By Category: New Business Lead Generation

» Knowing your Target is Key to New Business Prospecting

White paper reveals benefits of good prospect targeting
by Todd Knutson  |   published on August 07, 2009
There's a direct correlation, in our data and in our experience, between companies who know more about their targets, and how successful they are at generating leads.

image's research report, What's Working in Lead Generation, is the result of interviews with 730 B2B marketers (including ad agencies and other marketing services firms).

It asked them, among other things, how well your company knows whom it should be targeting, in terms of:

  • Your target market (industry, geography, size, etc.).
  • Titles of decision makers in your target industries.
  • Specific names of companies that are the best targets.
  • Names of specific decision makers appropriate for you in your target companies.

Here are some surprising statistics:

  • Only 30% of B2B marketers know the actual names of decision makers they target.
  • Only 51% of those who rate themselves "Excellent" at generating leads know the names of actual decision makers.
  • 13% of those who rate themselves "Poor" at generating leads know the names of actual decision makers.
If you don't know to whom you're marketing, you are wasting precious time, money, and business resources.

Taking their argument one step further, they argue that good prospect targeting provides your ad agency or marketing services firm 4 advantages:

  1. Good prospect targeting improves the efficiency of your business development time.
  2. Good prospect targeting lets you establish relationships with the prospects who matter most.
  3. Good prospect targeting focuses your business development efforts for business growth.
  4. Good prospecting targeting saves money.

RainToday's research is in sync with everything I've experienced over the years. If you'd like to read or download the white paper, click here (full disclosure: it's so relevant that The List has sponsored its wider distribution; however, we had nothing to do with the research. Note: you'll have to submit some information in order to download it).


» An Ad Agency’s Rationale for Not Doing Proactive New Business

Lack of ROI is usually caused by one of four things
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 27, 2009


It's not uncommon to hear that an ad agency (or other type of marketing services company) is suspending their proactive, outbound new business efforts due to low Return on Investment (ROI).

In our company, this might sound like the agency head who recently told us that, "I'm too wrapped up in my business to get ROI from The List." Or, you might hear a CEO say, "We tried proactive new business for three months and didn't close any business."

I propose that positive ROI from proactive new business efforts is determined by four things:

  1. An information resource that gets you to the right person
  2. Creative or product excellence
  3. Strong sales skills
  4. Significant time invested in the process 

Let's briefly address each one of these.

Information Resource: An information resource, by definition, can't award you new business. It is designed to get you to the right person, saving you time and increasing the odds that you'll have productive conversations with decision makers. Only if you purchase a leads-driven resource - like DailyVista (full disclosure, this is division of my company) - will you know that your prospect may have a need when you approach them.

Creative or Product Excellence: Your product or service needs to be of the best quality possible in order to win new business. And, the more sophisticated the buyer, the better it needs to be. I've seen lots of small shops with mediocre creative aspire to work with the top brands in the country. If that's you, you're likely to experience low ROI.

Strong Sales Skills: A really good sales person can overcome just about all obstacles, so this is a critical ingredient for positive ROI. Keep in mind that the person setting appointments and the people attending first meetings need good sales skills. For more on the importance of the latter, check out this post.

Invest time: This is the single most important ingredient for positive ROI. Without the investment of time in proactive new business, the effort is doomed from the start. A great database, show-stopping creative, and superior sales skills will only be valuable if you consistently put them to good use.

As you can see, once you have a good information resource, your proactive new business ROI is determined by internal factors. I believe that if you challenge your agency to consistently invest the time you know you should in proactive new business, you'll get the ROI you've hoped for.


» 4 Steps To Never Forget to Call Your New Business Prospect

Use a CRM system for new business advantage
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 07, 2009

imageA sales guy from a well known payroll services company has been calling me on and off for months, trying to get me interested in their service, even though we're very satisfied with our current provider. I've been successfully 'missing' his calls when I've been in the office, so he's been leaving me voicemails. Three weeks ago I mistakenly answered and he got the live person he's been hoping for.

