Business Development for Agencies in the Time of Covid-19

Now is not the time for agencies to press pause on business development. Instead, agency leaders must respond to the times and adapt their approach.

In this webinar, Chip Griffin explored how agency business development has changed during the crisis. He offered practical ideas that you can implement now to help grow your revenue now and position yourself for greater success when the crisis abates.

Resources

Transcript

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Hello, and welcome to today’s webinar, business development for agencies in the time of COVID-19. We’re going to go ahead and get started. If you would do me a favor of just dropping a message in the chat box, to me if you’re able to hear this audio, okay, it’s always good to know that I’m not just speaking into the darkness. And instead I’m actually having folks hear what I’m saying. Excellent. It looks like the the sound is coming through loud and clear. So I appreciate that.

Let’s go ahead and start with a few housekeeping items. The housekeeping items today are that we have a question and answer session coming at the end of my presentation. I’ll try to keep my remarks hopefully to under 30 minutes and leave a lot of time for questions after that. You will get a copy of the recording and deck afterwards if you have questions. You’d like to ask during the course of today’s session, there is a q&a button at the bottom of the screen. So just go ahead and submit your question that way. If you happen to have a question that you’d like to direct to me privately or that you’d like to think about after this recording is over, feel free to just email me at Chip at agency leadership, calm, and I’ll respond to everything as quickly as I can.

If you are participating in social media and talking about today’s webinar, I’d love it if you would use the agency leadership hashtag. We use that for all of our content to make it nice and easy to find. And of course, you can find plenty of additional research resources on business development and all things about agency business at agency leadership.com.

Final housekeeping is just to mention that we have next week, another webinar, this one on HR issues for agencies in these times. I’ll be joined by Patrick Rogen, who is the main HR consultant who has deep experience working for professional services businesses, including PR agencies, public affairs agencies, I’ve had a chance to work with him a lot over the last decade plus, and he will offer some practical insight on to some of the issues that you may be facing with your current staff with looking at future staff sizing, looking at issues related to reopening your offices, when it’s appropriate, and all those kinds of things. So, lots to discuss on the HR front. And we will do that next week on Wednesday in this same time slot. So,

with that, let’s jump into what you all are here for which is to talk about business development. And of course, immediately when you think about business development, you think of turtles. Now, that’s not why I put this image here. It’s because my top piece of advice to you is that you should not be turtling at this time, it is not time to retreat into your shell and say Oh my god, I can’t be doing business development nobody wants to hear for me.

The reality is that if you do that you are going to do long term damage to your agency, far more than any economic conditions may presently be doing. And frankly, there’s no good reason for it. Because clients and prospects do want to hear from you and they do have needs. It’s not that they will necessarily be reacting in exactly the same way that they did three or four months ago. But those needs still exist and you are there to fill them. And so you need to view yourself in that way that you have something to offer and that there’s value to the conversations that you’re having. Now, just because I’m saying that you shouldn’t turtle It doesn’t mean you need to go to the opposite extreme and be the Energizer Bunny.

First of all, most of us are, you know, feeling the the pressures of everything that’s going on. It’s you know, we’ve all been under house arrest now for extended periods of time whether we’re listening to this right now in Europe or the US or anywhere else. And so it’s it’s tough for us personally to be the Energizer Bunny. But more to the point, there is a good balance to be struck when you’re talking with clients and prospects and just badgering the heck out of them and constantly hitting them up is not the right approach. I know I’ve got some folks in my inbox right now who are trying to sell me various services. Some of them are emailing at least once a day. Don’t do it. There’s there’s no reason to be that aggressive in 99.9% of the cases. So don’t turtle but don’t be the Energizer Bunny either. So if that’s the two extremes aren’t a good idea, then what is a good idea? And the best idea is to be out there having conversations have as many conversations as you can have meaningful conversations and we’ll talk more in a little bit about what some ideas are for those meaningful conversations.

But it’s easier than ever now to get people on the phone or online. Zoom talking about what’s going on. Almost every conversation I think that you’re having, if it’s anything like mine is, you start with the first few minutes just talking about all the weirdness that’s going on around us and checking in on each other’s health and well being and their families and those kinds of things. But then the conversation tends to, to really be a much deeper, a more engaging conversation than what I’ve been seeing in previous months, because everybody is feeling just a bit vulnerable, even if they’re in a business that may be doing particularly well, right now, they still have concerns on the personal front. And even if you’re in an agency that’s doing well, right now, you you have to have in the back of your mind, some doubt as to what the economic future holds.

