Things you need before deploying New Business support (Pt2)

Assuming you read pt1 you’ve now got kick-ass cold-channel creds. Well done you… and you’re welcome (those bad boys are going to prove invaluable in all interactions that end with someone telling you that sending an email with creds is the only way to start the process).

But how can we avoid just becoming creds-emailing monkeys? Well, it’s basically down to your approach and setting realistic expectations. If you want to become Kellogg’s agency, you can’t just call the number on the website and tell whoever answers that you want to become their agency. It might seem the most direct route, but you just make it easy for the gatekeeper to send you back to your creds emailing duties. Instead, set yourself smaller goals: maybe just call to find out when their current agency is up for review. No agency is retained indefinitely, and when sales or impact dwindles (even if it’s not the agency’s fault) it’s one of the first things that gets a good shaking. If they’re nice enough to give you a time frame, just ask what you’d need to do to get your name in the hat. Simple, non-confrontational and non-salesy… you’re just having a chat.

If you try to sell cold and hard you WILL fail. If, however, you just try to find out a couple of simple pieces of information, you might end up having a better conversation than you expected.

NEXT TIME: Pt4. Just joking. Pt3.

Things you need before deploying New Business support (Pt1)

Many of the companies that enlist our help have either never done real cold-channel business before or think they have (but on closer inspection realise that there was always some old connection or ‘good reason’ for the contact lurking just beneath the slightly warm surface).

It’s not a criticism incidentally; understandably, everyone prefers developing existing leads and working old connections rather than cold-calling prospects off a huge wish list. What it does mean, however, is that most companies coming to us looking to gain more business from cold-channel prospecting aren’t entirely equipped to do so.

The 30-page presentation they’re used to nonchalantly auto-piloting through in front of semi-interested parties is no longer much use. Someone barely interested in switching agencies might swipe through nine tight and mobile-optimised pages on the tube home, but to expect them to care about the history of your building, your copyrighted methodology and the beauty of your carefully-waxed moustache is probably hoping for too much from a cold prospect.

So… imagine a key prospect was only going to look at the first three pages. What would you include? Still want a “hello” page? Still want a gallery of your staff’s mug shots? No, of course not. You want your best case studies that had the most impact. Ok – now imagine you have six pages, what more might you show? Perhaps all the companies that trusted you with their brands? Further case studies showing more disciplines you’re good at? Good – now you’re getting the idea.

Cold-channel prospecting is about respecting the time and (likely) attention of your prospect. If you come at them in a sensible way, they’ll give you the time of day (or at least 30 seconds of it).

NEXT TIME: More stuff. (Such a tease!)

Making a start: What you need to know about employing a new business agency.

Employing and deploying a new business agency is no small investment. It’s obviously a commitment financially, but it’s also a big commitment of time: both in what you must give to the process for it to succeed and how patient you need to be for the process to yield results (it’s widely acknowledged that - barring the odd splendid fluke - any new business efforts require many months of ‘faith’ before any wins hove into view). If someone tells you otherwise, they really want you to sign a contract (and probably one with a six-month notice period).

The two questions we get asked the most from potential clients are: how long does it take to get started, and what do we need to do to prepare? Brilliantly, the answer to the first question is entirely reliant upon the client’s reaction to the second.

House in order
Probably the hardest part of the kick-off process for a new client is the culling of much-loved creds. This deck will probably have evolved over months and years to include:

  • Photos of each and every staff member past and present (probably against the backdrop of a brick wall – am I right?).

  • At least ten case studies (each a multiple page entry with some serious narrative – but not always any kind of commercial outcomes or results).

  • Plenty of self-serving pages about when the company was formed, why it was formed, where it was formed, how it was formed, and the history of the fireplace (basically stuff that no one ever used to pick an agency).

  • Welcome pages, goodbye pages, a page before the case studies saying CASE STUDIES (you know, just in case no one can follow your ground-breaking presentation style).

Anyway, you get the point: creds are pretty much always too long, too long-winded, and exactly the kind of size that leaves email systems chewing on them like a cow with a pack of wine gums. Some clients welcome a ruddy good creds beating, others will cling on to every one of the 26 pages clogging up their chances of success.

