By Category: New Business Strategies

» 5 Steps to Prepare for Your Agency’s Next First Meeting with a Prospect

90% of ad agency principals say, "Get me in front of a potential client and I’ll close the business"
by Todd Knutson  |   published on January 16, 2009

Most of the time, this is both the wrong objective and not the outcome.

I remember a client from a successful regional agency. They had outstanding creative, long-term client relationships, and commitment from the top to become a top-tier firm on a national scale. Their chairman was a wonderful guy; he made this claim.

This agency did their homework, targeted appropriate prospective clients, and on the strength of their creative secured 14 meetings with the CMOs of well-known companies.

The agency chairman went to every initial meeting, sometimes alone and sometimes with an account executive or creative director. Their formula was the same: Show up, present their credentials, and leave thinking they'd won the business. They went 0-14, and are now out of business.

Unfortunately, their objective for the first meeting was wrong. Instead of trying to close the business, the objective of a first meeting should be to get a second meeting.

How do you do that? You might prepare for your next first meeting using these 5 steps:

  1. What's your objective for the meeting? Yes, it's a second meeting, but where? Do you want to meet at an upcoming trade show? At your office? Identify a need and return to present a proposal? Be specific, but prepare to be flexible.
  2. How do you want to start the meeting? You can't start with a too-personal question, so what "ice-breaker" conversation might warm things up? Do you have common interests or backgrounds?
  3. Think about the meeting from your prospective client's perspective. What questions might reveal concerns that might reveal opportunities? You often don't have time to ask all your questions, so prioritize them.
  4. Think about how you want to talk about your agency - without doing a presentation. Is there specific creative you'd like to show? Why? A case study? Why?
  5. Lastly, who should attend the meeting? Who is the most engaging person on your staff - for example, who regularly learns the most about random people? Most importantly, who can secure a second meeting?

Fact: People buy from people they like, and the only way to get to that point is to build a business relationship. So, don't try to close the deal. Instead, prepare with that goal in mind.

» Win More Ad Agency New Business by NOT Asking Your Prospects to Call You

Treating your prospects with respect and showing consideration for their time demonstrates your professionalism
by Todd Knutson  |   published on January 06, 2009

How many times have you listened to cold calls in your voicemail and actually called the salesperson back? If you're like me, you never do. And why should you? What right does a salesperson have, who is trying sell you something you probably don't want, to ask you to call them?

You get the picture. Yet, from my experience with hundreds of different types of sales and new business people over twenty+ years, I estimate that more than 90% of them ask the person they're calling to call them back.

In the early days of selling here at The List, the founder of the company, Morgan Shorey, got to thinking about this concept and started playing with the idea of not expecting or even asking prospects to call her back. In her opening statement she might say, “Hi Bob, this is Morgan calling from The List and you don't need to call me back.” Guess what? People were so surprised by the professionalism and respect of this approach that some of them actually did call back!

We started to experiment further with the new business professionals at First Visits (now part of Catapult New Business) in their approaches to corporate marketers on behalf of our ad agency clients. As part of our voicemail series we would not leave our telephone number or ask any marketer to call us back until they knew something about the agency and specifically why we were calling. It could take weeks to build up that level of rapport via voicemail.

We've learned this over the last eight years: by not asking your prospect to call you back, you are:

  • Showing respect for the fact that you are interrupting them
  • Recognizing that they are really busy
  • Recognizing that getting in touch with them is your responsibility
  • With persistence you will prove to them that they should want to talk to you

I recommend that you or your new business person try this approach, and then hope you'll let me know how it works.

» Setting Next-Actions Drives Ad Agency New Business Success

Next-actions move the proactive new business process forward. Without them, it’s like playing baseball without bases
by Todd Knutson  |   published on December 31, 2008

How many of us recall exciting, engaging, thought-provoking meetings that end on a high-note, but when asked later what the results were, you can't answer with anything concrete? Too many new business conversations and meetings end the same way.

I think the problem is tri-fold: a lack of discipline, a dislike of accountability, and a fear of rejection.

Lack of Discipline - We are not in the habit of defining the specific objective for every action item, including date and person responsible.

Dislike of Accountability - Identifying specific objectives, dates, and assigning responsibility for completion means someone is going to be held accountable for results.

Fear of Rejection - If your prospect does not accept your next action, you will feel shut-down.

As a result, what happens? We don't identify next steps or ask for the next meeting, and therefore lose the reason to continue the conversation.

Instead, why not summarize the call or meeting, suggest the next action, date it should occur, and the people who need to be involved? By doing this, everyone will be on the same page and you won't have to guess or assume what should happen next.

Here's how to do it with each of your touch-points:

  • Voice mails: State when you'll call back, and then do as promised.
  • Telephone calls: Summarize appropriate next steps, by whom, and when.
  • Conference calls: Summarize the call, agreed upon next steps, by whom, and by what date.
  • Meetings: Identify specific next steps, with whom, and put a date and time on the calendar.

If you follow these simple steps you should be able to track how definitive next-actions help you win more new business.

