By Category: New Business Lead Generation

» 6 Tips to Improve Email Marketing for Your Ad Agency

Email marketing can be a cost-effective way to generate awareness that may lead to new business for your agency
by Todd Knutson  |   published on April 06, 2009

Successful email campaigns can generate leads, conversations, meetings and new business wins. However, campaigns must be conducted correctly in order to achieve any of these objectives.

While I claim no significant expertise in email marketing, through trial and error, reading, and watching the market we've identified 6 simple, but important things to do to ensure the success of your email marketing efforts:

  1. Send to an individual, not a mass audience: The days of successful "blast emails" are just about over. Generic one-message-to-all emails are increasingly unsuccessful.
  2. Double-check the recipient's address: Emails sent to incorrect addresses usually bounce, and bounced emails detract from your mail server's reputation (which is a scorecard for your company's IP address). If your server has poor reputation your legitimate email messages may get blocked, which can further hurt your reputation. Also, if an email is returned, don't send another message to that address as it will further hurt your reputation.
  3. Authenticate your email account: Your "From:" and "Reply:" addresses must match; using non-matching addresses is a tactic used by spammers. Think about it this way: if your recipient responds to your message, the reply needs to land in your email inbox.
  4. Reduce the number of emails sent from your server: If your email account has a reputation for sending a high volume of emails, your recipients' ISPs may identify you as a spammer and block future messages. To avoid this problem, don't send blast emails. Reducing your volume can improve your email account's reputation, which should improve your delivery rates.
  5. Monitor the size of your messages: Many ISPs block emails over a certain size, though this varies across ISPs and recipients. You need to determine the optimal balance between content and imagery of your messages.
  6. Avoid Subject and body "no-nos": Don't ever SHOUT (type in all caps), use sales buzz words, or have misspelled words in your Subject line. Be sure your HTML emails are properly coded, and links to websites in your body copy properly open and are directed to valid websites.
  7. Use acceptable attachment file types, or better yet, eliminate them: Microsoft Outlook restricts the use of certain attachment types, a list of which can be found here. Since most people won't open an attachment from an unknown sender, a better approach is to include a link to content located on your website or micro-site.

I hope these email tips are useful. If you have other items or suggestions to add, please include a comment below. It would be great to develop a best-in-class list that will help other new business hunters.

» For Ad Agency New Business Success, Hire a Sales Person with These 4 Traits…

Hire someone with proven success in consultative sales ... then ... let them sell!
by Todd Knutson  |   published on April 01, 2009

Sales is a profession and a critical business function. The sales professional's personality is very different from any other staff member.

These 4 traits are critical - and common - among successful sales people:

  1. They are driven to make money
  2. They don't take rejection personally
  3. They are incredibly persistent
  4. They think like a business owner

For sales success the first step is hiring the right person with the right traits and secondly, you must let them sell.

Does this sound familiar?

You win a big account. Your head of business development, (let's call her Sally) nurtured the relationship over 18 months, so your new client naturally asks, "Will Sally work on my business?" You don't know how to say, "No", so you naturally respond, "Absolutely"! Your client walks away happy and confident, while you've just torpedoed your new business development effort.

This is a familiar story for any consultancy, ad agency, and most marketing services companies. Your best new business people land the business and then have to work on the business. This approach works great until you lose the account or the project ends, at which point you have to (madly) scramble to ramp up your sales effort to quickly generate revenue.

The only way to break this cycle: hire someone who knows how to sell and then, let them do it. Account service shouldn't be part of their responsibilities.

The answer to the question, "Will Sally work on my business" is simple: "No." And then respond professionally with something like, "As I'm sure you understand, revenue growth is important for us as it is for you. If Sally were to work on your business we would stop growing and jeopardize the health of the company. That would be bad for both of us."

» Voicemails can Break through Proactive New Business Clutter

The words you use and the way you use them say a lot about you and your agency
by Todd Knutson  |   published on March 13, 2009

They will determine if you are able to move from voicemails to conversations.

Think about how we pre-judge people who leave us voicemails. If they are a fast-talking salesperson we'll call them "slick" or "slimy". If they are from New York we assume they are "pushy". If they are from the South they won't be very smart. And if they have an accent (any accent unlike your own) it's going to be difficult to communicate with them.

No matter how educated or liberal we think we are, most of us will eventually fall prey to such prejudice.

