Breaking the Ice With a Top Prospect By Showing Your Ass

Fourth Take, Continued

It can be frustrating — putting all this time into your business development program: creating a new business culture, assembling a council, doing your homework, getting smart on category trends, identifying your prospects…and then you can’t even get your prospect to notice you. Well, why should he? You’ve done nothing for him — everything you’ve done up to this point has been for you and your agency. To expect him to drop everything and take your call is presumptuous, at best. If you’re going to bother someone on a consistent basis — you’d better do more than talk about your agency.  You’d better at least entertain your target.

As Gossage said, people filter their messages by what entertains them. It doesn’t matter what kind of transformation or revolution is occurring in our industry; once our messaging fails to entertain — our services are devalued (entertainment includes “discovery”).  So, therefore our initial outreach efforts to top prospects should reflect the kind of work we would do for them. It should have the same tone — speak their enthusiasts’ vernacular. In short, it should reflect their brand. It should feature a skill that you can immediately bring to their existing marketing mix — in essence, giving them a taste of what you can do for them. In the Hammerhead Case Study, it was obvious that our guys had a gift for radio scripts. For a New Jersey-based retailer, like Jackson Hewitt, that was pretty attractive. Especially when the radio they were getting from their agency sucked. It paved the road for an”idea” for a radio campaign come tax time.

I’ve found that most biz dev folks are pretty adept at talking about their agency and what it offers. The best ones however lead conversations about the prospect’s business. They rarely refer to their agency — and when they do, it’s framed in a current or previous client’s relevance to the prospect’s business. Leave the credentials stuff to digital outreach. Attach a creds link to a an email following a real conversation. Don’t always be closing. This is not Glengarry Glen Ross. You’re not selling land investments.

Think of icebreakers in terms of a campaign. Stagger your messages. The first one will be ignored. Everyone sends out one cute thingy. By the last one, they should be wanting more. It should be that entertaining. If you can’t create an entertaining campaign to the prospect featuring the benefit of your agency’s skills — then how can you expect the prospect to believe you can do it for their business?

Before we look at the next case study, a brief word on viral videos. The beauty of them is they are so easy and cheap to produce. All you need is a great idea. Creatives love doing them, even more than their client work. Clients love seeing them on youtube. So do prospects. I recently had a prospect show me one in a meeting — unprompted. He just said, “check this out — some guy in California sent me this.” It was great. If you’re not doing them for your prospects — others are. And if you are, someone did one better than yours.

Case Study: Firehouse

Situation: We got wind that Haggar and Crispin had recently split. The much-ballyhooed “equity stake relationship” apparently fizzled. As a  Dallas-based creative agency, we viewed Haggar as a terrific top prospect. They were a national account, based locally. And they already proved to place a premium on great creative. And heck, they didn’t even have to give us equity in their company — just an initial project where we could prove our chops. Except I couldn’t get their CMO to return my emails after a scintillating initial conversation (I finally got him on the phone at 6:45 pm one night) when he agreed to a lunch meeting.

Solution/Creative Idea: Since I had told him we were a creative shop — we decided to do a viral video idea to show him what we could do for Haggar (some viral spots for youtube).  We didn’t shoot the Haggar spots (we didn’t know enough about what he wanted at that point). Instead, we shot a pilot to a series of agency vignettes. The pilot featured the Firehouse President sitting at his desk — very deadpan, his natural demeanor — speaking agency speak; how his agency would like to help Haggar do some really cool stuff that got noticed by the target — guys like him, thirty-and-forty-somethings. After a minute of this he announces that if they can’t have Haggar, the agency won’t have any pants at all. The big reveal is, you guessed it, he stands up and he’s got nothing but some tacky boxers on. For the next 5 days, we shot vignettes — security camera-type stuff — the agency at work. Everyone in their underpants. Yes, chicks too. Like the Hammerhead spots in the previous case study, the brilliance is not in the context, but in the delivery and content. Each vignette ended with a log-in to an agency Haggar microsite. Each vignette was sent via email to the prospect with body text claiming we would not put our pants back on until our prospect took a meeting.

Result: On day 5, I got this email from the prospect:

Michael, thanks for the ongoing entertainment.
We loved your vignettes and want to meet you.
Our Director of Consumer Marketing will reach out with details.

And then a week later, this email arrived:

Hi Michael-

Stephen asked that I reach out to you and schedule some time to better
understand your capabilities. I am responsible for consumer marketing
for both our men's and women's businesses. I could meet on Tuesday of
next week at 3 PM or Thursday morning. We can set something up here or we
can come there. Let me know what works for you. 


Director, Consumer Marketing
Haggar Clothing Co.
11511 Luna Road
Dallas TX 75234

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