I spend a lot of my working life meeting agencies of all sizes, disciplines, profiles and locations. Before these meetings are arranged, our sales team quite often hear the phrase “We don’t need any help with new business” when making an initial approach to an agency.
This is sometimes from an in-house New Business Manager or Director at an agency, who may feel that his/her role could be at risk if the agency were to outsource their new business activity. Sometimes it could be from the agency owners themselves. However, far more often than not, we work alongside in-house business development teams to boost and/or supplement the new business function rather than replace it.
Here is a brief list of scenarios of why you might need some outside help from a business development specialist. It can be applied to agencies across the whole spectrum of marketing disciplines. Have a think about how many of the situations below apply (or have applied) to you.
You used to work at another agency prior to starting your own. Some of the contacts you made at your previous agency are now clients of yours.
This is pretty much how all agencies start, by taking some or all of their existing relationships with them. This is also often how agencies initially grow, either organically securing more business from these existing contacts or by these contacts moving to other jobs and taking the agency with them. This is fantastic, BUT won’t sustain growth forever and may not accelerate growth as much as you would like. At some point, you will probably need some additional support to help grow the agency to achieve your own personal ambitions
Some of your key staff have left to form their own agency. They had a very good relationship with some of your current clients and produced some exceptionally good campaigns for them.
What goes around comes around – you did exactly the same to start your agency and now some of your key staff have followed suit. It’s the way of the world and another reason why you should keep your foot on the new business pedal to future proof your agency against these often inevitable situations
One of your biggest clients has been bought out by another company. Their marketing activity has been centralised into the new company and their incumbent agency.
Another common scenario that is not always predictable and is certainly out of your control. Again, a proactive business development campaign needs to start well in advance of this scenario so you don’t suddenly find yourself without 75% of your turnover overnight
One of your largest clients has gone into administration, despite it being a household name.
See above scenario – the same applies
You believe that you have the necessary time, skills and data resources to dedicate to finding, cultivating and winning new clients whilst servicing your existing client base
This was probably true when you first started your agency – only having a couple of clients to service and deliver to means you have the extra capacity to get yourself out there and win new clients. If this is still the case, then brilliant. However, I would contest that as you grow and acquire more key clients, this won’t always be so. We can dedicate all day every day to help you grow your agency – it’s our day job and requires consistent effort to develop and maintain contact with the hundreds of prospects you need to nurture in order to secure long-term profitable relationships
You had a very good relationship with the marketing decision maker of one of your clients but he/she has moved on and the replacement seems intent on doing things differently and is bringing in new suppliers.
Another scenario which I’m sure you’ll recognise, which is also out of your control. I’m not going to repeat what I’ve already said – you know it by now!
One of your biggest clients started out as a relatively small project. Over the years they have given your agency more and more work as they have been impressed with the campaigns you have delivered for them.
This is exactly how we help the majority of the agencies we work with acquire new key accounts; rather than pissing about with pitches and procurement, we always try to get you ‘under the radar’. In other words, the decision maker likes the cut of your jib, has the authority to spend budgets and tries you out on a smaller piece of work to see how you do. Your job is then to do a brilliant piece of work, so that you grow that relationship organically into a key account
You believe that you don’t need new business because you’re busy with the clients that you have and it is very unlikely they will change agencies at any point unless you do a bad job for them
Mmmmmm….I wish this were true, BUT as you can see from the scenarios outlined, there are too many factors that are out of your control, which means that you must always have a pipeline of the right kind of prospects.
Do any of those scenarios seem familiar to you?
It is often said that retaining an existing customer costs far less than winning a new one and nobody is disputing this. However, business does not stand still. To grow in business you should be both retaining your existing customers and acquiring new ones. Over time, the new ones you acquire should be spending increasing amounts of their marketing budget with you as the business relationship evolves, but to ignore cultivating new client wins in the first place puts you in danger of just treading water or, worse still, contracting. This can also be the case when an agency is over-reliant on the business of one key client. There will always be a certain level of risk of losing a client for a whole number of reasons including those well beyond your control, however good your agency is.
So, for anyone that says “I don’t need new business”, the inevitable fact is that at some point you do.