Agency Business Development

Episode 43: Agency Business Development, with Susan Baier

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Agency business development insights from marketing strategist, Susan Baier. Learn how to standout through agency business development.

A marketing strategist for over 30 years, Susan Baier founded Audience Audit in 2009 to help organizations understand their best audiences based on attitudes and needs rather than just demographics or purchase behavior. She develops custom segmentation research for marketers and agencies around the world, supporting their efforts to create marketing initiatives that are more relevant, more efficient, and more impactful.

The strategies Susan uses on agency business development have helped clients achieve their goals. This is the reason why Audience Audit became a staple in the industry and why she’s being sought out by new prospects.

Susan and her Audience Audit team have been conducting “The Agency Edge”, an annual segmentation study of agency clients, alongside Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute since 2014.

Susan and team are also our research partners here at Predictive ROI when we step into the field to conduct our annual research.


What you will learn about in this episode of agency business development:

  • How the attitudinal segments of Audience Audit’s research are defined
  • The 3 goals Susan and her team had in mind when they decided to conduct their latest research study
  • Why agency business development became so popular with many organizations
  • What Susan and Audience Audit’s research results show about how agencies are prioritizing their marketing efforts
  • How an agency’s reputation and thought leadership play a role in business development
  • The importance of defining a clear niche
  • What differentiates an agency from its competitors in the eyes of a right-fit client


Additional Resources:


Agency Business Development: Full Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI. And my team and I, we created this podcast specifically for you. So if you’re an agency owner, a business coach, or a strategic consultant looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality, then you’re in the right place.


Do you want proven strategies for attracting a steady stream of well-prepared, right fit prospects into your sales pipeline? Yep. We’re going to cover that. You want to learn how to step away from the sea of competitors so you actually stand out on the ground you’re standing on? Yeah, we’re going to cover that too. Do you want to future-proof your business so you can navigate the next challenges that come your way?


Agency business development for your new agency? Absolutely will help you there as well. I promise you, each episode of this podcast will contain valuable insights and tangible examples of best practices. Never theory. From thought leaders, experts, owners who are doing exactly what you’re working hard to do. So I want you to think practical and tactical. Never any fluff. Each of our guests have built a position of authority and then monetized that position by claiming their ground, by growing their audience, by nurturing leads, and yes, by converting sales.


All the while they did it by being helpful. So, every time someone from their audience turned around there, they were given a helpful answer to an important question. So their prospects never, ever felt like they were a prospect. I also promise you every strategy we discuss every tool we recommend will be shared in full transparency in each episode so you can plant your flag of authority, so you can claim your ground and fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of right fit clients who never, ever, ever were made to feel like one of your prospects.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Susan Baier’s Introduction


Okay, so I am super excited for you to meet our very special guest expert today, Susan Baier, in case you’re meeting Susan for the first time. She’s the founder of Audience Audit. She’s been a frequent podcast guest of mine over the years. And you may have crossed paths with Susan during one of our open Mike Q&A as or one of our intensives.


Susan and her Audience Audit team have been conducting the Agency Edge, which is an annual segmentation study of agency clients alongside Drew Maclellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute. They’ve been doing that study together since 2014, so pretty close to a decade. Susan and the team are also our research partners here at Predictive ROI. So when we step into the field to conduct our annual research, we do that alongside Susan and the team and we’re getting ready to launch our third study with Susan’s help.


So I invited Susan back for this encore so we could talk through the results of her latest research study, the Agency Audit, which was designed to explore the attitudes, the challenges and the goals of marketing agencies and leaders. So the purpose was to share helpful insights with owners just like you and me, regarding how economic and other conditions affect our competitors and how other owners are tackling those challenges that face agencies every single day.


So, Susan and her very impressive coalition of research partners gathered 343 responses from owners and leaders of small to midsize agencies, just like your agency. Just like my agency. So the study explored a range of topics and questions, and we’re going to peel back the layers on some of those during this encore and some of those are going to include what Susan and her team learned about how agencies are prioritizing their marketing efforts, how an agency’s reputation and thought leadership plays a role in their business development, and the importance of establishing a clear niche.


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Agency Business Development: The Humble Beginnings of Susan’s Research Agency


So Susan and her team had three goals in mind when they decided to head down the path of this study, because taking on a study that is a big boulder pushing up a hill. So first, they wanted to better understand the extent to which challenges are associated with these topics. The ones that I just mentioned, are affecting the agency’s overall awesomeness.


