An obvious question for anyone considering investing in new business right now would be “can we get in front of potential new clients and win business in the current Covid climate?”
Yes you can! (to paraphrase the best US President in the last 10 years).
It’s been a very strange 6 months in the world of new business for marketing agencies.
However, since Lockdown started, we have had around 7,000 conversations with marketing decision makers and a further 1,600 with Agency owners. We also invited 9,000 senior marketers to participate in a research survey and hundreds did. We speak all the time to our clients – marketing and martech agencies who between them work with clients from all sectors of UK Plc. Since late March we have put our clients in front of about 700 new companies and met a further 170 new agencies ourselves.
So, we have a fairly good handle on how Covid has impacted the marketing world. Across these interactions we have heard so many individual stories from people coping and adapting to the new challenges they have faced. Some sad, some inspiring but the sum of these 10,000 or so interactions in the past 6 months point clearly to the following:
March/April – The first few weeks of lock down were a whirlwind. At best it was a race to adapt to new working practices and technology. For some it was a day by day struggle for survival. We were able to set meetings for our clients in this period but it was difficult.
May/June – Happily, most companies came through the initial maelstrom and many were surprised with how quickly they had adapted. Nevertheless, some marketing projects were postponed or cancelled either because clients did not want to spend the money or lockdown meant the campaigns were no longer feasible (or legal even). We had a quite a high hit rate when we spoke to a decision maker, but getting hold of people was much harder than normal because people were working from home. We invested in research to ensure we could reach key decision makers wherever they were.
July-September – Restrictions were easing (until recently) and people were returning to their offices or planning to do so in September once the school holidays were over. Some industries were emerging from hibernation and looking to make up for lost time. Our own market research survey confirmed what prospects were telling us; some of the marketing budgets that had been ‘sat on’ were ready to be released. There was a real sense that people were now ‘getting on with stuff again’. By September, all our KPIs were back to pre-Covid levels and some were higher than ever. This was due to a combination of prospects coming off furlough, others returning to their offices and finally our own research efforts. We found it as easy (or difficult) to speak with people in September as we did before Covid, but our hit rate when we did get through was the highest it has ever been for a calendar month!
The last 6 months have been challenging but our clients have consistently been able to meet with (via video), pitch to and win business from the companies they most want to work with. The table below shows just a sample of some of the opportunities and wins we have generated on their behalf.
Despite (or because of) the recent rise in cases and subsequent reintroduction of restrictions, it feels like there is a greater level of certainty around what the coming months will look like than at any time since February. For many companies, the plans to return to the office over autumn have been shelved or scaled back. It feels rather like there has been no knockout victory so we are settling in for the long haul. Much like the NHS (we are assured) companies and agencies are better prepared now than they were back in March so, with the exception of a few industry sectors, we should continue on the trajectory of recovery and business as semi-normal. Whilst this is good news for agencies, it does throw up some important questions for agency owners:
- How well prepared are you to take advantage of pent up demand in some sectors for marketing services?
- Do you have the skills and capacity to drive a new business programme over the coming months?
- Do you have the data?
The good news is that it’s not too late to start.
The autumn months are traditionally a key time to be talking with new clients and this year more so than ever, as we see pent up demand for marketing activity being released. Even if your long term plans lie elsewhere (e.g. developing an in-house solution for example) it would be wise to start a new business programme now that will get you in front of people before Christmas and build a strong pipeline for 2021.
By working closely with our clients through this past 6 months we have learned a lot about what marketing agencies need right now. Like all companies we have had to adapt what we do to what our clients now want. We think this means we are better equipped to work in ways more agile, flexible, and multi-faceted than ever before. If you would like to discuss any of your new business challenges or find out more about how we can help you at this critical time, please get in touch.