Why the brand identity business needs to re-evaluate its approach.

Declining income, conflicted managers and demoralised staff. If you’re in the brand identity business, it may be time to re-evaluate your business development strategy. 

Recently, whilst out-and-about in the branding community, conducting what I now refer to as the rounds, I noticed a worrying vacuum or, in the wider context of things, an opportunity well worth exploiting. 

It is undeniably tough out there – clearly illustrated by frugal cost-cutting, unpaid leave, head-count freezing and many other cautious, overhead reducing activities. However, I am amazed at how so many senior managers are undervaluing the importance and holistic benefits of a clear marketing and business development strategy. 

On mass, agencies already on the verge of collapse, or at least significant retrenchment, have issued rather ill-conceived yet ballsy recruitment briefs — commanding resumes from candidates who can almost guarantee success. The common theme: a rolodex of, and I quote, 'low hanging fruit'.

In return they offer little more than the most basic package, unrealistic bonus structures, and very little, if any, long-term security. For those not recruiting, impulsive reactions to economic challenges, will see fallback and reliance on poorly maintained Excel contact lists, and assigning the task of cold-calling to reluctant, if not tele-phobic, staff. 

How then can consultancies expect to grow, during a time when salaries are cut, morale is at an all time low and unpaid leave is encouraged? The answer, I suggest: agency leaders themselves need to start 'thinking outside of the box'. 

Senior partners and managing directors: regardless of the current economic situation, if the process of business development is not introduced and encouraged throughout the structure of your business, and its importance promoted through every role featured on your organogram, you really will only have yourselves to blame when you are forced to reduce overheads further. Accountability cannot be outsourced. 

Developing new business is itself just one component, a single step within a wider business development model – a model that includes effective account management, consultative farming and creative direction. Business development should sit at the core of every function, and for it to be implemented successfully, the firm’s leaders need to recognise and promote its importance from the outset. 

It can help to go back to grassroots. Find out what is it that motivates account managers and creatives, and take time to define the opportunities that your strategists and planners are dreaming of. 

Surely, the thrill of working on an exciting brief, or pitching for meaningful and sustainable business is a good starting point. By encouraging and endorsing ‘new’ business development in this way you will unlock potential – be it personal ambition and a chance to shine, newly revealed relationships, other hidden assets or a surprisingly innovative solution. 

Developing new business should not be a lonely, sit-in-the-corner-and-pick-up-the-phone job. In much the same way that as consultants we help clients to positively penetrate the hearts and minds of their employees, agency leaders should encourage, promote and incentivise in-house the function of identifying and nurturing relationships. 

Whether you employ a senior professional, or choose to take it upon yourself, you should treat business development as a well-oiled and well-maintained management tool. Business development should sit comfortably within every employee’s remit – especially in those of your most senior team. Never forgetting: people buy people!