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Planning for 2023 Agency Biz Dev

With the end of the year nearly upon us, Jody Sutter of The Sutter Company and Chip Griffin of SAGA discuss how agencies should go about planning for their 2023 business development efforts.

The conversation explores the actual planning process, including how to set meaningful goals. In addition, they look at the current environment and what that means for your own plans.

As you prepare your own strategic plans, this episode will give you some insight that you can use as you understand the questions that other agencies are asking.


Key takeaways

  • Jody Sutter: “This time of year I think about the Mike Tyson quote, everybody’s got a plan until they’re punched in the face. If you’ve got the plan, then your recovery time is going to be shorter. If you get punched in the face and you have a plan, you’re like, All right, let me go back to the foundation that we built back in October and what’s propelling us forward and what are the steps that we committed to taking?”
  • Chip Griffin: “I think who you’re serving really needs to be solved for most urgently by most agencies. The vast majority of agencies I talk to cannot clearly articulate who their ideal client is. And if you can’t articulate who your ideal client is and who it isn’t, then you can’t figure out how to focus your positioning, your marketing and all of that effectively.
  • Jody Sutter: “People in your network are not going to to call their colleagues and say, I know a really good digital agency. They’re going to say, I know a really good digital agency that is super focused on conversion or conversion in this space, or whatever the specialty is.”
  • Chip Griffin: “Part of the problem here is that there are a lot of folks out there who will say, referral and word of mouth – you can’t rely on that as an agency. You need to do other things. And I think that’s rubbish.”

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Small Agency Talk Show. I’m Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance, and I am delighted to have with me Jody Sutter from the Sutter Company, a frequent panelist and an all around expert on business development for agencies. Welcome to the show, Jody.

Jody Sutter: Thank you, and I’m delighted to be back. This is always so much fun. I really look forward to seeing you on these, on these live shows.

Chip Griffin: We always know we’re going to have a good conversation. Yeah. We’re gonna talk about the things that agency owners and leaders are interested in. We may not always tell ’em what they want to hear, but we can talk about the things that they’re interested in at least.

Jody Sutter: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. So, so with that, we are, at the time of year, we’re here in New Hampshire, the leaves are changing color, they’re falling off the trees, and that can only mean that it’s time to plan for the year ahead. So…

Jody Sutter: That’s right.

Chip Griffin: I, I thought it would be interesting for us to talk about planning for business development in 2023.

We can talk about. How you would generally go about that. But you know, also some of the nuances that go into it, given all of the things that are swirling around today and the uncertainty from an economic standpoint and otherwise that we continue to have, it just never seems to go away, does it, Jody?

Jody Sutter: Yeah, no, it, it doesn’t, and you know, this is also the time of year, not only when you should be thinking about planning what’s ahead, but also I, I think it’s a really, a great time for reflection and of course for us in the Northeast… I’m not quite as northeast as you are, but I’m, I’m in the northeast of the United States and it’s that time of year where sort of the, the days are getting shorter and it’s like great time for reflection.

So, you know, I work with some companies in Australia and of course, they’re in a different schedule, but no matter what, I think annual time, not only looking ahead, but looking back at what did we do, what worked, what needs adjustment, what needs improving, and being really, really realistic about that. Now, I think with planning, I’m a big believer in new business planning.

I’m a big believer in it. Although my philosophy and approach has also changed over the years, and I don’t think that, you know, I this time of year I also think about the Mike Tyson quote, like, everybody’s got a plan until they’re punched in the face. Right. I’m gonna alter that a little bit cause I think that yeah, everyone’s got a plan until they’re punched in the face.

But if they… but with that plan, if you’ve got the plan, then your recovery time is gonna be shorter. So if you get punched in the face and you don’t have a plan, then I just, I think you’re probably really screwed. If you get punched in the face and you do have a plan, you’re like, All right, let me go back to the foundation that we built back in October and like, what… what, what’s propelling us forward and what are the steps that we committed to taking?

