For many agencies, a dedicated business development lead isn’t considered a must have. Growth is typically handled by an agency founder or account executive as yet another in an already stretched-thin list of job duties.
And, as long as business is good – with existing relationships continuing to generate new opportunities – there’s no urgency to bring in an outside resource.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly when a dedicated BD person should be considered; when there’s time to methodically plan out a new business strategy. Instead, leadership waits until future growth stalls and panic sets in. Now faced with a thin or non-existent pipeline, the agency is forced to scramble. But without a strategy in place, the likelihood of success will challenge even the most connected of BD pros.
So what’s the right way to go about creating a new business strategy that actively plans for future growth and stability? The firms that consistently generate impactful new business opportunities, regardless of size, have four things in common:
Positioning For Impact
They look beyond services and tactical results to understand the real value they create for their clients.
Many agencies define themselves with a rotating set of adjectives; fearless today, curious tomorrow, and innovative – always innovative. Or they self-identify their people as inherently more creative than the competition – ignoring the irony that some of their “courageously curious explorers” were “uncommonly creative unicorns” for another agency just last year.
Contrast that with the firms that take the time to view their positioning through the lens of their most satisfied client advocates. Moving beyond the simple expression of subjective accolades or a list of functional deliverables to a deeper understanding of both the business and emotional benefits that their expertise is solving for. While these firms may not be right for everyone, they are everything to someone.
“WE HELP COMPANIES GROW THROUGH SOCIAL GOOD.”
“CHANGE IS GOOD. TRANSFORMATION IS EVEN BETTER.”
“WE ARE THE COMPANY FOR THE CONNECTED AGE.”
Defining The Prospect
They assign objective criteria to prospecting and are meticulous in not straying too far from these guidelines.
For many agencies, prospecting criteria is gleefully focused around 3C’s:
- Cash – does a prospect have the propensity to spend?
- Creative – will the prospect allow us enough creative latitude to win awards and keep our teams happy?
- Credibility – is this a category within which we want to expand into?
While all three are important, they’re all inward focused – client benefit is literally not a part of the equation. I recommend adding an additional C to the mix: Change – can our expertise effect change within the prospect’s business? By assigning criteria that focuses on finding prospects whose business we can impact, we will no doubt be satisfying the first three as well.
In addition to those, however, it’s important to get even more granular so your team can laser focus on finding the right prospect to begin a conversation. Here’s how one firm defines their prospecting criteria: “Fortune 1000, East Coast, complex product offering, large global salesforce,” and most telling they focus on approaching “director-level+ sales, marketing or operations leaders who have been in their role for less than 9 months.”
Prospecting that isn’t built upon sound, strategic criteria is doomed to fail, despite Alec Baldwin’s exhortations to simply “close, close, close.”
Creating a meaningful agency positioning statement that establishes clear differentiation amongst your competitors is the first step in creating a re-energized new business pipeline.Read more