Upfront becomes part of the Propeller Group

Upfront has joined forces to become part of the Propeller Group, the long established B2B PR, content and events agency. This will allow both teams to collaborate and in 2019 launch an expanded offer aimed at media and marketing services agencies and technology providers that target brand-side marketers.

The new offer will combine positioning, messaging, publicity and business content provided by Propeller with Upfront’s relationship-building, direct contact and business development expertise.

Propeller and Upfront both provide services to the supply side of the marketing industry. Their clients will benefit from an end-to-end solution that stretches from creating awareness and reputation through direct sales to clinching a contract. This meets the increasing demand for tangible RoI placed on B2B PR and the demand for stronger content and engagement placed on business development people.

The two companies will continue to be located in their existing offices in Fitzrovia and Clerkenwell, but will share knowledge, systems and data. Propeller will continue to be run by managing director Kieran Kent and Upfront by founder and managing director Jody Osman, who will also join the holding company board. Martin Loat, the founder of Propeller and the driver of the deal will now become chairman of an expanded Propeller Group Holdings entity.

Loat said: “This is an important strategic moment for Propeller: more of our marketing agency and martech clients want real business outcomes and sales delivered in return for their investment in PR, content and events programmes. So we decided to skip over classic PR metrics such as media coverage and web hits to concentrate on what matters for clients – sales leads and revenue growth. In Upfront we’ve teamed up with one of the hot shops in that sector. I’d admired Jody and his business for a while, and our teams have jointly pitched on several occasions, so it’s exciting to now have a formal relationship that will help both companies expand.”

Osman said: “I’ve always been a big advocate of Business Development and PR working hand in hand, but the reality is that bringing these together can often be a challenge. As the landscape continues to change, we believe it’s increasingly important that agencies and martech clients adopt a more joined up approach. We are always hungry for great content, events and PR to power our programmes and stand out from the rest. We are excited to become part of the Propeller Group as this will allow us to tap into fantastic experience and expertise, providing a perfect marriage of Business Development and PR.’

Kent said: “This deal between Propeller and Upfront enables us to combine brand-building PR with lead generation activity, to get our clients in front of the companies and people they want to do business with. For our staff it’s also a great opportunity to learn new skills and offer more strategic advice and consultancy to clients. Media relations is still a big part of our offer but we will also focus on broader services such as video and podcast production, inbound marketing and LinkedIn engagement to deliver the sales leads that lots of our clients are looking for.”

About Propeller Group

Propeller Group specialises in building the profile and profit of businesses operating in the media, advertising, marketing and technology sectors. We help clients grow their businesses by reaching and engaging the business people that matter, making their products, people and ideas famous through strategic media relations, content creation, networking, events and lead generation programmes.

Propeller Group’s global headquarters can be found at Alfred Place in central London. Propeller’s international partner agency network gives us global reach, allied to ‘on the-ground’ local expertise. We currently manage and coordinate international PR campaigns for clients that reach key influencers in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia.

Propeller clients include Publicis.Sapient, Nielsen, Wolff Olins and Pearl & Dean.


About Upfront Business Development 

Founded in 2005, Upfront is one of the UK’s leading business development consultancies. Upfront specialises in working with marketing, creative and digital companies, helping to drive growth and new business success. Upfront takes a proactive and insight driven approach to Business Development, helping clients to win over £150 million in new business, including wins with the likes of Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hotels.com, Virgin Money, John Lewis and Panasonic.


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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.
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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Nominations are now in for the BD100

The nominations are now in for the first ever BD100. We were overwhelmed by the response, with hundreds of the UK’s leading business developers now ready to compete to make the list.

Upfront is  proud to support the BD100, which has been launched to recognise the hard work of the most influential Business Developers in the UK. It’s a showcase of the biggest and brightest talent driving agency new business in the UK today.

It takes a particular skillset to be a Business Developer and as Robin Bonn recently wrote, Business Developers “come in all shapes and sizes, with different skills, backgrounds and perspectives”. The BD100 shines a light on these skills, all the pitches, the wisdom and the techniques required to be the best in the business of business development.

Now all the nominations are in, it’s time for the nominations to show us what they are all about and create their pitch as to why they should be part of The BD100.