Chip Griffin: And just to be clear, even with all this talk punching in the face, we’re not advocating violence here on

Jody Sutter: No violence, no violence.

Chip Griffin: This show. But, but I, this is, I’m pretty sure the first time we’ve had a Mike Tyson quote on, on the Small Agency Talk Show. So.

Jody Sutter: Someone else, I heard it from someone else recently, and I, I hadn’t heard a long time. I’m like, Yeah, that’s a really great quote.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, it is, and it’s a variation on the, you know, the discussion about, you know, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Yeah. It’s just a little bit more colorful.

As most things with Mike Tyson are so. You know, and I, I love that you say that, you know, you mentioned looking back. Because I think that we do need to learn from what we’ve done and what has worked and what hasn’t. And this is something that Lee McKnight and I talked about on a show not too long ago, where we looked at at some of the things that we’re working for agencies, and they’re the ones that typically work according to their surveys.

But people still want to do all the things that they’ve never proven can work for them or frankly, for most other people. And I, I think we need to remember to lean into what works. There’s no, most of us have plenty of opportunity to generate more business from the things that we’ve already done successfully.

Yeah. And so we need to resist the temptation to, to solve our, or try to solve our business development problems by wandering out into new unexplored territory. As interesting as that may sound.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. I have theories about why that happens, but I’m curious, why do you think there is that temptation and I think usually it comes from the agency owner.

Usually it’s not that person’s team or that the business development person saying, We should do it, we should experiment with a whole bunch of stuff. It’s usually the agency owner saying, Let’s try this. Where do you think that comes from?

Chip Griffin: I think it’s a, it’s a number of things. I think. I think part of it is that if you are looking at something new, it’s…

it, it doesn’t require you to admit that you haven’t done enough already. Right. In what you’re doing. Right, exactly. And so in some respects it’s, it’s not, it’s, it’s having to avoid admitting a mistake. Yeah. Even though it’s not really a mistake usually. It’s usually just you haven’t done enough of it, you haven’t done it consistently enough.

Yeah. And, and that’s to me is different than being a true mistake.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, I, yeah, I, I chalk it up to, in a lot of ways go not having that foundation in place, the spinning of the wheels because they haven’t done the, the hard work of identifying their ideal client. They haven’t done the hard work of thinking about the value that they provide for the client.

And actually, I should take that back. I don’t wanna say hard work cause I think that’s also part of the problem. They real, they say to themselves it’s gonna be, it’s so hard, It’s so hard to try to step back objectively and understand what we do and for whom, which I think is why we are in business, because we can, We’re like that shortcut to clarity.

But what I do see is this the sense of when, when agencies don’t have the willingness to say here’s the type of client we’re committed to and here’s what we know we do well, then yeah, then it’s throwing spaghetti at the wall. And and usually I find it’s the agency owners like, Let’s try this, let’s try that.

Let’s rework the credentials deck once again. And the team is being driven crazy. And they’re confused also that they, they’re, you know, they’re, they are in it as much as they can be, but when the owner shifts like that, then they get confused, they get demotivated. It can be a problem.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, and it’s, you know, I think it’s the desire to find the silver bullet too, right? And so they think that if, if only I did Facebook ads or video or attended events, or whatever it is, that that is just gonna magically solve my problem with minimal effort. I just, it’s just an area I haven’t tapped into yet. And once I do, you know, the, the oil will start flowing and, and all will be well once again.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, I look at – you know I think there’s three major components to sort of building the foundation for your plan. I think one is the are the goals. Like where do we want to be? Like, I guess really it really boils down to financial goals. How much more money do we wanna make? Or what kind of money do we wanna make?

Right. So, yeah, what’s that sort of end financial goal? The other thing is who, like, who are you serving that your value proposition, who are you serving and what kind of value do you get from them? Being very clear in that. And then the third thing is your resources, your team, and your resources.

