Why Business Development is Like a Gym Membership

An agency founder recently explained that Business Development is a lot like a gym membership. We all know that committing to it will deliver the results we want; whether that’s getting stronger or losing a few pounds.

There are a few problems though. Some of us despise every torturous second at the gym, so we’ll put it off until we stand sobbing in front of the bathroom mirror. Some of us are spinning so many plates (e.g. staff, meetings, clients…kids!) that we don’t get time. Others are too easily tempted by the glimmering beer taps shining like rainbows through the pub doors on the commute home…you know who you are!

So, by bedtime, there’s that niggling pang of guilt that we didn’t allocate that one hour of 24 to the gym that day, which would have been a few more steps towards our goal.

I love this analogy because it perfectly describes what it takes to do Business Development correctly while at the same time highlighting the challenges when agencies try and do this in house.

I guess you could describe allocating a Business Development role or agency as personal training, body cleansing and therapy all rolled in one. The health benefits include:

ZEN – you know there’s someone focussed and dedicated to finding new opportunities while you can focus on running and developing the agency.

A HEALTHY BODY – sometimes, clients will leave, for whatever reason. But with a consistent flow of opportunity with the right prospective clients, you will avoid the risk of having detrimental dips if they do go. If they don’t go, you should experience consistent growth.

A HAPPY MIND – the best thing about new business is you can go after the right types of opportunities for you. The ones everyone will get excited about working on and the ones who will be long terms clients.

CONFIDENCE – You know that feeling when you step on the scales and like what you see, you’re energised, motivated and more successful. Winning new clients and reaching your goals is one of the best and most satisfying feelings in an agency.

At Upfront, we’re all about establishing goals and winning business so it’s the first thing we ask agencies when they come to us for Business Development. What do you want to achieve? We then develop a plan of action to reach those goals and work with you to stick to it.

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Does good new business start at Cannes?

There has been plenty of conversations about the value of Cannes Lions this year and whether you can justify the cost of a €32 Chicken Sandwich on the Croisette – and the thousands more that a trip can often cost an agency.

Whilst the focus of the week is to recognise creativity and sharing knowledge, there is also a big focus on networking. With BrainDating, Accenture’s bump and Connect wrist bands, plenty of action is focused towards making connections. We’re always interested in meeting new people, so Upfront went along this year and got talking to people to find out how they got on.

Jon Reid, Business Director at Set Live, the agency behind the unmissable YouTube beach experience at Cannes, knows first-hand the impact the event can have: “Each year we help Google to stand out at Cannes and we know how important this is to their business. However, if you are going to meet potential new clients it can be difficult if you don’t have an established presence there”.

Whilst Cannes brings together so many senior Marketers from across the world, conveniently into one place, you are competing heavily for their attention. “We had a range of exciting meetings lined up with high profile CMO’s who were all keen to meet us at Cannes, but it is always hard to actually tie down timings as there is so much going on and so many competing priorities. However, it’s been a great way to start a conversation”, Jon explains, “[…] and for many they will have experienced our work first hand if they made it down to the beach”.

Nick Stephens at Brand Experience Agency, Ignis, went for a more spontaneous approach. Armed with a networking pass, Nick managed to meet a great range of potential prospects by striking up new conversations around the hotels and beach bars of the Croisette: “I just identified who I wanted to speak to and went and found them. I was particularly keen to speak to the guys at the Weather Channel who have just been bought by IBM Watson. They ended up inviting me on their yacht, which was a great way to get to know them!”.

Miranda Glover, Business Director at digital agency E3, who received a nomination for their AI virtual assistant work for Arthritis Research, and won a commendation for a strategic report in the AdMap Prize, found the talks invaluable at Cannes: “The Cannes experience overall was extremely informative and inspiring. I went to lots of talks which gave me a great perspective on the future of our industry.” Miranda described Business Development happening by osmosis and feels confident that relationships will develop over time: “I met some great influencers and creators at the events and sure we will meet again, but Cannes doesn’t really suit a quick-fire agency pitch, instead we all want to assimilate knowledge and make new connections whilst we are there and then come back to it.”

One sure-fire way of getting people’s interest is to host a high-profile welcome party. Leading social analytics platform Crimson Hexagon did this to great effect with Twitter, at their Cabana right next to the palace. For the remainder of this week, the cabana served as a base for their meetings, while their executives worked the ground at partner events like WPP Stream and the Facebook VIP party. Marian Cramers, Director for Global Network Agency Growth at Crimson Hexagon, was particularly pleased with this third edition of Crimson @ Cannes. “I feel we have really established our brand and presence here over the years, people acknowledge our place in the ecosystem and we had many more C-suite and senior prospects and clients passing by. The relaxed space of the cabana and garden area also means they stay for quite a while, and we can have very open conversations about procurement procedures or changes within their org. Conversations we’re very unlikely to have anywhere else than here in Cannes!”

