BD Sessions

The BD Sessions: insights, inspiration and empathy

We successfully launched The BD Sessions – an interactive virtual meet up for those involved in generating new business to share insights and encouragement in this challenging time – and to have some fun in the process. 

With three guest speakers and held together by quick-thinking link man Alister Heywood from sister agency Propeller (or Ali Woods under his stand-up comedy nom-de-plume), the inaugural session attracted dozens of BD practitioners 

The speakers – Charlie Martyn, head of New Business at Wunderman-Thompson, Cat Hartland, Head of The Drum Recommends and Dave Currie, CEO of Winmo and agency search consultancy AAR Partners – gave hints and tips and advice about tackling morale, the appropriate strategy for business development right now and what sectors are offering opportunities for potential business conversations. 

Serve Don’t Sell

The overriding message was ‘serve don’t sell’ – this is not a time for the hard sell but rather to show you can add value and support without expectation of an immediate brief.

Advice for keeping the team cohesive and alert to opportunity from Charlie included maintaining  a good dose of positivity. The BD team is often seen as the source of news and excitement within the agency so find what nuggets you can to keep people upbeat across the board – whether it’s about clients and their successes or light-hearted memes and gifs.

At the same time the agency must present its best face to the wider world, so BD and marketing need to work together to come up with ways to show the agency has a strong culture, is resilient and innovative.

“What you say isn’t enough. It’s what you do that builds a culture of positivity”, said Charlie.

Positivity can translate into real benefits, according to the theory that those with an upbeat mindset are better at spotting opportunity; their ‘peripheral vision’ is more developed and they can identify potential in the most unlikely ways.

Relationship Building

In terms of relationship-building there are opportunities to strengthen ties and make new connections that should deliver in the longer term. The importance of building trust and maintaining share of voice was underlined by Dave who said: “Your competitors are either going to hunker down or are going to pivot and be deliberate and strategic.”

Cat pointed out that current clients will need all the help you can provide and your support will give long-term payback:”Your clients will remember how you treated them during this time.”

Clients often still don’t know the full breadth of an agency’s capabilities and so now it a good time to remind them of all the things you can do. Many are switching their budgets and creative execution into digital formats and they’ll need assistance. But lay out how you can help without it becoming a hard-nosed upsell conversation, stressed Cat.

Charlie added that one of the best things an agency can do right now is “help their clients not be tone deaf.” Some brands are making missteps in their messaging or the way they are delivering those messages. If you can bring some crisis-comms advice to the table, you will be invaluable.

The current pandemic means that business strategy has to be “a long-term play” said Dave and agencies need to set up expectations with Managing Directors and Chief marketing Officers, who in many cases are becoming Chief Growth Officers  “with a broader view of what their business needs.”

Where to find business and how to win it

Live briefs are still coming through and according to recent research from The Drum Recommends, 80% of conversations are still taking place directly with agencies (rather than through intermediaries or procurement). Pitches are still taking place and both clients and agencies are having to adjust to how this is done virtually – for instance, for those on the creative agency side the element of ‘pitch theatre’ is harder to deliver.

Cat said that the focus “should be on supplying the information prospects want to know.” Prepare the case studies and use the conversations to show the way you work and your processes in ‘the new normal’ to your best advantage.

Dave brought some granular insights based on very recent market data.

Looking over categories, he said that some retailers were doing well and upping spend with marketing budget going into social media, sponsored posts, podcast sponsorships and other channels. Sub-categories showing spikes in ad spend include Home Improvement, Gaming, Health & Fitness, Home Office equipment, Consumer Electronics and many more.The players in these categories are now in a fierce battle for share of voice.

Online services from counselling to personal finance advice are also ramping up and looking for assistance in moving from a  ‘freemium’ model where the lower tier of capability is free into subscription-based models. This can include developing tone of voice to practical UX design skills.

CPG challenger brands are also finding they are being trialled in greater volume than ever as they become substitutes in people’s grocery baskets for brands that are in short supply. Their  challenge is to find ways of keeping hold of the customer so it’s not a one-off sale.