Each nominee has until 31st March to answer a series of questions and get creative with their pitch. These will then all be uploaded to the BD100 site and found via #THE_BD100

Once all the pitches have been submitted, we will turn to the agency world to get voting. You will be able to view all nominee pitches on a live TINT, vote for the Business Developer and pitch that impresses you the most, and help to shape this year’s BD100.

The BD100 will then be celebrated at a special event talking place in May, date and location to be announced soon. Meet your peers, find out who made The BD100 List, and get your hands on the complete first edition of The BD100 book.

Click here for more details and to read more about The BD100.

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What makes a great New-Business person?

Newbiz folk play a big role in paying your salary or securing the exit you’ve dreamed of, so let’s take a moment to celebrate the best and explore your options.

Years ago, I went into an important internal meeting as a newly-joined New-Business Director and was met with confused faces from my new colleagues. Soon, one of them, with the kind of embarrassed reticence we Brits excel at, asked why I was in the room.

I explained that the meeting topic was a fundamental pillar of my job description. This, it turned out, was news to them.


The fact that I‘d been through a whole bunch of job spec iterations with the CEO before I joined – which he apparently hadn’t shared with anyone else – is actually beside the point. The reality is that unlike, say, a creative director, client service lead or head of strategy, there isn’t a generally accepted beginning and end to what a new-business person does.

The territory is fairly clear – helping win stuff. Pitching, marketing, lead generation. RFPs, awards, events etc. The level of responsibility is guided by experience, so people soon unpick what they lead vs. manage. It does get a bit murkier when you look at genuine decision-making authority, for instance over branding, pitch strategy or developing existing clients.

But the bigger issue is about fit. I’ve met hundreds of new-business people from a wide range of agency, consulting and technology businesses, from global networks to start-ups and independents getting ready to sell. They come in all shapes and sizes, with different skills, backgrounds and perspectives.

More to the point, although we’ve moved on from the bad old days of “welcome aboard, here’s your phone, now piss off and make the magic happen”, new-business folk do plug different gaps, solve different problems and gel with different groups.

So why do 99% of new-business job specs still look basically the same – even if you’ve got a decent headhunter in the mix?

In a nutshell, because CEOs don’t know what they need.

  • Do you need a lifelong new-business pro or T-shaped practitioner in your agency’s discipline?
  • Re-inventor of your model or spinner of existing plates?
  • Creative marketer or super-connected PR whizz?
  • Hungry lead generator or thoughtful new-business strategist?
  • Behind-the-scenes RFI engine or front-of-house client charmer?
  • Meticulous completer-finisher or get-shit-done force of nature?

And that’s just personality and skill-set. What about tailoring your search for business maturity, immediate priorities or level of seniority? Or new-business model. Or different remuneration models. Or outsourcing options.

No wonder it’s so hard to get right. Unrealistic expectations abound. Hiring becomes a ‘journey’ and chemistry – important though it is – tends to trump meaningful fit. Or you want to believe you’ve found a silver-bullet ‘unicorn’, but they soon inevitably disappoint.

Defining new-business hires involves asking yourself soul-searching questions – not least about what skills already exist in your business, what other senior people want to do less of and whether you’re prepared to give real authority.

You still have a fighting chance if you try to decide all this after they join. But if you never have this debate at all, you’re doomed to repeat the whole costly, credibility-sapping cycle again soon.

So as a starter for ten, check out the BD100 – an annual initiative to find the UK’s 100 most influential business developers. Nominations close on the 31st Jan – so crack on with that – then we can all start checking out the entries and seeing what makes the cream rise to the top.

You can also get involved on Twitter via @The_BD100 and #TheBD100.

Good luck to everyone who gets nominated. And hats-off to any agencies who find their perceptions have been changed.

Written by Robin Bonn, the founder of Co:definery – a New-Business management consultancy.

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Who gets your vote for this year’s BD100?

The UK’s 100 most influential business developers, The BD100 recognises the talent – in-house and consultant, managers and foot soldiers – leading the charge in marketing agency new business and business development.

Upfront is proud to be a founding partner of this year’s annual BD100 List, which ranks the UK’s top 100 business developers – it’s a showcase of the brightest talent driving client-agency relationships in UK marketing today. We shine a light on the skills, the pitches, the wisdom and the techniques of the best in the business – of business development.

