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.



Ad Agency Guide To Breaking In To New Categories!

June 26, 2009

Foot in the doorTips on how to maximize your chances for success.

Breaking into new categories can be a difficult and expensive task for many agencies. The current economic environment has made it even more difficult, as marketers look for partners who already have deep experience in their specific category. They do not have the time, money, or risk tolerance to take on a new agency lacking category experience, and show them the ropes. So how in the world do you get in and get new category experience if your agency cannot get a foot in the door in the first place?

Well, it’s not easy, however, here are a few tips that might help improve your chances:

  • Purchase an existing agency: The easiest way to break in to a category is to purchase an existing agency with both the experience and the clients to match. This gives you immediate credibility and critical mass.
  • Partner agency with category experience: While not ideal in the long term, if you need the capability immediately in order to address a current opportunity, then partnership may solve the problem.
  • Hire a team/individual with experience & relationships: Another approach is to identify and hire either a team or individual with both category experience AND a solid personal client relationship. (Category experience of one or two people is not sufficient on its own).  There must be a strong relationship that should at least give you a foot in the door, and some initial project opportunities.
  • Avoid attempting entry in a pitch environment: While nothing is impossible, my experience has taught me that formal shoot outs in a pitch environment is not a successful way to break in. Yes, on occasion a great idea or concept can pull you through, but know that the odds are ranked heavily against you.
  • Forget the category leader: The chances of ConAgra awarding you their flagship Healthy Choice brand, or BMW awarding you their account without any category experience is slim to none. Target smaller brands that are hungry to gain market share, more nimble and less risk averse. Another good idea is to target a smaller sub brand within a group of brands, and cut your teeth on it before moving up the ladder.
  • Consider analogous category experience: Take a look at the skill sets and techniques utilized by your agency on current client accounts. What other categories may require a similar skill set? Consider how to package your experience up in a way that will appeal to the new category prospect.
  • Proprietary tools, software, and widgets etc: If you have a truly proprietary tool or application that would add value to the new category prospect, you will probably have a good chance of getting them interested. Make sure you package the product up suitably to appeal to the new audience.
  • Research and homework: This approach requires you to invest a significant amount of your talent, time, and money doing your homework on the category. What you are hoping is that you are able to find actionable insights (not information) that the client may not currently be aware of.  Using these insights as the reason to secure a meeting, you then have the opportunity to demonstrate your value proposition and “Wow” them with your innovative ideas/solutions.

I hope you find these helpful…. So, the next time your creative director rushes up to you and says “We need to go after the personal watercraft category because I have deep experience and a great reel from my past agency!” take the time to consider the idea before reacting.


Six common mistakes agencies make when new business prospecting.

June 9, 2009

images-5With the market environment being as tough as it is right now, new business prospecting has never been more difficult. So if you are going to spend the time and money doing it, make sure that you avoid making some of the mistakes that most commonly occur. Here are six of them to avoid:

  1. Materials are too big. If you are going to use targeted direct mail, then try to avoid oversize packages. Previous thinking was to make it big both for impact purposes and to make it too large to throw in the trash can. That approach no longer works.
  2. Toys, tchotchke and expensive gifts. In addition, avoid toys and tchotchke as they usually add no value, are probably too “cute” and are basically just “tacky”. Avoid iPods’ or other expensive gifts as most companies have a policy not to accept gifts above the value of $25. Sending “stuff” is a bad idea. I was recently shown a new business package sent to a senior female marketer that had a thong included with it. Needless to say, that agency has no chance any time in the future.
  3. Too much information. Do not try and win the business at this stage of the game. Be concise and make every word count. Make sure you clearly articulate the message you are trying to deliver. Think about how much time you spend reading what you get and use that as your gauge.
  4. Too Generic. This is almost a follow on from too much information. Avoid a lengthy description of your agencies history. Absolutely do not include a detailed description of your proprietary process, your agency philosophy and laundry list of capabilities. Personalize the communication. Make sure you do your homework, have a point of view, and can quickly demonstrate your value proposition that specific client.
  5. Lack of attention to detail. You would be amazed at how many prospect communications go out with spelling or grammatical mistakes in them. These do not instill confidence in a prospective client’s mind when they consider you as a possible custodian of their brand.
  6. Failure to follow up. Believe it or not, one of the biggest mistakes agencies make is telling the prospect that they will be following up and then failing to do so. The chance of the prospect getting your communication and immediately jumping to respond is slim to none. Even if your communication has piqued their interest, YOU are going to need to be the one to follow up. So many opportunities are lost in this way.