By Category: New Business and Social Media

» Forwarding is the New New Business Networking Strategy

Cultivate your network with relevant information
by Todd Knutson  |   published on October 07, 2009

newspaper article

It wasn't that many years ago that you'd send snail mail that included an article with a note attached that read something like this,

Saw this and thought you'd enjoy it.

The approach was simple and effective. It showed that you were thinking of a friend, colleague, prospect or client and wanted to send them something that they probably hadn't seen on their own. The recipient appreciated the thought and effort you took to stay in touch and provide them something of value.

Yesterday I read a post by Tom Davenport in Harvard Business Publishing (click here to read), which suggests that this tried-and-true networking strategy is alive and well. (It's good to know as I haven't stopped doing it.) Of greater interest to me, though, is that it's a natural addendum to my last post.

Naturally, snail mail is just about a thing of the past, so we're talking about forwarding information of value via email. The trick is do it as personally as you would were sending snail mail, which is a good way to ensure you don't cheapen the impact of your efforts.

Here are three "rules of thumb" that Tom suggests we keep in mind:

  1. Only offer information of value. You need to know the people in your network well enough to know what they value, and what they don't.
  2. Selectively forward information. Just as you would with snail mail, think carefully about who will benefit from the information you've found. Be sure it's relevant.
  3. Never forward to a long list of people. Doing so depersonalizes the impact and networking value of your action.

There's no silver bullet here, just common sense things to keep in mind. Forwarding information has never been easier (think "retweet"). My suggestion is to remember "snail mail" before hitting "send" on an email blast.

If you didn't have the convenience of email, who would you send this information to? Let that drive your new business networking efforts.


» Social Media, a Good List, and New Business Karma

Helping your network with no expectation of ROI
by Todd Knutson  |   published on October 05, 2009

karmaOne definition of karma is "actions that bring bring upon oneself inevitable results". I was intrigued by a recent conversation with Jane, a new business person, who claimed that this was the key to her success.("Jane" asked that I not use her real name.)

Jane's approach is simple: Give and expect nothing in return.

It has two well-integrated tactics:

  1. Grow and manage a large network
  2. Offer no-strings-attached help

Grow and Manage a Network

Jane is a networker. She uses LinkedIn and Facebook to grow and manage her large network. She combines that with The List, which she uses to identify people she wants to reach via her network, many of which she can't find on LinkedIn. She works hard to stay in touch with her contacts, connect people, and offer help.

Offer Help

Jane puts herself out there as a go-to resource for ideas on marketing (interactive is her specialty), finding a prospective marketing services partner, helping her network manage an existing agency relationship, as well as connecting her network with companies and people that may offer a service that will benefit them. She'll occasionally offer to do small projects free of charge through her firm, but this is rare. Normally, she operates independently, doing whatever she can to help her network.

The most interesting thing to me is that Jane appears to do this out of a genuine desire to help, with no expectation of getting anything in return, which is why she feels she is creating (good) new business karma.

Throughout the year she receives "blue birds" - calls out of the blue requesting her firm's help. They're almost always from "referrals and reputation" sources, which are the very best new business leads. People have heard of her through her network and call. She believes they do so because they've heard they can trust her.

Is this a strategy you can use? It's certainly not for everyone. The challenge of trying to emulate it is that it's unlikely to work if there's even a hint of disingenuousness in your approach.

What do you think? Is this a method you use or do you know someone who does it successfully?


» 8 First Step Goals For Your Ad Agency New Business Blog

Tips from a ProBlogger
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 20, 2009


I noticed a post by Darren Rowse on ProBlogger that may be of value if you're looking to create an ad agency blog to generate awareness and drive new business.

Every big goal needs to be broken down into small, very achievable steps. Darren does that here. The rest of this post is his (with a few minor edits on my part) and can be viewed in full here:

  1. Publish 10 posts.
  2. Get your first comment from someone you don’t know.
  3. Get your first link from another blog.
  4. Build your readership up to more than 20 readers a day.
  5. Hit a level of 20 RSS subscribers.
  6. Get your blog indexed in Google.
  7. Be invited to write your first guest post on another blog.
  8. Have someone (not you or your mom) tweet about your blog.

Note: Other goals might relate to design, platform, metrics, etc.

To someone who has been blogging for a while these kinds of goals might seem rather small and insignificant - but for a new blogger they’d be where I would start.

For new bloggers these goals might also seem a little insignificant also (in fact the blogger I was talking to told me I was thinking too small and dismissed my idea) - however I’d argue that to get to your big dreams there are a lot of steps in between - many of which might not be glamorous or fun to think about. However, sometimes it’s helpful to visualize the very next steps that you need to take in order to move towards your goals.

