Four weeks into lockdown and every business has had to entirely shift overnight to accommodate the new status quo and do everything possible to stay afloat. Business leaders have rapidly had to pivot their focus from growth to survival.
The word shifting powerfully embodies the new business mindset. Over the years, agencies have had to constantly evolve strategies and adapt to changing realities, but never so dramatically. Traditionally driving new business has been mostly the same process; organic relationships, networking, cold calling, emailing, chemistry meetings, briefs, pitches and - ideally - wins. But thanks to Coronavirus, agencies must adapt these methods to survive.
New business pipelines across every industry, and every sector, have been torpedoed overnight. Businesses need to re-examine their approach in this age of isolation where relationships have been fundamentally reframed. With most at home having little or no physical contact with family, friends or colleagues, this is a moment to underline the importance of pulling together and offering clients long-lasting relationships.
Agencies can use this time to focus on old, new and current friends of the business and show value above and beyond creative capabilities. Clients need their agencies more than ever. The ‘future’ used to be about the next 2 to 5 years, however, the future at present now means the next two to five weeks. No one knows what is going to come next. Working together agencies and clients can scenario plan, sanity check and strategise for rebuilding. In response to this need, Cult have launched Cult Futures, a new insight and incubation program. As the creative media landscape fundamentally shifts under the impact of current events, social change and emerging technology, brand owners must negotiate unfamiliar territory at scale and speed. The initiative looks at key industry sectors including beauty, fashion, luxury and wellness and the ever-changing habits of their consumers.
Five tips for new business during Covid-19:
- Find what works for you: set out a plan that’s not just one that looks at gathering new business leads or briefs, but something more detailed, look at your agency strengths, analyse the entire process and what you are able to offer at this time. Have clients feed into a thought piece, collaborate on a white paper I guarantee it will create a much stronger relationship.
- Old flames: use this time to get back in contact with old leads, friends and contacts, much of the time we have our head focussed on new introductions and opportunities that we forget old relationships, leads and friends of friends. There is no harm in asking for a quick catch-up and virtual beer or coffee.
- Help plan for the future: with all brands having to put their focus on survival, we can use our time to start looking what the other side might look like and speak to new opportunities and current clients about what we can do to assist when the new normal returns, we’re all in the same boat so being able to come together and at least try and understand what the other side means for you both.
- Streamline your process: use this time to look at your admin process, many agencies get swept up with pitches, internal meetings and rarely have time to thoroughly update their CRM system or detailed tracking spreadsheets, especially if your new business team is small. This might even bring up some of those old contacts/leads.
- An unusual first date: It’s easy to start a new relationship when the main goal is to get a brief, but new business is a marathon not a sprint, sometimes you have to step back and think how best to start a relationship, show your strength as an agency, start that relationship with some admiration for the person. A lot of the times it’s the brand that we focus on when we make our approach and not the individual and research on talks they’ve done and campaigns they’ve been involved in, showing you care about them and not just the brand they work for.
New business will always be built on relationships and emotional connection. Outstanding campaigns come from outstanding relationships, those built on trust and mutual respect. Agencies and brands will have to adapt, but we are stronger together. In all the chaos and fear, change can be a force for good and seeing society’s support of the NHS, and the heroes like the 99-year-old Captain Tom, we need to acknowledge the silver lining too.
- Luke McQuillan, group new business lead at Cult