Sharpening business development focus for 2020

The 2020 Vision guide lays out the essential themes and trends business developers should keep front of mind as they prepare for the next decade. It includes useful benchmarking data from agency peers survey results, plus insights, observations and advice from experts in the field, including members of the latest BD100 and contributions from Edit, ENGINE, Iris, VCCP and Wunderman Thompson.

Change has certainly been a defining factor for business development over the last decade. As we’re on the verge of entering a new era, now is a good time to assess what tools, strategies, skills and science you should be using to help improve your business development.

20:20 Vision: Sharpening Business Development Focus for The Next Decade

What should you expect in the next decade?
We predict the next decade will be just as dynamic, fast-moving and competitive as the last. Therefore, use this guide to work on building capabilities into your new business team and develop more meaningful conversations and move them to conversion.

Propeller Group, Upfront and The BD100 have developed this guide which lays out the essential themes and trends business developers should bear in mind as they prepare for 2020 and beyond. Through our research we offer insight into the ever changing agency landscape, the tools you should be using and how to utilise relationships between sales and marketing.

Start preparing, download your guide now
To prepare yourself for 2020 and beyond, click here to download the full 2020 Vision Report.

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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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six start ups

Six start-ups seeking success by focusing on economic and cultural trends

We work with a lot of start-ups and scale-ups at Upfront. They may come as clients or we may approach them as prospects if they seem a good fit for a project. When considering how much name recognition a business may have – which is important for their credibility as a partner –  one rule of thumb in our auditing is to look at how much success they have had in raising funding.


At the bottom tier are those with seed funding, which is for the early stages of the business. Series A funding is sought when there is a solid customer base, but the company has yet to start product development or expanding (or both). This funding round is often dominated by one investor, typically a venture capital firm though crowdfunding is an increasingly popular alternative. Series B is when a business wants to expand yet needs money to meet the hoped-for demand. This can seem like Series A, though other investors often come on board at this point.

Series C funding is for the companies which have already built up a base and main product offering. What they are looking for now is to scale up. Think Deliveroo in 2015 or Reddit in 2017.

The probability of a company becoming a well-known brand is also much higher if it matches consumers’ changing needs and tastes. There are three prevailing economic and cultural trends that a product or service should look to map to right now.

The Flexi-worker

The gig economy means jobs and careers need to be rethought by both employers and employees.

More Choice. Less Money

Although technology has given millennials and Gen-Z more options than their parents, they are relatively poorer.

Make Things Simple

Consumers are happy to prioritise convenience and speed in a time-poor world.

Viewing the start-up scene through these lenses suggests the following companies will do well in the next few years.

Company: Zego

Funding Stage: Series B

Theme: The Flexi-worker

Founded: 2016

Latest Funding: $42M

Founded by Sten Saar and Harry Franks, two Deliveroo alumni who twigged pay-as-you-go insurance would appeal to their drivers, the Shoreditch-based start-up has raised $42m in its funding drive. This follows an extremely strong growth of around 900% in the last year.

With the gig economy doubling since 2016, and most workers aged between 16 and 34, demand for Zego’s insurance will increase over the next few years. Although much of the money will be spent on recruitment, a fair chunk will likely be saved for reaching out to the digitally-savvy younger generations who make up the bulk of the gig economy. It will also be needed for any expansion plans, whether in Europe or attracting non-delivery flexible workers. 

Company: Flatfair

Funding Stage: Series A

Theme: More Choice. Less Money.

Founded: 2016

Latest Funding: $11M

London-based Flatfair has raised $11 million with Index Ventures as the main investor. Much of this will be spent on recruitment to support its scaling plans; the glut of adverts for business development specialists on LinkedIn and Glassdoor could herald a major marketing drive.

What makes Flatfair stand out is its “deposit-free” offering, where tenants can pay a membership fee rather than a deposit, along with giving access to their bank account. When they move on, end-of-tenancy charges can be taken without any need for surety. Consumers seem happy to trade cheaper immediate costs for access to their accounts; though that may change if they feel the independent adjudicators hired to resolve disputes favour landlords too heavily.