And I think that also prevents you from looking for that, that silver bullet, or, directs you more towards the right solution. And I think the team strengths and resources are often overlooked again with a view to being, to thinking big, blue sky, ambitious. But they rarely do. They turn around and say, Okay, well what have I got to work with?

Right? Both with themselves. Because I think for a lot of the agencies I work with, they’re pretty small and I recommend it’s the owner, the agency owner or the partners or the CEO who is the ones who are out there primarily on the front lines. They have the support they need, but they’re the ones who are setting the pace, and so it, it is wholly dependent on what they are good at.

Like it’s hard to get someone who’s an introvert to walk into a room full of strangers and start networking for business. For others, that might make a lot of sense. So that’s where like team and resources. Number two being the, the financial goals. And number three, who you’re serving and where the value is.

And then once you have those in place, you can start to sort of calibrate and dial in what the plan is. The plan starts to emerge.

Chip Griffin: Well, and I, I think who you’re serving really needs to be solved for most urgently by most agencies. Yeah. The, I don’t know about you, but the vast majority of agencies I talk to cannot clearly articulate who their ideal client is.

And if you can’t articulate who your ideal client is and who it isn’t. Yeah. Then you can’t figure out how to focus your positioning, your marketing and all of that effectively. So you really have to start there and, and start by looking at the data. Looking at your, your last couple of years of clients that you’ve brought on board, right?

Which ones do you want more of? Which ones do you never want to see again? Yeah. Because we all have them, right? And so you need to understand those things and once you get the criteria for those, now you start to have something that you can actually work with.

Jody Sutter: Right. Yeah, I do. It’s, it’s funny. It’s so simple.

But I do an exercise with my clients in the positioning workshops I do with them. And, and one of them starts out just exactly like you described it. Like, let’s look at the qualities, that we want in a client. Who appreciates what you do, who not only appreciates what you do, but understands that what you do is necessary for them, whether they work with you or one of your competitors, who pays you on time.

Who’s collaborative? I have about seven sort of criteria that we look at, and then we look at their recent clients and we start to sort of grade them. And again, patterns start to emerge. And we realize, you know, some of those clients that maybe are cash cows are miserable, and we’ve known that they’re miserable, but we need to let those go. We need to release those. And then these others though, they create sort of an interesting pattern of, of positivity. And then we can look at like, well, what, what are the things that, what are the thing, what are the common denominators there? And then I start to encourage them to think about who are you talking to at those companies?

Are they the chief marketing? Is it the chief marketing officer? Is it a technologist? Is it a media person? What, what are their needs? What is, what is the common problem that they need solved by you? Where on the, like the consumer buying cycle, are they? What kind of demographics? So all of a sudden then what seemed this opaque task of like, how do we describe our ideal client becomes so much more sensible because the, the, Yeah, it’s lying – the answer is right there in front of them. We’re not making it up.

Chip Griffin: Right. And the key is to rely on actual clients you’ve actually served. Yes. Because one of the other challenges is when I ask someone who their ideal client is, they will often describe someone that they have never worked for before. Yes.

That they think would be just perfect. And, and it’s, part of it is the grass is always greener on the other side. Right. And so people think, Well, you know, I’ve always worked with small businesses, but really, if I could just work for the Fortune 500, that would solve all my problems. They’d be the perfect ones.

I can do all this great stuff and, and look, maybe you are the unicorn, and that is, that is the answer for you. But more often than not, it’s finding out who you’ve already served well. And who has generated profits for you too? Right. Because oftentimes in business development we get distracted by top line and ignore bottom line.

And so we spend a lot of time responding to RFPs with big numbers of revenue. And we don’t realize, oh my God, by the time we actually service this client, and by the time we’ve been nickled and dimed by procurement, we’re not actually gonna make any money on it.

Jody Sutter: Actually, I was a very bottom line focused business development person when I was, when I was running teams at agencies.

