Prologue: The majority of agency new business authors are of the “How To” variety. They volunteer pleasant, positive but not necessarily tried & true, battle- proven kinda stuff, but makes sense, sounds good kinda stuff. Not here. We’re an agency search consultant (match-maker) and get to hear from clients about all that How to stuff that didn’t work. And I’m here to report it to you now.
As a new business tool, the telephone is failing. Time was, when a courageous young man (in difference to women, back then it was men) saw his desk phone as his connection to agency prospects. Following a regimen that consisted of preparing compelling print collateral meant to be mailed to a prospect list of 500 carefully chosen prospects, then mailing them on a consistent schedule and then, with courage and commitment, that young man would follow by phone and ask – “Did you get the rubber chicken I sent?” (Yes, in those days he actually got through) Didn’t matter if he mentioned Rubber Chicken or industry study, the whole idea was to strike up a conversation that could lead to a relationship. And “yes Virginia” (see Wikipedia), agency success does depend on relationships.
But within the industry, there’s been a change of heart. Not sure who or where it started, but the notion spread that proactive outreach and rubber chickens were no longer in vogue. The new mantra? Content. Yes content is now king. It’s the politically correct way to clap your hands, wave your arms, whistle, beat the conga drums and blow smoke in their direction. The idea is to make as much Internet social media noise as you legally can so you draw them magnetically to your agency website. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news – it drew them to your website.
Agency websites; let me digress – I could write a book. Admittedly they’re getting much better, but by example, when their agency prepared the “walk-about” home page video, they apparently missed their agency’s young couple in deep embrace in the back corner. Maybe it’s rehearsal for a client video; I would have cut it! Let’s move on to About Us. Do Not, I shout, write no-interest paragraphs about starting in your basement or how your un-named team has vast experience covering 89 years. And don’t fail to identify at least one person who works there, and that leads me to The Team tab.
Chemistry Wins New Business; Not Creative! That’s what the Guru of Growth taught for years and its truer now than ever. That’s why your Team tab can make or break your firm with the visitor. Here’s where you can let the prospect see the people behind the curtain. The smiling faces and interesting beards (men only please); the interesting location and hobby shots. If you’re all “suits” as they say and pictured in suit and tie, that sends a nice business impression; yet if the prospect company is led by millennials, that buttoned-up look may cost you. On the other hand, if you’re a young agency with Millennial management, that might off-put some dinosaurs. You can’t win them all but this level of openness and honesty may prompt that desired prospect call regardless.
Staff Characteurs? So your Director of Business Development is a Pit Bull? Cute sketch. Good inside joke but not appreciated by the prospects you chase that are dog lovers. What about those multi-frame serious-to-goofy shots? Some are really funny and clever. But their value is offset when others fall flat. Has anyone thought of blank squares with titles for everyone? Group shots show your camaraderie but when you don’t or can’t identify them, it loses value. (I often enjoy trying to identify the CEO in a group shot; only to be surprised by who really is). On posted CV’s, use caution. Some folks have such intimidating credentials that it’s possible some prospects could be reluctant to engage!
Back to the telephone. One quick thought just came to mind. If you want to make a call to a new prospect (as in one that is not yet a great friend) DO NOT CALL FROM YOUR CELLPHONE! Cellphone quality is erratic, inconsistent and picks up ambient sounds. Do not expect a first-time prospect to be patient with all that. Call from a land-line in your quiet office.
Now, after all the research, content and key words you’ve invested, let’s talk about the horrors experienced by prospects calling your agency. Having called thousands of agencies, I speak as an authority and say agency new business telephone protocol is atrocious! Beginning with the universal agency announcement – “Thanks for calling Blander Agency; if you know the extension of the party you’re trying to reach, enter that now. For the agency name directory press 2. For the Operator press O.” What should the first-time prospect do that was guided in by your content or Contact Us page? What name do they enter? In most cases, that name is nowhere on your Contact Us page; matter of fact, neither is your agency location. Why not another option – “To speak with us about handing your account, Press 1. Move frequent callers to 2 or 3.
Now let’s talk about the Operator option. It’s a joke! You might get an announcement that the call is being transferred to the Operator (please wait), the eventual answer says “Hi, this is Janice. I’m away from my phone at the moment; please leave your name and message and I will call your shortly!” What is that job other than answering the phone? Such incompetent BS! I’ve even had the “being transferred” message just repeat and repeat; never offering a chance to leave your message!
Finally there’s the “I don’t care” mentality. I’ve had situations where, no matter how I tried or what tricks I employed, I COULD NOT raise a living soul at the agency. One such time I was calling an agency with world-wide offices. I couldn’t raise anyone or the Operator in their New York office, so I called Chicago, thinking if it was a weather issue they would know. I failed to raise a soul in Chicago so I called San Fran. Finally found someone but that party had no idea what was happening in Chicago or New York, and didn’t seem to be concerned or looking to report that which might be broken. Talk about dinosaurs.
In Closing: Dear New Business Professional. Whomever made the decision to register your firm did the right thing. But if your profile is incomplete, out-of-date or still at the free Iridium level, you ain’t going nowhere. Pre-AgencyFinder we taught agency new business, so we’re familiar with what you do and what you spend. For starters many have tried outsourcing “dialing-for-dollars” at $3,000 – $5,000 Per Month! Please don’t suggest we’re expensive.
Update: Recognizing there are 30,000 or more “marketing firms” with websites armed with the latest in SEO techniques, in a Google search it’s almost impossible to differentiate one agency from another except for location. Some new biz folks are beginning to re-think things and look again at direct mail/direct marketing. You might do that too.