Earlier this month I was speaking to a group of agency owners and the topic of specialization came up, at least when it comes to business development. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They had tried this specialist strategy and it didn’t work. In fact, it had the opposite effect — they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that?
To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business, but it’s not without its risks, as this agency owner pointed out. This month, I offer some hedges against that risk.
The other day I got a phone call that made my week.
One of my clients, the CEO of a small ad agency, called to tell me that the agency’s positioning strategy, a strategy that I first suggested more than three years ago and have encouraged (and sometimes cajoled) him to embrace ever since, just won him a major piece of business.
It was gratifying to me, of course, because it validated my business! But I was happier for him.
Committing to that positioning strategy had been a psychological hurdle. It fit like a Savile Row suit, but it required him to put a stake in the ground, and that meant potentially saying “no” to revenue if it meant working with the wrong kinds of clients.
It’s a very emotional decision for some agency owners, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
But what if you had a way to test your positioning that puts emotion to the side? Read more.
Effective salespeople know that a good story is the fastest route between them and winning new business.
This is especially true for ad agencies. Advertising is a craft that relies on abstract thought processes that lead to inspirational ideas like “Just do it.” The problem is, abstract ideas are difficult to describe and even more difficult to value. That’s why it’s so easy to succumb to meaningless, anemic phrases like “fully integrated,” “digital-first” and “consumer at the core” when trying to describe what you do to a prospective client.
Stories, on the other hand, make the intangible tangible. Discover how this technique, as old as humanity itself, is one of the easiest ways to win new business.
See the video
Our complex marketing ecosystem has resulted in a Cheesecake Factory menu of specialist agencies filling every marketing niche imaginable.
As these specialist agencies seek new growth, they’re turning to other agencies.
For example, a social media agency (let’s call it the Selling Agency) might partner with a digital agency (the Customer Agency) to fill a gap in the Customer Agency’s services. The Customer Agency can offer its client what it needs, the Selling Agency gets exposure to more potential clients on the other agency’s roster, and both make money. Hooray!
But there’s a big downside. The Selling Agency will never have as much influence over the client relationship as the Customer Agency will.
That leads to all sorts of hazards. In this post, I’ll tell what those hazards are and give you strategies you can use throughout the sales cycle to hedge against them.
When it comes to pitching for new business, agencies are so accommodating!
They put in late nights and give up holiday weekends. They divert their best teams from paying clients to do spec work. They put up with terrible briefs and minimal information.
Are they too willing to play on the client’s terms for the chance to compete for
I’ve identified four points in the pitch process where agencies should set their own terms, both for the sake of the future client relationship and their ability to pursue new business from other clients.
It’s January, a time to stride forth into the new year and activate the plans you've made to grow your ad agency – dust off that prospecting list, revive the agency’s blog, hire a biz dev whiz to steer the efforts.
How’s that going so far?
We're as quick to break resolutions as we are to make them. Psychologists call this “false hope syndrome,” which means our resolutions are unrealistic and out of alignment with our internal view of ourselves.
What's the secret to counteracting this natural tendency?
For a moment, put aside your ambitious plans for 2017 and take a critical look at your team (including yourself) and what it's best equipped to do. See if your agency matches one of these five types. It could unlock the secret to winning more new business this year.
Why is so much advertising agency-speak filled with unnecessary words and generalizations?
I’m always urging my ad agency clients to eliminate unnecessary words in their writing for new business and marketing. As Mark Twain noted, it’s an easy exercise that requires little effort and has a big impact.
But wordiness may be a symptom more than a diagnosis. The real diagnosis may be what Chip and Dan Heath call the “Curse of Knowledge” in their book, Made to Stick.
Experts like doctors, academics, attorneys… and the majority of advertising professionals often succumb to the curse. But my latest blog post offers you one technique to avoid it.
It can easily take more than a dozen points of contact before a prospect says “yes.” That means you need a steady supply of content. If you’re like many of the ad agencies I work with, that can be a daunting thought at first. But you’re probably sitting on more prospecting-ready information than you realize and I have a tool to help you draw it out.
Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and the latest, Inside Out - why are Pixar films so universally charming and compelling? ("And what, exactly, does that have to do with my ad agency's positioning?" you ask. Patience, you'll find out.)
A former Pixar story artist named Emma Coats discovered that all Pixar plots follow one simple format. And it forms the basis of a perfect pitch.
Want to know what this magic formula is? Check out my latest blog post on how the Pixar Pitch is an ideal hack for developing your ad agency's positioning.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to set positive intentions, such as reeling in a big, game-changing client. It’s a daunting challenge for any agency, but it is particularly challenging if you’re a small- to mid-sized shop. You have to work that much harder to differentiate yourself and get the attention of the "big guys".
The good news is that hooking a big client doesn't require that you make massive operational changes or even hire an expensive "rainmaker". It relies more on having the right mindset. Check out my guest column in today's Agency Post (also on my blog) to see if there are things that you can do today to best position yourself to win big this year.
While both are essential for generating revenue, “sales” and “new business” require paradoxically different skills. Yet, most ad agencies expect their new business leads to excel at both and are often disappointed when they don’t.
This week, check out my guest column in Agency Post examining the important differences between these two skills, and how to determine which one your agency needs more.
Adweek featured an article yesterday declaring business development the "most dangerous job" at an ad agency.
The piece raised a lot of important issues but I'm going to focus on two of them.