Tell us about yourself and what you do in your current position.
My name is Amy Beth Stern, and I am the Senior Director of Business Growth & Client Strategy at Eventive Marketing. In my capacity at Eventive, I increase revenue, establish and steward new client relationships, and ultimately, drive the agency’s growth and success year over year.
How would you define the business development role?
Business Development at an agency today is much more than sales; It’s a strategic position. Long gone are the days when a prospective client would take your call out of the blue. Even emails go unread and unanswered, no matter how relevant the content. Therefore, you need to self-promote and be visible in order to create awareness and inbound interest.
Biz Dev requires a deep knowledge of your client’s business, brand, products, and target audience. It hinges on your ability to build strong relationships, oftentimes from scratch. Success depends upon your strategic insights and creativity; essentially, you must offer solutions that will truly enhance your client’s business and bottom line.
What’s your background and how/why did you move into business development?
I actually began my long career in experiential marketing and brand activation as a Brand Ambassador. I went on to manage clients, and then entire regions of the US for particular brands. I always had strong ideas, and a genuine interest in brand strategy. I started a consultancy back in my early twenties; I was solely responsible for the success or failure of that company, and for making my NYC rent each month! That’s pretty motivating. So, I was out pounding the pavement, ringing the phone, networking everywhere, and I discovered that I had a real knack for it. I enjoyed my work every day, and I felt a great sense of pride when a campaign hit the streets, knowing I had made it happen. My consultancy was eventually absorbed by another agency, and they kept me on to run Business Development and sales for them.
How has the role in general (not just your own) evolved over the past few years?
Some aspects have changed, others remain constant. At its core, Biz Dev will always be about generating revenue and winning new clients. But to do that, you have to be increasingly strategic. As technology evolves, and data becomes more accessible and more important, there is so much more to study and master. Clients really do consider you a resource; they trust you with their business goals. You must live in an environment of continual learning and advancement to offer the best, most creative solutions possible.
Additionally, it’s more difficult than ever to get face-to-face with people. I am not talking about video chat, I mean really face-to-face: out for a drink or coffee, or an in-person meeting where you can actually shake hands, read emotions, make friends. In my view, this is still the best way to grow relationships and trust. I am always on a plane going to meet with clients in person.
Do you have a most memorable account win? Why?
Back when some people still weren’t sure what experiential marketing was, I developed a strong relationship with a top US brewer. I won a large piece of business, a national on-premise, evergreen sampling program. That initiative was highly successful, and grew into several pieces of business with various brands under their umbrella. As clients in that organization moved from brand to brand, they took us with them, and those relationships strengthened further. I wound up working with over 20 brands, including their benchmark(s). Almost all of those people have moved on to other Fortune 500 companies; I still have strong ties with most, and I’m happy to call a few current clients.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful client relationship?
There is a distinct difference between having a true relationship with a client, and simply being their salesperson. I know my clients get solicitations en masse, daily, from my competitors. You have to prove your worth to your clients; show them you know and care about their business, and most importantly, them personally. Client divisions and teams are made up of individuals; you need to think like those individuals, understand what matters to them, and demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart.
What advice could you give to somebody entering the industry who might be interested in a new business role?
Grow thick skin. Before I was in marketing, I was trying my luck at an acting career. Just like at auditions, new business is full of rejection. It really hurts sometimes, but a great win makes it all worth it.