People often ask me the secret to winning new business. I don’t have one, but I do always match my panties to the brand or client’s corporate colour for good luck and, well, that seems to have a 75% success rate.
It isn’t like writing a compelling story with a beginning, a middle and an end. In fact sometimes it feels more like a “choose your own ending” kind of experience. But after re-reading some of the successful and failed manuscripts in my arsenal, here are five tips to getting closer to new business than you were five minutes ago.
1. Phone a friend
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who needs PR. Before looking anywhere else for new business leads, have you asked your friends, family, dentist or existing clients? Sounds obvious, but many people don’t consider their own networks when it comes to fishing for new business. The people who know you can vouch for you. My dad still doesn’t really know what I do but tells all his friends how brilliant I am anyway — it’s resulted in some exciting new business opportunities. Thanks Dad.
Whether you are at a networking event, a dinner party or at the gym, people are airing and sharing their and other people’s business. Sometimes it’s raw gossip (which has its entertainment value), but you never know when you may pick up a nugget. I overheard two woman on the treadmill next to me discussing the hire of a new communications manager at a brand my agency had identified as a potential client. Amid the sweat, electro gym beats and the ding dong of the moving circuit, I got a name. Off the back of my intel, the agency delivered a congratulations token to his office on his new job. We now have a meeting with said manager. Thanks ladies.
3. Organic growth
New business doesn’t always have to come from brand new clients. Use your existing client relationships and accounts to muscle in on other areas of the business that may need communications. If you do the media relations for a specific client, find out who does the internal communications and what the possibilities are there. Perhaps pitch an interesting campaign idea for Christmas — it may just make January all the merrier.
4. The prescription
Sometimes clients don’t really know what they want or need. They haven’t even considered you as an agency because they’re happy with the status quo and don’t see the potential for opportunity. You need to write them a prescription. Spend some time researching and auditing their current communications strategy. What works and what is lacking? Can you really help? Nothing impresses quite like reaching out to someone with knowledge of their brand and constructive ideas on what it is possible. Yes, sometimes they will take your idea and run with it — but hey they also might ask you to come in and present.
5. The thick skin
No one likes feeling rejected or being told “no”, but it’s all part of the process. The clichés are awful but they are touted to the hills because they are true. Knock on doors, connect with people via social media and invite them to lunch. Yes, you may seem like a bit of a stalker at first, but you never know when a potential client is waiting for a cheeky PR agency to invite him/her for lunch and a pitch.
Carly Ritz is an account manager at WE Communications in South Africa