What if we are approaching agency new business all wrong?
Digital Marketers help clients generate awareness and new sales every day; that sounded so easy right? Yeah! So there shouldn’t be a problem driving new business for themselves. I mean they know all these do’s and don’ts so it shouldn’t be a problem getting jobs right? I think so too, but sometimes that may not always be the case. As a rule, agency folks place a lot of importance on outbound sales and inbound marketing. It’s always their first port of call when the well goes dry. But are those two channels the most lucrative to help grow (and sustain!) firms? I don’t think so! And here’s why…
Data from the Agency Management Institute shows that only 1 in 40 new business representatives works out. And among those who do make it for the long haul, they take about 12 months to even pay for themselves. It’s a tough dang job, which leads to a revolving door, it’s pretty awkward given that most times, the best person for the job is most likely the owner!
The fundamentals of digital might work well for your clients, but unless you’re extremely differentiated, attempting to compete in paid or organic search with the agency big boys down the street may turn into a futile exercise. So what if there was a better channel to generate leads and sustained revenue? What if you didn’t have to pay for an expensive sales guy and try to outbid your rivals?
Introducing the 3Rs
For marketing firms, relationships, reputation, and referrals can be an unrivaled source of new business. When thinking about 3Rs at the highest level, we’re talking about a collection of strategies aimed not at marketing to your prospects, but creating more opportunities for them to find you, now that’s a major key!
Like David C. Baker aptly wrote: “The more prospective clients learn about you on their own, and are already aware of your expertise and primed to hire your firm, which saves you the time and money needed on promoting your services. The easiest way to achieve that is to be viewed as a thought leader among those prospects you serve in the marketing field.”
While 3Rs should exist as a pillar within your marketing funnel alongside inbound marketing and outbound sales, chances are it’s already driving the bulk of your sales. Growth sometimes stem from people you already know, people who hear or see you organically, and people being sent your way.
Majority of the perceived growth agencies experience come through existing clients. As earlier stated I’m not saying you should neglect active marketing and being on the lookout for new business, that’s very important, but organic growth has clearly been shown to be the most productive.
Just like any strategy you’d recommend to a client, you will need to make a plan for it. You may also need to devote sufficient time from your team. So let’s kick-start your own 3Rs (relationships, reputation, and referrals) program with these steps.
Speaking and Writing
At the center of any 3R plan is a concentrated effort to establish a face for the agency and get that person out into the wild as much as possible. Whether it’s the agency owner or another partner or two. Key folks from the firm should be speaking at conferences, creating buzz on social media, and generally demonstrating consistent thought leadership through as many channels as possible.
You can unlock more potential when you write, regularly and thoughtfully. That’s one way to get smart, develop a point of view, attract opportunity, and move up the value chain.
When agencies hit a dry spell of sales, they often lose track of existing client relationships in favor of finding new ones. However, it may cost up to five times (to 25 times) more to gain a new account than it does to retain an existing one. If you’re already speaking and writing to generate new business, be sure your client base receives your thought leadership, too. And finally, increase the number of touch points and quality of interactions with your most valuable accounts. You could even try asking these key allies if they wouldn’t mind referring business. When they do, don’t forget that a nice bottle of booze or a small gift goes a long way in getting more nods in the future.
Most agencies in Nigeria totally neglect this part, especially PR firms. I know this is your forte, but how much are you focusing on publicity for your agency? If you have the PR capabilities in house, be sure that system is working for you. Or seek out a local PR firm to negotiate with. If you’re a digital shop, chances are they could use your help and vice versa.
Another avenue for success involves participating in key community organizations as a board member. Every non-profit and industry association in town has either a board of directors or board of advisors. And these groups are an excellent avenue to meet potential clients. Or, at the least, you’ll meet other well connected individuals who can refer you to folks within their network.
In summary, Get to know how much of your new sales are coming from one of the 3Rs. Consider reviewing your previous year’s account wins or start tracking now. You might be surprised by how much of your revenue base is the result of relationships, reputation, and referrals. Then, consider how you can monitor and maximize the most lucrative channels to build a more predictable and profitable new business engine.
How do you currently look for new business as an agency? Let us know in the comment box below.
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