084: Business development for agencies with Drew McLellan

On the podcast this week, I had Drew McLellan of the Agency Management Institute.

If you are an agency, and you haven’t heard of the Agency Management Institute, you should definitely check them out. They come alongside small to mid-sized agencies to help them run their businesses better.

Drew has been an agency owner for over 20 years now, and has a lot of experience with what makes agencies work well. In this episode, we talk about getting new clients and keeping current clients happy.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do and that you can walk away with some ideas of how to keep your sales pipeline steady.

How do agencies get new business?

Drew mentioned that one of the problems with this question is that agency owners usually only focus on this when there is a need for new business.

When everything is going well, you are focused on delivering for your existing clients and not on bringing new people in the door. But, as soon as something starts to go wrong, that is when a lot of agency owners scramble to find new clients.

There are several steps Drew recommends for putting yourself in a position where you are constantly adding quality leads to your pipeline, so you don’t have to worry about who to go after, when to go after them, or how long it will take them to buy.

Niching Down

On the show, we’ve talked a lot about the benefits of niching down. This can help you become more of an expert to those you serve and allow you to be more targeted with your messaging.

Having a specific niche also gives you a way to compete. If you are a jack-of-all-trades, the only competitive advantage you can have is cost. But, if you have expertise helping clients in a specific industry succeed, you no longer have to compete by offering low prices.

Drew has a neat approach to niching down which involves identifying 3 areas where your company has a depth of knowledge. The goal is that each of these niches accounts for a percentage of your overall revenue, and that protects you if a specific industry you work with has a downturn.

The Agency Management Institute also has a suggested way to vet prospective clients in a way that can help you when it is hard to know whether or not your should turn someone away. Be sure to check out the form here.

Planting Seeds

A seed doesn’t turn into a plant as soon as you put it in the ground. And, a prospect doesn’t become a client just because you sent them a sales email.

As I mentioned above, a ton of people wait until there is a need for new clients to start going after sales. This is a huge mistake.

You need to be constantly working at it, and sooner or later, some of those seeds will come to fruition. But you will never know which ones and why. So, you have to keep at it, because if you wait until you are in need, you will have to start the process of planting seeds and wait.

One of the ways Drew goes about finding new business is through focusing on a short list of ideal prospects.

The Nano List

Drew keeps a small list of 25 companies he wants to work with.

These aren’t companies that just fall into the regular drip campaign that all your subscribers fall into. This is a list that you have a separate marketing plan for.

One big question to ask yourself when targeting these companies is how you can be helpful to them on a regular basis, so you are a consideration when they are looking for an agency.

The sales cycle for the companies on this list can be well over a year, so Drew encourages agencies trying this strategy out to not get discouraged after the 2nd or 3rd email they send them.

Companies will buy when they need your service. It is just your goal to be in front of them enough so they think of you when that need comes.

Making Time

As an agency owner, your day almost never turns out like you thought it was going to. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. As an agency, you are in the business of putting out your client’s fires.

Because of this, agencies often struggle to make time to market themselves.

Personally, I have to take the first hour of my day to work on marketing myself. This ensures I don’t get deep in client work and lose track of my time. Drew recommends the same thing, or at least scheduling half a day once a week to solely focus on marketing yourself.

If you block the time on your calendar and do what you have to do, it will happen. If you don’t block the time, it won’t.

How do agencies maintain their current clients?

Keeping good clients is huge for building a successful agency, and Drew has a few great tips for doing this.

First, you’ve got to have metrics. You need to be continually showing your clients that the work you are doing for them is putting money into their cash register. And, the more value you provide them, the more they can afford to spend on you.

Also, you need to show that you have a passion and commitment for what they are doing. Rather than just providing your clients with a service, you need to be meeting with them regularly to talk about what you are doing and present them with ideas to make their business better.

Finally, you need to be connected to the company on multiple levels. If you only have a relationship with the CMO of the company and they leave, nobody at the company knows exactly what you’re doing or even if you are providing them with value.

Having connections throughout the organization can help solidify within your clients that you are a valuable resource they can trust.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time on the podcast with Drew, and I love all of the advice and insight he has.

He’s watched tons of agencies fail to do anything to get new business. In fact he says doing almost anything gives you an advantage over others. You just have to be around often enough and consistent enough, so when they need you, they will remember your name.

Like I mentioned before, be sure to check out the Agency Management Institute. You can tap into their podcast, newsletter, or check out their workshop and consulting services.


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