EP7: Events

July 9th, 2017

 

Getting in a room together with clients and prospects is undoubtedly the best way to foster good relationships. But creating the opportunity to connect in person, outside of the cut and thrust of delivering day to day project work, or a credentials or a pitch scenario, can be a challenge.

 

Hosting an event, which either showcases thought leadership to your existing clients, or allows you to demonstrate your expertise to a wider audience can be prove to be a highly effective weapon in your new business and marketing arsenal.

 

But where to start? Will people turn up? And what will we say when they do?

 

In this episode of Small Spark Theory, we explore how to make the most of agency events and avoid some of the most common mistakes (a clue, it’s all in the planning)!

 

As always, we’ve got a competition for you and will be giving away a copy of Adam Grant’s Give & Take. So listen in to find out how to win.

 

If you feel inspired to host your own event here are some of the tried and tested London venues we like:

 

Firmdale

The central events team at Firmdale manage event spaces for all of the hotels in the group including Ham Yard, Charlotte Street, Haymarket and Soho Hotel. Plenty of fabulous rooms for private dinners, screenings or larger scale events.

 

Swan at the Globe

With wonderful views across the river to St Paul’s, the Swan can cater for meetings, private dining or larger events. Get in touch with the aptly named Lucy Beer who’ll talk you through the available options.

 

J&A Café

Lovely Clerkenwell space available for private hire for evening events.

 

Jones Family Project

Great location near Old Street, interesting space options and a dangerous cocktail list.

 

Forge & Co

Shoreditch co-working space can cater for a range of events.

 

Riding House Café

The Stables private dining room is a hidden gem for private dining group of up to 14 people.

 

Vinyl Factory Soho

A bigger space for a larger scale event with a central location.

 

 

 

Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

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EP6: Agency Websites

June 5th, 2017

 

Something interesting happens when you ask an agency leader about their website. Usually a slight shift in their seat, followed by a sigh, a pained expression and a mumble about the site being due for an overhaul. A similar thing happens when you talk to marketing or new business practitioners in an agency, there’s a sense of exasperation or worse, resignation.

 

At a Design Business Association new business event in November, I asked the assembled audience of 60 agency folk, how many felt their website truly represented their agency offer. Just five hands were raised.

 

We’ve heard it all before. This isn’t a new dilemma, and we all know the reasons why so many agencies have a suboptimal website. It’s a perfect storm of lack of time, lack of resource, a focus on delivering client work, creative differences and the search for the perfect portfolio execution. But if we’re not careful, months, then years pass by and what should be a highly effective weapon in your new business and marketing arsenal is undermining the rest of your efforts and affecting the return on any new business investment you are making.

 

But the good news? This is a huge opportunity to make marginal gains. In this episode of Small Spark Theory, we explore the common website pitfalls and how to tackle them. And in true marginal gains spirit, you’ve only got to be that little bit better, engage with one more budget holding prospect to make a difference to your bottom line.

 

 

If you’re not sure about your website, try our quiz, just answer the following with a yes or no.

 

 

1.    Has your current website been redesigned or significantly overhauled in the last 3 years?

 

2.    Do you have a blog?

 

3.    Is your blog a subfolder of your main site (eg: www.joebloggs.com/blog) or a separate, but linked url?

 

4.    Do you update your blog at least once a month?

 

5.    Are there sharing links on all of your blog posts?

 

6.    Is there a twitter feed on your website?

 

7.    Are links to ALL of your social channels active and easily seen on your website?

 

8.    Does your website talk about your people/team?

 

9.    Does it name the senior team/key contacts?

 

10. Are there contact details for named MD, or new business contact?

 

11. Get someone outside your agency (your mum, a neighbour, someone on the bus) and ask them to read the ‘About Us’ descriptor on your homepage. Do they immediately understand what you do?

 

12. Are your case studies up to date?

 

13. Do your case studies make clear the problem that you solved and what you actually delivered?

 

14. Do you track Google Analytics?

 

15. Do you know the primary source of your site traffic?

 

16. Do you update the content on your website yourselves or is it done by a third party?

 

17. Are you using SEO keyword techniques when you upload content?

 

18. Have you ever used Google Adwords?

 

19. Do you have a legal footer on your homepage stating your company registration details etc.?

 

20. Are you happy with your website?

 

 

If you score more than 10 no’s – feel free to get in touch, we can help!

 

Website grader is also an excellent resource to put your site through its paces …

 

This month’s book recommendation is  To Sell is Human by Daniel H Pink, listen to this episode for a chance to win a copy.

