Should an agency in-house or outsource its business development?
In-house vs. outsourced?
It’s a question we get asked by agencies time and time again, no matter the age of the agency, its size or its discipline. It’s also a question that shouldn’t be answered lightly - with business development playing such a pivotal role in an agency’s growth, it’s important to get this right.
Based on The Future Factory's experience of helping over 300 different creative agencies with their business development, from plugging into in-house teams to help with training and recruitment, to providing an outsourced business development solution, they’ve put together four important considerations to help you make a well-informed decision.
Defining what you need from the process
Defining what you need will help define who you need.
If your new business process is missing a solid business development strategy, then whether you decide to in-house or outsource, you’ll need someone senior to be involved. Comparatively, if you need a big push on outbound communications, then the tenacity and enthusiasm of a junior business development person will fare better against the barriers, gate keepers and knock-backs which are part and parcel of that role.
If, as in most cases, you need a combination of both strategy and lead generation, then you’ll be looking to either make two hires or for a specialist business development partner.
One of the biggest benefits of working with a business development partner is access to a dedicated team of both senior and junior people who will have this delicate combination licked. This balance can be difficult to replicate in-house, with both shaping an agency’s strategy (such as their targeting and proposition) and understanding what type and amount of activity is needed from your lead generation person, taking a lot of trial and error.
Motivating someone in a ‘sales’ role
In-house, the average duration of a business development person is less than a year, with one of the main reasons for this being a lack of an understanding about how to motivate ‘sales’ people. Typically, the methods needed will differ from those used for the rest of your team, so if you’re looking to build (and retain) an in-house business development function, then you’ll need to figure out exactly what drives your people.
Firstly, it’s important to set measurable KPIs that steer them towards their targets and goals, as without these it can become easy to lose focus. Often agencies lack the knowledge and experience of setting KPIs for cold new business, so struggle to understand the best level to set them without making them either unattainable or just simply uninspiring - both limiting productivity.
Secondly, and what is rarely given enough attention, is the significance of culture as a motivator. Business development is a difficult and sometimes very frustrating role, however, being surrounded by others in your position and managers who can empathise with your position (such as in a business development consultancy setting) can really help to keep you on track, and rid the feeling of isolation that is often felt for individuals working in-house.
Investment in tools and personal development
Without investing in your business development manager’s personal development and tools such as trade press subscriptions, data, a CRM, LinkedIn sales navigator etc. you will struggle to ever unlock their full potential.
These things can soon add up and become costly, so if you’re an agency reluctant to invest in them, it can make outsourcing your business development – and these costs - look very attractive.
Specialist consultancies will not only understand the best training programmes and career progression structure for their managers but will also already have access to the tools needed (and the best ones at that), along with an understanding of the most effective way to use them to generate good quality new business opportunities.
It’s worth noting that the ‘best tools’ for an agency will differ depending on its discipline and the work it’s wanting to win. Meaning the chance of wasting money by investing in the wrong ones is eliminated when outsourcing, as consultancies such as The Future Factory already have plentiful experience trialing different ones.
Stretching your business development person too thinly
This is one of the biggest mistakes we see agencies make when they decide to in-house their business development. Rather than having a dedicated person doing outbounds (which is arguably the most challenging part of the job) they also task them with screening inbounds, RFP’s, marketing, pitches etc.
This is not using your business development person to good effect and will mean that new business is only really given full attention when everything else is quiet.
Outsourcing your business development (or elements of it) will separate lead generation from these other aspects and stop the feast or famine situation, giving you the best foundations to deliver new business success.
While nothing is black and white, from our experience we typically say that in-housing is usually better suited to large agencies who have the resources, money to invest in tools, and a need for multiple full-time team members performing different functions.
For smaller agencies, getting regular attention from a strategic lead, knowing that motivation and training investment are taken care of, that lead generation efforts are consistent, and that you’ll see results rapidly from a tried and tested process, all for what would be the salary of one mid-level person in-house, is often the right route.
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The Future Factory
With a mix of lead generation, board level consultancy and coaching, we help to make the future more predictable for agency Owners, Founder and Directors. www.thefuturefactory.co.ukFind out more