Step 1: Nominate

Nominate or get nominated for this year’s BD100. Who in the business development world deserves to be on The List? Who has impressed? Should it be you? Click here and answer seven quick questions before midnight on 31st December 2017 to make your nomination.

Step 2: Pitch

What’s your pitch? We ask nominees to upload a short, punchy pitch that explains their business development successes from 2017. Share your pitch on social with the hashtag #TheBD100 so that peers, fans and friends can vote for you.

Step 3: Get Voting

Get voting. Anyone can view all nominee pitches on our live TINT. The pitch that impresses most – give it your vote, and help to shape this year’s BD100.

The Big Event

To celebrate the UK business development community, get ready for a stylish London bash in early 2018. Meet your peers, find out who made The BD100 List, and get your hands on the complete first edition of The BD100 book.

Click here to find out more and get in contact if you’d like to get involved.

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Upfront Breakfast Workshops: Get Ready to Fly out of the Blocks in 2018

At this time of year many of you are busy putting your plans together for the year ahead. Or if you are mid-year, you’re probably using Christmas as a checkpoint to assess your progress and work how to get the most out of the rest of your year. With this in mind, we’ve organised a series of workshops covering some of the areas that will be vital to your success in the period ahead.  These will be practical, interactive sessions where we’ll share ideas and discuss specific issues and challenges you may be facing.

We have lined up expert partners to share their experience, tips and best practice over breakfast. They will be on hand to discuss any questions you have and help you make sure you everything ticked off your ‘To Do’ list to make sure you get off to a flyer in 2018.

Taking place in early December at The Albion (Farringdon), we will be covering the 3 following important topics:

1. Developing Your New Business Strategy
Tuesday 5th December, featuring Adam Graham, Co-Founder of Kiwi Gray

You’ve got your story, now what? There’s an art and science to building a pipeline of quality opportunities. This session will explore how to build a cohesive strategy that:

  • makes the most of your marketing ecosystem
  • focuses your prospecting towards those more likely to convert
  • ensures your commercial objectives will be the driver
  • your marketing will become more effective
  • use of your budgets and resources becomes more efficient

Click here to register your place at this workshop

2. Getting Your Targeting and Tools Right
Wednesday 6th December, featuring Chris Finnegan, Business Development Director at Upstream

Do you know who you are targeting? Why? How and when? This session will help you to provide focus to all your Business Development activity and how you manage it. We will explore:

  • how to define and identify your ideal target clients
  • recommendations for data and intelligence resources and tools
  • best practice for contacting people (GDPR)
  • how to manage your data and CRM sources
  • how to drive inbound and outbound leads with automation technology

Click here to register your place at this workshop

3. How to Develop Great Content
Thursday 7th December, f
eaturing Kerry O’Connor, Partner at Tonic Creative Business Partners

Why is content so important to Business Development? We will be looking at how good content can help drive your Business Development activity. Including:

  • how to identify subjects that will work for you
  • the challenges of developing great content
  • deciding on format and presentation
  • how to use content for maximum impact

Click here to register your place at this workshop

These workshops are perfect opportunity for any new business focussed professionals who are looking for extra insight to help put the finishing touches to their plans for 2018 and would welcome the advice and support of industry experts and peers.

Come and join us and tap into our experience over coffee and breakfast. And get yourself set to make sure you fly out the blocks in 2018.

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Great Opportunity to Get in Front of 350 Brands Before the End of the Year

Upfront is delighted to announce that it is an official partner of Figaro Digital’s Winter Digital Marketing conference, taking place on the 6th December 2017 at The Royal College of Physicians, Regents Park.  Providing a great last opportunity to get in front of brands before the end of the year.

The event will see 350 senior-level marketers coming together to explore, discuss and debate the sharpest insights shared from brands and agencies who are shaping the future of digital marketing. The day will feature more than 20 in-depth keynote presentations from brands, agencies and technology providers. The line up already features TUI, LinkedIn and John Lewis, with plenty more to be announced over the coming weeks. Click here to find out more.

This cross-industry event will cover the full spectrum of digital marketing; exploring the evolving relationship between brands and consumers, as well as key steps brands can take to build a more robust and long-term relationship with their customers.