Here are 6 things you can do to keep from falling into the voicemail trap:

  1. Accent: be sure you or your new business person's accent is "neutral" - i.e. there is no perceivable accent (unless, of course, it's British, which is the trend for those agencies looking to be particularly sophisticated, hip and global).
  2. Inflection: Listen to yourself and be sure your voice doesn't rise at the end of the sentence, or conversely trail off to nothing at the end.
  3. Clarity: Is your voice clear and sparkly? Do you mumble?
  4. Word choice: Do you sound strong and self-confident? Are you able to use a few good words to describe your agency instead of a paragraph?
  5. Length: Are your voicemails short and to the point? Wordy and Verbose?
  6. Message: Is your message respectful of the person you're calling? Demanding? Intriguing?

Used effectively, voicemails can be extremely powerful branding vehicles for your agency. In the hands of the wrong person they can be downright destructive.

» Quality Trumps Quantity in Ad Agency Email Marketing

Email filters eliminate roughly 20% of legitimate emails
by Todd Knutson  |   published on March 06, 2009

A 2008 study  by ReturnPath found that email filters eliminate roughly 20% of legitimate emails.

The days of blasting out email messages to large lists in order to drive new business leads are over. Today, the most successful email communications take the following into consideration:

Target Audience: If your list is over 1,000 contacts, divide it further by geography, title, job function or industry, or use a combination of these variables to build a truly targeted audience. Better yet/whenever possible, send to individuals, not groups.

Get Personal: The message, offering, or invitation should be created ONLY for this unique audience. You may repeat the message to some degree, but avoid sending an identical message to every prospect group. Think about email communication as you might a thank-you card: you thank an individual for a particular reason, and usually mention something that resonates with them. How likely are you to send a generic, photo-copied thank you card?

Short and Sweet: Emails should be no more than seven to eight sentences long, including the call to action. Attention spans are short: keep messages simple and clean.

Call to Action: Communicate a clear call to action. One call to action is the best, especially if there is a time-sensitive deadline. Offering more than two in a single message will send your audience in multiple directions.

Good Timing: Plan when you want to receive responses. For example, if you're trying to generate leads over time, don't send one large, single email. It's also important to consider what might be going on with your intended recipients. If you send them messages during their busiest time of year (e.g. accountants at tax-time) you're unlikely to generate a good response rate.

Track Responses: Response rates teach us about our prospects. Measure how many you send, open rates, click-through rates, forms completed, etc. Test subjects and body copy to optimize your various rates, and monitor how your messages perform on different days and times during the week.

Additional Resources for Email Best Practices:
  1. "Your Reputation Holds the Key to Deliverability (PDF)." ReturnPath.com, August 18, 2008.
  2. "StreamSend Delivers Smart Email Marketing Guidelines for 2009" Yahoo Finance, January 14, 2009.
  3. "How to improve your e-mail deliverability." By Karen Bannan. BtoBonline.com, February 19 2009.

I'd like to thank Robert Miller, who did the initial research for this post.

» Buy vs. Build your Ad Agency’s New Business Database

Smart business decision to expect new business director to build a prospecting database?
by Todd Knutson  |   published on March 03, 2009

Not long ago, Jeff, a twenty-something new business guy gave me a call. He was a new employee at a well-known regional ad agency. His management team had given him a group of industry categories that they wanted him to pursue, and had charged him with identifying likely companies and people he should talk to.

So, he called my company, The List about purchasing a customized database of corporate marketers that fit their criteria. Jeff determined that he could purchase exactly what his agency needed for less than $3,000 and have it in 24 hours. He said he'd call back with his president's approval.

A few days later, I called Jeff and learned that his president had told him it was his job to build the database. I told him I'd call back in 6 months to hear how he was doing.

Right on schedule, I called Jeff 6 months later. Not surprisingly, he had just been fired for not generating any new business. Why? Because he'd spent the entire time building the database (at the request of his president).

Let's do some simple math: Assume Jeff was paid $50,000 a year. Add in benefits and his total annual cost was probably close to $60,000. So, over 6 months this regional agency spent $30,000 building a new business database they never used.

Think of the losers in this equation: Jeff is out of a job; the agency lost 6 months of potential revenue; and, the management team is disheartened about the "failure" of their new business effort.

This is a common mistake made by ad agencies and other marketing services companies that illustrates the fallacy and drawbacks of building instead of buying. I encourage readers to do the math to avoid making the same mistake.

» Persistence Determines Successful Ad Agency New Business Development

CMO friends consistently tell me that new business people give up too early
by Todd Knutson  |   published on February 23, 2009

Here are the unofficial statistics they cite about agencies' proactive business development people:

  • 50% never follow up on the email or material they send
  • 25% follow up only once or twice by phone
  • 10% call 3-5 times
  • 5% call more than 5 times

This does not mean that CMOs want you to call more. However, they do understand the sales process, and recognize "good sales" when they experience it.

If you see yourself in the above statistics, you might think about it this way – you're giving up before you've really begun the sales process. As one CMO said to me, "I won't ever take someone's call unless they've called me at least 5 times." When I asked why, she responded by saying. "I want to know that they really want to work with my company, and that they're not just looking for low-hanging fruit...I am NOT low hanging fruit!"

I recommend you consider doing the following 3 things to quickly improve your persistence:

  • Follow up at least seven times: remember the marketing adage that it takes 5-7 impressions to make a first impression.
  • Do what you say you're going to do; or, Set and fulfill expectations: if you say you're going to call on the 23rd, call on the 23rd.
  • Use a CRM system (for example Act! or Salesforce) to record your notes and set next actions.

» 7 Voicemail Messages for Successful Ad Agency New Business Development

Good voicemail messages are a critical part of an effective sales and marketing campaign
by Todd Knutson  |   published on February 17, 2009

Good voicemail messages are a critical part of an effective sales and marketing campaign: they develop awareness and rapport before a conversation begins.

I have a friend who's the CMO at a major retailer. One day she told me a story about how agencies and other marketing companies typically approach her. She said that she receives more than 10 unsolicited calls every week. All callers were directed to her voicemail. Of these, she said:

  • 90% couldn't articulate why they were calling
  • Only 5% left an intriguing voicemail message

In the training that we've done for many advertising agencies, as well as the business development professionals at Catapult New Business, we have identified an approach to leaving voicemail messages that professionally builds your agency's brand, articulates why you're calling, and builds rapport with your prospects.

The following 7 messages are a good outline to follow to achieve these objectives.

Note: No voicemail message should be longer than 20 seconds. In these examples, I'm assuming you are following up on something you've sent (e.g. an email or package).

Message 1: Answer the question - Who are you? Do not leave your telephone number; tell them you will call them back.

Message 2: Answer the question - Who have you worked with (current/past clients)? Again, do not leave your telephone number. Why? They won't call you back, and why should they?

Message 3: Answer the question - Why are you calling? You must be able to state your reason in a way that makes sense from their perspective! It's now appropriate to leave your phone number and say when you'll call back, but don't expect them to call you. Start revealing your personality, sense of humor, etc

Message 4: Answer the question - Why are you relevant? This needs to be a clear and succinct statement of why they should care who you are and what you do. What can you do for them?

Message 5: Answer the question (again) - Why should they care? Objective - give them more "meat" about your agency.

Message 6: Answer the question - What recent work is important to them? Your prospect should hear your message and respond with, "Wow, those are impressive results - they know what's important to me (industry, competition, revenue, market share, etc.)."

Message 7: Answer the question - Why am I not going away? Be you - for example with humor or sincerity - and let your prospect know that you really want to work with them, and that you aren't going away. You might now let them know that you'd like to speak with them about one of their current challenges. Or, offer an insight into a challenge they may be experiencing, perhaps based on research you've done.

As you can see, you shouldn't plan to stop after leaving 7 messages. Instead, now develop a plan for your next seven messages.

If your voicemail messages are professional and interesting, and if you've positioned your agency so you're relevant to your prospect, you will start experiencing greater new business success.

Your prospects will develop a positive feeling for you and your firm. And, that's the best way to begin a potential business relationship.

» List Rental vs. License for Ad Agency New Business Leads

Pay for single-use contacts or subscribe to a new business resource? Each has its purpose, pros and cons
by Todd Knutson  |   published on January 23, 2009

I had a conversation the other day about renting email lists. The focus of the conversation was how to get the lowest possible cost per contact. What the new business person hadn't thought-through was what they wanted to accomplish, and didn't understand their choices.

As with most things, you get what you pay for. So, think about what you want, and then this short post may help you better understand what each option provides.