So… once we’ve established that your cold channel creds need to be slim and impactful… what’s next?

Target acquired
So, you’ve done the smart thing and bought yourselves a shiny new business cannon (if I do say so myself) so where do you want to point us? You might be surprised to learn that some entirely amazing agencies have got to this part of the process only to say: “Oh gosh… we don’t really know; some big brands… or something… maybe?”

Please know what you want – you’re now paying us so make it worth your while by knowing what it is that we’re going after for you. Please don’t say “something like Nike or Apple” (unless you really think it’s a realistic target) and please don’t say “more FMCG”. Understand your own successes, understand what you did so well, and now let’s find some more excellent (specific) targets for you to unleash us upon.

Release the hounds
Ok, so we now know what we’re saying about your company (by mirroring the language of the now-excellent creds) we have creds (result-oriented and tight as a squirrel’s headband) ready and able to email, and we also know where our efforts are to be focused. Thank you. We’ll be back to you shortly with the first of your well-qualified, super-focused new leads. You’re welcome.

When agencies outnumber opportunities.

Agencies from across the marketing spectrum are pretty bad at selling themselves. I don’t want any of them to become salesy, pushy “Wolf of Wall Street” types, employing hideous tricks and tactics. There are ways to be more compelling – more interesting to the decision-maker with too many options.

Agency decision-makers get dozens of approaches a month. Many get dozens a week. They receive endless creds documents. The nice ones read most of them. The less patient ones filter them out based on a few simple criteria. Some don’t read them at all.

Many of the things that agencies talk about are things that a decision-maker would use to exclude them as an option. Location, size, years in business. These can all be positives, but not very impressive ones. They can more easily be reasons to exclude. Marketing bods at companies can choose from many agencies. In our experience (and we’ve been doing this for 15 years*), they choose based on two things: the outcomes you can cause for your clients and the company you keep (your client list).

If you’re at a big outdoor event and there are 25 food stalls, you don’t look at all 25 and choose the one you will eat at. You exclude some first: “Well, I don’t fancy a burger, I don’t want to eat fish and chips while I’m walking around and I hate hot dogs”. Before you know it, you’re left with a few options. These are the ones that you now consider on merit. This is how marketing people whittle lists of agencies down. They exclude first. Often arbitrarily.

The opening chunk of your creds, website or proposal is crucial. It sets up the way the prospective client views the rest of the presentation. An incredible number of our clients started out with creds that opened with something like, “Based in Hexham, our team of 22 amazing people have worked on the most brilliant design projects for 18 years!”. Or maybe bullet points that illustrate the same thing:

About us

- 22 People

- Office and studio in Hexham

- Founded in 1998

- Fluent in Design and branding

Four boring facts that tell a potential client almost nothing. Imagine for a moment that your prospect last used an agency with 8 people, founded just three years ago, based in London. It went well. The outcomes were pretty good. Suddenly you’ve got nothing in common with this decent agency they quite liked. Now, everything you say is through the lens of someone who sees you as rather unlike the last guys. Maybe they liked that their agency was in London. Maybe they liked their small team. Maybe they liked that they were fresh and full off new ideas. Or maybe they liked them for a more important reason: It went well. The outcomes were pretty good. This is what you should lead out with.

If you’re the agency that increased shirt sales for Fullofit Shirts by 23% online, then that’s page one. If you’re the agency that raised staff retention for Slipless Gripmats plc by over 40%, then say so, early on. If you’re the agency that created a brand that staff and customers genuinely loved for Landwell Airways then make that the lead story. Your location, years in business and number of staff can go to the last page. Imagine blowing a potential client’s mind with your incredible results, then at the very end leaving them thinking, “All this from an agency way out in Hexham! Wow!”. It’s remarkably powerful to confound expectation.