And when people are in these kinds of vulnerable moments, they’re much more willing to engage and have conversations with you. So you need to take advantage of that and be someone that’s available to be talked to that’s solicited in the opportunity. have these conversations and that you’re showing up for them because that’s really the key to laying the foundation for not necessarily actual business development success today, but instead setting the conditions for the future because really, we’re not going to solve every challenge that we have right now. There are so many unknowns. I mean, I did a video earlier today where I talked about the real challenge right now is not the virus. It’s the uncertainty that’s being created. And even with the the shutdowns lockdowns, quarantines, all that, if we had some sense as to the timeline for when things might change, we would be in a better position to plan but right now it’s it’s incredibly difficult to plan because we don’t know what tomorrow holds, let alone next week or next month, or God forbid next year.

And so we need to be in a position where we’re just creating the conditions that as things improve, as we get additional certainty, we’re ready to take advantage of that. And so we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that business development is going to be slower, doesn’t mean it’s not existing. I’ve talked to plenty of agencies who have closed business just in the past few weeks, I was actually having a conversation earlier today, for an upcoming podcast episode of Chats with Chip with someone who is focused on agency business development, it’s what his firm Does, does outsource business development agencies and they are continuing to see clients closing business, but the cycles, the sales cycles are elongating.

So we need to be prepared for that we can’t expect that the deal that took two or three or four weeks to close, six months ago, that may take far longer than that now and and if we’re ready for that, if we’re prepared for that and thinking that way. We’re in better shape. Now, that said, there are things that you can do to try to help accelerate some of that process and we’ll talk about that a little bit later.

I think that once you’ve sort of convinced yourself that you do need to be out there, and presumably, if you’re listening to this webinar, it’s because you recognize the importance of business development in these times and you’re trying to figure out how to do it. That once you’ve crossed that barrier, you agree that you need to have conversations. The next step is that you need to be thinking about your perspective, your point of view on where things are headed. And I’m talking about not necessarily specifically where things are headed as a society or anything like that, but really targeted to the industries that you’re serving.

What are the verticals that you’re focused on? What are they doing? What are they thinking about? What are their concerns, what’s likely to happen to them 234 months down the road, and it’s not going to be perfect, you don’t have all the answers, but you need to be thinking about your point of view because that’s how you will structure your conversations. It’s how you will structure your targeting. It’s how you will stand out from In the crowd, if you’re sitting here thinking you’re going to do the same thing that you did six months ago. And it’s just things are just going to spring back in a few weeks or a few months. It’s not there are going to be changes that are taking place. There are the obvious ones that we think about social distancing, sanitation and and disinfecting, and all these different things. A lot of that’s here to stay for a good period of time. But I think some of the overall psychology of the marketplace is likely to change.

That’s part of my point of view on what’s going on. You may disagree, and that’s fine. But to me as someone who is running a business on 911, and 2001, someone who is running a business in 2008, I’ve been through some of these big, momentous economic changes and disruptions previously. I know that in both of those cases, everybody said it’s not gonna be the same again, it’s everything has changed, and some things did change. So After 911, we certainly had a lot of changes, particularly as it related to security and some of those things.

But the bigger idea is that it was really going to change how we went about our lives. Most of that ended up returning to normal. The in 2008, a lot of people said, you know, business is never going to come back quite the same way. And, you know, there, there are a lot of changes that will take place. And some did. I mean, I, I can’t remember, the last time there were extravagant client business dinners, in the same way that there were back in the mid 2000s. Those have certainly changed. I don’t see that even with big agencies with big clients. Everybody’s a little bit more conservative, but it’s still mostly returned to normal.

I tend to think of what we’re going through now as being a little bit more like the Great Depression. And I’m not saying we’re going to get to a great depression. So everybody, take your blood pressure medicine Take Take a deep breath. I’m not suggesting that that’s what we’re hitting necessarily headed for here. But I think when I was growing up, I knew a lot of folks by grandparents, other stories. Went through the Great Depression. And folks who went through that you could sort of spot them based on some of their behaviors. So they tended to be very frugal with things. They didn’t waste anything. They would, they would keep small scraps of stuff, a lot of things that they didn’t even really think about. But were because of what was going on.

I suspect that some of that is going to stay, particularly if this continues to go on and on for many months, not necessarily in the same form it is today, but in some sort of highly restrictive environment, that it’s hard to shake that, you know, we talked about 60 days is what it takes to form a habit. Well, you know, we’re creeping up on 60 days of house arrest right now. And it’s going to be something that I think is going to stick with this generation for a long time to come. But whatever the point of view is that you have, you need to think about it you need to use it as your guiding principle. You need to use it as something that can help you engage in conversations with your clients and prospects and Of course, you have to be willing to adapt as new information becomes available, because it does seem right now, like every week is a year. And the changes are coming at us Fast and Furious. And we simply don’t know what to expect. But work on that point of view, because that’s what’s going to help you stand out in your business development process.

