Ad Agency New Business Development Secret – Mystery Shopping

For decades advertising agencies and communications firms have competed for new business in a high stakes race to show prospective clients how they can help them improve their business. The process usually involves review of credentials as well as demonstration of initial business ideas and thinking. Sounds exciting? Not really.

So, how does an ad agency get up to speed on a prospective client’s business enough to show them smart and relevant thinking?

Well, the internet has had a huge hand in helping agency management find information on a specific company as well as their industry – and often their key competitors. And many, if not all advertising agencies are using that approach in varying degrees. But that still leaves the burning question: “what are the decision makers and influencers experiencing throughout the sales process AND how can we control that in our favor?”

Traditionally, that is where agency quantitative (statistically sound surveying through the mail, phone or internet) as well as qualitative (more intimate, one-to-one communications usually through methods like focus groups) research is used to provide the foundation for strategic recommendations that will hopefully knock the socks off of their prospect and win the account.

Innovative advertising agencies are finding alternative ways to access this important insight which they previously obtained from those costly, time-consuming research approaches. These innovative ad agencies are developing their ideas and recommendations for the “review” or “pitch” by using an old mainstay from the restaurant industry – Mystery Shopping.

Mystery Shopping: An Innovative Business Development Tool

Mystery shopping has been used extensively in the hospitality sector to manage and improve customer service performance – as a way of more effectively managing the customer engagement from the first call to the check. This helps companies identify areas needing sales process improvement. Used in a slightly different context, it becomes a cost and time-effective goldmine of insight to perfect a business development pitch.

Mystery Shopping Process:

– Mystery shoppers, who represent the targeted customer profile, visit a specific site, experience all aspects of the sales process and fill out a customized online survey which is compiled with other shopper’s data from the company’s geography.

– The mystery shoppers are also trained to obtain any collateral or relevant materials, as well as take photos, and mail it back to the ad agency, giving the agency the ability to see, touch and feel tangible aspects of the experience and potentially use this information in their pitch.

– Using this approach has other advantages, too. Mystery shopping firms have large pools of trained researchers who can rapidly deliver on fast turn-around projects over broad geographic areas, including global reach.

– These surveys are tracked and trended against each location, for regional differences, and even against national averages. The data can then be used to direct recommendations, or support new ideas.

– In some cases mystery shoppers are only shopping competitive locations to provide information that will translate to opportunities for improvement and differentiation.

Instead of leaving behind somewhat dry research, advertising agencies are now immediately able to add interest and dimension to their pitch that sticks. Eliminating the problems inherent in focus group research such as one individual dominating a group’s input. What are some of the additional nuggets of information that ad agencies glean from their mystery shopping results?

1. Identifying Strategic Opportunities

2. Testing Brand Positioning

3. Discovering Triggers for Promotional Planning

4. Uncovering Valuable Competitive Intelligence

Savvy advertising agencies are even using mystery shopping as a form of insurance for promotional program executions. Mystery shopping is put in place when a promotion is rolled out to monitor and manage the operational aspects; ensuring that from signage placement to sales conversations everything is supporting the promotional message.

Mystery shopping is also helping both advertising agencies and their clients manage the multiple “Touchpoints” necessary to ensure a successful sales process improvement and customer relationship building. For the business it translates to sales and profit – reducing the expense to both acquire a new customer and to keep a customer engaged and loyal.

For ad agencies it provides the critical data on a prospective client that they need to show them relevant recommendations, sell themselves to, build a relationship and create loyalty. And, it provides it in a way that lends color and interest to the pitch – it excites, it is valued, and it sticks. The opportunity for strong, relevant insight exists in this simple, tried and true research process: mystery shopping. No wonder more ad agencies are using it!

A Glimpse Over a Business Development Manager’s Job

Every businessman starts his business with an aim to grow in terms of annual sales. However, starting up a business seems easier, but making it a big one is not everyone’s cup of tea. It needs great efforts and hard work to get your business on the heights of success. According to a research, it has been observed that only one-tenth of 1 percent of companies will ever reach $250 million in annual revenue.

In order to develop a business, you need to make a growth strategy that must cover market perception, market growth, product development, alternative channels, new products, etc. Here, comes the need for a business development manager. He is the most important part of an organization, who needs to work with the marketing people, internal team and other seniors to develop the strategies for enhancing the sales opportunities, thus, increasing the profits. Let’s have a glance over the job of a business development manager:

Role of a business development manager

Well, the role of the concerned person can be categorized as follows:

• Outlook for new clients: It is perhaps the primary role of a business development manager to search for new clients. This can be done through various ways including cold calling, networking, advertising and more.

• Planning influential approaches: The next important thing is planning a proper influential approach that can encourage the prospective clients to do business with the company.

