Are you making the most of the beginning of the year for your new business development or are you finding yourself a bit stuck when it comes to drumming up new clients or expanding scope with existing ones? Whether you are fielding new inquiries left and right or finding yourself in a big of a sales slump, Q1 is a great time to step back and evaluate your new business development strategy. Why not try something new this year and step out of your comfort zone? Here are five ideas to help you recharge your approach and add the right kinds of clients to your roster this year.
Create a Dream Client List
As the owner of a new agency and a leader on the new business development committee at my last agency, it was and sometimes still is hard to make space between chasing leads and writing proposals to make sure your efforts are in service of the big picture - the kind of agency and client base you are trying to create. At the beginning of the year, my partner and I created a wishlist of five dream clients for our agency and I recommend you do the same. Dream big and to put those intentions down on paper. This exercise will not only focus your efforts, but help you refine your strategy and areas of focus.
Stop "Just Following Up..."
Remember that exciting new business lead that started with a great phone call or meeting, resulted in a pretty expansive proposal, perhaps another follow up meeting, and then...all contact with the potential client vanished into thin air? We all get busy, budgets shift around and big, bold ideas can get waylaid for the boring same old, so it's important to have a strategy in place for staying connected to your target contacts. After all, that person might still be interested and waiting for you to make the next move or hey did go with another agency but aren't happy with the results. Perhaps they've just been given marching orders for a big new product launch your call is perfect timing, this time. However, instead of sending an email "just following up" - try to add something of value to your next bit of outreach. Invite your potential client to an agency event with room to spare on the RSVP list, or shoot them a quick email with a relevant industry article you read recently that you think they would find valuable.
Have you ever pitched a long-term retainer or big project relationship to a potential client and gotten a counterproposal for a short term retainer or smaller project or event? Have you passed on opportunities because they don't fit your current marketing strategy and/or required compensation levels? Perhaps 2014 is the year to be open to creative ways of working with new clients. Sometimes, it is worth working with a new client on a short term project, if that client aligns with your bigger vision, or offers a business development tool (whether to build a case study for future client proposals, a change to do work in a target vertical, or to propose an expansion to the relationship after you deliver stand-out results). Sometimes, project work can be profitable if you price it appropriately and manage client expectations. And, if you met with a potential client who really wants to work with you but can't afford your monthly retainer, consider compensation with him/her a combination of trade/barter or an equity stake in the company. Be open to new possibilities this year, and you might just open the door to creative and profitable new accounts.
Let Referral Partners Know Your Needs
Building a network of referral relationships is a beautiful thing. Whether you decide to formalize referral agreements with agencies and likeminded professionals or simply work on an informal basis strengthening relationships with friends and colleagues in the industry, referrals are a useful tool for agencies hunting for new business. Reach out to people you know who work for PR agencies, creative agencies, stylists, retailers and other brands that are not in direct conflict with your business and ask them to update you on their target customer, latest case studies and news. And do the same for them. Early 2014 is a great time to let your referral partners know what makes a great client for your agency, as well as a few recent client highlights so that they can advocate on your behalf should they come across a potentially great fit. Through relationship building, my partner and I have created a web of trusted agency partners who are our go-to vendors for various services for our clients. Who is in your referral circle? When was the last time you sent a referral to someone and vice versa?
Be Generous with Your Time and Expertise
You're high school best friend's younger sister might not have the resources to hire a PR agency to help with her new womenswear boutique right now, but if you impart a few words of wisdom and a bit of a boost, when they DO receive funding, guess whom they will be calling first? Be generous with your time and expertise this year. It not only makes you feel good to give advice to brands starting out, but you never know who they know that will lead to fruitful relationships in the future. Think about brining on one account pro-bono or creating a content strategy where you share industry news through emails, webinars or a quarterly open house where you spearhead a discussion. I love advising new businesses on PR and marketing strategies simply because I respect the love and care they channel into their work. As a fellow small business owner, it makes me feel good to give back in some way and support budding entrepreneurs.
Where are you taking your new business efforts in 2014. How do you tend to new business opportunities?
Photo Credit: henryjose