Finding and winning business is the ever-present elephant in the room for those working in the creative agency world. And it comes with no small amount of teeth-gnashing, as agency business development people try to get through closed doors and make an impressive first impression while prising open tightly-knotted purse strings.
But help is at hand, as Manchester creative agencies – PR, advertising and digital – were treated to a business development makeover with the help of The Art of New Business initiative last night.
Deftly delivered in two halves, the event split into client-side managers sharing their views on the good, bad and ugly of agency new business approaches, alongside agency-side practitioners showing what had the made the difference in growing their businesses.
On the client-side panel, we had:
- Matt Walmsley, Commercial Manager, BOC
- Mat Finch, Head of Sales and Commercial, Bourne Leisure (ex. Dell, Google)
- David Buchanan, ex. Marketing Manager, The Sutton Group (Wynsors World of Shoes)
- Tony Spong, AAR
And their advice to agencies about how to stand out from the crowd was direct and no-nonsense:
- Ask more questions!
- Tell us what you know about us.
- Give examples of how you can help.
- Discover – find out what’s important to us.
- Learn about our business – make yourself credible
- Come with a relevant opinion about us – we’ll be more likely to listen.
- Network and build relationships that can last a lifetime.
- Target managers lower down the chain – get in on ground level.
- Ask your clients who they can refer you to.
- Don’t forget, clients are looking at the market too – what will they find out about you?
And when it came to the topic of agency credentials, Tony Spong grabbed the microphone with the frenzy of a man who would clearly opt for Chinese water torture rather than listen to another mind numbing creds presentation. Dispense with the predictable and focus, is his advice, on “what’s your story?”; be brave, be clear and come quickly to talking about what agency and client can do together.
From the agency side, Adrian Lomas of digital agency, Blueleaf, spoke of having a “clear map and compass” that guides your business and helps inform the right decisions. In Blueleaf’s case, its mantra is “What would the best digital agency in the world do right now?” Chris Marsh of Melbourne Server Hosting showed how building a family culture with staff – and a stimulating working environment – rubbed off onto client relationships, giving them complete peace of mind about the commitment of their supplier. The “creative entrepreneurs” approach taken by Simon Calderbank of Studio North is more about finding the right clients and rejecting the wrong clients than taking on business at any price and finding companies that can relate to the agency’s “DNA, values and aspirations”. Former McCann boss, Brian Child, put it simply: “You will lose every account”; hence the “obsession” anyone running an agency needs to have about new business development.
As Sarah Bradley from event organisers and new business consultancy, Acquire, said: “With marketing your business, there is no magic bullet – you have to do everything!”
STOP PRESS: Digital Marketing consultant, Mark Kelly, has blogged even more great tips for business development from The Art of New Business event and a Manchester digital event.