Let’s start the new year off by eschewing theoretical advice in favor of some tactical guidance you can put to good use right away to improve the effectiveness of your proposals: how to write the perfect proposal cover letter.
Why is a cover letter so important? It may be the only section of your proposal or RFP response that your client actually reads (besides the pricing section). Sure, that’s a cynical attitude, but it’s based on personal experience as well as the experience of other experts, like agency search consultants, that’s been shared with me.
Embrace the cover letter as a strategic sales tool for presenting a persuasive argument for hiring your agency.
Each December, I approach my own end-of-year assessment with enthusiasm. Going back through the notes I’ve made or the articles I clipped to Evernote over the last twelve months is a like a nerdy version of a child carefully going through her bulging Christmas stocking.
And, of the numerous inspiring, terrifying, and thought-provoking developments we’ve lived through this year, here are four trends that I think are going to stick around and continue to affect the way agencies pursue new business in 2019.
Generating leads is central to any business development strategy. And you hate it. You find excuses to avoid outbound prospecting whenever possible.
For some agencies, outsourcing lead generation is a great idea. Though, as I wrote in my last post, it only works if you hold up your end of the bargain. My friend Mark Duval agrees. He runs Duval Partnership, a firm that offers outsourced prospecting and lead generation to agencies. Over a recent conversation he generously shared his thoughts on what makes an agency prospecting campaign successful as well as the skewed expectations he routinely comes up against.
Recently, a client of mine asked me to help him evaluate a lead generation firm he was thinking about hiring. The lead gen firm had sent him an extensive questionnaire so it could gather enough information to create a set of persuasive sales messages. It included questions you’d expect: How do you describe your ideal client? What makes your agency different from competitors? Why do you do what you do?
My client asked me for my advice. Would I assess this firm and tell him what I thought of the questionnaire?
My feedback was that there was nothing wrong with the questionnaire. The question I had for him: Was he was happy with his answers? And, should the lead generator bring him quality leads, did he believe he was prepared to close the business?
I gave my client some advice on how to make sure his investment would pay off. If you’re considering outsourcing lead generation, then it might be good advice for you too. Read more
Winning a new business pitch hinges on your ability to perform a crucial task: communicating to your prospect that your agency brings more value to the deal than your competitors. Sounds straightforward enough, so why do the majority of agencies lose more frequently than they win? Because, there’s a fundamental disconnect between how we communicate our pitch and how our audience receives it. Here are five ways you can close that gap and win more new business.
When I pose this question to the agencies I work with, they usually summarize information like job titles, types of companies, and professional responsibilities.
It's an accurate answer. Nothing wrong with that, right?
But, when you rely only on data like this, the basis of your pitch becomes a set of facts and figures. You recite your credentials, erring on the side of more information, rather than less. After all, you want to demonstrate your thoroughness and ability to anticipate their every need.
The thing is, we buy based on emotion. In fact, the more complex a buying decision, like evaluating a new agency, the more likely it is that we rely on feelings versus details. It’s an emotional short-cut, a “gut feeling,” that indicates we’re making the right decision.
It’s not that your agency credentials aren’t important to your prospective clients. Your prospects use them to rationalize their emotional gut feeling. The mistake some agencies make is neglecting to think about their prospects as irrational, emotional creatures.
You're a sophisticated marketing practitioner, so this is stuff you already know and likely apply in your work every day. I'm sure you would never agree to develop a marketing strategy for a client without a detailed customer persona.
So, do you know who your ideal client is? Read more.
Anyone who’s followed my posts for a while knows I’m a bit obsessed with storytelling and its role agency new business. The more I learn about the psychology of storytelling, the more convinced I am that it’s a secret weapon for converting prospects into new business leads.
But what about these implied stories? What are they and how should you be telling them? Read more.
Earlier this month I was speaking to a group of agency owners and the topic of specialization came up, at least when it comes to business development. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They had tried this specialist strategy and it didn’t work. In fact, it had the opposite effect — they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that?
Fear and boredom are not a good combination, especially when they’re the overriding emotions you feel every time you confront the reality that you could be doing more to win new business for your agency.
I used to extol the virtues of a well-rounded business development program until I realized I was never going to get agency leaders to do things they didn’t like to do. I’d just be continually fighting the impossible fight against fear and boredom.
Instead, I learned that defining a strategy and set of tactics that were aligned to their strengths was the shortest, most efficient way to fill their pipeline. I also discovered that most small agency owners fit into one of four different new business personality types.
Which one are you? The answer may change your feelings about business development from fear and boredom to confidence and enthusiasm. Read more.
Jellyfish and agency new business tend not to come up in the same conversation. Unless, of course, you’re talking to Bureau of Digital's Carl Smith. He and I spoke right after one of the Bureau’s signature events, Owner Summit. We had a far-ranging talk that included:
· What happens when digital agencies are run by “accidental entrepreneurs”
· The current tug-of-war between craftsmanship and ambitious new business goals
· The “jellyfish model” of agency growth – what it is, how it works, and when to use it.
· Why digital agencies today are like the Hollywood studio system of the 1920s.
· Why 2018 is the year when big marketers start start hiring external agencies again.
Going after new business puts you in a vulnerable position. There’s always a risk that you’ll be unable to persuade the other party to buy what you’re selling.
We don’t like feeling vulnerable or being rejected. In fact, it’s deeper than dislike. It’s straight-up fear. To avoid the fear, we might convince ourselves to stay in our safe place and keep doing whatever it is we’ve been doing (or not doing), no matter how unsatisfying or unproductive it is.
The devil you know…
Until a crisis shakes us out of complacency and forces us to act. And then we scramble to fix the crisis, dipping back into our network or lowering our price because we need a win.
What would change for your agency if you could take fear out of the equation?
But you need to do your part too. You’re responsible for making it as easy as possible for your best customers to find you. A strong strategic positioning is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself.
Landing on the right positioning for your agency can be emotional, soul-searching work, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
What if you had a way to remove emotion from the equation? What if you had an equation to lead you to a clear articulation of your value?
Is 2018 the year you regain control over your agency’s new business destiny?