The PRCA recently hosted an important business development event surrounding the issues of new business and Brexit. Panel participant Dan Sudron, owner of The Future Factory has shared his insights that will help inform readers with their new business development strategy.
Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball when it comes to Brexit or the following months and years beyond it.
If we can learn anything from previous economic disruption, Brexit and the aftermath will accelerate trends that have been bubbling away for the past couple of years and bring back some old ones…
No surprises here, there will be a resistance to sign on the dotted line, with favour towards measurable projects and campaigns (as it has been going for the past few years). The fact is, the marketing mix is more complicated and fragmented than ever; long term relationships do and will continue to exist but a more pragmatic and entrepreneurial approach to a client relationship needs to be taken. Any business owner can have empathy towards a flexible approach to service providers and the brand / agency relationship is no different. From a new business perspective, it promotes promiscuity towards anyone who can provide better solutions to problems, which could be seen as an opportunity. When it comes to client relationships, everything is to lose, but everything is up for grabs! To use one of the favoured words of 2018, it will be the year of the hustle… far from scary, if you have your account management and new business mix right it is exciting, and the winners will be capitalising on the rough terrain of the business battlefield rather than being complacent with the relationships they have built and managed over the past couple of years.
At its worst, in the recession a decade ago there was, as you would expect a move toward a more stringent procurement process. There was a little hint towards outsourced procurement services, which is when you know things have really gone to shit. I don’t think it will get that bad, but it is worth making sure that you feel you are in a good position to manage negotiation effectively and also have a specific creds documentation tailored to procurement people.
Over the last year we have seen an increase in new business opportunities for Central European agencies, namely Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, and this will continue but shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to doing business as it doesn’t seem to have been for our clients over the past 6 months. It would be naive to think the agency landscape isn’t evolving in other European countries to capitalise on this trend, but having spent some time speaking to agencies in different countries I can say with some confidence that, generally speaking, they don’t have the strategic or creative heritage nor the experience dealing with the brutal new business environment that exists in the UK. No matter what happens to the UK, we are known for, and have developed an industry which is internationally recognised to deliver best in class creative and strategy for brands.
Looking at the next 18 months and beyond broadly, this is not the time to sit back and take stock, wait to see what happens or rely on your current network to deliver. This is the time to put thinking, hours and budget towards new business. Graft around prospecting, account development and marketing will give you some level of comfort and control of your pipeline (which at times will feel like a leaky bucket). If you don’t, the agency down the road will.
This is a time to prepare. You need to make sure your current team is primed and in tune with new business, an ethos and understanding around it is the difference between an exciting agency through hard times and one that is flailing.
Training around how to capitalise on relationships past and present is advised as well as a true understanding of an agency proposition.
When it comes to outsourcing; dedicated, specialist new business support, with no distractions and a real passion for the craft can’t be a bad thing. Sure, budget comes into play but the resources, skills and hierarchy of team that comes with an outsourced new business model equates to much more, deliver results much faster, and with much less risk than taking an individual in-house. And if you do decide to take someone on in-house for the first time, it is worth seeking help to audit your business and help you set KPIs to make the most of your new recruit (or understand who that person could/should be)
As long as you have data partners and process that fit the bill GDPR doesn’t prohibit new business…. Except for Germany which has some of the most stringent data laws in the world. Brexit might reduce or negate the impact of the more severe e-privacy laws that were due to be put into place in 2019 but only time will tell. Generally speaking, the heightened awareness of data privacy has done the job of tightening businesses systems and processes relating to it.
We are all getting used to the movement of young and old people alike. Investing in workplace culture, perks and visions is important but there is a general trend towards job hopping if you are a business in a cosmopolitan area. If your workforce has a multi-national makeup, which if it is in London it almost definitely will, we will have to see where Brexit takes us and the timescales attached to it.
Dan Sudron, Owner, The Future Factory