Many agencies still operate their new business programs in outdated and inefficient ways. Too much time is spent running after clients who don’t want to hire your agency, and not enough time is spent planning and implementing marketing and sales practices that result in a predictable and sustainable pipeline of new clients and relationships.
This isn’t to say that you need to get rid of all your traditional practices — some are just here to stay. But you should be optimizing your new business efforts for prospects who are increasingly educated about their agency partner options, the services they want, and the results they expect.
We’ve put together a list of the best practices adopted by agencies who excel at bringing in new business, increasing the size of their client accounts, and retaining clients for longer. Follow these tips to build a successful new business and marketing program:
8 New Business Best Practices That’ll Win You More Clients
1) The agency employs a dedicated person for marketing.
Building demand for your agency is a full-time job. An agency’s reputation is how it gets more referrals — and therefore, more valuable leads and sources of clients.
The marketing director for your agency can’t be the fill-in person for when client demands become overwhelming and you need to boost capacity quickly. This person’s main responsibilities should be about building the brand of the agency and generating leads for your new business team. This could be through writing content for your agency’s blog or thought leadership to pitch to reputable industry publications, creating lead generation campaigns and sales enablement tools, applying for and writing decks for speaking opportunities, social media management, etc.
2) The marketing and business development teams have an SLA in place.
Alignment and collaboration between your sales staff and marketing team is essential. According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 report, companies with an active service level agreement are 34% more likely to experience greater year-over-year ROI than those companies that aren’t. And according to Marketing Profs, when sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.
An SLA ensures that both sides are accountable and they understand the goals, the definition of a lead, the target audience, and how prospects will be handled once they enter your marketing or sales funnel. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of both sales and marketing and prevents miscommunication, frustrations, and a loss of opportunity from occurring.
3) The agency has identified its ideal client.
Part of establishing your agency’s positioning and marketing plan should be analyzing and determining your ideal client — your best, most profitable clients. You want to attract more of this type of client through your marketing efforts. You’ll also use this information to create more targeted, relevant content, use this information in personalization, and use it to segment your email marketing list to deliver content and offers that matter to this type of client.
4) The agency maintains a healthy target accounts list.
Once you’ve established your ideal client profile, you should maintain a carefully researched list of clients who would be a perfect fit for your services. Maybe your firm has experience in the client’s industry, the company has reported on problems that align with challenges you’ve solved in the past, the company is of a specific size, etc.
This list shouldn’t be exhaustive. These are the clients you really, really want. Your new business director should be reaching out to contacts at these clients — or working toward making connections — on a quarterly or biannual basis. The marketing director should help with promotional materials and ways to attract more of these types of clients to your firm.
5) The sales team manages prospects in a CRM.
Are you still running your new business efforts from a spreadsheet? You’re not alone. In fact, HubSpot found that 46% of salespeople store lead and customer data in physical files, Google docs, and other “informal means” in addition to or in place of dedicated sales technology.
A CRM is about more than keeping things organized, though that’s definitely a benefit. Using a CRM has been found to make sales reps more productive, improve conversion rates, increase revenues and client retention, and improve the client experience with the company.
A CRM should be used in conjunction with a lead scoring system, where you set point values for demographic and engagement criteria that you’ve identified as either negative or positive. This will help you to improve your sales and marketing efficiency by focusing your new business time and resources toward clients who are more likely to convert.
6) The agency has an established qualifying process.
To increase your conversion rates and reduce the amount of time spent on proposals, your business development person should follow an established and repeatable process for qualifying prospects.
This requires the person to determine the budget, authority, need, and timeline (BANT, though there are other qualification frameworks) of the client by asking the right questions. It’s important that you are able to both identify the answers that identify great and bad fit clients. You also need to build a qualification process — the first “interview” shouldn’t be too detailed or get too personal. It’s about building a relationship while also gaining a better understanding of the client’s wants and needs and if and how your agency can help.
7) There are set goals for the new business program.
The most successful teams are those who set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) and continually work to achieve them — setting goals increases motivation and the level of achievement. Each year, audit your past marketing and sales performance, and create a new business plan for the next year. You goals might be centered around metrics such as new clients, revenue, meetings/calls booked, retention, proposal conversion rates, and leads worked.
This annual plan should also be useful for your marketing and sales staff members when getting a buy-in from leadership on the goals, activities, direction, and budget.
8) New business is seen as a team-wide activity.
Sales — while a “dirty” word in an agency — is a team-wide activity. Everyone needs to support the person bringing in new clients, and everyone should contribute to ideas for pitches, identify new and promising clients, and make connections or bring in prospects from networking events.
To make new business everyone’s concern, consider hosting a contest or awarding monetary prizes for those who helped win account — everything from contributing an idea to identifying the lead. Reward people for staying alert to the fact that you can’t grow or maintain an agency without sales.