Second, they wanted to understand whether some agencies were more or less likely to struggle than others. Amazing. And third, Susan and her team wanted to understand how agencies struggle less with those challenges. Why? How were they able to conquer those? I promise you, the insights and wisdom Susan shares will provide you and your team with what you need to strengthen your authority position and roar into 2023.


Okay, so without further ado, welcome back to the Sell with Authority podcast, my friend Susan. Thank you, Steve. And what a privilege it is to be back on the podcast. How great it was to talk with you about this. my gosh, a privilege. Honor is mine to have you here in our midst once again, because you always so generously share your smarts, which I am grateful for.


So before we dive in with the barrage of questions, I’ll be sending your way to take us behind the curtain. For anyone who doesn’t know you yet, give us some context and a couple of minutes about your path and journey, and then we’ll dive into the study. Sure. Well, as you said, you know, I own Audience Audit, which is a research agency.


I’m actually a marketing strategist. I’ve been doing that for a frightening number of years now. I think it’s like almost 40 years. I’ve been doing that in agencies as well as in big corporate environments and big brands. I started Audience Audit about 13, or 14 years ago, I think in 2009 now. So I know it’s actually well. We might actually be in four days.


It’ll be 14 days, 14 years, which is crazy to think about. So yeah, and I’ve always done research along with it and I really started the agency because I just felt very strongly that there’s better information to help marketers make decisions about how to reach and resonate with their audiences. You know, so many of us are used to seeing research that has demographics.


We’re looking at age or we’re looking at income and we’re looking at what kind of a car you drive. And then we just have to sort of guess at what that means for what a buyer’s motivation may be. And that’s just frankly, not a very good way to move forward, you know. So we built the agency to help marketers with real data about the attitudes that are affecting people’s choices.


And it’s so fascinating. Every study we do is different and it’s just like a box of chocolates. I love seeing what the attitudes are within an audience in different groups and then watching how their answers to other questions tell us how those attitudes are having an impact on the things they’re worried about, the things they’re looking for, help on, how they are sort of moving forward With respect to challenges, it’s really interesting.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Organize A Statistical Analysis Study


Yeah, I love this because you really get to the why people are making decisions which is a good segue way into where I was hoping that we could start a conversation because you mentioned attitudes, and I know that each of your studies is one of the really cool, insightful things, like when we do a study together, we see the attitudinal segments.


I’m getting so much better at pronouncing that word. Yes, so. So take us through the attitudinal segments of agency audit. Okay, great. So the way we do this is we put a bunch of statements in front of people and they have to rate whether they agree with it, totally disagree with it totally, or something in between.


And then that all goes into a statistical analysis. And what falls out is segments. We never know how many we’re going to get or what’s going to define them that really separate various people in an audience. So as you said, we talked to almost 350 agency owners and leaders for the study, thanks to our partners who are able to get invitations out to folks we wanted to hear from.


And we found five very different attitudinal segments. Even though all of these people are leading a small team inside our advertising agency, marketing agency, PR, whatever, they’re really, really different. So practically speaking, they fleshed out to about 20%. Each one seemed a little smaller than the others, but generally, you can think about sort of five relatively equal sized segments in this audience, which is that we’ve got good statistical viability because of the number of respondents we have.


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Agency Business Development: Weathering Through the Challenges That Agencies Face


So this is really what’s happening out there. And it will be curious, I think, to hear feedback from your audience as I go through these and see what they think about the segments and if they recognize them because you and I sure did when we went through that. 100%. So before you go into each one of them, there’s five in and so almost an even distribution, is that typical that there’s an even you know it’s a no.


Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Okay. So it’s just the way the numbers are. It’s just the way the numbers flesh out. So, okay, so let’s talk about the segments. So the first segment is a group that I call thought leaders. And these are folks who really recognize the value of having an expert reputation.


It’s helping them with their agency business development, and they prioritize the workaround so they know that this is something that is really helping them be successful. And they are using that to continue building the agency. Now, one of the defining characteristics of this group is that 90% of these folks strongly agree that their agency has a strong and unique niche positioning that is setting them apart from competitors, and they are using that defined niche in their marketing.