So we’ve talked about how you need to be out there, you need to have a point of view, you also need to be helpful. That’s really the core of things right now. So instead of thinking about how can I go out and win business, think about how you can be helpful. Again, going back to what I said earlier about creating the conditions for success. You need to be asking yourself one simple question, and that is what do your clients and prospects need right now? What is it that their challenges today? What are they thinking about as their challenges for the coming weeks and months? Some of them are easy if you’re in the cruise industry, you know that you need to be thinking about How do you convince people that it’s safe to go on a cruise again, if you’re in, you’re working for movie theaters or restaurants, same thing, it’s thinking about that safety messaging. It’s thinking about, how do you get people to come in the door? And from a communication standpoint, a marketing standpoint, what do you need to adapt? In that process? If you’re in other industries, you’re going to have similar challenges. And you need to be thinking about those right now. You need to be thinking about and asking your clients what they need, ask them how you can help.

And of course, that brings us to Who are your ideal clients, and for many of you, you haven’t given that a ton of thought, and you certainly haven’t given it a new thought. But I would encourage all of you give some renewed thinking to who your ideal clients are. And I’m talking about what industries you’re serving. I’m talking about the kinds of services that they’re consuming from you. Learn as much as you can about who it is that you’re targeting, and you may want to make some adjustments. One The things that I’ve done in my business, for example, in working with agencies is I’ve determined that based on all of this going on, I really need to focus on the smaller agencies, 2530 employees, and less all the way down to solos, because those are the people who are being challenged the most in the current environment.

So I’m trying to devote more of my energy there because I know I can make a bigger difference. And they need more help right now, that doesn’t mean that a lot of what I do might not be beneficial to others. But I really want to have that zeroed in focus, you may want to make the same kinds of tweaks. Now notice, I didn’t say that I wanted to go out and serve restaurants, even though they’re hurting or other small businesses, because while a lot of what I do and no can help any small business, My specialty is in the agency world, particularly PR and Mark comms, you have similar specialties and you need to think about how do you make some adjustments to it? Don’t pivot entirely.

One of the questions I was asked I think it was on the webinar I did last week or the week before was what recession proof industries could people get into Right now, Bad idea you don’t want to be, you know, doing 180 degrees spin into a new industry, you want to make some subtle refinements to your ideal clients. And you really need to work at defining who that is. And I’ve got, there’s a webinar on the agency leadership website about finding your focus as an agency. And I’ve got a workbook on developing your identity as an agency that you can download and work with. So there are some resources that are available there that will help you go through this process. So we’re not going to spend a ton of time on that on today’s webinar, but it is something to be thinking about. And that ideal client profile will help you put together what I call the nifty 50 list.

I encourage all of my clients in any agency who will listen to have a nifty 50 list and these are 50 people that you want to be having meaningful conversations with. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all 50 are ideal clients. You certainly want to use that to inform the development of lists of some of them should be ideal clients themselves. Some of them should be people who were reaching that market. So perhaps you know, podcasters in that space or journalists in that space that you want to get to know who speak to those ideal clients that you’ve defined, and have that that 50 person target list. And the reason why I like 50 and not 10 or 100, or something like that. It’s not just because nifty 50 sounds well, nifty, although it does.

But it’s because if you think about it, with 50 people on your list about once a quarter, you’ll be able to actually have a conversation, if you target one meaningful conversation a day with that list. And so, I think that in general, if you’re able to be having these stay on the radar type conversations with your target list, once a quarter, that’s often enough that you’re you’ll be in their minds when they need to think about someone like you and the services that you and your agency are providing. Your nifty 50 list should include people that you’ve already made contact with in the past, maybe former colleagues should also include people that you’ve never talked to, but want to. And there should be a couple on there that are aspirational. So if you really want to meet Seth Godin, and talk to him, or Bill Gates or whomever, include a couple of those on the list too, because it’s good to have some ambition in this list, and see how you can push the envelope because all of that will help you in your business development process.

So I’ve spoken a couple of times now about meaningful conversations and how you want to be having meaningful conversations with this target list and with others, and so meaningful conversations again, these are not, this is not me talking to someone and say, here are the services I provide. Here’s how I can provide those services to you. Here’s what they would cost. That’s not a meaningful conversation. That’s, that’s a pitch and there is a place for that. I’m not telling you there isn’t. But you need to be thinking about how can you have substantive meaningful conversations? And it starts as I said earlier, by asking simple questions like How can I help ask people if you can pick their brain. And I, I know there’s a lot of folks in the agency community who don’t like the notion of pick your brain meetings.