The full day agenda is broken down into four main pillars;

  1. Transformation
  2. Innovation
  3. Contextualisation
  4. Customer Experience

We have keynote speaker slots available as well as the opportunity to share some fast learning with Figaro Digital 21s, allowing you to:-

  • Raise the profile of your agency
  • Capitalise on new business and networking opportunities at the event
  • Receive dedicated post-event comms aimed at maximizing engagement and opportunities with potential leads
  • Speak alongside high-profile brands
  • Join us for a complimentary lunch and evening bar for networking opportunities

If you are interested and would like to find out more about the speaking packages available, please do get in touch. We are also happy to share our insight into how we have helped agencies take a joined up approach and use the event platform to drive new business success.

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Aligning Marketing and New Business: Why is it so Difficult? 

Having a strong reputation and winning new work is the backbone of any business, and it’s no different for creative agencies. But winning new clients is tougher than ever, which is why marketing and new business activity needs to perform and get results. So why do so many creative agencies limit their growth potential by not aligning their marketing and new business activity?

Kerry O’Connor – Consulting Partner at Tonic Partners, a Marketing consultancy for creative businesses – shares her experience and recommendations on how to get it right:

What’s wrong with the current way?

A lot of the issues stem from a misunderstanding of the different functions of marketing and new business. Marketing is the identification of new audiences, what they need and how to sell to them. New business is the selling part, with the team on the front line, building relationships and persuading clients to buy. The role of marketing is often devalued, but both should be recognised as a means to increase revenue.

The next challenge is talent. Most agencies don’t have dedicated resource in these roles and where there is, it’s often not the right skill set. Agencies either don’t know where to find the right talent, or worse don’t even realise they need it. Where there is resource, these departments (or often individuals) work independently with a silo mentality. Their plans are not aligned to the agency’s growth strategy and commercial objectives, nor are they are led by a clear market positioning.

The consequences are clear; huge inefficiencies, duplication of efforts that aren’t driving sales, and money wasted on underperforming resources. Worse still, there’s the danger of not having enough business because there is no platform for growth.

An integrated approach and it’s value

So what’s the alternative? A joined up team with complementary skills and a clear direction, focusing on activities that will have the most impact and influence. A consistent use of positioning, voice and messaging across all activity means more impact, more motivation, and more business. When aligned, marketing and new business can support each other; communication activities can help the sales cycle by adding value in slower lead generation periods, and the new business team can inform content generation by feeding in insights from conversations with prospective clients.

It takes commitment

Achieving this it boils down to three things: process, people and content, all wrapped up with a lot of commitment.

Get your ducks in a row

Before you do anything, take time to understand your agency’s growth strategy and positioning so everyone’s clear on the best opportunities to increase and generate revenue. Create one fully integrated plan, with activities carried out simultaneously, aligned to commercial objectives with common goals.

The focus shouldn’t be just reaching new clients, but retaining existing ones. We all know it’s easier to win business from a current or old client than it is to create a new relationship from scratch. Use content to engage with existing clients; open up a dialogue and gain a deeper understanding of their ambitions and challenges.

Embed marketing and new business in your culture; from inductions, to success stories. Make it part of everyday business life. Winning business and building reputation is everyone’s responsibility, so establish a culture where the whole company is the driving force.

To win in the marketplace, first win in the workspace

Invest in talent; you need the right people in the right positions. Define roles with clear responsibilities and objectives; these are specialists. Your sales team are relationship builders, engaging with decision-makers about key issues; they need to be knowledgeable, confident, with bags of discipline. Your marketers need to be content and digital experts and PRs need to understand the media landscape, know what makes a meaningful story, and have their own little black book of contacts.

Whether you’re outsourcing or building an in-house team, talent is fundamental to success. And once you have your team in place, you need to keep them; ensure they receive the training, development and guidance. All of this is made much easier when it’s driven by strong leadership; figureheads who believe in marketing and new business and spread the word.

Content is still king

The driving force for marketing and new business performance is quality content, amplified through communications channels and lead generation. It’s an integral part of the programme but not easy to crack. It takes time and effort to come up with good campaignable ideas that work. You’re asking clients to take time out of their busy days to engage with you, so you need to demonstrate that you think and deliver differently.   