So not only do they have one that’s very clear and very differentiating, but they’re actually talking about it to the outside world and to their prospects. What we see in the study is the impact that that is having on their ability to weather some of the challenges that are really hitting agencies hard. And then a lot of agencies in our study are really having trouble because they’re just a little more insulated from some of these challenges.


And I know we’ll talk about that a little bit. Okay. So that’s number one. Number two is a group called Staffing Strugglers. And this group is almost completely defined by challenges with their employee base. They’re having trouble keeping people. They’re having trouble finding people. They’re having trouble affording people. And it’s really seriously affecting their business.


So, for example, these folks are looking at staffing options they haven’t even thought of before. Maybe we should, you know, partner with another agency that has people who can help us work, you know, get out, and get the work done. They are really struggling, and they don’t feel very good about things getting better in the future. They’re really worried that all of this is impeding their ability to take on new clients, you know, upsell existing clients and get more work in the shop that just doesn’t have the people to do the job.


Wow. Yeah, it’s really tough. Okay, so group three is Change Seekers, and this is one of the groups. This is the least optimistic group of them all. Okay. These folks think that the market for agency services has changed dramatically and that their agency really needs to make big changes if they’re going to make it right.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Don’t Be Hesitant When Conducting Sales to Prospects


So the kinds of things they’re having trouble with that they’ll tell you about is, you know, they struggle to sell strategic services. They don’t think clients appreciate or value strategic services. They don’t think their clients really understand how much work is being done for them. They say it’s harder to find new clients. They say their current clients are more likely to be at risk and consider moving someplace else.


So they think that there’s been a sea change in their industry and their agency is not well positioned given that change. Okay, a quick neophyte question here, and maybe you’ll tell me hang on a second, Stephen. I will come back to that. But so is that perception or reality for the change seekers, like they’re thinking about all that stuff, right? Is that sort of very pessimistic mindset actually or just how they feel?


Well, this is based on how they feel. Look what they say. This is based on their attitudes. But I will tell you that some of their attitudes are making it very difficult for them to fix the problem. It seems like it. Okay. Yes, exactly. So, for example, if you think that clients won’t buy strategy, you stop selling strategy, Right?


Or if you do, it’s in a very hesitant way. And then when they don’t buy it, you’re like, well, see, I knew they wouldn’t buy it anyway. Right. And we know that clients like strategy, so they just have a perception that other agencies don’t share. But unfortunately, that perception is really impeding their ability to be more successful.


Okay, that’s helpful. Thank you. Yeah, you bet. The next group I love is this group because we call them the cobbler’s kids. First of all, let me say that probably every agency leader out there will recognize their agency in this group to some extent. Right. Yep. But there is a defined group that says marketing their agency always comes last.


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Agency Business Development: Creating A Unique Approach for Each Client


It’s always a lower priority than client work. 71% strongly agree that when they do try to market their agency, it’s haphazard. Wow. Even when they try to do it, they can’t do it consistently. They admit that they are not working on thought leadership. Like, this is just something they know they should do, and they are not doing it.


And when they are doing it, they’re not doing it well and they’re not doing it consistently. So, you know, we’re all in this place where we try really hard to walk the talk that we are advising clients to do. Yeah, and everybody struggles with that to some extent. You and I have had that conversation about our agencies, but these folks are really having a tough time with it and it’s just not on their radar and it’s not getting done.


Well, this is fascinating here. When you said 71%, obviously, that’s a really big number. And I immediately thought of the workshop that Drew and I, Drew McClellan, that he and I are teaching next week. And we start off that workshop or workshop excuse me, as you well know because you’ve been there with the six positive cases of death.


And one of the six is that we’re consistently inconsistent. Agencies are consistently inconsistent with their own best efforts, their own content, their own thought leadership, all of that stuff. So when I see this 71%, I’m like, holy bananas, right? They’re consistently inconsistent, right? Yeah. Lots of folks in the survey cited this as a challenge, but this is a defining issue for this group.


And they know it. You know they know it. And then the last group is a group that I named Loyalty Builders because their attitudes are around client retention. They say they have a very good understanding and they invest a lot of work in understanding what puts clients at risk of leaving. And then they go to great lengths to avoid those issues.


