Wed, 27 May 2020 08:44:47 GMT
As we work our way through the lockdown and prepare for the recession ahead, a focus on doing our absolute best for existing clients has to be the priority.
But I’m in new business. My role isn’t to focus internally, it’s facing out on the world and chasing opportunities, it’s meeting people and making connections.
New business people tend to be fixers, but we are in a situation that we just can’t fix, and being far away from everyone makes it doubly hard. And then thrown into the mix is a hefty load of headlines designed to give me nightmares – the ones featuring words like ‘new business plunges’ and ‘survival guide’.
Now is not the time to sit back and do less, we need to maintain an external focus, to show our creativity, and to stay match fit. Empathy is key – we need to offer new prospects a relationship that’s specific to their business and relevant to these times – whether that’s supremely targeted challenges or building broader stories that are human, positive and engaging.
MISSION-owned PR agency, Speed Communications, is a good example. They’ve just won a brief from a leisure brand wanting to communicate with their audiences during lockdown. All the stats show that we’re on social and watching TV more than usual, while logic tells us getting a few column inches in the UK Metro newspaper isn’t as effective as it was two months ago. All of this needed to be reflected in the pitch.
Pitches are, of course, partly about chemistry, and although this can’t be replicated by a Zoom call that doesn’t mean a pitch has to be stilted and totally functional. When we pitch during lockdown, we prepare by investing time and energy in tissue video calls (informal meetings to test strategic or creative thoughts) in the same way that we usually do face-to-face. In lockdown we just do them over video conference platforms! I’ve heard some agencies are scripting whole pitches. Great if you can pull that off in an unstilted way but if not, at least make sure everyone knows exactly when they’re on and how much time they have – and assign someone to be the timekeeper. Rehearse it all too. With less to go on when it comes to gut instinct, don’t think prospective clients won’t judge you if you’re fiddling around with getting everyone connected on Zoom and then talking over each other while your rivals deliver a slick, glitch free performance – they will.
Building relationships virtually
On the bright side, I’m finding that I’m having much deeper conversations with people as we get insights into each other’s lives we would never usually have during a typical office meeting. We see each other surrounded by our own belongings, talk about home-schooling, how the crisis is changing us personally. These conversations are much more personal than a usual prospect chat! It’s a real honour to share as we’re let ‘through the keyholes’ into our clients/prospects’ lives and I for one hope this never changes.
We’re brands too!
Marketing can be viewed as an extra expense, and thus an easy way to reduce overheads when we are all looking to save money. But focusing on existing clients doesn’t take away the need to stay visible to the wider industry, to continue to generate leads and think about customer acquisition.
Our previous marketing and new business strategies might need to go out of the window, and our plans revisited fast. Like brands seeking new customers, agencies looking for new clients have to know their target audience better than ever. Now is not the time for new business to start fishing in a pond where we don’t have enough sector experience; because this is a time when it pays to be an expert.
McDonald’s won a lot of love by sharing their Egg McMuffin recipe. Similarly, Burger King in France tweeted an illustrated guide to putting together your own Whopper, Asian chain Wagamama has started lessons in how to cook its most popular dishes via Instagram, IKEA shared their famous meatballs recipe, and even Subway has put together a series of video guides to its sandwiches. What ‘secret recipes’ does your agency have that you could share with prospects?
Now is not the time to be precious with your resources, but to showcase the expertise we have within specific sectors and disciplines and, if necessary, to give away some of that advice for free. That’s what we’ve launched with Speed Support Centre, providing free guidance on six vital areas, from social to customer relationship building. It’s just one of a number of initiatives we’re planning at both an agency and a group-wide level. We’re doing it because making a positive contribution is what we want to do – but if it means that some struggling brands are helped to stay afloat, aren’t we all winning?
As I said, I always want to fix things, and the skill of new business is all about holding on to that optimism. We can’t hope for a vaccine against the recession, but we can win new clients, and that might just be the best medicine to ease the pain ahead.