Do you feel stuck in the same old grind, struggling to shake a stale mindset? Getting out of town, breaking your thought patterns, and learning from those you admire could be just what you need. That’s why our team recently traveled to New York City to learn from the best at Mirren Live New York – a conference focused on agency business development. The conference featured speakers from global agencies like R/GA, Huge, and Anomaly, and the content provided us a chance to immerse ourselves in new and compelling pitch strategies. We left the event rejuvenated and equipped for growth, carrying a better understanding of the modern agency market landscape. Here, we will recap 7 of our favorite takeaways from the event.
1. Sell your ideas with insights
So often, we pitch an idea but exclude the evidence for why it will matter. Building your pitch around a compelling insight will highlight the value of your work and demonstrate the real-world business case for it. The good news is that finding an insight may not be as laborious as you expect! At Mirren, a speaker detailed his pitch for Johnson and Johnson’s Band-Aid brand. He briefly researched by asking mothers in a pharmacy for their impression of the product and the brand, and with this information, the speaker was able to present to Band-Aid insights they had never before realized. He won that deal.
Notably, consulting firm Nielsen Norman found that surveying 3-5 people is just as effective as testing many more. In other words, simply show your clients you did your research; they will appreciate that you’re digging to understand their customer.
Challenge: In your next proposal, uncover a qualitative (story) or quantitative (data points) insight that supports your idea.
2. Identify what’s at stake
When you present an idea, ensure that clients know the urgency behind it. What happens to the client if this problem can’t be solved? Really paint the picture. A respected mentor of mine once told me that a great salesman should “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted.” Show the client that you truly understand what they’re fighting against and that you’re on their team.
Challenge: When presenting your next proposal, work with the client to identify what’s at stake so they feel that you are a true partner in the upcoming challenge.
3. Rethink your KPIs
At Mirren we learned that business consultancies are now the greatest threat to marketing agencies worldwide. More and more, companies are choosing to work with business strategists over marketers. Why? Because marketing companies too often focus on vanity metrics. What are vanity metrics? They are the metrics that look exciting on the surface, but often don’t impact the bottom line (think likes, impressions, and engagement). While these metrics can be important in certain situations, they have become a crutch for marketers to feign the illusion of success when the business doesn’t feel any real financial impact. To go deeper, you must seek to identify the metrics that matter to the business most.
That’s where clarity metrics come in. Clarity metrics are numbers that aren’t normally made public, but directly impact the business bottom line (in the most basic form, think new sales). When engaging with a prospective client, help them improve their business by striving to impact these bottom-line metrics, even if it feels beyond your reach. To do this, ask the right questions until you identify the metrics that matter instead of those that are most apparent.
Challenge: For your next proposal, guide the client to identify a clarity metric tied to the problem you aim to solve.
4. Educate your whole team on Biz Dev
Does your team understand what “win,” “pass,” and “lose” mean? Do they know the steps required to bring in new business? Empowering your team by elevating their understanding of business development will help your company change its perception of sales. Rather than fostering a culture of “sales,” everyone on the team will feel included in the beginning stages of a new client relationship. At ThreeSixtyEight, we are initiating a lunch and learn to educate all staff on our sales process. We also provide internal resources to help anyone in the company learn to sell. The key takeaway? Get away from thinking of sales as sales. Everyone in an agency should be equipped and motivated to help build the business. Make sure your staff has the tools and resources to do so.
Challenge: Document your sales processes and educate your entire staff on what it looks like. Having outside eyes on your process will often reveal potential improvements as well.
5. Build your pitch team chemistry
Salespeople often think like lone wolves, working well on their own, but just like the Beatles, it takes a well-rehearsed team to get to the top. When an opportunity to pitch arrives, don’t get caught fumbling. Work with your whole team to implement a consistent sales process. When a pitch comes in, your team should know who’s leading the research, who’s building the deck, and who’s interfacing with the client and asking questions. The goal here is to build a well-oiled pitch team that has chemistry and confidence.
At Mirren, we heard the story of a major agency that got eliminated from a big brand pitch in the first round after the agency’s pitch team introduced themselves to one another just before launching into their presentation. The reason? The client did not want to deal with a disconnected team. Today, Dominos wants pitch teams to include the actual creatives performing the work, instead of executives showing up who only delegate the creative work. Clients today want transparency – they want to know that the team is truly connected.
Challenge: Don’t pitch reactively. Instead, create a pitch team within your agency that knows exactly what to do when new opportunities arise. This team should include relationship builders as well as technical and creative experts.
6. Constantly review accounts
At Mirren, the CEO of Anomaly New York explained a clever biz dev technique that they use during their bi-annual client review meetings. In this meeting, where Anomaly reviews the work performed over the past 6 months, they show the client a “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Buy” list. This list enables the agency to re-pitch old ideas, and show the client that they are thinking beyond the scope of work. This tactic helps sales teams shift their mindset from “no” to “not right now.” Just make sure that your suggestions are in the customer’s best interest. Anomaly remarked that it once took a client more than 4 years to buy into an idea that they had proposed over and over, but after developing trust, the client bought the idea, which led to success.
Challenge: Review with your clients every 6 months and propose ideas to improve their business.
7. Elevate the brief
When an RFP crosses your desk, always question the ask (that’s not a typo). Instead of blindly carrying out what’s being asked of you, engage your problem-solving muscle and begin asking questions to uncover the real problems. Why do they need these deliverables? What’s driving this RFP? A tactical production agency accepts the scope and follows orders, but a strategic agency uncovers problems that the client may not even see. Don’t be a tactical agency, be a strategic agency.
As a bonus, here are three white papers presented by the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies) provides on how to improve your RFP questioning and evaluation process:
- Screening opportunities – This article encourages agencies to create select criteria when accepting new business opportunities
- Agency Project assessment guides – Six great questions all agencies should ask during the RFP process.
- Agency Search Agreements – This is a sample agreement for agencies to send to clients to help them understand who owns the ideas during the pitch process.
Challenge: Elevate your next prospective client’s brief by asking questions to ensure that the client’s presumed solution is the right solution
The Mirren Live conference enabled us to see behind the curtain of major agencies and turn our perspective inside out. We shook off our old habits and discovered ways to add deeper value to our current and future clients. We hope that this summary helps you better engage with your clients, and challenges you to re-think your agency growth strategies. Hope to see some of you at Mirren next year!