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 use happy clients in your agency new business efforts

Hello, agency new business fan. Yes, Virginia, it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. Yours truly as been juggling a bit. In the best of ways. Today’s post is about something that agencies really don’t leverage enough in their new business efforts: happy clients.

What a big, fat topic. To optimize your value, for now, let’s focus on just two areas: referrals and testimonials.

Referrals: nothing quite says “I love you” like a warm introduction.

Client-side personnel changes are the leading factor of agency change. Should you be looking for some stat or something to back that up, look elsewhere. Papa has no time and is not being paid for that right now. But you know that a new CMO is a new opportunity. Made better when you are referred.

So, how do you increase referrals?

A couple of thoughts:

  • Ask for them. Get over the idea that you are asking your wife to meet her hot girlfriend. You will, after all, be coming home to her. Buy her flowers. Or better yet, continue to exceed your client’s expectations to earn organic referrals.
  • Include your clients in your outbound new business prospecting efforts. Have a monthly newsletter? Throw your clients on the route list. You never know when they may forward it along.
  • Incentivize the activity. Can you donate some money to your client’s favorite charity for a few email names? Could you have a fun, on-agency-brand contest to promote the firm?
  • Leverage LinkedIN. This subject is worth a stand-alone post. But take a look at who your clients know. And work it. But make sure you have something of value for their contacts.
  • Looking for more on this? Check out Ian Brodie. Very bright, nice guy. He writes about getting referrals in an authentic, honest manner.
Testimonials: nothing quite says “I love you” like saying “I love you.”

Here’s another Thunderclap post that lists some smart and uncommon ways of using client testimonials. I read this and thought, damn, there’s some good stuff in there.

For now, what I’d like to suggest is that there’s a ton of value in having your clients on record extolling your virtues. A related tip: when asked for references, consider asking permission of your clients before offering up their names. And mentioning that you do this to your prospective, new client. This does four things:

  • Helps demonstrate how you protect and value your client relationships
  • Provides you a chance to take your current client’s happiness temperature
  • Gives you a chance to talk about your client’s business and potential needs (read: more business for you)
  • Tees up a potential discussion for referrals with current client (Just sayin’.)

This is absolutely something that is practiced at Thunderclap. Did this just earlier this week, in fact. And booked another coaching session!

Anywho, should you have any thoughts on how to leverage happy clients in your new business efforts, please feel free to share. Thanks!


Agency business development implications from longer CMO tenure

Hello, agency new business development fan! Wanted to make sure you saw that the CMO tenure has been increasing over time. From a low point of 23 months in 2006 to its current average term of a whopping 43 months. (See Forbes post.)

Gotta love that. You will be reading a couple of posts around this news. But this post will address a unique area in which agencies can help ensure your agency sticks around for all that time. Thinking around this area can also help you earn and win a new business pitch.

The afore mentioned Forbes post is a quick, fine read. What caught my attention was a comment from the VISA CMO around why he has been able to keep his job for so long (49 months). He attributes his tenure to delivering against three parameters:

  1. business results
  2. brand results
  3. broader organizational impact

Gotta love the above even more, right? You can read about how your agency can impact business and brand results on other terrific new business blogs. It’s fairly straightforward kinda stuff that the industry will continue to wrestle with, optimize, deliver, yadda yadda…

But to me, the third bullet is an interesting thought. One that can make you different from other agencies.

How to create broader impact
This is most interesting because it sparked two immediate ideas:

1. Re-purpose and re-fine the agency / client relationship
I’m not quite sure if that consultant-speak delivers the thought. Might be better to illustrate this with as few sample questions:

  • How might your brand definition work effect a client’s HR policy?
  •  How does your consumer understanding effect the make-up of things like their sales channels, DMA selection or product R&D?
  • When and how is your agency involved in new client initiatives? Who’s in the room on the client side?
  • What services might your competently supply that would get other people in that room?

All agencies deliver business or brand results. Fewer agencies deliver thinking, ideas and services that move beyond marketing communication.

2.Merchandising and marketing the results of the client / agency partnership.
Said in another way, this is helping your client sell-in and sell-through your team’s work throughout his or her organization. That’s a fairly broad idea, but I think it’s clear. The sometimes political, internal stakeholder work that all clients and prospective clients must do to justify marketing’s existence. Not to mention their own jobs. Should you wish to hear more around that, lemme know.

