What are the key factors to consider for choosing the right new business agency?

by rob

As we have alluded to in previous articles, trusting an outsourced supplier to run a new business campaign – where they are directly representing your agency – may feel a bit like handing over your kid to the childminder. In the case of small to medium-sized agencies, where the owner is actively involved in the whole process (and it is their own personal investment at stake), this will be particularly true.

Running an effective new business campaign does not come particularly cheap, so you should ensure that whoever is doing it will provide the same level of care and attention as you would yourself, in order to give you the best chance to generate a healthy ROI.

Here are some things to think about before you make that appointment.

Experience & Expertise
The marketing industry is expanding with ever-more disciplines popping up all the time. The job of your new business agency is to provide you with suitable opportunities for you to win new accounts. This means they will need to be able to:

  • Understand your offer
  • Understand your target market
  • Understand your budget requirements
  • Convey all that information intelligently and effectively to very senior decision makers on your behalf
  • Have enough contact data within that market to sustain an ongoing campaign
  • Acquire new data as required
  • Manage that data in a secure and robust CRM system

As the longest established (and best) new business agency, we have worked across a multitude of disciplines and covered pretty much every aspect of industry you could think of. We have a number of well-respected competitors who will also have vast experience across many sectors and could no doubt do a pretty good job for you. Like us, they will be well aware of industry trends, challenges in your specific market, how to position your offer and who your competitors are/what they are doing.

At the same time, there is a much higher number of what I might describe as “chancers” operating in the market, which brings me onto my next point…

Get References
I’m sure you wouldn’t employ someone in-house to run your new business department without thoroughly checking their employment history. The same rule should apply when hiring an outsourced agency.

If the new business partner you want to hire can’t provide proper evidence/references for running previous campaigns that are directly relevant to an agency like your own, then alarm bells should be ringing. Yes, everyone has to start somewhere but, to use an exaggerated analogy, would you be comfortable putting forward the work experience kid as the first impression of your company in order to convince the Marketing Director of a huge brand you’ve been desperate to work with to spend tens of thousands of pounds with you?

Don’t Think Too Short Term
Sometimes, we have clients that will win a decent-sized account in their first month or two of working with us. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Both you and your new business agency will need the resources to drive the campaign until it gains traction.

Often, the first few months will be the most difficult as you have not built up your pool of warm leads – you are starting from scratch, after all.

Your new business agency may need to have several conversations with a decision maker over the course of however long before the time is right to meet. All this activity is very time intensive and before you think you should jack it in at month 3 because you haven’t won Coca Cola as a client, it is worth remembering your new business agency is unlikely to be making any profit from your agency for the first few months either.

However, as time progresses, the data pool has expanded, the warmer leads are coming to fruition and the dead leads have been ruled out, this is where both you and your new business partner should start to see the glimmer of an ROI – it is not a one way street.

Communication and Accountability
Directly following on from above, one thing that your new business agency should be doing from day one is demonstrating activity levels and a coherent campaign strategy.

You might not have won a client in the first month, but your new business agency should be able to provide regular activity reports outlining who they have spoken to (along with transcripts of the conversations), who they are targeting and feeding back other useful information they have acquired on your behalf to help hone the campaign and direction going forward.

At the same time, you should be proactive in feeding back to your Account Manager at the new business agency. How were the meetings you have been on? Have you provided up to date case studies to help demonstrate the value of your offer to a prospective client? From the activity carried out so far, is the targeting on point for your offer? Etc, etc.

Business Contingency and Continuity
One advantage of using an external agency to help with your new business drive is that it allows a level of flexibility in situations where you may want to scale up activity (either temporarily or permanently) or in an event such as if a staff member were to leave, there would be contingency in place to replace them without disrupting the momentum of a campaign. Obviously this will depend on the size and capacity of the new business agency, but nearly all reputable ones will be set up to comfortably ensure it is “business as usual” in terms of the effective administration of your campaign across any number of unforeseen circumstances.

Beware of Exaggerated Promises
We have been in this game long enough to know there are no absolute certainties when it comes to new business. Any reputable new business agency will be honest and realistic about likely outcomes. We know statistically, from working with clients across all sectors and targeting all industries (over the last 37 years) what average outcomes and probable outcomes are and when those are most likely to be achieved in relation to campaign duration. To use another analogy, we could predict at the start of a season which football teams are likely to finish in the top six of the Premier League. But nobody can say for definite. If any new business agency guarantees you the moon on a stick, treat it with a bit of scepticism – you might just end up with a lollipop.

Check the Terms & Conditions!
Sounds obvious, but it’s good to be aware of what you are signing up for before you put your name on the dotted line. A reputable new business agency would send these to you in advance of the campaign briefing meeting so there is total transparency and you could come back with any questions or concerns before the campaign gets under way.

Some of the points above may sound a bit daunting, but the whole ethos of new business is to effectively sell your agency’s services to the brands you want to work with. If you meet with any new business agency and talk to a few of the staff, you will soon get an idea of how comfortable you feel. After all, they have to sell the idea to you first. Add this into the mix with the points above and it could soon be the start of a happy, prosperous relationship.