How to Identify and Vet New Biz Leads that are the Right Fit for You
Pop quiz: What do most businesses have in common?
Answer: They have to figure out how to bring in new clients or customers on a rolling basis to use their products and/or services.
In the PR world, mid-to-large sized agencies generally have a dedicated team that manages new biz efforts to help scout out potential leads. However, it’s not always easy to connect with companies that could benefit from PR, especially if they never have worked with an agency before.
Here are a few tips from cold-calling to the final proposal to ensure you’re going after the right leads for your PR agency.
When proactively researching companies:
Make sure it aligns with your agency brand.
Look at the industry they are in and make sure it aligns with the industries you want your agency to identify with. Many PR agencies represent companies that straddle multiple vertical markets; however, some agencies wish to specialize in specific industries such as consumer products, food and beverage, fashion, etc. At a certain point in the business growth cycle, your team may decide to hone in on one or more particular industries based on past successes with previous clients.
There are generalized agencies, too, that bring in new accounts from a variety of industries, especially if their teams have a broad range of experience and expertise. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, but if you are in charge of scouting potential new clients, make sure they first align with both your agency’s brand and the industries you want to represent..
Figure out (as best you can) if you think they can afford PR.
Try to gauge the size of the company to determine whether they could afford PR services. This isn’t an easy task if you haven’t talked to them, but there are ways to creatively sleuth. For one, if you are researching a consumer or lifestyle brand, look at their social media profiles and see how many followers they have. If they only have a few dozen it’s likely (a) they are still very much in startup mode — you can look at the when the profiles were created to confirm — or (b) they haven’t prioritized time or money in marketing their products and services.
For companies with a few hundred to a couple thousand followers and no history of past media coverage, consider them as a potential candidate to pitch. While they already have a decent number of followers, they could benefit from some earned media coverage to continue spreading the word about their products and services.
Pitch em’ like you would a reporter and “sell your story.”
Once you identify the companies you think would benefit from PR, align well with your agency’s brand and seem to be in a good position to afford hiring a dedicated PR team, pitch them like you would a reporter. “Sell your story.” Customize each pitch to let them know what can offer and why you think they are a great candidate for kicking off a targeted media relations campaign or a thought leadership program. Again, if it appears as if they have never worked with a PR agency before, you may need to spell things out and educate them from the ground up on why public relations matters for any brand.
In the event that they respond and want to chat further about your suggestions (Woot! Cold calling ain’t easy!), come prepared with further questions to better understand what their business goals are (e.g. to attract investors, new funding raises, secure more customers/sales, etc.) and explain how a strategic PR and marketing program can help get them to where they want to be. If the call goes well and they ask for a proposal, this is your chance to put pen to paper on what the overarching strategy would be, what specific tactics you would recommend for media outreach and thought leadership, as well as a proposed budget for those activities.
Reaching the proposal stage is quite the feat, but remember it’s not a home run. In many cases, you may find that the company gets cold feet and decides not to proceed. While this can be frustrating, don’t feel discouraged. They may circle back later when they are ready to take the plunge into PR, and the fact that you were the first to educate them and inform them about PR’s potential only increases the chances that they would consider you first for the job.
When vetting any in-bound prospects that are actively seeking PR services:
Give them an opportunity to share in writing what they are looking for in terms of PR.
If a company is looking to hire a PR agency and comes across your website, make it easy for them to get in touch with you. Either have a dedicated contact form or new biz email alias setup. Or even better — include a new client prospect survey so they can share more about their brand, PR/marketing and business goals, as well as any anticipated challenges or positioning within their industry’s competitive landscape. You can also include a question around the proposed budget to get a ballpark figure of what they have in mind for a PR retainer, and make sure this fits within your agency’s minimum.
Before jumping on a call, do your due diligence.
Aside from budget and making sure the potential prospect can afford your agency’s minimum requirements for a monthly retainer, research what you can about the company and make sure there are no red flags. This is an important step, as you’ll want to know whether the potential client has any skeletons in the closet or bad press in the past that could make it difficult to improve their brand reputation. It’s ultimately up to the agency if they are willing to take on a client with a checkered past, but if it’s not a challenge you’re up to, then make sure you know what is out there before allotting any more time or resources into a call or proposal.
Every step of the way, it’s important to return to that first tip: make sure the company aligns with your brand. Better yet, make sure it’s a client that could seamlessly integrate with the way your team operates. It’s critical that once you’ve identified and vetted new biz leads that are the right fit for you, that you know they are just as invested in the partnership as you are. That commitment will make it the best working relationship possible for both parties.