In April 1998, Andy Grove, then president and CEO of Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, introduced the idea of the strategic inflection point. He described this, in "Only the Paranoid Survive," as "a time in the life of the business when its fundamentals are about to change. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient."
This is the point at which many agencies now find themselves -- though often they seem to be in denial. They moan and groan about the cost of participating in RFP-based new-business pitches, but aren't positioning themselves to adapt to clients' changing expectations, so they can compete for the new business.
Take it from a guy who has sat on the other side of the table and seen a new business pitch through the eyes of the client. Clients hate the RFP process as much as agencies do. Many clients even stick with agencies they don't care for, rather than initiate an RFP to find another one.
But unlike agencies, clients have recognized the inflection point and are embracing it with both arms. When prospective clients decide to augment or replace their current agency team, they're searching for answers to their marketing problems. They're searching for someone who can explain that which they don't understand.
If you've deployed a proper digital business-development strategy, these prospects could be your next client. Let's face it. There are over 10,000 agencies in the United States, and Google makes it easy to discover and research every one of them. Clients love this because it enables the secret search -- the one their current agency partner won't find out about until it's too late.
So you have to make a decision as an agency. You're either going to continue to chase business the same way you did yesterday and expect a different outcome tomorrow, or you're going to embrace the idea of getting known for having the knowledge to attract those self-educating prospects to your agency so you can add them to your client list.
Believe it or not, it is possible to painlessly prospect for new business while you sleep, but you're going to need to commit to changing how you manage your digital presence.
First you'll need to commit to answering clients' questions via blog posts on your website. These key-word rich, helpful content pieces are what the invisible buyer finds during a Google search. It's what gets him to your website where he can get to know you, and you can begin the process of identifying him.
Second, you need to build a funnel-optimized website to effectively position your agency as the preferred solution. Like a wayfinder mobile navigation system, a funnel-optimized website helps your prospect find the next most important piece of content on your website. At each step, that prospect is diving deeper into your acquisition funnel .
Third, you must commit to building a data-based, in-bound marketing program designed to turn that invisible buyer into a visible client. Using Google Analytics isn't enough. You have to invest in special tracking software that will help you develop dossiers of each visitor to your website. By monitoring these dossiers, you will be better prepared to reach out to high-value prospects and know what they want to talk about before you get on the phone.
So if you're truly tired of the RFP rat race, do something about it. Go find out what you spent last year on pitches and dedicate 25% of that to taking the steps above. Dedicate yourself to giving the system a year to generate results. I promise you, you won't regret it.