Tangent: I once had opportunity to meet a guy who had traveled the world climbing some of the highest mountains. When I said to him that it must be an exciting thing to do he told me that there are moments of exhilaration and excitement but that the reality is that much of what he does when climbing a mountain is pretty boring. It’s one foot in front of another type activity through foothills, carrying a heavy pack and not feeling like you’re making much progress. Of course, once you make it to the top or conquer challenges along the path you have moments of excitement, but it all starts with setting out from base camp and with the goal of getting to a point where the climb starts in earnest.

Once you've achieved these first goals start to increase them. You might want to double the numbers for the next step (although for different bloggers the numbers will no doubt be different) - then double them again, and so forth.

» Is Social Media Making Prospect Databases Irrelevant for New Business?

How will you obtain and connect with prospects?
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 01, 2009

A client asked me recently, "How will the rise of social media sites impact how I obtain and use prospect information?"

To me there are two ways you need to consider the issue:

  1. How will social media impact how I obtain contacts at companies?
  2. How will I contact prospects once I've put them in my internal database?

I'm thinking about this from the perspective of how agencies and other marketing services firms will do business in the future. I also encourage you to consider how this will impact how you obtain and use data for your clients' campaigns, if that's something you get involved with.

How will I obtain prospects at companies? Today, you can purchase a list for single-use; you can purchase a subscription to an online data provider; or, you can go it alone and use social media sites to try to identify companies and contacts you want to reach out to. At the moment, I believe that a blending of purchased information and use of social media sites is appropriate. Here's why:

  • Social media sites are not list-friendly. Trying to create prospect lists by industry, title, and geography is difficult.
  • Social media sites are populated by users, not by a research team looking for contacts that are relevant to clients. With these sites, you get who's registered, and can't ask someone to find a certain title or email, or to research a new company.
  • Social media sites are self-updated. There is no "cleaning" process to validate information. If someone chooses not to update their profile, or creates a duplicate profile, you have bad information. If someone dies, they're still alive on the site. Try this with companies you know well (or your own): watch people you know or former employees - what percent regularly update their information? You may be surprised by the results.

How will I contact prospects at companies? If you load your prospects into Act!, Goldmine or, social media presents a challenge. Here's why:

  • You can't send communications to prospects directly from your database (e.g. you can't use LinkedIn's internal email with Act!).
  • Social media is true one-to-one communication, and often through a mutual contact. A large direct mail or email campaign is completely inappropriate.
  • While database tools like Act! and will continue to be relevant for a while, if they don't evolve to become helpful and to save time in a social media-connected world, they are likely to lose market share to those that do.

Social media is about starting a conversation, and how you communicate is critically important.

I'm certainly thinking about this issue as an information provider, as that's what my company does. We also reach out to prospects on a daily basis using a traditional CRM platform. So, we are experimenting, just as you are.

Given the pace of change and the experimentation taking place, I'd love to hear from you: what are your challenges with obtaining information about prospects from social media sites? How are you connecting? Is your internal database tool useful? Becoming irrelevant?


» The Ad Agency CEO’s Lifelong New Business Learners Permit

Leaders never let their minds shut down, always strive to learn more
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 30, 2009

In college, I don't think there was any way to comprehend what a professor meant when he said, "learning is a lifelong occupation". All we wanted to do was graduate and not have to take another exam or write another 25-page paper.

It was when I went to graduate school four years later that I realized how little I knew about business; the first time I really messed up a management situation when I learned how little I knew about managing people; and the pain and pressure associated with learning how to manage a large sales force when I learned how little I knew about sales. And that's when I remembered that learning was supposed to be a lifelong occupation. If I wasn't making mistakes and learning from them, I wasn't growing.

In a recent Forbes article, Sangeeth Varghese, founder of a leadership organization in India, describes three ways leaders keep learning and growing:

  1. They learn constantly. They actively strive to learn at every opportunity, even in their sleep (that's my best time for processing information).
  2. They learn continuously. They will not let themselves be distracted. (He also notes that, "Research has shown that it is more efficacious to study for one hour straight than for two hours with interruption.")
  3. They learn cyclically. They know that life is three-dimensional, and they study things from every angle. They also learn best from repetition and regularly reviewing what they've learned.

This reminds me of something Michael Gass predicted I would benefit from social media: the opportunity to get out in front of topics that will impact my companies, our clients, and ad agencies in general. And he's right. It's another steep learning curve, but one that's becoming more and more rewarding and relevant. And I have not doubt that it is going to have a significant long term impact on ad agency new business.

