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On this blog, we try to help agencies, PR firms and marketing services firms improve their new business programs.

We typically draw from our own experiences with clients or data from our reports, but I took a dive into several other companies and their content to reinforce 3 “meat and potatoes” sales tips. We’ve made these same points in the past ourselves, and I don’t say that to be self-serving, but to reinforce each of these from an outside perspective.

Here we go.

First is from Gong, a software company describing themselves as the “#1 conversation intelligence platform for B2B sales teams.” They have some valuable sales content, and interestingly, their software is based entirely (I believe) around sales conversations-on the phone.

In their post, 55 Sales Tips & Techniques That Work Like An Absolute Charm In 2019, they lead off with this on cold calling:

There seems to be a ‘cold calling is dead’ trend floating around these days. But fear of cold calling is going to hold you back. Valuable enterprise buyers don’t come “inbound” often. You have to hunt them with outbound prospecting.

No cold calling is BAD. BUT, prospecting is more than memorizing a cold calling script. Or making hundreds of dials a day hoping that someone agrees to meet with you. It’s more than a mindless numbers game.

The only thing I would quibble with here is the effectiveness of true cold calling.  We’re not big proponents of it, but instead employ multiple touches, with value, using multiple channels, in order to make what could be a cold call warmer.

So from their blog, here’s your first critical tip:

Cold calling isn’t about discovery – it’s about selling the meeting.

And they go on to say: In fact, the talk-to-listen ratio for successful cold calls is HIGHER than unsuccessful ones.

There has to be a first step, and too many firms have the mindset that the initial reach out will result in solid gold.

That can happen; in my own prospecting, I’ve hit the timing just right and the first conversation turned out to be far-reaching and in-depth.  But that’s not typical.

Your initial prospecting effort is about getting in the door in as qualified a way as you can.

The second tip comes from CLOSERIQ, a “modern recruitment firm that connects top sales talent to the world’s fastest growing companies.”

They also have some solid sales content, and an excellent sales “meat and potatoes” point they bring up in their post, 9 Bad Sales Habits Every Rep Should Avoid, is this:

Don’t send follow-up emails that are just asking for a status update.

A point we’ve brought up in the past and well worth remembering.  They go on to succinctly explain why:

It’s tempting to send emails that are “just checking in.” But if you’re doing this, you’re just adding email to the inbox without providing any value in return.

At every contact point with your prospects, you should be adding value. Link to a piece of content, offer new information, and answer questions. Don’t just “check in.”

The “adding value” part being the key here, and granted, that is sometimes tough to continually provide, but you must.  If you don’t have your own content, Google and LinkedIn are your friend, find a third-party industry trend or post that relates to their world.

And finally, I read this post (Five reasons why the phone is still critical for sales development) from Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing,  and yelled out an AMEN!

More channels = Response Velocity

As Matt points out:

Additional research demonstrates that the more channels you use, the faster you move towards awareness, understanding, interest and engagement. Use the same channel 10 times, it’s easy for your prospects to zone out and ignore it. Use 2-3 channels across that sequence, and the fact that prospects see you in multiple contexts helps their brain remember you better. Seeing your company on caller ID, seeing your voicemail show up in their inbox, hearing your voice (even if they don’t listen to the entire message let alone respond to it) all contributes to that velocity and successful outcome.

Exactly this.  It’s a pillar of our prospecting process.

I’ll leave you with Matt’s sequence for reaching out. Your mileage may vary, but I think he presents a sound process here:

Our best practice for lead follow-up includes 13 touches across four channels over 11 business days. That includes four phone calls and voicemails. Through extensive A/B testing, this is the sequence that works. Not a single email, or a single call. A full sequence. Nobody said it would be fast or easy.

Last week was quite a “win” week for RSW/US clients.

Five wins for five different clients in one week!

And we started out this week with a sixth!

As we have matured as an outsourced agency new business development firm, we have gotten better and better at helping our clients move leads forward, preparing our clients for the meetings we set, and sniffing around for potential new business opportunities for our clients.

