How many races does a second place horse win in their careers? The answer is none! If you want to win, you have to have to have a winning strategy and be prepared to put in the required pre-race preparation. Successful ad agency new business development is no different.
These guidelines are simple but effective. In fact, I guarantee you that if you follow these recommendations, you will improve your new business success rate significantly.
As you read what I have to say below, you may find yourself saying – “I know that”, and you probably do. However, the question is – are you putting it into practice? Based on my recent experience with a number of agencies, my guess is that you are not. If you were, you would not be having issues with delivering adequate new business leads for your agency and winning new business pitches.
- Make sure that you have a targeted list of strategic new business target companies. While chasing ambulances (chasing after opportunities that just happen to pop up) is an accepted tactic of agency new business development, it cannot deliver consistent and sustained growth. You have to take the time to identify what categories make sense for your agency and then which specific companies you want to go after.
- Do your homework and invest in research. Having identified your targets, do not just start picking up the phone or sending them credentials documents. No client is sitting there every day just waiting for another agency credentials mailing. Do your homework on the category, the company, the competition, the consumer or customer and the industry trends and forecasts. Make sure that you know what you are talking about and actually have an informed point of view and insights/information, that would be both interesting and of value to the target prospect.
- Throw away your “capabilities presentation deck”. Can you imagine me arranging a meeting with you at your office and then coming in, sitting down and talking about myself for an hour while you listened? How long do you think it would be before I lost you? Create your deck around them and their business and use your case studies to highlight how your capabilities and experience are relevant to them. Engage them and get them talking about their business. Its not supposed to be a lecture, but rather a discussion.
- Create an ongoing communication plan. It is seldom that you will be given an assignment during your first meeting. Make sure that you create an ongoing communications plan that is effective but not intrusive. The key element for success will be relevance, simplicity and added value.
- When you finally get an opportunity be sure to assign the team designed to win, and not the team that’s available at the time. When you get that long awaited opportunity, make the most of it. I don’t believe that you have any idea how often the agency assigns “the team available” due to existing client demands and pressures. If you are going to do this, don’t pitch!!! You are just setting yourself up for failure. If the opportunity was important enough to chase after and you feel it is the right opportunity for your agency, play to win. Assign the best team you have in the agency to pitch it. If you don’t you will ultimately only disappoint yourself and increase your new business strain.
- Rehearse, Rehearse and Rehearse. Too often the pitch team is still trying to pull the deck together in the late hours the night before the presentation. No time to check for spelling and other mistakes. No time to make sure that it flows, sounds like one voice and tells a story, and most importantly no time to rehearse. Do yourselves a favor and never make this mistake again. Set your timeline and have a pitch coordinator ensure you adhere to it. Make sure you give yourselves enough time to do at least 2 run throughs, preferably three. The first just helps you work out the major issues and gaping holes. The second allows you to think more about the presentation and how you deliver it versus fixing the deck. By the third time you are starting to get comfortable with your content and your delivery.
- Never go over time. Always leave 20-30 minutes for questions and make sure that every presenter (not too many of them though) engages the audience and gets them involved. If you finish the presentation at the end of your allotted time and there was no interaction during the presentation and no questions after it…you have just lost the business.
- Close your presentation with a succinct hard-hitting summary and ask for the business. Show your enthusiasm and passion and demonstrate how much you want it, however, avoid preaching, groveling and begging. It’s tends to be unbecoming, ineffective, annoying and embarrassing to both sides. Send your thank you note within 24 hours and take that opportunity to succinctly reinforce why your agency is the right choice.
Agency new business does not need to be as hard as it often is. As I said at the beginning of this post, if you follow these simple guidelines I guarantee you will significantly improve your success rate with new business development.