Client growth

How to improve your new business efforts easily

A short while ago I hosted my second talk for the Agency Collective, a membership club for agency owners where we all support each other in various ways, and I addressed ‘New Business’ as I’ve spent years of my careers being a hybrid new business and marketing professional.

The members who attended the talk all had burning questions about new business issues they were facing and after having a good think about it, I started off the Q&A session listing some common themes and lessons learned from the creative businesses I’ve worked for and with that have easy fixes!

Here’s what I’ve come up with: 

1 – Don’t make your presentations too long, including too much info about your company and too many case studies. Stick to the point – address the brief and the client/ sector specifically, convey how you will uniquely solve their business issue.

2- Do question the brief as soon as it comes in – always challenge it, explore what they mean, ask for ideal budget, stakeholders, ideal duration of projects, it might be a bigger or smaller scope than it first seems and the more information you can gather, the more accurate your response will be.

3- Make sure you plan enough time to respond to the big pitches, skipping over the detail when they ask for a set amount of pages in portrait, and you’ve 200 landscape pages so it will all need editing!

4- Don’t customising every proposal – keep to a template where possible and always try and up-sell other services as ‘Additional’. Sometimes you’ll need to create a bespoke pitch document of course, but there’s should be set standards and pages you use for a simple fee proposal or pitch document that are your ‘key’ pages that lift the heavy loading when you have to submit something.

5- Keep on top of having your latest case studies in a presentation format, or even photographed or the assets ready.

6- Make sure you prioritise your pitches into tiers if you can – are they Gold, Silver or Bronze, how much time do you need to spend on Gold vs Silver, what parts can be delegated and what can be pulled from previous pitches?

7- Do cap resource for New Business – You need an allocated time for your team to work on New Business with you, not always per month but hours per proposal/ pitch when you’ve read the brief. Or if you do decide to set an amount of time per week or month, it may be utilised one week but not the next but having it ‘allowed for’ means that not all your teams time will be booked out on billable work.

We try our upmost to support and consult with our clients on their new business presentation, we write them, edit them, write up game plans – because it’s simply part of marketing. You’re marketing to your new business prospects, sales just means money comes in afterwards!

Do get in touch with us if you need our expertise with your new business pitches or proposals hello@ uk (remove the spaces!)

Client growth


Listen! Part 5 of six on how to have an amazing content strategy. My last post/article was on measuring so this sensible next step is about taking a view from a wider perspective – your account management team, sales people, even influencers – what have they talked about or remembered that you wrote / posted 6 months ago or more? Those insights are crucial; in my view this ‘listen’ part could be more valuable than the measurements, but I know marketers we do love to measure – it proves ROI, but this is qualitative and this also shows that you value the people who are meeting people on behalf of your business.

Ask every single lead that comes to your business – how did you hear of us? Ask people you interview who mention they liked your website- what stood out?

And you can also take your qualitative research further and pose questions on your social channels in the form of polls or Q&As, or you could incorporate questions or feedback requests into a mailer, even incentivise responses with a good deed or prize.

I think this is a really good part of the six I’m going through and I hope it got you thinking. Do you listen to the whisperings or ask for feedback? Comment below or get in touch to chat more

Client growth

Finding your niche!

Niching for your content and marketing – the third of six pointers in my ‘content strategy’ map (see earlier posts for any missed).

The widely documented topic – create yourself a niche, don’t be everything for everyone, it won’t work. When setting out your business strategy and business goals, you’ll have thought about your product and/or services, your values, your logo and your target clients. In a book I read recently, they justified the reason to niche as thus; if you have a small target market and service all the companies in that sector, you’d be too busy and effectively screwed. I’ve also met some business leaders recently who have two or more niches but they don’t overlap so that can work too just as long as they are kept separate. 

When you niche, your audience will know who you are and what you’re going to speak about and what services your business offer- instinctively and intuitively. You can become known for being a specialist in your field and that is worth a lot. It definitely helps define a marketing and content strategy!

