With Amanda Francis taking a well earned break for 2 weeks in September I agreed to try and fill her considerable new business boots. Amanda had tried to avoid putting dates in for while she was away so it looked like I had two meetings to do in 2 weeks – easy.
I ended up attending 7 new business meetings. September has always been a big month for agencies wanting to talk to Alchemis about new business but nothing could have prepared me for this surge in people wanting to meet “this week”.
As I don’t often meet prospective clients I found the experience fascinating. No two meetings were the same (obvious really as no two people are the same) but there were some common themes.
Every person (agency) I talked to was impressive. They impressed me with their passion for their business, the people who work for them and the work they do for their clients. I met some very bright and interesting people and learned a lot.
Everyone had a medium and a long term commercial view. For some it was continued rapid growth, for others it was securing fee income and consolidation in an uncertain business climate.
Everyone invited feedback and was open to ideas. This surprised me because I was talking to successful business people; entrepreneurs and self-starters. They were certainly not lacking in self-belief and conviction but they were interested in my thoughts on their business as a whole. We would talk about how they had won new business in the past and I think it’s fair to say they felt reasonably confident once they were in front of a prospect and supremely confident they could do a great job if they secured the business – but ‘getting the ball rolling in the first place’ was the tough bit.
Several of the agencies I met had done relatively little in terms of pro-active new business; recommendations, referrals and organic growth into existing clients had got them where they were. Others had tried a few things with mixed results – the most common refrain was that they found it hard to keep the momentum going day-in-day-out because the core business of delivering to clients ‘got in the way’. More than one person told me they had an internal new business formula that had worked until they won a client and attention was switched to client service. Having stopped new business for a few months it was then difficult to get it started again.
The agencies I met were doing some great work. Whether it was PR, research, digital or creative they all had a story to tell about how they have delivered something special to help a client. There must be other agencies out there with an equally credible offer so the deciding factor between agencies that flourish and those that stand still is the number of opportunities they get to tell their story to someone that counts. If you get 20 more opportunities in front of a decision maker next year than you did this year how much business could you win?
I’m glad to say we’ve already begun work for some of the agencies I met last month and I’m looking forward to hearing about new clients we have helped them win over the next few months.