The Biz Dev 100: Kate Barker, business development manager, Start

Kate Barker

Welcome to The Biz Dev 100, powered by The BD 100, which aims to recognize and celebrate important role played in the media and marketing industry by those who source and bring in new customers and keep the fortunes of businesses on track.

Below is Kate Barker, one of those at the top of their field who work in the UK biz dev sector.

Name: Kate Barker

Job Title: business development director

Agency: start

What were your highlights of last year?

When I started at 18 Feet & Rising at the beginning of 2017 (before joining start in April this year) we had a newly formed pitch team, who had great talent, but we were still trying to find their groove in the pitch room. We were honest about our missteps, worked incredibly hard to find our rhythm and pushed when things weren't good enough. It paid off, by December we had doubled new business revenues and brought transforming clients to the agency with a new found confidence. The other big highlight was seeing the amount of talent and passion that the creative teams brought not only to pitch work but to all aspects of business development from a brand new website design to beautifully creative RFIs. To me, it confirmed that business development really does feed off an agency's genuine passion to do great work and the investment of time to make that great work possible. As an agency, you really do have to pull together and give everything to the pitch process. If you don't, you bet your bottom dollar there is a competitor agency who will (and they will eat your lunch and quite possibly your dessert too.)

What has been your most memorable win - and why?

Winning the global Popchips account at 18 Feet & Rising in 2017 was fantastic. It was the first pitch I'd ever run as a deep dive client workshop versus a traditional presentation. Rather than present a solution to the brief, the immersive day really showcased how we'd work with the Popchips team on a daily basis to deliver great strategy and creative. The competition for this client was fierce, so it was an affirming win for the agency. Not only is Popchips a fantastic and brave brand to work on, but winning, opened the door for 18 Feet & Rising to working to work on global briefs for the first time.

How would you describe your approach to business development?

For the lion's share of my 20s I was a cabaret performer, running my own business writing, producing, and promoting my shows. Business Development is such a multi-faceted role and the discipline and skills I learned running my own company, really helps me keep focused on keeping the metaphorical plates spinning. I believe that business development is one of the most exciting and creative roles in any company and you have to have the dedication of an entrepreneur to make it work. As an artist, you've got to go out on stage every night, give your best, succeed or fail to win the audience, learn either way and do it all again even better the next night. If that isn't a metaphor for new business I don't know what is. In this industry, you have to have a hunger to learn and grow, and even if you fail, you need to get back on that stage.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

As a native Geordie the saying 'shy bairns get nowt' has always resonated. Which in lay terms means that if you don't speak up and take risks you aren't going to get what you want or need. Business Development isn't a place for wallflowers, especially as a woman dealing with a lot of largely male stakeholders and senior clients.

What would be your number one tip to anyone starting in business development?

A large part of business development is creating inbound inquiries, therefore, a firm grasp of how your owned channels are performing is key. Anyone who can join my team with a great knowledge of analytics and fresh, strong ideas on how to create engaging content for B2B channels will be always be valued.

What is your new business soundtrack?

Early 80s Studio 54 disco, like Rick James or Donna Summer for late night pushes, and for getting a good confident stride on your way to client meetings. It's almost impossible to be sad listening to disco.

Brands looking to appoint a new agency should look to The Drum Recommends for help. The Drum Recommends offers reviews of agency partners by their own clients to offer insights to the rest of the industry when hiring.

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