Ad Agency New Business: How to Jumpstart Your Agency’s New Business Resolution

It’s that time…again.

The new business resolution that you talked about last year is back. You strategized about it in committees, assigned roles for its enactment and made plans for its progression.

So why hasn’t it happened?

The onset of any new year inspires many resolutions. Resolving to create a sustainable business development program is perhaps one of your most critical.

Following are a few quick tips and easy-to-implement solutions designed to move your agency toward increased new business health and success2011-year-resolution-400x400

Small portions lead to big results.

Big goals can often be overwhelming and easy to postpone. Rather than tackling your prospect universe in its entirety, focus on one niche industry or highly specialized service area in which you possess a strong competitive advantage. Be certain that you are strategically positioned to resonate with the intended audience.

Target 50-100 organizations within that meet very specific criteria within that subset. Consider: organizational size, geographic location, sales orientation and current relationship status. The more focused, the better.

Personally research and build an associated contact list to include all decision-making and influencing roles within each organization. Purchased lists are notoriously fraught with misinformation and dead ends; so take the time to delve deep as your program’s success relies on the accuracy of this information.

Structure a preliminary outreach plan to include a simple door-opening piece focused on a unique point of prospect pain. Follow with a regimented combination of personal, social and direct outreach designed to create awareness and an ongoing conversation. A succinct and personalized approach will also help to increase effectiveness and the likelihood of a positive response.

Exercise smart content.

Developing relevant and regular content that cements your unique brand position is another critical element that you can no longer ignore. Assign an agency principal your thought leadership role. Support this individual with a small team of research and fact gathers to aid in the writing load.

Commit to creating consistent and detailed content that defines and demonstrates your USP. Relentlessly distribute this material in a multi-channel manner.

Trim your social fat.

Stop tinkering with your social networks. Assemble a squad for each major platform. Empower these teams to be creative in their approach and mindful of the content nuances associated with each. Monitor results regularly for adjustment and cross-platform coordination. Have fun with the process. Cultivate a friendly and competitive environment to help bolster positive results.

Creating a comprehensive business development program requires a significant commitment. There are, however, some easy-to-implement first steps. Commit to a plan and assign the proper resources or give us a call; we would be happy to help get your new year off on the right foot.

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Ad Agency New Business: If You Write It, Will They Come?

Many marketing firms are quick to believe the promise of what an inbound-only approach to new business can deliver. Finally, they think, our problems are solved! We have a solution that is non-interruptive and easy to implement.

But if you write it, will they come?

There is no shortage of experts providing advice on how to create content that will generate a steady stream of qualified leads. Unfortunately, these experts often don’t factor the following:

(1) Agency time comes at a premium.

Creating an in-depth stream of consistent content that resonates with your target audience requires a time consuming writing commitment from your top talent. It also requires the attention of a seasoned social media expert to position that content so it will be seen by the right audience.

As Jay Baer said recently in an article on convinceandconvert.com, “Social media success is about the wizard, not the wand.”

Your subject and disciplinary experts must make the magic happen.

(2) Too many are talking.

Last month at HubSpot’s Inbound14, Chad Pollitt of Relevance described the once existing content deficit as a rapidly developing overload. This leaves one to wonder with so many talking is anyone really listening?

WHAT NOW?

Obviously your agency can’t ignore content creation. Still, you need to be realistic about your message and plan accordingly. Creating a strategy to dependably deliver a unique and sustainable point of view is critical to your success.

Consider these steps when creating your firm’s successful content culture:

Step One – Identify Your Wizards and Empower Them

Identify your content and social media experts. Assign your cerebral leaders the writing of material specific to their expertise. Empower a social media expert to direct distribution and engagement. Incorporate deadlines into your traffic schedule and make these activities a priority.

Step Two – Avoid General Blog Content and Start Small

Develop core, in-depth content around ONE SPECIFIC topic (designed to yield approximately 3-5 articles/posts) to moderately feed your inbound program.

In a crowded and noisy world, general content is often overlooked. Narrow topics specific to your expertise (and your prospect’s needs) will help break through the cacophony.

Step Three – Personalize Prospect Relationships

While social media can be helpful in building strong, prospect relationships, your goal is to move them off platforms not controlled by you. Serve one piece of content that requires an email subscription and then deliver that material via Constant Contact auto responder or a similar tool. The relationship is now in your hands! You can then use targeted outbound tactics to personally nurture it.

Consider this. If HubSpot’s sales people (the folks who coined the term inbound) still use the phone and email to connect with prospects brought in through their inbound channels (and they do), then maybe you should too.

Creating a robust new business program requires a serious commitment and a blended inbound/outbound approach. Plan for it wisely and utilize the strengths of each to hit your next home run.