According to its figures, Flatfair is enjoying 25% growth month-on-month and expects £15m in revenue during the next twelve months. The target customer base of younger consumers are most likely to rent and poorer. The opportunity to cut immediate cost and remove the main leverage landlords can have over them has an obvious strong appeal. Nevertheless, renters need a landlord. The landlords will be tempted by the chance to claim up to three month’s rent from the tenant than the standard five weeks, albeit in cases where the adjudicators feel any property damage reflects the fee.

Company: Cazoo

Funding Stage: Series B

Theme: Make Things Simple

Founded: 2018

Latest Funding: €28M

This start-up, located in the shadow of Euston station, is yet to launch but has already attracted strong interest from partners and investors. Cazoo picked up €27.7 million in a September funding drive. Started by the founder of Zoopla, Alex Chesterman, the platform hopes to disrupt the used-car selling market by offering simplicity and delivery.

The focus on convenience, both when using the platform and ensuring the car is delivered promptly, will appeal to the time-pressed motorist who needs a vehicle in a hurry. However, Cazoo has done a reasonably good job of hiding the details before launch, making it hard to work out exactly how different its platform is from future competitors, such as CarSupermarket.com.

Nevertheless, second-hand vehicles have a colossal number of variables which can go wrong and, given how they are more costly than books or fashion items, trust between buyer and seller is essential. As few people will be able to sell enough cars to get a solid trust rating, there is the possibility things can go wrong. The steps Cazoo take to solve this issue will determine if it succeeds.

Company: Curve

Funding Stage: Series B

Theme: Make Things Simple

Founded: 2015

Latest Funding: £4M

The results of Curve’s crowdfunding campaign in September may look small compared to the sums raised by other start-ups in this list. This is not the only difference. It was open to pre-registered customers who got the same valuation – £159 million – that Series B investors had in July. Curve hoped to get £1 million. It took the company a little over 40 minutes to get four times that amount.

The four-year-old fintech, founded by former Israeli special forces soldier Shachar Bialick, lets people combine all their payment cards into one. It has now raised around £60 million in total and is far along the scale-up process. Given how one card takes up less space (not to mention work) than many, Curve’s basic appeal probably won’t fall anytime soon.

Company: Strong Roots

Funding Stage: Series A

Theme: More Choice. Less Money

Founded: 2015

Latest Funding: £18M

This is a company which, at the time of writing, could face hurdles due to Brexit uncertainty. Yet there is still plenty to recommend Strong Roots, even if the Dublin-based vegetarian frozen-food firm forgoes its subsidiary in Shoreditch. The $18.3 million it picked up in September will be spent on a combination of expansion in the USA and research. It is also in the process of building its UK market penetration up from 4%. The current target is 90%.

Strong Roots’ success is largely due to consumers’ growing affinity for vegetarian options over meat equivalents. While it is possible meat will rebound, it won’t happen immediately. If Strong Roots expansion plans work, then it will be in a very strong position. The company has been eager to spend on advertising in the past, working with TBWA Dublin and Core Media, sponsoring Virgin Media’s coverage of the Six Nations and a food truck/camper van.

Company: Depop

Funding Stage: Series C

Theme: The Flexi-worker

Founded: 2011

Latest Funding:  $62M

Most start-ups do not get to Series C. Either they fail or are bought out. Depop is one of the exceptions. The fashion-focused ecommerce app picked up over $60 million from American investors in June as it seeks to expand stateside. Already established in Europe, with around five million users, the London-based company is trying to boost its membership to 15 million by 2022.  

The basic idea, according to founder Simon Beckerman in an  Artefact interview from 2015, is that “Depop is your own shop in your pocket”. Wherever the creative goes, their shop follows. Users – often the makers of the products– post pictures of what they want to sell or buy. It has proved popular; sellers have made over $570m through Depop since 2011. This is because it occupies a strong niche within the gig economy. More than a few people live by becoming freelance artisans. With no shift back to the former total dominance of permanent jobs, it is no surprise that people are adapting to their skills, as well as what they want to do.

