Your Perfect Partner will Find You

The heart shaped chocolate boxes, the exquisite red roses, the abundance of mostly soppy cards radiating love vibes (which made it tiresome for me to buy a stack of birthday cards yesterday) – yep, I am the Valentine’s day equivalent to Scrooge at Christmas.  But hey, all is not lost, as my theory is that THE right one, that special one, will find you – at least in the context of new business coupling and romance. But we do need to apply ourselves to ensure that the magic happens, that we make ourselves irresistible, literally. So how do we do this? Well for a start, we’re very specific; we don’t have the time for false starts or failed romance. We say who we are, (and by inference, who we are not), what we do – and we imbue it with some passion. What sets our pulses racing? And what we say might not appeal to everyone, and that’s just fine. We just hone in on what makes us different, and valuable, namely our expertise. Language is important here, it always is. It conveys a sense of personality. Here’s one that does it for me, exploiting a creative positioning, based in…

The Answer is ‘Why?’

First, a big thank you to all those who came to our Early Worm Club, where the subject in the spotlight was “How Compelling Is Your Value Proposition?”  Contrary to what some, apparently, had feared, this was not a ‘name and shame’ exercise, far from it.  It was a stress test, posing those questions which allow you to assess just how good your proposition is, or could be. Judging from the turnout, it appears that this is a subject that vexes many bright and curious minds; those who appreciate its importance and have spent many hours/days/months trying to create that hook, that succinct and powerful value expression, that will get you noticed and help attract the right kind of clients to your agency – which we identified as just two of the measures of success. What we discovered along the way is precisely that – ‘what?’  There’s simply too much of it around.  Many agencies position themselves too broadly, failing to stake their claim in a specific area of expertise.  So, they all start to sound the same and use near-identical generic language.  In the absence of a clear proposition, they default to the ‘what’ they do, a description of…

Harnessing the Power of your Value Proposition – from Content Creation to Thought Leadership

Putting together a content marketing strategy is a far simpler exercise once you’ve defined your value proposition, as this provides the organising principle around which your marketing programme will revolve. Most agencies create a mountain of content on a monthly basis, including credentials, presentations, showreels, newsletters and reports. The objective is most often to showcase and underscore our expertise to clients and for the New Business Director, prospects –embedded in which is a subtle, or not so subtle, ‘sell’. Thought Leadership is different. Thought leadership sits at the pinnacle of the content marketing, although it often seems to me that the two are used interchangeably. For me, thought leadership is a big, audacious and visionary long-term goal, which seeks to challenge prevailing ideas that shape an industry, effecting behavioural change. Therefore it comes as no surprise that those companies that rank most highly are Apple, Google, Amazon and John Lewis*, the latter championing a business model which has captured the zeitgeist – and done it well, as its reputation and sales testify. These leaders continue to innovate and by so doing build trust, authority and reputation, the hallmarks of the successful thought leader. Importantly, thought leadership does not have the…

YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION: IS IT GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN NEW BUSINESS?

So now we’ve landed in the New Year, how are you going to position your agency in the drive to win new business? A good place to start is by framing this question within the context of who you are and how you create value for your clients.  It’s arguably the most important question you, the agency, has to answer, allowing you to occupy a unique place in the mind of your prospective clients. Let’s not forget, if we ever can, that our marketplace is crowded and hugely competitive. This means that your value proposition has one clearly defined objective: to reduce the competition and by so doing reduce the prospect’s hiring options. Some agencies find defining their value proposition difficult, so they default to the generic and descriptive – what they do – without establishing any clear point of difference or benefit, therefore failing to raise themselves above the mass of competing agencies, along the lines of the following: “cross platform media solutions…” “creating extraordinary experiences…” “global full service digital marketing…” “integrated marketing solutions…” What we tend to see is often uninspiring, and one salient point is hard to ignore – the fact that most agencies position themselves too…

IT’S THE TIME FOR PENGUINS AND NETWORKING

Yes, it’s here. John Lewis tugging at our heartstrings with a poignant tale of a lonely penguin, inducing feelings of warmth and love which we can then bestow on others with a suitably gorgeous trinket. It’s the battle of the Creatives as they vie for our increasingly worn sensibilities, and wallets. Yes it’s here: the glitz, frenzy and sensory overload of the festive season. The festive tradition continues with a slew of invites to party, drink and practise the delicate art of balancing a wine glass with nibbles on a plate. For the ever-vigilant new business professional, always with an eye for the opportunity, this is more than a Christmas warm-up – it’s the chance to network. It seems to me that you’re either born to network, or you have to work at it, either way, here are some tips on how to make the most of it, and make it through to the other side. What is successful networking? For us in new business, it’s largely about developing professional relationships which could ultimately lead to referrals and new business opportunities. But shift the perspective a little and there is arguably a more enjoyable and valuable way to meet and…