Right? So, for example, one of the things that they will say is that their agency business development strategy has a strong program for keeping clients loyal. It’s not haphazard. It’s not like, hey, I think we might be in trouble with this guy. Let’s talk to him. They actually have built an operational staff to keep clients loyal, and they are far more likely to say that clients do stay loyal.


They have not lost clients at the rate that other agencies in the survey have done. As we’ll discuss, a lot of their activity is around reporting—not just what’s been done, like the results of their actions, but how much work is going into a client’s account and how much work is being done on a client’s behalf.


That was really interesting, too. That is really interesting. Okay, So, so let’s start then. Okay. Let me actually go back to it because I hope I hopefully I did not sound negative or anti-change seeker when talking about mindset and so forth, but I do find it interesting, intellectually interesting that there’s essentially the in my opinion, maybe you’ll disagree sort of the psychological opposite of the change seekers in the loyalty builders.


Right. Like because with intentionality, they’re operating using your words operations, operating their business from a very positive mindset with intentionality to keep clients. Yeah, well, very positive attitude. What I would argue is there’s actually two opposites, okay, to the change seekers, because what we see as we look through the data and as you know, the full study is available, people can look at this and you look at the go through the visualization and play with the data and all that kind of stuff.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Helping Agencies Avoid Common Pitfalls in The Industry


What was so powerful about this, that I really didn’t know what we were going to find? I was like, It’s time to start asking agencies about what they’re having trouble with and seeing if owners can provide on an anonymous basis some insights that might help folks who are having more trouble. But I didn’t really know. I think I figured staffing was going to be a problem or whatever.


Yeah, but the fascinating thing to me about the study is that the first group, the thought leaders and the SEC, and the fifth group, the loyalty builders, are far less likely to have any of the problems in the study. Any agents experiencing. And I have my own opinions as to why that may be. However, one of the things we see in both of those groups is consistency.


The thought leaders are doing it consistently with their marketing and their thought leadership based on their, you know, marketing, based on their thought leadership and the loyalty builders are doing it consistently with client retention. And by the way, loyalty builders are also very likely to be thought leaders. They’re not as likely to have a niche, which I find interesting to say they have a niche, but they also say that they are considered thought leaders, and that’s one of the reasons people stay with them.


So we just have this interesting dynamic of a lot of problems, and certainly, the middle three segments are really having a tough time with quite a few of them. And then these two in the end who are doing something consistently and have built a reputation for themselves, are less likely to have trouble with everything. Selling strategy to clients, keeping employees, finding employees they’re less worried about affording employees.


They just don’t have their clients leaving. They get more clients. Their pipeline is full. Like there’s just some really interesting things going on in those two segments that the other segments, I think, would be really happy to know about, to see if they can maybe, you know, protect themselves a little bit.


I mean, I call this building the unbeatable agency study, because I think there are really some clues in here to help agencies avoid having such a huge impact from some of the things that tend to come at agencies all the time. Okay. So a couple of following questions to that. Is it just by coincidence? Is there any reason why they’re so when I think of like standard distribution, like a bell-shaped curve, and I think on the left side, the right side of the median talk about, you know, either standard distributions, excuse me, standard deviations away from the mean, I think of, okay, the number one in the number five position this distribution is, even so, there isn’t really a bell curve to that. Those are the numbers we assigned them. So, can we glean anything from numbers one and five? Is there any significance to that at all? And not at all. Okay. So that’s just completely random. That’s when the segments came out.


We were like one, two, three, four or five based on the order. We see that number. And then it just yeah, I find it fascinating that it is one in five, and in the middle is the middle. So then you said you have your own opinions as to why, and then you shared some, some not necessarily data points but some findings out of the blue.

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Agency Business Development: Thought Leadership Can Make Your Agency More Resilient


So I want to go back to how you started that when you said I have some of my own opinions as to why. We’d love to know your opinions. Well, so, you know, we do a lot of work around thought leadership. We do a lot of research into thought leadership together. Yeah, the two of us and I work with a lot of agencies, and to me it’s clear that this thought leadership niche thing isn’t just a correlation, it’s a causality.


So when we look at this data, what I can say from the data in this study is that loyalty builders and thought leaders are more likely to be thought leaders, to have a thought leadership initiative to say that they are prioritizing thought leadership. Right. And in particular the thought leaders also say they have a really tight defined niche and they talk about that niche in their marketing.