 

 

 

Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

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EP5: Lead Generation | The Future Factory

May 8th, 2017

 

Prospecting, cold calling, lead generation. Call it what you will, most agencies recognise the need to supplement the more reliable client and network referrals by investing in generating opportunities with new audiences.

 

And whether this activity is managed in-house, or outsourced to a lead generation specialist, it certainly is an investment; either in salary, in fees and always in time. At best, this activity can be highly effective, delivering sizeable portfolio clients but for every success story, there are untold examples of ineffective prospecting activity.

 

Alex Sibille and Dan Sudron set up The Future Factory 2011 and since then, their team of 30 have worked with over 300 agencies undertaking lead generation and new business training for some of London’s biggest and smallest creative, comms and digital agencies. Last year their clients won new business in excess of £15m through The Future Factory’s work. In this episode, Alex and Dan join me to discuss the common lead generation pitfalls and opportunities for performance improvement.

 

This month’s book recommendation is The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns, listen to this episode for a chance to win a copy.

 

You can find out more about The Future Factory here.

 

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EP4: Agency Growth Planning | Felix Velarde

April 3rd, 2017

 

For agency leaders, managing the day to day business of client and staff needs whilst staying focused on a clear growth trajectory can seem an insurmountable task.

 

Whether you are looking for a high value exit, attempting to break through the turnover ceilings of one, two five or ten million or simply want to avoid the boom and bust revenue rollercoaster, this podcast episode is for you.

 

Agency growth expert Felix Velarde has founded, grown and sold agencies many times over and now works as a consultant and mentor focusing on strategy-driven growth and agency scaling. In this episode we discuss the need for differentiation, building superstar teams, and power of planning and process.

 

This month’s book recommendation is The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick M. Lencioni – as always we’ll be giving away a copy – tune in to find out how to win.

 

You can read more about Felix here.

 


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EP3: Communication and Presentation Skills | Catherine Allison | Master The Art

March 6th, 2017

Sound the new business klaxon! You’ve got an opportunity to meet the prospect of your dreams.

 

That first meeting, the pitch, the first strategy or creative presentation with any new prospect or client is a huge opportunity to dazzle, yet this last precarious mile of securing the business can so often be derailed by nerves, lack of preparation or simply lack of experience.

 

How do you become an engaging presenter? How can you get rid of pre-pitch nerves? How can you make the very best first impression?

 

In this month’s podcast I’ll be exploring how we can make marginal gains with our communication and presentation skills with new business supremo and former actress Catherine Allison, founder of Master the Art.

 

You can also be in with a chance to win a copy of Catherine’s recommended book: Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority by Caroline Goyder

 

You can find out more about Master the Art via the below links:

 

www.mastertheart.co.uk @mastertheartltd

 


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EP2: PR | Tim Duncan | TDC PR

February 13th, 2017

Raising your agency profile works hand in hand with new business lead generation, but with so many (free) social media channels at our disposal, it’s easy to overlook the impact of a planned and coordinated PR approach.

 

In this episode I chat with Tim Duncan, founder of TDC PR about his PR successes, tips for getting noticed and published.

 

And there’s another competition – we’re spoiling you!

 

You can find out more about TDC PR via the links below:

 

www.tdcpr.com @TDCPR

 

http://sodazine.com/ @SODA_ZINE

 

Tim’s book choice: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 

 

Richard Seymour’s Ted Talk

 

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Introducing Small Spark Theory™

January 24th, 2017

For many years now I’ve had the opportunity to observe new business performance in a wide variety of agencies and regardless of size, or discipline of agency, the challenges are remarkably similar. There are familiar patterns of success, ebbs and flows of revenue, euphoric wins and debilitating disappointments.

 

And I’ve become fascinated with those patterns, the formulas for success, the reasons for failure and a little obsessed about how we can become more effective in our marketing and new business endeavours.

 

Increasingly, the solution is not necessarily an ambitious marketing plan, an expensive sales resource or brilliant marketing idea (although that never hurts) but instead a forensic application of process and a marginal gains approach to performance improvement.

 

This brand new podcast series, Small Spark Theory™, explores the small changes we can make to our sales and marketing process to achieve better new business results. In this, the first episode, we set the scene for the using marginal gains and think about how to get some solid foundations for growth in place. Oh, and there’s a little competition too. What more could you want?!

 

With thanks to Matthew Syed for audio extract permission. Matthew’s book, Black Box Thinking is available here.

