Despite hurtling towards the end of the year, there’s been no slowing down at Hunterlodge Advertising. November has been a hugely busy month, from integrating new staff into the business to strategic yearly planning for 2017 and a raft of new business meetings.
It’s particularly refreshing to be ending the year with a strong pipeline of opportunities, especially in today’s economic climate. Building new business within a service-led SME can be challenging, but I believe that our success is the culmination of a period of intense focus on who we are as a brand, investment in our staff and our belief in “starting at the end”.
Like most companies, at the beginning we tried the full spectrum of business development techniques – from in-house lead generators to external appointment setters, direct mail and cold calling. But there was a lack of focus on harnessing our differentiated capabilities and translating these into sustainable growth. As we got bigger and busier, it became increasingly important to ensure that all our staff were adequately trained to promote Hunterlodge’s range of services to a wide audience.
New business tended to be the remit of the board due to the nature and complexity of our services. However, by placing an emphasis on training, we now have a strong depth of experience across our talented staff. An important reason for making this commitment to training is because our team’s attendance at advertising and marketing forums – a bit like speed dating for professionals – is a key driver for our new business. These events offer the opportunity to meet top level directors from a range of business areas. Success within this environment requires the ability to problem solve and think on your feet, based on a solid knowledge of the industry.
This depth of experience came into play at two forums, attended by director level staff and during multiple new business in November. Prior to the actual day of each event, I worked with the team to make sure that they were set up to win and felt comfortable and confident with speaking about Hunterlodge’s differentiators and solutions. The investment in both time and training paid off – the team performed superbly and have come away from the experience with a renewed vigour for new business as well as a raft of follow up appointments and a possibility of future work.
You can never be complacent with new business. It is essential to approach every scenario with fresh views, ideas and excitement. Despite being in the business for over 29 years, we still approach every new opportunity with the same enthusiasm, energy and vigour as the very first one we ever pursued. This is the key to winning new business – never think you have it in the bag. Treat every new opportunity as if a win is absolutely critical for your business. This has been proven many times over the years – if you are even remotely complacent, the likelihood is you won’t win it – especially when there are a queue of people behind you waiting to win that same account.
It is also crucial to ensure that you retain a first class service for your existing clients. This in itself should be viewed as part of your new business strategy so that you can maximise the magic of referrals. Winning new business can be hard and expensive in a competitive service industry that requires pitching so we always like to look at ways to leverage our existing relationships to create new ones.
No one knows what is around the corner for existing business in our industry and we forward plan on a presumption of 20 per cent attrition. This is not a reflection of client losses due to poor quality work but in anticipation of issues ranging from client retirement from the industry, budget cuts or contract renewals. Building this approach into your business plan genuinely creates a constant pressure to ensure your new business machine is as match fit and effective as it can possibly be. And in an industry where your people are at the very core of your success, investing in their training can be crucial to winning new business.
This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.
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