Be focused on your goal and don’t be afraid to turn down opportunities that aren’t right for you. In the long run, you’ll be glad that you did. Trying to please everyone is a formula for failure.

This question leads on to…

What clients do you need to work with to do the work you need to do?

You might have ideas of specific clients that you want to work with, or more general thoughts in terms of sector or challenges you can solve. As mentioned in the previous point, be focused and don’t take on work that doesn’t take you to where you want to be going to.

Once you have an idea of who you want to be working with you should think about what their challenges and problems might be. Do your homework, speak to people and find recent articles that will give you insights into their business, try to see things from their perspective and understand what’s important to them.

When you are armed with this knowledge, you can focus on tactics that will get you on their radar. To do this you’ll need to think about why they would want to work with you and come to them with a relevant opinion on their business– in other words, make it all about them, not all about you. Clients really, really hate the chest beating, look-at-how-great-we-are approach.

It’s all about the relationship

As David Tovey said at a recent Art of New Business event, clients are like icebergs -there’s maybe about 10% that you can find out fairly easily; the successful agencies are those that understand the 90% that’s under the surface. This knowledge doesn’t come about overnight however and relationship building should start a long, long time before you expect to win any work. That said, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – you might be in the right place at the right time and some opportunities do convert quickly, but for god sake, don’t turn into a hardnosed salesman the moment you get the whiff of a potential opportunity – nothing will ruin a potentially fruitful relationship more quickly. And don’t throw the toys out of the pram if it’s a ‘no’ this time. Just because it’s a ‘no’ now doesn’t mean it will be a no in 6 months or in 2 years’ time – don’t waste the time you’ve already invested, keep on building genuine relationships and they’ll pay off in the end.

Focus on new business when times are good

As we’ve said in the previous point, successful and sustainable new business is all about building strong relationships, and relationship building takes time, so don’t wait until you’ve lost clients before you think about winning new ones. Leaving things too late can result in your business developer being put under immense pressure, corners being cut and potential clients being alienated. Besides which, clients can smell desperation a mile off and will steer well clear.

Be committed and make time for new business

If you didn’t already know, you’ve probably realised by now that an effective new business programme takes an awful lot of time and effort. If you don’t have the time yourself then make sure that you appoint someone to help, otherwise you’ll end up struggling to do everything – especially when times are good and you are busy with client work. Be aware though, that even if you do get help with your new business programme, you’ll still need to put some time aside to manage things effectively and create content – we are aware of instances where promising new business opportunities have been lost because agencies haven’t found time to create a document or develop a tailored piece of collateral.

Business development can be a complex and time consuming undertaking requiring patience, dedication and hard work, but if you use these pointers to guide you, you’ll be well on the way to making a success of new business. If you are still struggling to work it all out then we run a half day workshop that helps to answer some of these questions and gives you the building blocks for a robust and effective new business programme.

And we are always available on the other end of the phone for a chat, or even better, a sit down over tea and cake (we much prefer face to face).

Good luck with your new business efforts in 2013!

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The perceived wisdom says that the nice guys always finish last and if you watch TV programmes like the apprentice, you’d think that being in business is all about testosterone filled posturing and looking out for number one with no room for kindness, but here at Acquire we think that’s total rubbish.

One of the benefits of running your own business is the ability to choose the people you work with- we have made a conscious decision to only work with nice people which makes being in business a far more enjoyable experience. And besides making everybody’s lives more pleasant, being nice also has very real advantages when it comes to winning new business.

We believe so strongly in the nice principle that we’ve set up a LinkedIn group for others who share our ethos – The Nice Manifesto

A few things happened to us recently that brought the subject into sharp focus:

As you might know, Sarah, MD of Acquire and myself got married this summer, and after a fantastic three week honeymoon exploring Italy, we arrived back in the UK and threw ourselves back into our work with vigour (yeah right!)

After we’d been back for a few days, we went to see our friends Studio North to talk about an event we are running with them.  When we arrived, we were very pleasantly surprised to find this set up outside the door:

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Things got nicer still when we sat down in their board room to chat and on the screen was projected a photograph of coffee mugs with our company logo printed on them.

These nice, thoughtful, memorable little touches made us feel very welcome and immediately at ease, and made us think about the agency in a totally different way. The overall upshot is that if we are asked to recommend a good brand comms agency, we’d recommend Studio North like a shot, as would anyone else who has experienced their particular brand of hospitality.

It seems that we have been on a run of meeting with nice people recently. Just a few months ago, we started working with a very interesting company called Feedback, a digital ethnography research agency based in the US and in London (they delve deep into the chatter on social media channels to reveal what an audience thinks of industries, brands and their competitors, who and where the audience are and the best way of communicating with them –going places that social media dashboard tools simply cannot reach. For an enlightening article on the subject, click here).

Anyway, we’d only been working with Feedback for a week or two when the head of the London office, Danny – told us that he was lucky enough to have got a pair of tickets to the BT London Live Hyde Park gig on the final day of the Olympics. Sarah and I were both in our late teens – early twenties in the Britpop era, and never having seen them play live, we both really would have liked to have seen Blur before they called it a day.

We happened to mentioned this to Danny, and we were amazed when a few days later he got back to us to say that as he’d already seen them before, he was going to share the love and send us to the gig instead – an incredibly kind thing to do, and something that helped to cement a close and effective working relationship between ourselves and Feedback.

We were recently asked by a small digital agency that we know if we could recommend a hosting provider, and with no hesitation we sent them in the direction of Melbourne Hosting, because not only do they provide a great level of service, they are also a group of genuinely nice people who care about their customers and contacts. A couple of weeks later we received a case of 6 bottles of great quality wine courtesy of Melbourne as a lovely thank you gesture for referring business to them, and we’d certainly recommend them again!

It’s taken for granted that companies are nice to their clients and prospects, but if doesn’t take much effort to extend this attitude to your suppliers and everyone else that you come into contact with. If you are nice to everyone you encounter, you’ll create a positive aura around your company, and before very long you’ll have a legion of advocates who, without you having to ask them, will happily recommend you, and as we all know, referrals are the very best way of winning new business.

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We recently got back off our honeymoon, three weeks touring Italy, after our wedding in June at the beautiful Pimhill farm in rural Shropshire.

Whilst we were in Italy, it struck us that a little of the Italian character would go a long way towards more effective business development activity (sure, there are some Italian character traits that perhaps aren’t conducive to good business development practice, but on the whole, they could teach us a thing or two!)

Passion!
The country that brought us the likes of Ferrari, Opera, Gucci, The Passeggiata, Espresso and Italian Cuisine can teach us a thing or two about passion. And passion is an essential ingredient of effective business development – your customers are much more likely to buy into your product or service if you are excited and passionate about it – just as it was very difficult for Sarah to resist when a waiter in an Italian restaurant passionately extolled the virtues of linguine alla vongole!

Persistence
Ok, so the Italian mans reputation for persistence in the pursuit of women isn’t always a welcome one, but in business development, persistence pays off. You need to develop a ‘Testa Dura’ or a hard-headedness, and let nothing shake your confidence. No doubt you will experience knock backs, and your approach won’t always be well received, but by being persistent and focused and by seeking to building relationships with your prospective customers, you stand a much better chance of success down the line when they are in a position to use your services.
‘No’ might mean ‘Not at the moment’, but if you give up at the first hurdle, you’ll never find out.

Be Relaxed
Nothing will drive customers away like obvious desperation, they can smell it a mile off. So even if you are really, really desperate to win that piece of business, just relax and think like an Italian – don’t let the situation ruffle your feathers. That doesn’t mean to say that you should be distant and act like you aren’t bothered at all – just don’t lose your cool.

Don’t take yourself too seriously!
You should take business seriously – but not yourself. If you take yourself too seriously then you won’t appear open or likeable. At the end of the day, people buy from people, so if you don’t come across as a likeable, approachable person then you’ll be hampering your ability to win new business.

If you apply a little of the Italian spirit to your new business programme then you won’t go too far wrong. If, however, winning new business has been on your ‘to-do’ list for a while, get in touch.
We can work with you to uncover what really sets your business apart from your competitors, develop a comprehensive and effective new business strategy and help you to find and win new business opportunities.

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This post is written by our guest blogger Elizabeth Chapman…

 

Connecting with prospects and winning new business is hard work. And with competition at an all-time high, agencies simply can’t afford to make costly mistakes, especially ones that can be avoided. Below is a little insight into the Top 5 agency prospecting gaffes, as inflicted on the client side marketing professional:

 

1. Cold Calling as a First Approach

Probably the oldest method of engaging with a new business prospect, so what’s the problem? Put simply, very few client side marketing professionals actually appreciate this approach; it’s about as welcome as the proverbial ‘fart in a spacesuit’.

Prospects can be wily creatures when it comes to avoiding unsolicited phone calls. Even the most good-natured Marketing Director will suddenly turn into Mr Elusive at the slightest whiff of an ‘exciting opportunity’ call from an unfamiliar source. That’s if you even make it past the receptionist, – chances are he / she will have an arsenal of rebuttal lines, ready to deploy at the first opportunity.

Some would argue that ‘cold calling’ is integral to the acquisition of new clients, but for the majority of targets it remains an unpopular and unwelcome approach. Research into prospecting practice carried out by Acquire reveals that of the seventy client side marketing professionals interviewed, 70% were sceptical of cold telephone approaches, with a further 21% expressing a positively hostile attitude.

It is without doubt that an agency needs to be able to communicate in an effective and convincing manner over the telephone, but this should come once a relationship has already been established, not as a quick hard-sell that demands immediate commitment on the part of the receiver.

Alternative channels of approach such as direct mail and email are often favoured by marketing professionals as the most effective way for agencies to make initial contact. Indeed, the recent study by Acquire highlights direct mail as one of the more successful introductory methods, especially pieces that are quirky and eye-catching. With so many agencies fighting for the same prospect’s attention, a bland or impersonal mail piece risks being lost in an ocean of monotony..so keep it interesting!! And above all, make it relevant. Sending a pair of underpants branded with your agency’s logo (or worse) through the post will earn you a few giggles but the chances of it enticing a new client to your books are doubtful.

 

2. Not Knowing One’s Onions

One of the biggest mistakes an agency can make when looking for new business is failing to fully research a prospect. A snazzy suit and industry-savvy patter is all very well but a lack of understanding for the potential client’s business will fast-track any advances to the ‘no chance’ pile. All too often there are instances where agencies fail to look at a prospect’s competitive situation, their culture and crucially the types of projects that would be appropriate for a company of their particular size and standing. The old adage states, ‘time is money’; and when it comes to choosing a creative agency to work with, clients are deterred by the thought of having to explain in great detail their status, the nature of their business and their needs. As stated by a participant in Acquire’s recent study “the greatest challenge when changing agencies is the education process, you have to invest so much time in helping them to understand your business and its customers before you get anything back”. So the message here is simple, failure to put in the groundwork can result in failure to attract new business.

 

3. A Perfect Mismatch

Impressive ROI stats, soaring pitch-wins and a glowing reputation are all great boasting points but an agency that fails to show category experience has about as much chance of winning over their prospect as Burger King would have at appointing Morrissey as their new figurehead. The demonstration of relevant experience is a crucial factor for agencies to consider when approaching client side marketing professionals. Whilst the view from Mount Ego may be a pretty one, potential clients are unlikely to want to join the expedition unless they can see exactly how an agency has developed a company similar to theirs. Recounting his own experiences of misplaced prospecting, a respondent to Acquire’s research said “we work in the B2B space and everyone knows that, so it makes me despair when we get approached by agencies who name drop and tell me they did great work on the KitKat brand, but have no B2B experience at all”.

 

4. Scraping the ideas barrel

A lack of creativity is another frustrating blunder in the art of prospecting. Time and time again agencies approach their target clients with the same old hackneyed propositions, prettied-up and re-packaged as their latest ‘new biz strategy’. A futile exercise, given that most clients are looking for daring concepts and innovative uses of new media; the things that will put them one step ahead of their competitors.

Ok, so creative flare alone won’t guarantee success, but it’ll certainly increase your chances. 29% of the marketing professionals interviewed by Acquire flagged “innovative and interesting content” as an important factor when being approached by agencies. As one respondent said, “most of the approaches I receive aren’t memorable in any way, but every once in a while I get something that’s really interesting or shows that the agency is innovative and makes them stand out from the crowd. In cases like these I’ll keep the information on file for future reference”.


5. Not Seeing the Wood for the Trees

In the frenzied hunt for prospects and new business, many agencies make the ‘epic fail’ of overlooking what’s right under their noses: existing clients. With many marketing professionals preferring to choose a creative agency on recommendation from their peers, it makes sound business sense for agencies to invest more of their energy in developing relationships with contacts that are already on their radar. By nurturing these connections and becoming a valuable asset, agencies will be able to give current clients the trust required to make a recommendation to anybody able to benefit from the services offered.

We’ve written a white paper which expands on the themes discussed above, if you’d like a copy, please email stefan@acquirenewbusiness.co.uk for more details

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1. Talk to Strangers

Openness, honesty and strong self-belief will get you far in your personal and business life. Fear of
rejection is one of the biggest blocks to selling yourself and your business
but in any industry people buy people. There’s no need for a hard sell, just be
yourself, be proud of what you stand for and take every opportunity that arises
to make connections.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

With a new connection you may want to over promise as you’re keen to impress, but under-delivering not only
leads to losing business but it can also affect your reputation. A sustained consistent, persistent approach, where you achieve what you have agreed to do in the timeline stated will demonstrate your expertise and help you to stand
out amongst your competition.

3. Show, Don’t Tell

Talking about your selling points will only get you so far and at some point, metaphorically speaking, the dog is
going to want to see the rabbit. By walking your talk you have already qualified your expertise without the need for any hard sell. If you’re a web
expert, have a blinding website. Get the picture?

4. Know Who You Are and What Makes You Different

What makes you different from your competitors, and what does this mean for your potential clients? Drill down into exactly what the benefit would be to your prospect of using your services. Understand and believe in yourself, and don’t try and be someone you’re not. You should aim to attract like-minded clients – don’t be afraid of turning away business because you can’t work with everybody!

5. It’s All in the Timing

We know you want those successful connections and you want them yesterday. You need to take an intelligent and sustained approach to relationship building. The quick hard-sell can alienate your contacts whereas a well-executed and measured approach doesn’t force or scream desperation and is more likely to yield outstanding results.

6. Sales and Marketing Needs to be Fully Integrated

This can be difficult when the two departments are treated as entirely separate entities, but an integrated sales and marketing strategy means that the sales department can maximise leads resulting from a marketing campaign. Any that aren’t at the right stage in the sales cycle can be handed back to the marketing department for lead nurturing until the time is right.

7. Look At Your Current Clients for New Business Opportunities

Everyone knows it’s more costly to attract new clients that it is to retain existing ones, so seek to actively build stronger relationships and explore new ways of working together in order to maximise the potential of your current client pool.

8. Be Personal

You’ll win more business if you tailor your approach to each specific prospect. People like to feel special and if you’ve taken the time to do a little research into their business and challenges, you’ll give the impression that you really want to work with them rather than making it look like the prospect is just one of many you’ve approached that day.

9. Don’t Be Arrogant

No one likes a show off, so don’t beat your chest and yell from the tree tops about how great you are. Would you rather spend time with the person shouting out their attributes or the person taking an active interest in you?

Understanding your audience means you can you can better engage and interest them, so give your prospects a compelling reason to use your services by showing them how you helped similar clients with their business challenges.

In short, make it all about your prospects rather than all about you.

10. Make The Time to Win New Business

Winning new business can take time and a lot of hard work; it’s not something that can be done effectively in a half-hearted manner. Make sure that all parts of your business are bought in to the need to win new business and know what is expected of them.

There is nothing worse than doing the hard work of identifying an opportunity only to let it slip out of your grasp because one of your departments or people doesn’t have the time to produce something that you need to convert the business. We’ve seen this sorry situation far too many times!!!

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When an agency embarks on New Business Development they address their business plan, look over their target forecasts, discuss their ideal position in the market then implement the appropriate strategy to achieve those targets. It’s a lengthy process and requires commitment from not just the Managing Director but the whole team to ensure the business plan is clear and that everybody is aiming for the same goals. NBD is a rewarding part of your business, or so it should be.

Once you’ve committed you’re in it for the long haul to essentially ensure the success of your agency. Prospecting and insight gathering is a lengthy process. The problem is that everybody is desperate for new business, which means clients side marketers are inundated by cold calls, emails and direct mail, most of which are impersonal, arrogant and irrelevant, making it harder than ever before to get through to the decision makers. They’re crying out for specialist understanding of their business, personalised emails that go further than ‘Hi Steve’ and the all-important WIIFM (what’s in it for me) rule.

The Golden Rule: Remember it’s the person you’re talking to that’s important. Not you.

Sadly agencies seem to be looking for a quick fix. They don’t seem to realise how much work is required in-house to provide the right level of engagement that the prospects are waiting for. Why don’t they want to spend time building and nurturing relationships that will eventually lead to fruitful new business?

It comes down to ROI, time is money. NBD is time-consuming and to win new business you need the time to complete the in-house production that’s required, which means taking staff off client work or hiring new staff to focus on growth. So initially a lot of spending without any guaranteed return, but that’s the reality. What may seem like a financial risk in the first instance will more than pay off, if you prioritise and devote the time needed to convert opportunities.

We all know agencies that are great at winning new business but don’t spend the time nurturing the relationship in order to keep that business. In the same breath we all know agencies that have long-lasting relationships with clients but aren’t getting much in the way of new business. How do you devote your time to keep the balance right between them both?

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Being at the hard face of winning new business can be very hard work. And it can be wonderful! And its these extremes of emotion that makes it an appealing career choice for me. That and my over-riding passion for effective communication and relationship building. I have decided to start to study psychology and counselling too, so that my innate abilities can be underpinned by qualifications, and I can help to legitimately resolve internal disputes and breakdowns in communication that all too often are the root cause of why a business is not as successful as it could be.

I came across David Hyner recently, an internationally renowned motivational speaker, and he has developed something called “the  massive goal principle”. I met with him to discuss his Sales and Marketing, so part of my “getting under the skin” of what he does, he gave me his CD.  I would urge anybody who needs a good old kick up the arse into action to buy this. Already it has changed Stefan and I – we are in the process of putting his philosophy into action and we are already more effective.  I have been putting off blogging for a while now due to our focus on delivering for our clients, and also our website has been “in development” for months while I “perfect” our proposition and content.  Well, I am pleased to say that both of these tasks are getting underway this week – thanks to David Hyner.

One of my first tasks was to write 2 blog posts this week, so I dug out an old post that I’d had in my drafts for quite some time… It was a response to a post by Carl Hopkins Agony Uncle at The Drum, talking about how agency business developers are shit. I wanted to post a link to this blog post but unfortunately Carl seems to have taken his blog down from The Drum website.

I have to say, I agree with a lot of what he says.. which may come a surprise as I am one of said Agency Business Developers.
There are so many bullshitters and sleazy salespeople out there that haven’t a clue about our industry or how to provide honest and effective support to the agencies they work in or with, or how to approach potential clients in the right way, that it gives the good ones a bad name.

I particularly agree with the following, “No one understands the capabilities of your business and its people better than you; no one knows the collective experience of your business better than you. No one can listen to a client’s issues and reply in a manner that is believable and deliverable better than, you”

I don’t want this to turn into a plug for my own business, but it’s because I believe in these sentiments that I set Acquire up – in order to help agency owners to create and deliver their Business Development strategy – affordably. I agree that to hire someone to do it for you and then leave them to it is mental. But it happens. And maybe because that person is shit, or more likely because they are not given any support, collateral or guidance, the new business doesn’t come in, and they get fired and then it’s on to the next costly BDM, or BDD or even worse, a telemarketing agency that (in order to meet the targets you set them) send you half way across the country to pointless meetings.

The following point I don’t fully agree with, “No one has more chances of getting to see a prospect or a client of a competitor than the owner of the agency, that’s you.” Some agency owners fear initiating the relationship with someone they really want to work with or simply don’t have the time to knock on doors, network and get out there and meet as many people as possible who will be able to help their business to grow. They may need someone to open the doors for them. Agreed that once a meeting has been set, that the agency owner or someone senior should definitely attend. Most people are comfortable with this aspect of New Business, but not the “approaching people they don’t know” bit.

Successful business development is a mixture of intelligent prospecting, a keen eye for opportunities and fantastic relationship building, in addition to excellent organisational skills, persistence, hard graft, good humour and resilience. I doubt that most agency MD’s or senior management teams have the time needed to dedicate to doing it properly and consistently once the daily pressures of simply running the business take hold.

My final point is in relation to the title of his post – we need to stop giving business developers a hard time – we’re not all lazy, money grabbing and untrustworthy. Most of us work bloody hard and are dedicated to getting results for our employers or our clients. More often than not, we’re not given the support we need. You only need to look at the amount of sales training and development given in any other industry. Compare this to our own and it’s not difficult to see why we have problems.  This is one of my missions – improving the support and development that business developers in our industry are given. But for now, I’m concentrating on one massive goal at a time…
As a parting comment, I highly recommend these blog posts (from Tom Knutson, founder of New Business Intel in Atlanta) to any agency owners who are embarking on a new business development drive:

Creating an ad agency new business plan step 1

Creating an ad agency new business plan step 2

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