TIPS FOR CREATING THE PERFECT CHEMISTRY

Winning Hearts and Minds The good news is that you’ve got your first date, so how do you create a frisson that will leave the client wanting more? After all, you’re looking for a longer- term commitment and they’re checking out whether you’re the one to commit to, so it’s a serious business. So serious in fact that a chemistry meeting is effectively a pitch. There may not be a brief as such, but the deal is that you commit to it in the same way. That means the same application of thought, creativity and planning if you’re to progress to the next stage. It’s also about the fine art of balancing salesmanship with the need to be authentic, engaging and, ultimately, personable. After all, this is what chemistry is all about, an engagement of both the heart and the mind. Five tips to help create the right chemistry: 1.  Research your attendees With so much data available, it’s easy to build an extensive profile of the clients’ experience, previous agency relationships, published opinion pieces, profiles in trade and/or business press. 2. Field the right team Your team should comprise people with relevant experience and ideally mirror theirs, taking into…

AGENCY HEALTH WARNING: WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SELLING

Sales. What a dirty word.  No one likes to be thought of as a salesman, yet “selling”: the persuading-the-client-to-hire-us-rather-than-our-competitor (who is probably equally talented) is what we all have to do, in the constant battle between our wits and the client’s money, in order to thrive and grow. Only if you try to adopt the honed tactics of, say, car salesmen, you will fail, because what they are selling and consequently how they have to sell it, is sufficiently different from our services to mean that an entirely different approach is needed. Fortunately, if you sell your services properly, it doesn’t feel like “selling” at all – to you or to your client. Where there are similarities between us and our automotive friends however, is that clients are becoming increasingly demanding, technology is changing the shape of the market constantly, and competition is hotting up. So if you want to be one of life’s winners in this commercial world, you had better master the right sales approach, quickly. The starting point is to really, truly understand what makes clients buy and what turns them away. Whilst theoretically this is something agencies understand better than almost anyone else, in practice too…

HOW TO GET PROCUREMENT FRIENDLY

Over recent years the Procurement department has become more and more involved in pitching and agencies have had no choice but to engage.  However, procurement need not be an inconvenience, or worse still an enemy to your pitch success! Often, procurement’s battle is internally with their client, not necessarily with you as an agency. On a well-run pitch, your procurement client won’t be making the final decision, but will be fundamental in the commercials.  So don’t lose focus on your marketing clients during the pitch process but do engage with procurement as soon as possible.  Also consider involving your Commercial Director or Finance Director as soon as possible to start building that relationship.  The same rules of pitching apply; the client(s) might just be a little different. Also consider tactics with your Commercial Director or FD.  Undoubtedly, the role of procurement is to get the best value from their agencies.  The best value usually means driving down your prices as much as possible.  But you should remember that not all brands have marketing procurement specialists and so they may not fully understand what they are buying. Part of your pitch is to involve them and give them as much helpful…

NEW BUSINESS COMES DOWN FROM THE TREES

One of the significant evolutions we’ve seen over the last 10 years is not ‘how’ the most successful agencies win new business but ‘who’ does it. It used to be the noble pursuit of a dedicated few in every agency – fearless, tenacious and invariably over-committed to the Agency cause.  New Business teams, led by New Business Directors, sitting in New Business Departments.  That’s not to say that they don’t now exist, or indeed have become obsolete, but that the responsibility for new business in these high performing agencies has expanded way beyond these few brave souls. Something has changed. There has been a cultural shift; to a greater or lesser degree new business has become everyone’s business. Not just a few eyes and ears on the ground to spot and develop opportunities and not just a few pitch gurus but a bench full. Perhaps the most interesting insight to be drawn from this agency-wide approach to new business is that any agency can have it. You don’t have to wait until you have reached a critical mass to be able to afford to invest in a dedicated new business function. Fundamentally it is about leveraging more effectively what you…

