Nine Challenges to Solve for New Business Success

Most entrepreneurial creative firms are busy these days, despite their (lack of) new business efforts. But most wish that they could upgrade their client base. They’ve come to believe, albeit sub-consciously, that it’s the work of new business to convert prospects to clients and the work of account service to turn those clients into great clients.

There is no such distinction. No amount of great account management will convert an average client into a good one, and that’s why new business goals have not been met unless the revenue stems from a price premium based your predictable effectiveness for those new clients.

New business is not about getting more clients–it’s about getting a certain kind of client who will pay a pricing premium and do it gladly. That’s why the new business problem is most applicable to firms who are already busy with average work rather than starving for any work at all.

Your positioning, your lead generation, and your sales expertise deliver on that promise of a pricing premium, and here’s a component checklist that you can run through as a firm at that dreaded next meeting of the new business team.

  1. Positioning that isn’t too easily interchangeable. The more available substitutes there are for your expertise, the more likely it is that some firm like yours (who also does good work) is going to give in and price it lower. It just takes one of the thirty-two NFL teams to bite and that problem cornerback with an attitude is going to get a price premium for his skills, but if you live in Cleveland and want season tickets, you’re going to have to begin loving the Browns. Do you want to be the cornerback or the Browns fan?
  2. Clearly defined prospect target. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you don’t know when you are compromising. There should be a dozen non-negotiable characteristics of the ideal client so that you don’t waste time dating the unmarriageable.
  3. Thousands of identified prospective clients who crave your firm’s insight. If you’re one of those firms with an irrational and indefensible fear of buying a list the right way and freely helping them instead of selling to them, fine. There are other ways to make this happen. But if you can’t press a button–right now–and reach people who want to listen to you, that must be solved.
  4. Pre-sale experience of what working with you will be like. They need thought leadership to understand how you will think, case studies to understand how you apply that thinking, an orientation kit to demystify the fine print, and even some references to get third-party validation. Whoever the prospect is, they have done serious work with a professional marketer in the recent past, and no matter how eager they are to explore the real world of substitutes, they must know that their life will improve in some way before they make the big decisions of throwing their business your way.
  5. Undistracted, engaged, identified director of new business. Whether you’re a firm of one or hundreds, one person needs to head this effort up, and that person will be most distracted when they are solving what seems like more urgent client issues. Combine those two roles and sales will always be shuffled to the side.
  6. Executive involvement. Your positioning cannot be a democratic decision, nor can others be left alone without engagement, fighting the battles, dropping in at some point in the closing process, and so on. You, the principal, must care as much or more than anyone else.
  7. Right supporting eco-system: website, marketing channels, CRM, etc. If it says the right things and is optimized for conversion, a five-page website is plenty. Tools won’t solve this larger problem, but it’ll be easier to solve that problem with the right tools.
  8. Disciplined application, treating yourself like your own client, first, and not trying to get things done after you are worn out doing so called paid work. This is paid work, my friend, and marketing yourself well is the gift that keeps on giving.

These are the nine things that really matter! Concentrate on these and you'll be golden.

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