Remember we’re human

Finally, the speakers agreed that recent weeks has taught everyone – if they needed reminding – that we are all human, clients and agencies alike. People have a lot more to deal with now they are trying to work from the home environment and businesses are under huge pressure, so kindness and empathy should be the order of the day.

The next BD Sessions is scheduled for April 23rd with a speaker line up and topic to be announced. The format will be lively, interactive  and keep you on your toes, so make sure you join us and to help keep the BD community flourishing.

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Talking Up the Brilliance of Business Development – the BD100 Awards Evening

Senior agency executives shared insights on business development best practice and gave advice on how to progress in the role at a packed event held to celebrate the new BD100 cohort.

The evening was held in partnership with The Drum and also included an inspirational talk from Frank Dick OBE,  President of the European Athletics Coaches Association, who has coached athletes such as Daley Thompson, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.  For the finale, the winners of a clutch of coveted new business awards were revealed.

The informative panel was chaired by Robin Bonn of Co:definery and featured people who all have experience in business development. The line-up included Fran Brook, New Business and Marketing Director at Crispin Porter Bogusky, Julian Douglas, Vice Chairman of VCCP, Ian Milner, CEO of Iris Worldwide and Rose Bentley, Director of Clients & Strategy at Propeller Group. 

Business developers are truth tellers

All emphasised the importance of the new business role. Rose said: “As a leadership role, the business developer is uniquely placed – they are a partner both to the client and also they are the client within our own business”, while Julian added “The role is the heartbeat of the agency.”

Ian pointed out that the business developer keeps an agency anchored in the real world and can see “what is good, bad or indifferent” about their agency. “It puts you in an amazing position to tell the truth – it’s important for agency heads to understand what can be learnt from new business that can make the agency better.”

The important skills

Looking at what talents are expected for business development, the panel said that it was important to have people who were always on the front foot and, because agencies have so little differentiation, people who bring “lots of personal theatre” to the role. 

Whether business development should be in the pitch prompted several observations. Julian was firm the team that will eventually work on the business should pitch, while Fran added: “Business development should not be in the room if they do not have a role.”  

Rose added that people in the new business role should have the ability to read the room – if they’re not in the pitch it’s vital that they coach the team on this ability.

Advice for rising to a senior position included  developing a strong relationship with the MD or CEO because it can be a stressful role which needs “air cover” occasionally; bringing energy to the team and having commercial awareness to understand a prospect’s pain points. 

Taking a measured approach

One of the questions concerned how agencies safeguard the mental well-being of business developers, as the role can include working late and over weekends. Julian said he had found no correlation between putting in intense efforts over long hours and business wins. A calmer, less frantic approach has yielded better results.

This question dovetailed with business development’s role in being able to say ‘no”’ to taking on a pitch if it feels wrong – or withdrawing from a pitch if it’s becoming evident that you could be working for a poor quality client and Ian said: “It’s really empowering to withdraw from a pitch.”

Ultimately, the business developer is a key conduit for demonstrating and selling the agency’s thinking and must think of ways to bring this thinking to life creatively.

If losing doesn’t hurt, winning doesn’t matter

The panel discussion was followed by Frank Dick’s enjoyable and inspirational mix of anecdote and motivational encouragement. He stressed that what you accept is all that you can expect. Based on his experience of successful sports leadership and translating to the world of business development, Frank focused on the importance of taking personal ownership of every moment to turn it into an opportunity to make a winning difference.

Frank also talked about the importance of having courage and stepping beyond the edge of risk to achieve success. If you are always striving to win, what else can you be doing to improve your performance? And if losing doesn’t hurt, winning doesn’t matter.

Shining the spotlight on great business development

The BD100 then did a fantastic job of shining the light on all the great business development being done in the UK. Well done to all of those who made The BD100 and this year’s winners.

🏆 Business Developer of the Year – Helen Lee (Marketing & New Business Director, Wunderman Thompson) 

🌟 Rising Star of the Year – Alex Johnson (Senior New Business Manager, Born Social)

🏆 Business Development Team of the Year – Engine

🏆 New Business Win of the Year – mcm creative group

Great to see business development getting the recognition it deserves. A great initiative from our Managing Director, Jody Osman and Co-Founder Richard McHardy. Well done to everyone involved.

