As we were sitting around the conference table to discuss assignments for this Media Matters and I was charged with writing the intro letter to our audience, it dawned on me that I have a terrific opportunity to share with you the insights from an article that I read by Matthew Sheppard in Ad Age Daily's Small Agency Diary last Monday. The article is titled "Our Approach to New Business Development" and it speaks to his agency's approach to going after new business in today's highly competitive marketplace.
As anyone who is a friend of The DSM Group's Facebook page knows, Ad Age Daily's Small Agency Diary is the very first thing I read (and post) in the morning when I get to the office, grab my cup of coffee and settle in the for the day.
The articles are very helpful to me for obvious reasons:
1. The authors each have their own established small agency
2. The authors write about extremely relevant problems that young entrepreneurs, like me, are faced with everyday...and always post the solutions that have gotten them "over the hump"
Yet, perhaps the most interesting thing about this particular article and the reason why I chose to write about it further in Media Matters, is that it really struck a chord in me. As I read through this article, it hit me and I started to peel back the layers and thought of recent conversations that I'd had with a few of our clients (business owners themselves) regarding how tough the marketplace is right now. The solution (Plan B, as Mr. Sheppard writes in the article) is one that is somewhat simple and right under our noses. Yet, most of the time, we go to great lengths to work with Plan A, which doesn't always net the best results. But I digress. Let me paint the basic picture for you in simple terms (you can read the full article at your leisure) and you'll know what I am talking about.
The Plan B approach to drumming up new business has probably been mentioned to you dozens of times and has sort of gone in one ear and out the other because of its stupid simplicity. Plan B does not focus on targeting a specific prospect, spending hours researching his business habits, or dedicating tons of man hours to the perfect pitch...only to find that the prospect you invested all of that time into was only looking for "your plan" to take to his boss for credit. Plan B should be your Plan A, A1 and A2. Plan B is simply utilizing your existing clients and contacts to prospect and engage new ones. SEE, I TOLD YOU THIS WAS STUPID SIMPLE. It doesn't matter if you are a landscaper, clothing retailer, ad agency or...well, Starbucks. If you have a successful business, that usually means you have a following. By making folks happy with your services or widgets, you have gained their trust and loyalty to both your brand and those who represent it. THAT IS POWERFUL STUFF, FOLKS. The beauty of Mr. Sheppard's piece (and what drew me to write about it here) is that it's applicable to everyone who reads this newsletter. Basically, it's applicable to everyone with a business on the planet. As Mr. Sheppard states in the article, "The majority of our clients have come to us based on direct relationships with any one of the members of our team (we really are friends with our clients) or they have engaged us based upon a recommendation from an existing client." There is the message, plain and simple: Leverage your existing relationships and clientele to conquer the always intimidating "new business landscape."
As The DSM Group has "grown up" (not sure we'll ever be grown up; maybe "matured" is a better term), we've had the good fortune to carve out some pretty awesome relationships with some pretty special people. Now, before I close shop there is a very important caveat that needs to be understood...nowhere in this equation is there room for complacency...this takes time, a lot of hard (and high-quality) work and, most importantly, sincerity. Most folks can sniff out and usually get very turned off by someone who is trying to connect with their own agenda in mind. The point is to connect with your clients on a level that helps yourself and others out. It's networking in its most unpretentious form-a brilliant concept that far outweighs hours of formulating a plan for someone else that may never see the light of day. Instead, engage in a conversation. You never know where it might lead and what the outcome will be. At the very least, you may get introductions to folks that you didn't know before and will be on their radar...for them to pass along in conversation with others