Because the thought is, it’s someone trying to get something for nothing from you. Look, I encourage you have as many pick your brain conversations as possible. I’ve got a podcast episode and an article on the website that explains in more detail why this actually makes sense and actually walks through some of the math behind it. This is not just me saying it’s good karma, although it is, but there’s actual real benefit to having these kinds of conversations as the recipient. And certainly if you’re able to reach out to people and take advantage of that right now, that’s even better. People are going through this together. Now we’re not all experiencing it the same way. But if you’re reaching out and you’re saying, I’m curious, what’s your perspective on things, and some of that can be in an organized fashion, you might do it as a survey.

You know, it’s obviously very easy to put things together through Survey Monkey and Other tools, but you might think about doing an actual survey of the markets that you’re serving, and try to learn from it. Or perhaps you do a survey that you can share with them. So maybe it’s a survey of some of the members of the media that focus on that space that you could then provide to them or experts who are focused on it. So in my case, I might survey business development consultants, for agencies to see what they are seeing and thinking, and then pass that on to agencies so that they can learn from it. It might be surveying agency owners themselves to see what’s going on. And in fact, I did that about six weeks ago at the start of this whole crisis, to try to get a sense as to what the early impacts were. Now a lot of people are doing that research.

So I’ve paused on it myself, because so much is available already, that there’s no need to duplicate those efforts. But you may not be experiencing that in the verticals that you’re serving. And so you may be able to leverage surveys as a way to have some of those meaningful conversations because you’ll get data that you can use and share as part Have a conversation. But some of the survey recipients the people you’re sending it to to participate, that will spark conversations as well. podcast interviews, and this is sort of a two way street. So I’m not saying you necessarily need to go out and start a podcast, but you could look to be a guest on podcasts, you could certainly start your own. It might just be a short term series, maybe it’s a video series that you post on LinkedIn, it’s become much more easy to produce this kind of content.

And most folks are willing to have these conversations. So you could reach out to CMOS are ccoo that work in your vertical and ask them to have conversations about how this is impacting their communications and marketing. What do they see is the future. Let them share a bit of it, it helps get them exposure, but it helps get you exposure. And in the meantime, while you’re recording it, you’re having meaningful conversations with those people, many of whom you might not be able to get just on the phone. If you said hey, Let’s just talk about research. So this is going beyond the the surveys that I talked about. And so maybe it’s putting together some focus groups of folks in the space that you serve. Maybe it’s writing an article.

And so you’re having conversations with folks to put together an article that you’re publishing. And it could be a traditional publication, it could be on medium or LinkedIn, or any of these places could be on your blog. It doesn’t really matter where you publish it, but it’s an opportunity to solicit information, ideas, insights, expertise, from the people that you’re trying to build relationships with. Again, mutual benefit, you’re learning, they’re learning, and it’s starting the conversation.

Of course, you could be doing webinars like this one, you could be putting together virtual panel discussions, you know, and it could be with in a webinar style format, where you let people attend live, maybe it’s just, you know, one off ones that you’re doing And that you’re recording with three or four people, and then you publish it. Again, with zoom, it’s very easy to record a video conversation with a group of people.

And it can be just as simple as a 30 or 40 minute conversation that you’re recording and publishing, again, benefits from the people that you’re building relationships with as part of the conversation, as well as expanding your reach into the market you serve. Because those are the folks who will be listening to the video content that you’re creating. Of course, we’ve seen an explosion of virtual coffees happy hours breakfast lunch, and this doesn’t necessarily have to be with clients. It can just be for general networking. I’m doing regular virtual happy hours with people that I’ve come across in the past, perhaps alumni from American University where I went to school, we’ve done several of those now in different permutations. It could just be former coworkers. You know, maybe you came from a larger agency.

You could organize a virtual happy hour for some of the folks that you work with there. A lot of them may be in positions now where they can make some helpful introductions for your agency. It could be the sorority or fraternity that you went to at school. It could be with people who are at other agencies. And I think one of the things we need to be thinking about from a business development perspective right now is how can we look to other agencies in a co op petition light instead of simply as competitors. I’ve always felt that there was plenty of opportunity for agency leaders to collaborate across agencies on creating thought leadership content on partnering up on projects, we all have our own expertise, we have different regional focus different sector focus different service skills, and if we find ways to partner with other agencies, we can, you know, help the whole concept of the rising tide lifts all boats, so look at different ways that you can be the convener for some of these activities.

