One thing I highly recommend to my agency clients is a routine by which your top prospects are invited in to speak/meet with you twice a year. I call it a ‘campaign’ for your agency, and it’s a good way to stay on the radar of your top prospects while also positioning your agency as a valuable, strategic resource - and possibly picking up a project in the process. There are a few critical success factors with this approach.
1) Have something interesting to share. This is often the hardest part for an agency because, unlike consulting firms, we typically focus on doing client work without taking the time afterward to assess ‘what did we just learn through this process that we should share internally and with top prospects?’ It could be a ‘How To’ from an important case study (the client can be masked) or a bit of learning amassed about a particular topic that has broad appeal or within a specific vertical you’re going after. It could be some kind of consumer insight that you've gained through some kind of proprietary process. Generally speaking, it just needs to be something that even people who are not looking for an agency right now would consider a good investment of their time to learn about.
2) When inviting prospects to speak with you, whether via email or phone (preferably both), remind them that you are tracking their business, and prove it by referring to something specific about them or their business. This will help to break through the clutter and also predispose your prospects to your offer. It’s a little more work than a mass email, but not only will it increase your conversion rate, it will also separate your agency from the pack over time. Remember, prospects don’t care about your agency, they care about themselves, so they remember the agencies that also care about them.
3) Let them know you’ll be setting up these calls with a select set of companies in a two week period and would like to include them. Let them know it will be a thirty minute, one-on-one phone call, and if you don’t hear back, you’ll go ahead and send them a meeting request for one of the open time slots. This serves several purposes. It suggests that they are a part of a select group (which they are!), making them feel special. It creates a sense of urgency (ie. limited time offer), and it gives them an easy way to take the next step (because you will take the next step for them). In my experience, marketing execs are often too busy to get back to you even if they are mildly interested, so make it easy for them, and you will be surprised how many people accept your request.
4) For those who don’t respond or decline your request, thank them, let them know you will continue to track their business and then try them again in the spring with a new shiny lure.
What happens on these calls is the subject of my next post, but sharing knowledge, insights and learning on a bi-annual basis is a best practice for a strategic, next generation agency, so make it a priority for 2013. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!