Agency Owner’s Guide to Business Development

Agency Owner’s Guide to Business Development

Sales are the lifeblood of any agency. Project work, limited engagements, and natural turnover make filling the pipeline, and closing deals an essential part of the business.

However, despite how critical this business process is to the success of agencies, there’s very little written on sales processes and systems for agencies.

So, here’s mine in a nutshell.

1. Start with a niche industry and a service. For example, for Kaleidico, I’m using these four things in combination: mortgage lenders (preferably consumer-direct lenders) or law firms (preferably person injury) and web design and development or online lead generation campaign(s).

2. Use CRM to manage your sales process. I currently use Close, which allows me and my Sales Development Representative (SDR) to stay coordinated on a reasonably large pipeline and automate a variety of drip email campaigns. If you are a sales team of one, like I was for years, I prefer AirTable, where I was able to keep track of my prospects and leads with the flexibility to adjust the system to my changing workflows.

3. Use an email marketing system. I currently use the functionality inside of Close. However, if you’re building a starter sales process, I’m a big fan of Mailshake. Ideally, you want to use a system that allows you to set up simple drip email campaigns. I’m a big believer in the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. All I’m looking for here is automating my follow-ups and a tiny bit of scale.

4. Go to Linkedin to build a list of prospects. I start with companies and then back into specific people that I think would be interested in what I’m doing for clients. There is a bit of an art to this, which I’ll cover in another post. I typically build my list and research notes in AirTable and then import it into my CRM.

5. Build a presentation that presents my big idea. The “big idea” pitch approach is a technique that I got from Jeffrey Gitomer - I sell ideas, not web design or digital marketing services. You can get design and marketing services from thousands of agencies. You can only get my big idea for your company from me.

6. My presentation always includes case studies to validate that my idea works. I currently use Google Slides to create these presentations and case studies. Sometimes I just use a link to the Google Slides for my outreach campaign, but typically I create a landing page and give the download away without an email capture (this is a little bit of secret sauce).

7. Typically, my presentation also becomes a video and a talk at upcoming conferences. Remember, it’s an idea, not a service. It’s unique, and I want to spread my big idea far and wide. Again, building these presentations is a whole system in and of itself. So, that’s a future post too.

8. Now, I take this idea and my presentation and create a drip email campaign. I take a few little gems that are finer details inside the big idea and begin to write my email campaign. A typical campaign is about ten emails. They are a mix of links to blog posts, my presentation, and one or two-line quick notes to my prospects or leads.

9. Then, I start following, monitoring, and engaging with my prospects on social media. For me, that is limited to Linkedin or Twitter. I’ll also start posting content related to my digital marketing idea or relevant to my niche industry.

10. After a couple of weeks raising my profile in my prospects’ streams, I’ll start the email drip campaign. I do this with tiny lists (10-100). These tiny segments, the luxury of being a boutique agency, allows me to keep my outreach personalized even as I automate.

Too often, we think we need to scale business development way too early. Scaling too soon kills a lot of opportunities. Scale without understanding often obscures critical learnings about your product or service to market fit as well as what is and isn’t working in your sales process.

Specific to agency business development, you rarely need to scale. Even the biggest agency only requires a handful of outstanding clients at any given time.

I hope this helps a few creative freelancers and agency owners. If you have any questions, ask away.