Ensure your content is driven from your positioning, and that it’s multi-purpose so it can stretch and be tailored for different audiences, sectors and regions. Develop themes and perspectives which are outward-, not inward-looking; addressing clients’ issues and needs, and linking to your offer, skills, achievements and people.

Understand all channels but only focus on those with influence. More than likely you will be short on resource and budget, so start small and build up. And just because we live in a digital world, don’t rely on digital alone; remember the value of face-to-face.

Overcoming obstacles

Of course there are barriers. The first is getting buy-in from your leadership team. Speak their language, focus on results and commercial benefits. The other is resource; there’s never enough people or time, so have a clear focus and reduce objectives. Come up with ideas that you can drive through everything. You can’t do this alone so lean on others in the business. Build strong relationships with leaders and internal teams so everyone understands the objectives, process and value of getting involved. Reinforce the benefits so others want to contribute. If you don’t have enough internal resource, consider partners, mentors and external help who fit with your culture and add value.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it

One size doesn’t fit all. Expect it to be a challenging journey. Commitment and momentum will drive success.

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The Drum Pitch Perfect: Key Insights From The Day

On Thursday 28th September 2017 the Drum hosted it’s annual New Business event, Pitch Perfect. Upfront was in attendance for a day focused on helping agencies to win new business and share ideas to perfect your pitch to help you clinch that all-important client.

With an impressive speaker line up and a wide range of topics covered, here are our highlights and key insights from the presentations on the day:-

The day started with the Drum’s Managing Director, Richard Draycott providing a warm welcome and setting the scene by talking about the impact of wider economic factors on agency new business and – keeping those in mind – the importance of getting this right.

Apply empathy to understand decision makers emotional triggers

The first speaker to take to the stage was Tom Head, Director at Lab, who soon had the room talking to each other as he focused on the importance of taking a human approach to new business. Tom went on to discuss behavioural psychology and apply Lab’s classification of Monkey (how it makes me look), Lion (how it works) and Dog (how it makes me feel) to look at different drivers in client decision making, highlighting the importance of empathy when pitching and understanding emotional triggers.

8 Essential elements of any new business plan

Next up was Jody Sutter, Owner of The Sutter Company and a Business Development consultant who specializes in working with leadership at small to mid-sized ad agencies. Jody talked about the importance of having an annual plan to align expectations and allow you to prepare for, and measure, what can be a chaotic process. Jody shared her 8 essentials elements of any new business plan:

1) Start in the marketplace – understand industry trends and who your competitors are (now and in the future) so you know what you are up against. Don’t just think about things from your own agency perspective, but also consider the impact of changes in the marketplace on the brands you are targeting.

2) Performance – based on your agencies performance, make sure you know your current performance ratios to help you understand what you will need to do to achieve your targets. How is the company performing on new business? What is the split between reactive and proactive opportunities? What is your current pitch conversion rate?

3) Goals & benchmarks – strategic and financial. How much can you rely on organic growth? What is your likely attrition rate? What focus is needed on prospecting un-identifed new business – and what are timescales involved? Jody urged caution to make sure you account for annualised revenue and plan for what happens if you have a slow first quarter.

4) Meeting the goals – how much will you need to pitch to achieve your growth targets? What is reasonable sized client and what will it take to win them? Make sure you budget for new business and support required. Based on feedback from the audience, this is something many agencies aren’t currently doing.

5) Your team – who’s on your team and what do they do? Is it just you? What kind of agency are you? Jody shared a few typical examples: ‘Natural born hunters’, ‘natural born promoters’, ‘small team / multiple hats’, ‘CEO / Chief Sales Officer’, or ‘it’s your job, keep us out of it!’ Make sure you keep roles well organised and  play to your strengths.

6) PR and marketing – does your positioning serve you? How are you telling your story? Make sure you have a joined up plan, which you can email Jody for a template she is happy to share. Make sure your website is working for you. One particularly useful tip was to experiment with blogs which can feed into thought leadership.

7) Operations – what staff, tools, processes and materials do you need to ensure you are effective? How are you finding intelligence on prospects, and how are you tracking progress?

