So often we work with agencies where the new business function pretty much works in silo from the rest of the agency, and then the MD gets frustrated when there’s a lack of results from the new business person or when the new biz person moves on.
New business is tough! It gets harder each year with companies blocking phone calls and email servers rejecting emails.
Please don’t just employ a new biz person or consultancy and expect them to be able to work miracles. Agencies that have a thriving new business culture find it much easier to win and convert new clients than those that don’t. The best new business strategies are shaped by their internal culture.
Here are some of our recommendations for building a thriving new business culture for your agency, some may be obvious but take a good, honest look at what you are doing and think about what you could change to make it work better.
1. Direct from the top
New business is the lifeblood of any agency and the direction of new business should come from the top. If the agency head isn’t spearheading and driving new business then how can you expect the rest of the agency to be interested in new business. Your new business person or team should report directly into the Agency head and the agency head should know at any time what initiatives are planned, what the new business pipeline is looking like and what the biggest hurdles are.
2. Celebrate the wins
Make sure you celebrate every win no matter how small. New business leads can take months, even years to convert. Have a system in place so you can track where the lead originally came in and make sure that the person who brought the lead in gets recognised and not just the winning pitch team. Also, don’t just leave the acknowledgement to actual client wins, recognise and acknowledge some of the achievements along the way.
3. Get the whole team involved
Incentivise the whole agency from receptionist through to Creative Director to bring in leads for your agency. They need to be agency brand advocates, always looking for new opportunities, always keen to spread the word about your agency and the great work you do. The incentives don’t have to be financial, in fact, it’s probably better to reward staff when they bring in a real business opportunity than when the agency actually wins a new client. Reward them in more creative ways, lunch with the CEO, or a late start for the person who bought in the most leads in a month for example.
4. Share the news – good and the bad
Have weekly Agency meetings where you update the team on the key new business initiatives, ask for ideas and update them on recent pitches – not just the wins but the losses too. Encourage staff to bring fresh ideas to the table.
5. Focus on building a strong agency brand
Even the best new business exec in the industry will have difficulty winning business if they don’t believe in the agency that they are working for. Spend time working on your agency proposition, for more insight on this, have a read of this blog post on agency positioning. Work on creating a strong, credible agency proposition and brand to be proud of. It will help your new business function immensely and not only that, the rest of the team will be proud to talk about who they work for and what the agency stands for when they are out and about. Make sure your agency proposition is clearly understood by everyone working at your agency.
6. Never stop creating great work
When you create something to be proud of, and that others admire, you’ll build loyal fans for life. Your staff will be proud to talk about the place where they work, they will want to help bring in more business, they will be motivated to help you grow, they will enjoy the shared success of the agency.
7. Invest and train
Finally make sure staff have the confidence to help in new business and give them the training and support they need. Identify the skills gap. Run skills training sessions in your agency which doesn’t have to be something you pay for but where other team members, your new business person, can share with the rest of the agency some of the processes and tactics behind new business. Encourage your team to attend external workshops and training sessions to further develop their skills, especially the account management team who should be confident in building and growing existing clients. The Agency Growth Academy which launched in 2018 is a perfect platform to build and hone new business skills and the DBA regularly runs great events and workshops.
8. Make sure you are set up for growth
As Niki Hurst-Smith, HR Consultant to agencies, highlighted in her LinkedIn article, if you want to ensure your agency is set up to grow sustainably, you need to have the right management structure in place across HR, Talent and New Business. Look at where your gaps are, where you want to be as an agency and have a plan for plugging those gaps. It doesn’t necessarily mean hiring full time staff, you can work with consultants, freelancers and/or part-time staff. What’s key is that you have the resources and structure in place to grow.