Okay. Now, this study doesn’t say that because of that, they’re struggling less. Okay. We don’t have a direct correlation that says this because we don’t have causality, okay, But all the other work that we do together, the other research that we do together, the many conversations we have with clients, I know there is causality.


You and I have both experienced it in our own businesses, of course, as to how thought leadership has made us more resilient when other agencies are really struggling. It’s made business development easier. It’s built our clients trust in us. It gives us exposure to ideal prospects like all of these things we talk about all the time. So I want to be very careful in saying this.


This is the data in the survey itself. Does it tell us what causes what? But I’ve seen enough on this topic that it is absolutely clear that there is no random correlation, that success and resilience can be the result of a disciplined, active thought leadership program against ideal prospects with a carefully defined niche. It’s an interesting hypothesis, but it’s.


But I get the fact that you and I share the same bias. My bias is what is moving me past the nose. Stephen It’s not a hypothesis as fact. I get it that that’s my bias taking hold here. But now I’m going to justify my bias because all of the anecdotal evidence points back to that, so how would we test that hypothesis so that you have what you feel like is unbiased data that says, yes, that is actually true?


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Testing Out Thought Leadership on Different Clients


We’d get a control group of agencies that were very similar, none of whom were doing anything with respect to niche or thought leadership, and we would take one group of those and leave them where they are and say, No thought leadership, you can’t change anything. And tell the other group, Let’s work on your thought leadership. Go, go, go and track them.


Over time, they’d be fine and see the correlation and see the influence of the single change they are making versus the control group. The problem is, practically speaking, that’s an impossible study to do because of the period of time. Because to to really understand that it’s causing this effect, that they could not change a single thing other than that there could be no economic indicators that, you know like they couldn’t basically both groups would have to be subject to exactly the same external circumstances.


I see. Right. And they couldn’t do anything else that was new. That group that we wanted to test thought leadership, they couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t change anything else to know that there was only one thing that could be responsible for whatever effect we see ten years later to study is not going to happen now. Now I see why.


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Agency Business Development: Prove Something to Your Client Through Research 


Okay, before we step into some of the things that you gleaned regarding differentiation, before we step into there, I want to loop back to something that you said that I’ve learned from you that I thought was really, really smart a few years ago. When you’re teaching me some of this foundational stuff, you talked about how when you step into research, you don’t know what you’re going to find.


Right? And there have been times where, like clients have said to you, well, I want to test this, and you know it, and you’ve helped them see that. I mean, we can search to find and learn other things and that kind of stuff or whatever, but we’re not going to steer the study right because we want that as an outcome.


Right. So you talk a little bit about that. Yeah. The worst thing a client can ask me is what we want, and I will sometimes have prospects say this: well, we want a valid date X, Y, and I’m like, okay, but you need to understand that the job, my job is not to prove to you, right? Right. My job is actually to try to prove you wrong.


That’s how research works, right? You try. I’m going to try to give our respondents every opportunity to poke holes in what they believe to be true. Because then, if it still turns out to be true, we know it’s true. If you’re trying to prove it to be true and you’re not giving people the opportunity because of the bias you’re putting into the survey and the kinds of questions you’re asking, you’re not going to; you’re not giving them the opportunity to say, nope, that’s not right.


Right. And then, of course, it’s going to be true, but you don’t know whether it really is. So, you know, for our client studies, but also for my study, for the studies we do for ourselves, it’s really important to me that we go in. You can’t completely eliminate bias, but you could do a pretty good job of if you know it, if you see it, you could do a pretty good job of removing it and putting in opportunities for people to tell, you know, the people to tell you that you’re wrong in our work because we do it for agencies, for their thought leadership.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: A Study on The Impact of Businesspeople Who Follow Thought Leaders


When we do a kickoff, the first conversation we have with regards to agency business development is to tell us what your philosophy is, tell us what your point of view is and the strongest words you can like. Think about what you would see and you would go, Nope, that they’re doing it wrong. You’re getting bad advice. That’s a big mistake because then an agency can tell me what they believe to be true and how they advise their clients.


Then, we can build their research to test their point of view with these respondents, not prove it. But I think that is so smart. And that was a big one again. Like when you taught me that lesson seven years ago, I’m like, that makes perfect sense. And I know that like Hannah, who you know very well, like you’re on our team, who’s our mad scientist and strategist, you and her are like, from the same research cloth.


