What Babies Can Teach Ad Agency New Business Executives About Prospecting.

September 1, 2009

Lisa Back2Back Head Shot

Guest post by Lisa Colantuono, Managing Partner, AAR Partners & Co-Founder, Access Confidential. “Cracking The Clutter”, what babies can teach ad agency new business executives about prospecting.

 Many new business executives in the industry know that I’m in love with a two-foot, 26lb little guy…yes, my nephew.  And if you want to see my little love, every Saturday I post a new photo of him on Facebook.  So besides getting a real work-out once a week during my babysitting session with him, I realized he also exemplified how new business executives should think about prospecting.  How?  Let me explain.

 There isn’t an agency that meets with AAR Partners that doesn’t start or end with one of the following questions, “What are successful agencies doing to crack the clutter or how do agencies attract clients’ attention?”  We often hear their answer is strictly setting objectives, developing pitch lists, determining goals and being extremely focused on categories or target markets where the agency has knee-deep experience.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inaccurate with this approach but the value of exemplifying unexpected results is often forgotten!

 Babies (like my favorites nephew) are captivated by the most unexpected results.  Adults, on the other hand, focus on the outcomes that are the most relevant to their goals.  They focus on objects and objectives that will be most useful to them.  But babies play with objects that will teach them the most!  The key…they draw on anything new, unexpected or informative.

 At AAR Partners, we receive hundreds of letters, mailers, emails, credential and collateral pieces that seem well…rather programmed, “more about me and less about you” and simply expected.  The element of surprise (or the value of exemplifying unexpected results), isn’t usually communicated.  Agencies fall into the same pattern of churning out information about the agency and often forget to be informative.  They forget to teach their prospect something of value

 Babies are captivated by unexpected results…just like CMO’s!  They need to see the value, something new or be surprised by unexpected results.  They need to know that their brand is going to attract consumers by pulling them, rather than pushing them along.  Crystallize how your agency has demonstrated unexpected and exceptional results for clients’ business, make it relevant to the specific advertiser you’re speaking to and in turn, captivate the prospect. 

 So the next time you see a baby captivated by something unexpected (or informative), remember, that’s the concept of how an agency could crack the clutter.  And the results can be rewarding for everyone.

 (AAR Partners has been managing agency reviews for the past three decades.  Access Confidential is the comprehensive new business database, putting science behind the art of new business.)





Fill Your Ad Agency New Business Pipeline in 30 Days

August 28, 2009

new business pipeline

I was recently contacted by an ad agency new business person in search of some urgent advice. Management had requested that he submit a plan outlining how he would fill the agencies new business pipeline – in just 30 days!

Firstly, I asked if he was being serious! After all, anyone who knows anything about agency new business prospecting knows that it takes longer than 30 days to fill a pipeline, especially in the current economic environment. He assured me that he was and that any help or advice would be appreciated. These were my suggestions… Request psychiatric counseling support immediately! Just kidding.

  • If you have access to a new business list resource like Access Confidential (Offered by AAR Partners), take a look at the daily report that is generated listing promotions and new appointments etc. These developments are often indicators of impending change and opportunity. In addition, the list company often interviews the individuals listed in the report and is often able to solicit information about what type of resources they may be in the market for. I often refer to it as “chasing ambulances”. Right message, right time, right person is what you are hoping for.
  • Agency research presentations on specific subjects or other white papers. Offers to share these with targeted prospects often help to get you in the door and at least start a conversation. This can be via a one on one presentation, webcast, download or any other channel.
  • Demonstrated agency expertise in a specific category or demographic. If your agency has exceptional expertise with proven results in a specific category or demographic, a targeted outreach program offering to share your insights/expertise can often uncover some opportunities.
  • Targeted outbound video emails using StreamRight technology. Streamright (www.streamright.com) offers an easy to use technology platform that allows you to deliver interactive video through email. This allows you to send out a large number of prospect emails with an embedded video. Through their web based dashboard tool, you are able to monitor who opened the email, who viewed the video, how long they viewed if for, how often they viewed it and if they forwarded it on to a friend. It can also notify you the sender the second that the prospect opens the video to view it. What’s great about this technology is that it allows you to send high volume emails and identify and follow up on only those who demonstrated an interest. You can also test subject lines, different video edits and content at the same time. The best part about it is that it is relatively inexpensive.
  • Speaking opportunities and conference attendance. Look for any short term industry conferences to attend or possibly speak at. Quite often organizers get let down by speakers at the last minute and if you have a canned presentation you can sometimes get in at short notice.
  • Personal referrals. Immediately leverage any personal contacts or referrals you have access to.
  • Strategic partner/vendor clients. If you have a strategic partner or vendor where your services don’t overlap, identify 2-3 clients of their clients that they are comfortable introducing you to. Then you can reciprocate.

