It’s that time of year when big, optimistic plans to pursue dream clients and win lots of new business start to lose their luster.
I get it. Stuff gets in the way...
...an unhappy or demanding client.
...an important team member goes on maternity leave.
Or, perhaps even a large and unexpected new project.
It’s all part of running an agency, of course, but why is the pursuit of new business often the first thing to be abandoned? How many times have you reinforced to your employees the importance of new business countless times by calling it the “lifeblood of our agency?”
Time is the enemy of new business. There’s never enough of it and yet there’s so much to do even just to move the needle a little bit.
On the other hand, momentum is its hero.
You rarely see results quickly when you first commit to a proactive business development strategy. That’s the reality and I wish it weren’t so. However, once you get momentum behind a new business program, the results will come. Plus, they’re likely to come faster and more frequently.
But, when take your foot off the accelerator, you inevitably slow down. It takes a concerted effort to build up speed again and that’s frequently the moment when you convince yourself that no matter what you do, you still end up with a weak pipeline.
Admittedly, there are a lot of factors at play here. Time management, team management, budget, lack of clarity, or an absence of a clear point of difference between you and your competitor who also just sent your dream client an introductory email.
I want to address another factor: unrealistic ambitions.
Understandably, when you’re ready to embark on a new business program, you want to do everything possible to achieve your big goals. And this is where we suffer breakdowns on the road to agency growth.
You can’t do everything. This is especially true for smaller agencies. You’ll always have other responsibilities. There will always be something competing for your attention. And often, working on new business requires you to step out of your comfort zone (which makes it easier to convince yourself that competing tasks that are in your comfort zone should take precedence).
If you want a thriving new business practice that leads to healthy growth, you need to set up and maintain an ecosystem of tactics that are right for your agency.
An ecosystem describes any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts. A New Business Ecosystem™ includes anything you would use to support the pursuit of agency growth, from a pricing proposal to a website to social media. Like any other ecosystem, it only supports growth as long as the interconnected parts are suitable for the environment and the external and internal factors are appropriate to their function.
In other words, you wouldn’t plant a tropical flower in a garden in Alaska.
Likewise, if you commit to an outbound prospecting program, but you never send an email or make a call, that program will die on the vine.
Or, if you conduct proprietary research, but never turn it into a series or blog posts, or never leverage it to secure a keynote speech to a room of your best prospects, growth is stunted.
The Care and Feeding of Your New Business Ecosystem™
Before you can design your ecosystem, you have to get some foundational elements in place. Your New Business Ecosystem™ will be in a better position to thrive if:
You’ve committed to a market positioning specific to your expertise
You’ve mastered your own/your agency’s story and have confidently stepped into your role as the expert
You have a deep understanding of your best client – who they are, how they can be reached, and the emotional triggers that signal when they need you
Bottom line: you must know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to before you can effectively figure out how you’re selling it.
What I’ve learned from the small agencies I work with is that resources are in short supply. It becomes crucial, then, for you to know your strengths and how to use the right tactics to play to those strengths
That might manifest in a CEO that’s on the road frequently to network with prospective clients. Or a head of strategy with a polarizing idea that’s expressed in a book or a podcast or a TED Talk—or a combination of all three. (In fact, it’s the combinations that can be so catalytic).
Create a New Business Ecosystem™ That’s Right for You
The Sutter Company’s New Business Ecosystem has four components:
Intellectual property includes the basic building blocks of your original content—agency positioning, unique methodology, case histories, client relationships. Sometimes you’ll use these components in their original form but frequently you’ll mold and adapt them for use in your marketing, sales and pitching tools. For example, a strong client relationship can be turned into a testimonial that provides social proof to a prospect.
Marketing tools include anything that serves to create the brand persona of an agency, grow awareness, and support the sales function. For example, your agency’s website plays a crucial role in the sales function, but it’s a marketing tool first and foremost.
I distinguish a sales tool from a marketing tool as anything that directly and exclusively supports sales. Sales tools encompass a diverse set of components, from a customer relationship management (CRM) system to membership in associations for the purpose of networking.
These tools are usually deployed when you’ve converted a lead into a real revenue opportunity. They support you in your quest to close that piece of business.
If money, time and resources were no object, an agency would do it all. But that’s not likely to be the case for your agency, so you need to choose the components that are right for you.
How do you know which ones are right?
They align well with your agency’s positioning (what you sell +who you sell it to)
You have team members capable of creating, using, and maintaining the tools
They align with the personality and strengths of the CEO or leader/leadership team that’s been assigned primary responsibility for new business growth
Interested in discovering how you can build a New Business Ecosystem™ for your agency? Download my free guide to get started.