Win ad agency new business through 4Ps

The other day Adweek had a revealing story that offers tips on how to win the gigantic Microsoft business. The story features context pulled straight from Microsoft’s RFP.  And while there’s a terrific little nugget or two in there that would help someone win, because the RFP details a few of the brand’s challenges…I suggest that’s only 25% of the winning formula. Today’s post explores the other important bits.

Looking to win ANY ad agency new business pitch, regardless of size? Consider developing strategies that leverage thinking across four areas: the problem; the personalities; the process; and your product.

The Problem: the brand’s challenges

What’s the client’s pickle? What is the problem the prospect is trying to solve? Trying to get new customers? Make existing customers buy more? Is the brand relevant? Is their advertising working? And why not?

Typically, this is the area everyone talks about. This is the prospect’s brief. And your agency will be evaluated on how it solves the problem. But don’t kid yourself. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on that influences who will win the business…

The Personalities: decision-maker bias

Your prospective clients are human beings making a weighty decision. It impacts their careers. What kinds of people are they? Are they Type A folks? More shiny? Are they relationship-driven? The personalities and culture of the company can drive your new business pitch content and context.

The Process: how the decision is being made

Here, I’m talking about the pitch process. What are the rules of this particular game? How are you being evaluated? Who’s in the pitch, how did they got there, and what are the deliverables (and when do they happen)? Gaining a slight advantage by presenting first or last in a given round, for instance, is an example of leveraging the process to increase your odds of winning.

The Product: your people and your capabilities

Like any professional service, your people are the main driver of client and agency success. But in new business, it’s more than that, which is why this “P” isn’t labeled “People.” Let’s make sure we include other elements of your agency’s offering: positioning, structure, ownership structure, past experience, services/capabilities, access, relationships, location, size, etc. It is another common area that’s easy to discuss and can very quickly eliminate a ton of agencies. Think of this last P as “checkmarks” in the prospect’s mind. Like a giant database. Any one of these can make a difference in winning and losing a new business pitch.

So, next time you’re in a pitch, think about the 4Ps listed above as you work with your team to develop a winning game plan.

Happy pitching!






Adding swagger to your new business development efforts

ad agency new business development strategy football playAgency new business sourcers, unite! Today’s post is about swagger. It has been inspired by characters like Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad. (No spoilers, please. yours truly is in the middle of season four.) Or Jack Sparrow. Heck, even maybe people like Hilary Clinton or Mark Cuban. Yes, there is some douchebaggery when one thinks of swagger. Even the characters mentioned above, while charming, have some negative qualities.

And yet, the word captures some positive traits that are absolutely relevant and necessary in agency new business development. Things like confidence or higher self-worth. And yes, even a little bit of good natured, charismatic theater. So, here are two quick thoughts on how to get a touch of professional swagger in your agency and in your new business efforts.

Say no more often

I know, I know. We all have mortgages. But nothing builds confidence like saying no. Your agency is not right for every pitch that comes your way. Say no. And save your resources for a better fit and better chance at winning.

Or at least negotiate better pitch terms that can help both client and agency. Like more prospective client access, for instance. After all, you can’t do your best work if you don’t get to know the client. And from the prospect’s perspective – which is how you position this to your audience – they get to know more about the agency: how you think, how you work, and how to feels to work with you.

While that’s great and all, you need leads. Which brings us to our next point…

Build a plan

Lots of thinking around how to do that on this blog. Or better yet, hire me to coach you or craft a plan. The simple point here is that by relying too much on your transom, waiting for the phone to ring for pitches that might not be a good fit…you can develop a plan that builds agency awareness and relationships with professionals outside the agency.

The output of a plan? Better-fitting leads for your agency. When you read, “professionals outside the agency” this includes, of course, prospects. But don’t forget the other people that can refer business to you: existing and past clients, suppliers, business partners, and friends of the agency.

These are just two thought-starters. Should you feel that as a professional service provider that “swagger” is a bit beneath you… that’s completely understandable. Your mileage will and should vary.

But I do think there’s an interesting intersection between being billable and having some confidence. And exploring that intersection can make growing your agency and winning new business a bit easier. Fun, too!


Being sneaky with testimonials in agency new business

ad agency new business strategyToday’s few hundred about ad agency new business is inspired by a recent commercial for the University of Phoenix. The spot opens on a portrait of a professional-looking woman working at Red Cross. The camera pulls out. She’s one of many portraits hanging on the wall. The camera pans left, moving over another person working at Red Cross, and settles on a man working at Yahoo.

Sneaky, huh? The camera moving past the other Red Cross leader helped reinforce the idea that there’s a big fat network of U of P grads out there. Willing to put your resume at the top o’ the pile due to the alumni factor.