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Propeller Group partners with MAD//Fest for networking and live podcast

Someone once told me that the art of networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, but the hard part is making it a top priority. It is an investment that takes time and effort – but if done correctly and regularly then results soon follow. 

Industry events are a great place to grow your network and broaden your understanding of the challenges both your peers and your competitors are facing. But they can be hit or miss.

At their worst, some events are not much more than a series of sales pitches from a stage, where conference halls are filled with a sea of people shuffling from stand to stand, pitching their pitch without any kind of quality engagement. 

But the best events can be transformative experiences for audiences. They can deliver a  programme of amazing speakers, curated content and targeted networking in an inspiring and entertaining space that more than justifies the time spent out of the office. 

MAD//Fest ticks all these boxes, so we’re delighted to be partnering with the show this year, taking place on Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th November 2019 at the Truman Brewery, London.

MAD//Fest debuted last year, connecting 60 sponsors and exhibitors with 2,700 influential decision makers, and 2019 is expected to be even bigger. It’s expecting 4,000+ attendees and 1000+ brands to attend, from the likes of Google to Greggs, Chelsea FC to Extinction Rebellion. The above figures alone show what an incredible platform for new business MAD//Fest offers. 

The Upfront team will be there working with our clients to maximise what they get out of the experience. We’ll be setting up meetings, networking our way around – and crucially – following up on friendly conversations to turn them into impactful business conversions. 

If you fancy a beer and a bite to eat – come say hello at our table at the MAD//Picnic, where 500 of the UK’s top advertisers, agencies and media owners will be gathering for an al-fresco experience with London’s best food, craft beer, entertainment and music. 

We’ll also be running a podcast live from MAD//Fest where we will be interviewing attendees and getting a sense of what drives people mad about marketing – and what topics they are madly in love with. We’ll be recording across both days – so if you see us and are feeling inspired by the myriad of creativity on display – come and say hello! 

MAD//Fest London is a place where the content gets the room talking – not checking emails in the back row. And with 75% of attendees in the marketplace for marketing and design tech solutions, it is a must for vendors and agencies. 

Meaningful connections are the real currency of events, but the opportunities to connect at MAD//Fest start well before the event itself kicks off. The MAD//Fest app allows you to get ahead and connect with leads ahead of time – and we’re using this to connect our clients with the world’s top brands, agencies and publishers as they plan their strategic investments for 2019.

Networking really is like training a muscle. The more you do it, the better you get, and the more results you see. But it requires commitment. You can’t go to the gym once and expect instant results – much in the same way you can’t network and win new business from a single conversation. It’s all about commitment – you need to be interested in who you talk to, and make sure you follow up and put the effort in to allow the relationship to blossom. 

MAD//Fest is an opportunity for like-minded peers to come together and network amidst a sea of topic-themed brand challenges, immersive tech experiences and intelligent conversation. Really, you’d be mad not to. 

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Perfecting your Pitch

Pitching is the lifeblood of the agency world, however, it can be challenging and takes a lot of hard work to get right. For most agencies, there is always room for improvement, whether it’s working out the right opportunities to go for, developing your pitch, or improving your conversion rate.

Taking place on Wednesday 20th November in London, Pitch Perfect is the annual conference produced by The Drum which will arm you with a new business plan, tools and ideas to win over new clients by the end of the day.

Industry experts will help you build on your current agency business development knowledge and skills and connect with others who have great ideas on how to clinch that all-important client. This will include Diageo’s Chief Procurement Officer, Janelle Orozco, Ballantine’s Head of Brand Communications, Josh McCarthy, Cube3’s CEO, Karl Barker, Kate Bosomworth, Chief Marketing Officer at M&C Saatchi and Pip Hulbert, CEO at Wunderman Thompson. 

Also on the line-up for the day will be Upfront’s Managing Director, Jody Osman. Jody will be joining a panel with Paul Hammersley (Managing Partner at Harbour) and Sera Miller (Co-Founder, Fawnbrake Collective) to discuss Collaboration. Hosted by the Drum’s Editor, Stephen Lepitak, this will look at how when agencies join forces they can become more powerful.

