10 Steps to a New Business Plan

Make your plan, and then work your plan
by Todd Knutson

A former senior colleague of mine on the client side used to preach the old adage, "Make your plan, and then work your plan." It works. Applied to new business, it works really well.

I remember asking the president of a west coast ad agency to describe his new business plan. He hesitated, and then answered that he had hired a woman right out of college and given her a list to call. I waited. He started visibly squirming in his seat.

I gently pushed him over the edge with another question, "...and your plan is...?" He looked at me, grimaced, and shrugged, palms directed towards the ceiling.

Creating your new business plan doesn't have to be an arduous process - particularly if you don't have one now. It's far better to do something than nothing. And, to make it a living document, I highly recommend that it fit on a single piece of paper. Some of the details may need to be on a subsequent page (e.g. the details behind the goals, metrics, marketing plan), but all the top-line elements should fit.

Here's a 10-step process that may help:

  1. Pick the new business system that best matches your agency's size, culture, personnel, and objective.
  2. Identify the person who will drive the process (who is responsible and accountable).
  3. Evaluate your new business performance over the last 2 years: # meetings, # proposals and RFPs completed, # wins. Determine your ratios (e.g. meetings/proposals; RFP/win).
  4. Set realistic new business goals based on past performance, and then set stretch goals.
  5. Identify the top two things you want to improve about your past performance. Create an action plan for each item, with specific dates, metrics, and person(s) responsible to achieve them.
  6. Identify the top 3 categories you're going to pursue.
  7. Clearly define why your agency is relevant to each category - in one sentence for each. To help, answer this question: Why should the VP marketing at one of your target companies care that you exist? In other words, what problem can you solve for them?
  8. Create your marketing and sales plan, complete with specific dates, metrics (e.g. email open rates, calls made, conversations, meetings, proposals, etc.) and person(s) responsible to implement each aspect.
  9. Implement your plan. This means work it - do what you said you were going to do.
  10. Measure the results. Determine ways to improve. Implement those changes. Measure. Repeat.

As you can see, none of this is hard. It just takes commitment to your plan.

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