Make Business Development a PriorityBack in the day, business development was part of every person’s job at the global PR firm.

I remember how hard Ron Arp would work with all of us young ‘uns, trying to teach us how to network so we could meet our goals.

At the ripe old age of 27, I didn’t think I knew anyone who had millions of dollars to hire a PR firm.

I was wrong.

A friend had become the president of The Catfish Institute and suddenly I did know someone who not only had the kind of PR budget, but was looking for a firm.

And so began the joy I felt, every time I landed a new client.

Referrals are a PR Pro’s Main Source of Income

At some point in all of our careers, we’ve had to sell.

Though we hate to sell and we don’t like to consider ourselves salespersons, we sell.

We sell ideas to journalists, results to executives or clients, and programs to prospects.

Rather than call it sales, we call it business development, to make ourselves feel better about the selling we have to do.

But, when it comes down to it, we are selling.

And selling is the only way we can grow our departments, get results, or build our businesses.

In the 2017 State of the Independent PR Pro Industry Report, we found on the whole, respondents have a short business sales cycle, with 72 percent closing a deal in less than 90 days.

This is likely due to the bulk of those surveyed having noted word-of-mouth as their primary business development tool.

While word-of-mouth has the benefit of being quick to close, several respondents noted that its spontaneous nature can lead to a “feast or famine” situation.

Relying on Referrals Causes a Slow Death

And, yet, the majority of PR professionals rely on word-of-mouth and referrals to grow our departments, get results, or build our businesses.

We say we don’t have time to focus on it…and so we don’t.

I love what John Lonsdorf, the president of R&J Strategic Communications, has to say about the necessity of proactive business development:

My wife sometimes asks me something along the lines of, ‘Are you really going after a new account? Aren’t you busy and making money?.

The answer is, in our business, the average life expectancy of an account with an agency is roughly two or three years (there are lots of factors that go into this, including some that are beyond our control).

If we aren’t constantly and consistently putting ourselves in front of businesses, organizations, and people who could benefit from our expertise and services, we risk falling behind on attrition alone. Moreover, as we change and grow as an agency, adding capabilities and different areas of specialized expertise, we want to be working with the best, most advanced, and forward-looking companies.

Referrals are great—and we get our share. But if your plan is to sit and wait for referrals, you are likely dying a slow death.

Although many PR professionals have enough work through referrals to keep them busy, 42 percent of respondents cited a lack of time as their biggest business development challenge.

Business Development Must Become a Priority

This is not good!

It’s hard enough to keep a business alive, year after year.

It gets even more difficult when you add payroll and benefits and all the extra expenses that come with growth.

The idea that you’re going to keep afloat by referrals alone, you realize, is a little insane.

But no one understands more than I do that you don’t have time.

Heck, this morning alone, my alarm went off at 5:00 and I laid there for 30 minutes, thinking, “Get up and write your blog post.”

Over and over and over again.

I finally did, but it’s chilly in our house (I turned the heat off), and I’d much rather get snuggled back up under the blankets and go back to sleep.

But blogging is part of our business development process (not to mention, you all expect it now), and I’ve not only made time for it, I’ve made it a priority.

That said, it’s not easy.

The Content Secret to Closing More Clients

Next week, we are hosting a five-day, free bootcamp on how to close more clients with content.

I am going to teach you how to create a business development plan that generates inbound leads, closes more clients, and makes you more money.

You are going to learn how to make the time for business development.

When we redo our survey next year, I expect that less than 42 percent of you will say you don’t have time for proactive business development.

Lots less than 42 percent of you.

Because, after you spend one hour with me every day next week, you will not only know how to build a proactive business development program, it will become a priority.

You will be excited to get started because you’ll also recall the joy you have when you land a new client.

And you’ll be hungry to feel that pretty consistently.

And it’s not just for those of you who run PR firms.

If you want to add resources to your internal PR department or need to get better results for your communications programs, you should join us.

If there is anything you want us to be sure to cover, or if you have specific business development questions, the comments are yours.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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