Business Development is top of the agenda throughout the day, with the focus on helping to build on your current agency business development knowledge and skills, as well as connecting you with others who have great ideas on how to clinch that all-important new client win. 

The theme will continue into the evening with The BD100. Following the success of last year’s event The BD100 is back to shine the spotlight on great Business Development. The night will feature a panel discussion, awards and networking as we recognise, celebrate and learn from the best in the business of business development.

We would love to see you at Pitch Perfect and The BD100. Please do get in contact if you’d like to attend either or both events – as partners, we have a 10% discount code we can share with our clients and connections. 

Click here to find out more and buy your tickets.

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Who is the best in the business of business development? The BD100 returns

When it comes to the talent driving agency growth in the UK, the business development community has historically lacked the recognition and representation it deserves.

That all changed last year with the successful launch of The BD100 – an annual list highlighting the best creative agency business developers in the UK and published in association with The Drum. And it’s back for 2019!

Founded by Jody Osman (managing director of Upfront BD) and Richard McHardy (founder of The McHardy Collective), the ambition is to shine a light on the business development community, to highlight the great work of the people in that community and to champion the profession as a whole. These goals were achieved and surpassed at the first ever BD100 event hosted in partnership with The Drum last September.

Osman says: “A lot of agency culture is shaped around winning new business. Whether it’s winning the latest high-profile pitch or making it on to the latest agency league table. This doesn’t just happen by itself, so it’s great to be able to recognise the incredible job being done by business developers in agencies up and down the country.”

McHardy adds: “The positive and far-reaching reaction we had to the launch of The BD100 in 2018 taught us many things about the business development profession but some things stood out clearly: Business developers want to feel part of a wider BD community – they want to come together to share ideas and to help one another which is really positive. We also learned via senior agency representatives that there is a huge amount of respect, admiration and gratitude for the combined hours that business developers work to ensure that their agencies make a positive difference and continue to thrive in the toughest of times. Therefore, it’s our passionate duty to make sure that The BD100 continues to be a beacon for business development excellence in 2019.”

Fran Brook, new business and marketing director at Crispin Porter Bogusky and The BD100 Business Developer of The Year for 2018 sums up her thoughts: “The BD100 gets you access to the knowledge and expertise of your industry peers, and opens you up to great new opportunities. It really is a fantastic community to be a part of, and one that’s essential for our specialism. I encourage anyone thinking of entering to get involved!”

The BD100 also aims to inspire and support emerging talent. The winner of The BD100 Rising Star award for 2018 who continues to rise rapidly through the ranks at M&C Saatchi is Lydia Smith who says: “It was a humbling experience to be singled out in front of such a high-calibre group of business developers. The BD100 is showcasing a network of individuals who share a specific set of skills and who can all learn from each other. The BD100 list isn’t just important, it’s essential.”

Speaking of The Drum’s involvement in The BD100, founder of The Drum, Gordon Young says: “The BD100 is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the unsung heroes of the marketing industry – the very best businesses development professionals. The sort of people who not only deserve recognition, but our attention as we can all learn from the way they operate.” 

This year’s BD100 list will once again be celebrated in partnership with The Drum’s Pitch Perfect event in September for a day focused around the profession of business development.

Nominations for The BD100 2019 are now live. Click here to register your nomination for this year’s BD100. 

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Staying Fighting Fit: PR and Business Development Health Check – Highlights

On Thursday 4th April, Upfront and Propeller Group hosted a Business Development and PR Masterclass, giving a health check on agency BD and PR plans as we enter Q2. Joining us as Keynote speaker was Bronwen Andrews, Head of Business Development for the UK and Europe at Grayling. Bronwen shared her experience, insights and tips, including that when it comes to new business you should be like a sniper.

Following Bronwen, guests broke into separate table discussions led by Jody Osman (MD, Upfront), Branwell Johnson (Head of Content, Propeller), Rose Bentley (Head of Clients & Strategy, Propeller) and Camilla Honey (MD, JFDI).