 

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Fortune favours the brave

December 15th, 2016

This small consultancy, Gunpowder, turned 4 last month.

 

I’m not sure quite where the drive to start the business came from. 12 years before I had launched another business, this time in recruitment and with the backing of an agency group and sadly, within two years of our millennium launch, the post-9/11 downturn, and subsequent recruitment freezes hit us so hard we reluctantly took the decision to close. Failing was painful. I made staff redundant, my pride was hurt. I vowed never to do that again.

 

But I did, and 4 years on I’m still here. What I’ve learned during that time; from my own experience and that of my clients – is that nothing good or exciting comes from getting comfortable. As cliched as it sounds, moving outside one’s comfort zone, really is where the magic happens.

 

For many of the agencies I work with, the leaders are owner managers. They are practitioners; creatives, strategists, technologists, more frequently introverts than extroverts. For them, much of the sales and marketing process falls squarely outside their comfort zone.

 

Discomfort at contacting complete strangers with a business proposition, a dislike of networking or fear of public speaking are all common – instead, we retreat to the environments and behaviours which are less challenging, more comfortable. And yet left unchecked, that discomfort becomes a very real barrier to growth – for example, relying on our network alone for new business referrals is easiest, but unless we keep adding to that network, connecting with new people and sharing our knowledge and expertise, the network will in time diminish and the referrals grind to a halt.

 

I’ve talked before about the importance of using a marginal gains approach to fuel new business growth and many of these small improvements mean testing our boundaries, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

 

I’m going to be exploring this is more detail next year in Gunpowder’s brand new podcast series; Small Spark Theory ™ which launches in January, but in the meantime, here’s a little taster of top tips and recommendations to fire you up for 2017:

 

  1. Making first contact with a prospect – The Future Factory are experts at generating new opportunities for creative agencies. Even if you don’t need a full lead generation programme but just need help taking the first step – the team run excellent workshops on how to write better prospecting emails. Get in touch with Kimi Gilbert to register your interest.
  2. Networking - It needn’t be daunting. Reframe how you think about it by reading our guide here.
  3. Presenting – If you find yourself fumbling through pitches and presentations then help is at hand. Catherine Allison founder of Master the Art is an expert at helping hone your personal presentation skills.
  4. Asking clients for more – Moving from supplier to trusted partner, means rethinking your client relationships and client planning processes. Get in touch for details of our Account Development Skills workshops.
  5. Team up - There’s safety (and savings) in numbers! Collaborating with a like-minded business or team who have complementary skills to host events or other marketing initiatives can feel a lot less daunting and will make your budget go further.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year break. Here’s to small acts of bravery in the year ahead.

 

Further reading:

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

 

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

 

Give & Take by Adam Grant

 

To Sell is Human – Daniel Pink

Winning like a pro

September 13th, 2016

As our Paralympians continue the gold rush in Rio it seems that Team GB has managed to pull off the seemingly impossible – matching up to that glorious golden summer of London 2012. As Miranda Hart described so brilliantly in her love letter to Team GB we have been swept along in a wave of athletic prowess, mindboggling endurance and national pride. Most of all, we are doing that most un-British of things. Again, and again, we are winning.

 

And as someone who has spent their entire career focussed on winning (the business kind) I can’t help but look at this performance (the sporting kind) and wonder what we can learn from such success.

 

There is good news for those of us focused on winning new business, rather than medals. We really can apply the very same techniques used by those finely honed athletes to improve our win ratios without even breaking into a sweat. You almost certainly know about it already. It’s called marginal gains.

 

Let’s take a step back, if you haven’t yet heard about David Brailsford and the story of his success with the British cycling team then you can read about it here. Its an incredible feat – taking the cycling team from a single gold medal in 76 years to the success we see today. In short the marginal gains philosophy (also previously referred to in business circles as nudge theory) focusses on small (1%) improvements in individual elements of performance which over time positively effect the overall result. In cycling, these improvements ranged from riders’ use of antibacterial hand gel to reduce illness and increase training time, better mattresses to improve sleep quality and wind tunnel testing to improve aerodynamics.

 

In Rio this year, evidence of marginal gains was apparent in many interviews with our winning athletes, and not just in cycling. Teams of people were credited, not just coaches but nutritionists, clothing technicians and medics and more.

 

So how can we apply this theory to agency new business? Put simply we need to step back and break down the process. We need to look at the individual elements of our marketing and sales process and look for small improvements.