You want to be the person that folks view as a resource for making connections. So, you know, whether it’s through these virtual events or through just asking how I can help and trying to make a connection if someone says, Hey, you know, I need someone who can help show me how to do cybersecurity. Well, I’ve got someone who can do that. It’s not necessarily, you know, lining my own pocket or building immediate business for me. But by being helpful by being the matchmaker, if you will, between those skill sets. I’ve built some goodwill that hopefully, will come back to me in the future.

Of course, there is still a role for pitches and presentations. There are clients out there who are looking at things, looking for things if you are in the digital space, for example, right now, I know many digital agencies who are extra busy at the moment, because they have brick and mortar stores or operations that are coming to them and asking for help. How do I make more information available online? How do I sell online How do I, you know, I can’t do traditional event type work. So I need to put on some of these online, you know, webinars and virtual events. That’s a different skill set. So that means that they may need to be asking for help from those of you who have that digital expertise, or who can run digital ads, social ads to help them with their own businesses, folks in the crisis space are certainly busy.

But even if you’re in an industry that’s heavily impacted, you should be looking and saying, Okay, what can I be doing now to help these people get ready for what’s coming next. And again, that goes back to the point of view, the perspective that we talked about you having to have, it also goes back to trying to just think about how you can be helpful and that can lead to a specific pitch opportunity. It can lead to you going to someone and saying, Yeah, you know, you work for a cruise line. We need to help put together a plan now, so that you’re ready for the future and you Part of the being in business development right now, in the agency space. In particular, it means that you need to be flexible.

And so you need to be thinking about what you’re pitching, what you’re presenting. Instead of focusing on big retainer projects, maybe you start looking at individual little planning projects, things that are stepping stones to more future work. So make things less risky for clients in this environment, make it more digestible for their current cash flow challenges. Perhaps look at your terms so that you can have some paid up front but allow something to be paid out over time in ways that you might not have previously.

So take advantage of the opportunities that you’re getting to pitch. So while meaningful conversation should largely be about being helpful and positioning yourself for for the future. You shouldn’t overlook these opportunities to pitch when it’s appropriate. And you probably want to start it in a softer way then you might have before by saying, Would it make sense, Jane, for us to talk about this particular Service right now? Or is it better to wait. So take that opportunity to open the door to the conversation.

Because if they’re ready, they’ll let you know. And you want to make sure that you are there for them in their time of need. And you’re presenting the solution that will help them meet their own needs. And with all of these things, it doesn’t work unless you are actually putting one foot in front of the other and doing things. So you need to set a goal. And you need to set a reasonable goal, something that you’re actually going to attain. And we have to be realistic, because again, we’re feeling the pressures. Maybe we’ve got kids home from school, and so we’re having to, you know, split our focus and spend time on that during the course of the day.

You know, everybody’s talking about how it’s, you know, we’ve got all this extra available time. Well, the reality is, most of us don’t, and I’m not sure that even if we do have this theoretically available time, that it makes sense to pile it all in with work, and instead we need to Focus on our own mental health and well being at the same time. But we need to be setting these goals because if we don’t set goals, then we’re we’re likely to put it to the side.

And this is true of many agency owners that they don’t like working on business development. I don’t know how many of you listening to me today, love business development or hate it. But if I was guessing, I would say most of you would skew towards the hated side. Or at least, you’ll be one of those agency owners who tells me, I love to have the actual closing conversation. I just don’t like having the initial conversations and having to go out there and find the prospects. Well, if you put on that helpful mindset hat that I talked about before, those conversations should become easier. But you need to figure out what’s the reasonable number to be having Is it one conversation a day, like I suggested with the nifty 50 list, maybe maybe it’s two or three a day, because you’ve lost a bunch of business and so you have,

you do truly have a bigger window of work time available. Maybe slowly. Less than one a day because you’re, you’re fighting fires, maybe you’re at an agency where you’ve got clients that are overwhelmed themselves. And here you’re having to spend more time. I know many of you are over servicing clients at the moment because you’re afraid of losing business. And over servicing, as I’ve talked about on a couple of previous webinars recently, it can be strategically smart to do as long as you’re doing it consciously.

So whatever it is, you need to figure out what the right goal is for you. And if you’re focused on hitting that number, and you continue to check yourself, it means you’ll continue to move the ball forward and continue to create those conditions for success. But you need to look at this as a team effort. And this is it’s a team effort, even if you don’t have actual employees.

If you’ve got even one contractor who works on things for you, wrap them in, take advantage of an opportunity to have a conversation with them about what they think what is their point of view, how do they see things changing? What are their ideas for how you could be Your Business differently or to two different targets? Or, you know, what adjustments could you make. So think about it in terms of a team effort. It can also be a great learning experience, if you’re fortunate enough that maybe you’ve had your workload decrease a little bit from clients, but you’ve been able to hold on to staff or contractors, it’s an opportunity to bring some more junior people into the process, help them learn about business development.

