ALIGNING MARKETING AND NEW BUSINESS – WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT?
Having a strong reputation and winning new work is the backbone of any business, and it’s no different for creative agencies. But winning new clients is tougher than ever, which is why marketing and new business activity needs to perform and get results. So why do so many creative agencies limit their growth potential by not aligning their marketing and new business activity?
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE CURRENT WAY?
A lot of the issues stem from a misunderstanding of the different functions of marketing and new business. Marketing is the identification of new audiences, what they need and how to sell to them. New business is the selling part, with the team on the front line, building relationships and persuading clients to buy. The role of marketing is often devalued, but both should be recognised as a means to increase revenue.
The next challenge is talent. Most agencies don’t have dedicated resource in these roles and where there is, it’s often not the right skill set. Agencies either don’t know where to find the right talent, or worse don’t even realise they need it. Where there is resource, these departments (or often individuals) work independently with a silo mentality. Their plans are not aligned to the agency’s growth strategy and commercial objectives, nor are they are led by a clear market positioning.
The consequences are clear; huge inefficiencies, duplication of efforts that aren’t driving sales, and money wasted on underperforming resources. Worse still, there’s the danger of not having enough business because there is no platform for growth.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH AND ITS VALUE
So what’s the alternative? A joined up team with complementary skills and a clear direction, focusing on activities that will have the most impact and influence. A consistent use of positioning, voice and messaging across all activity means more impact, more motivation, and more business. When aligned, marketing and new business can support each other; communication activities can help the sales cycle by adding value in slower lead generation periods, and the new business team can inform content generation by feeding in insights from conversations with prospective clients.
IT TAKES COMMITMENT
Achieving this it boils down to three things: process, people and content, all wrapped up with a lot of commitment.
Get your ducks in a row
Before you do anything, take time to understand your agency’s growth strategy and positioning so everyone’s clear on the best opportunities to increase and generate revenue. Create one fully integrated plan, with activities carried out simultaneously, aligned to commercial objectives with common goals.
The focus shouldn’t be just reaching new clients, but retaining existing ones. We all know it’s easier to win business from a current or old client than it is to create a new relationship from scratch. Use content to engage with existing clients; open up a dialogue and gain a deeper understanding of their ambitions and challenges.
Embed marketing and new business in your culture; from inductions, to success stories. Make it part of everyday business life. Winning business and building reputation is everyone’s responsibility, so establish a culture where the whole company is the driving force.
To win in the marketplace, first win in the workspace
Invest in talent; you need the right people in the right positions. Define roles with clear responsibilities and objectives; these are specialists. Your sales team are relationship builders, engaging with decision-makers about key issues; they need to be knowledgeable, confident, with bags of discipline. Your marketers need to be content and digital experts and PRs need to understand the media landscape, know what makes a meaningful story, and have their own little black book of contacts.
Whether you’re outsourcing or building an in-house team, talent is fundamental to success. And once you have your team in place, you need to keep them; ensure they receive the training, development and guidance. All of this is made much easier when it’s driven by strong leadership; figureheads who believe in marketing and new business and spread the word.
Content is still king
The driving force for marketing and new business performance is quality content, amplified through communications channels and lead generation. It’s an integral part of the programme but not easy to crack. It takes time and effort to come up with good campaignable ideas that work. You’re asking clients to take time out of their busy days to engage with you, so you need to demonstrate that you think and deliver differently.
Ensure your content is driven from your positioning, and that it’s multi-purpose so it can stretch and be tailored for different audiences, sectors and regions. Develop themes and perspectives which are outward-, not inward-looking; addressing clients’ issues and needs, and linking to your offer, skills, achievements and people.
Understand all channels but only focus on those with influence. More than likely you will be short on resource and budget, so start small and build up. And just because we live in a digital world, don’t rely on digital alone; remember the value of face-to-face.
Of course there are barriers. The first is getting buy-in from your leadership team. Speak their language, focus on results and commercial benefits. The other is resource; there’s never enough people or time, so have a clear focus and reduce objectives. Come up with ideas that you can drive through everything. You can’t do this alone so lean on others in the business. Build strong relationships with leaders and internal teams so everyone understands the objectives, process and value of getting involved. Reinforce the benefits so others want to contribute. If you don’t have enough internal resource, consider partners, mentors and external help who fit with your culture and add value.
IT’S NOT GOING TO BE EASY BUT IT IS GOING TO BE WORTH IT
One size doesn’t fit all. Expect it to be a challenging journey. Commitment and momentum will drive success.