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Data insights bringing a refreshing angle to new business

At the end of 2018, Upfront signed an exclusive UK partnership with Winmo, a data and insight tool used to fuel business development strategies and campaigns.

To continue our efforts in bringing an insight and intelligence led approach to new business, we have also just hired our first ever Data and Insights Analyst.

This is a new and exciting role, developed to provide our clients with a personal and strategic flair to their new business campaigns and will be taken on by Robert Ware.

Rob joins us after two years at Mintel, where he was a Category Leader focusing on Canadian retail markets.

One size doesn’t fit all:

When it comes to analysing data, “there is no set template for how we do it’’. It is a role that spans across the total business development life cycle, working closely alongside both account managers and business developers.

Robs involvements begins with an initial discussion with clients to identify their target companies and stakeholders – what does a prime prospect look like to you and your business objectives?

This is then followed by the creation of a, ‘’custom-ranking’’ system, taking into consideration a range of factors, such as turnover and YoY media spend. 

Whilst the key performance metric will be securing qualified opportunities and meetings for our clients; Rob will also be looking for a cultural match between the client and the prospect.

It may be a cliché that all business is good, but some business is better than others!

Spotting the X-factor:

Rob also looks for trends among the target companies, ‘’What is their direction? Are they giving signs that they would be interested in a certain product?’’

As for stakeholders, have they got what the client wants, whether that is a focus on marketing or experience in digital transformation? Or does it seem plausible? And if they do, are there any details online which would make for a nice icebreaker to inform our new business approach.

Always room for improvement:

A significant part of Rob’s day to day responsibilities will be collecting and collating internal information, recommending improvements and supporting the wider team.

This will then lead to debriefing sessions, focused on analysing and discussing FOUR major questions:  What worked? What didn’t? Why? What can we learn?

Although we treat every client on an individual level, there is a lot to be gained from looking at all our work, formulating trends per sector, per job title and per discipline. This will be fed up the chain of command through regular briefing sessions and the occasional report.  

We are excited to welcome Rob to the team and have already had some fantastic feedback from existing clients on how this new approach brings a refreshing and unique angle to new business. 

Interested in understanding more about our insight led approach? Get in touch.

You can also have a look at our data tool Winmo, here

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New Business insights from the year so far…

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for new business directors over the first half of the year.

Those tasked with business development have had to generate leads and establish meaningful business relationships against an accelerating backdrop of structural change in the media, marketing and advertising industry and anxieties about the wider economy (thank you, Brexit). 

The industry has been moving fast to grapple with these challenges around the shift in client expectations of the way they want to work with partners. Established holding groups have been streamlining their structures and rationalising their agency brands. 

WPP’s famous ad agency JWT merged with Wunderman, Engine Group restructured into three divisions and retired its agency brand WCRS and consultancy Accenture has carried on its acquisition spree, recently buying Droga 5. Meanwhile, Sir Martin Sorrell is muscling up his s4Capital vehicle with buys including MightyHive.

How was it for you?

Every agency’s experience of the first half of the year will be unique, depending on its client portfolio and where it is focusing its efforts. But it’s still good to hear how your peers are doing and their experience of the first half of the year.

Some agencies have had a strong first half and report winning new clients, while others say business is not quite hitting the heights of last year with clients curbing spend and pitches taking longer to complete. 

Harry Hugo, Co-founder and Chief Campaigns Officer at The Goat Agency , says: “New business has been great so far this year globally and we continue to grow in the UK too.”

At Upfront we’ve seen some agencies steal a march on competitors by focusing on what clients really need. Retention is key but if you agonise too much about holding on to your existing clients you risk overlooking what matters to them. 

Changing nature of the brief 

It’s vital to know how clients are now approaching their briefs and what elements are changing, so you can better respond. Richard Dutton, CMO of Engine, says: “The briefs we are getting are more focussed on delivering business outcomes rather than a specific discipline.” 

Jim Hawker, co-founder of Threepipe, echoes these thoughts: “Clients have more open briefs than ever before and are not wedded to one channel or approach to solve their particular problem.”