Important changes have happened over the years that have helped us improve the closing activity for our agency new business clients.  Here are just a handful of them:

  • Giving new business directors added incentives when their agency client closes business so they go beyond just setting meetings.
  • Having new business directors quietly sit in on calls to help coach/counsel their agency clients
  • Reviewing the proposals, presentations, RFP responses that agency clients are submitting to help them put their best foot forward
  • Pushing clients to make sure they’re staying on top of follow-up after a meeting with a marketing prospect
  • Helping them with follow-up when they can’t
  • Carrying them through a “Getting to Close” webinar when they start a program with us so they follow best practices when engaging with marketing prospects
  • Using RSW/EarlyAccess, our proprietary resource that informs us when marketers read our content about finding new agencies
  • Knowing when new CMOs and other marketers enter new jobs via our daily “new hire” report
  • Reaching out with relevancy to smartly engage prospects with empathy and understanding
  • Using value-added content to stay meaningful and relevant among marketers we’re connect with

I learned very early on after starting RSW/US in 2005, that it wasn’t enough to just get meetings.

We can get you all the great meetings in the world…but if you aren’t closing, you won’t be happy.

So, that puts us in a position where we have a responsibility to help you and the prospect move down the line to close.

We have a higher order purpose here at RSW/US.

We aren’t just about meetings.

And despite everything I said above, we aren’t just about moving clients to close.

We are about helping agency leaders build the businesses that they started or are now responsible for running.

RSWUS Team Photo

It’s great when our clients win!

A pro tip on why you have to stick with prospects, and before you think to yourself, “yes, Lee, we’re aware of that”, hear me out.

Late last week kicked off the 4th of July holiday (although what I’m telling you applies to your new business program regardless of timing) and on Thursday I got two emails from 2 different agencies signing up to attend a webinar I was conducting.

The only thing-I presented that webinar almost a month ago.

Over the weekend and on the Monday and Tuesday of the the 4th, I got multiple emails from agencies interested in our services and almost all of them were responses to emails I had originally sent 4-6 weeks ago.

In the interim, I had reached back out through multiple channels (phone, social and mail) but they were just now getting back to me when the timing was right for them.

How does that apply to your new business program?

Lack of initial response does not equal lack of interest

1. Your prospects are busy

You say you know that, but most of you don’t embrace what that really means. Lack of initial response does not equal lack of interest.

And yet agencies routinely give up on a prospect 3 weeks in, or only think of an effort in terms of 3-6 months, and then you think it must not be working.

Sure, it may not be working for a myriad of reasons, but the examples I gave above are just a few that show the agencies I reached out to were interested, and they flagged my email to circle back with me.

2. You can’t just use one channel

Using email as your only prospecting channel is getting harder and harder.

Advanced security and spam filters are catching more and more emails these days, and while it’s still a valid tool, and one you should use, just like the return of Zima,  (which is just as bad as you remember, BTW) “old school” methods like picking up the phone or sending a letter to a prospect are as valid as ever.  Actually, they never went away.

And that’s not to discount the abundance of technology and tools that can help drive your new business program, but you need to marry the two and use it all to break through to your prospects.

So, early on: don’t get discouraged by an initial lack of response and don’t cut short your program due to your impatience.

Of course, you always look to improve and make changes where necessary, but new business is not a try-out, it’s a mainstay of your agency culture. At least, it should be.

“We’re Starting The Year Out With A Lot of New Business, So I Think All Is Good.”

Something I have heard from agencies more this January than in month’s past.  And while this is great, agencies need to think beyond what is today and plan for tomorrow – on two fronts:

  • Investment in their business
  • Investment in the future of the business

I started RSW/US 11 years ago, in 2005, at a time when the market and industry were relatively good.

In 2008 we witnessed an upheaval of the industry and the economy.

As we rolled out of it and as marketers told us in our surveys they would be spending more and we saw evidence of it, agencies continued to invest.