 Because, yeah, I was off often pulling back my, my bosses, my, my agency owner, agent owners that I was working for because yeah, they saw, they, they were looking at that top line number, and this is like, wow, this is like twice the billings that we have for most of our clients. This is great. But for me and my team, I was always very focused on like, what’s, what is, where is it gonna make the most sense to invest our time and resources? And if yes, we may be, this may be bringing in a lot of revenue, but if it’s completely unprofitable, Why are you asking me and my team to waste a week, two weeks, a month of our time when this is not gonna be good for our agency?

Chip Griffin: And that’s probably why you became an outside advisor because in my experience, most in-house biz dev people focus totally on the top line because that’s typically how higher ups in any organization, not just agencies, measure business development and sales people. Right. How much revenue have you brought in?

Yeah, it is the wrong question to ask.

Jody Sutter: I think so too. I think so too. Yeah. I’m also not the CFO, so, I understand where they’re coming from and I also understand that my, like we all have our biases and biases can be dangerous. So I, you know, you and I are, are cut from the same piece of cloth, I think. But, yeah, I understand where the CFO is coming from too. It’s not gonna be profitable. That just sounds crazy to me.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and here’s the thing, particularly in a small agency, if you, if you have a lot of unprofitable clients, it’s not just bad for your bank account as the owner Yeah. It’s bad for the team because anytime you have low profit margin clients, you typically are in a position where you’re overworking that team.

Yeah. And, and trying to effectively balance the books on their overwork. And so it, it actually, it has problems beyond the financial because it also leads to morale problems. And in the current recruiting environment, you don’t wanna do things that make it harder to keep good, talented members of your team.

Jody Sutter: That’s right. Yeah. You know, I also think that this, the, the, like, the focusing in on an ideal client as well, ties back to, often ties back to this fear of missing out. Do you, do you find that like, Well, if I narrow it down to just that one type of client, then…

Chip Griffin: Of course. But, but we know, but we know because we work with a lot of folks, the more focus you have to what you do, the more appealing you become to people who, Who share that focus. Yeah. But you also become more attractive to people outside of that, so it can actually open up more opportunities for people to say, I know you don’t usually work with folks like me. Would you be willing to make an exception? And so it could really give you some good opportunities.

Jody Sutter: I’m in the process. Right before we, I joined you on your live stream. I was writing up my, my article for October, and it’s around the fears that, and it’s, and it’s tied into planning the big picture, but it’s around the fears that a lot of agency owners feel. And I think one of them is the fear of missing out.

And and part of it Yeah. Is exactly what you’re saying. And the example that I use in the, that I’m going to be using in the article is that you might be an expert in luxury home goods, or luxury, you know, luxury brands, and that’s what you’re committed to as far as your outgoing messaging. But if a spirits brand comes to you because they, because they wanna be seen as a luxury product, they want the same sort of magic that goes into marketing luxury product, you’re not gonna say no, right?

Yep. So, yeah, I, I agree with that. I think also there’s a lot, there can be more flexibility around narrowing your focus than a lot of agencies realize as well.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and I don’t know how someone can hire you as an agency if they don’t know what you do and what you’re good at. Right? And, and so if, if you can’t clearly articulate what you do and who you do it best for in one to two sentences, then you’re in trouble.

And so if you just say, Hey, you know, I do digital marketing, And I can really work for anybody. How does someone know to refer you? And, and you know, part of the problem here is that there are a lot of folks out there who will say, you know, referral, word of mouth – you can’t rely on that as an agency. You need to do other things.

And I think that’s rubbish. I think that the vast majority of agencies do and always will generate most of their business from word of mouth and referral. You just need to do the things that make it easy for people to do that. And so all of the tactics really are designed around that instead of trying to get, get around it.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. Yeah, I, I totally agree and I think there are a couple of things there. I think one, most agencies, I’ve never met an agency… well, agencies think that they are, they’ve over, they’ve overstressed their network. But once I do the analysis, rarely do I find that. And then also what I find is, yes, they’re asking in the wrong way.

