The Handbook of New Business Development for Marketing Agencies


Does your marketing agency need a new business development strategy? Let’s get this out of the way: YES.

Today’s marketplace is more saturated than ever before. Gone are the days of “if you rank, they will come.” Even brands with consistently high SERP rankings cannot lean on that exclusively as their source of new business.

The reality is that consumers have a lot of options, and they’re going to choose the one that makes them feel important and demonstrates the desired solution. This requires continual and concerted effort that can’t be thrown in as an afterthought with marketing or sales teams.

New business development is it’s own discipline, and it’s an essential one for marketing agencies that want to continue to grow. Here we’ll explore what new business development looks like at agencies, how to do it right, and ways it will impact your company’s growth.

Quick Takeaways

  • New business development serves as a connector between marketing and sales.
  • Thinking and communicating from the customer’s perspective is the most important strategy new business development reps can employ.
  • Content is an essential component of new business development. While marketing creates it (usually), new business development teams find creative ways to share it.
  • Staying true to your authentic brand personality is an effective way new business development reps can differentiate from competitors.
  • New business development teams have the key responsibility of cultivating brand advocates and growing a business’s referral network.

Why is new business development important?

For marketing agencies (and any agency, really) continual new business development is what keeps your client portfolio healthy.

It’s the ongoing process of seeking out new opportunities and employing strategies to increase brand visibility, build awareness, establish relationships, and ultimately be the driving force for business growth.

If you’re doing it right, new business development never stops. Let’s talk about where it fits in your agency and why it’s so critical to your success.

Business development vs. sales vs. marketing

One of the most common questions that comes up when defining business development is: how is it different from sales and marketing? The answer is tricky because business development uses so many principles of sales and marketing and, when done right, works in close alignment with sales and marketing teams.

But it is different. It doesn’t fall strictly into one bucket or the other, instead serving as an important go-between that keeps things connected and running smoothly.

  • Marketing comes first. Marketing teams are responsible for much of the initial research and development of a large-scale, high-volume plan for outreach. They establish brand voice and messaging, and they create content to be used by business development and sales teams.
  • Business development comes next. Business development teams pursue leads and new opportunities that arise as a result of initial marketing efforts. They also seek out alternative channels for finding new clients and creating brand awareness. They build relationships and cultivate partnerships in the industry that can help grow the business.
  • Sales comes last. Sales teams are the deal closers. They focus on selling specific products and services to high-potential leads and prospects, working to convert them into paying customers.

FourWeekMBA summed it up like this:

While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, and sales typically leverage on a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

business development vs. marketing vs. sales

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Because of business development’s position between these two more traditional factions of the organization, its exact role often varies slightly depending on the agency. It sometimes leans more heavily in one direction or the other. Sometimes, it’s formally part of either marketing or sales in the organizational structure.

But smart companies understand that the function of business development is unique and must be prioritized to make the biggest impact on growth.

How new business development helps grow your agency

So we know now what business development is and how it’s different from marketing and sales. But how does it really help agencies grow? Why is it so important to consider it separately?

Agency growth is a long game. The wide outreach done by marketing teams builds awareness, but it doesn’t build deep connections that turn into new business. Sales teams are focused on conversion, and their one-on-one efforts are time consuming and specific.

New business development turns marketing’s efforts into tangible opportunities. Then, it delivers those opportunities to the sales team to close. These efforts lead to more business, higher revenue, and ultimately agency growth.

Thinking like your customer: do it or die

If there’s one thing more important than all else to new business development teams, it’s the ability to think like your customer. New business development is all about building relationships and opening up new channels for visibility. This can’t be done without a consistent ability to demonstrate the value of your business from your customer’s perspective.

You can do it in these three ways:

Understand pain points

Here’s the thing: potential customers don’t care about your agency unless they can see how you can solve their problems. 

That’s why people seek out products and services — to solve a problem or fill a need. If it’s not immediately clear that your agency can do it, prospects will move on. Smart business development reps know this is the truth, and they’re well versed in communicating in terms of customer pain points.

Pain points are the specific problem or challenge your potential customer is experiencing when they seek out their services. When you demonstrate that you understand these pain points, you make yourself more relatable and build trust.

Here’s more on how to do it:

Identifying Customer Pain Points

Get noticed

A big responsibility of new business development teams is to help the business get noticed through various channels. You may think this job would fall exclusively to marketing. After all, they’re the ones who handle high-level brand awareness through advertising and content.

This is true, but while brand-created content is critical to search engine rankings, new business development efforts to build partnerships and network within the industry play a key role in supplementing these efforts. Industry relationships help businesses earn placements on “top” lists for their industry, features on other businesses’ websites, and business referrals — all prime examples of channels through which B2B consumers go to find brands.

Leverage social proof

Nothing is more convincing to consumers than social proof. Research by Demand Gen found that 97% of B2B consumers say testimonials and peer recommendations are the most reliable type of content. Truly thinking like your customer requires leveraging social proof in ways that will be impactful for them.

Social proof comes in many forms, and it’s clear to see how the relationship building done by new business development teams plays a key role in gathering this type of content.

types of social proof

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More ways your marketing agency can jumpstart new business development

Focus on specialization

There’s much discussion in the marketing industry around specialization vs. generalization. Which direction should agencies choose? We’re not here to solve this debate, but we can say this: when it comes to new business development, you must specialize to some degree.

Even if you offer a wide range of services, no client is going to need all of them (rarely, anyway). To truly connect with customers (and be more likely to earn their business), know what specific problem they’re facing and which of your offerings can solve it. Then, focus on those when you talk to the customer.

Show your unique brand personality

The internet has saturated just about every market, and agency marketing is at the top of the list. How do you stand out? One of the best and most effective ways to do it is to just be authentic. No business is going to be a perfect fit for every potential customer. Developing your brand personality, keeping it consistent, and showing it in your content and new business development interactions is a sure way to differentiate from competitors.

Create great content

Did you know that 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine? That 71% of B2B consumers, specifically, start their research on Google. This one’s a no brainer: creating a high volume of consistent, high-quality content is a competitive necessity. 

Yes, marketing teams handle most content creation, but new business development teams play a key role in growing its channels for distribution.

93% of online experiences start with a search engine

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Cultivate brand advocates

Brand advocates are people who promote your business through word of mouth. Today, this type of word-of-mouth marketing is one of the top ways B2B consumers make purchase decisions. Recent research has found that 91% of word-of-mouth referrals influence consumers, and 88% of consumers seek out referrals before making a financial commitment to buy.

b2b referral statistics

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New business development reps can leverage this strategy by building relationships with happy customers so that they are more likely and willing to share their positive experiences. They can open specific channels for this type of sharing, too, such as connecting potential customers with current ones, or incentivizing current customers to make referrals by offering rewards.

Be persistent

Especially when it comes to new business, persistence is essential. Keep this in mind: it can take up to 8 touch points before a new prospect even agrees to a first meeting or call. New business development reps must know and resist getting discouraged by this reality. Have a plan for multiple outreach efforts, follow up intentionally, and vary your message and approach. 

Equally important, pay attention to the law of diminishing returns, aka the time when it seems additional follow-ups are no longer earning any more response than the previous one. That’s how you know it’s time to move on to higher potential opportunities.

Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations. Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.