Tips on niching:
– Look at who your customers are
– Think about what problem your business solves and what the heart of your agency is
– Know your niche industry inside out
– Know your niche market’s competitors
– Test your niche market and analyse (you could create a separate website page and direct traffic there for several months and see how it tracks)

One of the biggest benefits of niching is building a strong following who will become your ambassadors and help you draw new opportunities in.

What do you think? Are you niche? Do you want to be more niche but don’t know how? Get in touch

Client growth

Knowing your audience for your content planning

In my earlier article, I said for any content plan you need to know a few key things, one of which is your audience. So how do you ‘know your audience’? I have a lot of thoughts on this but I’ll try to keep it brief. 

Firstly, check your google analytics – how much traffic are you getting, from where, phones or web, what are they typing into google to find you and it’s always worth checking who is linking to you as for your reputation and insight into marketing spend, always good to know who- so check over a big timeframe like a year to be thorough. Gender / Age / Interests – you can do a lot of digging! From the age you’ll be able to appreciate what social platforms your audience are potentially using.

Secondly, who responds / engages with your content?

Third point – if you aren’t making much noise across any marketing channels then there won’t be much to analyse, don’t feel bad, ignore the above two points and just think about your TARGET audience!! Who do you want to be targeting, what do you want them to think and feel about the content you’re putting out and what is the action you want to drive them towards?

Fourth – Test, test, test – Try different approaches, different examples in your copy and posts, find what they’re interested in from you and your business’ content.

How well do you know your audience? Do you know exactly who you’re targeting with your content? Get in touch with any qs

Client growth

How to create your Marketing Goals

We are ideating here at External Marketing about what it means to start your own content plan, inspired by a conversation I’d had recently and so I wanted to go through all the points to offer more insights to help get business owners started. 

The first thing to think about when writing a content or even marketing plan is setting the right goals. Yes, they should be SMART like any goals, we covered this acronym back at uni back in… 2004?! …And it’s still relevant today and probably will be for another x amount of years. 

Here is what marketing goals should do: 

1) Drive inward enquiries via website or otherwise 
2) Generate the right client type and size
3) Raise brand awareness
4) Grow the Founders/ Directors personal brands 
5) Empower influencer marketing internally and externally 

You need SMART goals in order to measure, otherwise there’s almost no point. Being scatter gun is sometimes what’s possible but without reflection and measuring where your new business opportunity came from for example, you won’t know where to focus your time on next quarter/ year.

Hope this helps. Any questions – please get in touch!

Client growth

Sales strategies for agency owners

How to approach ‘sales’ is different for different types and sizes of businesses but there are some common themes and thinking where I can hopefully shed some light and provide some food for thought. 

Every business leader needs to have an idea of where they want to be in 3 years, even if it’s just the back of napkin plan, but something to aim for will give you 2 key things (1) an aspirational end goal (2) a position to work back from to where you are now and allow you to envision the steps necessary to get there in reverse order.

When it comes down to a ‘Sales Strategy’, I write them regularly for clients, it’s part of any thorough marketing strategy and ties in with a company’s positioning. Who you are as a brand and your business’s core values in combination will dictate who you work with and vice versa; who you want to work with will influence the brand’s TOV. A good sales plan needs to be ‘SMART’ and rigorously monitored to keep you accountable to it. If the sales plan is well designed but sales are not converting, it is usually because the business is not staying on top of its leads, pipeline and deal closing. You will know your weaknesses, and if you need to outsource tasks or even the writing of it, make that decision for your business, to help you get to your 3 year goal. 

Next, (as mentioned in my earlier article* <add link here) and I can’t stress this enough, you must make time for your sales! Make time to research and cold call new prospects, make the pitch relevant to their business, ask open questions, chase up proposals, chase up leads and catch up with your network. Get on top of all SQLs and MQLS, you’ll be glad you did! For every proposal I write, I expect about a 50% success rate. If you’re losing more than that, look into why and always ask when you have not been successful, but don’t take it personally, there’s always something to gain whether it’s a contact or knowing they aren’t the client for you. 