HOW TO CREATE A WINNING NEW BUSINESS PLAN – PART TWO

The starting point for creating a successful new business plan, is the business plan – the vision and ambitions for your agency as articulated by its senior management. As I explored in my last blog, this is vital as it will shape your objectives and secure the commitment and on-going support of those at the top. In order to fulfil these objectives, the skills needed are many and varied: commercial, organisational, intellectual, managerial, interpersonal and, let’s not forget, creative. Creative because you are charged with communicating the agency’s story, a compelling narrative which resonates, emotionally and rationally, amidst the competing agency noise. That’s quite a task. You’ll have to ask yourself this question: what is it about our story that makes it fresh, engaging and unique? The clues may lie in your history, case studies, research, innovations, great clients and terrific people – all of these provide a rich and valuable source for content marketing, in many forms, across the multiple channels now available. In pursuit of the holy grail of differentiation, there is an equally compelling element of your story that needs to be told – your personality, philosophy and culture. What do you value and believe in, what…

Perfecting Pitch Skills

Perfect timing. I’ve just emerged, blinking, from a roller coaster pitch ride, ready to impart a snapshot of my recent learning. As a seasoned pitch veteran, what my experience has taught me is this: there is a holy trinity of successful pitch skills, namely leadership, talent and process. Along the way, I’ve found that some things remain the same, yet each client, brand and agency team presents a series of unique and exciting challenges. The holy trinity is, however, a constant. What remains the same? To a large degree, this is the process itself. We’re talking about nailing the schedule of events, the all-important ‘to-do’ list. It ranges from knowing and analysing the brief well enough to recite it in your sleep, to timetabling deadlines for all the deliverables- and sticking to them. For some, this is a learning curve, but once you’ve successfully navigated the curve, next time up, the journey should be smoother. Talent – intellectual and creative, is embedded in an agency’s DNA. The fine art of pitching demands that this collective talent is applied to what is often a business issue not encountered before, and that insights are gleaned speedily which then inform strategic and creative…

HOW TO CREATE A WINNING NEW BUSINESS PLAN – PART ONE

Here’s the thing: if an agency doesn’t grow, it dies. The commercial imperative is for forward motion, never more so than right here, right now. The industry and technology are changing at an unprecedented rate and change (as well as necessity) is the mother of invention. Those agencies that succeed have strong leadership and a compelling vision of what the future might hold – how they can lead the change and create opportunities for competitive advantage. So, it starts with a vision and it starts with a plan. Success is about the execution– and this means you and the agency team. This vision, these goals, are the pivot around which your new business strategy and effort revolves, so make sure you’re engaged and involved as you will be accountable. That said, new business, whether proactive or organic, is everybody’s business – it’s a collective effort and an agency priority. You, however, will be at the sharp end when senior management comes to call. So first up, what’s the vision and the plan? Here’s a snapshot of what you need to know. Market intelligence A thorough market analysis will identify both threats and opportunities for growth. Conduct a forensic examination of…

Using brain power to drive your pipeline

jfdi recently ran a successful new business seminar in association with The Drum. Entitled ‘Marketing to Marketers’, I was asked to present on thought leadership, which in this age of inbound marketing is increasingly valuable in achieving that prized goal – a burgeoning new business pipeline. So, what is it? We usually understand the term to mean an individual or organisation recognised as expert in a particular field, challenging industry norms, whose views are sought after and rewarded. Most importantly, a thought leader is a trusted source, something that’s in short supply these days as news headlines testify. I would argue that thought leadership sits at the pinnacle of the mountain of content produced by agencies every day. It’s weightier, has more gravitas and at its core is one essential truth: it drives positive change in both the attitude and behaviour of its stakeholders. Most often, those businesses that can lay claim to it have their finger firmly on the pulse of the societal and economic zeitgeist. Therefore it’s no surprise that those that lead the way include numerous tech companies (Apple, Google) and others which present a voice of authenticity and innovative working practices (John Lewis). Whilst many agencies…

Organic Growth – Plan Don’t Pray

Your agency is at least 5x more likely to win new business from your existing clients than new clients. And yet, most agencies fail to approach this significant area of potential growth with the same rigour and vigour as a new client opportunity. Moreover, it’s not a choice – given the first 6-12 months of any new client revenue will be offset against the cost of winning it, you will only achieve profitable growth if you can successfully grow your new business wins into established, long-term, growing clients. Last week, JFDI’s Mark Clark delivered a webcast on this very subject. Here are the 10 top tips for New Business people who want to engage their client leaders /Account Directors in growing their Agency’s existing clients : Firstly, help them recognise the importance of New Business to the Agency. Tell them if they have any aspirations to lead an agency one day, they will need to be able to grow one! It is definitely in their interest to develop these skills. Secondly, you need to give your client teams insights into the New Business market place so they know what the Agency is up against. Next, it is important to share…

HOLD THE GRAVY!

