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How business development can benefit from social intelligence

Social intelligence gives the business development team real insights about prospects.

4 min read

Social Media

Social media


Why is social intelligence so important for business development? Because smarter deals have a higher close rate — and isn’t business development about closing deals?

We often start our presentation calls like this: “Here’s what we know about you.” This surprises most brands. They’re expecting to hear, “Here’s what you need to know about me.”  We begin by telling them things they don’t know about themselves or that no one internally wants to admit.


Now let’s take a step back. Business development is dreaded almost universally by agency types — digital, PR, web — you name it. It’s what they don’t want to do, because there is real client work to be done. This is also why so many agencies go out of business.

Social intelligence (“Here’s what we know about you”) gives the business development team real insights about the prospects, customers, market, competitors, influencers – and that’s just the beginning. When you walk into a phone call or meeting with a solid understanding of the prospective client’s social performance – you can speak with great credibility about a topic that they care about. After all, it should be all about the client or customer.

It is a different approach to business development that adds intelligence value – with the intent to help and educate regardless of the outcome. This way a prospect gets something tangible and valuable, while we can qualify them and deliver a proposal that addresses their gaps and needs in a very meaningful way.

Understanding social trends in real time gives our business development an immediacy, authority and visceral insights. Even large agencies without the right infrastructure, process and team can’t replicate this. It’s based in agility, the right tools and people empowerment.

This approach fits for us as a social media marketing agency, but it is also applicable for any type of digital agency if you pair it up with content intelligence, search intelligence and other insights. And yet, we know that most agencies aren’t taking this approach.


Because it’s expensive and time consuming. It’s worth it because the approach provides a competitive edge from an insights-based proposal standpoint, and the client sees what it’s like to work with you.

It means that you have to treat your agency the exact same way you’d treat a client. You have to keep the meetings. You have to have a business objective. You have to know your audience. You have to know the outcomes you want. You have to know and use your budget. You’ve got to spend time on competitive and target client intelligence. This means analyzing data and developing insights that can be used for recommendations.

Sound hard? Because it is hard. But it pays rich dividends.

Secrets unlocked: How we do it

  • We run several ad campaigns that lead to a landing page.
  • The landing page has a compelling offer.
  • Once a lead comes in, our lead business development person schedules a call to discuss some basic questions.
  • During the call, we gather keywords, hashtags, names of competitors and any other relevant information.
  • We use NUVI to set up monitors for the prospect’s brand, their competitors and the industry (based on the keywords). NUVI’s interface is easy to use, the reporting is highly visual – and we can gather data from the open social web – as well as from Facebook.
  • We also do a basic audit of the prospect’s social channel and their competitor’s social media channels.
  • During the next call, we say, “Here’s what know about you,” and pair that with recommendations.
  • 10% of our deals close within 30 days to three months.

Duncan Alney is the CEO of Firebelly Marketing, a social media marketing agency. In addition to advising some of the most successful brands in the United States, he is a leading practitioner in the influencer marketing and conversation research spaces. Follow him on Twitter.