In our work helping creative agencies of all shapes and sizes to grow and build their new business pipeline, we at The Future Factory often find ourselves acting as a sounding board for our clients’ strategic headaches and pain-points. Regardless of size, discipline or years in ‘the industry’, we find that the same issues tend to arise time and time again.
Last month, we opened our doors for the latest instalment of its agency-growth sessions, entitled ‘Eat Sleep Pitch Repeat’ – an opportunity for agency directors to get together with industry experts to discuss a range of agency-growth and agency marketing topics.
Instead of the standard 'we speak, you listen' style presentation that our guests were probably used to, we stripped away the formalities, circulated the beer and nibbles, and gave attendees unrivalled access to five carefully chosen industry experts.
We addressed some of the questions driving agency directors around the twist when it comes to new business, pitching and growth. Here is a selection of the key questions posed – and a range of the expert answers provided:
What percentage of agency turnover should we be assigning to new business and marketing?
“For planning purposes I would assign between three and six per cent of forecast annual revenue on new business and marketing activity (excluding salaries).
“If you have a strong and established sales and marketing set up, then you can afford to be at the lower end of this scale to maintain your presence but if you are growing, or only just looking at dedicated marketing for the first time then I would advise looking closer to six per cent. Whatever budget you allocate, make sure your activity is planned and measured, as this will allow you to refine your budget as you go.” - Lucy Mann, founder of Gunpowder Consulting
When pitching, what percentage of the potential win budget should we be allocating to the pitch and how do we qualify the opportunity when invited to pitch?
“The big question is how much time we spend pitching, not how much we spend on one pitch. Lots of businesses feel better if they are always pitching so they pitch for everything. The best sales businesses qualify harder, pitch less, and win more business more profitably.
“Do we want it? Can we do it? Can we win it? Is it just a beauty parade? Honest answers to simple questions will help you pitch less. Only pitching for business you believe you will win and that fits with your strategy means you can set bigger pitch budgets.
“Tracking how much you spend is more important than the percentage you allocate. It helps you run efficient pitches. Efficiency might be dull, but it’s a good thing. It helps the agency believe in the value of its talent. This belief will win you more pitches.
“Oh, and don’t forget about the clients you already have!” - Jon Durrant, agency growth consultant
How do we get our account teams to contribute to lead generation and thinking about the new business pipeline?
“For starters you can suggest that your team download their LinkedIn contacts into a spreadsheet, and highlight five they think might be great contacts for the agency. You might be amazed at the contacts within your employees' network.
“Next suggest they try to arrange a coffee or introductory meeting between the agency heads and any agreed contacts. Offer an incentive (perhaps a meal out for two) for successfully arranging a meeting. Shorter term incentives for contributions to the new business process can be more effective than commission on business won which can seem out of their control or too long and slow to strive for.” - Dan Sudron, head of strategy at The Future Factory
What does a successful agency PR plan look like and how can we make it a reality?
“It’s important to ensure any PR plan aligns with the goals of the company – whether it's increasing new business or gaining greater reputation and industry recognition. Time is always at a premium for any creative agency, so planning ahead as much as possible is vital in order to ensure media exposure is maximised around a client launch, activity or announcement.
“Also, pay due consideration to the influence and reach of targeted social media activity. A good PR plan will integrate a sound social media strategy to complement more traditional forms of media to ensure communications and messaging is amplified as much as it can be.” - Tim Duncan, founder and director, TDCPR
What do the very best agency creds presentations and RFIs look like?
“They must be sleek and immaculate as a bare minimum! Perfect spelling, tidy layout and sharp images seem to not always be a given. Beyond that, personalisation goes a long way, and that can be in terms of overall style as well as content.Help a client to imagine working with you – let them see your office and your team – so that they can get a feel for your vibe and size.
“Finally, be concise, and try to limit yourself to maximum 15 pages. This will force you to be more creative in the way you communicate how perfect your agency is for the brand in question.” - Alex Sibille, managing director, The Future Factory
Our next agency growth session will take place on 4th November 2014. If you are interested in attending or finding our more please get in touch.
Alanna Curtin is head of events at The Future Factory, a London-based new business agency dedicated to supporting agencies in their quest for new clients and growth.