They’re asking in kind of a, a needy way. Like the extreme example I use is you don’t wanna send a note to someone that you know, a really good contact and say like, we’re a little bit low. Well, like our billings are, we’re falling short on our billings this month. Would you please help us? Right, right.

Right. But and you do wanna be clear because, how are they Yes, exactly. They’re not gonna to call their colleagues and say, I know a really good digital agency. Right. They’re gonna say, I know a really good digital agency that is super focused on conversion or conversion in this space, or whatever the specialty is. Totally agree with that.

Chip Griffin: And, and it’s, it’s just not, it’s not that difficult to be able to describe, because you probably already have this focus and you just don’t realize it. Yes. You need to and, and that’s the exercise of looking at who your current clients are and finding the commonalities. Yeah. And generally speaking, almost every agency I work with can very quickly figure out what their actual focus is if they do that.

Yeah, and it’s not, you know, we can do all things for all people because that’s just, that’s not positioning. We, you would never advise a client to do that, right? If we’re in the PR marketing, advertising space, you don’t go to a client and say, you know, Oh, you know, Coke. We’re a beverage, right?

Anybody can drink us. It’s true, anybody can drink Coke, right? But you know, you’re appealing to a certain kind of buyer. You need to be able to articulate that just as well as you want your clients to.

Jody Sutter: Here’s an anecdote I that I love using and I, I probably used it here maybe. People are sick of it already if they, they know me.

But, a few years ago I was talking to an agency search consultant and they, they’re talking about their, their the first steps in their process of reviewing agencies for their clients. And before they even contact agencies, they put together what they call their long, long list. And this is a list based on information that’s out in the public and maybe also information based in their own, based on their own database of agencies.

And when they put together this long, long list for their clients, the marketer who’s gonna hire the agency, they have a one sheet. And at the, and the one sheet has a lot of the information you’d expect. Who owns the agency, where they’re based, a few good, a few key clients. And then at the bottom of the page it says, Agency is known for.

Fill in the blank. So when I, so when I tell this anecdote, I, I put forth a challenge like, what would you, based on what’s out there in the public domain, what would you expect that search consultant to put in that space? Like, do you trust that your narrative is strong enough, that they’re writing down something that is going to get you into a review.

And, usually it’s pause for, pause for thought.

Chip Griffin: And it helps so much because if I’m talking to somebody in my network and, and I can clearly articulate what my focus is, they can easily go through their mental Rolodex and figure out who the good matches are. Yeah, if I just say I’m a digital marketing company, or I’m a web dev firm, or I’m a PR agency.

Yeah. I’m now going through mentally my entire list of anybody I know, and it’s a lot harder for me to come up with a name that might be a good fit. So the more specific you can be, the easier you make it for people to make those referrals and to use word of mouth to your advantage. But I want to pivot here and talk a little bit more about, you know, we’re putting together the 2023 plan and one of the questions I get, I’m sure you do as well, is, you know, what goals should I be setting?

How much growth is good growth? What is, what is, what is a good agency doing today from a revenue growth standpoint? And so when you’re talking with someone about putting together their own targets for revenues for the following year, for their business development, how do you work through that exercise with them?

Jody Sutter: Yeah, it’s, it’s so interesting because I, a lot of agencies, their default is to be ambitious. And so, and again, so maybe I’m an unusual business development person, but maybe that’s also why now I’m a, I am a consultant rather than on staff, because I often find I’m pulling them back a little bit more. So if they’ve got lofty goals, again, we go back and we look at the resources that they have in place and what their plans are to build those resources. If they want to double their revenue, but they’re not necessarily gonna grow their team or expend their capabilities, then that’s probably the wrong financial goal. I, I’m curious, what is that are, do you find that your clients tend to be overly ambitious? Or do they not tend to be ambitious enough?

