How to combine being billable and new business – uh, billabiz?!

Hey there! Yours truly here, writing from one of my favorite my places our tax dollars are paying for  – the public library. (An excellent resource for ad agency new business development intelligence, by the way.) You are being spared the long, boring story as to why I’m here. It’s enough to shoehorn in another post!

Anywho, I was thinking a bit more about more about case studies and unusual ways to use them. A couple came to mind, one of which is available for the teeming masses that are kind enough to read a few hundred or so words today.

It’s particularly interesting if you find yourself having to work on prospecting and closing in addition to your day-to-day job of being billable. Heck, it might even be something to think about if you’re a new business pro looking for ways to be extra valuable to your agency (read: avoid getting canned.) Then again, maybe you’re just looking for a new or different way to approach someone…

Here it is: use a need for a case study to build your relationship with an ad agency new business prospect.

Just what does that mean?

Let’s take a lesson from the strategy houses and business book publishing business. These are two industries that use business case studies in other ways beyond demonstrating expertise. They use it to sell an idea. You can do the same, showing a client how a strategy or execution could work by pointing to a case study. When you use a business case this way, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your work, does it?

And, you can use this idea in new business, too.  Similar to writing a book, asking a question could be an interesting way to break through the dozens of voicemails of voicemails your favorite prospect CMO or VP of Marketing might receive on a given day.

One potential issue to overcome is confidentiality. After all, you can’t go about spilling your client’s secrets. Nor, can you expect a prospect to go about blabbing.

Here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Pick non-competing brands (both yours and your prospect). This should go without saying. But there will always be some point of relevance. Both brands target the same consumer, or were trying to solve a similar problem….
  • Talk past tense. Consider talking about a prospect brand’s past (“three years ago, when you broke that campaign, did you….”). Or reference a publicly available trade press story or a release.
  • Keep the talk at the 30,000-foot level. You and the prospect are having a private conversation. You want to ensure no real secrets are being revealed and that you aren’t putting anyone at risk.  So, no need to delve into too many details. In fact…
  • Be transparent. Go ahead and mention you want to keep things confidential. This will help keep both parties sensitive to the issue.

Why might something like this work? Well, it leverages the insight that people love to talk about themselves. It’s also very flattering to get a call like this, and some marketers might like a chance to crow a bit. Finally, it gives someone a chance to be of some help without really going out of his or her way.

Have you every tried something like this? If you have, let’s hear about it! If not, but see a challenge, let’s hear about that, too.