If you have additional ideas or suggestions please feel free to respond and share them with me. I will publish your comments for other readers benefit.  



MORE Words of Wisdom From THE Ad Agency Pitch Consultants

August 18, 2009

words of wisdom 3

My post last week titled “Words of wisdom from THE ad agency pitch consultants” generated both a high level of traffic and numerous requests from readers asking for more of them. Here they are:

First, I thought I would share with you a piece of editorial that you may find both interesting and surprising. In recent discussions many of the pitch consultants have shared the fact that they are getting increasingly involved in non-advertising related pitches. For many years these consultants have been primarily involved in the larger ad agency reviews with very few direct, promotional or interactive type assignments.

Well, the tide has turned. Many of them are now reporting that they are being more frequently retained to conduct both AOR searches, as well as agency searches, for large stand alone projects. (Across a wide range of categories) So while in the past their comments may have been more pertinent to the ad agency fraternity, today they are increasingly pertinent to a much broader group.

  • When you read in Ad Age or any other trade journal that an account has gone into review, DO NOT send a “Pile of Stuff” to the pitch consultant handling the review.  It just gets thrown in the corner and piles up with all the other unsolicited submissions.

         If you are going to send something in, make it short, to the point and make          sure that you demonstrate value. Keep in mind that by the time you read about it in the trades, you are probably too late. The review is most likely     too far along already to include a new agency. (Leslie Winthrop, AAR          Partners)

  • The number one pitch killer is a CEO who talks too much and talks about irrelevant matters. Closely followed is a perceived lack of passion on the agencies behalf and the third is a disconnect between that strategy and the creative execution. (Hasan Ramusevic, Hasan & Co.)
  • “We just received an RFP that seems promising, but we can’t ascertain what the potential revenue and scope is?” Ask the consultant or client to try to define it. If it is not forthcoming consider this a red flag. If you start out not knowing, you will probably have the same issue all the way through the relationship. (Ann Billock, Ark Advisors LLC.)
  • “If the agency brief says that you should have your day to day team present in the pitch, what do you do?” If the team members concerned are proficient presenters, then you have no problem. If some are not, do not let them pitch. You will need to compromise as you should never take a weak presenter to a pitch. In this instance support those team members who are proficient presenters with some of your stars. Your objective is to win and sometimes in order to do that you have to break some rules. (David Beals, Jones, Lundin, Beals)
  • NEVER go over your allotted time in a pitch. Not only is it bad manners and disrespectful, it shows that you have not rehearsed. Always rehearse and make everyone rehearse, even those who claim that they can “only be real on the day”. Insist they do it. In addition, whatever number of slides you have, cut them in half. Make every word count and make sure that you engage the clients. (Cleve Langton, New Business 3.0)




What Sparks An Ad Agency Review?

August 14, 2009

Ad Agency review

The most feared event for every ad agency leader is that dreaded call from a key client, informing you that they have decided to put their advertising account into review. Behind the decision are normally numerous factors, some controllable from an agency perspective and some not.

If you have been following my blog, by now you will have heard me go on about minimizing client churn ad nauseam. That’s because I consider it, without doubt, one of the most important pillars in my “Five Pillar Agency Growth Strategy” approach. Churn has to be proactively managed and supported by robust “Key Account Strategies”.

Some of the causes that lead to a review are beyond the agency’s control. In such cases there is really nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. There are others though, that fall into the controllable category and can therefore be minimized or at least influenced by agency management.

Let’s start with some examples of the uncontrollable.

  • New CMO comes on Board
  • Client company merger or acquisition (change in control)
  • Global ad agency realignment
  • Disappointing business results
  • Geographic relocation
  • Term of contract expires and regulations require it to go out to tender
  • Unprofessional behavior on the part of a client or agency staff member.

Now let’s focus on some of those that are controllable.

  • Lack of pro-active thinking and fresh ideas
  • Lack of integration of ideas. The agency works in silos versus working for the greater benefit of the client/brand.
  • Lack luster work that fails to deliver the expected results.
  • Client driven by ROI, analytics and measurement, while the agency remains focused on creative, gut feel and fails to embrace metrics and measurement.
  • Excessive turnover within the account service team leading to client dissatisfaction.
  • The need for new or additional capabilities, channels or media that the agency is perceived to or does not have.
  • Disconnect between the brand strategy and the creative execution.
  • Perceived gap in the client/agency relationship from a price/value perspective.
  • Noticeable lack of innovation and innovative thinking around the brand.
  • Agency perceived as not flexible or agile enough.

Every one of the causes listed above can help trigger the decision to put the account up for review. The biggest contributor however, (although not always stated directly), is the clients perception that the agency does not share their worries and ultimately does not care if they succeed or not.