In our just released 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report, 87% of marketers said they would be investing either “somewhat” or “heavily” in their business and 67% stated they would either be investing “somewhat” or “heavily” in advertising and marketing.

This compares to 44% in 2011, when we were just coming out of the recession.
Agency New Business Hope

Agencies appear enthusiastic…but how does it compare?

89% of agencies state they will be investing “somewhat” or “heavily” in their business (technology, personnel, new business)…which all sounds good.

But when you compare it to the three years preceding, we see a steady decline among agencies in the future of their organizations.

Agencies Stating They Plan to Invest

“Somewhat” or “Heavily” in Their Business

  • 2014 – 96%
  • 2015 – 95%
  • 2016 – 93%
  • 2017 – 89%

Agencies: Just Like Having a Baby…There’s Never an Ideal Time

As more marketers are demanding more from their agencies and as more marketers are consolidating the number of agencies they are carrying – two trends we are also seeing in our reports, agencies need to be thinking about the future of their firm.

In our survey, we’re seeing the CIO have greater influence.  We’re seeing more project work parsed out as a way of “trying” agencies.  We’re seeing more work moved in-house.

Investing in technology, being smart about data & analytics, looking forward and recognizing that what is good today, might not be so good tomorrow…are all things agencies need to keep their hands wrapped around.

Just because you’re in a lot of pitches and getting some good project work flow now, doesn’t mean this will continue.

There’s never a good time to invest – in your agency and the future of your agency’s new business.

But advice from a guy who has lived this industry on both sides for the last 11 years (as a search consultant and a keeper of our agencies’ new business efforts as their outsources agency new business firm), don’t take your foot off the new business and investment pedal just because your burning a lot of gas now.

Marketers will continue to demand more.

And one day, not too soon, all those pitches and new business leads are sure to slow down.

61 wins for our agency clients in 2016!

How sweet it is!

We set closing goals for our clients every Quarter…and every Quarter this year we exceeded those goals, which made the entire RSW/US organization feel great!

It was about 7 years ago (we started in 2005) that we changed the orientation of our firm from a company that found qualified leads, set meetings, and helped better position our marketing agency clients in the marketplace to a firm that helped marketing agency clients get closer to close.

We still do all the things we used to do, but this re-orientation and re-structuring in how we work has helped us see more and more of our clients close more and more business.
agency new business

Some things you can think about for your agency that we implemented here at RSW/US:

  1. New Business Directors are not only given a good base salary and incentives when meetings are set, but the incentives increase when you close business and the longer you stay on past your contract period, they are given tenure bonuses (all paid by us).  This keeps them not only focused on the short-term, which is getting the meetings, but they are immersed in helping however they can to move the agency’s prospects down the line.  The same set-up could be arranged for your own internal person.
  2. Every time a client wins business, we reward the supporting team (the List team, the Marcom team, the Administrative team).  We have something called the “50/50” program, whereby when a client wins a minimum of $50k (I know, not a lot, but it’s easier to call it a “50/50” program), each person supporting the business gets $50.  This way, everyone celebrates and everyone knows the value of getting clients to a winning state.
  3. And the last thing – which is more tied to meetings than closes…but you can’t have the latter without the former – is all supporting team member bonuses are tied to meeting counts…so everyone is in the game.  You don’t just have an Account Executive on the list team building lists, you have an Account Executive on the list side focused on making sure the lists are focused in on the prospects that truly make the most sense for that agency client.  The better the lists, the more likely meetings will hit…and the more and better the meetings, the more likely we are to see a close.  So again, a process you could institute in your own firm (#2 above as well) to get all of the team rallying behind the new business process.

So proud of the RSW/US team and proud of our clients who really have learned that you have to push it a bit after that initial meeting.

We like to call it “putting on the damn sales hat”.

I know, a little harsh…but it’s the reality in today’s agency-marketer world.  You have to get a bit more aggressive if you’re going to want to see things to close.  The days of the referrals and networking opportunities are fading.  More and more work is parsed out in the form of projects and there are more and more of you fighting for fewer pieces of the pie.

