How to Win One Good Account a Year: FOURTH TAKE

Create an outreach program that is consistent, polite, non-threatening & professional

If you haven’t heard the news, traditional outreach methods for agency business development have recently gone out of vogue. Like traditional advertising, they’re out. How uncool to have an agency “book” or “reel”. How uncool to call a prospect and try to have an actual conversation. And heaven forbid we invite the prospect to breakfast or lunch or over to the agency for a beer.

There’s a new way of communicating with our prospects and it’s totally sterile, fail proof and guaranteed to grow your agency — you just tweet prospects to your blog and they become instant qualified leads. And if you have narrowed your specialty offering to the point of banality — “we’re the round hole for your round peg” — then new business just comes to you. Just tweet, blog and win. Sounds like a promotion. Bonus points if you write a book proving how smart you are — like Joey Reiman.

How jejune. I believe people do business with people. Most of the business I’ve ever seen move is the result of relationships. This series is not about chumming for numberless prospects. It’s about taking your agency’s new business fate into its own hands; not waiting for someone to hit your blog. Do the social media jagoff (must be said with a Chicago accent) with the rest of your prospect list. This series is about your Top 5 Prospects.

If you were a college basketball coach recruiting players — you would not have the same outreach program for your 30th rated recruit as you would your top 5 recruits. You’ve GOT to get one of those. So you spend more time, energy, creativity and passion recruiting them. So treat your  Top 5 prospects differently. They deserve 80% of your attention. Again, in the meantime — you’ll get RFP’s, get referrals and have the same crappy accounts SEEK YOU OUT. And you’ll win some of those. But this is about building a strategic plan for the growth of your agency; and maintaining a consistent and creative dialogue with your prospect.

Let’s start with the premise that you’re a creative agency. If not, stop reading here.  What do clients really want? Great creative. That’s what makes them stars. They can leverage  great creative with their CEO or to enhance their careers. Yes, they all talk about integration, ROI, service, planning, measurement, digital, social, yada. But ALL those things assume a great creative idea. Creative is the end to all those means. You can call it content, or ideation, or whatever you want. I still call it “creative”.  It’s a noun, not an adjective. And you have to ascribe to the theory that great creative EQUALS effectiveness. At BBDO, they like to talk about a study conducted by Millward Brown that award-winning work is 2,000 times more likely to be effective than other work. That’s Millward Brown — not some Survey Monkey poll.

The best marketers know this — they know great work is what will save their jobs and enhance their careers. And 5 of them should be at the top of your prospect list. So how do you communicate with them? Creatively. Personally. Intimately. Intelligently. Professionally. Politely. What keeps most biz dev folks from doing this well is the fact they are also trying to communicate with hundreds of other prospects. If you were looking to get married, would you court 200 women (maybe Warren Beatty would)? That’s what this is — a marriage. It’s not a “sales cycle” it’s a courtship.

Creating a Contact Plan

A contact plan is a schedule. It reminds you when it is the appropriate timing for your outreach effort. I still don’t know a better way to engage with the prospect than a compelling, insightful and professional business letter. You can follow the hard copy letter with emails. The letter should ask for permission to engage, acknowledge that you know they have an existing agency relationship that you respect but also communicates a tangible benefit to the prospect for a continued dialogue. It should also allow the prospect to opt out if he wishes. You’ll be surprised how few will if you can inspire or educate him/her. I’ve found that most marketers are passionate about what they do and like talking about it as long as you respect their time.

But, we know better. It doesn’t always work that way. You may have to do something creative to catch your prospect’s attention, an icebreaker. Ironically, this is what we claim we do for our clients — do something creative to get them noticed, build their brand, drive sales, yada. Yet it’s now considered  ”too traditional” for us to do that for ourselves. Beyond the basic tools (a blog, a website, a book, a reel, an agency video — updated regularly) — we are further required to create an outreach “campaign” that will either/or stand out, win its own awards for self promotion, create a buzz and genuine interest from your prospect. Don’t tell them you’re creative — be creative. Is it worth it? Only if it’s done right. This requires you to really be creative and not just say you’re a creative agency. It requires you to hit a home run for your own team.

So let’s be specific and look at some of the best creative “icebreaker outreach” campaigns I’ve seen seen recently. Over the course of the next few days, I will be featuring one or two case studies per day. Enjoy.

CASE STUDY:  Hammerhead Advertising

Situation: A four-person creative agency in Hoboken, NJ. The two partners were creatives. Our strategy was to be the agency where you can great work AND not have to cross the Hudson. The prospects were all in New Jersey. We picked a few that needed better work and began sending them stuff. The problem we encountered was that most of the NJ companies are monolithic and nobody answers the phone. I spent half my day getting prompted to the company directory. So we needed a creative breakthrough to get our top prospects to talk our call.

Creative Idea/Solution: A voicemail message campaign that parodied the “cold calling” process. You know those voicemail messages you get from politicians around Election Day? Yep. A series of 5 messages, staggered 3 days apart, and funny as shit. You can hear the spots here:


To enhance the creative idea, we sent the campaign out to the trade press. We found a fan in none other than Bob Garfield.

RESULT: A minimum of 2,000 daily website hits for nearly a month. Several prospects called us wondering when the next spot would run. We had requests for meetings, proposals and information. Not only did Garfield review the campaign and rate it 3.5 stars upon release; but in his year-end advertising review, he voted the campaign ONE OF THE 10 BEST ADVERTISING  CAMPAIGNS IN THE WORLD (not just self-promotion — ALL ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS). Most importantly, it separated us from “the pack” of cold callers to our prospects. We were able to kick-start our contact plan and begin a professional outreach program.

Coming next week — A viral video campaign aimed at one Top Prospect

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