By Ken Jacobs, ACC, CPC
Winning new business is one of the most important things you must do for your agency, whether it’s medium sized, small, boutique, or it’s just you and a partner. (Even if that partner might just be a dog.)
And one of the most important things you can do to win that business is to have a written business development plan. (You heard me!)
I’ve been sharing the “gospel” of the written plan with CAPRSA members for a number of years, via conversations, the Spring Conference Best Of Counselors Academy Pre-Con, and most recently, a Counselors webinar called “How To Start Winning More New Business, Now!”
During the webinar, a number of the attendees had wise answers when I asked “Why must you have a written business development plan?” Here’s a selection:
- “To keep us accountable.” Dory Anderson, Lemke Anderson
- “If you don't know where you're going you can't possibly know when you get there.” Mary Deming Barber
- “To set future direction of the firm” Todd Barish, Indicate Media
- “To set our strategy and work toward goals.” Natalie Ghidotti, Ghidotti Communications
- “If it's not written down, it's not going to happen!” Chris Kuban, Chemistry Multimedia
- “To focus and drive efforts, ensure everyone is on the same page, and approaching the best targets for the business.” Bonnie Shaw, Clearpoint Agency
I agree wholeheartedly. And here’s a recap of nine of the 11 reasons I shared:
- It’s Not Really Optional, Is It? As an agency owner, you’re not just in the business of PR, marketing communications, social PR, content, etc. You’re in the business of winning new business. The sages tell us if we fail to plan, we’re planning to fail. Doesn’t it make sense to have a (written) plan to succeed?
- Your Agency Will Be Fired, Due To No Fault Of Its Own. They want a bigger agency. A smaller agency. They’re hiring the agency run by their sister-in-law. It’s a fact of agency life that our firms will be fired. Now we’re starting, from what feels like scratch, to rebuild, to make our annual numbers…
- Your Budget May Be Reduced, Due To No Fault Of Its Own. Those of us who experienced the “Great” Recession of 2008/9 know that no budget is sacrosanct, and unfortunately, PR/Communications is the first to go. A strategic, active, new business effort allows you to bounce back.
- What Do Prospects Perceive About You? When you experience #s 2 or 3, we get out there, pitching every piece of business we can. What do prospects pick up about us? The smell of desperation! And if I may quote myself, “The smell of desperation does not new prospects attract!” At best, we sign on with clients who sense that desperate aroma, and haggle over prices, resulting in absurdly low profitability for us. Until they find a more desperate agency.
- Someday You’ll Want to Fire A Client. The aforementioned price haggler. The one asks for explanation over and over and over. Who never presses the button. Who constantly asks for work beyond the agreed-upon scope or budget. OR worse, is abusive to your staff. They deserve to be fired, and life will improve when you do so. An active business development effort allows you to replace the billings you lose when you say “Buh-Bye,” and then some.
- Some Things Worth Having Take a Long Time To Build: If you’ve ever targeted, pursued, created a relationship with, been hired by, and gotten that first check from a dream client, I imagine you’ll acknowledge it took longer than you expected. The time to start this effort is yesterday!
- Agencies Must Be Like Sharks: I’m not saying they must be predatory. But just as sharks must keep moving to live, agencies must grow to exist. Why? Are salaries and benefits going down? How about your rent, technology, or other capital investments? Plus, if you’re going to retain and attract talented and ambitious staff, you’ve got to grow the agency to accommodate their career paths. Your agency doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to be bigger than it was last year.
- The RFP Hamster Wheel Is An Exercise in Futility. I’m not talking about an RFP from a prospect with whom you’ve been building a relationship. I’m talking about the RFPs that go out to a large list of agencies, seemingly without reason. They may be perfectly happy with their incumbent. Perhaps they just want new, free ideas. If you look at how many of these “open” RFPs you won last year, I imagine you’ll see a very low win rate. So why keep participating in them? Doesn’t it make sense to use methods where the odds are in your favor?
- Writing It Down Makes It Happen. I’ll share three quotes that prove the point: “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” Antoine de Saint Exupéry; “Well begun is half done,” Aristotle; “It’s only a dream until you write it down, Then it becomes a goal,” Emmitt Smith.
For the other reasons you must have a written business development plan, nine questions you must ask yourself to build the plan, three rules to follow, and the first six steps to do so, please reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll share the complete presentation. And if you aren't a member of Counselors, let's change that! Learn more here.
Ken Jacobs, is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, which does two things: 1) Helps communications agencies grow and manage business, improve client relationships, and enhance team performance, communications and leadership skills. It does so via training and consulting; and 2) Empowers corporate and agency PR, and corporate communications leaders and executives to breakthrough results by becoming more inspired and inspiring leaders. He is also a strategic advisor to the Prosper Group. You can email him here.