Overall, it may be difficult to justify the cost of Cannes as simply a New Business exercise. However, if approached responsibly and combined with meeting clients and gaining insight, then it still has an awful lot to offer and a great opportunity to meet a wide range of people in a relaxed environment.

We felt there is a lot more that the organisers Ascential can do to foster networking and introductions at Cannes to help make sure people get the most out of the week. For instance, no-one I spoke to got much out of the BrainDating app. Users found that it required far too much time and effort to organise anything and felt it would be better to make it easier to match people on relevant topics of discussion.

It certainly helps if you are doing something at Cannes or at least have a focal point to orientate meetings around. The YouTube beach was great for this and so was Crimson Hexagon’s Cabana. Hosting your own party is a great way to get people together and crucially, collect their contact info. And just being at Cannes you are likely to connect with like minded people, especially if you proactively introduce yourself to as many people as you can.

Apparently great stories start and continue at Cannes Lions. From all those that we spoke to during the week, lots of good conversations start there too. The question is now whether those good conversations will continue beyond Cannes? If they do and turn into new business, then it will certainly help to justify a return next year!

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April’s Movers and Shakers

Working in Business Development, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes and the latest Movers and Shakers so here is a summary of the latest company news and exciting new appointments that we recommend you keep an eye on:

Hearst Magazines UK, the publisher of ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar, has appointed Anne-Marie Curtis as Editor-in-Chief of ELLE.

The magazine has also announced the appointment of James Wildman as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Fiona Ross recently resigned as Managing Director of plus-size womenswear retailer Evans, and will be replaced by Anne Secunda, who will also continue in her current role as Managing Director of Evans’ Arcadia Group stablemate, Wallis.

Elizabeth Arnett is leaving her role as head of corporate affairs at Irish Water to join Ulster Bank in as Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications.

Diageo has snapped up Carat’s global digital director Jerry Daykin to become its first Head of Digital Media Partnerships, a role that will call on his former ties to FMCG business Mondelez International.

Andrew Crawley, current Chief Executive of IAG Cargo, is to become Chief Executive of Avios Group Ltd, with immediate effect. Andrew sits on the IAG management committee, reporting directly into its Chief Executive Willie Walsh.

Design Council’s Chair and Trustees have welcomed Sarah Weir OBE as its new Chief Executive.

Sarah will take Design Council into an exciting new phase, building on its current success and developing new programmes and services.

Lisa Henderson has been appointed Head of Marketing at Manchester Arndale, bringing experience gained from marketing numerous global fashion brands.

Online home shopping group Findel has announced the appointment of Phil Maudsley as Chief Executive with immediate effect.


POKE has promoted Tom Bayliss, its head of client services, to the role of Managing Director, and named Christina Marks, a business leader on some of the agency’s key accounts, as the new Head of Client Services, replacing Bayliss.

Bayliss will take responsibility for the day-to-day running of the agency, and will oversee continued growth of the business, continuing to work with Nick Farnhill, co-founder & CEO of POKE and recently appointed CEO of Publicis London, to focus on the integrated growth and strategic positioning for both businesses, which remain separate entities within Publicis UK.

French Connection has appointed Maryam Farrahi as PR Manager. Maryam was previously Global Press Officer at Cath Kidston.

Neal’s Yard Remedies has promoted Jessica French from PR & Social Media Coordinator to Social Media Manager.


Business owner and former CEO James Phipps takes the Executive Chairman position at leading Vodafone B2B dealer, while former Vodafone commercial marketing director for enterprise Peter Boucher has been appointed as the new CEO.

British contemporary fashion brand Whistles has announced the appointment of Sadie Watts as Global Head of PR. Sadie was most recently Communications Director at Tommy Hilfiger and formerly Head of UK PR at Paul Smith. Sadie can be contacted for interview requests with CEO Jane Shepherdson as well as brand enquiries.

WiggleCRC has appointed Will Kernan to lead the recently merged online retailer of cycling and tri sports equipment as Group CEO. He succeeds Stefan Barden as Chief Executive.

Yo! Sushi has appointed former BA marketer and BBH Sport executive Luisa Fernandez to run the Japanese restaurant chain’s marketing department as Marketing Director.

