Growing Business From Existing Clients

I’m always a bit surprised when I ask agency owners about their recent new business efforts and they bring up the RFPs to which they’ve responded, the new clients with whom they’re trying to find a way in, or the cold-callers they’ve hired in the hopes of getting a hearing with a client on their dream list but whom they’ve never met.

“What about your existing clients? ” I ask.

“Oh, we’re doing great work on our current programs…getting great results.”

“How much time are you spending on your strategy of generating more business from existing clients?”

“Oh, we don’t need a strategy for that.  They know what we can do for them.  They’ll come to us with any opportunity they have.”

While that might be true, the fact is every agency is sitting on a new business goldmine, and that’s its current clients.   And it’s the easiest, fastest, and most profitable kind of business to pursue.

You know their business inside and out–or at least you should.  You or someone on your team is talking to them, their retailers, their customers and the media that covers their space on a daily basis–or at least should be.   There’s no competition, other than other agencies with whom you share the client.  You’ve got a reservoir of trust and goodwill which you’ve built over time.

Yet for some reason, many firms continue to pursuing  RFPs—which for a variety of reasons, they have a slim chance of winning–rather than mining the opportunities right under their own noses.

Here are ten quick steps you can take starting today to start to generate more business from your existing clients:

  1. First and foremost, make sure your agency is delivering the goods, that you’re meeting or better yet beating expectations, and that your team is wowing the client with its level of client service
  2. Invest in understanding your clients business in ways that they might not.   If you’re not an expert in their category, become one, pronto.  It’ll be worth it
  3. Determine which of your clients you most likely can grow, based on which ones are closest to the agency’s “sweet spot,” for which you’ve done the best, most creative and strategic work, for which you’ve had a proven affect on results, and which are poised to grow over the next 18 months.
  4. Hold internal workshops for each of the clients at the top of the list, where you explore their biggest business and marketing issues.  Invite all team members:  Lower level members have a “close-to-the street” perspective, and great ideas.  And even if you must ultimately polish those ideas,  this is a great way to communicate the fact that growing business from existing clients is the task of everyone at an agency.  Don’t limit yourself to issues on which your current programs are focusing, but use the workshop as an opportunity to explore issues you haven’t yet explored.   And hire a trained facilitator to maximize the workshop.  (Sorry, shameless plug)
  5. After the workshop, set specific goals, assignments and deadlines to build on the ideas that were generated.  Send this to all participants within 48 hours of the workshop.  (24 hour’s even better.)
  6. Allocate reasonable amounts of  time for each staffer  for their assignment.  Let them know that this is both required, and will be rewarded.
  7. In addition to leading the initiative and being its key cheerleader, give yourself a specific assignment.  And meet your deadlines. Nothing gives permission to a group to miss deadlines more than the leader missing his/hers.  And nothing inspires an already busy team to “find time” for a new initiative than a leader who does the same.
  8. Call your client and say “We’ve been doing some thinking here about Challenging Situation X,Y,Z and would like to come over/set up a call  to discuss with you.”   Even the busiest client will find time for a such a meeting.
  9. Then, deliver the goods.   That’s in your hands.
  10. Then, the next time you get a call or an RFP for a client for which your gut tells you your chances of winning are minimal, stop for a moment and consider the time it will take to pursue that business, and instead think if the approach I’ve outlined will help you grow your fee income in a way that’s faster, easier and more profitable.  Nine times out of ten, I think you’ll agree that this is the more strategic and more lucrative route.

Having trouble finding time to pursue new business?  You may find my post Finding time for new business of value.

Ken Jacobs

I’m the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps public relations and communications agencies and organizations grow and manage business, and enhance staff performance, leadership and communications skills.We do so via consulting, training, and coaching. To learn more, please click on the “Jacobs Communications Consulting” tab on the top.

5 comments
KensViews
KensViews

Thanks@MimiMeredith I do believe we need to set aside specific time to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Must step back from the day-to-day to do so. And I've seen "lower-level" team members provide big ideas that are true money makers, both for the client and the agency.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

I think this is great advice! I especially like how you again have incorporated the need for good creative meeting time AND especially, the idea of bringing in the lower level team members who might have just the idea that can be the missing link in providing greater service to existing clients.