So think about putting some processes in place to move your new business effort along.  If it helps 1/2 as much as it has helped us help our marketing agency clients, it will be a win for you!

Here’s to a great and productive 2017!

“71 in 17!”

We’ve been dealing out a lot of new business tips, facts and advice over the past seven weeks….and the last 11 years!

The “Winning Hands” playing cards we’ve been playing daily on #Instagram were truly dealt randomly, and “three of a kind” showed up in this week’s cards that caught my attention, given their common connection to our Agency of the Future advice.  What’s more, two of the three relate to marketing technology specifically, a force that is propelling industry evolution.

With so many firms immersed in planning season or embarking on it soon, it’s a great time to take another look at these traits:

RSW_deck_JPEG 33RSW_deck_JPEG 34RSW_deck_JPEG 36

Implications of these traits: 

Real Timer: Being an agency that is tenacious, competitive AND able to operate in “real time” helps your clients succeed in increasingly fragmenting, complex and competitive markets.

Student of Technology: your firm needs to be proactive in continuously studying, learning and applying new tools and technology to build both YOUR business and YOUR CLIENTS’ business.

Selectively Specialized: Promote your strengths, specialization and expertise to differentiate yourself.

You are likely already aware that the ability to be a “Real Timer” and a “Student of Technology” are traits that Marketers are looking for in their agencies.

A June 2016 report from Marketing Insider Group illustrated the increased emphasis on marketing technology capabilities.  The study examined skills sought in over 75,000 job listings on LinkedIn.  Following are the emphasized skill sets from that study:

  • 39% – technology and digital engagement
  • 38% – strategy plus planning
  • 32% – data analysis
  • 27% – customer experience
  • 26% – advertising and branding
  • 16% – creative graphics

 

Consider these desired skills from the standpoint of an agency partner.  Technology and digital engagement skills lead the list and given the rate marketing technology is growing, these skills will increase in importance.  Agencies of the Future will be able to support these needs.

Specialization is also important to Marketers; 88% say that it is important for their agency to specialize in their industry.

Specialization and New Business Development

Specialization can play a central role in your new business development strategy.   If you are a full-service agency serving multiple industries and are doing it all very successfully, I’m not suggesting you stop.

However, the most effective new business development programs are borne out of highly selective and well defined positioning that leverages a particular area of expertise.

Even if your firm is superior in doing it all, presenting yourself as everything to everyone can dilute the impact of your new business efforts.

With each new business prospect, zero in on what makes you uniquely suited to their business; they are more likely to engage when they perceive specialization they need.

The full RSW/US “Winning Hands” deck of cards (and new business advice) is available FREE.  If you’d like a set for yourself, or your firm, just provide us mailing information and we’ll make sure you receive a deck of your own!

This final post on my three-part series, Release Your Inner Curator, provides the fifth and final step in the content curation process.

In addition, I’ve provided some thoughts on worthwhile curation apps available to simplify the process.

content curation

Step Five: Share your curated content

Sharing your findings can be as simple sending them in an email to your prospects.  However, the more thought you put into this part of your program, the more sustainable it’ll be over the long term.

Let’s go through some of your options for publishing your curated content.

  1. A weekly digest sent in newsletter format to your prospect list.
  2. Posted on your agency website, either as part of your blog or on its own.
  3. Shared via social media channels.

My suggestion is to do all of these, but you should also keep the original scope of your program in mind.

If your original goal was to replace your maybe-not-so-good blogging with a more consistent and time effective alternative, you may want to post the content to your site.  If you’re looking for an extra touchpoint or a follow up to your agency’s already strong blogging effort, it may be that you’ll only want to share your curated content a couple of times a month in a newsletter format or even spaced throughout the week on social media channels.

Let your goals dictate your deployment.

 

**For all you Moneybag$ out there**

So far, time has been the only limiting resource I’ve considered.  Anyone with a computer and an internet connection could conceivably follow these steps to get started on the road to content curation bliss.