Tesco Mobile have reshuffled at the very top of the company with Chief Executive Anthony Vollmer replaced by Claire Lorains. Lorains will start her new role on 2 May 2017.

Asthma UK has appointed Graham Kelly as its new Director of Fundraising, effective as of 24th April.

Wasserman has appointed Jade Garrow Newport as a Business Director to its experience division. The former Head of Marketing at Miss Selfridge, part of Arcadia Group, will focus on nurturing senior client relationships with a specific focus on the agency’s Bacardi account.

L.K.Bennett has appointed Jess Beck as Senior Marketing Manager. Jess was previously Senior Marketing and Events Manager at notonthehighstreet.com.

Wagamama has appointed Jane Holbrook and the brands new Cheif Executive of the pan-Asian restaurant chain. The former Flair exec will be joining the Richmond based business on Aril 24th.

Bandai UK has named Nic Aldridge its new General Manager.

Meanwhile, Clive Smith will be stepping into the role of Managing Director while Tess Parsons-Broome has recently been promoted to the new position of Marketing Manager.

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Straight Talking: The Importance of a Joined-Up Approach to Business Development, Marketing and Communications

All businesses main objectives should be to build their reputation, increase positive awareness and win new work from existing and prospective clients. But too many creative agencies are limiting their growth potential by not aligning sales and marketing activity.

On the 9th March we will be hosting the next event in our exclusive breakfast series Straight Talking, where we’ll look at what it takes to achieve an integrated approach and how this approach can impact agency growth, standout, confidence and morale.

Often operating in silos across internal teams or agency partners, we will be discussing why and how agencies should merge Business Development with their marketing and communications teams in order to grow and operate more effectively and efficiently.

We will be joined by leading agencies Tonic, Digital Radish and e3, who will be providing their insights on how you can use content, marketing and PR to drive business development effectively.

The team at Tonic help creative agencies achieve their business vision by overcoming the common barriers to success across the key areas of Efficiency, Profitability and Growth. They will be discussing how agencies can join up New Business and Marketing through positioning and communications ,and how strong leadership and values embedded into company culture can have a massive impact to your business, supporting their insights with case study evidence.

Digital Radish will take to the stage in order to bring in their strategic, data driven approach to content marketing.  They will illustrate how they use content and thought leadership to drive lead generation and crack new markets, bringing this to life through a showcase of their work with Unity.

e3, is one of the UK’s most awarded independent digital agencies. Founded in 1997, they are renowned for their work for brands including The Royal Navy, National Trust, Arthritis Research UK, BP and Orange. Business Director, Miranda Glover will bring together the morning session to showcase how they have brought Biz Dev, Marketing and Communications together using content marketing, PR and events to win their global client base and maximise their growth potential.

This will truly be an event for all agencies – click here to join us.

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A day in the life of a Business Development Manager…

Calvin MacLeod has recently joined us at Upfront as a Business Development Manager. We spoke to Calvin to find out what a ‘typical day’ is like, what is success – and what he most enjoys about Business Development.

Hi Calvin, what is your background?

I’m a Computing Graduate from the University of Portsmouth, where I received First Class Honors and McGraw Project prize for software engineering. I’ve also developed my own med-tech start up that has made it to the final of Solent Young Talent Start Up Competition. Prior to this, I’ve held a variety of sales roles.

Why did you decide on a career in business development?
I’ve always had a passion for developing businesses and products – which I have done with varying success! After graduating I wanted to progress with this and gain more experience in the industry and learn from other more established and fast growing businesses.

Business development is the perfect route to give me exposure to a wide range of sectors – and working with a fantastic range of innovative businesses, right at the sharp end.

What does your day to day look like?
We manage various clients at Upfront so I have to carefully plan each day. I spend the first part of my morning making sure all meetings are confirmed and everything is running smoothly. I then research potential prospects and keeping up to date on the latest industry insights.

I will then review all my client campaigns to track engagement and follow up on any interest, as well as any follow ups logged in my CRM. It is important to not only find new leads but keep in touch with existing ones to build a relationship with them. Business development isn’t a quick sale, it’s about building a relationship and a mutual opportunity for the client and the lead.

The most exciting part of my day happens in the afternoon. It’s time to call the leads I have been contacting via email. This is the opportunity for me to deliver a great pitch and offer them the value proposition of my client. If all goes well the main part of these calls is about discovering how my client can serve the needs of the prospect and this can go in any direction, so I really have to be prepared to discuss anything! I finish the day by reviewing the day’s activity and sending out subsequent emails to provide new contacts to follow up on the next day and updating my clients on progress and stories from the day.

