Prosper Agency
April 11, 2019

What we learnt from attending the 'New Thinking for New Business' course

New business approaches are developing and transforming in unexpected and exciting ways. Consultancy Up to the Light deliver more fascinating and eye-opening insight via its annual report 'What Clients Think' developed for the Design Business Association.


n March I attended a Design Business Association training day held in London entitled ‘New Thinking for New Business’ Hosted by Jonathan Kirk from consultancy firm Up To The Light, the half day workshop discussed various ways design agencies could approach new business development via a deeper understanding of what clients respond to, react to and reject in terms of tried and tested marketing methods. The results were interesting and surprising and certainly thought provoking. Statistics and research were taken from the annual Up To The Light survey ‘What Clients Think’ which is conducted on behalf of the Design Business Association.

The survey, which interviews some 500 clients from a wide selection of agencies provides some real ‘no nonsense’ insight to help agencies understand how they can deepen their working relationships with existing clients, and understand what clients think and feel about the way agencies generally operate in the client / agency relationship space. Here are some key ‘take aways’ from the course:

New clients are getting 17 new business approaches everyday

Thats a lot of emails coming in from people you’ve never heard of… to flip this on its head I also get a lot of non personalised emailed from overseas companies and individuals that simply don’t cut through the noise. The ones that did make me take notice? The Essex printer who sent me a personalised and tactile printed letter showcasing some of their printing skills, and the company that developed a mock up app from taking screen grabs from my website.

63% of clients say that a physically posted letter or brochure as a new business approach has more impact than an email.

Echoing the findings above, there is certainly opportunity to cut through the digital noise. Physical printed ‘take-aways’ have long been a good tactic to leave with prospects after initial meetings, and the value of these pieces is that they can be handed from colleague to colleague and are not really ‘time sensitive’ as that email than disappears to the bottom of your inbox as the days roll by…

Clients what to know what you think, not just what you have done.

Another point that I believe is applicable to any industry (and especially those to position themselves vertically) is that insight and thought leadership on matters pertaining directly to their clients will have more traction and gather more attention than a list of client logos and testimonials. This links to another finding from the survey…

Agency websites should demonstrate evidence of effectiveness

When asked ‘if a new agency had 30 seconds to say something to you, what would be most likely to get you attention?’ the number one answer was to “demonstrate evidence of effectiveness”. The second answer was “How do you help solve our particular challenge?”, and the third answer was “Show (us) something definitive and relevant”.

Social Media isn’t the ‘be-all-and-end-all’

89% of clients claim not to follow their incumbent agency on social media, and a higher number still claim not to follow any design agency on social media at all. However, they survey found that 96% of clients claim to be on LinkedIn and use it regularly. To me this suggests a considered content strategy is vital if you want a chance to make an impression on social media, and even then, consider a monthly printed round up and pop it in the post to compliment any social media efforts! (see point 2)

The nuances of these points are bigger and more complex than how I’ve simplified them here, and I encourage anyone to read the 2018 ‘What Clients Think’ Report written by Up To The Light for full interpretation. Despite the report being written for design agencies I believe theres some strong insight within that any business can gain value from.

Written by Ben Stanbury

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