The 3C’s to Successful Pipeline Building.
Too many agencies prospect in fits and spurts.
Too many agencies are terrible at marketing themselves.
Too many agencies don’t take the time to build an organized new business process.
Winning new business starts with building a solid pipeline of potential opportunities.
Building a solid pipeline starts with developing and maintaining the 3C’s of business development. Absent of these 3C’s, agency efforts will be stunted, challenged, and frustrated.
The first and potentially most important “C” is consistency of outreach
Being there as much as you can, as often as you can. After all, the “game” is a bit of an aperture marketing game. Today your prospect is fine, tomorrow they have their boss breathing down their neck, or a new initiative demands a new look and fresh ideas. Being there when they’re ready to make a move means always being on the radar, not just when you can make the time.
The second “C” is consistency of messaging used in reaching out.
Just like an advertiser’s brand, your brand needs to define itself in as compelling and as unique a way it can. Given that ultimately all agencies deliver the same “stuff”, finding the reasons-to-believe your agency is able to get the prospect to a better place is central to convincing them that you can help. Show them you understand their situation, bridge their situation back to your work, and then make a compelling case for why your “way” is better than the next agency on the block.
And the third is the consistency of methodology used in your outreach.
You can have the most outgoing and intelligent salesperson in the world working on your behalf and if he/she isn’t organized in their approach, doesn’t have the right tools to reach out with or doesn’t have the right support to help develop lists, messaging and reporting, the program will eventually fall short.
Following the 3C’s is particularly important in today’s economy. With fewer opportunities and more agencies knocking on the same door, doing it the way we’ve always done it isn’t going to win the day.
Is it just my agency?
Doesn’t seem to be so.
According to the one of our recent agency new business surveys, close to 70% of those responding state that new business opportunities are flat to declining versus a year ago.
43% of agency principals state that winning new business is “harder or a lot harder” than it was three years ago as compared to only 35% agreeing with the statement in in the 2012 survey. So it’s clearly getting tougher, not easier to create opportunities.
What could be the root cause?
When asked, 46% of principals seem convinced that the top reason for the slowdown is the fact that there are fewer opportunities to be had (as a result of company consolidations), and a whopping 63% stated that it is increasingly harder to break through to prospects.
With the economic uncertainty placing ever-increasing pressure on the advertiser’s financial performance there seems to be ever-increasing pressure on a marketer’s time. With company cut-backs comes less time to talk to agencies. With less time and fewer dollars spent on marketing, advertisers are more hesitant to give the agency that simply wants to talk about itself any time. Reach-out needs to be compelling, relevant, consistent and ongoing.
Is it possible we’re doing something wrong?
Interestingly, agencies are still relying heavily on referrals and networking as a resource for new business. Anecdotally, we’ve found the rate of network and referral opportunities is slowing down… which makes sense given the consolidation.
What agencies aren’t doing a lot of (or maybe not doing effectively) is finding the right people to manage their new business programs.
On the whole, new business managers being brought on board continue to under-perform. An unbelievably high percentage (79%) of new business people in agencies last no more than two years.
The lower success rates associated with new business managers could be driven by the fact that new business managers overwhelmingly aren’t squarely focused on the job of reaching out and prospecting.
They’re focused on lots of other activities – which based on our experience is a recipe for disaster. While 90% of principals state their new business manager was/is responsible for setting meeting and cold calling, 60%- 70% of principals state that they are also responsible for presenting to prospects, managing mailings, and creating presentations. We’ve found the less a new business manager is focused on the core activity of consistently reaching out, the more likely they are to meet with less-than-optimal success.
So what are we to do?
Only putting an on again/off again effort against outreach, or letting your new business manager do a lot more than they should be doing to generate opportunities isn’t going to help you open up doors that are harder and harder to open.
Key is following the 3C’s Consistency of outreach, consistency of messaging, and consistency of methodology.If you manage the process inside, make them develop a system, create a brand story, and keep tabs on how well they are sticking to it. And for God’s sake, let them stay focused!If dedicating more time to the effort is simply outside of your capacity, consider outsourcing the activity.
More agencies are turning to outside resources to support their new business efforts.
According to past surveys, 31% of agency executives state they have or do use an outside service to help open doors and set meetings on their behalf.
More firms are turning to outsourced services because they are less costly, more focused, and expert at what they do. The good ones know how to manage the 3C’s more effectively than any agency can on its own. The right firm can help you build a compelling message, a well organized, strategic target list, and maintain the consistency of utilizing a well-oiled, market-proven methodology.
At the end of the day, you didn’t get into the ad or PR or design business to be an expert at lead generation.
You got into the business to be expert communicators and idea people. In these tough times it may make more sense to keep overhead low, focus on your current clients, and use your new business energies to win prospects handed over to you.
Author: Mark Sneider
Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.