Pricing Strategies – this is a big topic and one I can hardly get into lightly, but there are a lot of philosophies and thinking here. Heard of Blair Enns?! He is passionate about value-based pricing, but that won’t be right for every business and potentially not during a recession and not always for a brand new client. Know your value and stick to it. Be consistent. Know what you are and what you are not, do not try to be what you are not it will dilute your brand and reduce the effectiveness of your client delivery. 

Closing strategies – the phase ‘always be closing’ some may say is out-dated but I think the message behind the technique is fundamentally valid, and, if used with robust emotional intelligence, will more often than not convert leads into clients. Once you have a client, it’s up to you to keep them loyal by constantly reaffirming why they work with you through the value you consistently add. 

You are done. No need to say more, no need for small talk – so many get the sale then talk themselves out of it with irrelevant chit chat. Do not commit this cardinal sin, instead: be professional, concise and above all respectful of their time and your own. 

Happy hunting.

Client growth

The basics of story telling

Draw a picture with words and describe the story as if you’re talking to a friend.

Storytelling is an art that requires creativity, imagination and a level of understanding of the subject. For our clients, we have to think about the position of the business and know the audience who we are speaking with and how they will best receive information, which requires emotional intelligence; put yourself in their shoes, imagine you are them – how would you want to receive this story? We have to give away just the right amount of detail, too much and you will collide with their collective amygdala (fight or flight/crocodile brain), so keep it concise because people have very short attention spans. But that is not enough by itself, you need your story to be novel and different. We also have to show expertise, give clues to brand values or archetype and provide confidence in the fact that we possess valuable knowledge that will benefit them. It can take many, many, many drafts and sometimes the ‘one-liner’, as I like to call them, can be simply written in-house — but sometimes taking external counsel can really help to distil the message to its true essence.

Think about the type of story you want to tell.

Storytelling helps a business create in-bound sales, via outbound marketing, but how and what something is said, sells, when you are not trying to sell. We are all familiar with the age old refrain ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it’, right? Well, it’s an age-old refrain for a reason.

Do you want to talk about yourself to create new connections? Spark action? Motivate? Educate?Demonstrate social proof? You’ll need to briefly show how experienced and knowledgeable you are in the given topic, but, and I cannot stress this enough, you then must ask questions of your prospect and get them to tell you their story. Cast your mind back to a time where you sat and listened to a senior professional reel of their entire life’s work – dull right? No one wants to watch someone sniff their own farts for an excessive portion of a meeting. Remember: people’s interest in your affairs is limited, but their interest in their own is limitless.

If you’re talking about your work, and the clients you work for, the format is simple but remember if the story is for your website – make sure you explain the ‘characters’ so an outside could understand. Sometimes businesses are so quick to try and prove themselves, that the reader is lost on who the leading character is and what they’re about. Make it relatable.

One tip I read recently was to write in a single sitting; there could be a collective of characters, that bring out the best in you for example and that breadth of characters will develop the story well.

More advice; paint the scene and have good dialogue!

Some thoughts on what good stories are:

–       Entertaining – the reader is engaged

–       Educational – give something to the reader’s hunger for new information

–       Organised – convey the message in a methodical manner

–       Memorable – they go away feeling good about your story and talk about it in the pub with their friends, this provides you with as much control as exists over stopping buyer’s remorse as much as possible after the fact when the dopamine levels drop back down and new distractions push your story back down the priority queue. If you are not memorable then you won’t close. Fact.

What about the CTA (call to action)? Get people to donate? Follow you? Get in touch? Actionable steps – and make them accountable using time frames.

Where is your story going? Is it written, spoken, video or audio? Different people receive information differently, consider your audience – the more information you can gather in discovery phase of a pitch cycle (i.e. key decision maker loves visuals) will help you determine which medium to use/focus on.

Once you’ve got to this part of reading my article and when thinking of your story; start making notes and laying down the pieces of the jigsaw then make a structured plan. If there is language you use internally, explain it, if there are acronyms or industry jargon, explain them once at the top.