So it’s not just helping you in the agency, it’s also developing them for the future, because in the agency world, we all have responsibility to some degree for business development. And ultimately, it’s going to fall on those of us who own the business, for the most part, particularly in small independent agencies, like many of you are, but you still need to have participation from everybody all the way down to the the most junior intern because they have something to add to the process.

As we look at tactics, the tactics, by and large haven’t changed substantially just because of the crisis. With one exception, and that’s the last one on this list, which is mail. Mail is harder to do now because a lot of offices are closed. So you may be sending things into the ether, where they’re not getting checked as often. But as soon as offices start coming back, look very closely at snail mail. And I know that if you particularly if you do digital work of those kinds of things, you’re like, Oh, my God, I can’t believe this guy is talking about sending mail who does mail.

That’s exactly the point. nobody’s doing mail. And if nobody’s doing mail, that means that you will stand out, you cut through the clutter. Everybody’s doing you I mean, look at your inbox. your inbox is full of email newsletters and pitches and notifications about webinars on business development for agencies, I’m sure you’re sick of seeing my emails.

But if I were to send you a postcard, or I was to send you a letter, or a handwritten note, you’re going to pay attention to that. And particularly with your nifty 50 list, those handwritten notes can be a super beneficial way of Building relationships, but use the other tactics, the digital tactics smartly in the meantime. And so that means that on social, you should absolutely be using it. But make sure that you’re being reasonable, particularly LinkedIn, I’ve seen a huge explosion of people reaching out on LinkedIn. And there’s a lot more content being created on LinkedIn, a lot of good relationships are being developed. But there’s a lot of bad stuff taking place on LinkedIn right now, mostly because people are, you know, there may be acting out of desperation they’ve had their own business has been significantly impacted.

So they’re desperate, they’re trying to reach as many people as quickly as possible. So that means a lot of the outreach on platforms like LinkedIn isn’t as personal as it should be. It jumps right into the pitch stage and bypasses the being helpful. So by all means, use a platform like LinkedIn right now to build more relationships to start the conversation. But be responsible in how you’re doing it and make sure that you focus on the relationship first, and then the actual business benefits second, that’s how you’ll be successful.

Same thing with email, phone, it’s a lot easier to get people on the phone, you may not be a cold calling type person. Although I’ve talked with a bunch of folks who say that’s working well, now, people are actually answering the phone. But maybe you’re more like me and you schedule the phone call or the zoom conversation. And, you know, there’s a lot of stories right now about how people are fed up with zoom, oh, my God, another zoom call. Personally, I’ve always loved it, I having the opportunity to engage with people where I can see them is enjoyable, I do get why people are frustrated by it now, but at the same time, people are much more willing to use zoom, even if they may, in the back of their mind, say, not another one. And you can build a really substantial relationship through these video calls.

So I encourage you to use that as much as possible. And I can tell you, in my one on one calls with people far more people are putting on video now with zoom than ever used to. I always was the guy who put on the video and someone else on the other end would be just on audio. But now more people are using the video. So I encourage you to use It’s gonna help deepen the relationships more quickly. And that’s critical to your business development success.

But you can’t do it all yourself. I talked about the importance of taking advantage of your team, but look outside of your agency. And it’s not just Co Op petition with other agency owners, it’s looking for people who can refer business. So who else is serving your target market or your vertical that you can build relationships with? Get those people on your nifty 50 list, but be having conversations with them. Regardless, think about who you might be able to partner up with. Maybe you’re a traditional earned media Media Relations type agency, maybe you want to partner up with someone in the digital space, or vice versa. My good friend Gini Dietrich, my co host on the Agency Leadership Podcast, she created the PESO model.

Now more than ever, the PESO model matters, because you need to have that combination of paid, earned, shared and own in order to be an effective communicator. It doesn’t mean that your agency can’t specialize in one of those letters are two of those letters. But you need to have a familiar familiarity with those other aspects. And probably some partnerships with agencies that can fill the gaps of the PESO model that you’re not engaging with directly. So look at this as an opportunity to build some of those partnerships and relationships. Think about, as I said before, the guest appearances that you might be able to make, think about joint webinars that you might be able to host with others, again, focused on your vertical. So maybe you’re putting on something with one of the trade publications in the industries that you serve.

