I was once told by Lisa Colantuono of AAR Partners, that there were really only two sources of agency new business. The first, a personal referral or recommendation. The second, the timely approach by an agency. (Right client, right time, right message!).
I happen to believe that she is correct in what she said. When I thought about our conversation and began to consider why this might be the case, I discovered some key attributes that were consistent across the two sources. Interestingly, the common attributes are also synonymous with what the new business guru’s are currently espousing as the best practices of agency new business development.
It’s all about the client. It’s not about the agency and how great they are or what capabilities they may have. It’s about the client and the value proposition that the agency offers that client. Todd Knutson covered this point very well in his recent blog posting titled, ad-agency new business, first build a relationship.
Both sources help solve the client’s business/marketing problems. In each case, both sources have demonstrated either through the work they have done or the solutions they have suggested, that they have the insights, the ideas and the ability to help solve the client’s problems.
Results and performance. In the case of the referral, the recommended agency has obviously demonstrated the ability to deliver results in a current or past relationship. I am certain that the recommendation would not be forthcoming should this not be the case. For the timely approach, the agency must have adequately demonstrated or convinced the client that they have the track record and ability to deliver.
Relationship. Obviously, the individual providing the referral has, or has had, a positive relationship with the recommended agency. Inherent in a referral or recommendation is an element of trust and confidence. Conversely, when an agency makes the right approach to the right person with the right message, during the process they develop a confidence and a relationship with the prospective client, albeit still new and untested.
Agency/client relationships that ultimately lead to referrals develop over a period of time. Successful new business prospecting is also developed over time. It is seldom that an opportunistic, once off client solicitation will deliver a meaningful result or client opportunity.
It takes consistent effort, guided by a targeted and insight driven new business outreach program, combined with perseverance to ultimately succeed. This type of approach produces both great future referrals as well as successful proactive new business growth.