It’s January, a time to stride forth into the new year and activate the plans you've made to grow your ad agency – dust off that prospecting list, revive the agency’s blog, hire a biz dev whiz to steer the efforts.
How’s that going so far?
Did you know that less than 10% of people who make resolutions are successful at keeping them? That feels about right, speaking from personal experience.
Put aside the plan with all its big goals and take a critical look at your team and what it's best equipped to do.
The same reason we don’t go to the gym every morning, despite our best intentions and goal-setting, is the same reason we don’t do what it takes to meet our business development goals. Psychologists have called this the “false hope syndrome,” which means our resolutions are unrealistic and out of alignment with our internal view of ourselves.
So how do we realign? Start by putting aside your plan with all its big goals for 2017 and taking a critical look at your team (including yourself) and what that team is best equipped to do. In my experience, most ad agencies fit into one of these five categories:
This is a rare species in our world. Most agencies are not filled with natural-born hunters, which is why they usually fail to sustain any sort of plan that entails outbound prospecting. Neither carrots nor sticks seem to make much of a difference with these teams. I’ve seen financial incentives and promises of career advancement fail in equal measure. For those of you whom this describes, put a prospecting plan in place and set the team loose. For the rest, stop trying to make your team do something that they’ll never feel comfortable doing and consider whether you fit into one of the other four categories.
If your agency is run by leaders with big personalities and ideas, then give them outlets to express themselves. A great example of an agency that leverages a big personality is Vayner Media. Vayner’s success is due, in part, to founder Gary Vaynerchuk. (If you’ve never heard him give a keynote address, check out the one he did last fall at INBOUND). Vaynerchuk is the ultimate ambassador for the company that bears his name. He practices what his social media agency preaches, boasting more than a million followers on Twitter, and he’s even crossed over into mainstream media, like reality TV. Outbound prospecting may still be a component of Vayner Media’s new business strategy, but I’m willing to bet it’s the strength of Vaynerchuk’s personality that generates the most leads.
Small Team Wearing Multiple Hats
This describes a lot of the agencies I work with. They have it tough because their resources are already overtaxed. They dream big, which means they set aspirational goals (to do any less would seem limiting and pessimistic, right?) so they’re most likely to suffer from false hope syndrome. My suggestion: be honest about the one or two things that your leadership team can do both consistently and well. That may mean your plan is focused more on getting your people on the speaking circuit than it is getting them to embrace outbound prospecting – and that’s OK. Make a commitment to more achievable goals – it’ll let you build momentum you can sustain over time.
“It’s Your Job, Keep Us Out of It.”
If the Small Team has it tough, these guys have it tougher. This category is filled with agencies that are fortunate to have a dedicated new business resource. But this poor person or team probably doesn’t have the capacity to meet the truckload of expectations put on them by the rest of the agency. If this describes you, my best piece of advice is to start looking for a better job at a different agency. In the meantime, be honest about the one or two things that you can do consistently and well.
CEO = Chief Sales Officer
Many agencies are led by CEOs who close business more successfully than anyone else at their agency. There are a number of reasons for this but here's a big one: the qualities that make them effective CEOs also make them effective salespeople. The mistake some of these agencies make is trying to replicate that CEO’s special sauce in other people, especially when hiring a new business person. It’s never going to work so stop wasting your time trying. Instead, delegate as many other responsibilities that are reasonable to other executives so that the CEO can spend more time on growing the business. Tee up the ball so she can hit it well. Do what you need to keep her organized and on track.
Any of these sound like your agency? Know thyself and take control over your growth plans for 2017.