Friday, October 9, 2009

Give your prospects "permission to believe" to win new business

An ad agency exec recently asked me "what is the most important ingredient for a successful new business program?" Obviously, there are many things that contribute to new business success. First of all, you must have a defined and relevant positioning for your agency that differentiates your company in some way from the competition. If you have direct and successful experience in their business category or against their target audience you increase your odds of winning. As do case studies and testimonials that are relevant to the prospect.

In the fast-changing world of digital media and social media marketing, the ability to help a client navigate these new and challenging waters is an increasingly important element in new business success. Many clients are simply overwhelmed by the complexity and pace of change and need guidance on how to take advantage of these new technology tools. For many clients, it is important to keep in mind that the ultimate need is not just how to use email, blogs, podcasts, mobile marketing, viral marketing, pay-per-click, user-generated content, Twitter, etc. but how to mix them with traditional media to create the most impact.

There are many other ingredients for new business success, but all are based on the idea that you must give your prospect "permission to believe" to win their trust . . . and their business.

Regardless of how you approach new business for your company, unless you can give your prospect "permission to believe" that you are the best resource for their specific needs, you will have difficulty winning the account.

"Permission to believe" is critical for ad agencies because the natural tendency for clients and prospects is not to believe us. For years, our business model was based on a compensation system that promoted mistrust as to our motives for media recommendations. We compounded this error by looking down our noses at "below the line" activities and clients who didn't "get it" when we showed them new and different creative ideas (that may or may not have been consistent with their brand personality). Many agencies had an arrogant "we're the experts, not you" attitude with their clients, so why are you questioning our expertise?

Not all agencies were guilty of these practices, but we are all tainted by them. Most studies still list advertising and used-car salesmen as the lowest on the hierarchy of trusted professions.

Take a look around your local agency scene. Who is winning and who is not? I'll bet it's the agencies that have built a reputation for honesty and integrity. The ones who are known to work hard for their clients. The ones who go out of their way to find new ways to help their clients grow their business.

The agencies who give their clients "permission to believe" every day.