One thing we have always recommended is to keep pursuing new business throughout any economic downturn. To do that, you of course need a proactive new business pipeline process. We hope you already have prospects in the pipeline, and continue to pursue those you have pre-qualified and have already contacted.
That said, the current pandemic crisis has upended the entire business world, as well as daily life. That means you should reassess every prospect on your A-list, and reprioritize which prospects to pursue, based on best-case analysis of those who can be shifted to the top of your pursuit list. Add this to your business plan review, which you should also prioritize as the crisis advances. Make adjustments now, as it looks as if the economic fall-out from the coronavirus will be long-term. Agility will be small businesses’ saving grace.
Pitching During Uncertain Times
Today, prospects are disinterested in marketing even in good economic times, so it takes a special degree of focus and effort to win a pitch when the economy is in free fall.
There are two things to remember in pitching new business.
- Relevance. It is all about the prospect’s needs. What can you offer that will best help them right now?
- Benefits, not features. What can you deliver as a result? How will you measure success? Do not discuss agency capabilities and services—tell them what you can deliver to help them achieve goals and objectives. Don’t forget to suggest a risk/reward compensation plan.
These elements are important at any time, but now become urgent.
Speak to Prospects’ Needs
One other thing agencies must remember as they pursue prospects in times of uncertainty:
During financial downturns, marketing becomes even less important to most businesses… despite data showing that brands and companies that market through a downturn often recover faster, with a greater competitive advantage and increased share of voice, than if they cut budgets and only do promotional selling.
Short-term-ism is a current problem among businesses. Be prepared to argue that in a downturn, keeping to some form of a long-term plan ultimately serves businesses better than abandoning the plan entirely and becoming reactive. Reactive businesses are always behind the curve, and lose more ground over time than businesses that set goals and objectives and work to be successful, not just survive. That advice applies to ad agencies as well as your clients and prospects.
Don’t waste a prospect’s time babbling about ads and tactics—grab them right from the start by telling them what you know about their business, industry, customers and competitors, and the insight you have that informed your proposal to help them take advantage of an opportunity.
If you cannot offer something that helps their business now or in the very near future, they are probably not going to spare you even a few minutes to share a proposal.
Develop Core Competency Spin-Offs
Your core competencies should be key to any pursuit. That said, it may also be a good time to “diversify,” or spin off into related categories. Are there any industries or categories your particular competencies may translate to with only a small adjustment here or there? Do your creative people have experience in areas that can help you shift to developing a new core competency? Even in good times, it’s a sound strategy to not put all of your account eggs in one industry basket. In a down economy, that is critical to agency survival.
A New Way of Working… and Pitching?
With many agencies operating in shut-down mode and team members working remotely, you’ll need to rethink how to pursue prospects until we can all resume some semblance of normal operations. Take advantage of technology like Zoom, which is enjoying a big boost as businesses seek ways to connect digitally during the shutdown. Use it to bring the team together to brainstorm and develop your proposal and pitch ideas.
Could you employ Zoom or similar video conferencing apps to do remote pitches? That depends on how receptive prospects are to conducting business remotely. It may be a great way to showcase your digital skills. And with many businesses in shutdown mode, too, you may find they’re more receptive to this more casual way to talk about how marketing can help power them through the crisis.
As we all push forward in this new world, remember that Second Wind is available to give advice, lend support, do research, and generally prop you up as you adapt. Contact us at any time. We are here to help.