Chip Griffin: Oh, no. I mean, almost uniformly, overly ambitious. Yeah. And you know, I, I, I think that here again, it’s important to look at your data and, and you can give yourself the disclaimer that mutual funds give, you know, past performance is no indicator of, of, you know, future results. There’s no guarantee of future results, which is true.

But if, if you’ve grown by 10% a year for the last three years, And you come to me and say, I’m gonna grow by 50% next year. My first question to you is, why? Yes. How is, what is going to be so different that you’re gonna five x your growth in one year’s time? And it better be something really convincing and really substantially different.

Because the reality is if you don’t change something, it’s unlikely that the numbers that come out as results are gonna change either.

Jody Sutter: So it’s interesting that you say that. And I will admit in some ways, maybe this is a, a gap in my own services in some ways. I don’t focus as much on the actual goals. Like if an agency owner comes to me and they say, I want to double my revenue. Yes, of course I’m going to, we’re gonna stress test this a little bit. Why do you wanto to? I want to understand their motivations? And I wanna understand their resources, you know, look at the data. But a lot of times I’ll say, Okay, if that’s something that you’re really committed to now, I start to look for, I sort of turn the lens a little bit and look forward. And, and let’s then bridge that gap between where you are today and what you wanna do tomorrow. And that’s where things can, can really get real. Because if you start, when you start to dial that back and you’re like, Okay, well I wanna double my revenue.

Okay, so that means, does that mean doubling your client roster? Yes, it does. So does that mean moving into a new market? Absolutely. Okay. Now we’re sort of talking about some of the, the tools that you need in place to have that. How do we need to alter your messaging? How do we need to write or, or alter your case studies?

Do we need to do a new website? So all of a sudden then that big goal, when a big goal is when a goal is so big that it requires so much change, that it might mean completely redoing something, a tactical and important tool like a website. Well, I mean, websites often take a whole year to launch, right?

I mean, I’m embarrassed to say that I just did a quick refresh that took me three years. So I’m, I’m my own worst enemy. But yeah, so all of a sudden then, then there’s some of those tactical things that really are what goes into the plan. And again, if that commitment’s still there, it’s like, okay, well then let’s start putting that in.

Like what does, what’s it gonna take in order for you to get that website rebuilt so that you can start to communicate to a new market?

Chip Griffin: And I think part of it is, is you have to take these, these big goals and break them down into their component parts. And so if you say, Okay, I wanna double my revenue in whatever timeframe it is, what does that look like?

And so the exercise I will often have clients do is, is put together just a simple spreadsheet, you know, show what your monthly revenue is now. Yeah. And then show how it grows to get there. Yeah. Because one, one of the things that that I see happen a lot is I will see an agency tell me well, you know, I want to grow my revenue by a half million dollars next year.

You know, my average, you know, client engagement’s about 150,000, so that’s only like three, three and a half new clients. That’s, that’s easy to get. Unfortunately, when you say that you’ve now assumed that all three or three and a half of those clients are there on January 1st, in order to achieve that.

Jody Sutter: That is exactly right.

Chip Griffin: And that is not going to happen, particularly if you’re doing planning now. If you’re doing planning now, you already have a pretty good sense as to what your January revenue is going to look like, right? Yeah. It may not be spot on, but you got a pretty good idea three months out what that, what that revenue number is gonna be because it takes a while to close business in agencyland for the most part. And so if you’re gonna do these projections, you need to break them down and say, Okay, how many new accounts do I have to close to get there? The other thing you need to think about, and what I always ask them, and I think you alluded to it earlier, is, what does it mean for the rest of my business?

Because let’s say I say I’m gonna add 12 new clients next year, and I’m gonna do one a month. Great. That sounds great. From a revenue perspective, maybe your sales and business development program can actually achieve that. Can your client service team onboard a new client every month. Are you staffed for that?

