With (literally) hundreds of approaches every few days, it’s increasingly hard for agencies to connect and even ‘wow’ brand-side marketers. So we set ourselves the task to simply ask the question of senior marketers – “how do you like to be approached by agencies?”
What we discovered was a treasure trove of themes, tips and advice for agencies, right from the horse's mouth (so to speak). We packaged these gems up into a series of video interviews to share practical guidance for agency owners looking to stand out and achieve cut through in their new business outreach.
The days of cold calling and cold emailing are well and truly over. It’s important to remember that your prospects are just people – people who go to work every day with the goal to make their brands famous.
At the end of the day people buy services from the people they want to work with and with whom they can see themselves building trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. This being the case, new business needs to be an exercise of building and nurturing relationships rather than hunting for a quick win or open door.
And the best way to start a new relationship is to offer something of genuine value, something that has been reassuringly confirmed through the interview series. If you can offer something of real value, your future client will reciprocate with an openness to communicate their current situation, challenges and opportunities to work together.
Below is a recap of some of the key themes that came from the video series. While some aren’t revolutionary in nature, it’s a good reminder of the things that really matter to your prospects – a chance to step back and challenge yourself on just how well you’re executing your new business strategy.
1) Differentiate, succinctly
We see a lot of agency websites and propositions – even if you think you’ve nailed what makes your agency different from the other 30,000 agencies in the UK – I challenge you to strength test it again. All too often we see amazing agencies fall into the trap of not truly differentiating.
What you’re looking for is a point of difference that succinctly demonstrates how your offering will benefit your future client. Simple right? Not always. Things such as ‘our people’, ‘our current clients’, ‘our creativity’, ‘our processes’ and other ‘features’ of your agency aren’t a point of difference – they’re a necessity and therefore assumed. To rise above the noise you need to step out of your own shoes and into your prospects. Truly understand their needs, then align your point of difference with this.
2) Be relevant
A lot of agencies can tick the ‘credible’ box, but do you truly tick the ‘relevant’ one? From our interviews it seems that many agencies are still simply walking prospects through creds and describing their services offering (“we do everything from digital to social, PR to Experiential. We can do anything you need!”). This generic approach does nothing to establish a genuine relationship or differentiate your agency from the homogenous haze that the agency landscape can look like from a client’s perspective.
Prospective clients respond better to insight on the issues that are important to them, which in turn advertises the true value you can provide as an agency. It also shows that you’re already up to speed with their industry which is an attractive quality for senior prospects that are too time poor to train a new agency up. Most prospects will have experienced the frustration of working with an agency that ‘just doesn’t get us’ and will look for signs of this early on in the selection process.
3) Put a consistent narrative at the heart of your approach
We can’t stress the importance of consistency enough! I’m sure you’ve said it a million times to your own clients, but do you practice what you preach? New business isn’t something that can be turned on and off. Consistency of your brand messaging, tone of voice and frequency of communication is key to ensuring that your prospects can easily recognise you and more importantly what you stand for.
If your new business efforts are sporadic and you look (and talk) like a different agency every time they hear from you, it’s difficult for your prospect to understand how they might work with you.
4) Speak their language
Personalised, well thought through communications trump generic messages every time. Achieve the personal touch through making reference to their recent campaigns, share ultra-relevant experience or interesting articles and insight that could help them solve a marketing challenge. As soon as they feel that the approach is one in a thousand and lacks personalisation, they pop you over in their ever-growing ‘pile of potential agencies never to look at again’. Craft a personalised offering and business case right from the very first communication to spark a two-way conversation.
5) Before you start writing an email…
Consider how your prospects might prefer to be contacted. Even though you’re reaching out to prospects in a ‘B2B’ context, your potential clients are, at the end of the day, just human beings. And not surprisingly, they all like to consume information differently. Some love to chat on the phone, others really don’t appreciate being interrupted with a call. In our video series many respondents mentioned that events that are insight-based (not a sales pitch) were one of the best ways to make connections with new agencies and most respondents appreciated thought leadership or research that related specifically to their industry or challenges.
6) Pump up the enthusiasm and preparation
This was one of the resounding takeaways from our interviews. So, you’ve managed to secure an hour with your potential new client, now it’s time to show (genuine) passion and interest in the future of their brand. We know it’s hard to carve out time in diaries leading into a new business meeting, but we guarantee uplift in conversion if you actively consider ways to really engage your prospect in the meeting. The agencies who do this best face-to-face always do the research and dig into the prospects’ brand – strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. They prepare a point of view on how the brand is performing and do the research on the category as a whole. They get in the room and only talk 20% of the time and they leave the room with enough insight to pull together a robust and convincing business case as to how they can help their future client overcome their challenges.
From the feedback we received it’s clear that new business has evolved. It needs to have relationship building at its core and be seen less as a straightforward sales exercise. If you focus on providing valuable and relevant insight to your potential clients they will be more likely to respond and appreciate the approach. We’re not saying it’s easy! But given the right level of attention and importance, it’s the difference between achieving sustainable growth and the agency plateauing.
We hope this guidance helps to shape your future growth strategy and enables you to have more meaningful interactions with the brand you want to work with.