Once on the call, he did a good job of asking open-ended questions to engage me. If I have time, I actually enjoy listening to the types of questions sales people ask, while evaluating how successfully they guide me through their sales process.

In this particular case I didn't, so I cut the conversation short. However, I threw him a bone and offered to speak with him the following week. I waited to see if he would offer a specific date or time for our next call, but he didn't. This was a big error on his part (to read more about the importance of doing so, you might like this post).

Amazingly, I haven't heard from him since.

I suspect that he committed an incredibly common mistake, one made by every salesperson: he forgot to enter the call into his CRM system and schedule his next call. The thing is, it's very easy to forget! You get off a call, good or bad, you get distracted by an incoming call or you start checking your emails, and you don't make the notes and set up the reminder that you know you should.

Here's the four-step plan to never forget to call when promised:

  1. When you're on the phone with your prospect or client, always specify a date and time for your next call.
  2. Immediately after you hang up the phone, enter your call notes and set up your next call in your CRM system.
  3. Don't check your email until you've done so.
  4. If someone calls you before you've entered your information, either ask them to wait a moment while you do so, or come up with a hand-written system that allows you to jot down notes very quickly. By all means, enter all notes and next steps before you leave for the day. If you wait to do so until tomorrow, you'll forget important information.

It takes rigid discipline to do this everyday.However, if you do so, you'll find that:

  • The quality of information you have at your finger tips will improve;
  • You'll impress your prospects with your professionalism (and your memory); and,
  • You'll develop a reputation for always doing what you promise to do.

» New Business Lead Generation: How to Handle Rejection

Attitude, self confidence and practice are key
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 06, 2009


You can usually tell if someone is a natural sales or proactive new business person by the way they handle rejection. If they take it personally and procrastinate before picking up the phone to make their next call, they're unlikely to find success (or new business). On the other hand, if they shrug it off, knowing that “it’s not if a prospect is going to buy, but when”, they are more likely to figure out how to be successful.

Sheryl Tuttle wrote a post the other day for New Business Pipeline, that gets to the heart of how to handle rejection. I've included all nine of her suggestions with a few minor edits; the bold and italics are mine and added for emphasis.

  1. Be polite and thank the prospect for their time. Never get angry at a prospect. While it is unlikely they will be a customer now, nobody has a crystal ball. You could change jobs, they could change jobs, and your paths could cross again. Never burn bridges.
  2. Remember you are not alone. Everyone in sales experiences rejection all the time.
  3. Don’t take it personally. The prospect isn’t rejecting you - it’s what you're offering or proposing. You’re still just fine!
  4. For every “no” you hear, you are that much closer to the next “yes.”
  5. Get over it – and quickly! Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and make your next call.
  6. Focus on your overall goals and don’t dwell on the individual rejection.
  7. Keep a positive attitude and a smile in your voice.
  8. Look at the rejection as an opportunity to improve yourself. What caused the prospect to decline interest? Would more open-ended questions have better engaged them?
  9. Don’t give up. Ever.

I ran into a sales guy the other day. He had a big smile on his face and I assume he'd just closed a deal. In fact, it was the opposite. He said he'd just been rejected on two back-to-back calls. He was laughing because he knew that what he was offering was perfect for them, they just didn't realize it yet. He was then off to make more calls, because he knew his luck was about to change.

Now that's the attitude of someone whose calling is generating new business!

» 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?


» Ad Agency New Business Update: The Turnaround is Coming

Certain marketers are hiring, so get ready to ramp up your prospecting efforts
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 18, 2009

Jodi Bailey runs The Experts Bench, which places senior interim marketers with Fortune 500 companies (if any of your clients need this type of help, they're a very good resource, particularly for those clients in the technology and package goods industries).

On a phone call today, Jodi told me that she is currently experiencing both an increasing number of placements as well as an increasing volume of planned placements. This is excellent news.

