Lead Generation / New Business Development for design agency

Following on from the discussion on ‘who does your sales’, I’m really interested in finding out about methods of generating leads and new business. What are other Core77 members experience of this?

In the small consultancy I work for, part of my remit as a senior member of the design team is to bring in new clients. So far I have succeeded in winning work through a previous employer for a large engineering company. I have attended trade shows and connected with lots of people in various companies we would like to get business in. Is the best approach once you have a connection to simply call them up occasionally to see if they need design support? Is cold calling a successful approach to winning business? I imagine this is a numbers game, whereby you need to contact a number of people before you get a warm lead. What other methods are applicable?

Also, it would be interesting to hear others thoughts on digital marketing strategy. How effective should a consultancy’s website / social media be at attracting new business inquiries? Should the website be seen as a key tool to attract new work, or more of a placeholder with which to direct a connection once the initial contact has been made?

In order of greatest return on effort.

  1. Retaining current clients. Don’t let them jump ship.

  2. Networking through current clients. Nothing better than getting a recommendation from a colleague. Works best with larger businesses with multiple business units.

  3. Referrals from “partners”. I knew a lot of folks in ad agencies. They didn’t do product development.

  4. Networking at trade shows. Not the greatest hit rate, maybe a 5-10% conversion, but not bad either. And trade shows are a great time to retain your current clients. Two birds.

I didn’t do anything else. Occasionally I would get a random hit off of the website, but every time is was a local inventor with a “million-dollar idea” looking for a partner. ew

Thanks for the great reply.

It seems networking (through the various avenues you mentioned) is the most effective way to find the next project.

Trade shows always seem a like searching for a needle in a haystack, particularly if you aren’t already operating in their industry and have minimal relevant experience to leverage in those early discussions. I guess you just have to convince the client that you’re creative/talented enough to make a difference.

Interesting to hear that experience of ‘success’ through your website. We discuss our web marketing strategy internally, but I wonder how much difference it truly makes at the selling end of the process.

Some larger consultancies employ a new business development exec to generate leads. What size agency would require someone like this? I’d imagine this would be quite costly, and require someone pretty specialist to sell a service with intangible benefits.

In my experience when a firm hits about 15-20 that’s when the roi of an account exec starts to make sense.

In my experience:

  • Be aware of the spectrum of people and businesses around you, it will help you develop the right connections
  • A tradeshow always feels like a physical instance of a website to me - only sporadically I have made any true connections there
    An advice is to show people that you want to work with them. At tradeshows, have pens and markers ready, participate in events where possible, do small workshops and demonstrations even if they are extremely simple.
  • Participating in design contests and exhibitions, even if only partially related to your work, can be very fruitful in establishing connections and generating new business. See if you can talk to the organizers, they usually are the ones who know many people, including those high up in the organizations.
  • Design a clever business card or give-away item, and spread them where you can.
  • Let your contacts know you are there. Send New year’s wishes, newsletters, and sometimes just call a contact to ask for information or advice about something.