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Ad Agency New Business: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

When budgets are forming, reviews are forthcoming and meetings are here…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!Autumn time

Just as the happy parents pictured in the Staples campaign celebrate sending their kids back to school, your agency should be celebrating and capitalizing upon the new business opportunities that September through early December often present.

While a comprehensive business development program will yield many opportunities throughout the year, the next 100 days are when much of your hard work will pay off.  Many prospects are solidifying plans, formulating budgets and reviewing existing relationships in preparation for the year ahead.

Hopefully, you have been preparing for this time by positioning your agency as an expert in key markets, developing content that resonates with your target audiences and personally connecting with decision makers to ascertain the likelihood and timing of their consideration.

If not, you can mount a smaller scope effort designed to harvest some of the low hanging fruit by following these quick fix steps.

  • Identify your strongest industry (where you truly have an expert reputation).
  • Handpick 50-100 organizations that fit your geographic, revenue and service requirements. Build numbers as your program evolves.
  • CAREFULLY research and qualify the contact information for all of the decision makers within each.
  • Create 2-3 pieces of in-depth content offering a constructive POV.
  • Use variations of this content to create a promotional email campaign and fill relevant inbound voids.
  • Follow each promotional email sent with a personal phone call, follow-up email and handwritten note from a senior-level staffer who can skillfully deliver your message.
  • Continue outreach and connect via appropriate social channels.

Don’t miss another selling season by ignoring an opportunity to jumpstart your new business program. You can fill in the components of a more comprehensive effort including: database development, regular content creation, social media activity and structured personal outreach when activity begins to slow in January.

Your prospects are awakening from their summer slumber. They are sending signals that they are evaluating and solidifying future plans. There is no time like the present to make this your most wonderful time of the year.

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Agency New Business: Up Close and Personal…Tradigital New Business Practices that Get Results

While your new inbound program may have helped to entice a few new business conversations, it would be a mistake to underestimate the value of a personal touch.

Smart and professional personal outreach is often the most important factor in turning a cold lead into a warm opportunity. Also, while some prospects prefer to privately research agency partnerships, we have found that most value agency representatives who intelligently pursue appropriate personal contact with their organization.

So, how do you engage? To start, consider these easy to implement “tradigital” strategies that combine old tactics with new ones.

Social Interaction

Many agencies are talking but few are listening and even fewer are interacting. Engaging personally with your prospects via social media is a vital business development practice.

To begin, assign an agency representative to follow the blogs and professional social channels of your top 10 prospects (preferably individuals not organizations, although both are important). Develop the habit of liking, sharing and commenting appropriately. Participate in their broad forum Linked In groups and Google+ communities.

By actively engaging with your prospect’s inbound activity you will enhance your credibility as an expert firm.

Personal Voice Messages

Although cold calls have seen a drop in effectiveness, you can turn them warm by leaving a “specialist” voice message, which succinctly details the specific reason for your call.Unknown-1

In the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in response rates when an effective voice message is paired with a supportive personal email. While many prospects ultimately respond via email, the initial voice message is often referenced in their response. When combined with other inbound tactics, this is a highly effective 1-2 punch.

An Oldie but a Goodie…The Handwritten Written Note

That’s right, we said it…a handwritten note (accompanied by a business card). No, this isn’t your grandmother speaking. There are some things that always work and this is one of them. Keep the copy tight and professional. Overfamiliarity is a no-no. When properly composed, this old-school executive touch is highly effective. In fact, elusive prospects often take the time to acknowledge previously ignored outreach upon receiving a personal note inquiring if they have a moment to connect.

Bottom-line: beware of simple solutions and single source advice. Create an effective new business program grounded in a deep understanding of both traditional and digital practices. Trust your instincts. Have fun and be creative in your approach. The rewards will be exponential!

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Ad Agency New Business: Creating an Expert vs. Agency Blog

bloggerCreating good content helps to fuel long-term new business success. However, with almost 75% of agencies blogging today, why are so many failing to gain traction?

The reason is this, prospects want to connect with experts. The thinly veiled promotional content that many firms use to fill their inbound voids lacks the in-depth substance that most executives seek when deciding where they are going to allocate their precious time.

So what’s the problem? Time and focus. Content creation gets delegated and the quality becomes lackluster, irregular and burdensome.

How can you change this pattern of failure?

Start with these actionable steps to help improve quality and efficiency:

Schedule a Leadership Meeting

Your agency’s best experts are its leaders. They are the glue that binds and have more credibility tying their knowledge to a particular expertise. They are also less likely to leave, taking any equity built amongst prospects with them.

Incorporate content development into one status meeting per month with your principals in attendance. Review issues impacting clients. Poll the account teams to determine which topics best address current client needs. Use these topics to generate content ideas for that month – client work then doubles as content strategy time for the agency.

Assign a Research Team

Good content is based on good research.  Task your account teams with collecting the necessary facts relating to key topics.  It will cut cold writing time in half while enriching your team’s service provision and overall professional development.

Consider an Expert vs. Agency Blog

Ask your principals to create an expert blog highlighting a particular industry or service niche. These blogs will both live apart from AND directly link to your website. To illustrate, check out: barkleyus.com.

By decentralizing content, you will reach a much larger audience and inspire team leaders to take their ideas to bigger and better realms.

The world of agency blogs is a crowded and often dull space. Take steps to streamline your process and achieve an expert position. Your new business rewards will be measurable.

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Ad Agency New Business: Your Agency’s New Business Strategy Depends on a Good Content Strategy: Five Steps Towards Making It Happen

Creating a strong content culture is key to achieving long-term new business success.  It strengthens your position, supports prospecting activity and often helps close business.

Understanding that time is often the issue, below are five steps to help get you going in the right direction:

1. Appoint A Leader
The most successful content cultures are born at the agency principal level. As in business development, gaining the support of your firm’s visionaries is vital to your success. The individuals who provide thought leadership and drive agency direction are your best resources for guiding content that will resonate with your target audience.

2. Staff the Effort
Assign a team as you would to any important client. Define your strategy, create a tactical plan and hold your staff accountable, regardless of competing workloads. New business should always be your first business and on-target; regular content creation is central to supporting that effort.

3. Define and Research Your Prospect Audience
Research your target audience(s). If you use HubSpot, you are already familiar with Buyer Personas – prospect representations that include demographics, behavior patterns, hanlon_bullseyemotivations, pain points and goals. It is critical to construct comprehensive personas for each audience segment, as it will steer the development of stronger content and other important elements of your inbound program.

4. Pick One Audience, One Problem, and Provide One Solution
As Derek Halpern from Social Triggers explains in his Blog That Converts, don’t try to reach all of your prospects at once. Instead, use the “Divide and Conquer Technique.” Pick one prospect segment, select one problem they have and develop one actionable solution to that problem. Offering “finely focused” versus “broad topic” content separates expert firms from the generalists.

5. Write Base Content
Establish an expertise, one topic at a time. Pick a subject, divide it into 3-5 sub-topic blog posts and explore it in depth. Once you have established and exhausted your expertise on this subject, move on to the next bite-size portion.

Good content creation is a never-ending story, designed to methodically bring prospects through the sales channel. Take the time to do it right. Gain the support of your principals, develop a strong point of view and assign the appropriate resources to ensure success. Most importantly, do it right or don’t do it at all. 

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Ad Agency New Business: Set Your Agency’s Business Development Director Up for Success

Finding one person who can generate leads, maintain regular outreach with a large number of prospects, develop marketing materials (including high quality content), nurture relationships and close business is not a realistic endeavor. And, if you try to find that one person, you will likely end up with someone who does some things well and the others, not so well. Sales and marketing, although entwined, require different skills sets, personal qualities and experience.

So, why do many agencies continue to look for a Jack-of-All-Trades?

Likely, it is a blend of wishful thinking and nostalgia fueled by memories of the good old days when someone could do it all. A Roger Sterling type. Someone who could cold call, network and wine and dine like a pro.

Prospects today are smarter and their expectations higher. Sure, you still have to do the research and leg work to identify and maintain communication with the right people, but you also need to actively market yourself by creating valuable messaging and content across a variety of mediums and social channels.

So, whom do you hire? A sales or marketing pro? More than likely, they are not one in the same.

Reconsider your search parameters and assess your current situation. Is the marketing function at your agency steadily underway? Is there a supportive communications program in place? Are your social efforts gaining traction? Are you blogging effectively? If the answer is yes, then hire the sales pro to actively pursue and generate opportunities with qualified prospects.

If the answer is no, you might want to rethink your approach by committing to the following:

1. Assign an agency marketing manager to oversee the creation of a multi-pronged program designed to effectively position your firm with its key constituency. If it’s an internal candidate and not a full-time position, it’s close to one.

2. Hire a sales pro (full or part-time) to work that program to its maximum advantage. A good inbound program will produce opportunities but it often comes at its own pace.  If you want to truly control your own destiny, find a proven sales professional with the right skills and experience to harness inbound efforts and hasten the process.

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The role of the Business Development Director has changed. It requires a more nuanced and multi-layered approach. And, while there is nothing like finding that special person who can pick up the phone and create an opportunity where there once was none, it’s becoming less and less realistic to hang your firm’s future on that scenario.