The subject of learning is as important for any CEO as it is someone who is an up and coming leader. New technologies are rapidly changing the way we work and interact with people. Staying current is essential if you want your agency to grow and prosper.

So, are you learning constantly, continuously and cyclically? Are you encouraging your employees or coworkers to do the same?

» Gen Y, Shapeshifting, and What the Future May Hold for Ad Agency New Business

The greatest change of our work lives is on the horizon
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 23, 2009

Michael Malone's new book, The Future Arrived Yesterday hit bookshelves on Monday. You may remember his name from the early 1990s prediction that work was going to become increasingly virtual. He got that right!

He now predicts that:

The best companies in the world will use the latest information processing, communications, and social networking technologies to become shape-shifters, constantly restructuring themselves to adapt to changing circumstances and new opportunities. They will become protean.

"These new protean corporations...will behave like perpetual entrepreneurial start-ups, continuously changing their form, direction, and even their identity."

We need to plan for the following fundamental changes to our business worlds:

  • Technology: digital devices will be ubiquitous; new management tools will be required to manage a globally diverse and scattered workforce.
  • Organization: we'll see accelerating de-centralization and destruction of hierarchies in larger enterprises; also, frequent restructuring - in a matter of weeks or months, which will require employees to continuously find their place in the new organization.
  • Historical - there will be a continuing trend toward more web-based, mass-customized, "smart" products and services; a company's history, myths, values and culture will be what keeps it together.
  • Generational -Gen Y is an entrepreneurial generation whose impact will be making the new technologies work right; they will demand that their work be as challenging and change as frequently as the rest of their life.

Malone also suggests that the tools for success already exist for becoming protean, and cites companies like Google, Twitter, and Wikipedia as being early-stage protean, as well as some large, well-known companies like HP, Intel and IBM.

How will these changes impact agencies and new business? Here are a few of my recommendations and predictions...

  • Stay current with the latest technologies. Those agencies that fall behind will be left permanently behind. Marketers will need to be incredibly adaptive just to survive the coming upheavals in their own companies and industries, and will depend on marketing partners who are more knowledgeable than they are.
  • The continuing destruction of corporate hierarchies is going to make it harder to determine who's in charge, and that responsibility will change and morph more than it already has.
  • There will be increased opportunities to communicate a company's myths and history internally to widespread and diverse employees. Everyone will need to know what the company stands for; effective communication to all stakeholders will be critically important.
  • One of the greatest opportunities will be harnessing the creative, entrepreneurial energies of Gen Y employees.
  • New business development will also change shape, and will likely be driven by connections that will begin and grow digitally through social networking. Meetings are likely to take place more virtually than they do today.

What I don't predict will change: people will still do business with people they like. The ability of your new business person to "connect" with your prospects will be as important as ever.

This book is likely to become a business bestseller. Change is coming and you'll want to keep up with it.


» Strategy to Drive Small Ad Agency New Business

4 steps to benefit from focused learning and strategic targeting during slowdowns
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 16, 2009

Elizabeth Baskin of Tribe passed along a good idea to me yesterday that may be of use to those who work or own small agencies. We ran into each other at Catapult New Business' New Business from Social Media conference, which is being held through today in Atlanta (full disclosure, I have a financial stake in Catapult).

Elizabeth founded Tribe about 10 years ago. She describes it as "a branding company with an expertise in niche markets. Our sweet spot is building relationships between specific tribes of people and the brands that can make their lives better." This is a good, solid positioning statement. And what I really like is that you can tell they live what they say they do; this is not some fluffy positioning written by someone uninvolved with the business.

One of her secrets to drive new business in this: every summer, when things slow down a bit, her team focuses on in-depth learning of a new niche market or skill. In the past they've immersed themselves in Gen X employees, Millennials, and high income households. This summer, it's social media.

They use their new-found knowledge immediately. Here's their simple 4-step process:

  1. Identify very specific corporate marketers who you believe will be interested in the subject matter.
  2. Create short, focused thought-pieces.
  3. Send one to each prospect.
  4. Follow up with each prospect, engaging them in conversation about the subject.

They've found that if what they study is current and they target appropriate marketers, it's relatively easy to begin a conversation.

And that's all you can ask of a new business strategy like this: use it to crack open the door so you can start a conversation.



» Pizza, Twitter and Ad Agency New Business

Proactive client outreach explored using Twitter
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 05, 2009

Naked Pizza is driving new business using Twitter. Jeff Leach, Randy Crochet and Brock Fillinger, Naked's founders, filed an article with Ad Age last week that struck a cord.

Their goals are to find new ways to connect with their customers, and measure the ROI of their efforts. Sound familiar?