So go ahead and write your first draft. Re-organise it. Polish it. Then show it to someone. If you get writers block, just try to start putting copy down and don’t think too much about the rules. Just write.

If you want to check if you have a good story – get in touch. We’re EXT MKTG (External Marketing) and we work with small to medium sized creative businesses who can’t or won’t do marketing for themselves. We start with the brand then look at the comms.

Client growth

My Top 5 Tips for a Tip-Top Year!

Aaahh, 2021. A brand-new year, and hopefully a brand-new chapter for all of us, too. In other words, an opportunity to ensure you’ve pivoted in the direction you know you need to head: visualising and planning for the clients you want to target, the headcount you want to achieve, and the profits you are determined to report.

I’m being asked a lot “where do I start?” – well naturally it depends on what you have done before, and I can certainly help business on that deep analysis. Perhaps you’re already storming ahead, and just require some fine-tuning? Or, perhaps you’ve done the groundwork and are keen to ‘dig deeper’ this year: Or, like many firms, you might want to go back to basics and rebuild your business a little differently. Whatever stage you are at, I can help you. And, of course, remember that the groundwork always sets the scene for future in-depth analysis. So, as a “Light Guide to the Basics”, here’s what I would suggest:

1)    Measure where you are right now

It is so important to check the temperature of your brand; where (and how) your business is listed; what people, sites or bots are saying about you; how many followers you have; and who’s visiting your website. When you input a new lead into your CRM, do make a note of how you connected: were you introduced by a mutual contact? Did they find you via a search engine? Did you meet by online networking? Essentially, if you don’t track all of this, how can you know what’s working, and what isn’t?

2)    Tidy up your sales pipeline

Business owners and sales professionals often grow to hate their chosen CRM software, so do keep asking if what you’re using right now still suits your business needs. Don’t be embarrassed if your ‘tool’ of choice is a simple Excel spreadsheet: personally, I’m a big fan of Excel; all areas of my life are logged in a spreadsheet somewhere, but dig a level deeper, and check if the columns and formatting are working as well as they could. Maybe you need something more dynamic… more analytical? There are a lot of sales CRM that are free that might suit your sales process better. Ideally, you should allocate a dedicated amount of time each week to track and act upon your sales pipeline. So, whatever your choice of solution, make it works 100% for YOU, at your present stage of business development. And acknowledge that it may well change over time – because it probably will!

3)    Diarise time for creative inspiration and new business

I’ve worked with enough creative businesses – including some incredible minds – to know that spending time on client work, then supporting your team is how your days and weeks are going by, but is never going to get you the business growth you’re actually capable of. Schedule time in your diary to go down the rabbit hole of reading, scrolling, Googling…whatever it takes to seek out valuable inspiration. It’s worth it in order to conjure lots of ideas; and it will certainly benefit your client base.

On the flip side – do prioritise achieving your business goals. Your company may have a mission, but without a solid sales plan or an idea of how to attract and reel in those companies you’re desperate to work with – how are you going to do it? You do have to be in the right mindset, but half a day a week (let’s say a minimum of 3 hours) should get your head straight, and should motivate you to start chasing those leads, turning them into opportunities and winning more work.

4)    Write your idea of a sales and marketing plan

To me, sales & marketing sit in the same box. Marketing draws them in, but for the purpose of sales. And, really, 2021 is just like any other year: it has four quarters and 52 weeks, so your commitment to developing sales targets and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) marketing plans should still apply. Being a business leader means you’ll always have a lot of ‘urgent’, ‘critical’ tasks to attend to; but, without the compass and map that your sales & marketing plans should provide, how will you know where you’re going?  

5)    Ask for help!

Ah yes. This old chestnut! I know that marketers, outsourced business developers, PRs etc don’t always have the best reputation. But if you pick the right expertise to partner with you, getting the right help can be a massive time-saving exercise. You went to the effort of getting a great accountant, right? So, do the same for the other aspects of your business that you want managing perfectly. After all, at the end of the day it all boils down to money.