Treat your agency like one of your best clients. Marry sales and marketing efforts to best support your positioning and success.

 

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Ad Agency New Business: Blogging for Agency New Business: Pick One Thing & Do It Well

blog-iconBlogging is an essential part of any comprehensive agency new business program. If done well, it can bolster your position and help convert prospects to clients.

Unfortunately, many firms struggle with maintaining an effective effort. And, although there are no quick fixes, there are ways to streamline the process – starting with your content strategy.

Ask yourself this question:  Are your blog subjects unified or do they bounce from topic to topic?

FACT – Specialist agencies win more business than generalist firms. 

Ergo, your blog must reflect and reinforce your specialist position.  Derek Halpern from Social Triggers puts it best,  “Dig one hole 100 feet deep, not one hundred holes 1 foot deep.”

Stop writing if your themes are general and shifting. Examine your agency’s position and select narrow topics that provide real solutions to very niche audiences. Then commit to a series of scheduled posts and dive deep.

And, while you are at it, check out Derek’s website Social Triggers and his online course – The Blog That Converts. Both are great resources, filled with practical advice designed to help you create a winning blog.

We get it. Effective blogging is a big commitment. But, the competitive advantage it affords will far outweigh the work involved.

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Ad Agency New Business: Build a program. Don’t buy a list.

For most agencies, buying a list is like shooting an ant with an elephant gun.

Here’s why:

A successful new business program is a methodical one, designed to maintain regular and personal contact with key decision makers within VERY targeted organizations.

Collecting a large volume of contacts via various list services (many of whom may not be perfect fits) is counterproductive. Focus your efforts on identifying prospects that would make the best clients – those ripe for your unique expertise and market position.

Consider these tips when building your own customized list:

1.  Begin by identifying 50-100 prospect organizations based on your agency’s unique selling proposition (the narrower, the better).

2.  Research all of the decision makers and influencers within each, along with their relevant contact information (phone, email, mailing, social info, etc.).  Use LinkedIn and InsideView to help gather this information.

3.  Call and verify the information.  That’s right…CALL.  Especially if you bought or are working with an inherited list. Confirmation is key. Many lists are fraught with outdated contacts and misinformation – all of which can lead you down rabbit holes that waste valuable agency resources.

4.  Load into your CRM system. We recommend Salesforce. It’s affordable, easy to use and integrates with other new business assets like Constant Contact and Hubspot.

5.  Pace yourself. Begin your outreach and build your list in batches. Most mid-size agencies with a strong and narrow position realistically target approximately 500-800 organizations. Remember, this is not a mass marketing exercise. It’s a personal, relationship-building approach that takes time and discipline.

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Your new business program is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Take the time to choose your ideal prospects well, then research and confirm the identity of the decision makers and influencers within each of those organizations. Quality over quantity is the key to winning this race.

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Ad Agency New Business: Cold Calls are Dead…but Warm Calls are King

As automated inbound efforts gain popularity, some new business experts say that outbound calls are unnecessary. Beware of the snake oil salesmen. Having been on the front lines of many successful programs, we can tell you that this mindset is completely WRONG!

Although a strong inbound effort is an important element in any comprehensive program, removing the personal outbound component is a big mistake. Why? Because it requires your agency to have all of the following going for it.

  • A strong and defendable position based on a clear point of differentiation
  • A system for creating a steady stream of effective content to support that position
  • A resource (or automation system) to push that content appropriately to all inbound channels, noting a unique approach for each platform
  • The ability to maintain the above in an ongoing manner
  • And, most importantly, a recognition and awareness among your prospects

The reality is that most small to mid-size firms struggle with many of these requirements. So, how do you support your burgeoning inbound program and position it for long-term success? We believe that you should subscribe to the following proven formula, the details of which we will explore in subsequent posts.

  • Create a top prospect list where your niche (industry or service) story is the strongest.
  • Research and personally uncover the key decision makers within each of those organizations. Build a targeted and comprehensive list that includes all of their vital statistics (purchased lists are expensive and notoriously fraught with misinformation).
  • Make a formal introduction with a well-constructed direct marketing piece.
  • Place a timely personal call following the receipt of that material, introducing the agency and conveying a professional interest in connecting personally.
  • Continue to build awareness with a combination of inbound and outbound tactics via multiple, scheduled touch points until penetration is achieved.

Having successfully conducted these programs for many years, the results are clear. Well-placed outbound activity (supported by a strong inbound effort) always opens the door to opportunity.

Don’t get sidetracked by the latest quick fix. Conducting an effective business development program is not an automated function. It’s personal. Build your inbound program to bolster a multi-pronged effort. This industry was built on personal relationships and creating those connections is still where the real accounts are won.

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