And now all you have to do is make the rest of your story readable. A simple truth about sending out a creds PDF is that people are savvy to the size. They look at the file size. Above 5MB and they’re already planning to ditch it early. They’ll glance at the page count. 23 pages? No chance. This is a prospect in the cold-channel. They don’t care about your creative prowess. They don’t want to read a book about you. They don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes on this. We’ve found that a page count of fewer than 10 pages is important. Single digits = readable. You are not trying to secure the deal remotely, just to create the next step. Tailor it. Make the filename refer to the prospective client if you’re sending it. Mention their name on the title page. People like this as much as they hate receiving something generic.

In cold-channel business development, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. 75%+ of wins go to a referral, or the incumbent. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong cold-channel campaign. It does mean you shouldn’t have a poor one. Make every word, picture and page of your creds count. Make it about the prospect, not about you. Focus on their commercial goals. Leave aside your patented processes. Don’t crow too loudly about awards. If someone hires you for twelve months, the thing they’re buying – the thing you should be selling – it whatever it is that they’ll have in month thirteen that they didn’t have in month one.

*See, you don’t care how long we’ve been in business. That didn’t make you want to hire us. But if it DID, call Steve now on 01708 451311. Just don’t tell him that was your reason.

Four ways to get more from your new business agency

New Business Agencies sometimes screw up. We have. They all have. Quite a lot of the time though, if things aren't working it's not just their doing. It's a bit of both of you. Supporting your new business agency's endeavours is essential. There are things they know that are always helpful to trust them on. Like this:

1)      Don’t make them describe you in a particular way.

Just because you’ve decided to call yourselves a Brand Empathy & Ideas Generation Agency doesn’t mean that your prospects or clients would ever think of you as that. Worse than not thinking of you in your chosen way, there’s the simple fact that if someone needs what they call a creative agency and goes looking for one, they’re not going to immediately see that you might be able to solve their problem. If you have your new business person calling or emailing people who control marketing budgets, then encourage them to find out what the person might be looking for. If it’s “creative” then you’re a creative agency. If it’s “ideas”, you’re an ideas agency. Many of our clients over the years have insisted on a specific description and we’ve learned to say “no” because it does no good.

2)      If they ask for a short credentials document, give them a short credentials document. Do it on time.

Agencies love to talk about themselves. Clients speak to lots of agencies over time. Do the sums. Do you imagine that they want long presentations from every new agency they encounter? The chances are that after a couple of conversations and the mention of an upcoming brief, your new business legend (for that’s what we are) will need to send over some sort of document to move things along a bit. Unless they’re asking for specific examples, send them a short (9 pages maximum) description of your agency. Make sure the majority of it tells the prospect what they will get (which is different from what you do). Leave the dull bits (where you are, how long you’ve been in business) until the end (if they’re not interested by then, who cares where you are?). Actually, just read my article on the excellent Econsultancy – it’s at
http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/11207-agency-creds-they-re-all-as-bad-as-each-other and it’s marvellous.

3)      Don't keep asking how many calls they've made.

I know you want your money's worth, but unless you've hired a phone-jockey to blitz a list, killing names off as fast as possible in the hope that they'll trip over something, they need time to do other things. Your new business person needs to be doing research, refining data, clearing their head with the latest football news, working on your proposition and myriad (which originally meant 10,000, but here just means "lots of") other things.

4)      Support them from the start.

Look, I know that hiring a new business agency is scary stuff. We’ll ask for a level of trust that in the early months is fairly un-earned. While some new business agencies will abuse your trust and have you spending valuable studio time putting together documents that will be seen by a temporary receptionist at a company with fifty quid to spend, this is (or should be) rare. What is worse – far worse – is stifling their ability to win you new clients by slowing them down. We often have to promise a terrifyingly fast turnaround on some detailed credentials documents to squeeze a client into a pitch. When they trust our word and support us, it invariably leads to a far more productive project. Our most successful client of 2012 obviously trusts us implicitly, but the key thing they did from the start was trust us, sight unseen. We’re good at this and I hope our competitors are too. Don’t get in the way.

This might all seem like common sense, but often the temptation is to take far too long to create a 28-page PDF which spends an age describing your agency as an Integrated Product-Oriented Brand Development and Advancement Consultancy. And then you’ve gone and broken all three rules.