Here are our key takeaways from each table discussion:

Content: Tips for ideas, formats and distribution – Branwell Johnson, Propeller Group

As Director of Content at Propeller, Branwell highlighted that content creation should always go hand in hand with how you plan to optimise it once created. Before producing content, you need to identify what you want to get out of it. There is no value in creating content that won’t be used or seen by those its being targeted at. He advised that good content brings something new to the conversation, whether this is new ideas, trends or bespoke research. He also recommended that your clients can be a great way of getting insight for a content piece, and often they are incredibly willing to be included. Branwell noted that when it comes to creating content for your agency, it is everyone’s responsibility – the entire team should be educated on its importance and value. In order to make it easier for your team to write, he advised to create a template for your peers to follow. Be smart with your content, see what can be reworked and revised. While Branwell noted that it’s incredibly difficult to measure the effectiveness of content, what is clear is that content can provide credibility, build agency status and help you become part of the conversation.

How to build your network – Rose Bentley, Propeller Group

Currently Director of Clients and Strategy at Propeller, Rose was previously Global Head of Reputation of Wolff Olins. Rose emphasised the importance of understanding your network and how to leverage it. In her experience, she found that 80% of overall new business wins came from companies that were already within her agencies network. If there’s not an opportunity when you meet someone, it is important to keep in touch so that when an opportunity arises, you are naturally already part of the conversation. She recommended finding out what interests your contacts, researching them and their plans and either inviting them to events or organising to reconnect at industry events. Her top tips for writing emails to connections were to first personalise the email and make the connection, then address an issue relevant to them, followed by highlighting your own credibility and experience. The note should end in a proposition to meet up, with a suggested date or time that may suit. While you should be building and utilising your network and your conversations should be thought through and structured, Rose advised not to overthink it. Be natural and use your own personality to guide the conversation – how and when you think you should say something usually turns out to be the right way.

Auditing your new business success – Camilla Honey, JFDI

As Managing Director, Camilla said that she started JFDI as she believed that there was a better way to do new business. New business never used to be joined up to marketing and PR, only really in pitches. As it’s important and natural that these disciplines become increasingly joined up, it does not come without its challenges. Previously new business plans would focus on the next five years, whereas now agencies generally produce 12-month plans. Before planning, you should first look at the future both professionally and personally, and what it is you want to achieve. She advised you should then look at the past and identify any themes and threads coming out that you can then apply to your plan for the year ahead. Find out what’s working for you. Ask your clients for honest feedback which you can then incorporate into your plan. Camilla ultimately advised that when it comes to new business success; you should be disciplined, be agile but most importantly, just f**king do it!

Insights and strategies to build a successful business development programme – Jody Osman, Upfront BD

Jody echoed Camilla’s sentiments, arguing that in order to plan for the future, you need to be looking at the past and identify your key challenges, see if there are any common trends, what worked and what didn’t. Too often, agencies can rush their targeting and decide to go after a particular sector without properly considering their overall strategy. It is important to focus not only on immediate opportunities, but every conversation you have as it all can be used as insight to feed into your overall business development programme. With so many agencies wanting to talk to the same decision makers, it can be increasingly difficult to get cut through. It’s necessary to think outside the box and make an introduction memorable enough to successfully follow up. Of course, there’s always a risk that creativity might not be received in the intended way, so you should be open to the fact that it won’t always appeal to everyone. Choose something that reflects your brand and supporting Rose’s advice, being true to your own personality is almost always the best approach to take.

Thank you to all those who attended the event, to our keynote, Bronwen Andrews and to our table speakers for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion. If you’d like to talk about developing your agency’s integrated business development and PR plan, please get in touch.

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Let’s Get Fighting Fit: PR and Business Development Health Check

Upfront announces next masterclass with Propeller PR – 4th April 2019, The Charlotte Street Hotel

Join us for breakfast, insights and round table discussions where we will be having a spring clean of your agency Business Development and PR plan, making sure you have everything to stay on track for the rest of the year.

With the year in full swing, it is a good time to take a moment to see how those all important Business Development and PR plans are taking shape, review progress and make any changes that are needed to stay on track. Alternatively, if you don’t yet have a plan, it’s not too late!