What do you love most about the job and what is its most challenging aspect? 

I love learning about new industries and the work of our clients, from creative social platforms to scientific research mobile applications. The challenging part is understanding the industry and the purpose of my clients sufficiently to be confident and comfortable talking to decision makers to then be able to identify and develop genuine new business opportunities.

What do you do in your free time?

I really enjoy food and drink, so I’m often trying to find new places to go with friends. On the weekends, I’m always on the go. I play golf, squash, football and even ice-skate, although currently I’m spending my spare time developing my own application.

What competencies do you think makes a good BDM?

1. A passion for business and what you are selling.

2. Adaptability and the drive to learn about varying industries

3. Being able to use your initiative to spot an opportunity from an insight, or challenge.

Do you enjoy a target driven environment – why?

Working in a target driven environment such as Upfront has given me the encouragement to develop and focus on delivering success for myself and my clients. Winning Business Development Manager of the month in my second month shows that in Business Development, with the right attitude, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve.


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How to get the most out of your Event

Events can provide a fantastic platform for business development – and a great way to build credibility and contact with your target clients. We regularly assist clients in running their own events, which allows a unique opportunity to really engage with a captive audience.

If done right, events can help set the agenda for future opportunities by highlighting challenges and insight. By responding to your invitation, delegates have expressed an interest in your message. Essentially, pre-qualifying themselves before the event even takes place. Attending your event moves the relationship on a step and provides all important face to face contact.

Events provide an exclusive opportunity to position yourself as industry experts and thought leaders, while for the brands speaking, a platform to share their brand story, strategies and engage with other brand competitors. It’s also a great way to gather insights from industry peers.

However, with so many events taking place every week, it’s important to stand out from the rest. There’s also a lot that can go wrong, so careful planning needs to go into the process to make sure it runs smoothly, as well as making sure you attract the right audience – both getting them to attend and keeping them interested. One must always remember that this needs to form part of a longer term contact strategy, that includes the all important follow up.

So how do you go about getting the most out of an event to benefit new business?

Here are our 6 key tips on how to ensure you get the most out of your event:

  1. Purpose – Understand why you are running it: Are you trying to create more leads and garner more direct referrals to your business? Or are you trying to build new connections with other businesses in your industry? Understanding the purpose of your event will help inform all of your subsequent decisions, including venue and guest list.
  2. Setting Parameters – Decide on the scope of your event then how many people you will be inviting. The size of your event will help you set more distinct parameters. If you are hosting a smaller event, a sit down environment will allow everyone to network at a leisurely pace. If you are inviting a greater number of delegates, you will want to plan an event that promotes networking.
  3. Time and Place – This can have a huge effect on the business development and networking opportunities. You need to pick a venue that is centrally located and maximises engagement opportunities. It must be accessible to everyone as this can have an impact on who takes time out of the office to attend.
  4. Refreshments – These can often entice people to the event and be a good way of creating networking possibilities. Refreshments create a more relaxed environment and can be a tool to create conversation between delegates.
  5. Promote – In order for any event to be successful it needs to be promoted. Multichannel promotion via email campaigns, social or content is an effective method to spread the word and increase brand awareness.
  6. Network – Look to orchestrate networking opportunities prior to the event. This can be constructed in a number of ways such as round tables. It is a prime opportunity to make new contacts and increase your pipeline!

If done well, events can provide a fantastic new business opportunity. Ultimately, the key is to determine what message you need to portray and match that message to your event and audience; it is a great way to build valuable relationships and keep you top of mind.

If you are interested in running your own event, please get in contact.

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10 things I wish I’d known when I started out in Business Development

Business Development is a challenging job: it’s varied and there’s an art to the drawn out nature of creating opportunities for growth and developing meaningful business relationships. But being a business development professional has become a coveted job title.

Collectively, the Upfront and Upstream business development teams have more than 50 years of experience and there’s a lot we’ve learnt along the way: technical tools and hacks, digital and communication disciplines, industry understanding, and sales and marketing tactics. We want to share these lessons with you.

We’ve also reached out to some leading figures in the industry to ask if they could share some nuggets of advice. The result: 10 things I wish I’d known when I started out in Biz Dev.

Click here to download this guide, to find out:

  • Why ‘eating the frog’ could be key to winning new business
  • Learn how to adapt your approach according to personality types
  • Discover the best tools, books and tricks to give you the edge in biz dev
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How long does it take to win new business?