Leslie Winthrop from AAR Partners tells this amazing story about a client company that approached her about conducting an agency review for their advertising account. On further questioning the client told Leslie that they were happy with the work and results, liked the people and enjoyed working with them. Surprised by the answers Leslie asked why then did they want to hold a review? The clients answer was simply, “Because I do not think they share my worries and it does not appear to matter to them if I succeed or not. I feel that I am out there on my own.”

Makes you think doesn’t it?  



Words of Wisdom from The Ad Agency Pitch Consultants

August 12, 2009

words of wisdom 2

The other day, I came across a collection of notes I had taken during various presentations, given by some of the top names amongst pitch consultants. The tips contained in them are as pertinent today as they were then, so I decided to aggregate a selection of them in one post and share them with all of you.

  • Think very carefully before deciding to defend when your client decides to put their account up for review. On average you have only a 1/18 chance of winning, so the odds are heavily weighted against you. (Dave Beals – Jones, Lundin, Beals)
  • If you believe that the client RFP is requesting excessive information, go ahead and push back, and submit what you are comfortable with. The most important thing you can do is look at the issues within the questions and adequately address them. ( Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  • Does size matter? It all depends. If the business being awarded is likely to overwhelm your agency, then yes it does. If the client needs an international network, yes. It’s about horses for courses. In some instances smaller can compete with big if they are able to leverage strategic partnerships. (Hasan Ramusevic – Hasan & Co.)
  • Every agency claims to have a proprietary process or philosophy. Bottom line is that there is just too much BS out there, as the agency world drinks its own Kool-Aid. Show them ideas backed by research and validate how you intend to produce results. (Lisa Colantuono – AAR Partners)
  • Do clients who ask for it really want and buy cutting edge work? Seldom does a counter a culture approach prevail. Ask more questions and try to validate their requests. If you are still unsure, then give them one of each so you are covered. (Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  •  Never stretch the truth when answering an RFP. If you feel that you have to in order to be competitive then pull out. Define what you cannot answer truthfully and ask the client or consultant why you were included on the list. It might be something specific you have that interests them, in which case focus there and leave out answers where you have to. (Lorraine Rojek – RCG Consulting)
  • How do we crack the clutter with our new business prospecting? The letter should address a specific challenge or opportunity. The supporting materials should do exactly that. Support the letter with a clear and consistent message based on actionable insights. The materials should also effectively differentiate your agency brand. Simple, easy to read and direct. No coffee table books, gimmicks or tchotchke! (Leslie Winthrop – AAR Partners)
  • Never include the prospects title in your new business materials unless you know it to be accurate. Titles change all the time and often many of the compiled lists are already out of date when you use them. (Cleve Langton – New Business 3.0)

Rocket science…No. Worth remembering…Yes





THE Two Sources of Ad-Agency New Business

July 3, 2009

ApprovedI was once told by Lisa Colantuono of AAR Partners, that there were really only two sources of agency new business. The first, a personal referral or recommendation. The second, the timely approach by an agency. (Right client, right time, right message!).

I happen to believe that she is correct in what she said. When I thought about our conversation and began to consider why this might be the case, I discovered some key attributes that were consistent across the two sources. Interestingly, the common attributes are also synonymous with what the new business guru’s are currently espousing as the best practices of agency new business development.

It’s all about the client. It’s not about the agency and how great they are or what capabilities they may have. It’s about the client and the value proposition that the agency offers that client. Todd Knutson covered this point very well in his recent blog posting titled, ad-agency new business, first build a relationship.

Both sources help solve the client’s business/marketing problems. In each case, both sources have demonstrated either through the work they have done or the solutions they have suggested, that they have the insights, the ideas and the ability to help solve the client’s problems.

Results and performance. In the case of the referral, the recommended agency has obviously demonstrated the ability to deliver results in a current or past relationship. I am certain that the recommendation would not be forthcoming should this not be the case. For the timely approach, the agency must have adequately demonstrated or convinced the client that they have the track record and ability to deliver.

Relationship.   Obviously, the individual providing the referral has, or has had, a positive relationship with the recommended agency. Inherent in a referral or recommendation is an element of trust and confidence. Conversely, when an agency makes the right approach to the right person with the right message, during the process they develop a confidence and a relationship with the prospective client, albeit still new and untested.

Agency/client relationships that ultimately lead to referrals develop over a period of time. Successful new business prospecting is also developed over time. It is seldom that an opportunistic, once off client solicitation will deliver a meaningful result or client opportunity.

It takes consistent effort, guided by a targeted and insight driven new business outreach program, combined with perseverance to ultimately succeed. This type of approach produces both great future referrals as well as successful proactive new business growth.