But what if thy pockets are of a deep and spendy nature?  Well, then you can really make some big things happen.

There are dozens and dozens of content curation apps out there, and while many of them have free entry level versions, for the really powerful features, you’ll have to unleash the credit card.  Let’s talk about just a couple of these tools.

Basic free Feedly is great, but the Pro and Team versions make it possible for you to crowdsource your curation efforts quite a bit with team knowledge boards, group article annotation, and the ability to create a URL linking to your collections of feeds.

On top of that, the possibility of app integration can really increase your productivity.  Using something like Zapier or IFTTT, you can create recipes (automation workflows) that connect various apps together to save you time.  Want to create an RSS feed of all of your Feedly saved articles, which you can then email? Or maybe you want your saved articles to be sent to your Buffer queue, which would then disseminate them to all your social media channels?

Is it nerdy to think that automation’s really cool?

But, let’s suppose you want to go even deeper and forget all of this app integration nonsense.  Maybe you want one content curation tool to be your everything.  You’re in luck you lovable, lazy, and apparently budget-rich marketer.  There are software platforms out there that can be your go-to content curation tool, the apple of your content curation eye.

Curata, PublishThis, and Trapit are a few platforms that offer all-in-one content curation services.  Curata, for example, utilizes artificial intelligence to allow users to fine-tune its search engine, which will increase the relevancy of the content it finds over time.  In addition, publishing is enabled from within the software, so you can easily share content to your blog, social media, and marketing automation platform.

Convenience like this doesn’t come cheap, of course, but you’ll may find that as your hunger for curated content grows, paying for premium curation software starts to make a lot more sense.

In conclusion…because the word count of this series of posts* is embarrassingly high

Prospects want the Content.

Find the Content.

Curate the Content.

Give prospects the Content.

The Content will make you both strong.

(Please, give them the Content. If you don’t feed your prospects, who will?)


*This three part-series, Release Your Inner Curator, includes the following previous posts:

— Part 1:  Set your curation strategy.  Choose a topic

Part 2:  Gather sources.   Provide your own insight.

 

Content creation is like panning for gold

We’re several weeks into the RSW/US “Winning Hands” promotion on Instagram.  Every week we’ve “dealt” five cards on Instagram, and every hand’s a winner that can keep your firm out of the agency new business shuffle.

This week  a couple of the cards dealt presented a pair of tips that are very much related:

oct-20-cards-ec

This shouldn’t be news, but agency new business development is not an event.  It’s a process, a very rigorous process.   Your team needs to be every bit as disciplined and methodical as a runner preparing for a marathon.

We offer several resources on our website that can assist in this preparation.  Following the tips on the cards dealt this week:

“Be 110% prepared at EACH STEP of the process.  Not only for the pitch.”

Look to our recently released infographic, Ups & Downs of Agency New Business.  It calls out six clear steps (with the sixth being “Celebrate winning new business!”) that provide a great road map for your new business development strategy.

“Research your prospect BEFORE the first meeting.  Be ready with good questions.”

As highlighted in the “Ups & Downs” infographic, 72% of Marketers believe that agencies arrive at first meetings under-informed about their business and industry.

Resources to help you prepare include:

– The eBook, Put on that Damn Sales Hat

At a high level, the slides below from the Counsel on Closing webinar identify what Marketers want and do not want in their first meetings with a new agency.  Give serious consideration to these points as you prepare for new business meetings with prospective clients.

marketers-want

marketers-dont-want

Making the meetings about the prospects – rather than emphasis on your capabilities and past work – does take more time and preparation. Putting that effort into your preparation will set your firm apart,however, and will greatly reduce the risk of getting lost in the agency new business shuffle.

Release Your Inner Curator

 

If you read our recent post, “Is your blogging bad? Maybe you should try content curation…,” you may be starting to feel your inner curator stirring.  The post introduced the idea of content curation for new business development.

