As we plan for the year ahead, we’ve been reflecting back on the last 12 months and talking to the agency community, to understand what will be the key trends for Business Development in 2019. Here are our 7 top predictions to help you keep ahead of the game.
TRADITIONAL AGENCY CATEGORIES WILL BECOME LESS SIGNIFICANT
The increase in agencies of all different shapes and sizes – as well as consultants, technology solutions and other new entrants to the market – means that you’re no longer just competing against those who have traditionally done the same as you. The lines between the categories and classifications of agencies has become increasingly blurred, so agencies find themselves being compared against a wide range of different businesses.
There are already over 30,000 agencies in the UK and some analysis recently undertaken suggests some 40 different agency models in operation. Ed Walker, Business Development Director at Foolproof predicts that management consultancies will also continue to become more influential and secure more places on pitch lists. Therefore it’s ever more important to find ways to make sure your agency stands out and go beyond the discipline or category you specialise in.
Ian Farnfield of Tonic Partners highlights that clients are often looking for specialists who can deliver results, but they find it hard to identify what they are really getting. Therefore it’s important to make it clear what you stand for, what client challenge you solve, or where you really add value. Ian also suggests that ‘likeability’ and trust will increasingly play a big part in winning and maintaining relationships.
SALES INTELLIGENCE SOFTWARE WILL BE A GAME CHANGER
Over the last couple of years technology has been changing the landscape for new business. A good CRM system should now be a basic expectation for any new business team (especially with great free and low cost options out there).
The right data and insights tools should also be an essential part of any new business toolkit. Ingrid Olmesdahl (Client Services Director at Red Badger) expects to see data-driven approach to new business become non-negotiable in 2019, with the correct use of data and insights a key differentiator for agencies in supporting new business and client development.
At Upfront, we’ve recently secured a deal to exclusively partner with U.S. based sales intelligence leader Winmo. As well as providing access to the latest media spend, incumbent agency info and brand insight, the really exciting part is the platform’s predictive intelligence – by tracking triggers such as investment, financial performance and new appointments, the platform helps you anticipate future agencies reviews so you don’t chase new business leads, you get out in front of them.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT GDPR
The anticipation of GDPR coming into force in 2018 created a lot of concern amongst agencies as to what this would mean for new business. After a big rush to update privacy policies and ironically, send out lots of emails, businesses have largely continued to reach out to potential clients by applying legitimate interest. Whilst the headlines and attention quickly faded post May 25th, it’s important to manage your data carefully and provide a clear opt-out process.
If you are applying legitimate interest as a reason for contacting someone, do keep in mind the importance of ensuring your communication is well targeted and highly relevant. This is important not just too adhere to legislation, but as best practice to increase your chances of success. It’s also important to ensure you future proof your new business activity by developing highly engaged relationships where people want to hear more from you as who knows that the future holds as PECR and other updates follow.
KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO
The agency pitch was a hot topic throughout 2018 and something we covered at a recent event where we looked at how the pitch process can be improved. There have been a number of calls for the process to be overhauled and some intermediaries proposing new models and ways of working. We expect this conversation to carry forward into 2019 with a more collaborative approach between clients, agencies, intermediaries and procurement helping to develop more progressive and streamlined processes.
We all know that the pitch process can be an incredibly time intensive process for both agencies and clients. The most effective agencies over the last year have enjoyed success, not by being on the most pitch lists, but by knowing which pitches to go for. Kate Bosomworth, CMO of M&C Saatchi, highlighted at our BD100 event that agencies need to know when to say no and should become more selective with who they choose to pitch for. Keep this in mind when planning resource allocation for new business to deliver on the year ahead.
Agencies should also make sure they commit to diversity, as this is likely to become more and more important to brands and start impacting selection process. When speaking at our event, Carolyn McKeever, Global Head of Downstream Marketing at Shell, mentioned that diversity was important, but sometimes difficult to apply when better creative work is still likely to swing it. However, with recent calls from the likes of Syl Saller, Diageo’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, to ask agencies to see their statistics on gender diversity and pay gaps, it’s likely to form an increasingly prominent part of the process – and rightly so!
PR AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT WILL WORK CLOSER TOGETHER
In a recent interview with Jemima Monies, Deputy Managing Director at Adam & Eve DDB, Jemima shared her view that PR and Business Development need to work closely together, intrinsically supported by great work. Jemima explains that when it comes to new business, it’s much more than just pitching and you need to look at the agency as a whole – considering all aspects of marketing, internal comms and PR.
New Business consultant Lucy Snell adds that new business should be about covering all bases – from content, to social media & marketing, through to running, attending and speaking at events.
In an increasingly competitive landscape, great content, events and PR are no longer nice to haves for Business Development. They are all critical to supporting both outbound and inbound new business activity and helping agencies stand out. Meanwhile, from a PR perspective, Martin Loat (Chairman at the Propeller Group) highlights that agencies are increasingly looking for business outcomes and sales delivered in return for their investment in PR.
These were big drivers for Upfront to join forces and become part of the Propeller Group in 2018, allowing us to tap into new skills and expertise as part of a joined up approach. We see this extending into exciting areas in 2019 such as video and podcast production, inbound and LinkedIn engagement to help agencies deliver leads and support their new business activity.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT WILL GET THE RECOGNITION IT DESERVES
In September 2018 we were very proud to launch The BD100. Together with Co-Founder, Richard McHardy, we felt it was time to shine a light on all the fantastic Business Developers out there and did this by bringing everyone together for a night of celebration. Fran Brook won the Business Developer of the Year and Lydia Smith was voted rising star. Both were very worthy winners, but beyond that, it was great to seeing all of the top 100 getting the recognition they deserve.
We were delighted to partner with The Drum for The BD100 and together we are already making plans to do this again in 2019. It will be bigger and better as we continue to champion the business development community. Further announcements to follow soon and rest assured we will continue to work hard to ensure Business Development gets the recognition it deserves.
STAY PITCH FIT
It’s likely that you will have your highs and lows in new business. Kerry Glazer (CEO of AAR and President of NABS) reminds us that Business Development can be very stressful and at times, lonely profession, so make sure you keep you and your team pitch fit and prioritise staff wellbeing.
It’s been encouraging to see more open discussion around the importance of mental well-being across the indusry – and in particular around new business. We hope to see this continue in 2019 with a greater commitment to supporting Business Development teams.
Organisations such as NABS are on hand for support and if you don’t already have one, it may be worth searching out a mentor. It’s also a good idea to regularly meet up with other Business Developers to help share ideas, insights and experience.
Good luck for the year ahead, may it be filled with lots of exciting new business success!
Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more, or need a little help with all this.