When I start working with an agency on their new business, the first thing we look at is their new business plan. I tend to map this out over a 12 month period although it’s important to review and tweak each month. Writing the plan shouldn’t take long. The best way to approach it is to have a mini workshop to brainstorm the detail and then the new business plan is simply a written plan of what was agreed.
In this blog post, I’ve written what I always include in a new business plan. These are the basics, if you want to go deeper you can include areas such as competitor landscape, market conditions, SWOT analysis – these areas are helpful to look at but obviously take more time.
Specifically, what are your financial targets? Usually agencies tell me what their turnover is and what they would like it to increase to. This is a great starting point but we need to dig deeper than that. Questions like “How much of that turnover will come from existing client growth?”, “How much is expected from your existing network or from your sister agencies if you are part of a group?”, “What was the total value of wins from cold new business in previous years?”, “Is this year’s target realistic?”, "What's your conversion rate?". Expected growth from cold new business efforts should always be the smallest portion of the total new business targets because people usually buy from people that they know, like and trust so it takes time to build those types of relationships.
"People usually buy from people that they know, like and trust."
2. Agency Positioning
Put simply, how do you describe what your agency does in one sentence. What’s your elevator pitch? I won’t go into detail here about agency positioning as I’ve written a previous post on how to craft an agency positioning that stands out which you can read here. Having this in the plan ensures that you are all clear on your positioning.
Who will you be approaching? Agree the criteria by which you will be selecting companies to go on your database. This is so important as there’s nothing more frustrating for a new business person than to secure a brief from a prospect to then find out that the agency must turn it down for various reasons. Things to agree are: minimum size of company (usually in turnover or can be employees), location, sector (would they conflict with an existing client?). It can be useful here to go into more detail and create an ideal client persona, looking at the characteristics of an ideal client and challenges they may face. I’ve created a persona template which you can download for free here along with other tools. When working with my clients I always get them to agree and sign off the final list of targets so that we are all clear on who I’m approaching.
4. Messaging & Campaigns
What are you going to say and how? What’s your “hook” or “point of view”? This is where you need to brainstorm ideas, it’s not strong enough to approach a prospect by simply introducing yourself and the amazing work that you have done. The message needs to be about the prospect and their challenges that you can solve.
"The message needs to be about the prospect and their challenges that you can solve."
Even though you should be personalising it as much as you can, you can still plan the overarching campaign. If you are targeting a particular sector, what supporting case studies can you refer to? How are you going to approach them? Are you going to send a series of creative mail pieces in the post and then an email followed by a call? Or could you plan an event around a topic and tease them with a thought leadership piece before you send them an invite to the event? Plan out these campaigns in your 12 month plan, you don’t necessarily need to go into the full detail for each campaign but have an idea of who you are approaching, with what message and how.
5. PR, Events & Existing Client Launches
If you are working with a PR agency it’s definitely a good idea to include a summary of their planned activity in your new business plan. Use their coverage as much as you can, I often send links to recent press coverage that prospects might be interested in, it can be a good “keep in touch” piece. Similarly, you can also outline the launches of client projects that you are working on that you want to tell people about. What industry events are you planning on attending and how will you get the most of them. What's your strategy in the run up to the event, during the event and follow up strategy?
6. Existing client growth
Part of your new business plan should include growth from existing clients, how are you managing it? Often, it’s the responsibility of the client services team which makes sense however think about how new business can support that team and how this will all be managed. It’s very easy when client services are busy working on projects to forget about growing existing clients, so you need a system and process in place.
When mapping out the timeline of your plan there are three key things to consider:
Who you are targeting? Some sectors have key buying and planning periods and also look at their fiscal year end date which is a key indicator of when new budgets are set.
PR, Events & Existing client launches
Holiday periods – not just school holidays and public holidays but also when key members of your team are away.
Who is responsible for the different areas of the plan? Do you have an in-house new business person or will you be outsourcing to a new business consultancy or freelancer? How much time will be invested in new business versus existing client growth. Agree and make clear each person’s role and responsibility. This may change for each campaign so there’s no need to go into full detail here though it’s a good idea to have a “driver” for each campaign, someone who will lead it and make sure it gets done.
What’s important is that you don’t spend ages creating the plan and then never revisit it. Think of the new business plan as an evolving plan, one that you review and add to each month.
"Think of the new business plan as an evolving plan, one that you review and add to each month."
Tweak it as you go along, review what is working and what isn’t and don’t be afraid to change it.
Grab your free copy to my New Business Campaign Plan for Agencies: https://www.lucysnellonline.com/p/free-plan
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