So, those are my top 5 tips on where to start (if you haven’t already!) Sending you all my very best wishes for a profitable, killer year, and if you want to learn more about External Marketing’s expertise, you can contact me on zara [@], #externalmarketing #salestargets #marketinggoals #B2Bmarketing #creativeminds #positivity

Client growth

Who’s booming during the pandemic – a good news story by EXT MKTG

Have any of you thought about the lack of good news stories? I’ve been asked many times ‘which sectors should our business focus on’? I’ve done some digging and I’ve found a whole bundle of growing companies and sectors and so read on for a dose of positivity!

Starting with consultants McKinsey, a report published at the end of September stated “Executives are more hopeful about the economy than they have been at any time so far during the COVID-19 crisis”. (Link) Good start and more to follow…

Looking at UK Manufacturing, something we’re always concerned about, a Guardian article reported “The PMI for manufacturing, which makes up around 10% of the economy, rose from 40.7 in May to 50.1 in June, while services, which make up 80% of the economy’s output, rose from 29 to 47.” 

Within Online Retail & Delivery Services sectors, Amazon have listed 15,000 job opportunities and Hermes have said they need 10,000 more staff as the shift home shopping continues and Christmas is round the corner. Within this scope, HGV drivers are also in demand as the number of job postings role by 9.7% as reported in this article by the Guardian. (Link)

Supermarkets Aldi and Lidl are also creating thousands of new jobs and are still opening new stores. Morrisons are also hiring 20,000 staff to handle online shopping and for covering other staff members who may be off temporarily. 

Ocado has been named the fastest growing UK brand according to BrandZ’s annual Top 75 Most Valuable Brands report, due to a 63.3% growth in brand value! Meanwhile also in this report, Deliver has grown by 40%! Boom. That’s some seriously great growth and hopefully helping restaurants keep going too. (Link econsultancy, they have removed the article now) 

Boohoo (owners of Boohoo, Pretty Little Things, Oasis, Warehouse and Nasty Gal) have seen their revenue grow by 45% according to a statement released at the end of August this year. And Nike’s digital sales have grown 82% year-on-year between June and August. 

Gousto (pre-prepared home meals) are creating 1000 more jobs and I’m sure their competitors will also be enjoying a boom. 

I’ve also looked at businesses that have started during the pandemic; a BBC article named four female entrepreneurs that started businesses, these are; a beauty subscription service (Tingle), Caribbean food kitchen & delivery (MJ Eats), Date Night subscription boxes (Box42) and marketing consultant (CharlieComms). (Link)

Tech is clearly a winner right now, and according to AppsFlyer, there has been a rise of 35% in European e-commerce mobile app installs during local lockdowns in March and April, 12% higher than at the peak of Q4 2019 holiday rush- this is showing a predicts that for this year’s “holiday quarter” should be record breaking. 

And finally, the FT have done a ‘Top 100 Companies prospering during the pandemic’ and I’ve written out the top 25. (Link

  1. Amazon
  2. Microsoft
  3. Apple
  4. Tesla
  5. Tencent (online gaming, China)
  6. Facebook
  7. Nvidia (graphics chips for gaming, US)
  8. Alphabet (tech platform, US)
  9. Paypal
  10. T-Mobile
  11. Pinduoduo (ecommerce, China)
  12. Netflix
  13. Meituan (ecommerce, China)
  14. Shopify
  15. Zoom Video
  16. (ecommerce, China)
  17. Abobe
  18. Audi
  19. Abbie (pharma, US)
  20. Kweichow Moutan (beverages, China)
  21. Chug Pharmaceutical (pharma, Japan)
  22. Alibaba (ecommerce, China)
  23. Sea Group (tech, Singapore)
  24. Home Depot (retail, US)
  25. ASML (tech, Netherlands) 

So it’s not all terrible, we have to navigate ourselves and adjust all the time, this is no different. 

If you need ideas or just to talk and hear a positive voice, let’s talk. 