List Rental

Quality: mass email lists are gathered from a variety of disparate sources and are designed to be rented over and over again; they are generally known for being of relatively low quality. Smaller lists may be more targeted and higher quality.

Quantity: large lists necessitate your renting many thousands of names to overcome quality issues in the hope of getting enough responses to justify the purchase; smaller lists are intended for smaller mailings and may yield a higher response rate.

Purpose: Single use – for email (or direct mail).

Response rate: If you can get a 1% response rate on email you're really doing well; .04% is common. At the latter rate, if you want 100 leads, you're going to need to rent a list with at least 25,000 names.

Cost: $400-$500 per thousand names, or $11,250 at $450 per 1000.

List License

You can subscribe annually to some services.

Quality: Really large list databases are gathered from a variety of disparate sources; smaller lists may be more targeted and higher quality.

Quantity: Due to the number of companies and people in a really large database (when you start talking about more than a hundred thousand or millions of companies) quality control is very difficult. Smaller lists should be of higher quality and targeted for a particular industry vertical, geographic region, or discipline/function (e.g. IT).

Purpose: Ongoing use as a new business resource, one-to-one prospecting through telephone, email, direct mail.

Response rate: Should be much better than lists rentals.

Cost: $3,500 and up, depending on quality and the number of users who will have access.

Once you identify which type of services suit your new business needs, then decide on your service provider.

» How to Choose a New Business Database

An accurate database is a key ingredient for new business success for any ad agency or marketing services company
by Todd Knutson  |   published on January 13, 2009

These databases, or information resources, come in various shapes and sizes and you'll have the most success when you use them for their intended purpose.

Social sites - like LinkedIn or Facebook

  • Pros: Relatively new, popular, and growing. Can be a great way to network, get introduced, and check out who you're meeting with.
  • Cons: Accuracy is dependent upon everyone keeping their own information current (sometimes it is, sometimes it's not); no guarantee that you'll find the company or person you're looking for.

Aggregator sites – like ZoomInfo or InfoUSA

  • Pros: Massive databases of both business and consumer information. There are many companies to choose from, in most industries and geographies.
  • Cons: They aggregate information from a variety of sources or use web-crawlers to search for content. Given the millions of records there are limited possible controls on accuracy, so you'll find many inaccuracies.

Contact Trading sites – like Jigsawor NetProspex

  • Pros: An online marketplace for buying or trading business contacts. Can be used for little to no cost if you submit your own contacts.
  • Cons: No authoritative editorial oversight of the content. Accuracy depends on the user-base voluntarily flagging incorrect data, which can be very unreliable.

Mega sites – like Hoovers

  • Pros: Millions of companies accessible in the Hoovers and Dunn & Bradstreet databases. Known for their information on public companies and senior executives, and provide the ability to drill-down (depending on your subscription) to get financial info, bios, company hierarchy, and more.
  • Cons: Given the millions of records there are limited possible controls on accuracy, so you never know what you'll get. Upcoming attempts to make it more of a social networking service may further degrade quality.

Boutique sites – like The List

  • Pros: Focus on marketing and brand decision makers at companies that spend more than $500,000 on media per year. Ability to drill-down (depending on your subscription) to get financial info, bios, agency relationships, brands, people by location, hierarchy, and more.
  • Cons: Limited number of companies (due to the media spend requirement); no guarantee that you'll find the company or person you're looking for.
Ask these 5 questions to help determine the quality and applicability of your new business database:
  • How frequently do you call and verify the accuracy of each contact in your database? If you hear 6 or 12 months, given turnover in corporate America, you have to question the veracity of what you're buying.
  • How many companies can I access that spend more than $____ (fill in your minimum) per year on marketing services? If how much your potential clients spend on marketing is important to you, be sure that the resource you buy provides a number that tells you approximately how much it is (no one knows a company's marketing budget, so media spend is usually the surrogate).
  • How many (marketing) contacts do you have at the companies that matter to me? Too often, you purchase contacts that aren't important to you. If you need marketing, brand, media, or C-level contacts, be sure your chosen resource has them in the quantity you require.
  • What contact information do you provide? Do you need mailing address, direct dials, main phone numbers, email addresses? Be sure they have what you need.

If you determine what you need before you call, perhaps weighting each item's importance ahead of time, afterwards you'll be able to evaluate your options and select the one resource that will fuel your new business success.

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