Is it time to call on some extra help to grow your agency's business?
Creative agencies are famous for neglecting their own new business development while tending to their clients’ needs (a.k.a. “Cobbler’s children syndrome”). But how do you know when you’ve crossed the line from falling a bit behind with your agency marketing to full-on damaging your company’s bottom line? Here is a list of 15 common signs that indicate your agency has a real problem where new business generation is concerned.
Here are 15 sure signs that your agency could benefit from outsourced business development:
- Your agency is constantly chasing business. You pitch everything that comes your way and win very little, with no discipline or filters around what accounts to pitch.
- You write proposal after proposal . . . but win no new business.
- You don’t bother (or don’t know how) to qualify or disqualify prospects.
- You have no formal new business plan or process in place. Nothing is written down.
- You have not developed a default list of questions to ask potential clients; you have no “go to” questioning strategy.
- You can’t get in front of the relevant clients who need your services.
- You lack follow through.
- You have no strategy going into a meeting and no post strategy.
- You find yourself having “great” meetings, after which you chase the prospect, pelting them with “just checking in” emails and voicemail messages.
- You don’t have a designated new business person . . . responsibility for generating new business falls to “everyone at the agency."
- Your new business has been stagnant or in decline for over 24 months.
- Your new business efforts are reactive and dependent on random inbound inquiries.
- Your new business strategy is to wine and dine advertising industry search consultants.
- You have an empty pipeline (or, your pipeline is deceptively full of junk leads you don’t want, or have no chance of closing. . . ,i.e., empty for all practical purposes).
- No one knows about your agency. You watch other agencies get the business (or at least be invited to pitch opportunities) that your agency is well suited for.
If these signs apply to your agency, you should consider the benefits of outsourced business development. Outsourced business development can help you strengthen your agency’s positioning and adopt powerful, repeatable new business processes for long-term impact to your bottom line. Instead of neglecting relationships, outsourced lead generation makes it possible for you to strengthen your existing client relationships and cultivate new relationships with clients who need your services.
If you do work with an outsourced business development firm, keep in mind that your results are proportionate to what you put in. Here are my suggestions for agencies to get the most out of working with a business development firm.
My 9 tips for success when working with an outsourced business development firm:
- When outsourcing, it is critical to maintain open lines of communication. Often the business development partner is forgotten about because they aren’t on site, and weekly or bi-weekly updates are not enough to stay current on what is happening. Your business development partner needs to be looped into the latest agency developments; this information can be critical in their prospecting and selling efforts.
- Be willing to accept the help you asked for. A little humility can go a long way.
- Accept the fact you probably aren’t as “good in the room” as you think you are; very few people are. Everyone has room for improvement.
- Commit to responsiveness. This is an extremely competitive industry. No client wakes up and says, “I think I will buy some marketing services today.” It's a long process and when the sales team has an opening you need to be responsive to that request before the window of opportunity closes.
- Get buy-in and commitment for new business development at the Senior and Executive levels, unless you want the program to flounder.
- Understand how to build industry expertise. Having one client in an industry does not mean you have expertise within that industry; you should have a minimum of three clients in a given industry before claiming industry expertise.
- Develop strong case studies to illustrate what results you can deliver.
- Work towards a well positioned and articulated point of differentiation. Clients want to know if you have worked in their industry and have previously solved their problem or provided a solution. It sounds simple, but it's not.
- Understand that this takes time. If you have not put in constant, disciplined effort towards new business development in years, you are not going to suddenly fix the problem in six months.
Those are my tips for what it takes to work successfully with an outsourced business development firm, and how to tell when it's time to seek help in growing your agency business. If you have other thoughts to add, please share them in the comments.
Learn more about the benefits of outsourcing and when it makes sense for your agency to engage an outsourced new business partner:
Read more agency new business posts:
- 15 Things to Know Before Your Agency Responds to That RFP
- 7 Steps to Eliminate Unqualified Sales Prospects
- 15 Steps to Creating a New Business Sales Plan
Follow the Duval Partnership Blog to learn more about how outsourced biz dev can help your agency.
Image credits: © gstockstudio / 123RF Stock Photo; modified by resizing, cropping, filters and text overlay.
This was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse by Mark Duval on April 7, 2016.