Amid stories about client losses, staff cuts and reduced spending are powerful reminders that a well-executed organic growth strategy can be a powerful revenue-generator in good times as well as during the recession.
I’ve had some impromptu conversations with agency leaders recently about what’s working in their drive for organic growth. Most recently it was with Nancy Katz Aresu of Lowe NY during our 25th college reunion (Trinity College class of 1984) this past weekend.
Nancy runs Lowe’s Unilever business across North America and has 25 years experience in the agency business. She knows something about the subject and confirmed the three keys to organic growth that I’ve been hearing:
Build a relationship.This can only be acquired over time and requires that you:
- Ask smart questions to learn your client’s business. Know their goals, opportunities, and most importantly – what keeps them up at night.
- Demonstrate your capabilities on the project or account you’ve been awarded.
- Communicate daily – by phone. There is no substitute for direct, verbal communication. Find any excuse to call and talk.
If you’ve built your relationship well you will have developed a solid foundation based on mutual respect.
Develop an honest and trusting connection at the top. Assuming you’ve earned you’re client’s respect, you need to develop this level of communication with their key agency decision maker. You need to be able to talk openly about the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re unable to speak this way, keep working on number one, above.
Ask for more. Once your agency proves itself on one piece of business, ask for more. Use what you’ve learned about your client’s business to identify a problem or new opportunity, and then ask the agency decision maker for a shot at it. Note: if it’s a large client don’t get greedy; build your relationship one step (project, brand) at a time.
This is consultative sales at its best: you need to ask good questions, build trust and respect, prove your capabilities, and then ask for the sale.
A successful organic growth effort requires experienced, self-confident account executives with strong consultative sales ability. If you have these skills at your agency you can drive revenue growth, even in the recession (as Lowe is). If you don’t, you might start thinking about either providing training to your account execs, or consider upgrading your agency’s talent base.