Most agencies don’t need a large number of clients to be successful. Adding just a few new accounts each year is often all that is needed.
The problem is that many agency owners don’t focus their energies enough on the handful of connections, conversations, and relationships that will make a difference. The key to success lies in being very focused.
It starts with being specific about what you do and who you serve. Once you have your elevator pitch and a description of your ideal clients, then you need to move on to the networking and outreach that will fill your business development pipeline.
That’s where your Nifty 50 list comes into play.
Most agencies don’t have specific outreach target lists. Networking usually means going to some events, passing around business cards, and hoping the phone rings.
The reality is that building and nurturing a business development pipeline requires more structured effort to be successful.
Think of it this way: if you were doing media or influencer outreach for a client, would you just show up at events and hope you get lucky? Or would you build a target list and communicate with each individual in a methodical manner?
Growing your agency business requires the same deliberate process as doing outreach on behalf of your clients.
While some agencies do have target lists, often they are too big and too broad. They may have been gleaned from an online database service or obtained through a trade association or otherwise built in a mass-market type of way.
Have a meaningful conversation every day
If you put together a list of just 50 people with whom you want to build a new or better relationship, you should be able to work through the full roster over the course of a calendar quarter.
One conversation each day is a very reasonable goal. During each of the 12 weeks of a quarter, you need to average just 4-5 conversations to make your way through the full list.
Not all of these conversations will bear fruit in the short term, but the Nifty 50 process is about building relationships not just generating immediate revenue.
In the agency world, it takes time to get prospects to commit to spending money with your business and becoming a client. Using a target list helps make sure that you accelerate the process through deliberate effort — and improves the odds that you get the right clients, not just ones where the check clears.
Commit to 3 “touches” per day on your Nifty 50 list.
Some individuals on your target list may be willing to have a conversation right out of the gate. Others will need a bit more handholding before they will hop on the phone, join a Zoom meeting, or have coffee.
Even after you talk with someone, you want to remain on their radar screen, so it is up to you to find ways to “touch” them in a meaningful way.
Not every networking touch needs to be time-consuming or in-depth.
Here are just a few ways that you can make contact with your Nifty 50 list each day:
- Comment on a LinkedIn post
- Retweet something your target posted on Twitter
- Share a relevant article by email
- Send a handwritten note
- Ship some type of SWAG
- Ask if you can introduce your target to someone else that they might want to know
Most of these ideas won’t take you more than a few minutes each day, but they all add value to your target list while keeping your name (and your business) front-and-center with your Nifty 50 list.
It all starts by building your Nifty 50 list.
Now that you know how to use a Nifty 50 list, it’s time to think about who should be on it.
The first piece of advice is the same thing I tell people about just about everything: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It is more important to create your first Nifty 50 list than it is to curate it with exacting precision.
Remember that your Nifty 50 list isn’t just about direct prospects who might hire your agency.
Your list should also include people who can be strategic partners, referral sources, or sources of valuable information. Your Nifty 50 list isn’t about selling for today, it is about building the business development pipeline that will serve your agency well for many years to come.
5 steps to get started with your Nifty 50 list
- Start with your dream client list. We all have in our minds a few organizations that we would love to work with as a client. Some might be a stretch, but include a few of those on your Nifty 50 list, too.
- Examine your existing email contacts. Look through your current contact list to see who you want to build a stronger relationship with or anyone you want to reconnect with after a period of losing touch. Former clients or coworkers. Past employers. Someone you met briefly at an event.
- Leverage LinkedIn. Begin with your existing connections to see who you might not have in your CRM or email contact list. Look through your home feed to see who might pop up that someone in your network is interacting with. Use the search function to discover contacts who meet the criteria of your ideal client.
- Look for online lists. With your ideal client description, you can find plenty of “Top X” lists on the web that will give you ideas for names and organizations to include on your Nifty 50. In addition, many industry trade associations publish lists of members (or at least board members and active volunteers).
- Finish with a few people you just want to meet. Perhaps there is an industry expert or other luminary that you think is out of reach. It could be an author, prominent leader, or a key executive. You may not even have a solid idea of how this person could help your business, but you just aspire to meeting them. While these names shouldn’t be the focus of your list, a few will help you push your limits. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Putting your Nifty 50 list to work
Now that you know how to build your list and what to do with it, you need to set up a process that keeps you on track.
Keep track of your touches and conversations.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is the ideal tool for tracking your connections and contacts, but the reality is that the best tool for you is the one that you consistently use.
It might be a spreadsheet, note-taking application, or your email contact list. Heck, it could be a notepad or even the back of a napkin as long as it helps you to know who you have touched or talked with — and when to follow up.
Set aside time to work on your Nifty 50 outreach.
Carve out time on your calendar every day for your touches. Make sure to book actual conversations throughout the week so you have a steady flow of discussions.
As with tracking, it is more important that you have a process of some sort than worrying about exactly what it is.
Plan on weekly and quarterly reviews.
Each week, you should plot your outreach for the week ahead. This helps keep you on track and ensures you allocate your time smartly. It also gives you the ability to course correct as necessary based on how things have been going in previous weeks.
Then at the end of each quarter, you should review your whole Nifty 50 list. Some names will come off — perhaps it was a dry hole or just too unlikely to bear fruit in any reasonable timeframe. Others you may not have been able to advance beyond initial touches. (Don’t discard these folks entirely, but move them to a longer-term follow-up list.)
More importantly, you want to be adding fresh names each quarter to continue to expand your circle. You shouldn’t be turning over your whole Nifty 50 list every 3 months. It will take longer than that for many of the relationships to pay off and you want to avoid giving up too quickly. But if you add 10-12 new names each quarter (even if that puts you at a Nifty 53), you will see more results.
Want some help getting started with your own Nifty 50 list? Check out our planning, advisory, and coaching services to learn how we help agencies with positioning, business development, and more.