The sources of new business have pretty much remained the same as expected. Agencies report that briefs have come from their networks, intermediaries, direct and through recommendations. Jim points out that referrals from partner agencies have “been a great source of new business”. 

Hugo adds: “Referral and recommendation have always been our main channel and about 75-80% of all our new business comes from recommendations or referrals.” 

Advice for growth in H2

Change can be a good thing for new business as brands are often open to new ways of doing things. There are opportunities out there for agencies that take a pro-active approach.

Experienced business development hands offer several useful tips to help navigate the choppy waters of the second-half of the year, which are likely to be exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the leave-date for Brexit.

· Be channel neutral – focus on your prospect’s desired outcomes and the best way to achieve them.

· Take a pro-active approach and focus on what’s important to clients in the here and now. There are opportunities out there to evolve client relationships and win new work.

· Pick your battles. Make sure you are well placed to win a pitch from the outset rather than chasing every opportunity.

· Keep reviewing and figure out what’s working and what’s not. Make sure you’re selling the right thing and listening to your client. 

The agency heads we spoke to are overall positive about the opportunities to grow the bottom line in the second half of the year and think those businesses that keep changing, learning and adapting will maintain their momentum. 

Expect more insight into new business strategy at this year’s Pitch Perfect conference, to be held by The Drum on September 19th. Part of the event will be the unveiling of the latest version of The BD100 – the annual list highlighting the best creative agency business developers in the UK. The call for nominations is now open, so help us make it a true list of the best of the best with your suggestions.

Jody Osman, Managing Director, Upfront Business Development.

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Decision makers on the move

Working in new business, we are always keeping a close eye on the latest decision makers on the move. Often, this can be a trigger for agency reviews, with the first 100 days of any new appointment always crucial.

Here is a round up of some of the recent movers and shakers we have identified for you to keep an eye on:

  • FrieslandCampina have a new Managing Director in the UK. Will Jones, who used to be Grocery and Marketing Director, replaces Gavin Blair.  Jones is keen to drastically increase the business size based on the back of their YAZOO brand, and is also looking for growth opportunities in private label products.
  • Avon is still rejigging its leadership team following its purchase by Natura. There were three major promotions in May. Hannah Lally now occupies the role of Head of Brand over Global Marketing. Kyla Lyford is the similarly-titled Head of Brand for Global Marketing. Meanwhile, Emma Malone is the new Director of Fragrance over Global Brand Marketing. 
  • Kantar is seeing more promotions in the wake of the consolidation of its brands under the Adweek umbrella. Nathalie Burdet is the new CMO. She has been with the company for nine months as head of their Insights division. She has been replaced in that role by Ignasi Fernandez. In addition, Gwladys Hall is now Head of UK Media.
  • Zaib Al-Qassab will be joining Channel 4 as its new CMO in September. This move comes after three years at BT as Managing Director, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer.
  • Kate Cox has moved to Moneypenny to become CMO. She was previously VP and CMO at GoDaddy.
  • Kenyatte Nelson has started at N Brown Group. The new Chief Brand Officer joins after three years as Chief Customer Officer at Missguided.

If you want to stay up to date with the latest movers and shakers, then you can stay ahead with our data and insight platform Winmo. Click here to find out more.

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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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An Interview with Jemima Monies

Last Month, Upfront’s Managing Director and Co-Founder of The BD100, Jody Osman interviewed Jemima Monies. Deputy Managing Director of Adam & Eve DDB and member of The BD100 2018, Jemima has worked in new business for over ten years.

After achieving Agency of the Year (making it four years in a row) and only just pipped to the post in the creative agency new business rankings for 2018, Jemima shares her thinking and approach to Business Development – including how to prepare for a big agency pitch, the importance of adapting your approach and the need for good work to power Business Development and PR.

This is the first in a series of interviews The BD100 has coming up which will share insight, tips and Business Development best practice.

Thanks so much to Jemima who managed to fit us in to her busy schedule at the end of last year, just before going on maternity leave!

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more, or get involved.

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