For many agencies, a dedicated business development team isn’t considered a must have. Growth is typically handled by an agency founder or account lead 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 development 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.
Automate The Process
They invest in automated tools to ensure that all inbound and outbound channels are working in concert to create an efficient lead generation engine.
With so many affordable software solutions at our disposal today, it’s stunning to see how many agencies continue to conduct outreach in an analog manner. While acknowledging new business as the agency’s lifeblood, they balk at the investment needed to equip the team with the tools necessary to conduct best-in-class BD.
The goal, after all, is to increase productivity, reducing the time it takes to build out prospect lists and vet contact information, giving visibility into email effectiveness and website traffic, scheduling and tracking outreach, creating realistic pipeline forecasting, and sharing better reporting and analysis across the leadership team. Perhaps most importantly, however, these tools help combat the very real and demoralizing outcome of simply “not knowing.” Uncertainty breeds negativity. Negativity leads to loss of confidence. Loss of confidence leads to inertia. By automating the many essential but repeatable tasks and improving visibility, you’ll create a sense of momentum for your BD team, increasing morale and optimizing performance.
Each year, RSW/US and Mirren survey more than 200 agency executives to get their impressions on the effectiveness of new business tools. You can download the 2017 Annual Report here.
Publish Your Expertise
They empower their sales team with a steady stream of dynamic content that reinforces the value offering.
Does this sound familiar. After weeks of back and forth with a new prospect, you finally schedule a chemistry call. It’s positive, she’s impressed by the work but doesn’t have an immediate need; encouraging you to “stay in touch.” So what does “stay in touch” look like at your firm?
As brands have come to accept their new responsibility in the content economy, so too do agencies need to think like a publisher; producing a monthly cadence of thought leadership that is relevant to developing new business. The challenge is how do you create a mindset of accountability within the agency? While it’s easy to kick off a thought leadership program, sustaining systematic output is a beast that needs constant encouragement and oversight. I recommend empowering a nimble editorial team to oversee the program; someone with PM skills to keep the writers on track, and someone from sales to shape and edit the final product.
And who should be doing the writing? Forget the intern or research assistant and assign it to the folks who are being brought in to close new pieces of business. I know it’s hard to get your Leadership team to buy in to writing four articles a year. But remind them of the program’s purpose, which is to arm your BD team with enough relevant ammunition to maintain a robust pipeline. If they’re not prepared to participate in that, perhaps they shouldn’t be leading a department.
A new business strategy should not be a conceived as a reactive, last minute “Hail Mary.”
It isn’t a “nice to have” nor can it wait for “things to slow down.” A business development strategy is an ongoing process based on a constantly evolving plan, capable of withstanding 12-18 months of learning and fine-tuning. Even if you’re not prepared to staff it fully with a dedicated team, you must plot out a roadmap, assign accountability to all senior leaders, and be prepared to stick with it. Your agency’s future very much depends on it.
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