Finding that special someone…

Agencies employ many different ways of seeking out new clients. But what works best? Ingenious MD Paul Hartley shares some insight into the world of new business development…

Since the beginnings of the agency we’ve been pretty self sufficient in terms of finding clients. Which is just as well, seeing as we started out with none! By that I mean that, unlike some startups, there were no clients ‘taken with us’ from elsewhere, or pre-arranged business to start work on. Honest? Yup. Stupid? Probably…

You’re the one that I want…
At the beginning we worked extremely hard on research and profiling potential clients. We had a good feel for the type and size of business we thought we could attract, and we also highlighted certain sectors that we thought would fit with our approach. Once we’d built a database, we sent out a simple self-promotion mailer accompanied by tailored covering letters. Some of the initial respondents are, we’re delighted to say, still clients today.

For some specific ‘targets’ we created bespoke mailings – one in particular that stands out was a photo album we sent to the Marketing Director of a prestigious sports car marque, which resulted in a congratulatory phone call from them and some really interesting work as well. We also sent something very similar to a certain Manchester Football Club which again resulted in a meeting and subsequent pitch opportunity.

Take it slow
We’ve always been very patient when building relationships. It’s important to not become a pain to the person you’re trying to get work off! Having been ‘client-side’, I’ve had experience of agencies that don’t know how to take no for an answer. Nothing winds people up more.

Regular, well considered communication is key. In our early days, before Twitter was invented (God that makes us sound old!) we produced quarterly mailers, followed up by emails and or calls as appropriate. Today we still employ the good old-fashioned print piece, but of course we can supplement that with social media activity.

Again, at Ingenious we’ve always looked to the long term and as such, we most definitely favour the ‘softly softly’ approach. To back this up, take the example of two of our busiest clients. One took approximately two years from first mailing to giving us our first brief, and the other called us out of the blue one Friday afternoon inviting us to pitch, following around 18 months of gentle persuasion.

Work at it
Research. Then research some more. Try and devote some time each week to database development / potential client contact. Just a few ‘remember us’ emails / mailers each week can keep momentum up and put you at the top of the in-tray. Or the bin, if you’re unlucky. Which leads us on to…

Grow a thick skin
Nobody likes a knock back. But we’ve had plenty and will no doubt continue to get them. Learn to understand why, back off and if necessary, move on to someone else. There’s no point banging your head against a brick wall, and it’ll only annoy the target. “It’s not you, it’s me…” anyone?

Nothing lasts forever…
Sorry to end on a negative, but always bear in mind that it’s rare, if impossible, to keep a client forever. Business relationships, like any other, change and evolve and sometimes people move on. Loosing your first client is a real watershed moment, and it genuinely does hurt, but once you’ve been through it the importance of continually keeping the new business machine moving comes into sharper focus. The other side of the coin is learning how to keep a working relationship fresh and new. But that’s another story…

 


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