Maybe it’s, you know, finding a prominent blogger in the space or someone who’s creating other thought leadership. Maybe it’s doing it in conjunction with someone on the brand side. There’s a lot of different opportunities we have for these content partnerships right now. And we should be taking advantage of them because everybody’s trying to think creatively about how they reach the right people. And if you can join forces to get out In front of more ideal clients or potentially ideal clients, the better off you’re going to be. And so it’s really all about creating those conditions that I talked about for success, basically, because business development in the agency world comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

And you can create your own luck in this process by making sure that you remain Top of Mind with your ideal clients that your nifty 50 list by being the right person for their solution by making sure that they understand what it is that you do and how you can help. So focus on these meaningful conversations, focus on creating conditions for success. And again, just to recap, I think the the five biggest things that you can be doing right now, don’t turtle, come up with your perspective on what’s going to happen. be helpful, as much as possible to as many people as possible set goals so that you’re not letting business development fall by the wayside. You’re not putting up If you’re not inadvertently turtling, even if you didn’t decide to do so consciously, and then finally, show up, be there attend as many things as you can.

And I know that again, we’re pressed for time, but show up if you are there. If you are being there, you’ll be in the right place at the right time, and it will pay off. So that will bring us to an end of the formal presentation portion of today’s webinar. At this point, I’ll open the floor up to questions. I’m going to take a quick sip of water because I’ve been blathering on for a couple of more minutes than I had planned. So I’m going to wet the whistle while I wait for a few questions to pop in. So we already have a couple that are here. But feel free to use that q&a box at the bottom of the screen to submit some additional ones and we’ll get rolling with questions here in just a moment. Okay. Yeah, so the first question I have is what are reasonable goals.

So I’m specifically being vague and obtuse about the right number of goals, because as I said before, it really depends on your personal circumstances. Well, I think that I’m specific about the nifty 50 list. And I have a reason for that, because I think it’s that one meaningful conversation today. So, if I were if you pressed me, I would say that one meaningful conversation a day would really probably be a good place to start. And then you can always calibrate it up or down depending on what the real world is doing for you. What’s, what you’re finding as actually possible. And again, it’s important to be reasonable here. If you set it to something absurdly high, you say, Okay, I’m gonna have 10 meaningful conversations a day, and you don’t hit it, it’s going to become frustrating. At the same time, if you set it too low and say, Okay, I’m gonna have one meaningful conversation a week is probably not going to pay off for you. So you’ve got to find the right mix. Perhaps start with that one meaningful conversation today.

And the reason why I focus on me For conversations as opposed to, you need to make so many calls or send so many emails. It’s because when people think in terms of those goals, if you think about the just the outputs, at that point, you start doing rubbish things just to get your numbers up. And so I’ve seen plenty of folks, I’ve had folks who have worked for me before. And truth be told, I’ve probably done it myself in the past to where I said, Okay, my goal is to send 10 emails, 10 invitations or something like that in a day. And, you know, you just, you set the bar too low, and it’s really more about just mechanically getting them out.

Whereas meaningful conversations means that you’re talking to people that you want to be having conversations with, and there’s substantive and important conversations. So thank you for that question. Let’s see. Got a couple of more that come in here. How can I avoid coming across coming across poorly in my outreach, and I suspect that was Based on on my comment that there are a lot of bad people doing bad Outreach at the moment, some of it comes down to you just you don’t want to be too aggressive in what you’re talking about. But you also want to try to put yourself in the shoes of the folks who are receiving your messaging, whether that’s content that you’re putting up on social media, emails, that you’re sending out phone calls that you’re having, you know, if you if you call up somebody and say, you know, geez, from everything I’ve read, things are really sucking for you right now you must need help. That’s, that’s nice, a little tone deaf.

You know, you want to be careful about using a lot of the language that everybody else is using. And it’s tough because I was actually having conversation with someone about this earlier today. You know, we all say oh, you know, we were tired of hearing in these challenging times or things like that. Yes, people are sick of that. And, and so you do want to be careful about how much you use that kind of language you want to Make sure that you are focused on being someone who uplifts people, and not someone who preys upon their weaknesses, their challenges, their suffering. So, find that balance. And again, if you if you follow the simple rule of being human, that I’ve talked about so often in the past few weeks, if you if you say, am I being human, that’s probably a pretty good indicator for you as to whether or not your approaches is going to be well received or not, doesn’t mean that you won’t have any pushback.

I you know, you certainly will, from time to time, you have to accept that anytime you’re doing outreach to help build your audience, but at the same time, you can be reasonable and realistic in in the language you use to try to come across better. All right. I really need new clients, how can I speed up the sales process? So there are agencies absolutely that are in this position. I’ve had conversations unfortunately with some agencies that have lost over 50% have their business in the last few weeks. And it is it I mean, it hurts to have those conversations because you can see and feel just how much someone is struggling. At the same time when it comes to business development, you want to present yourself in a way where you’re vulnerable to prospective clients.

