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Mr. Matthew Anderson

Can Anyone Do Business Development?

Absolutely. In fact, it is crucial to the success of your new business efforts to make sure everyone is doing Business Development.
 
Business Development is a mindset as much as it is a practice. It’s not about mailers or cold-calling or even writing an RFP or managing an agency review. It’s about curiosity. It’s about identifying opportunity. And it’s about establishing and cultivating relationships. These are skill sets that almost everyone has on some level or another. (We have Google, Wikipedia and Facebook to prove it.)
 
So what now? How can we get people to put these skills to use for you and the Agency? Well, I would start by talking with them. Everyone. Not just VPs and up. Give people an invitation to contribute. Tap into their passions. Get to know what they’re jazzed about. Get them to identify a client or a category that interests them. Once you do this, you may be surprised how they stay on top of research, looking for opportunities to attack. If they are vested and feel like they have the ability to make a difference, they will.
 
Something else to consider: you may want to use the guise of Business Development to open up creative thinking to the agency at large. Give people an opportunity to do something they don’t normally do. Work on a client they don’t currently touch. Push people to challenge the status quo and think of ways to create buzz-generating programs for existing clients. This can breed some healthy competition. And if you’re lucky, it may result in organic growth opportunities and more firepower in attracting prospective clients.
 
For example, at Deutsch we started an initiative that takes existing clients and puts their business through an accelerated new business machine (two weeks max). It’s completely voluntary and anyone can work on it, regardless of level or department. The briefs are loose and consist of only three requirements: 1) make sure to stay on brand, 2) make sure it leads to buzz-generating work, and 3) make sure it makes business sense. All other handcuffs are off.
 
In our last initiative we had 12 teams, comprised of people at all levels and from a range of departments. Over a hundred ideas were presented. In fact, one of the directions ultimately led to the thinking that became the strategic foundation for the brand.
 
The fact is people want to help. And you and I both know that we could all use the help. You just have to involve and empower the agency to do it. I’ve made it sound easier than it is, but if you can do it I truly believe you and your agency will benefit.

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Comments

Grooming a "farm team"

First, I think the new business initiative that you describe sounds amazing and I want to know more. For 2009, I'm planning a series of "new biz boot camps" for our agency so that more people not only get involved but get some training too. I'd welcome any tips you have to make it more succesful!

I also wanted to comment that too often we seem to use the same people on our pitch teams. The temptation is understandable -- they're probably the more senior, seasoned team, accustomed to presenting. But 1) this doesn't give others at the agency a chance to get in front of an audience and 2) it's too easy to burn out your more valuable employees.

We had a recent pitch for a product targeted to young men that was the perfect opportunity for getting a more junior team actively involved. Since they were the primary target audience they really understood the product and category and came to the table with instant consumer insights. While there was definitely more time invested in preparing them for the presentation, that investment paid off in numerous ways. The team was excited and honored to have been asked to lead the pitch. They were completely committed to success and were really willing to learn. And in the end they did a great job and connected effectively with the client. We're still in the post-final stages, but I am hoping that this strategy will win us some business.
Posted by Ms. Jody Sutter (Friday, November 07, 2008 10:53 AM)
 

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