Upfront work with a very diverse selection of clients across marketing, communications and digital, where the sales process can vary greatly.

Some client wins are more contract driven and the review process is more clearly defined, whilst others need to take a more consultative approach to winning and growing business.

Typically we are focused on winning business with potential spend of £50,000 to £200,000 upwards and as you’d expect, the larger the deal, the longer the sales cycle, and the more people involved.

Whilst our clients do enjoy quick wins, one new client recently won a £30k job within 2 weeks, pitching for big contracts through a single contact and quick turnaround times are rare.

As their business development partner, new clients often ask us how long it will take to start winning business? To help answer that question, we tracked back over our client wins to find the average.

We have identified on average when our clients won their first bit of new business through us and put together this video to help bring this to life.

Click here to watch it.

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Client Wins of the Year 2015

Upfront is all about helping helping our clients win new business. We focus on developing the right types of opportunities to deliver agency growth. For some it’s all about revenue, others it’s the fame. Or it could be opening up a new sector, or even a new market.

This year we have seen a wide range of wins across a variety of sectors. This has included: Retail, Travel, FMCG, Professional Services, Charity, Media, Higher Education, Leisure, Financial and Gaming.

Our business is focused on helping clients win new business. We get excited every time a client has a big account win or gets involved with a new campaign. Looking back over the last year, here are some of our favourites:

Yoplait, Maynard Malone

In a cluttered yogurt aisle, creative digital agency Maynard Malone were challenged to demonstrate to kids that Frubes is now even more fun and to mums that it’s the best lunch box snack. With the help of the Minions, Maynard Malone created a best in class 360, multi channel marketing campaign.

BBC, Unity

Unity partnered with the BBC to remind people of the BBC’s work and engage them – digitally – in the corporation’s future. With 97 per cent of us using the BBC weekly, it was important to recognise its unique value and #BBCMoments was born.

Häagen Dazs, Love

Ice cream brand Häagen Dazs recently named Love its global lead design agency. The appointment sees Love initially charged with handling the brand’s design direction, the first of several briefs the agency will face. Please click here to read more.

Greggs, Shoutlet

Over the last couple of years we have helped US social tool Shoutlet establish it’s presence in the UK market. This has included pillar clients in Travel, Financial and Retail sectors. You don’t get much more authentically British than Greggs, with Shoutlet (recently acquired by Spredfast) now the tool of choice for the bakery chain.

Arthritis Research UK, e3

As reported in the Drum in September, Arthritis Research UK  handed its account to e3 as part of plans to boost its online presence, with the agency also taking the lead in the strategy and execution of ongoing digital campaigns and projects.

Other big client wins this year have included Expedia, Durham University, Spreadex, Baker Tilly and Morrisons.

Please get in touch if you have a wish list of brands you would like help winning in 2016, we’d love to see you on this list next year.

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Breakfast Seminar with JFDI – Key Insights

In conjunction with JFDI, Upfront recently hosted a breakfast seminar designed to help our clients get more out of new business meetings and improve their new business conversion.

Camilla Honey, founding partner of JFDI and all round new business expert, kicked off the morning with an interactive session to give us an overview of the current state of play in the new business market.

The findings put some real context around the reason we decided to hold the seminar and really pressed home the importance of taking every opportunity and making the most out of new business meetings.

It’s competitive. There are around 20,000 agencies in the UK and clients receive an average of 20-50 approaches per week

The average client/agency relationship lasts 2.5 years. That average is getting shorter, which is good news for new business and makes it even more critical you get this right.

A new appointment is often the catalyst for a review, with almost 40% of marketing directors reviewing their agency immediately upon taking up a new position with another 40% doing the same within the first 100 days.

Once a client decides to review, on average the incumbent has a 22% chance of retaining the business.

We keep track of this with our own movers and shakers feed and have noticed an increased number of job changes over the last 12 months. This trend looks set to continue as it was revealed that nearly half of Marketing Directors/Managers expect to move roles in 2016.

But don’t just look at marketing contacts…
Procurement teams are involved in around 80% of new business opportunities / pitches.

And finally, the Holy Grail, it does happen… 15% of agency moves happen without a pitch.

All of this really emphasises the importance of nurturing deep and lasting relationships with your prospects  and making sure you keep top of mind with them at all times. Don’t just assume your main contact will get in touch with you when the time is right, they may not even still be there! Invest time in understanding them and their business and you will be first in line when an opportunity does come around. You may even be the one helping them write the brief.


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