• Developing a bond: Developing a good relationship with new customers is really necessary if you want to develop your business. This can be done by setting targets and proving the required support to the customers for improving the bond.

• Grow and retain existing accounts: Developing a good relationship with new customers is not just enough. What more require is growing and maintaining the existing accounts. In order to retain the current customers the manager should be ready with new solutions and services that he/she can present to the customers as and when required.

Above are some of the primary roles of a business development manager. Apart from this, he/she is responsible for making a strategic planning for developing a new business coming in to the company. For this, the person must possess a sound knowledge of the current market condition, services that company can provide and most importantly who are the company’s rivals.

Qualifications and skills required for the business development manager

• Educational qualification: As the job of a business development manager is quite challenging, he needs to have certain skills that can assist him in facing all the hurdles. As per the reports of online job placements on Monster.com and PayScale.com, the educational qualification required for Business Development Manager Jobs is first of all a bachelor’s degree in business administration or any other related field. Having a good experience in sales or marketing will be added advantage. Though, some companies may prefer the candidates who hold a master’s degree in this field.

• Key skills: As far as skills are concerned, the person should be highly motivated, problem solver and must have prospecting skills, territory management, market knowledge, presentation skills, closing skills, professionalism, etc.

Significant result areas of business development manager

To achieve the desired results, it is very essential to be crystal clear about everything so that the concerned person will be able to focus on the results. Generally, the key result area should be:

• Clear, precise and measurable: A clear, precise and measurable key area will help in defining the exact results that have been achieved and how well they are achieved.

• Under the control of business development manager: The key result area should be under the control of the concerned person. When he/she does it in a right way, it will contribute towards a major value to a business and to the career of the responsible person.

• A vital activity of the business: A key result area is unquestionably the important output that will turn out to be an input to the next result area.

All the above information will surely help you to get an idea about the job of a business development manager.

Client Co-Marketing – Business Development for Law Firms

Client co-marketing builds relationships and sends an unmistakable message. Imagine you’re Senior Intellectual Property Counsel of a Fortune 100 company. Every law firm within two continents of your main office has begun posting commentary, sending communiques, and publishing articles about the latest milestone ruling – as of this writing, that would be KSR v. Teleflex. There’s an article in a national journal by someone at the Smith firm. Someone at the Jones firm has a piece in the local legal newspaper. Another publication, however, has an article co-written by the general counsel of a major manufacturer and a partner at the Thomas firm about the possible effects of KSR on business and legal management.

There’s a very good chance that the general counsel’s article will be the first that you as an in-house lawyer will read. There’s an equally good chance that you’ll assume the Thomas firm represents that company. And, there’s an awfully good chance that you’ll also assume the GC thinks the world of the Thomas firm to let his good name run on the same byline.

Seem obvious? Then why don’t we see more such co-written articles? Are clients resistant? One shouldn’t think so inasmuch as it’s simply good marketing for them as well. And, if you offer to do the first draft of the article, the added advantage for the client is that it’s good marketing with relatively little effort.

Here’s another example that approximates a recent situation I observed. A law firm partner was being profiled in a legal trade publication. Among her major achievements is a stellar litigation record on behalf of the XYZ Company. During and after the interview, the partner (and her PR firm) urged the reporter to call the AGC at XYZ, not just for a quotable endorsement, but to learn more about the astonishing things the client has done in-house to deter lawsuits and reduce in-house costs. When the article was finally published, it was as much about the client as the law firm, and both profited equally.

Greatness by Association

To be sure, marketing the law firm is not an “us or them” proposition. You can recruit inside counsel and even CEOs as parties to your own marketing and business development efforts. They will typically appreciate the request because they want to be marketed too.

Perhaps the in-house lawyer is looking for another job and a little notoriety won’t hurt. Or perhaps more public prominence is politically beneficial in terms of his or her internal career track. Maybe the client wants to highlight the fact that, as in our example above, his is the last company in its industry that a smart plaintiff’s lawyer should want to target.

Periodically, certain in-house legal managers emerge as spokespersons for the in-house sector. In the past, such spokespersons (my own memory stretches back as far as Robert Banks at Xerox in the 1980s) give speeches, write articles, and spearhead programmatic efforts to enunciate what they as inside counsel expect from outside counsel, and how, in general, in-house services ought to evolve.

Right now there seems to be available space for another such in-house market leader to emerge. Could that leader be one of your clients? Imagine the marketing benefits that would accrue to your firm if you helped him or her fill that space, especially if your “partnership” were widely known via joint conference appearances, for example, or a few of those aforesaid co-bylined articles.