Do you have to, I mean, do you have to change things in order to be able to service that level of business? And are you making the plans there as well?

Jody Sutter: And what happens when they get so frustrated and they’re so overworked that they start leaving and now you’ve got how? Yeah, I, but going back to the pitches, I do that exercise and, I know we’re gonna be talking about this, but I’m gonna be doing a new business planning workshop in December that I welcome anyone listening to this to ask me about. More details coming soon, but we, I do a whole sort of walk through that, that exact same thing. It’s January 1st and your goal is, I don’t know, a million dollars in new business. Well, that’s if you win it tomorrow, but you’re not gonna win it tomorrow. Q1 is often slow and so if you don’t really start, if things, activity doesn’t really start picking up until Q2, well now you’ve actually increased that annual number.

Effectively, you’ve increased the annual number by 25%, right? The other thing that agencies often don’t do is look at what’s at risk. So if they’ve got a million dollar nut, but they realize that they’ve got $250,000 at risk, current clients that they kind of know are going away maybe may or may not be of any through any fault of the agency.

Then how does that new business number incorporate that? If at all.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And that is a great point because when, when folks are looking at their revenue goals, they often, they operate as if they will retain 100% of their existing business, even if they don’t realize they’re doing that. Yeah. That’s effectively what they’re doing.

And the reality is almost no agency has a hundred percent retention year over year. If you, if you have a hundred percent retention year over year for long periods of time, there’s probably something actually wrong. You’re probably over servicing dramatically or so because it just, I mean, it doesn’t happen.

Yeah. People let agencies go for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily a reflection on the agency’s work. And so you have to expect that you’re going to have some degree of turnover. Yeah. And you need to plan for how you’re gonna handle that.

Jody Sutter: And you know, often what I find is that you may look at clients, you may say, well identify a couple of clients or projects that are at risk.

And then what may happen, maybe they end up sticking around, but something else is at risk. So in other words, what does, it allows you to stay, to be realistic and understand, like there could be some things that happen that aren’t, that are outta my control, that are not positive. So how do I offset that?

Chip Griffin: Yeah, It, it’s often very difficult to know which clients will go away. Your, your best guess is usually wrong. The one – But same is true on the biz dev side. I often find, have found over the years that the, the prospects that I thought would never close end up coming in and the ones that I thought were a slam dunk, just drag on and on forever and never happen.

Yeah. We can’t see inside someone else’s head. And so, you know, we need to, to assume that, that our, our past record is going to indicate something to us. And so if we’ve typically had a certain percentage of turnover, we should expect, we’re probably gonna still see that. If we close at a certain rate, if we, you know, have had certain growth rates, yes, it, it’s going to take something substantial to change that positively or negatively.

So we need to focus on that.

Jody Sutter: And in fact, even the, the close rate, that may even be a better goal than like a financial. Rather than like, we wanna double our revenue, it, maybe we wanna double our close rate. And then we can, again, we can go back and analyze what’s holding you back from doing that. And that might be more about who’s pitching, what are you pitching, how frequently are you pitching?

And now we can start to solve those problems as we move into the plan for next year.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and I’m not generally a fan of output based measurement, but, but this is actually an area where I almost prefer to look at the initial activity that we’re engaging in. Because assuming we’re following through.

Yes. If we’re having quality conversations and we’re increasing a number of quality conversations, to me that’s, that’s gonna be a bigger driver even than focusing on close rate or number of pitches or those kinds of things. Because it, it all starts at that front end of the funnel to figure out where things are likely to be headed over time.

But it takes time to get there. Yeah. The work you’re doing today is planting the seed for business in the second half of next year. That’s right. Your first half of next year is almost all already baked into the activities you’ve done.

Jody Sutter: And when I start working with them, when we start implementing the plans, what I will often do is have them break it down into more like quarterly goals and we quarterly goals, and then further into weekly activities.

