The Agency Business Development Plan: Just Do It!
For many agency owners and leaders, the toughest part of starting their agency’s business development plan, is, well, getting started! And that’s critically important, as we jump into planning season for 2014.
I’ve heard from various agency owners and leaders about why they don’t have one. “It’s in my head.” “Who’s got the time?” “I’m doing a great job of building business from existing clients.”
Frankly, I think the reason many don’t have business development plans is that they’re afraid. Afraid that it will take too much time. Afraid, perhaps, that they’ll see unreachable goals. Afraid that they won’t be able to finish it.
Sometimes the best way to tackle a seemingly overwhelming but important task is to simply get started.
Despite what you might believe, business development plans don’t have to be lengthy. As such, writing them doesn’t have to take an enormous amount of your time. Of course, if you’re passionately committed to growing new business for your agency–and if you’re not, why are you in this business?– implementing it will require a regular time commitment from you and your other leaders. But that’s a topic for another post.
The best way to start your business development plan is by answering the following seven questions:
- How much additional income do I want to generate in the next six months or year? Don’t be afraid. It’s just a number. Make it a reasonable percentage of your current billings. Be glad you don’t have to set a ridiculous number to please “the suits” at the overseas holding company. Be both realistic and ambitious. Set a number that’s just a little beyond your comfort zone. Doing so will encourage you to grow more. And if your firm is newer, the percentage of growth must be on the more ambitious side, since you may be starting with a lower base.
- From where will I source this income? How much can you reasonably grow your income from current clients? This should always be your first target, because generating new business from current clients is the approach that will drive the greatest income with the least resource investment. But it can only go so far in achieving your growth goal. So you must start to articulate the new, new business targets where you think you can reasonably draw this business.
- What do we do best? First, you must get a firm handle on your agency’s points of strength, difference and superiority. What kind of work do you do better than your competition? This requires a great dose of honesty. There’s no point in pursuing business that primarily taps those practices or areas in which you only give yourself a “B,” even if the opportunity comes via a referral, because chances are you won’t win that business, or worse, you’ll win it and under-perform. Better to build your business by obtaining clients where you can do your best work, while concurrently raising the quality of work in those areas which need improvement.
- Who’ll need us the most? Next, identify the industries, business categories, and types of organizations that will most likely need assistance in the areas of public relations, influencer management, and related communications areas in which your firm is most proficient, in the next one, three and five years.
- Who can pay us so we’ll make a fair profit? To maximize income, you must target the industries and companies that look best positioned for growth, because these are the ones which can pay you fairly. Unless you’ve got a reliable crystal ball, it’s well worth it to do some research in this area, as well as tap into your most knowledgeable connections. Remember, it takes no more effort to target categories that are poised to expand, but the rewards can be substantial. And the efforts you make here will have an impact on your success for years to come. So it’s worth the investment.
- Cross-reference: Now cross-reference the lists to see which categories, organizations and companies meet all three criteria: poised for growth, will most likely need PR/communications services, and can benefit from the type of work/practice areas in which your firm excels.
- Where do we have, or can we get, an “in”? Now it’s time to start naming names. Which are the companies in which you have contacts, or even contacts-of-contacts? Do your influencers, supporters, clients and former clients have contacts that they’d be willing to share with you, or better yet, would they be willing to make an introduction?
Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Although it’s just the beginning, the good news is that you’ve started.