Having set up Bearded Fellows 9 years ago, we have some experience in trying different strategies for sales and pipeline growth.
As a team of four, we grew from working with pre-seed start-ups to working with global brands.
Here is my list of things that have been effective in building a valuable pipeline for new business.
1. Build fans
Building fans is a great way to get free advertising through word of mouth. We are lucky we have a catchy name but we found that helping people, giving work to other companies, allows people to know, like and trust you. You need to build a human connection with your clients and network.
When people are asking for recommendations for agencies, you want people to say your name. So be nice to everyone you meet, take time to speak to the juniors or new starters in a clients office, make an impression, your personality sells as much as your product. There is a great book called Fanocracy which really helped me with this.
2. Network effectively
Networking can be the best thing in the world or the biggest waste of time. If you are going to network, try to find the right events for your agency. Do you work with a particular sector? What events will they attend?
Do you have a list of people you want to talk to or a dream client list? Let people know who you are looking to speak to and what it is you want to help them with. The best introductions are from someone who can recommend you.
Networking is not about giving people cards, it’s about being in the room, offering referrals and being a person people want to talk to. Give first and help people then find referrals to the businesses you want to work with. Let people get to know you, let them like you then you can build their trust.
Farming is the most valuable and cost-effective way to increase revenue – by re-engaging with old clients. The benefits of this mean you may be able to work with a team that already trusts you, and enjoys your work and process.
It is our role as agency owners to provide a great service & support your clients.
Once a project is complete, continue to see how you can help their business with your knowledge of their sector and your skillsets as an agency, re-engage with them to see how things are, if they have projects they are thinking of doing, you may be able to bring a project to life.
4. Transition to online inbound sales
It can be easy to get caught up in the projects you are working on and depending on your agencies specialism, you could work off recommendations and referrals for the life span of your agency.
We had based our sales pipeline on at least 80% referrals and it worked well. But the problem we found was we were not in control of our pipeline, it only took a referral partner to leave their business and we could lose a large chunk of our revenue stream.
When the pandemic hit and our pipeline dried up, we had to take action. Spending the first quarter of 2020 investing in a good CRM to handle inbound leads & get data on prospects, putting work into speeding up our website and increasing our organic SEO and committing to adding our agency to directories helped people to find us online.
After 8 years of not investing enough into this we have seen a huge increase in qualified, inbound leads.
This year-long project has allowed us to increase revenue, expand our reach geographically, look at clients in a more forensic way and really know where our leads are coming from letting us invest back into what works instead of what might work.
5. Follow your contacts
Agencies are built on relationships, that’s a given, so keeping in touch with your contacts who move on to pastures new is one of our best ways to grow your revenue.
Try to become your contacts ace in their sleeve, if they move to a new company, you want to be the agency they recommend. Your relationship is with the client contact, keep hold of it and appreciate them.
Help them off the clock if needed, when they move, help them to get settled, send them a gift that’s thoughtful, help them with referrals, take them for dinner. All these things help to keep your best contacts.
About Joe Gosling, Bearded Fellows
Before devoting his time to Bearded Fellows, Joe trained and worked as an actor and contemporary artist focusing on the communication of challenging and evocative ideas.
Joe spotted the steady rise of video content online and translated his expertise into the production of clear and captivating online video content for brands. Joe now brings his unique point of view and exuberant energy to the creative process across our productions.