You want to come across as that human person and folks right now who say, Oh, this is this has been great for my business isn’t 99 that’s kind of a turn off to, but you have to strike that right balance because you don’t want to come in with that hangdog look and, and say, Oh, my God, you know, I just I need any business that I can get because, frankly, you’ll make decisions that are more focused on bringing cash in the door than building the right relationships. And while that may help you in the short term, and by all means, make some concessions in the short term to do what you need to do to survive to get the cash in the door. But understand that if you make too many compromises, You’re actually setting your business up for failure.

As far as how do you actually speed things up, though? It’s very challenging right now to speed up any of these conversations, you can certainly try it through some of the tactics that I talked about before as far as offering preferred terms, flexibility, breaking things down into bite sized chunks and projects, maybe rethinking some of your pricing. And I know there are a lot of folks right now who think that it’s wrong to compromise on pricing. I don’t agree, I think you need to be again, careful about it. But at the same time, it is worth looking at during all of these major economic disruptions if your pricing model is right for the new environment.

That goes back to the perspective of the point of view question that I suggested earlier. You know, the other things that you can do to speed things up, you can certainly talk to folks and and try to move the ball in a responsible way, so don’t drop the ball. So if someone if someone’s gone four or five days without following up with you, or if you have set a time to follow up, and I always encourage you to do that business development, make sure that when you have a conversation with someone, and it’s actually about a potential project, send a follow up time. So, you know, instead of just hanging up and saying, we’ll talk next week, pick a time next week, you can always reschedule it.

And you can always use that language with your prospect to so try to try to create the opportunities to have that follow up discussion to keep the process moving. But ultimately, it’s very difficult to speed things up right now because a lot of folks are in that wait and see mode to try to figure out with a little bit more certainty what’s coming. So but best of luck and trying to speed things up. It is you do need to make the effort. How do I handle the fact that media aren’t taking pitches right now for the most part, so I assume this is coming from a PR agent See that’s focused mostly on earned media Media Relations, outreach, that sort of thing. And so obviously, it can impact business development, if you’re not able to tell folks that you’re, you know, likely to have success with their their pitches and their efforts.

You know, I think that you, this goes back a little bit to the the peso question that I was talking about a little bit earlier, you need to think about how you can perhaps use some other tactics and techniques to help the client achieve their goals. I think it’s really important right now not to use straight line thinking. You need to think about how you can be creative to help clients get what they want, if they’ve traditionally relied on in person events, instead of just proposing that it become a virtual event or webinar, think

about, you know, what other mix of things could you do to be helpful and some of this is going to evolve over time I saw right after all this happened, a lot of virtual events becoming half day or full day, online things and now they’re being broken up, perhaps into segments over the course of a week, because people just don’t want to sit in front of their computer, you know, watching a session, or even participating in a session for hours on end. Think about the different ways that you can help them meet their needs.

Think about how they can and run traditional media. But also keep in mind that while media aren’t taking pitches, those that are are hungry for them. So don’t assume that the media is not taking pitches in your space, make sure you’re actually talking to them, sort of pre pitch them find out if they are open to ideas. Also, a lot of media outlets are laying off staff right now. That’s good and bad. From a PR perspective.

We can debate the society ills later, but from a PR perspective, it matters for a couple of reasons. One, those media that are around are going to be overtaxed. They’re probably being asked to create even more content, which means they’re more dependent upon what PR agencies and others are providing them. So think about even more carefully how you package things up to make their lives extra easy. In these challenging times, obviously on the downside, it may mean that folks who covered the beat that that that you’re pitching, they may not exist anymore, it may have been handed over to someone who is not as familiar with it.

And so there may be a learning curve or the column is simply may not be there, or the pixel inches if it’s a digital only publication. So it is certainly going to be a challenge if you are in the earned media space right now, but don’t assume anything and find those creative solutions to meet your your challenges. I think that is going to cover all the questions that I see. Yep. I have had all the questions that have come in. If you think of any at this point that I have not answered or that you would like me to answer one on one feel free to just email Chip at agency leadership calm I really appreciate you taking the time to be here and listen to me. Hopefully I’ve given you some practical ideas that you can use in your own agency. If you have suggestions for future webinar topics or articles or podcast episodes or anything like that, feel free to reach out that same email address. I’m looking forward to trying to find as many ways to help agencies as I can in the weeks and months to come and years to come at that. So thanks again for participating today, and I look forward to seeing you back on a future webinar.

Chip Griffin

Chip Griffin

Chip is the Founder & CEO of Agency Leadership Advisors and a longtime agency owner and executive. He helps PR and marketing agency leaders build better businesses.