There is no such thing as the perfect new business strategy. There are however lots of little steps or measures that can be introduced to help you land more campaigns, clients or projects. Regular clients are the bread and butter to most agencies bringing in regular work and a steady income. But to push boundaries and expand, you need to bring in new clients and work.
The question is, what is the best way to do this? Many business development tactics of old just don’t cut it anymore. Prospecting via cold calling or generic presentations are not going to inspire a company to choose you to help them. People are more informed than ever and are better positioned to conduct their own research online. It is for this reason that your sales pitch needs to be tailored to the individual needs of each and every client you deal with. You need to make sure that you stand out from the crowd and successfully connect with the ideas, goals and mentality of the client that you are talking to. Unless they feel that you are 100% on board and completely understand what they are up against, the chances are they will go with someone else. Someone else who does exactly this. So what should you do in order to do this and what are the enablers?
Understand your own strengths
Your agency will more than likely be strong in some areas and not so strong in others. It is important to understand what these are and how they can be applied to your clients’ needs. A SWOT analysis can be a good way to do this. The basic idea is to identify all areas or aspects of the business and map them using a SWOT template to show where the positive and negatives areas of your business lie and in turn, show you where you should be focusing your attention. The four broad categories are seen in the title:
Strengths – The best performing parts of your business (good reputation amongst clients, reliable freelancers, subject experts, strong network)
Weaknesses – The areas of your business that are lacking (lacking the right personnel/equipment, high overheads, poor reputation)
Opportunities – Aspects that could be utilised to give you a competitive advantage (new technologies, gaps in the market, unfulfilled customer needs)
Threats – External factors that could disrupt your progress (shifting client focus, competitor offerings)
This information should provide the insight you need to piece together your new business strategy going forward. By having a better grasp of the bigger picture, you are in a better position to understand what you do best and to go after the business you have the best chance of landing. You can also understand which areas may need more attention and begin to identify the tools or mechanisms to spark improvement.
Set the right goals
Make sure that you set the right goals. It is no use setting completely unrealistic targets that aren’t achievable. A goal should act as something that your agency can work towards, often in the form of small steps contributing to the overarching strategic goal. Whether they are long term or short terms goals, they should always have one thing in common – SMART.
I am sure you are familiar with this. The SMART logic pushes that each goal be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific. By following this principle, you ensure that your goals are within reach and aren’t just pipe dreams. Do you want to increase the number of pitches that you go for or increase the number that you win? Will you set a target for your number of social media or blog posts? Will you aim for a percentage increase in business with new clients or increase in new jobs from your existing client base? It is worth remembering that these goals whilst being SMART must also be aligned with your SWOT findings.
There are some basic things that you can have in place to help you bring new clients in. Presentations or case studies outlining your successes can really showcase your achievements and demonstrate the calibre of your work to potential clients. It is of course important to tailor these for each pitch/client/enquiry, but having a template document can save time. One tactic is to set up a slide repository covering your business areas and achievements from which you can pull out relevant chunks for each client to produce a tailored document.
With more and more written on the web these days, a blog is a great way to publicise the work you do. It is also a way to demonstrate the expertise that you and your agency have. If you are able to offer helpful content to your clients this can build trust. In turn, readers may turn to you when they need help in areas where this trust has been built. You are the expert and they trust you to help them. Blogging also forces you to stay at the forefront of thinking in your specialist business areas. With the need to generate new and relevant content, it has the added affect of making sure you stay on the ball.
Processes and the team to make it happen
Don’t stop reading!!! Processes may be unsexy, but once they are in place they normally lead to increased efficiency and even better team satisfaction. If everyone knows their role and are moving in the same direction, the logic goes that you’ll reach your goal more quickly. Take the pitching process; what happens when a pitch comes into your agency? Who receives the RFP? Who makes a decision on its suitablity? Who does the research into the company? Who pulls the case studies together? Who answers the specific questions? Who ensures consistency? Who does the financials? These all need to be done and without having the right structure or processes in place can often lead to bids that are not 100% client specific done by whoever is available at the time to do it. Use swimlane diagrams for example to understand each stage and align the right person/team to tackle each step. This can help improve quality and consistency and result in more invitations to pitch.
Equally as important are the team behind new business. Having an employee whose sole focus is to bring in new business can be difficult, especially in smaller agencies. Firstly it’s difficult to find the right person with single minded focus that can be sustained long term. Secondly if you are lucky enough to have them, they can often slowly slip into an account management role as clients they have brought in want their involvement to continue and they gradually become bogged down in the day-to-day. One way around this is to create a new business work group who meet weekly to discuss any leads or ideas they may have. They can also act as the RFP response and pitch teams with the added benefit that a mix of people from account management, design, project management or strategy teams etc. will also ensure balance and that responses cover the right topics.
You need to make sure that your brand identity puts yourself apart from your competitors. Why should a client choose you as opposed to one of the x number of alterative agencies they have at their disposal? It is important that you understand what this reason is and make sure that you communicate this effectively. Do you sound and look different? Is there something unique to make the client remember you? Is the way that you service clients going beyond the call of duty? Do your teams go the extra mile to make sure clients are more than satisfied?
This last point is worth dwelling on. One way that you can differentiate yourself is by moving away from the typical agency approach and adopting the role of a consultancy. By this I mean becoming less reactive and integrating your team with your client. Working collaboratively with internal client teams can help you get closer to the inner workings of that organisation and enable you to really address their problems. Your staff become extensions of the client which often motivates them to do a better job and brings more work in. You work with the client to meet and exceed their objectives as opposed to turning jobs over as and when they come in. Send people over to clients’ offices to experience the day-to-day. Invite clients to spend time at your office. Get under their skin and understand their problems. This will ensure that you maximise the value you add going forward.
If you do this successfully then a by-product can often be a boost in referrals. This is of course a great way to attract new business as it reduces acquisition costs as well as helping you grow organically by word of mouth. This is another reason that you should aim to grow your reputation with existing clients through better service/delivery/cooperation. This differentiation could be the key to unlocking more referrals. Referrals mean more business which means more money.
When all else fails……….
Turn to the magical substance that has been solving problems for millennia. Alcohol. As ludicrous as this sounds, a drink or two with clients is actually a very effective new business strategy. People tend to loosen up after a glass of wine and can often relax in a bar/restaurant in a way that would never be possible in an office environment. Socialising with or entertaining colleagues builds rapport and trust that can filter back into the workplace environment. Just make sure that you have some aspirin hidden away in your desk draws for the morning after.
Small steps can boost your new business strategy, but it is understanding your own strengths and applying them that is key. Differentiate yourself and add value to your clients. With hard work and the right processes thereafter, the rest should fall into place.