We’ve organised a morning Masterclass on the 4th April, bringing together a range of agency peers to cover some of the areas that will be vital to your success over the rest of the year. These will be practical, interactive sessions where we’ll share ideas and discuss specific issues and challenges you may be facing.

Opening our discussion as keynote speaker will be Bronwen Andrews, Head of Business Development for the UK and Europe at Grayling. Bronwen’s career in new business includes working at Edelman and Publicis’s MSLGROUP, helping win clients such as Coca-Cola and Netflix. She will share her experience and insights to help make sure you stay on track throughout the year.

The rest of the morning will be an interactive workshop session with table discussions. Each table will be hosted by an expert practitioner on a specific topic, where you will be invited to share pain points, ideas and advice with peers. After 20 minutes you move to another table and another topic!

The table discussions will be led by:

Auditing your new business success, sharing insights from the JFDI New Business Barometer – Camilla Honey (Managing Director, JFDI)

Content/tips for ideas, formats, distribution – Branwell Johnson (Director of Content, Propeller Group)

How to build your network – Rose Bentley (Director of Strategy, Propeller Group)

Insights and strategies to build a successful Business Development programme – Jody Osman (Managing Director, Upfront Business Development)

The morning will give you a good opportunity to gain insight, see how other agencies are getting on and ensure you have everything in place to help make sure your plans for the year are on track.

Register for tickets here.

For further information, contact Leiley Sanei on 020 3861 4450.

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Getting Fighting Fit: PR and Business Development Masterclass – Highlights

In December, Upfront and Propeller Group hosted their first joint event at The Charlotte Street Hotel, where four breakfast roundtables discussed how to create your joined up 2019 agency business development and PR plan. Kicking off the morning was Anna Burns, Managing Partner of Ogilvy, who heads up Ogilvy’s EMEA business development and marketing activities She shared her tips, insights and best practise when planning for a successful year ahead. Following her, each table broke into separate discussions led by Jody Osman, Branwell Johnson, Ian Farnfield and Ben Titchmarsh. Here are our key takeaways from each table discussion.

How to build and maintain strong client relationships

Leading this topic discussion was Ian Farnfield, CEO of Tonic Partners. He has been responsible for growing two major international agencies from small national businesses and driven the success of over a dozen start-ups. Through this extensive experience, Ian’s discussion highlighted that business development does not just involve winning business; retaining clients should be just as essential to your business development plan. Central to this, Ian advised, was planning. Planning for the year ahead should be all encompassing – involving the entire agency, outlining individual and team roles and reconnecting on a monthly basis to ensure progress and growth. New Business can often take president over clients, both in terms of investment and time. Discussion continued however, to highlight that the two shouldn’t be separated. Join up the skills needed in new business and client services and enhance all relationships. Take the time to understand each client – while planning is essential, there isn’t a one size fits all strategy. Just as you would with a pitch, tailor your strategy depending on the client’s potential. Ian’s table discussions throughout the morning took away the essential advice to be committed, be nosy and don’t let your clients forget the reason you won the pitch in the first place.

The key components to a successful new business plan

Jody Osman, Managing Director of Upfront drew on his experience in business development, having helped agencies win over 150m worth of business; and led discussion around how to develop a successful new business plan. This begins, he argued, with the targeting. Take the time to get the targeting right – make sure you’re contacting the right decision makers and the right companies for your agency. Segment your plan, divide it in a way that makes sense to your strategy – whether that be by sector, job title, spend etc. Have a clear focus in what you want to achieve and set targets and deadlines – plans should always be working documents so set in quarterly reviews to see if you’re on track and what’s working. If you appear to be behind where you should be at a particular time, you need to understand why and review your strategy laid out in your initial plan. Be open to changing and adapting. Jody noted that success not only looks different for different agencies, but can look different throughout the year depending on your agency’s priorities. Adapting to what your success looks like, taking into account the ever changing agency landscape and industry trends around you is an incredibly important aspect of success. Additionally, Jody highlighted the importance of an effective CRM system to track your progress, set tasks and ensure your plan is fully in action. Ending his table discussions, he noted that while plans by their very design involve thinking ahead, you should continue to look back, drawing on past experience and previous years to ensure that this year is your most successful one yet.