What they're experimenting with:

  • Using Twitter to supplement or potentially replace their e-newsletter
  • Using Twitter to provide "brand marketing power"
  • Providing daily tweets containing links to in-depth information on their mission and products
  • Using analytics to test and measure every aspect of their social media strategy
  • Calculating the ROI of their social mediate strategy

And what they've learned:

Twitter has taught us an obvious but often overlooked lesson of building a new company: The brand is just as much a creation of the end user as it is a product of the ideals and hard work of the founders.

If an agency has really specific positioning, I can see relevant marketers finding value (insights, updates, humor, etc.) in periodic tweets.

So who is experimenting with using Twitter as an agency (not an individual within it)? How frequently are you able to send tweets to marketers? How are they responding? What are you learning?


» 15 Ways to Improve the Title of your Ad Agency’s Next Blog Post

The title of your agency's next blog post must appeal to your target audience. Here's a guide to improve title selection
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 22, 2009

As someone who is new to social media, and knowing that many agency new business people are in the same boat learning how to blog for their agency, I thought that a recent post in ProBlogger by Darren Rowse might be helpful to bring to your attention. I've boiled it down, so if you want more you can read the full post here.

  1. Communicate a Benefit - A title should tell readers something that they’ll ‘get’ by reading your post.
  2. Create Controversy or Debate - Not suitable for every post title but there’s nothing like Debate to get people checking out a post.
  3. Ask a Question - In my experience posts with questions in the titles tend to get read more than others - they also are better at stimulating comments from readers.
  4. Personalize Titles - For example: using ‘you’ in your post title (and post) can have a real impact and take a post from the realm of ‘theory’ into a more personal post.
  5. Use Keywords - Keywords that signal to readers and search engines what your post is about can help draw in significant traffic if you use them well.
  6. Use Power Words - Not all words are created equal - some evoke a powerful response in readers - words like ‘free’, ’stunning’, ‘discover’, ‘warning’, ’secrets’, ‘easy’ etc all work well in my experience of blogging.
  7. Make Claims and Promises - as long as you can back them up in your post - a big claim or promise can get someone’s attention.
  8. Humor Titles - be careful with this one - funny can work great but it can also leave your readers very confused if it’s too cryptic…. or if it’s just not funny.
  9. Run it by Your Blog Buddy - I have a couple of fellow bloggers that I regularly ping with an instant message to bounce ideas off when it comes to titles. The quick conversation that follows improves the title considerably.
  10. Consider Title Updates - Updating post titles after they’re published if it is clear that they are just not working.
  11. Write for Readers First and Search Engines Second - It’s possible to have a post that ranks really well in Google but that is so poorly worded that even though it ranks #1 nobody will click on it - keep readers as your #1 priority.
  12. Keep it Simple - There are times to be a little ‘clever’ but more often than not it is a title that clearly gives the topic and communicates a benefit of reading the post that will get clicked on most.
  13. Learn what Works and Repeat it - The more posts you write on your blog the more you’ll begin to learn about what works and what doesn’t work.
  14. Don’t Oversell Your Post - The temptation with blog posts is to make them so compelling and have such a big promise that they go beyond what the post itself can deliver. Dont'.
  15. Numbers and Lists - Tried and True - The title that tells readers how many points you’ve made has something about it that just seems to connect and compel people to click them.

Well-written titles should help your posts be found by the marketers you want to know you. Good luck and let me know how what else works for you?

» Eavesdropping as an Ad Agency New Business Strategy

Use search and social media to reveal insights and initiate conversations with prospective clients
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 15, 2009

Medical Marketing and Media magazine published a story called "The Science of Eavesdropping" in the May 2009 issue. While the authors, from Wunderman NY, are writing it from a client research perspective, I found that it offers some interesting ideas for agency new business pros.

Extrapolating from what the authors report, I've come up with the following:

Research industries and companies you're targeting

  • Read your prospects' blogs and those of their consumers
  • Listen to what those consumers are saying
  • Identify broad themes, topics and sub-topics that they are talking about
  • Identify perceptions about your target's brands, as well as their competitors
  • Determine insights that you can use to develop marketing messages

Use your research to start conversations

Insights become your 'door-openers' - the reason you're calling; the reason to meet; the reason to have a second meeting.

  • Plan your voicemail series to incorporate the insights you have gained and get your prospect's attention
  • Structure first meetings to ask questions around your insights to determine if you're on target and learn more
  • Suggest second meetings to reveal your insights and plant seeds for how you might help capitalize on them

I know certain large and sophisticated agencies are employing research methodologies and strategies like those the authors discuss to gain insights into their prospects' consumers and markets. What tools do you use and how do you utilize them for new business? How are you using insights to open doors with your top prospects?


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