Interim placement generally precedes increased marketer spending by 30-120 days, which means that these marketers are likely to need agency services between August and November.

Here are 3 ways for you to benefit from this insight:

  1. Identify a short list of prospect companies.
  2. Secure a good data resource so you know the specific people you want to pursue and have the required contact information.
  3. Start your outreach activities by July 15th, so you're ahead of the majority of agencies who will wait to initiate their fall prospecting until right after Labor Day.

Hopefully, this means that the economic downturn is bottoming out and the end of the recession is near.

Act now, though - don't wait for this to be yesterday's news!

» Ad Agency, Industrial Design Firm New Business Opportunity: Ford

Wanted: passionate, creative designers
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 11, 2009

On my plane to Connecticut this past weekend I got into a recent article in Fortune Magazine titled "Fixing Up Ford." It's all about Alan Mulally's drive to save Ford. And he's doing some great stuff. Consider the following:

  • Focusing on the Ford brand (good news for all those agencies who have pieces of it)
  • Competing in every market segment with small, medium and large car, utilities and trucks
  • Marketing only 40 nameplates -down from 97 three years ago (hopefully this means increased media spending on those remaining)

And then came this...

Become the best in class in quality, fuel efficiency, safety, and value.

What happened to design?!

Now I'm on my soapbox: why can't American car companies design great looking cars? If the Japanese, Germans, Swedes, and Koreans can, surely we can, too.

So, this is the new business opportunity for creative people everywhere, whether in an ad agency, industrial design firm, or design school: how can you get the attention of Alan Mulally, and get him to realize that he can fix Ford by outsourcing design?

If I had a zillion dollars, I'd love to sponsor a global design competition. Offer handsome prizes for the top 5 designs, say $10,000,000 for the top prize, and then pitch the winning designs to Mulally and his executive team. Or, how about an American Idol for car design?

This is a huge opportunity!

I'd love to hear what you think. Have any of you tried to pitch Ford with design ideas? How were you received?

» Ad Agency New Business Update: Cold Calling Isn’t Dead

It may be the most dreaded type of prospecting effort. Some claim it's dead. But, it still works.
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 04, 2009

"I just got a call-back from International Paper."

Turns out this new business person made one introductory phone call to track down the appropriate person, left a voicemail message, sent information, and got a call back from a senior marketer. This was yesterday, not five years ago. So, is cold-calling dead? No!

Let's break down what took place:

  1. Identify suitable prospects
  2. Get a good list of marketing contacts at your target companies
  3. Craft your messaging and hone your voicemail series
  4. Leave a compelling voicemail message
  5. Send relevant information (if sending an email, this post may help)
  6. Follow up and set next actions

Another sales person just walked in my office and left me with this nugget: good sales people must be eternally optimistic. If you're not, you can't possibly survive. It's true, particularly if you make cold calls (and he does).

So, even though times are tough and popular wisdom is that cold calling doesn't work, you might think about it this way: there are now fewer people making cold calls, which means that your odds of success have just gone up.

I'm curious: What you are encountering in the market? Are you having success with cold calls? If so, what's working?

» Reveal Ad Agency New Business Opportunities by Asking Analysis Questions

If you determine the depth and weight of your prospect's needs you'll clearly define the potential opportunity
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 27, 2009

Most proactive new business efforts take place over the phone, which is at the heart of any outbound new business process. Most sales people know about the idea of identifying needs, but as Art Sobczak says in a recent edition of the "Telephone Selling Report", that's not enough.

Say you're speaking with a marketer and you identify a need, and she confirms it - does that mean you're on your way to landing a new client? No!

"Some needs are more urgent and important than others. Consequently, some needs get acted upon and others are placed on the back burner."

Successful lead generation will come from determining the depth and weight of a need, through what are called "analysis questions". By asking the right type of questions, the skillful new business exec will get the marketer to both articulate and prioritize their need(s).

Let's explore a fictional conversation to see how analysis questions can be used to further define a need.

