As most of you know by now, Alchemis has been at the forefront of business development for more years than we care to remember, approaching 27 at the last count! A number of things have changed over the years but our dedication to helping our clients win new business hasn’t.
It’s a very simple equation – you need to invest both your hard earned cash and your time and energy into making a business development campaign productive, in order to yield a return on your investment. There are no overnight wins in new business; if there were, we would have found them a long time ago, trust me!
As part of this process it’s important to engage with decision makers about topics that really matter to their business and to their day-to-day working lives. Find something meaningful to discuss – it will help you come across as a professional agency with your finger on the pulse, allowing you to stand out from the hundreds of other approaches from agencies like yours.
As well as finding new ways to engage with decision makers, it’s also vital to identify new markets and different types of companies to approach within existing and new markets.
Here are our top 3 tips to help you keep a campaign fresh:
Targeting used to be very straightforward – build a database by market sector, spend, size and location and then contact lots of people in the hope that 1-2 would say yes to a meeting every day. Simple maybe, and often still very effective, but not sufficiently smart in today’s challenging marketplace for every agency.
It really is worth spending time profiling organisations and decision-makers within these companies to ensure that they have a propensity to spend money on the services you offer. Of course, there is still validity in selecting prospects based on core criteria such as vertical sectors. Traditionally there has been a preference to meet and engage with agencies who have experience of working in a specific market and can therefore demonstrate an understanding of any issues within those markets. One such example used to be Financial Services companies who up until 4-5 years ago were insistent that any agency they met had in-depth experience working with other Financial Services businesses. This has now completely turned on its head and these same organisations are now looking to meet agencies who have little or no experience within the financial world, mainly so they can benefit from ideas from other verticals! It’s these kind of insights which can help create a clear informed strategy.
So, as well as traditional profiling based on sector, spend, size and location, an absolute must is to use tactical sources researched specifically for, and matched to, your offer and proposition. By their nature, these are more likely to have a potential opportunity. This could be anything from international companies wanting to create a London hub, to fast growing companies identified and recognised as the sort of businesses to thrive and help the UK out of recession, or family run businesses with the same social and cultural values as your agency. This provides you with that initial key reason to contact the decision maker, which can often lead to a conversation to discuss specific or wider needs.
Traditional sources such as awards or exhibitor lists can also be useful, but only if they’re used to profile the company properly. We know from experience that just looking at the stand size to help identify the big spenders is not always most effective process.
Here’s one example of how this can work. We currently represent a branding agency who is keen to work with companies who want to build a sustainable brand. The agency’s ethos and culture has a family feel to it, so we decided that, in addition to targeting the obvious FTSE corporates with a clear CSR need, we would also target family run businesses. We felt that they would share the same values and at the same time would be particularly interested in building a genuinely sustainable business. The campaign is proving to be a great success with several projects already acquired with large organisations and an on-going working relationship developed with one of these family businesses.
2. Tactical opportunities:
It is important that everyone in your agency (not just your business development team) are always on the lookout for opportunities for new approaches to prospects and new prospects to approach. To highlight this, here are a few examples of opportunities our team have recently uncovered.
One of the team recently noticed that a large London based auction house had started advertising on the tube and had clearly invested in a brand refresh. Using this intelligence we approached the other large auction house on behalf of an agency who specialises in the arts & culture field. The outcome was a very productive meetings with this other house, who had a clear need for advertising and branding in order to keep up with their main competitor.
The launch of the Disney ‘Aim High’ campaign gave us a real inroad into prospects and a reason to talk to them on behalf of a number of our clients with educational marketing and CSR based propositions.
Another example is the recent announcement that Bombardier has won the £1bn contract to provide trains for the London Crossrail project. The impact on their business (particularly following the disappointment of losing out to Siemens on the Thameslink project in 2011) and its workers is significant. There are therefore likely to be some initial requirements for internal communications and employee engagement work. This can be extended to any organisation going through some level of transformation, whether a merger, acquisition, change of CEO, winning (or losing) a significant piece of business and so on.
There’s always something trending in the social media sphere, so the key is to find those golden nuggets that will help you engage with decision makers and ensure your agency is right up there when the opportunities, pitches and briefs come up. So, for example, The Environment Agency is receiving some decidedly bad press at the moment both in the mainstream media and through social media channels. They have spent £2.4m pa on PR; surely the time is ripe for an approach from smaller, more flexible and cost effective digital, social and PR agencies specialising in reputation management?
3. Business Development individual or team:
All the research we’ve carried out over the years (for example, this white paper on reasons why marketing decision makers choose to see agencies) strongly indicates that the person making the initial contact is one of the most important factors in whether a marketing decision maker chooses to meet a new agency.
Therefore, it is critical that the new business individual/team within your agency is personally motivated to keep delivering year after year. This can often be achieved by a mixture of new approaches to new companies in new markets, as described above. This could also include mixing up the communication channels – sending a few insightful emails if you have mainly been calling them, following them on twitter, connecting via a relevant group discussion on LinkedIn and so on.
Do also ensure that your new business team are kept in the loop of any and all changes within the agency. You may be surprised to hear that some business development people can feel isolated and therefore excluded from the day-to-day running of the agency. New clients and new projects with existing clients can help develop new angles and approaches to prospects. Equally, new staff can bring a wealth of experience from new markets and maybe new skill sets.
These are just a few ways that you can bring changes to your new business campaign to ensure it’s keeping up with and adapting to changes in this challenging and competitive marketplace.