Creating content that moves the dial for business growth

Branwell Johnson, Director of Content at Propeller, a former journalist and deputy editor of Marketing Week, highlighted the importance of content when it comes to joining up business development and PR. Content is often viewed as a heavy investment with relatively minimal return. Agencies need to look at the cost of creating content vs. the cost of not creating it. You can invest a lot of time and money into creating a great piece of content, but if no one sees it, then that’s where the question over its value arises. It’s not all about what you produce, but how you then go on to use this great piece of content. When deadlines hit and agencies struggle with budgets, it is challenging to get stakeholders to invest in content, but it should be your responsibility to challenge yourself and your peers to research trends, see what the industry is talking about and become part of the conversation. Not only can content help recruit talent and help your business grow internally, it can elevate your company status both agency and client side. If your business is looking for external support or investment, it needs to be seen to be innovative, it needs to be admired and respected. Branwell advised delegates that content was a key component to achieving this.

Building your agency brand in a competitive market

Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Propeller Group, Ben Titchmarsh led his table discussion around how your agency can stand out within today’s competitive landscape. He argued that at face value, agencies can often all look the same. Obvious though it may seem, a company’s website is an easy way to create content around your company, but how do you stand out in an online sea of similar agencies? It gets increasingly difficult to differentiate one from another – companies are at risk of losing their USP when they face competition from thousands of other agencies that claim to do exactly the same. This is not to say that agencies have lost their individuality but they increasingly fall short of effectively communicating their key messaging. Supporting Branwell’s sentiments, content can often get overlooked because a greater client need requires urgency. There needs to be a shift in attitude of content as an additional part of company strategy to a central element of your plan for business development.

You can read more about Upfront and Propeller’s plans to fully join up business development and PR here. Thank you to all those who attended the event, and to our speakers for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion. If you’d like to talk about creating your agency’s integrated business development and PR plan, please get in touch.

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How to Create a Winning Mindset

On Thursday 13th September, Upfront was proud to partner with The BD100 for its launch event, bringing together over 100 business developers and like-minded individuals for an evening celebrating new business and recognising the best in business development.

The evening was hosted by The BD100 founders, Upfront’s very own Jody Osman and Richard McHardy of the McHardy Collective, with a panel discussion led by Robin Bonn, founder of management consultancy, Co:definery and featuring: Kerry Glazer (CEO of AAR), Matt Edwards (CEO of WCRS), Roy Jugessur (Senior VP of Global Sales at Selligent) and Kate Bosomworth (Chief Marketing Officer at M&C Saatchi).

The theme of the discussion was mindset, including how to create a winning mindset, making sure you’re “pitch fit”, and everything in between. Each of the panel shared their experience, insight and ideas to provide inspiration and tips around a number of key topics.

Business Development should be at the heart of every agency

How do agencies create an environment where business development can thrive? Roy believes it starts from the top, whilst Kerry added that the best agencies are those that are led by people who put new business at the heart. Matt, who before becoming CEO, led business development at WCRS, drew on his knowledge both in new business as well as leadership. He argued that this environment can be created by educating your entire team about just how difficult new business is. All successes should be celebrated, not just a pitch win, but all the small successes that led to that point. Agreeing with Matt, Kate stated that new business doesn’t happen in silo, and the entire company – from top to bottom – needs to understand their relationship with the agency business developer.

Good mentors can be found close to home

As a mentor to various people, Kate advised that you need to think about what you want from your relationship with your mentor very carefully. No matter where you are in your career, you can always benefit from a mentor, whether you’re just getting started or if you’re running your own agency. Roy added that it is beneficial to build good relationships with leaders within your company and attributed high emotional intelligence as key to a good mentor. Matt agreed with this, and also recommended that if your agency is part of a larger agency network, make use of these connections and find mentors within other companies. Whilst there may be resistance to this due to the competitive nature of the job, Kerry argued that business development is a small but unique community and we should be taking advantage of our shared experiences.

