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Jennifer Andersson

B3 – BIMA Breakfast Bites October 2 – Organic Growth in the Credit Crunch

Posted by October 9, 2008
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Last week, BIMA welcomed agency legend Chris Cowpie as its guest speaker at Soho House. Chris recently co-authored “How To Win Friends And Influence Profits – the art of winning more business from your existing clients” and was generous in sharing some of his top tips on how to grow one’s business organically. In his spare time, Chris is co-founder of the Caffeine Partnership which advises companies and brands on achieving turbo-charged growth.

In his talk to a captivated agency-centric audience, Chris emphasised that while organic growth always makes great economical sense, in an economic downturn, it is essential. He outlined several key points to developing an organic growth strategy:

  1. it is ultimately more profitable, there’s less ramp up time and the team is already familiar with the client, industry, etc. Plus, the risk attached to new business is reduced
  2. your best credentials with a current client are obviously the fantastic work you’ve already done together
  3. can help move from a project by project based affair to a long-term sustained relationship

Chris highlighted a few factors that regularly get in the way of organisations creating a proper organic growth strategy, such as time, lack of “sexy factor” versus the rock-and-rollah lifestyle of the “new business team”, lacks its own budget and lead.

He suggests the following when crafting your plan. Focus focus focus. Keep a clear focus on what your agency does well. Don’t dabble in everything. Many agencies lose sight of what they are good at and suddenly have a case study on their website for just about anything, including those obscure one off projects from 10 years previous. Be clear about your strengths when discussing your service offering. Identify your top clients and then dig deep. Follow the leader. A team must be created that has ownership of organic development. Also, it must be led from the top to get the proper resources allocated to it (time, budget, people). Emphasise with the client. He quoted that all too often agencies look through their own lenses and sell the client what the agency believes it is good at without finding out or listening to the client’s actual needs. In other words: stop selling and start listening, folks!

Also some gems that while might seem like common sense, all too frequently are forgotten, like make sure the scale of the opportunity is weighted toward your skills; that the opportunity is of strategic significance to what your organisation’s goals are; that it’s a cultural fit and the teams all have good chemistry together!
Here are a few cheat sheet top tips:

  1. Do a once over on your client list, get rid of loss clients and focus on the most rewarding accounts
  2. Audit your current accounts to see what your most successful service offerings are…what it is you’re actually doing the most of, best of, etc and if it’s not a 7 or higher on a 1 to 10 scale, say goodbye
  3. Make friends with procurement
  4. Evaluate your external and internal strategy for client on-sell
  5. Create milestones, and for god’s sake, don’t send out that agency newsletter, the client doesn’t care unless it’s personalised to them and relevantTeam team team, make sure the team is the best team for the job
  6. Get out there and figure out what your client is actually interested in, reading, doing, etc.
  7. Apply your already in place new business tools to your organic growth programme

There was a lively debate post the chat from Chris, and one question in particular stands out. Q: Should a company prospect and work with a client in the first year, knowing that it might be a loss lead relationship initially? The answer naturally is that each agency would have to determine what they could invest in such a relationship but that organic or traditional business development of this nature should be considered just that — an investment — and a proper budget should be set up with allocated resource.

Chris, hats off to you for the informative and fun Breakfast Bite. Thank you and we hope you enjoyed the delicious Soho House bacon butties.

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