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Proactively growing your agency with intent.

How do you go about proactive agency new business without the sweaty palms?

This is the real question behind a great number of inquiries we get at both The List and Catapult New Business from ad agency owners and their Directors of Business Development, looking for ways to identify relevant and new connections and engage new relationships with corporate marketing decision makers at leading national brands.

The answer is remarkably simple, build the right referral strategy and commit to consistent execution.

A disciplined referral strategy plays a key role in agency business development, and everyone knows it. But how often do you build a plan, and work the plan consistently to bring those connections and new relationship opportunities to life? It’s time to simply start connecting the dots.

You may have attended my best-practice webcast session on building a simple referral strategy for agency new business a few weeks ago? If not, I’ve summarized the content below for you.

Referral Strategy Benefits for Agency New Business

• It’s the easiest strategy to implement, with the most immediate pay-off.

• Compliments your other proactive agency new business campaigns.
No, it’s not the whole solution – just a part of your overall strategy.

• Reduces your business development expenses and closing cycle on your most sought after prospects.

• Well defined and consistent strategies have higher closing rates 70%+ within 120 days over cold-approach campaigns.

• Shines a light on the value of building stronger relationships with your current agency clients. The cycle self-perpetuates.

The List of Quick Tips to Building your Referral Strategy

1. Set your Target
In business, we measure the results to improve performance of any metric. Set clear goals with a time line. Example, 10% increase in referral business leads over the next 10 weeks.

2. Timing
Conventional agency business development wisdom suggests the best time to ask for the referral is immediately after the close. This tactic is far too aggressive. Give your clients time to experience your expertise, build a relationship and see real credibility before asking for a referral.

3. Top 20
Not all clients or LinkedIn 1st degree connections are referral candidates. Find the top 20% that would be advocates of your business and ask them for referrals. Make sure their connection that you request an introduction to is exactly the type of client you’re seeking – and be specific about providing a relevant reason as to why an introduction would be of value to their connection. More on that in a moment.

4. Give and Get
Give your top 20% referrals. Give your clients extra service and follow-up support before asking for referrals. When you give willingly to your clients and prospects, they’ll return the favor.

5. Specificity
Inform your referring leads of exactly who you’d like a referral from, why it would be of value to them to meet you, and have a sense of urgency built into the ask.

6. Surprise and Delight
Keep those who refer you in-the-loop on what the outcome is of their referral. Most agency business development people drop the ball here, and it’s a critical step to ensure additional referrals from that person. We all like to feel validated in the efforts we undertake. Then surprise them periodically, either with a referral, a personal gift or just some industry intel of value.

7. Consistency
To be successful, you must a focus on making your agency new business referral program a prioritized aspect of your daily routine. Above all else, this will be the make or break of your referral campaign’s success.

Now what I hear you ask? Well the following email/ voicemail structure has proven to be successful (when made your own – do not copy verbatim) for a number of our clients, as well as within our organization.

Sample Referral Strategy Messaging Structure:

Opening: Hello.
Para 1: Trust to ask for help. Vulnerability.
Para 2: Confidence and specificity in exactly the type of help you’re looking for, and why.
Para 3: Precisely how they can help you and how easy you’ve made it for them to do so.
Para 4: Sense of urgency built into closing.
Close: Thank you.

Bringing it to life: Digital Agency – Expertise in Connecting Brands with Gas Powered Athletes

Hi Matt,
Good to chat last week. A quick favor to ask – I’m looking to add just one, highly specific client to our agency family this year who shares the same values that we do, and I find that the greatest way to determine a best-fit and filter is through existing friends – I’d look to you for ultimate guidance on this.

If you’d be open to it, I’d love the opportunity to demonstrate our horse-power to Megan Gillam who oversees Consumer Marketing on the Ford F-150 Raptor team.

Given our experience and expertise in the space with GMC Trucks and Honda Motor Sports over the years, I hoped that you’d be open to an introduction to Megan for me this week?

Specifically, she’d find value in an initial conversation with me on the “Gas Powered Athlete” communications platform; built on our expertise of building the brands that power and sustain them.

I’m hoping that you’d be able to introduce me before next Tuesday, the 15th, as we have some timely industry knowledge that I’d like to include in our conversation. Attached is an executive overview for her review.

Many thanks in advance for your help in introducing Megan and I.

Final Thoughts and Next steps:

There’s really no need for sweaty palms in agency new business. You can remove a lot of the anxiety by simply having a plan and prioritizing it as a part of your daily routine. If rejection is a primal fear of yours, a consistently implemented referral program will ease you into proactive new business, setting the stage for you to test and refine the way in which you position the agency, and find and engage relevant new relationships with marketers.

Once you’ve successfully run this for a month or two – share the idea and your process with your executive team and scale it.

If you’d like more context on the topic, including some additional real-world examples, I would be happy to connect with you. Here are more comprehensive lists of holding company agency lists to add to your search: Publicis Agency List , WPP Agency List, Omnicom Agency List.

– Dave Currie