And I encourage them to measure that. Because leading indicators I agree with you are so important. Um, because new business can be kind of this fuzzy thing. Like, hey, you can have a big goal and you can have a track record that shows you’re probably gonna make that goal. But so many things can happen.

But if you were doing what you’re committed to doing, then the likelihood is you’re gonna be successful. And if you can go back and measure that and say, Yep, we’re doing everything. We’re 10 out of 10 for this week. But when you’re six outta 10, then you can say what, what’s getting in the way? Do we have the wrong people on the team?

Do we, as the agency owner, am I less committed than I should be? Am I trying to do the wrong things? Am I, am I going into those rooms with a bunch of strangers as an introvert and not getting any new business leads at all when I should be doing something completely different to generate leads? So that’s what I really love to help my clients work through.

Chip Griffin: That’s great. And as we wind down our time today, I’m, I’m, I’m curious to learn a little bit more about the, the program that you’re offering. So just a little bit more about what it is and how people can, can learn more from you.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, so I will also full disclosure, cause I believe in honesty, this is the first time that I’ve done this.

So it’s kind of an experiment, but the people who participate will have, will benefit from it. Because they’re sort of gonna be my Guinea pigs and they’ll have some benefits around that. But I wanna, what I’m gonna be offering is a three day planning workshop, but it’s only an hour a day. It’s gonna be in early December.

The first day we’re going to, we’re gonna focus on frame, on foundation. Second day we’re gonna be focusing on the, the plan itself. And the third day we’re gonna be focusing on techniques to start implementing and setting up the things like the, the leading indicators. And, and because here’s the other thing that I find.

Plans get written and then nothing happens to them. So I wanna make sure that we actually get it done. So over those three days, the my, the people who are gonna be participating, they’re gonna walk away ideally, if they do the work, they’ll walk away with their plan over the course of three days. But at the very least, they’ll, they’re gonna walk away with a framework that they can go and fill out.

And as they put their time into it, have that plan. They’re gonna go from unknown to clarity. And they are not gonna, you know, I think sometimes, you know, when you wake up in the morning, if you don’t know what you, what you’ve planned, if you haven’t planned the night before, at least this is how I work. I will often spend the first 90 minutes of my day waffling on around.

But if you’ve got, if I’ve got that plan, if I’ve sat down the day before and said, Okay, tomorrow I gotta start out doing this, this, this, I’m so much more productive. And that’s what I try to do on a larger basis for my, for my agency clients. So this is a big part of creating that plan so they know January 1, this is what we’re working on.

Chip Griffin: It sounds like a great way to, to jumpstart 2023 for agency business development. If someone is interested in, perhaps participating, what should they do, Jody?

Jody Sutter: So we are in the process of setting up a landing page. So if you’re interested in this email me, I think that it’s gonna be a 395… right now we’ve got an early bird special of $395, per person that’s gonna go up as we get closer to the date to $795. And I’ve already had people tell me like, You should be charging double. But like I said, it’s a bit of an experiment for me too. So I wanna see how this works and people can take advantage of what I think is a really great deal to get their business plan done.

They’re new business plan done.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. Yeah. Well, hopefully we’ve shared some, some good insights here, but you can, you can build on it by going to this workshop with Jody. Yeah.

Jody Sutter: Please email me and I’ll, I’ll fill you in all the details.

Chip Griffin: And it’s, I know this is a topic that, that many of you are interested in.

And of course, since you continued listening all the way through to the end of this episode, you’re definitely interested in it. So don’t waste any time and, and reach out to Jody. That will bring to an end of this episode of The Small Agency Talk Show. Been very grateful to have Jody Sutter from the Sutter Company here as the guest panelist today.

If you’re interested in seeing or listening to any previous episodes of the Small Agency Talk Show or other videos that I’ve created, go to smallagency.tv. And if you wanna learn more about SAGA, just go to small agency growth.com. And so with that, I encourage you all to have a great fall weekend, and I will see you all back here next week.

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