Zara, Founder and Director of EXT MKTG,,

Client growth

Today’s marketing jargon explained

When I came up with my company name, I thought yeah it makes sense, it’s the abbreviation of external marketing – EXT MKTG – but it may take a while for it to be easily digestible. I think about it a lot and then started to wonder about current marketing lingo and how there are more definitions and abbreviations since I completed my marketing degree all those years ago. 

Thankfully, SWOTs, Marketing Mix and the 4 Ps are all still current/ valid but there is so much more, especially when you work in the field. Here’s what I’ve come up with as the most important and widely used, with a particular slant on metrics as this area seems to be where most the abbreviations fall. 

A marketing campaign – by definition – is a set of activities within a timeframe, using multi-channels and methods to promote a particular service or product, for example in terms of B2B, a new service being offered so that businesses can measure the existing projects of that service in the pipeline/revenue, and then from promoting it from October 1st, how many more projects or revenue is being generated from four weeks of buzz around it. Maybe it’s a new coined phrase for your service? Or have you moved into a new revenue stream from making a particular product or buying out services from another firm? 

Being ‘Channel agnostic’ – a slant on how to think about the customer journey, it’s not about the channel per se, but the communication received in whatever form by the customer when interacting with the brand or company. A business or brand communicates consistently and without preference to all channels, in the hope that consumer who sees the content become customers. In the B2C world, a brand seen to be ‘channel agnostic’ will position themselves as believing they are customer-centric and the journey starting with them but shouldn’t that always be the case? 

Digital communication evolves constantly but more recently it’s taken huge leaps, WhatsApp is no longer for just between friends etc. Digital is finally being considered within the marketing team’s job description instead of a separate department. Of course digital specialists exist, but the commerce or digital team should not be separated, they should be brought to the fore. Who are your digital gurus? Are their ideas at the start of your marketing and business development plans? Do you have SEO specialists on your books?

A report by We are Social and Hootsuite stated some great stats earlier this year; 

“More than 4.5 billion people now use the internet, while social media users have passed the 3.8 billion mark. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online, and the latest trends suggest that more than half of the world’s total population will use social media by the middle of this year (2020).”

Source – We Are Social

What about looking at measures of success? What is successful for your business, ROI or hopefully more than that?! 

An article on how marketers should report marketing activity to CEOS stated that they care most about the ‘CAC’ (Customer Acquisition Cost) which is…. 

“This is your total Sales and Marketing cost: Add up all the program or advertising spend, plus salaries, plus commissions and bonuses, plus overhead within a given time period. Then, divide it by the number of new customers in that same time period. For instance, if you spent $300,000 on Sales and Marketing in a month and added 30 customers that month, then your CAC is $10,000.”

Source – Hubspot

What about Share of Voice, what does that mean? 

Share of voice is a marketing metric that helps your business determine how much exposure your brand is receiving. The primary goal of looking into your share of voice is to gain insight into the overall visibility of the brand. With that in mind, it’s also a useful marketing metric to utilize when conducting competitive analysis.”

Source – Alexa

Here’s an article on how to measure it (lots of other information out there!)

I saw a poll recently on LinkedIn that asked if I podded?! Its to do with conquering the LinkedIn algorithm – we are all having our content filtered / manipulated so we only see the content from the people you engage with the most, so if you have a big family and always like their posts, you will probably only see the activity your family are up to, which personally, I find annoying. I’d like the news in chronological order from all my contacts please, not this filtered version which gives me a very slanted view. 

Have you reported your MQLs or SQLs? These are Marketing or Sales Qualified Leads. Most of the time any business is excited about the prospect of a new project and getting proposals / quotes written and contracts drawn up so checking where or how the lead came from does not happen. It should! I always ask how did you find us or hear about us? Might sound obvious. Here’s a good article on the topic and includes info on lead scoring.

Some more links below for further reading and get in touch if you want to hear where I would put my marketing efforts / budgets these days. 

Zara, Director and Founder of EXT MKTG