» 8 Systems for Proactive Ad Agency New Business

To achieve long-term success at proactive new business, ad agencies commonly use one of eight methods
by Todd Knutson  |   published on December 29, 2008

Here they are:

  1. Sell & Do: The antithesis of an organized, strategic, proactive new business plan – and vast numbers of small firms operate this way. With this method, everyone is busy until projects are coming to an end. Then, the scramble begins: dust off the credentials package, makes appointments, and (hopefully) drum up a new client. When the work dries up, the cycle begins again.
    • Advantages: Easy to operate, no added cost, clients love hearing from a principal.
    • Disadvantages: Principal has limited time, often isn't good at sales, efforts are sporadic.
  2. Principal as Prospector. One of the agency principals dedicates a portion of his time to new business. He develops call lists, researches companies, and makes cold calls.
    • Advantages: The CEO is usually well-received by prospects; high close rates if you're good at it.
    • Disadvantages: It's easy to get derailed by emergencies at office; is sales your core competency?
  3. Referrals. Ideal for firms with principals who are great networkers. They nurture relationships with friends and family, current and past clients, and "affiliates" who may refer potential clients.
    • Advantages: Moderate cost (travel and time), highly success if you're good at it.
    • Disadvantages: Time away from the office, and it's difficult to acquire strategic prospects (the person you meet on the golf course may not be the best potential client).
  4. Committee. The agency forms a new business committee to ensure that everyone "owns" new business. Committee members help build prospect lists that include people they know and companies they'd like to work with, and pursues leads - in addition to their regular jobs.
    • Advantages: Everyone has input, shares responsibility, low cost.
    • Disadvantages: No one is accountable, committee members usually don't know how to sell, often no consensus on best prospects, and committee meetings are often unproductive.
  5. Hired Gun. The agency hires a full-time, seasoned, new business professional. Conceptually, this person understands how to work a prospect list, make phone calls, send letters, schedule meetings, and land new clients.
    • Advantages: One person is 100% accountable, brings experience, focus and sales skill to the agency.
    • Disadvantages: Success depends on their skill level, and when the hired gun walks so does the new business pipeline. The agency who hires a less experienced person puts less money at risk, but risks their ROI.
  6. Outsource. The agency hires a company to handle lead generation, appointment setting, or even a complete ad agency new business process; or, services like presentation skills, RFP writing, pitch coaching, or research. A consultant might also help with strategy, process, or provide new business development training for in-house staff.
    • Advantages: Someone is responsible and accountable for their hired purpose.
    • Disadvantages: Success depends on the expertise of that firm's employees (if any), and how well each party upholds their part of the relationship.
  7. Public Relations. The agency hires a full-time in-house PR person whose sole responsibility is to create awareness and build the agency's reputation on a regional or national basis.
    • Advantages: Excellent for internal and client morale; the firm's new-found reputation will last for years.
    • Disadvantages: Very time-intensive and requires a long-term commitment - regardless of client crises, new business pitches, etc. Success depends on the diligence and skill of the PR person.
  8. Target. This is an integrated plan for agencies dedicated to achieving long-term, proactive new business success. With this method the firm treats itself as a client. The key stakeholders write a marketing plan designed to build the firm's brand. The plan includes:
    • Competitive analysis
    • Long and short-term goals
    • Public relations
    • Branding materials (testimonials, case studies, white papers, website(s), blog(s))
    • Networking and referral activities (current/past clients, vendors, consultants, friends of the firm, other networks, trade associations)
    • 100% dedicated sales effort that targets a small group of suitable prospects
    • Advantages: Builds long-term brand equity with prospects, clients and influencers, usually very successful.
    • Disadvantages: Time-consuming to implement, and requires the unwavering, long-term dedication of the firms' principals.
Get started with one system:
  • Pick the system that best fits your agency
  • Select and empower one person to drive the process
  • Write your plan
  • Work your plan

The key to success is dedication to the system you choose. If you maintain your focus over time you'll be more competitive and will win more consistently.

» To Attract Ad Agency New Business Perhaps You Should Ask “Why?”

Asking why is a simple way to get to the heart of what your agency really does and better help you and your staff communicate
by Todd Knutson  |   published on December 17, 2008

Asking why is a simple way to get to the heart of what your agency really does and better help you and your staff communicate what it can do for clients.

If you were to go around the table asking your top five agency execs what your agency does, you usually get five different answers. That’s often the case with marketing service companies, and most companies in general for that matter.

To get a consensus view for "What do you do?" it might be a helpful exercise to have your team members take that question a step further by also asking "Why?"

For example, let’s say your VP of account service, when asked "What do you do?" answers, "We do breakthrough advertising for our clients."

Now, have everyone follow that insight by asking "why." Do it at least five times and record the five answers.

  1. "We do breakthrough creative for our clients. Why?" - Because we are driven to make them successful.
  2. "We do breakthrough creative for our clients. Why?" - Because we have an in-depth knowledge of consumer brands.
  3. "We do breakthrough creative for our clients. Why?" - Because our key staff members grew up in that industry and had to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
  4. "We do breakthrough creative for our clients. Why?" - Because our clients were always challenging the big boys and have to be more innovative with their products and we have to be with their advertising.
  5. "We do breakthrough creative for our clients. Why?" - Because we never accept the status quo or that our clients’ brands aren’t better than the competition. We excel at cost-effectively helping our clients drive revenue growth and gain market share.

By asking why, you might summarize the responses by answering the question "what do we do" with a different and more client-focused answer: "We drive revenue and market share growth for CPG brands."

This exercise can greatly help you generate a list of your team members deepest feelings about your agency, quickly reach a consensus view and most importantly, better communicate with prospective clients, "What it is you do – for them."

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