It is important to keep a good stream of customers and clients. It is very easy to get complacent when you have enough clients – but if one of those clients disappeared would your business feel the effect? Or worse would it crumble?? Working with a New Business Agency can help you win clients and grow your business. There is no denying that new business / lead generation can be time consuming, hard work and expensive but overall it can be worthwhile and cost effective.
Many Creative and Marketing Agencies work with New Business Agencies; it is an effective way to get your work in front of companies you want to work with. I wrote this article after to speaking to the Directors of Creative Agencies and other Business Development Managers. This article is for small Creative and Marketing Agencies new to new business and looking to work with a New Business Agency for the first time.
I think it fair to say in the world of new business you do get what you pay for. You can get a telesales person to call thousands of companies and pay a minimal fee, or you can choose an agency that approach new business intelligently. The second will be costly but can you afford not to?
New Business Agencies specialise in finding you clients in order to grow your business. Although agencies work in different ways, the long and short of it is that, they will phone companies on your behalf with the view of setting up a meeting between you and the potential client. Sounds simple enough, but the new business process is more than simply cold calling.
Before you jump in at the deep end there are a few factors to bear in mind when choosing a New Business Agency. They are all different and will all have diverse ideas about the way new business should be conducted. Here are a few questions to ask your new business agency before you work with them?
Question 1 -Results or Numbers?
If a New Business Agency promises to target 500 companies a week and guarantees you five meetings, be aware. This can be a potential time waster for some agencies. If a New Business Manager is pressured to get you in front of x amount of clients, they will. Whether the meeting is worthwhile or not, is not their problem they just have to reach their targets.
If the person handling your new business account is a really good sales person with a hard sales technique they may be able to force a potential client to have a meeting with you whether they have work, or you are suitable. These are good sales people, but they may not be producing qualified leads.
For example, if you are a design agency who specialises in content managed websites for small businesses, you do not want to end up at a meeting to rebrand Kellogs. Yes, this would be a fantastic opportunity, but in competition with top branding agencies do you stand a chance? If you only work for big brands similarly you may not want to show up to a meeting to discuss a £300 website.
A good New Business Manager should be keen and results driven but also able to evaluate a qualified lead. By giving too many targets you are ultimately pushing them into a corner to produce meetings. You do not want to attend any old meeting. A perfect meeting is a potential client who is looking for an agency for a particular project or looking to change their roster of agencies. A good meeting is also a simple credentials meeting with one of your wish list companies, who you plan to impress with solid ideas.
Rather than an agency driven by numbers, consider an agency driven by results. Unfortunately, but realistically, new business is not always about getting work now. It is about creating a pipeline and raising your profile. If your Account Handler has a good conversation with a Decision Maker about a suitable project which will be commissioned later that year, this is better than a credentials meeting. You can then keep in regular contact with the decision maker until that project comes up. By the time you have the meeting you will be talking about a particular project rather than running through a portfolio.
Look at the pipeline as much as the amount of meetings.
Question 2 – How Targeted is their New Business Approach?
Are you trying to reach as many companies as possible to offer your services to? For some businesses this may work but I doubt if this works for many. A New Business Agency which suggests a highly targeted approach will more than likely receive better results. For example a design agency looking to build up a client list does not want to target ‘any’ business with “we do design” it really is not going to stand out, and it simply becomes a game of chance.
A web design agency who mainly works with restaurants producing content managed websites could contact other restaurants with a similar offer. However, you don’t need to limit yourself to restaurants, always look to expand your market but do it with careful consideration. If you work with restaurants you could then aim at hotels, pubs, bars and clubs. Of course, you can always expand your market but showing a potential client experience in your field is going to be beneficial. (My next article will go further into this subject).
Look at the size of the business – if you have only ever worked with SMEs build this up gently don’t suddenly aim for Coke. Look at the location of businesses, do you have the time and money to travel from London to Glasgow for a meeting or do you need to stay local. A good New Business Agency will create a database tailored to your business capabilities. In order to tailor a database it is advisable to initially work with your New Business Agency, they should be able to give advice to you. But you need to know which direction you are heading with your business, and where you sit, and would like to sit in the market place.
