How to use agency credentials to attract and retain people

One of the reasons I think agencies ask yours truly to help them find senior-level leaders is because I bring a new business mentality to the idea of searching for the right professional. Now, that idea could use a lot of unpacking and could go in lots of directions. But today, I want to spend time on an idea that could be useful and differentiating to your agency as it looks to attract and keep the best staff.

Do you use your agency’s new business credentials when you pitch prospective new employees?

Not many agencies do. They often let the agency’s website do the job. And I just wonder how effective that is. After all, websites are built with many purposes in mind.  Or they might deftly flesh out their job description, injecting a sorely needed dose of agency personality and culture.

How could standard agency credentials be made into recruiting credentials?

Below are a couple of thoughts to get your brain working…

The usual things like agency location, size, client list and capabilities could all be tweaked, calling out the details and benefits to someone figuring out whether to work for your agency or your competitor.

For instance, a broad client list can offer variety to a leader. Or help a less experienced person understand the career footsteps at your agency.

Case studies and showing agency work is always a good thing, no matter what role you are looking to fill. But from a recruiter’s perspective, what could we emphasize in a case study that will convince someone to join your agency?

Emphasize your people. I don’t know if I would go the route of smiling, happy people that go on and on about how great the agency is. That can come off as really canned and fake. But there may be an opportunity for people to talk about the things that matter to them:

  • impact/involvement/making a difference
  • fit/agency culture
  • support
  • training opportunities
  • career mobility
  • stability
  • lifestyle
  • and more

I’m not sure if I’d call these case studies. But stories about people’s successes at the agency, based on the things that they care about? Complete with career-based results metrics? Ooooof. Sounds good to me.

Hope this gets you thinking about interesting ways to find and keep your next great leader!


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!


Find a new agency or client-side job through job triggers

Hello there, job seeker. No doubt about it. Places like TalentZoo and LinkedIN are terrific places for online job listings. But  what about the step that happens BEFORE a job is posted? You know, the thing that triggers the employer’s need to fill the position.  What are the reasons new people get hired either on the agency side or the client side?

Client Side Job Triggers

These things typically are leading indicators there will be employment opportunities on the client side:

  • New CEO, President or CMO
  • Existing staff promotions / departures
  • Exceptionally large business gains
  • Bad business results
  • Office location changes
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Macro economic indicators
  • New funding sources

Agency Side Job Triggers

Looking for a new agency gig? This list is not all that much different from the client-side list.

  • New piece of business
  • Existing staff promotions / departures
  • New senior managers
  • New department managers
  • M&A
  • Missing digital / big data / social media capabilities

The Importance of Job Triggers

One could ask, “why should I even identify these triggers?” Glad you asked! It doesn’t matter if you are searching for a client-side job or an agency one. Here are just two reasons why identifying triggers can put you in a better position to get that coveted new job:

  • Give yourself more time to win the job. Generally speaking, with more times, you can craft a better strategy for how to differentiate your candidacy and put your pitch in front of the hiring manager.
  • Get ahead of the competition. It’s a race, right? As soon as the job is posted, the employer will be flooded with calls, emails and letters. By seeing the employer’s future need, you can beat the massive influx of resumes and dramatically increase the chances of being properly considered.

Hope this spurs you to think about your job search a little differently. For more career-minded thinking on this website, check out the career blog post category.

Or, feel free to check out the following:


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