But that’s no reason to despair.
Looking back, there have always been two distinct philosophies and approaches to agency and PR firm business development; pro-active outreach (chase) and inbound marketing (be found).
In pro-active outreach, someone at the agency or an outside contractor has to initiate contact with a prospect by mail, e-mail or phone – often called cold calling. Meyst remarks “With tongue-in-cheek, some suggest that, without permission, this is tantamount to stalking and that’s against the law!”
The opposite approach (i.e. inbound marketing), requires inquiries triggered by social media, speaking engagements, referrals, website traffic and industry “finder” services.
Meyst summarizes: “Agencies use more new business programs than you can count, but the successful ones follow some fundamental rules that make them effective:”
1. Make someone responsible. New business is NOT everybody’s business at the agency. Hire someone or pick someone and make their employment dependent on some form of measurable success. In most cases, that will be meaningful, face-to-face meetings with pre-qualified prospects. But not “landed” business – too many others at the agency can affect that, one way or other.
2. New business is NOT a natural talent. See to it that your new business pro gets professional sales training from professionals. A webinar here or there does not qualify. Like CLE credits, new business training should continue.
3. Relax your spam filters! Any IT Director can keep e-mails out. The whole idea is to let prospects (including Certified Search Consultants) find you and make their inquiry.
4. Let your website tell your story. Prospects want to know what you’ve done (show them category experience), services you offer, where located, who and how many work there and who runs the place (pics and bios). Until they “friend you” they won’t care much about your blog. And please – don’t make that your home page!
5. Chase or Be Found. For those who chase, consider the universe. In categories where they advertise, you’ll find more than 11 million companies. But screen for annual sales over $1M and that count drops to 700,000. If these are your prospects, you need to know what kind of clients and type of business you handle best. Know where you can find them and how your approach will resonate.
As important as selection criterion is for any business you’re chasing, it’s even more important for those clients who are actively seeking a new advertising agency or PR firm to define what they seek.
Hoover’s database identifies 48,500 marketing service agencies (SIC 7311 & SIC 8743) in the USA today. Break it down to those firms with 6 or more employees and the count drops to 8,600. At 25 employees, the count drops to 2000! A surprisingly small and suspect universe.