One of the reasons prospecting efforts fail is because ad agencies haven’t worked out a sustainable strategy. Their approach often looks something like this: One long email is painstakingly composed (but often badly written nonetheless), describing pretty much all the important things the agency wants its prospect to know. The email gets passed around for approval, getting longer and more vague in the process, until finally it’s sent to the prospect. The response? Deafening silence. “That’s OK,” you say to yourself, “because I know this prospecting stuff requires persistence and thick skin.”
You follow through with one, maybe two, calls or emails. Still no response. So you give up. You gave them everything they’d need to make a sound decision about meeting with you so they must not be interested.
And maybe that’s the case. But prospects are humans too, and we humans are creatures of habit. We like to get used to an idea first before making a decision, especially if it’s a disruptive one like hiring a new agency. And, like us, prospects are busy. Long-winded emails that require a lot of mental energy to process are probably not going to be successful.
I advocate a “campaign” approach to prospecting – a methodical drip of messages that accumulate to build a bigger story in the prospect’s mind. That means you need a steady supply of content. If you’re like many of the ad agencies I work with, that can be a daunting thought at first. But you’re probably sitting on more prospecting-ready information than you realize and I have a tool to help you draw it out.
First rule of thumb – don’t dump everything into the first email.
Next, sort the types of information you want to communicate into four quadrants:
Generic and standard. This is your basic agency info – what you do, who you do it for. Don’t be misled by my use of the word “generic.” The messages are generic in the sense that they’re not custom thoughts or ideas. But they’re still targeted in that they connect your agency’s positioning to a prospect’s business need. And they’re “standard” in that they’re already being used to describe your agency. They don’t require a big investment in time and energy to create. They benefit from persistence – every time you contact this prospect, these simple, standard messages get reinforced.
Specific and standard. Case studies are a great example of this kind of information. They’re standard in that they already exist, ready and waiting to be deployed. But they’re specific in the sense that you choose one case study over another to illustrate specific experience that’s relevant to the prospect.
Generic and complex. Promotions and special offers would go here. These would be repeatable, abbreviated exercises that offer your prospect a low-risk way to get to know you. A lot of agencies shy away from this kind of stuff, and I’ll admit it’s not right for everyone, but it can be worth considering. It’s generic in the sense that you create it once but use it again and again. It’s complex in the sense that, if successful, it might require you to pull a team together and manage the logistics that come with an in-person exercise like this.
Specific and complex. This is the territory of custom ideas and insights. Note that I don’t call this “spec work,” which I believe you should never do. Rather it’s a window into how you think and how you might approach a prospect’s marketing challenge. This kind of information is high-risk/high-return. It can be very effective, but also requires more time and investment. Use it when you feel there’s a strong potential for success, probably once you’ve established some kind of rapport and you need to push the prospect a little harder towards conversion.
It can easily take more than a dozen points of contact before a prospect says “yes” to anything, whether it’s a project or simply a willingness to meet.
As you develop your prospecting strategy, start to populate the matrix. You’ll still have to steel yourself for persistence, but at least you’ll agonize less over what you could possibly have left to say.