With over 30 years experience at the sharp end of business development, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to agencies trying to win new accounts. Here are 5 new business clangers that are best avoided in your quest to pick up new clients.
1. Over promise to a prospect and then not deliver. Sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how many agencies say YES, we can do that, without giving proper consideration to their skills, experience and their resource. Walking away from a job is far better than ballsing one up. Prospects will respect your honesty and come back to you when there’s something you CAN do.
2. Waste your time by sending out a bunch of emails to prospects, particularly if the data hasn’t been checked. We recently ran a campaign for a digital marketing agency who insisted we follow up emails they’d sent out. We ran a concurrent campaign with the same numbers of contacts and achieved 8 cracking meetings from our ‘cold’ calling vs none from following up the emails. There are obviously a number of factors that can influence outcomes, but we were able to eliminate the following variables:
a. We used the same Account Manager to call on both campaigns
b. We targeted the same markets and similar sized businesses within those markets
c. We made the same number of calls to each campaign (interestingly, the access rate to decision makers was also much lower when we followed up the emailer, partly due to the poor data, but also due to the response ‘We’ve seen your email, thanks, so we know what you do. We’ll call you’)
3. Attend pointless pitches – we all know what these look like (there are 8 agencies involved, including their incumbent and their brother-in-law’s agency and you haven’t had a chance to meet them as all you’ve got is a written brief). We know what the outcome will be, but still we go ahead and waste time and money on an outside chance of maybe, if we’re lucky, coming a ‘close second’. Don’t pitch unless you’ve met the company and all the key players and know what they’re really looking for. Much better to do a small job for a client, do it well and then you’ll get invited to pitch for the big jobs when they come up and with a far higher chance of winning it.
4. Slag off your competition. It’s not clever and makes you look like a poor loser, not a good trait in anyone! By all means, ask how their incumbent agencies are doing and certainly, look for some gaps in their offer and deliverables – that is the purpose of a new business meeting! But always maintain your integrity – people still buy people and building trust and confidence in you as a person as well as in your agency will always be critical in whether they choose to work with you or not.
5. Try and do it all yourself! As an agency owner, you are needed to fill a number of roles and business development should be a priority. However, you should also focus on existing client development, nurturing warm leads you’ve generated yourself through networking, developing great authoritative content, speaking at events etc. What you shouldn’t do (and won’t have time to do) is try and contact people you have no current relationship with – leave that in the hands of experts, either internally or outsourcing.
There are more things you shouldn’t do, so watch out for part 2 of this!