8) Executive summary – written last, goes first. You need a concise summary to your plan, use it to your advantage to highlight the key information from your plan.

Jody finished up her session by advising the audience to start planning NOW to make sure you can get out the gate fast in 2018.

Weave price and value into your proposal

Paul Williamson, Managing Director at Sports Ink, shared an interesting case study around the successful pricing for the 2012 Olympics and the success they enjoyed growing revenue through clever pricing. Paul went on to apply best practice to agency new business and in particular, the tender process. Paul recommended that agencies need to weave price and value into the process and not just have it as the last slide.

The importance of having purpose and thinking like a brand

After lunch, Lena Robinson, Co-Founder of Kiwi Gray had everyone fired up and motivated for the afternoon with her presentation, which looked at how to win before you pitch. Lena was quick to highlight the importance of thinking like a brand, rather than classifying yourself as an agency.

There are over 22,000 agencies out there so you need to have a clear purpose to stand out. A passionate Lena made it clear that purpose has to be lived and breathed by everyone – and to do this, you need to understand why you exist as a business. Don’t just talk about what you do, people are more likely to buy the reason why you do it. And the good news is that businesses with purposes make more money!

Lena went on to explain that this should come from the heart to ensure authenticity. With this comes both power and vulnerability, which is needed for true engagement. Be honest and open and stand up for what you believe in. Then share this through blogs, events and every conversation. Applying this to the pitch process, Lena felt that when responding to a brief, agencies often hold back as they don’t want to say the wrong thing, but a client will want you to guide them and help them identify what they really want. If you stay true to your beliefs you are more likely to win the right type of clients.

In summary, be brave, stick to your guns and remember that new business should be everyone’s responsibility.


Panel Discussion: how to ensure you are Pitch Perfect

It was then time for a panel discussion hosted by Steve Antoniewicz, Head of Consultancy at the Drum. Steve was joined by Greg Roberts, Head of Business Development at JellyfishJulia Fontaine, New Business and Marketing Director at Soul, Pete Gomori, Creative Director at Reading Room, Sasha Rae Russell, Business Development Manager at Banana Kick and Matthew Crissey, Sales Manager at List Partners Inc, to discuss the perfect pitch.

The discussion started by looking at how to prepare for a pitch: Greg highlighted that one of the biggest challenges for agencies is to free up time of the key people who need to be involved. To manage this effectively, Greg shared the process at Jellyfish, where for each pitch they will allocate a pitch lead to facilitate resource internally and a Strategic lead to focus on the pitch story.

Julia agreed that finding people’s time in the process was a key challenge, not just from your team, but the client too. Julia highlighted the importance of building a relationship with the client along the way (pre-pitch), as if you thrown in without having met the client your chances of success are low.

Pete also talked about the importance of getting to know the client and making sure you have done the maximum to understand them. This isn’t only based on your experience of meeting them, but doing your research. Making sure that you (and your team) have read their annual report, watched their videos, looked at their twitter feed. That way you can get a feel for what they are likely to respond to and make sure everyone is looking beyond just saying their bit.

Sasha agreed that it’s all about relationships and discussed the importance of understanding your clients specific requirements and finding ways to bring this to life for them in your pitch. Matthew then took on the conversation to apply this theme in relation to pre-pitch prospecting. Matthew highlighted the importance of using data and intelligence to help you know when and why to reach out to the right person – and using company insight and triggers to inform your approach and ensure relevance.

When it comes to pitching, the conversation moved on to delivery and whether you should practice dramatic theatre. This split opinion and Pete urged people to be themselves – think about how you come across and remember a pitch is not the same as a presentation.

The panel then discussed what happens if you don’t get the result you were hoping for. If you have built a relationship with the prospect you should ask for feedback and try to ensure as open and transparent as possible. Sometimes it can be a good idea for a CEO or Owner to ask a stakeholder for blunt feedback to get past the stock answers of ‘cultural fit’ or ‘close second’. Then try and understand what you could have done better.

If you do mange the perfect pitch and are lucky enough to win the business, also ask for feedback so you understand why.

Thanks to the Drum for a great day and some really useful take outs. Hopefully some of these will help you to perfect your pitch against the other 22,000 agencies out there.

Good luck!

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