You share those principles, exactly, which is so fun to watch. You guys work together, but it is fun. Yeah, I love working with Hannah. She’s great. Yeah, she has a great title to the Mad Scientist title. I wish I had something like that. I guess I could. I am on my own. You know, you’re the boss.


Applesauce. You can do whatever you want, you know? And now I’d feel like I was, like, stealing her brilliant idea, so I can’t come up with something else she might be anyway. Okay, so let’s talk about differentiation. What did you glean out of this study with respect to differentiation in how like in agencies, ideal prospects sees the agency?


Because I know that was a piece that you guys studied. Yeah, You mean sort of like that. You’re obviously different from your competitors. Yeah. So it’s a couple of things and it builds in. Part of what we saw in your study when we went to I think you mean our study. Yeah, the study we did together, when we talked to business people who follow thought leaders as part of what they do, we documented the impact that they say thought leadership has on their choices.


You know, far more likely to check a provider out if they’ve got a thought leadership reputation, far more likely to hire a provider, far more likely to refer to a provider. You know, so there are things we know from other studies that when you do this kind of work, it has an impact, you know, on the agency. And I think, you know, we have folks in the study that basically say there’s no differentiation.


The cobbler’s kids are like, you know, our top competitors, everybody’s doing the same thing. And so clients are usually basically picking somebody who’s close by or that they liked or somebody who maybe has some direct experience, you know, in their industry. But everybody’s doing the same work. And, you know, even the change seekers, one of the change seekers was like, there’s 60,000 plus agencies in the U.S. There’s no client loyalty anymore.


Every client is just trying to find a shop that’s going to do something a little bit better than their last job, right? So I think that there’s so many things in this survey that point to a lack of understanding about either the power of differentiation or a lack of faith in their ability to do it.


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Agency Business Development: Know The Common Challenges Amongst Agency Owners


So okay, what does that tell you? Well, it tells me that people need to learn a little bit more about niche and thought leadership because, man, it’s such a powerful way to differentiate. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the results of this and looked at the segments that resulted from purely mathematical analysis.


Like when we put these statements into analysis, the analyst doesn’t even know what the statement is. It just has a number. so there’s yeah, so they’re not like, this should probably go with that. They don’t even know what the statements are. They’re just a number, right? So when it comes out like this and I look at these statements and I go, well, this is fascinating.


These two segments are consistently less likely to struggle with anything that we asked about in the survey. And we asked about a huge range of challenges because the part of the point, as you said of the survey, was to understand what are the challenges that are really prevalent for agency owners right now. And man, there’s a long list of things that could be right.


So we threw a whole bunch of spaghetti at the wall and saw what stuck. It was fascinating to me that consistently these two segments did not have challenges to the same extent that other folks did. And you’re talking about thought leaders and loyalty builders. Right. So I’m like, that’s interesting. And as we start to dig into not just their attitudes but also the activities that they say they’re doing, and, you know, it became really clear that there was this commonality between them of a reputation that for the thought leaders is continuing to bring in right-fit clients for them is allowing them to charge more you know those kinds of things and for the loyalty builders is keeping their clients loyal to them at a far greater rate than we see elsewhere. And that was like, you know, for me it’s just more evidence that having a thought leadership initiative as part of your agency business development sure isn’t going to hurt. Yeah. And so when I hear you see this commonality in the reputation, again, I acknowledge that I put that through my bias filter of authority, and I get it that it can mean other things.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Find Ways to Demonstrate Your Authority


So I would love to hear your perspective, like in addition to someone building, like investing and building their authority position. Yeah. What else strengthens that? What else strengthens the authority position? Know that this reputation piece, this commonality piece, the reputation so I think that there’s a few like there’s a variety of ways to demonstrate your authority.


And one of the things we saw in your study was two-thirds of people who follow someone that’s a thought leader or an expert or something, whatever that person wants to call it, basically think that it’s thought leadership is B.S. Two-thirds of folks say, you know what? There are a lot of people out there who are basically just talking heads.


They like to talk. They are doing it for ego. They’re trying to sell you something. It’s really not thought leadership. Two-thirds, of the folks who are following thought leaders say that that is true and we’ve all experienced it. If you’ve been to any conference, you’ve been to a draw, a workshop or something, and you’re like, I gotta get out of the room because it’s just a big pitch from somebody who really likes themselves right now.


