A couple of weeks ago I got to speak at The Drum’s Pitch Perfect conference, a one-day event devoted to helping ad agencies sharpen their new business skills.
There was some great content presented, and one of the best sessions featured four client-side marketers who graciously agreed to expose their underbellies to us. It’s always a lucky opportunity when we agency folk can ask clients candid questions about what we’re doing right and what we could do better.
In this case, I learned some new things, but mostly I was struck by how little things seem to change. Clients are trying just as hard as we are to stay on top of the constantly-shifting sands of marketing, not to mention the demands of their jobs.
Agencies are perfectly positioned to be a source of a help. So why do they often end up being more of a hindrance?
When I was on staff leading new business teams at ad agencies, I spent many an August working late nights and weekends in overly air-conditioned offices instead of enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer.
I attributed this spike in new business activity to summer vacations – not mine but the client’s. I imagined the client realizing somewhere in July that the agency search she’d planned to do that year hadn’t started yet. But if she could rally and send that RFP before her vacation started, the agencies that received it would have a couple of weeks to respond while she enjoyed the beaches of Nantucket.
Maybe you spent your summer pitching a lot of business and not resting too much – and I hope that most of those pitches ended successful—but as we move into Q4, you should be focused on two priorities. Read more.
The other day I got a phone call that made my week.
One of my clients, the CEO of a small ad agency, called to tell me that the agency’s positioning strategy, a strategy that I first suggested more than three years ago and have encouraged (and sometimes cajoled) him to embrace ever since, just won him a major piece of business.
It was gratifying to me, of course, because it validated my business! But I was happier for him.
Committing to that positioning strategy had been a psychological hurdle. It fit like a Savile Row suit, but it required him to put a stake in the ground, and that meant potentially saying “no” to revenue if it meant working with the wrong kinds of clients.
It’s a very emotional decision for some agency owners, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
But what if you had a way to test your positioning that puts emotion to the side? Read more.
Our complex marketing ecosystem has resulted in a Cheesecake Factory menu of specialist agencies filling every marketing niche imaginable.
As these specialist agencies seek new growth, they’re turning to other agencies.
For example, a social media agency (let’s call it the Selling Agency) might partner with a digital agency (the Customer Agency) to fill a gap in the Customer Agency’s services. The Customer Agency can offer its client what it needs, the Selling Agency gets exposure to more potential clients on the other agency’s roster, and both make money. Hooray!
But there’s a big downside. The Selling Agency will never have as much influence over the client relationship as the Customer Agency will.
That leads to all sorts of hazards. In this post, I’ll tell what those hazards are and give you strategies you can use throughout the sales cycle to hedge against them.
Those of you who know me or have worked with me know that my mission is to help ad agencies and creative services firms communicate more persuasively. When I find a tool or technique that has the potential for changing that behavior, I pass it on. Nancy Duarte's Sparklines is one of those tools.
Sparklines was developed after she asked herself "what does persuasion look like?" She’s certainly qualified to explore the question. Her company, Duarte, helps organizations like Google and Apple tell effective stories through presentation. To find the answer, she analyzed two extraordinary presentations: Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch in 2007.
Essentially, it’s is a method for drawing an audience over to your side of an argument by presenting a series of contrasts between what is and what could be. It's one of the most compelling presentation structures I've ever seen. Plus, it's not a technique that's difficult to learn. In fact, it has more to do with reframing your presentations than reinventing them.
Still managing your prospects largely through Post-It notes? Relying too much on a white board (the one that your assistant just erased by mistake) to track your marketing activities?
Time for an upgrade! Check out my recommendations for five indispensable tools for agency new business. They also happen to be widely available, and most are easy to put in place so you can start using them right away.
I talk a lot about why you need to be strategically ready to embark on a prospecting campaign. Your sales efforts aren't going to be successful if you can't communicate to your best prospects why your services are more valuablethan other agency.
But in my latest blog post I shift gears a bit to talk about some practical tools that are important to have in place if you are to support a strong prospecting program. They're tools that are easy to start to use right away and that I've come to consider indispensable.
Still managing your contacts largely through Post-It notes? Relying too much on a white board (the one that got erased by mistake last week) to track your marketing activities?
Adweek featured an article yesterday declaring business development the "most dangerous job" at an ad agency.
The piece raised a lot of important issues but I'm going to focus on two of them.
Assigning responsibility for a pitch can be a bit like throwing around a hot potato – no one wants to take ownership of it for very long. It’s not hard to understand why. Running a pitch can be grueling work – long hours, intense schedules, lots of moving parts, typically piled on top of someone’s day-to-day activities that already have them working at 110%.
My last post on new business process was on qualifying pitch opportunities – specifically how to empower your new business team to assess opportunities as they come over the transom. In it, I talked about selection criteria and their importance in serving as guide posts to keep you on your strategic path.
Selection criteria are guide posts to keep you on your strategic path.
Selection criteria span from broad to specific, quantitative to qualitative. The most basic should be considered barriers to entry (the answers being pretty obvious) and include:
- What the monetary value of the account or assignment is and whether it meets your financial goals
- Whether it’s free of any conflicts of interest with any other clients
- If it’s a scope of work that you are qualified to (or that you want to) perform
Not everyone loves process, but when you’re managing the chaos of a new business pitch, it can really help. Process is especially important in unwieldy situations (think of a global pitch at a big agency with dozens of stakeholders across continents), but it’s just as useful for a small one-office agency. Working within a standard process gives everyone the reassurance that they are all playing from the same playbook. It can also empower your new business team to make decisions that will save time, limit confusion and keep things moving forward.
For these first weeks of 2014, I’ll be focusing on new business process and its operational components – what they are, why they’re important and how to use them.
Step 1 in any new business process: qualify the opportunity.
For this post, let’s start at the start. You’ve received an RFP. What’s your first reaction? Maybe it’s “let’s go for it!,” but is the opportunity right for you? Maybe you’ve even received multiple RFPs, all probably due at around the same time. Are they equally important and do you have the resources to tackle them effectively?