There can be very little difference between success and failure

Whilst Business Development is often a team effort, it can often feel like a Business Developer’s personal responsibility – and when it’s not going the way you want, it can feel like a personal failure. Kerry advised that you need to be resilient, you need to galvanise yourself and your time, and don’t let your team try to get out of rehearsing for pitches. To achieve this Roy recommended that you need to plan, plan, plan and work hard to maintain creativity on a daily basis. Kate attributed one of the biggest struggles for business developers is coping with the highs and lows of the job: If it isn’t going brilliantly, then it’s awful, and there’s not really an in-between. Matt added that it’s a role with a very visible definition of success with a much less visible means of getting there.

It’s not just about the wins

On the night Diane Young, co-founder of The Drum, also asked what would be a reasonable rate of growth was for an agency to expect. All panellists agreed that this was incredibly difficult to measure and that it varied depending on agency. Robin highlighted that an agencies definition of growth should be unique to them and their plans as a business. Kerry and Kate agreed that retention of clients is often overlooked, and business development should be celebrated as much as new business. If a client’s budget increases, this can be as important for an agency’s growth as a new win.

You have to know when to say no

The subject of conversation soon moved to the topic of pitching. All panelists agreed that who you should be selective about who choose to pitch for, and you shouldn’t be afraid to reject new opportunities. Kate went on to elaborate: Say no to a pitch opportunity and believe me, you will have the attention of your business

Thank you to all the panelists for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion.
See the highlights of The BD100 2018 event below:

If you are interested in finding out more about The BD100, attending or speaking at any future events, then please get in touch.

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The Drum’s Pitch Perfect: 5 Key Take-aways

On Thursday 13th September, Upfront’s Senior Business Development Manager, Jessica Milham attended The Drum’s Pitch Perfect event for a day focused on sharing ideas, knowledge and skills to perfect your pitch and clinch that all important client.

Here are Jess’s key insights from the day:

Think about qualification

It’s my job to ask all the right questions and ensure we are qualifying the right opportunities for agencies. However, Peter Czap, Director of The Wow Company, gave me a fresh perspective of how we can be qualifying who you want to work with. It really stuck with me, it’s important to sit back and ask yourself questions such as: Who do you REALLY want to work with? What do you want to be famous for? What can you be the best in the world at? Those were only a few out of 21 questions and most of these we do ask, but it was more of the way in which you can ask these questions which really stuck with me. There is definitely value in constantly asking these questions.

Create a culture of winning new business

This was a theme throughout the day which carried into The BD100 evening event and being a business developer, it resonated with me. If you work for an agency, do you have the whole agency striving to win new business or do you find that BD activity is purely down to one person?

If it’s the latter, well, you really need to question why. Surely everyone working for the agency should be just as passionate about the success of the business. New business should be everyone’s business.

Put everything into a client’s perspective

There was a fabulous client workshop including speakers such as Anna Stark, Head of Marketing at Sloggi and Adrian Cutler, Account Director at Microsoft. It got me thinking about how best to approach brands – how can you make it more personal or interesting? The panel shared lots of interesting approaches that stood out and where agencies can add value, rather than just sell. Kristal Ireland, Head of Ecommerce and Retail at LNER explained that one agency she remembers that invited her to join an online book club, where people share their latest read across the industry!

Your client isn’t just your client

A running theme throughout the day was around how you should work together as team and focus on collaboration. Initially mentioned by Josie Cartridge, Customer Director at River Island, she referred to her agency Studio Blvd as her partner and the way they work is a collaborative process. They have an honest, open relationship and when something works, you celebrate together… When something isn’t quite right, you sit down and work out how you’re going to fix this.

Get out more

Having reflected on a fantastic day, it’s given me time to realise the value of getting out and meeting people who are working towards the same goals as you. Of course, it’s good to meet potential new clients, but it’s just as valuable to meet potential business partners, mentors, coaches, talk about best practice and share the highs and the lows of new business.

This year Pitch Perfect partnered with The BD100, an initiative aimed to recognise The UK’s most influential business developers. Upfront was proud to sponsor this event which provided a great platform to shine a light on the business development community and share experience and insight with a fantastic panel discussion – click here read the highlights.


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