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Not just in it to win it

Relationships are important in our family and social lives; they are also key in agency business. But what are the essential ingredients to creating long and sustained relationships? Relationships that are not just focused on immediate return. But those that can convert into long-term and significant business, which in turn can generate good will and referrals, as well as repeat business?

Other than excellent strategy, creative and execution, I believe that the most important ingredients to a relationship are having patience, demonstrating integrity and adopting a model that is based on trust.

Too often I meet with agencies whom believe that lead generation is about breadth and frequency, and is something to be garnered immediately. Well it isn’t.

The most valuable new clients – those that become long term clients – are attained through steady, not hasty, communication at the right stage. Communication that is sensitive and attuned to the priorities that the marketeer has within a business. The best relationships – like fine wine, or cheese, or most fine things in life – are developed over time.

sharegrid-474915-unsplashGaining a position of trust, and laying the foundations for a partnership attitude towards the relationship, is about getting the approach right from the outset. From your first communication, your first new business outreach and meeting, through to completion and servicing that client for the duration (which is hopefully long term).

It needs an outlook and approach which is focused on longevity and not short-term goals. That means research, qualification, attention to detail in the approach and using acute listening skills through the entire pre and post sales cycle. If your business gets this right, it will position itself amongst approximately 10% of the industry.

The other 90% of the 80,000 or so creative businesses in the UK, mostly rely on referral or on ‘spray and pray’ outreach, as one of my clients recently described the standard new business approach. This type of broad outreach or ‘cold calling’ is all about volume, not about focus. It is hard to develop a quality relationship with a prospect from this starting point.

Of course, some new business wins are instant and are about timing. But for the majority they are about actively listening, developing dialogue, establishing rapport, proving your agency’s worth. Therefore, the entire new business process should display and convey patience and respect from the outset. People engage agencies with a proven capability. That’s a given. You have to have a service that people can believe in and want to buy. But more important than this, is the reassurance of an approach that is considered and listens to the rhythm of the businesses/prospects that it is targeting. 

To apply this type of considered approach in a new business context, focused on longevity:  

  • First research, prepare and plan, just as you would if you were planning an existing client’s campaign. 
  • Remember to focus on what’s in it for the prospect, not what you think you want to sell to them. Too many agencies make assumptions about their offer and proposition. 
  • Ensure that you have understood their needs, qualify this understanding in your communications/interactions and stay tuned into their needs as they change over time.
  • Remember that a campaign/initiative isn’t a one-off. It needs to have a thought-out life cycle, with a reason to re-engage at regular intervals. Getting the above steps right will inform the how/why and when of re-engagement and will grow the prospect’s trust and confidence in your ability to add value to their business over the long-term.

Nothing puts a prospect ‘off’ as much as desperation. Have patience, prove you are in it for the long-term and you will ensure you win clients that want relationships that are based on partnership, rather than fly-by-night interludes, which can often prove regrettable in the cold light of day. 

About: Natasha Ellard-Shoefield

Natasha is Managing Director of The Hand and specialises in helping design agencies grow through the acquisition of new clients via a targeted business development strategy. 

Beginning with the creation of a strategic roadmap she creates commercially led achievable new business strategies for agencies. She offers agencies all levels of consultancy from the initial in-depth analysis of their agency strengths through to guiding them through the pitch process. 

She has ‘trained to train’ and offers coaching and sales & communications training to new business professionals, account management teams and agency owners.

Natasha is an accredited member of the DBA’s Experts Register

Image credits:

Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

ShareGrid on Unsplash




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