Although this may sound as if I am stating the obvious, a few of the new business managers I spoke to told me stories of how their clients took little interest in the strategy and simply left to them to get meetings with no direction. These clients then refused to leave London to attend meetings and refused any project under £5000 (although they had never completed a project for this much money).
Question 3 – How do they find the Decision Maker?
When your New Business Agency is going to send your information to the company, how are they going to find the right person? There is plenty of information available on the internet these days on Marketing Directors of companies. Although it would be wonderful to gain a meeting with someone so high up in the company how likely is this?
The Marketing Director of Nike is not generally going to interview agencies for a microsite. In most cases it would be a waste of time and money trying to reach them on the phone to set up a meeting. Aim lower. Nike is a huge corporation and it will take patience and careful research to find the person in charge of commissioning microsites and it won’t be the Marketing Director.
Especially in recent years more and more new roles are appearing in companies, new media managers, advertising managers, mobile managers, interactive managers, account directors, creative directors – who are you looking to work with? Aim for less companies as research can be time consuming, but ensure your representative is talking to the right person. Letters simply addressed to the Marketing Director are hard to follow up with a phone call. Find out how and who your New Business Manager will be trying to contact.
Question 4 – Who else is the agency working with?
It is great to work with an agency that has skills in selling what you are offering, even better to get a New Business Manager with these exact skills. But if your New Business Manager is working with three Mobile Marketing Agencies is your account being kept separate? What is your agencies ethics of sharing potential clients?
Your new business account should be, if at all possible, separate to any other companies. You do not want to paying for someone else’s new business. It can be all too easy for a New Business Manager to find details of a company looking to rebrand all their marketing collateral… and keep two design agencies happy.
Question 5 – Who is your Account Handler?
Always ask to meet the person handling your account. It is your business, and they are representing you, be sure you like the way they come across. Your New Business Manager should not really read from a script and should be confident and knowledgeable enough to hold an in-depth conversation. If you are a New Media Agency does your New Business Manager know their augmented reality from their rfId barcodes, and how far can they carry on with this conversation?
In order to find common ground with a potential client it is good to know about their business before having a conversation with them. This means your New Business Manager has to be knowledgeable about the sectors they are targeting.
New Business Mangers should be versatile. They should be good researchers, communicators and able to pick up information quickly. Providing a New Business Manager has had experience in marketing or creative agencies they will understand the processes and jargon and can generally adapt to other industries that have specialist interests. Someone on the other hand, who has no background in design, marketing or creative industries in general will probably find it harder to learn everything from scratch and find out about niche markets.
If your New Business Manager has built a relationship with a Decision Maker it could be an idea to take them along to the meeting as a part of your company. Does your New Business Agency allow this? In an ideal world your Account Handler should feel they are a part of your team.
It is important for you to go to meetings prepared and know what is expected from you at the meeting. It is down to you to give your New Business Manager all the information they need. You know your market and it never does any harm to keep them updated with your knowledge of industry events. When you launch a new project let your New Business Manager know, keep them involved.
Question 6 – How do you prepare to work with an New Business Agency?
Be prepared to be involved. Most New Business Managers spoken to for this article said, “The closer they have worked with clients the more likely they are to achieve results.” Do not expect a New Business Agency to start work and come back to you a week later with lots of new work – it rarely happens like that. If your New Business Agency is starting conversations with the right people make sure you have the supporting materials. Many potential clients will ask for an email with links to your projects, PDFs, show reels or brochures – it is down to you to provide these. When attending the meetings, that you have essentially paid a lot of money to get, make sure you are prepared for the presentation. Your New Business Agency can only take you so far. Remember that if you run your business you should really be the best person to undertake your new business as you know your business inside out, your capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. If you cannot get yourself a £500,000 contract don’t expect a new business agency to. Be realistic
Many creative agencies I spoke to had worked with at least a couple of New Business Agencies before finding the one they felt they could work with, hence the reason for this article. There are obviously many questions to ask before undertaking the expense of a New Business Agency but I hope this article covers a few! Please see more advice on handling your own new business on my website http://www.kerinewman.com.