The relationship benefits are obvious. Even more important in some ways, by being an identifiable part of the client’s efforts to define and implement new professional standards, you become a part of the solution to whatever problem is under discussion. You’re now part of a collective campaign – a close-knit community of buyers and sellers – to improve law firm billing practices or discourage frivolous law suits or enhance diversity in the legal profession or in the client’s own industry. The relationship that ensues with the client is very nice. The message you’re sending to untold numbers of other legal service buyers and decision-makers is very, very nice.

A Wealth of Opportunities

Remember all the favors that clients have asked of you: “Take a table” … Donate a silent auction item … Sponsor a hole in a charity golf tournament … Offer a summer associate position to the CFO’s daughter at Cornell Law … Donate to the GC’s law school alumni fund drive.

These requests all more or less help clients’ own marketing with little direct benefit to you, but they’re not shy about asking. So don’t you be shy with them – especially with requests that, as we’ve seen, benefit them at least as much as you.

We’ve mentioned professional events and publishing as two obviously salient examples of how to co-market. But there are other venues that will likewise enhance your relationship as well as send a valuable message about both the company and you to the broader market. Two in particular deserve mention.

Community Service Projects

First, community service projects offer a number of opportunities, particularly welcome to clients if their companies happen to sell stuff to that community. Some community service projects provide a bigger, more national bang for the PR buck: Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. If there are pro bono award events, invite the client to sit at your table.

Diversity

Second, diversity initiatives are near and dear to many legal service buyers. Explore ways for you and your client to jointly contribute to or support nonprofit organizations fostering diversity (the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, for instance). Don’t be deterred if your firm’s own diversity numbers are disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that one reason for your increased involvement is to improve the firm’s diversity recruitment efforts.

The examples above remind us that conjoint marketing with clients is – like all marketing – ultimately based on the delivery of value. As we like to emphasize, the person to whom you are marketing should be better off as a result of your doing so, regardless of whether or not they invest in your services as an immediate result. By co-marketing with clients, this “value proposition” operates in a uniquely multifaceted way.

Value

“Value” is delivered to the marketplace via the content of a speech or article – here’s an issue bedeviling our industry, and here’s how a corporate expert and outside counsel size it up.

“Value” is simultaneously delivered to the community and the profession as a result of specific actions, such as pro bono efforts and diversity initiatives.

“Value” is delivered to your clients because they have serious marketing agendas of their own. By joining with you in efforts to be helpful to the profession, to their own industry, and to the community at large, they directly advance those agendas.

For the law firm, the leverage is powerful: You build tangible credibility in front of unseen corporate decision- makers even as you take a single important client relationship to a wholly new and collaborative level. It’s a no-brainer. Call a client today and brainstorm projects.

Business Development 101

In my 25 years of being in and around sales, marketing and advertising, it surprises me how many small business owners don’t have someone working on business development. Many owners and managers I’ve met should be the “biz dev” person but just don’t have the desire or truly understand what to do. I think this comes back to a few things, fear of sales, pride, and/or social interaction. In other words they look at themselves as the President of their small business and are unwilling to go out and pound the pavement for a few hours every week. Some even use the excuse of being tooo busy, but constantly whine about how bad business is.

Many a sales person I come across is caught up in chasing after the next sale, wasting so much time during the day instead of constantly developing and cultivating a large pipeline of prospects. I see them reading the paper, surfing the internet or standing around yackin’ about the weather and recession. These actions show laziness, lack of focus, and desire or unwillingness to venture out. In other words they aren’t hungry enough. If you work around people like this, I would recommend that you step away from the pack and make a positive change.

Whether your business is online or offline, business development should be an integral part of your sales and marketing plans.

What can you do to enhance your business development skills? Consider implementing these 6 steps:

  1. Learn the art of cultivating relationships. Read books, listen to MP3’s and then take what you learn to polish your people skills. Develop and use personal relationship marketing to better your relationships.
  2. Get involved in the industry, not just the companies you are looking to engage with. If you are tuned in, the opportunities might come your way. If you’re tuned out, then they’ll pass you by.
  3. When an opportunity comes your way, take action immediately. Communicate. Pick up the phone, send an email, and get the process moving in a positive direction.
  4. Learn and engage in different kinds of online social media. It’s great for networking, market research and keeping a pulse on what’s happening in your industry. But make sure to test what you do and don’t get too caught up in socializing.
  5. Plan the work and work the business development plan on a weekly basis. This way you stay consistent and persistent all year long. To many people give up or don’t stay at it long enough to get traction.
  6. Find a mentor to guide and counsel you. This last step is crucial and I believe will truly make a difference if you’ll find someone who is willing to help you in your endeavors. It might take a month or even up to a year to find the right person and/or persons.

The bottom line with business development is that it starts with you. So start where you are, make a plan, take action, and stay focused on a daily and weekly basis.