 

Here are just a handful of the elements I see underperform again and again:

 

  • Client and prospect data management
  • Website performance
  • LinkedIn
  • Content creation and planning
  • Credentials documents
  • Credentials meeting preparation
  • Effective post-meeting follow up
  • Client development research & planning
  • Client satisfaction measurement
  • Promoting referrals

 

And that’s without the BIG ONE – pitch planning.

 

Applying a marginal gains philosophy won’t be easy. It requires honesty, commitment and buy-in from the whole team. But imagine if you could make a 1% improvement to each of these steps. How much would that effect your win ratio and ultimately, your bottom line?

 

To find out how to improve your agency marketing and new business performance, get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to make friends with your inner salesperson

January 19th, 2016

Sales gets a pretty bad rap in the creative industries and it is easy to see why.

 

If we imagine sales people, we tend to conjure up images of caustic Apprentice candidates, young and overconfident estate agents or the photocopier salesman of old. And then there are the telesales variety – no doubt we receive many of the same phone calls – from business directories, conference organisers, offshore SEO teams and the like, using poorly researched, arrogantly presumptive sales techniques. The gaping holes in subject understanding are plugged with the nonsense business speak, bad grammar and clichés that have us hanging up the phone in the first 30 seconds.

 

Yet new business revenue is the lifeblood of any agency – so how do we overcome our squeamishness and channel our inner salesperson to drive our businesses forward?

 

The good news is that whilst the sales stereotypes are very much alive and kicking, none of us have to behave in this way to win new clients. Here are my top tips for generating more opportunities, and winning more work

 

Think relationships, not projects

When we identify a new business shortfall in financial terms, there is a tendency to approach businesses and brands with a ‘sales’ mindset – what can we sell them, are they looking for a new identity, new website, new agency? Yes? No? Move on.

 

But let’s take a step back. For most of us, the majority of our business comes from recommendations, from our network, from existing clients. Those introductions tend to happen when there is already a business need and by being recommended, we come with a seal of approval from a trusted source. In short, we are fast tracking the relationship building process. It is no surprise then that ‘cold’ new business prospecting sees a far lower conversion rate than recommendations.

 

So, whilst we cannot rely on recommendations alone, it is worth changing our mindset about our cold prospecting activity. Instead of hoping to go from introduction to project opportunity to bottom line revenue in one fell swoop, imagine instead that we are simply adding to the network of people who know who we are and what we are capable of. It is the beginning of a relationship, so the pressure is off to ‘sell’ but by routinely meeting new people we start to build up a vibrant network of potential clients.

 

Be interesting

Anyone who has spent any time on Linked in over the past two years will have seen how it has transformed from being a simple ‘Facebook for Business” to a thought leadership platform. This trend is great news for small businesses. Without expending vast marketing budgets it is possible to pool agency thinking and build thought leadership campaigns which extend across a blog, Linked in, Medium, events or webinars. Regularly publishing new content gives our SEO a positive boost and keeping our growing network of contacts updated with news, views and invitations to events means we stay on their radar. Most importantly thought leadership means we stay authentic. As we will naturally write on the subjects we are passionate and knowledgeable about, potential clients are offered an insight into what it would be like to work with us.

 

Look for drivers of business change

The most effective sales weapon in our armoury is research. By understanding more about a prospect: the individual, the company, the competitors and the market, we can begin to have informed business conversations, rather than project discussions. Thanks to Google, research has never been easier and a few well-placed, informed questions will help uncover business challenges and initiate a far more interesting discussion than a simple sales pitch. To that end, where possible I would avoid a ‘creds meeting’, it implies a formulaic show and tell, which leaves little room for broader discussion. I’m reminded of a client/agency speed dating event I attended with the indomitable Richard Williams from Williams Murray Hamm. Whilst most agencies were juggling laptops and presentation boards, Richard, empty handed, simply fixed the clients in his gaze and asked one question: “So what’s keeping you up at night?” We won two new projects that day, no ‘selling’ necessary.

 

Be forensic

Lastly, and this is the boring bit – we need to add in a bit of process. The theory of new business is not rocket science, it really is just relationship building. But it does require time, energy and motivation. Without a plan, and a process for measuring our progress against that plan, we will just get busy with the business of looking after our existing clients. Put in place a simple plan, assign responsibilities then measure activity and results.

 

In short

Take a business card and link in with everyone you meet. Ask more questions and find out about their challenges. Stay in touch, however interested or interesting they may appear at the time – If there is one thing I have learned, some of the best new business opportunities come from the people you least expect!

 

This article was first published in the Design Business Association newsletter.