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Agency Business Development: Don’t Just Be Helpful, Prove Yourself


So, we learned in your study what they want. They want something new. They want something helpful, both practically, tactically, and strategically. We specifically asked about that, and they want it from somebody who seems approachable, normal, and human and not up on a pedestal. You know, it makes me think like that.


It’s too bad we’re all standing up on stages when we’re speaking because the whole I’m up here and I’m awesome and you’re my audience and you don’t know anything. Thing is, it very, you know, resonates with audiences. And there’s a lot of people who sort of have that perspective. So I think that trying to build your thought leadership is good.


The question is how can you build it to provide something that is new and not just thought regurgitation? How can you do it to provide something that is truly helpful, not just something you want to talk about, you know, not just something that you want to sell. I talked to a friend today. You got reached out to by someone on LinkedIn who it seemed like sort of affiliated to serve the same kind of audience and.


She’s like, yeah, let’s have a call. That sounds great. I love the community and I love, you know, knowing other folks that are serving my audience. And this guy got on the call and asked her a bunch of questions about herself, and didn’t tell her anything about himself. And when she did ask a question, his answer was, well, I can only answer that once you’re in my mastermind group.


But then she called me, and she’s like, “This has never happened to me before. Is this weird?” And I’m like, “Yes, it’s weird. And yes, it happens all the time.” Yeah, that feels like a whole lot of not awesome and also pretty slimy. It’s awful, right? So I think, you know, the folks that are really doing the thought leadership that I admire are being generous, are being relentlessly helpful, are really giving a lot of thought to not just what they want to say.


Yeah. But what their audience could use that would be helpful. That would be really new. Amen. And that’s such the perfect litmus test. And what I love about some of the data points, actually most of the data points that you just shared unintentionally, it’s not like we designed our study that you were designed in the study that you were in Predictive or inside it Predictive did together.


Yeah. It’s not like we designed it to align with Edelman’s Trust Barometer. We did not. Right. But it does. And I’m like, my word, they go like this. And what is so funny? This is going to expose sort of my naivete, is that the way you pronounce that? When Drew and I were going back and forth with drafts for the early versions of the manuscript with authority, he mentioned the trust barometer.


I admit I did. I was not familiar with the trust barometer until I read the particular chapter that he cites that I’m like, what’s that? And so I dug into that. And that was about the same time that you were. You were coming out of the field with our study. And I’m like, wait a minute. Drew writes this chapter cites the, you know, an earlier version of the trust barometer.


We’ve got the new version of the trust barometer, and then we’ve got the results from the field. And they all go like this unintentionally. They all go like this. It’s like, wow, Yeah, I know. It’s pretty wild. It’s pretty interesting. And so, you know, to answer your question, just to prove that we didn’t build this to prove ourselves right.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Show How You Approach a Particular Problem


Yeah. One of the things that the loyalty builders, despite their success, say is that they’re much less likely than the thought leaders to say. They have a very clearly defined niche now. And why do you think that is? Well, I think it’s because they aren’t defining a niche. Right. Okay, so what? What? Okay, so that’s a big matzo ball.


What it’s like? What do you mean? Well, a lot of the agencies that we work with that are really smart, that have a broad range of capabilities right. And work for a broad range of clients. Say we don’t have a niche, and it’s because they are thinking about niche as something that they could cram their existing client base, their existing capabilities, and, okay, the existing industries that they work with into a box.


And that’s not what a niche is. It’s not looking at how we say, how do we look at what we have and say it’s a niche. So and, and it stems from the misunderstanding. I think that people always have that niche based on industry. We only work in health care or it’s based on service offerings.


Right? We only build websites and most agencies I know aren’t really built like that. They have a wide range of clients. What is a niche that I think a lot of people fail to think about is what problem do you solve better than anybody else? And for whom? Yup. Do you love to solve that problem?


Because if you define a problem, you’re going to offer a range of services depending on the client. That will all help that particular problem and give you a niche because you have a unique point of view about how to approach this. You can talk about it. You’ve got case studies that show that it works. You’ve got a system, you’ve got a process, you’ve got to whatever that can be a niche.


