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!






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

Two words that improve your ad agency new business

ad agency new business development strategy football playThe two words? YOUR PROSPECT. Lemme explain. From time to time I come across some truly cringe-worthy agency new business practices. They’re worth discussing, only because they generate a few hundred words that can help you and your agency’s new business efforts.

Recently, yours truly perused an agency blog. It was chock full of news bits about the agency. Everything you wanted to know about them. Plenty of information around the work they had done with their clients. It was really good work, too. The kinda stuff any agency would be proud to have on its website.

And the other day, I got an email from another firm. It featured links all about the firm. Included were announcements on awards they had won…their presence at an industry show…an update on website changes… Again, this is a another really good firm that does terrific work.

You can probably guess where this good-natured rant is headed. Both of these agencies made the same mistake – their new business materials were all about them. Not their prospects. Zoinks!

With this in mind, listed below are a few commonly used ad agency new business tools with some ways to goose up relevance to YOUR PROSPECT.


Does your home page scream who you are, what you do, and the CLIENT BENEFIT? Do you have an easily accessible fact sheet? Do you make it easy for a prospect to contact you?


Are you HELPFUL to your prospect? Sharing some perspectives on how to solve their challenges? Minimizing the sales message while demonstrating your expertise and understanding of common prospect problems?

Case Studies

Do you spell out the relevance before you tell the story? Is there an opportunity to add an “implications” area that is specific to your prospect? Are they brief, because your prospect is short on time?

Staff Bios

Have you tied your staff’s experience to prospect challenges? If you’re in a pitch, how can your past be customized to the opportunity? For instance, could you talk why someone wants to work on the business…or their personal experience with the pitched brand?


Have you customized ALL of your answers, making them beneficial to your given prospect? How does your response match the culture and climate of your prospect? Can you make it any easier for your prospect to wade through your response?

Agency Tools

Is there an opportunity to put your tools to use on their business? What are the benefits to the prospect when they’re used? It’s one thing to say your process creates better work. But there’s an opportunity to more sharply better define the outcome

Capabilities Presentations

Are you minimizing the typical agency information around size, clients, geography and disciplines? Are you focusing the presentation on their challenges. Many times you can show how you have solved prospect challenges in the past. Is there an opportunity to do  some work around the brand, the target or the challenges?

Anywho, you can clearly see that thinking about YOUR PROSPECT through the entire sales process can help you earn and win more new business. Hope this has helped keep your focus squarely on your target.



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)


Improve your pitch win rate by asking a question – or fourteen

ad agency new business development strategy football playGreetings, fellow agency business development buff! Most of you are looking for efficient prospecting techniques. But what about efficient new business pitching? Are you closing most of what you pitch? How can you get better at that?

One way to improve your pitching is to get feedback from the prospect when you lose. Here’s a link to a questionnaire the 4As has recently developed that can help. It covers the basics and is a fine place to start. But I would customize the questions around the new business pitch itself. And ideally, this is a two-way conversation vs. a form.

A word of advice around asking and getting the feedback: do NOT try to sell the agency. The prospect has made their decision. You didn’t win. Use this as a learning opportunity.

The 4As deserves some kudos here for a) providing the direction and b) suggesting that agencies get post-pitch feedback and c) that you work in the need to get it early (e.g., as compensation is being discussed).

Another way to improve your pitching? Why, hire Thunderclap! Sometimes prospective clients just might not take the time to fill out a form. A prospect can also be a little more candid with a third party, which will help you get better and more helpful direction. You can find out what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done moving forward to make the agency more effective and efficient.

But I digress. Check out what the 4As is suggesting. Make your own version of it. And improve your pitching!