Dear Advertising Agency: Kick Ass In 2017
As you will see below, times are tough and getting tougher for advertising agency business development. Clients are confused; are (massive understatement coming…) a bit uneducated in all of the new advertising options; worried about their budgets; worried about ROI; worried about data overload; find it hard to work with a range of specialists from PPC to video to mobile to chatbots and on.
Oh, and if you are an advertising, digital, PR, SEO, PPC, experiential and on and on agency… you have like (massive understatement coming…) 4,000 agency competitors ranging from multinationals to single really smart dudes (as The Donald says) who are working from their bed in New Jersey.
Sounds daunting, right?
Sure, sales is daunting. But, the only people that will win new business in 2017 are the people that kill it. Sleeping through your business development program (or lack thereof) is, well, sleepy. From a sales perspective, given how tough business development has become, being sleepy is not gonna work. Your agency will fail.
The only advertising, digital, PR, SEO, PPC, experiential agencies that will grow in 2017 are the ones that realize that EXECUTION rules. Having a business development / sales plan is nice (and most agencies do not have one.) But, having that plan and not kicking ass with it, as in executing, is a losing proposition.
It’s Tough Out There
eMarketer’s advertising agency new business article, “Agencies Face Tougher New Business Environment” was in my inbox last week. The article references RSW/US’s (always smart) industry research. In this case, RSW/US reports that…
“In an October 2016 survey of ad agency professionals by business development group RSW/US, 43% of respondents said that obtaining new business had gotten either “harder” or “a lot harder” this year.”
Surprised? I’m not. Sales isn’t easy.
OK, So It Has Gotten Harder
What is your advertising agency going to do about it? Here are some of my thoughts and advice from working with dozens of agencies on their sales plans.
But first, back to my rant. Everything I am about to say is smart and actionable. However, if you do not actually do it, as in run it, 24/7 you will fail.
The 2017 Advertising Agency New Business Sucess List
This is the must do list. Once you agree to this list, the hard part is doing it. Yes, I am repeating myself. The single biggest issue confronting advertising agency sales is not running the plan. And. I do know all of your excuses for not running your plan with any consistency.
Can the excuses.
- Have a business plan that outlines how your agency is going to make money.
- Build your agency to deliver on the promises in your business plan.
- Do not be one of the 17% of agencies that actually admits that they “Can’t make the investment in a new business program.” WHAT 17%? Are you kidding me? I bet that 17% is probably more like 30%. If 30% of advertising agencies do not invest then you must.
- Have a business development plan that is based on what the market needs.
- Make sure you treat your business development program with the same care and attention you deliver to a client. Put sales on your daily production list.
- Know exactly who you want as a client. Have a set of criteria that makes sense for your agency.
- Position your agency for success. What does that mean? It means that you cannot be everything to everyone. Know if you are a skill set specialist; a client category specialist; a regional or global specialist; a demographic specialist. “Specialist”… get it? If you want to “break through to prospects” (see the RSW/US research), give them a single-minded sales proposition.
- Build brand messaging that clearly supports and amplifies your positioning.
- Tell the market that you are the leader. Be bold.
- Please… have a website that is more than a brochure; that does not look like your competitor’s WordPress site; that is designed to sell; that creates some agency to client chemistry and then asks for the clnet to make contact. Make them an offer they cannot refuse.
- Have an inbound marketing strategy. An attraction strategy. One that makes sure that you can be found by that client that wants to meet you.
- Go outbound to talk directly to the prospective clients that you have on your master list. Use the tools that will get their attention. I mean everything from direct mail 9yes, paper) to facebook ads to email to Instagram. Whatever makes sense for the category you are pursuing.
- Be a thought leader. I mean an INSIGHT leader. Have things to say that cannot be ignored.
- Busy? Use design, copy, sales, research or whatever outsourcing to help you run the plan.
- Be an unignorable agency.
- Write RFP’s that follow instructions to a ‘T’ then find a way to kick some ass to stand out.
OK, Last Point
Pitch smarter than the other agencies. Buy my book. Win more pitches.