New business person (NB): Sue, you mentioned that you have a social media program. You said that some parts were good and some not so....

Marketer (M): Yes.

NB: Describe some of those not so good efforts.

M: Well, they didn't meet expectations.

NB: Well, what was the impact of those programs on your customers?

M: Hmm...I haven't thought about that, but it wasn't always positive.

NB: (from another angle) What was the reaction from employees to those programs?

M: Well, some came off pretty badly.

NB: Badly? How so?

M: We've an employee-owned company and some employees feel we've been wasting money.

NB: What impact has that had on subsequent social media efforts?

M: Well, the budget was cut and we're subject to greater scrutiny.

NB: Cut, by how much, say on a percentage basis?

M: About 20-25%.

NB: Have your marketing goals been lowered, too?

M: (Laughing) Not!

NB: How are you making up for the shortfall?

M: Well, we're trying to spend our remaining dollars better, to try higher results. We're had to hire some contractors that we didn't have in the budget to make that happen.

NB: Any idea how much that's cost?

M: Not at the moment, but I see your point. If I add the loss in budget to the extra expense we've been forced to incur just to try to catch up, plus the negative feeling among's significant.

NB: So, having a really cost-effective social media program that drives much better results is important?

M: Yes.

As you can see, analysis questions help you further explore a situation. You'll reveal needs, and also their significance for the organization. And with them, the potential opportunity your ad agency can pursue.



» Ad Agency New Business Strategy: Employee Referrals

Push responsibility for new business throughout your entire agency
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 04, 2009

I'm talking to more agencies and marketing services companies that are trying to enlist everyone in their companies to drive new business. Miriam Marcus wrote an article in Forbes magazine the other day (click here for the story) featuring Roundarch, a 175-person Chicago-based Web site and mobile application designer/developer.

Until 5 years ago Roundarch had a dedicated sales team. But then they decided to push responsibility for driving new business throughout the company. Here's what they did to kick off and maintain the program:

  • Offered a $5,000 bonus for any referral that leads to a project.
  • Agreed upon a 2 minute elevator pitch.
  • Encouraged employees to network with and through friends and family.
  • Initiated a weekly company-wide email that lists all leads and projects in the pipeline to solicit "who do you know" feedback from employees.
  • Held a company-wide sales meeting every month to share what's working and what's not.

New business from employee referrals is now a critical part of Roundarch's success, and some of the biggest projects in the last five years have come from junior staffers. And a peripheral benefit emerged: enhanced employee morale, as employees at all levels feel directly responsible for the success of the company.

Here are 4 recommendations that Roundarch recommends you keep in mind if you'd like to kick off a program like this:

  1. Hone your value statement. Make sure your employees know what the company can do, and can not do, and which clients are most worth targeting. Everyone should have a quick two-minute elevator-pitch on hand, should the right occasion arise.
  2. Be reasonable. Some employees are capable of setting up a meeting, while others can deliver a full-on pitch. Define upfront what is expected of people, and how they should follow through on potentially promising situations.
  3. Harness the Web. Any connection can lead to a sale--be it through alumni associations, community groups and now, especially, online via Facebook or LinkedIn. When Roundarch launched an iPhone application for Avis Rent A Car, nearly 30 employees posted links about it on their blogs and on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  4. Reward them. Salespeople crave commissions. At Roundarch, employees receive a $5,000 bonus for a referral that leads to a project. Positive reinforcement and peer recognition are great motivators, too. Even if a lead doesn't turn into a project, Roundarch highlights efforts at the company's monthly meetings, and asks the person to tell the group how they did it. "We gave the first junior employee to score us a lead a huge over-sized check," says Roundarch President, Jeff Maling.

If you set the right expectations, provide the necessary training, and establish and maintain the required communication and incentives, this can be an effective way to grow your new business pipeline.

Have you done something similar at your agency? I'm interested in hearing what's worked and what hasn't.


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