Over the next three weeks, we’ll show the steps you can take to gear up a content curation program of your own.  The first two steps follow here.

Step One: Set Your Curation Strategy.

The first decision you’ll have to make is how big you want to go.  This will determine the scope of your efforts and will guide you towards the tools you’ll need to accomplish your goals.

For some businesses, content curation is the core of their inbound marketing effort.  An entire site or microsite may be devoted to sharing their curated content, and the company’s lead generation may live and die by the strength of this website alone.

But for discussion sake in this series, let’s say you want to start small, especially since many of the concepts we present over the next three weeks will upscale nicely.

Maybe sharing a monthly digest of curated posts and articles with your prospects will suffice; or maybe sourcing content to bolster your agency’s presence on various social media outlets is what you’re looking for.

Begin with the end in mind.  Specify the results you want your curation strategy to deliver, and build your strategy to deliver them.

Step Two: Choose a topic.

Some agencies may struggle with this aspect of the process, if only because it requires that they take a conceptual leap in how they approach new business.

As an organizing principle, you’re going to want to choose a topic that will guide your search for content sources.  It has to be specific enough to appeal to your audience and set you apart from competition, but general enough that you can find content reliably.

So, as an agency, have you even defined an audience yet?  Have you differentiated your agency positioning?

(Differentiation! We write enough posts about you.  Get out of here,  you little rascal.)

If you have carved out a unique agency positioning, then you’ll know who your audience is and your content curation has a much better chance of being successful.

Search for blogs, articles and other content that will appeal to your prospects – on the topic of “small business social media marketing” for example – and see if you can find enough sources with quality posts updated on a regular basis.  It may take some fine tuning, but eventually you should be able to dial in on the level of specificity that suits your needs.

…Coming Next

Next week, we’ll present the next two steps to bring out the inner curator in you:

  • Gather Sources
  • Provide Your Own Insight

In the meantime, give thought to your strategy and topic. These two steps set a solid foundation for content curation, and will facilitate the new business results you seek for your firm.

found-gold

 

To some degree, agency new business success rests in the cards you are holding.

Mostly, it’s about how you play them.

Right — just like Kenny Rodgers crooned, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.”

As we contemplated the new business development experience we’ve amassed over 11 years at RSW/US and industry insights delivered by periodic surveys, we decided it was time to have some fun with it.

We created a custom RSW/US deck of cards – regular, 4-suited playing cards, each with a new business tip, advice, industry fact or information about RSW/US services on the back.

Sure, some will point out the cards are “marked”, but any way we deal them, every hand can be a winner.

As last week’s post announced, we began “dealing” our cards on Instagram, sharing both the tips (yes, Insta-Tips!) and the face of the playing card.

Over the course of the week, here’s what we have dealt:

card-backsTwo agency new business tips AND links to two case studies.

It’s a great combination of cards, because the case studies reflect the new business facts in this hand:

  • 88% of marketers say industry expertise is important in agency selection.

Each case study exhibits new business success where the agency featured had strong experience in the industry their target prospect operates in.  Additionally, each had expertise that aligned with the prospects’ needs.

If you’re tempted to pursue a prospect because their company, industry, potential work looks interesting, or because working with them would be “cool”, resist.  Play the experience card. 

  • Agencies tell us 48% of new business closes within 2-3 months of the first meeting.

This is the introductory statement to two facts:

– Over half – 52% – of new business closes take longer and sometimes, significantly longer.

– Success – be it in two to three months or longer – ultimately rests in follow-up.

 As each case study describes, each client achieved a new business win following consistent,   persistent, dedicated, and most importantly, strategic follow-up with the prospect.  It shows that winning the hand can take a lot of patience – knowing when (as well as how) to hold ‘em.

All in all we have 56 cards packed with new business information.

We’re dealing them daily on Instagram.  Visit each day to see the new “Insta-Tip”.  And, register to win a $500 American Express Gift Card.  Just click through the link in our bio on our Instagram home page, and provide your name and email address.

To see the featured case studies, visit: