Anxious about landing enough new accounts to sustain your agency growth in 2017? You aren’t alone. There is no shortage of reasons why your agency may be struggling to secure new business. The trick is to know what they are and start making changes so that your agency can get ahead in 2017.
Here are some of the common reasons why agencies miss new business. How many of them apply to your agency?
Problem #1: Lack of Differentiation
Interchangeability is a serious problem for agencies. If your agency doesn’t stand out from others, it is forgettable. Do something differently. Go niche. Specialize. Show your agency’s personality. Spotlight your results. Many agencies continue to struggle with this, but one way to resolve it is with an agency audit.
Problem #2: You Don’t Learn from Your Failures
Lost a pitch? Lost a client? If you aren’t doing postmortems—both internally and with your lost opportunities—you are doomed to repeat your mistakes. Go past superficial, polite answers to get honest and uncover the real reasons why your agency has lost this business. The 2016 SoDA Report found that 56% of agencies attributed termination to client management changes, while only 18% of their clients agreed. You need to identify where you went wrong so you can figure out how to do things differently next time.
Problem #3: You Aren’t Listening
Where agency relationships are concerned, it is a good idea to assume your communication skills are probably not as good as you think they are. There is no quicker way to sound off-key and out-of-touch than through poor communication. Good listening skills are an art. In sales, good listening skills become strategic when paired with a studied questioning process. Make time to practice conversations where you are fully engaged in listening, using clarification questions to better understand. Repeat this practice until the questions are second nature. Formalize a discovery process so that for every opportunity you are applying your questioning skills to truly understand your prospect’s business and challenges. And stop talking!
Problem #4: You Are Too Busy Selling
This is closely related to not listening and doing too much talking. When you talk at someone to sell them something, you are focused on your goals as the seller. Instead, you want to be viewed as a consultant, focusing on your prospect’s goals and needs, providing helpful nuggets of information. To do this effectively, you must first be able to listen so that you understand what they might find helpful. Remember that if you aren’t solving problems or being useful in some way, your words may be just noise.
Problem #5: Your Response Is Slackish
Today, people expect instantaneous (or near to instantaneous) follow up. Tomorrow they will be doing something else, and they need to get answers from you now. If you have lost business opportunities, be honest—did you take too long to respond?
A 2011 lead response study published in the Harvard Business Review found that the average initial lead response time for B2B companies was 42 hours. 24% of B2B companies took more than two days, and 23% of them didn’t respond at all! But 37% of the companies responded within the hour. And fast response pays off. According to InsideSales research, as much as 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. And older research in a Lead Response Management Study by Dr. James Oldroyd showed just how quickly lead quality degrades over time, with the odds of a lead becoming qualified 21 times greater when the lead was contacted within five minutes of their submission, versus half an hour.
How can you improve your response time? Get better tools, use automation, and delegate lead monitoring to someone to track in real time. Create a process for handling leads so that opportunities are not lost between the cracks. Keep leads that aren’t buying now in your queue and don’t neglect follow-up and nurturing. John Heenan has previously written that only 3% of your market is ready to buy. You may have to follow up with them for months before your efforts bear fruit, but dropping the ball is as good as handing them to your competitors.
Problem #6: You Don’t Have a Defined Sales Process
”Winging it” with your agency new business is a short-sighted approach. If you want something good to happen, you have to make it happen. To make things happen, you need a plan. It may seem easier or faster in the short run to take an ad hoc approach, but in the long run, it will cost you both time and opportunities. When you invest a little bit of time upfront, you can build a repeatable process. After defining which leads are worthwhile for your agency, you can determine how to identify them, and what to do with them. This will allow you to drop unqualified leads more quickly, focus on the best leads, and be more effective in dealing with leads that more likely to close.
Problem #7: You Are Waiting for Referrals
Agencies are over-reliant on referrals. Hubspot’s 2016 Agency Pricing & Financials Report found that the single greatest source of agency new business is referrals. In a chapter aptly titled, “The Risky Business of Relying on Referrals,” Hubspot’s data showed that referrals account for 90% of agency new business.
Don’t get me wrong; everyone loves a referral. The problem is that not every referral is right for your business. And you have to sit around and wait for them to fall in your lap. This is a very passive way to generate new leads, although your staff may be doing a lot of extra work to go above and beyond. When you do this, you are basically handing your lead generation off to your clients and giving them control over your agency’s future.
Instead, keep doing the great work that will lead to referrals naturally, but also take deliberate steps to generate your target leads through other mechanisms that are more proactive and strategic. Then you will have greater control over your agency’s growth.
Problem #8: You Are Neglecting Your Website
No matter where or how you connect with a lead, they will eventually end up on your website before they engage you. If you are neglecting your design, copy, branding, differentiation, user friendliness, or performance data, it’s an oversight that will cost you. If your website is good, it may bring you new leads or help reaffirm a positive impression already made offline, but a not-so-good website will only harm your new business efforts. Once your website has influenced your prospects’ opinion of your agency, it will be difficult to improve their impression.
Invest in your website and the tools you need to monitor its effectiveness and connect you with your site visitors.
Problem #9: You Are Waiting for Your Blog to Generate Leads
Blogging for leads may have worked a few years ago, but amid the content glut of 2017, it is much less likely. Still, I blog regularly. Blogging is a great vehicle to build your personal and agency brand and support your thought leadership. It’s an important part of our marketing mix at the Duval Partnership. And publishing new blog content increases website visibility. Many blogs do have large and loyal readerships. However, there isn’t necessarily a connection between your blog subscribers and your ideal clients. Even if you write for your ideal client. As a lead generation strategy, blogging is a long view and less fruitful investment, and therefore not the best place to focus the bulk of your efforts.
In 2016, many agency owners found themselves treading water; going to great lengths just to retain existing clients. And with all of the extra effort going to client accounts, even fewer resources were left for agency business. The story is all too familiar.
Nevertheless, this is the question every agency owner must answer:
What is the one thing your agency can’t afford to do in 2017?
For most agencies, the answer is probably very simple, and it is “to keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Challenging industry conditions and unprecedented competition mean that doing the same thing will yield worse results for you in 2017 than it did in 2016. What are you doing to step up your agency’s game?
- What Your Agency Needs to Know About Industry Trends in 2017
- Look Beyond a Pitching Frenzy for New Business in 2017
- 4 Ways Advertising Agency Salespeople Can Win in 2016
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