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Agency Business Development: Know Who Your Niche Is For


So are you hypothesizing that if the loyalty builders had your recipe for a niche the way you just defined it with those four different components or options or ingredients, lovers, whatever you want to call them, that maybe they would change their view on whether they’re niched or not. I’d put money on it really. I really would. So think.


Think about the loyalty builders. They are investing a great deal in reporting to their clients, reporting the success or failure of initiatives consistently well, and reporting the work that is being done for their clients. Okay, now think about the agencies, you know. Yeah, I’ll think about the agencies. I know we both know some who do this and do it brilliantly.


Yep. Is that not differentiating? 100% right. So I think that being like that is a clue that there is a niche there that they believe that work goes a certain way, that watching results is important, that capturing the work that is done is important and that’s a germ of something that’s really differentiating, which is all a niche, is when I hear you talk about the reporting that your question to me, I think I’m literally now thinking I’m like, if you’re looking for a way to step out of the sea of sameness and you did nothing else, right, do that.


What you just described regarding, the reporting and that kind of stuff, and you’ll look like a wizard in front of clients, right? Right. I mean, we know that organizations can define themselves based on their level of transparency, based on, you know, So I think people need to be a little more flexible with how they think about their niche. You do have to find and remember, niche isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s who you’re doing it for.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

Agency Business Development: Workshops Can Bridge People Together


Indeed. And that’s the other thing that probably a lot of these agencies are building loyalty and reputation because they specialize in serving a particular type of audience with a particular type of problem, whatever. So my it’s a supposition, but I would lay money that if you actually had a conversation with a lot of those loyalty builders, you would find that they actually do have a niche.


They just don’t think they do by the sort of commonly held way that they’ve been taught a niche is defined. Okay, I can see we’ll have to do like Encore part two, but you have questions to ask. I mean, one question, your answer begets another question. It’s just it never ends, thankfully. On a personal note, I’ll get to see you next week at Disney during my workshop.


So I get to continue picking your brain, but I’m so excited about your workshop again. This will be my third time going to your workshop, and I’m sure I’ll get something out of it. Is it for, and I get something out of it every single time? I just keep going because I keep learning. So what a great workshop it is.


Well, selfishly, like one of the reasons why I love to teach that workshop alongside Drew is because I learn a ton from the questions, the scenarios, the examples, the challenges, the problems that everybody so willingly shares, and so forth. And it’s so fun to be able to see things like, you know, you jump in with, you know, Jamie’s issue or that person’s issue, or another table says, I can help you with that.


And how about this? Like, I love the collaboration. I mean, am I like you? Well-known, a beautiful, amazing community, Right? And so it’s such a privilege to be able to hang out with really smart owners. And yeah, I learned tons from the people in the room. That’s super smart. So before we go, before we close out and say goodbye to things, I know we just, ah, we’re quickly running out of time, but any final thoughts that you want to share?


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Agency Business Development: How To Connect with Susan Baier


Anything we didn’t tackle on agency business development? Any other data points that you think we might have missed? Any big ones. And then? And then please let everyone know the best way to connect with you. Yeah. So, there is no difference between any of the demographics or agency characteristics in these segments. There’s no difference in size. Isn’t there a difference in how long people have been in the agency business?


There’s no difference in their billings. Wow. Okay. There’s no difference. So yeah, put that in your pipe and smoke it. Well, but that’s a huge point, right? Because it would be easy to say, well, the thought leaders and the loyalty builders, they’re running $15 million agencies, blah, blah, blah. And I have a shop that’s struggling to get to X.


Nope. That of course, is going to be different for them. And most of the agencies in our study are really relatively small. That’s why we focused on small to midsize agencies. So you’re not going to see the big boys in this data. But as far as reaching me, the website’s and we have our resources tab in the menu. There are all sorts of fun stuff in there, including the study, and you can always get me and Susan an audience out at com.


I’m also on LinkedIn and Facebook, so I love talking to agencies all day long. Okay, everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and relisten to Susan’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope that you do, you have to take it and apply it. Take what she’s so generously shared with you today.


Take it and apply it, put it into practice, and when you do, you will accelerate your results in 2023. And Susan, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day, and I am grateful that you chose to share some of your valuable time with us to come back to the show, to be our mentor, to be our guide, to help us move our businesses onward to that next level.


Thank you so much, my friend. It was my pleasure. I will talk to you any time, on any planet.


More about agency business development in Susan Baier’s website

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