Who leads the agency business development leader?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Is your new business function bringing enough to the table?

In most agencies there is one lone person charged with bringing home the bacon and filling the pipeline with fresh new clients. Yes, many of the team will rally together and work late preparing for a pitch, several people in the team will attend chemistry meetings, well run agencies will have all account directors regularly communicating with their network and agencies of a certain size will have a dedicated marketing person. But if the efforts don’t result in bountiful wins, within a set timeframe, there is usually one person who will be held accountable.

Was it their plan that wasn’t right? Was it their effort? Was it the current market? Was it the agency’s offering? There are many factors to get right, and there is a lot of weight to be felt when you’re in a phase of the new business payoff not materialising.

For the agency owner, time is always a factor and there are never enough hours in the day. Despite knowing new business needs to be a high priority, the clients and staff who are there all day, every day, vying for attention will inevitably eat up any ‘spare’ time, whereas the marketing director who has never heard of your agency is not going to be shouting that you haven’t reached out to him or her. They can wait another day. And so the pipeline only gets attention when times are more desperate.

Many business development directors, while having incredibly strong client servicing skills and experience, come to the role without a clear toolbox, directly relevant training, or even a boss who knows where to start filling an agency pipeline. And even if you’re getting 8/10 elements of the new client dating process spot on, it only takes one of your competitors to be in a perfect storm of process, strategy and level 10 flirting to steal your future partner.

Best laid plans

While an effective new business plan is about regaining control of as many elements of the process as possible, and being more pro-active than reactive, there are nevertheless some elements that will always be out of an agency’s control. As such there will be moments when the person in charge will lose faith that their activity will indeed pay off. That the spell of silence will continue interminably.

In a role where success can feel sporadic and unpredictable there is an almost constant pressure on the leader, to both feed the agency team with the right kind of work to keep everyone engaged, and successfully feed the bottom line.

As the agency founder in charge of growth you often can’t share with your wider team that you’re worried and don’t know why you’re not winning new business at the moment. As the business development director you can’t tell your boss that nothing you’re doing is leading to the results you expected. It’s a tough place to be.

Having worked closely with 300 agencies over the past decade, business development and lead generation consultancy The Future Factory are bringing a solution to the industry. The Progression Sessions launch in January 2019 as a cross between a new business boot camp and a support group for agency heads in charge of bringing in new business.

The monthly face-to-face meet ups will have a strong focus on peer-to-peer learning and sharing experiences, as well as delivering tips & training, rapid problem solving and deadlines to ensure new business is won faster and with more confidence.

More details on The Future Factory’s Progression Sessions can be found here.

Alex Sibille is owner and managing director of The Future Factory

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