It’s always good for trainers to be compelled to practice what they preach.  I found myself doing just that in the run up to last Thursday’s Early Worm Club, at which I was to give a presentation about giving brilliant presentations.  No pressure there, then! This subject is, of course, my bread and butter and my passion, and I love talking about it, but I was faced with the prospect of condensing what would normally be a four- or six-hour course, into 70 minutes.  Not an easy task but one which the people I train also face on a regular basis.  How neat, then, for me to have to implement the key skills I teach.  I began with thorough audience planning which is, of course, the starting point for any piece of communication but especially so for a presentation; I worked my way though my preparation ‘road map’ and finally arrived at a set of tips, stories and examples which would be relevant to that particular audience on that particular day.  But working out what’s relevant and engaging is only half the story.  There must follow a ruthless session with the paring knife/red pen, to condense, tighten, finesse, trim.  And…

Is your New Business Director the key to getting your agency ready for sale?

In our first webinar “Creating a business with value” we heard from Julian Davies from Redfin, a business growth consultancy group with specialist expertise in our sector, on how to build your business to command the best sale value. Aside from the insight into just how a business’s value is quantified (a remarkably accessible mathematical formula), we learned about the six pillars of an agency that must be strong in order to command the best price from your buyer: Positioning and profile Client acquisition Client retention Process and delivery People management Commercial management It struck me how much the role of new business impacts directly on these pillars. Excluding ‘people management’, perhaps, new business and marketing directly affects the strength or weakness of the remaining pillars: Positioning and profile: communicating a distinctive positioning with a relevant benefit to clients, along with increasing the profile of your management team is always a priority on the to-do list of a New Business Director. Client acquisition: the heart of our role. Having a buoyant pipeline and high conversion rate is the ultimate goal of any new business professional and reduces any perceived risk in the eyes of a potential buyer. Client retention: One…

DON’T FORGET YOUR COMPASS

Writing this blog presents itself as a challenge. Honing new business skills, that’s so much territory to cover, like undertaking an expedition (and making sure you don’t forget the compass). Like all great expeditions, there’s planning, there’s process and there’s a team. If new business is the beating heart of any agency, it can never be a solo effort – “we’re all in this together” (yes, really), is the mantra of the successful company. Let’s start this journey at the beginning, with your company proposition: who you are, what you are, and where you want to be. Nailing the proposition is not always easy, but the payback is immense. I’ve recently completed this exercise with a client, and the feeling is liberating, what’s more, it’s like cracking your genetic code, so you fully understand what and who you are. I coupled this with work drawn from the mighty marketer Jim Stengel, with the aim of defining the greater company purpose – a unifying principle that informs the company’s strategic direction and culture. Thinking about why your company exists certainly focuses the mind. Establishing your proposition requires input from the senior management team; everything then flows naturally, providing a clear direction…

VESTED INTEREST

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford These days, I encounter fewer New Business Careerists, many often coming from other areas of a business. In actuality, and as a careerist myself, there are very few new business tasks that can be performed solo without input from other departments in the business or people with specialist skillsets. Of course, someone needs to be in the driving seat and be made accountable but the scope of new business is vast. It covers areas that every single person in your company could, and should, get involved with. For a new business programme to thrive, it needs to be embraced by everyone. This is why it is important to share the new business and marketing plan with your whole business, even if it’s just the edited highlights. Everyone needs to know the goals you are working towards and get behind them. It also means that you can start to spread the load, giving people specific objectives that they can be measured against. By involving more people you are also likely to get a fresh perspective on various aspects of your strategy such as client intel, prospecting…

HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PRESENTER – USE MORE C WORDS

25 years working in the high pressure environment of live television and 20 years training people in presentation skills have given me more than a passing interest in the concept of confidence.  Rather like cellulite – another C word – it’s a mysterious and perplexing issue to which at least half the population is seeking an answer.  If I did a word search on my hard drive, this word (confidence, not cellulite) would undoubtedly come top. What I’ve learned through personal experience and through training others is that there are other C words tied up with confidence, and the key one is control.  What this means is (a) being in control of your environment and the practical things which might trip you up (technology, transport, logistics); (b) being in control of yourself (understanding your own performance strengths and weaknesses and putting in place strategies and techniques for enhancing/combating them); (c) being in control of your content (here’s another vital C word which comes from thorough audience research, rigorous editing of your material and clarity of message), and (d) as a result of the above, being in control of the audience.  This is the Holy Grail for any presenter in a…