Anywho, I hope this gets you to expand your thinking around the relationship agencies typically enjoy with their clients. Having had the privilege of working on two long standing partnerships (Shell and Coors), I can tell  you it’s the above kind of thinking that leads to happier, more productive and valuable relationships.

Thanks. And happy thinking!


Looking for some hand-picked Thunderclap posts around this area? Check these out:

How to keep your client / agency relationship spicy after 50 years.

How client service can differentiate your agency.

How a Chief Experience Officer can make your ad agency new business more efficient

Another ad agency new business inspiration from Apple

Walk the halls. Now, with donuts.

Resource: Harvard Business Review blogs for your agency new business efforts

Hello again, new business fan! Today’s few hundred words detail another resource from the Thunderclap files. The Harvard Business Review blogs. Very smart stuff here that will help improve your new business development efforts. What follows are some quick thoughts.

Jumpstart strategic thinking
Either or yourself or for a prospect or a client. Here’s a great example. This smart post illustrates four ways a company can stay relevant.This particular article is written by David Aaker, a thought leader who has published more than 100 articles and 15 books on marketing and branding. This post could be something you could pass along to your pitch, planning or account management teams. Or maybe even – gasp – a potential client.

Identify a few potential partners
While I have no idea if Mssr. Aaker is open to some sort of win-win partnership, he’s not the only writer on their blog. Many of these professionals write for the purposes of business development. They might welcome a call should you have a good idea or opportunity.

Demonstrate you are current and smart
Kinda goes with saying. But what I have always loved about the kind of writing seen in HBR is it’s clarity and simplicity. Harvard Business Review is a well regarded brand. Just reading what’s on their blog makes me sound and look smarter. Imagine what your potential clients and existing clients would think.

Here’s a thought or two on what I look at when I use this work on behalf of agencies. Of course, your mileage will vary. It really depends on usage context. And while you might read about some specific examples, that stuff is zipped in Thunderclap’s cone of silence. But here you go:

  • Avoid posts written by other agencies. Generally speaking, not that great an idea. I try to stick with people that are general management consultants, and better known authors. People or people at brands that already have some awareness. This adds impact.
  • Check out the “more popular” links. This is a quick way to determine what might be in the minds of your target: business readers. You can check all sorts of metrics: most read, most shared, etc. Smart.

Anywho, hope this helps. Thanks. And happy surfing.


Resource: Indexed illustrations for your next new business pitch

Hello, agency new business development fans. Wanted to make sure you had this in your resource rolodex. Because it could be a great way to make your pitch presentations a more simple and effective. Are you familiar with Indexed? Very cool site run by Jessica Hagy, an illustrator known for her a style of drawing charts and diagrams that make things easier to understand. As she describes it, “visual storytelling with a twist, a shout and sometimes a snort.” Good stuff.

There are lots of ways to use this unique and interesting technique in your new business pitches. Here are just a few:

  • Summarize a key thought or insight
  • Demonstrate a potential client opportunity
  • Point out how you are different than other agencies

What follows are two tactical representations of how to present this style of work. Both in a good way and maybe not so good way…

A good way.
Jessica’s own site. A teaser-type headline, and then a graphic that pays it off.

Maybe not so good.
Check out how Forbes does it. They lead with the graphic, then pay it off with some copy. To me, not as effective. And honestly, I didn’t see how this works at first. The problem is the number. You want to read the number and associate the graphic below it with that number. At least I do. Particularly if I’m just scanning the article. Maybe it could be fixed simply by taking out the number.

Tricky business, this. You will probably not have this challenge in a pitch room.

(By the way, Forbes has been really hitting it out of the park with some terrific CMO-focused content. Should absolutely be on your reading list.)

Full disclosure: she has a Google page full of resources that have talked her up. (So, yours truly might be the only person that wasn’t aware of her work. I just dug it and thought you might find it helpful in your new business development efforts.)

Should you be interested in working with her, feel free to contact her at this site. She’s based on the West coast and can work remotely.

Happy pitching.