Lemme get to the point, and share a couple of potentially sneaky ways you can use other clients in your new business efforts. These can be particularly effective for clients who have more relationship-based personalities:

Personal client testimonials

It’s a given that a testimonial can describe things like the work, qualities of the relationship or results of the client / agency partnership. But how about including other milestones that send a slightly different message. That your agency can help clients be more personally successful when they hire you. Consider:

  • Worked with client since 19xx
  • Celebrated three promotions
  • Helped client through two layoffs

Sharing testimonials in unusual ways

Here are some sneaky thought starters beyond putting testimonials on your website or in other capabilities pieces. By the way, you don’t really see that many testimonials on agency websites. Which seems like a missed agency new business opportunity.

  • In emails between RFP and capabilities round
  • On walls or easels in your office or in conference room
  • In RFPs to add personal context to references or case study questions
  • On LinkedIN company pages

Interested in this topic? Check out these other posts, lovingly hand-crafted by yours truly to get you thinking a bit more about how existing clients can help grow your agency:

How to use testimonials in agency new business

How a Chief Experience Officer can improve the client / agency partnership

How to grow your ad agency beyond new business

new business development ad agency spyglass announcement pitchI don’t know about you, ad agency new business buff, but I pay attention to agencies that grow very quickly. How did they do it? What can we learn from that? I’m not talking about the fact an agency has added new business and then new staff. But the stuff that happens BEFORE those blessed events. The cause for all the new business.

Which is why this story caught my eye. It’s about a digital agency that has grown from a staff of 2 people to over 65 people in three offices. The company is BMI Elite. Here are three things that immediately caught my eye, and might offer a fellow agency new business tip-seeker an idea or two that will grow your agency…

Service is critical to this agency’s success

Their own CEO says this best. From the story: “There’s business out there to get if you’re paying attention to the client,” said Rosen. “It’s about giving the best customer service possible. We’re accessible. We answer the phone. We provide quick turnaround and our clients get results.”

This agency’s focus on service is not unlike another Florida-based agency, Zimmerman. Jordan Zimmerman is infamous for being available at any and all points through the day and night.

They don’t smell like a traditional agency

They scream “we create business and leads for you” vs. the high falutin’ brand and digital positioning that comes out of many agencies. It’s almost…what’s the word I’m looking for…refreshing? Unique. Smart. Profitable.

They may offer services you don’t

Spend just two minutes on their website and you will find out they offer call center support. And they have access to over 150 million opt-in emails through their own database. They are looking for sales executives, not account management or new business people. Maybe these are some of the reasons they don’t smell like a traditional agency. Because they’re not.

Anywho, thought you might appreciate learning a bit more about how one agency is growing. In a very real sense, it’s because they don’t act like an agency.


Some recent posts that are related to this one:

 How a chief experience officer can make your agency more efficient

How service can differentiate your agency

How the Apple experience might translate to your client / agency experience

Social media woulda coulda shouldas in agency new business

ad agency new business strategyHello, seeker of ad agency new business efficiency! There you are, busting your ass. Creating what you think is good, smart content. Only to look back at all that time and see very little as a result. We’ve all been there! Here are a few hundred words around why your blog or social media program might not be working.

You’re doing it wrong

Execution matters. The writing, the sharing, etc. There are lots of links out there that will help. Odds are good that you’re not putting enough time into it. Or you are putting the wrong people behind it. Or talking about yourselves entirely too much. Think about your target.

Here’s a thought on how to get some immediate bang for your time investment. (Hint: no blog needed.)

Your content stinks

Here’s an oldie, but goodie from the folks at Copyblogger: 20 warning signs your content sucks. Practice what is preached there. For yours truly continually makes several mistakes. The biggest one being that I crank posts out here at Thunderclap. Quickly. But without guilt. Sure, what you read here has some value to your new business efforts. But Papa’s got donuts to make.

Again, consider your target and how you can help them.

You are mis-aligned

By that, I mean your social media program is not aligned with the rest of your agency’s positioning. For example, retail agencies should be talking about challenges facing retail brands. Not issues facing kids. Unless, of course, you’re trying to increase traffic at Toys R Us.

You are expecting too much

Should you be taking a “build it and they will come” approach to your social media program, you will be disappointed by the number of tire kickers and lack of genuinely qualifed pitches coming to your transom. Your social media program is but one part of an effective ad agency new business program. Yours truly likes to straddle the spectrum of broad social media efforts and one-to-one, personal contact. I spend time on the people that show an active interest in my offering. And I track this progress and the relationship over time.

You’re not following Michael Gass

Finally, please know that I am not an expert here. THE man in this particular niche is Michael Gass. Frankly, his knowledge on how to use social media for ad agency new business is unparalleled. Sure, there are lots of other resources. But when it comes to linking agency new business revenue to social media, my friend Michael is at the top of the list. By the way, he has some programs that can jump start your success. Definitely worth checking out.

Should you be looking for a bit more insight around this particular topic, check out the following:

 Is social media killing ad agency new business? (Very old Thunderclap post that offers up a fix)

Whitepapers – an alternative to social media (Something to think about)

How to evaluate your social media program (These are the simple metrics I use)