The BD100


Founded: 2017


New Business
New Business Agencies
Business Development

Sector Experience

Business to Business

BD100 2019: Natalie Richardson Pitch

2 August 2019 9:57am

What’s your job title?

New Business and Marketing Director

Which agency do you work for?


How have you found business development over the last 12 months?

It’s been interesting - personally, we’ve had a really successful year for new business and have welcomed a number of brilliant clients to agenda21, such as Avon, PedalSure, Little Dish and Norwegian Cruises. However, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around and clients have been cautious in their appointment of new agency partners. On several occasions, clients have changed their mind mid-pitch on what they’re looking for, reducing scopes and being unclear on budgets. It’s meant we’ve had to adapt to a new norm where we essentially expect this to happen, meaning we are now much more agile and flexible to be able to meet these changing, and sometimes short notice, needs. But of course, we must build a sustainable agency business model. The best clients also understand this, but it’s a big challenge to keep a balance.

What have been your highlights over the last year?

One highlight is agenda21 winning what is now the agency’s biggest client at the back end of last year. Unfortunately, the contract with them means I’m unable to say who it is but it’s a very large international business with many products across many sectors. We plan and buy all their digital media in over 30 markets, all run centrally from our London office. The pitch took 6 months from brief to starting to transition them into the agency and when the client told us we’d won I very nearly burst into tears in front of them. They are one of the nicest clients I’ve had the pleasure of pitching for – and when you work with clients like that in a pitch process, it just makes new business even more rewarding. Oh, and the celebratory mid-morning beans on toast in a local pub afterwards with my boss ranks right up there too!

What do you think is the most important trait of a successful business developer?

Briefs these days tend to be quite complex. Sometimes written by several people and often a bit muddled. But every new business brief has something hidden so it’s really important to ask lots of questions and listen but not just listen, really listen. It’s about what’s beyond the brief, all the things, big and small, that matter to a client and why they are so important to them. Only by understanding that, can you work out if we’re the right fit for a client, prioritise what they’re looking for and build something that helps the address their real needs, not just what’s written in an RFP. In short, if you just answer the RFP, you won’t win.

What one thing is vital to you doing your job effectively?

Resilience or as I prefer to call it ‘bouncebackability’. I’m sure many of my fellow business developers will agree when I say new business can be a rollercoaster. You have to be able to take some knocks along the way. It’s ok to be sad, upset, angry, distraught or just downright gutted when you don’t win a piece of business you’ve worked so hard on. What’s vital though is being able to get up, dust yourself down, learn from that pitch and get back on it. I find this is where having a solid new business plan really helps to re-focus the mind when new business life can become turbulent.

Who has been the biggest influence to you over the last 12 months and why?

I’d have to say Pete Robins, one of the founding partners at agenda21. He is refreshingly honest in his approach to new business and has this way of cutting through all the noise to really get to the heart of a client problem. His approach has really made me appreciate that new business is all about winning people, not businesses. And those people have to be the right fit for each other for it to really work.

What is your secret to success?

Getting others involved in new business. Yes, it absolutely needs a strong leader to direct and guide, work out the priorities, but it isn’t a one-person / one-team function. A pitch is like telling a story and you need to keep telling that story throughout the whole relationship, across the whole team, from the very first call or email, to the first time a client visits our offices right through to commercial conversations and the onboarding process. The whole agency has to be involved in making that a success.

How do you unwind after a busy day of new business?

With a boxset on Netflix or a good book, something gritty that I can get lost in.

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new business
business development