Business development managers get a pretty hard rap.
A lot depends on the agency’s breadwinners since their ability to close deals often determines the fate of an entire agency. Such pressure is no easy feat to manage – when an agency struggles, fingers are often pointed in a Suit’s direction.
When you work at an agency long enough, it becomes clear that making meaningful connections with prospects is only one half of the client acquisition equation. An agency’s reputation and capability to win clients is effectively born out of a strong internal culture and can only truly be actualized via an organization-wide strategic effort.
With that in mind, here are Core dna’s key tips for getting your agency on track and toward developing a full and lucrative client pipeline:
It’s one thing to pitch an agency’s services well, and it’s another thing to walk the talk. A Biz Dev or account manager can inspire an existing or potential client but if the work sucks, you’re not going to get anywhere.
An agency’s prior work defines their reputation and reputation precludes all pitches.
Seth Godin often suggests that creative people should do things that are “remarkable”, which is essentially something worth remarking about.
Doing remarkable things is not and should not be any different in the context of an agency.
Tip: Get your agency’s key strategic and creative decision makers involved in a business development strategy.
Doing great work requires venturing into unknown environments, and that is a large part of what makes up a leader.
Documenting such habits in creative exploration and authoritatively promoting these new experiences form the essence of what being a thought leader is all about – it’s an indirect demonstration of capability and expertise.
Owning a space or industry helps to draw attention to the agency in all the right places and most importantly, from the right prospects.
Just as you would advise your own clients, inbound leads often produce better results than outbound.
Tip: Position and promote the agency as a leader in something true to the agency’s values and capabilities.
Whilst it's beneficial to carve out your own niche and be focused, it also helps to be adaptable to new opportunities.
In classic Branson-esque style, it pays (literally) to say “Screw it, let’s do it” to projects slightly outside an agency’s experience or comfort zone.
By being flexible and adaptable to new opportunities, you never know what hidden gems you might unearth or relationships that can lead to bigger and better things.
Tip: Work with production teams and account staff to develop flexible internal operations to support flexible agency services.
A friend and former mentor of mine put it best, however ineloquent:
“You’re one pissed off client-side marketer away from a huge potential deal.”
What he meant by that was simple: to talk to as many prospects as you possibly can and keep in touch regularly, since you never know what their situation may be at any time.
Agency-Brand relationships come and go, no matter how formidable some partnerships may appear on the surface. It helps to keep in regular contact in order to remain top of mind, or for when the time comes to step up to a brief.
Tip: With so much noise in the marketplace, particularly within the digital space, sometimes the old fashioned method of picking up the phone and talking to clients directly is enough to make you stand out from the crowd.
Clients, particularly company founders still in executive roles, appreciate it when an agency founder or director takes a personal interest in what they do as opposed to junior staff.
Having an agency director lead the pitch can have considerable impact on the outcome, since it demonstrates to the client that they are important enough to have the agency’s key people working for them.
Whatever you do, do not underestimate this tactic.
Tip: Invite agency directors into pitches or preliminary meetings with leads where possible.
Sales can often feel a lot like fishing. One minute leads seem to come from all angles, taking whatever bait you throw at them, whereas other times the famous fisherman’s patience is required.
This sporadic approach to client acquisition often leads to erratic stages between abundance and scarcity, which if not managed effectively can have a hugely detrimental effect to an agency’s morale.
Instead of adopting this all-too-common approach to sales, consider employing the strategy of a farmer.
Farmers plant a seed (in a biz dev’s case, this is an ‘idea’), nurture it through the tough seasons, and eventually claim their harvest when the time is ready.
What separates the farmers and the fishermen of the agency world is that farmers control their demand by planting as many seeds as they can, protecting their relationships, and being patient, whereas fishermen only respond to what is currently available.
Tip: Plant ideas in a prospect’s mind, nurture the relationship and be patient.
How many of the above principles do you incorporate into your business development process? Can you think of any more? Leave us your tips in the comments section below.
P.S. If you’re looking for an advantage when it comes to getting clients on board, schedule a demo with the team at Core dna and see how we can help your agency deploy quicker, with better security, and hassle-free maintenance.