These are exiting times for people working in all forms of business – but particularly for us in the creative services industries. The enormous possibility of change offered by widespread broadband access to the internet and the new technologies it enables is a new “industrial revolution”.
I’d like to say that the internet changes everything. But that is not true.
Let me explain why.
I’ll begin with a digression. One of the really annoying things about the business development world is the fact that virtually nobody working within a biz dev role has actually been taught how to do their job. Most learn from others, who themselves have either taught themselves or learnt from others. It’s an inexact science but I’d like to bang the drum for a solid methodology that underpins how we go about finding new customers for our services.
I wrote a simple 8-Step methodology for business development. It is not original, but is an amalgam of all the best practices I have learnt during my career. And yes, since you ask I am one of those self-taught, read-in-in-a-book biz dev folk. But it does not have to be like that for you.
The point about having a method to follow is that it enables you to assess new tools and techniques and judge their utility against a fixed marker – the methodology. Social media and social marketing are new tools. I love new tools, tricks and techniques and exploring them is one of the more exciting parts of my work. How they work is not what I judge: how they support the methodology is far more important.
Let’s consider the principal social media tools in common use for business now: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, Forums, Ning Groups.
What are the key functions they can perform and how does this fit into the biz dev methodology?
Well all of them are clearly part of Step 1 “State your Business” – they allow you public space to say who you are and what you do. Therefore a definite tick in the box as we all need to be listed in the modern-day equivalent of printed directories and listings. So far, so good.
The other places where I see them working is in Step 2 Marketing Communications and Step 4 Profile Raising. If you can use social media to broadcast (or narrow-cast) your message to your target audience (Step 4) and get your business ‘noticed’ online in places where your specialist expertise is discussed (Step 2), then these are good supporting activities to add to your biz dev toolkit.
The place where I see the most benefit for agencies is Step 5 Relationship Development and Step 6 Creating Opportunities. Getting into conversation, albeit in a public forum, is the main way we sell our skills to potential clients. Sharing advice and having strong points of view will help your brand to get noticed. There are strong rules about ‘selling’ in these groups and so it’s important you understand the online rules of engagement. But I have clear evidence from my own biz dev for Creative Agency Secrets that a conversation started online gets migrated to a private channel and leads to face to face discussions that have brought us new business.
There are dangers with Step 5 because in the social media space, you frequently don’t get conventional data points for your database and I’ve written about how this may develop. Overall social media is good for biz dev – but plan carefully, budget for the work (particularly in time allowance) and be prepared for a long-term commitment. This new toolset is a must for all businesses and will be commonplace in the near future – see you online!
A blog about business development
Ever stopped to wonder why large and capable organisations rely on small agencies for key elements of their communications?
While we may think it is because of our individual charm and genius, corporates use agencies precisely because we are much smaller than they are and have ready access to a much wider base of experience.
Your prospective clients see you as having a massive advantage over their corporate team. You are far enough away to see the big picture more clearly than those doing the detail.
You regularly practice creative thinking, making connections others don’t make. You can wade through the data without drowning in it. You can compare and contrast with a wide range of experiences and, above all, you are not constrained by “accepted wisdom”.
They don’t want more knowledge. They have tons of knowledge. The best consumer organisations can profile and segment their customers in quite terrifying detail, through their in-house “insight team”.
What they crave from their consultancies is penetrating insights into their market. They dream of insights that no-one else has acted upon. Insights that they can use to engage their organisations, innovate their products and increase their profitability. Given how infrequently this happens to the average client, by coming with useful insights you won’t just brighten their day, you could make their year. You’re hired!
There are any number of classic “insight-into-action-stories”: First Direct seeing a market for people who don’t ‘do’ banking; Toilet Duck observing that people want to clean “under the rim”; Oral B that no-one knew when to change their toothbrush.
Any one of those insights may have been brought by an agency, in a pitch perhaps. None of them required vast data gathering resources or research departments. They are quite simply powerful insights companies could do something with.
And there is the key; winning pitches takes not just one but two useful insights.
Firstly you need insights into what their audience really needs and how to get it to them. The best insights are often the answers to, seemingly, stupid questions. Be like children; if they don’t understand a thing they keep asking questions until they do. It is said we should always ask ‘why’ five times to really get to the truth. You should do that with ‘how’ and ‘who’ too, until you find something really worthy of your clients’ attention.
But you also have to see clearly what the client can actually buy, what will really gain traction in their organisation, what is in tune with their corporate zeitgeist. Pre-pitching questioning is an art form in itself. Your curiosity builds rapport. Sensitive questioning lets you demonstrate both empathic understanding and rigorous analysis. Listening for symptoms and diagnosing causes, you should be like a doctor; getting to the problem behind the problem. In this way you will know, better than your competitors, what kind of solution the client can really use.
So don’t be like “them” when you pitch, be like you, and show them insights just this side of their wildest dreams.
Jonathan Hynes has been pitching for global corporate branding and marketing projects for over 20 years. A founder of several successful businesses, Jonathan is now an independent consultant advising agencies on their marketing processes and how to improve their pitching hit-rate.
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In house or out? It’s a question that many design companies are asking themselves, especially in the current recession where every penny counts. No studio can afford to pay people sitting around doing nothing.
A couple of recent quotes spring to mind ...
“We had to reduce staff numbers this year and rely much more on a collaboration and hiring for specific projects. It does require extra planning, but it has been very successful and the flexibility has helped in keeping payroll overheads down, It also concentrates the mind as to, what we go after and what we turn down. This will definitely be our business model for the future
“We see outsourcing more as our continuing model - rather than a recession fix.”
Many design companies refer to outsourcing as the Hollywood model, where you gather around you the skills needed to complete a project. How would this work for marketing and new business activity where a 24/7 hands on and intensive approach is recommended?
Larger design agencies can afford to hire permanent marketeers and should do so. However, as a result of the downturn there are more and starts up and competition for new business is intense. The need for ancillary support within these companies, becomes more acute. Many are now turning to New Business Agencies to support the marketing process, two days a week of marketing support can be the difference between success and failure.
For the smaller agencies, outsourcing of the new business and marketing function some times becomes a financial necessity - a big reduction in overhead, whilst be able to employ some highly experienced people. This makes commercial sense.
The arguments for outsourcing are strong ones. The financial one of being able to turn the tap on and off is one of the most important for business owners and managers - control of overhead.
Of course, as well as turning the tap off, it can also be turned to full flow by increasing investment at peak buying points in the year. Consultants are highly trained and experts in their field and more importantly are motivated to perform. Professional consultants do it for a living and stand or fall on the companies they work for.
Consultants become one of your team and work on sight, this way they get to experience the culture and creativity and atmosphere of the business they are selling and absorb the natural adrenalin of the business.
The recent rise in the number of New Business Development agencies serving the design industry is proof of the need for them as is their effectiveness in working in collaboration to create new business opportunities.
Peers de Trensé, Tapestry Consulting