How to keep your ad agency new business job

In a word? Leads.

Sure, you could talk about making the agency money. But you can’t do that part of the job until you have a lead. There’s plenty of writing in all sorts of places about how to get said leads. But I thought it might be worth a few hundred words to discuss how leads are related to keeping your job. Meaning, some quick thoughts on how to merchandise what you are doing in agency new business. You know, how to make sure everyone knows you’re worth keeping around.

Think SALES and marketing

A lot of agency new business development professionals look at themselves as marketers. Particularly at the bigger shops. To me, agency “marketing” is the stuff that will impact your agency’s transom – the unexpected, but expected opportunities. You know, the stuff that makes the phone ring. So, craft a plan. Tweak the positioning, the website, your social program, develop some unique agency intellectual property… Absolutely a part of your job.

But to me, “sales” is the stuff you do before, during and after the marketing aspects. “Sales” often has a negative perception in the professional services industries. Get that outta your head. Get on the phone. Get outta your office. And start building some relationships and earning referrals. So that you can say, in a sense,  “I know this person and our agency has a relationship with this person because of my efforts.” Being able to say this and really mean it will go a long way to keeping your job. Yes, when you  do the marketing right, you’ll be able to say this, too. But the “sales” stuff and the relationship you have really matter more. Because everyone should take credit for the marketing.

Treat the agency as your client

Again, not rocket science. But more directly related to keeping your job. (And keeping you and yours from living in a cardboard box on lower Wacker, sipping Mad Dog and bitterly muttering, “new business is a tough racket.”) Two areas worth pontificating on.

The first is the actual act of “surprising and delighting” your boss and the agency with new business progress. Your goal: avoiding the new business grumpies and communicating that you are successfully harnessing the team’s efforts. This can mean things like:

  • Status reports that show progress even when there isn’t any (probably worth it’s own blog post)
  • Email heads-up notes on specific prospecting outreach efforts
  • Showcasing the work after a pitch to the rest of the agency
  • Sharing an idea that will grow incremental business (then stepping out if need be)
  • Making it easy for people to contribute to new business
  • Keeping in mind these folks are billable and already busy
  • Rewarding folks who contribute (particularly after a pitch)
  • Prompt replies and attention to internal new business interest or ideas

The second? All the political stuff. Yeah. That. Super important. Your mileage will absolutely vary there. So, more on that at another time, perhaps.

Hope this has helped. Shout with any questions. Thanks!


If you liked this, check out some other career-related posts from Thunderclap and other sources:

Big agency new business experience and your career (Part one of three)

Why new business should be a part of anyone’s career 

Michael Gass on three things a new business person needs to succeed. Good read.

Thunderclap (on Michael’s site) on your new business resume. Fine read, too. But check Michael’s links below the post.


Maslow’s Hierarchy and agency new business prospecting implications

In the agency business, there’s a lot of truth to the saying “the inventory goes down the elevator every night.” (This quote is most often linked to legendary ad man Fairfax Cone.). This could be applied to your ad agency new business prospecting efforts.

Which is why this recent Fast Company article got my attention. It explores Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and a company’s human resources function. The story articulates different levels of staff happiness. It’s a pretty smart article that can give you a thought or two on how to retain staff and create happier employees at your agency. There are, of course, several ad agency new business prospecting implications. Here are just two:

People are the core of any agency new business prospecting plan

As we all know, there are many tactics out there used to drum up new business meetings with prospects. What many current plans lack, though, is an emphasis on increasing referrals and deepening relationships with people outside your agency.

One of the things that struck me about the Fast Company article is that smarter companies understand their people are human beings. They have lives outside work. Things that are, actually, a whole lot more important than working (gasp!). While you can look at the article through an HR lens, I wonder if there isn’t value to looking at the article through a prospecting lens.

New business prospecting is not just one person’s job

This should be a head nod for you. But when you think about how your agency can eventually become a self-actualized one, creating – “an intense and magical chemistry that blurs the lines between home and work” – understand the very real benefits and implications of this thought. Implication: involve the entire agency in the prospecting effort. Benefit: more pitches. Typically, pitches that come in over the transom as a result of referrals and marketplace changes.

Again, these are just thought-starters. Check out the story, as well as another one from Fast Company on brand loyalty. It’s written by the same guy, Chuck Runyon. He’s the CEO of Anytime Fitness and knows a thing or two about energizing people – both staffers and customers.

Happy thinking.


Some related posts:

How to use happy clients in your new business efforts

The HR function and your new business efforts

Improve new business development with a brag file

Big agency new business experience and your career

Why new business should be a part of anyone’s career 

Pitch Predictor: Casual Male / DestinationXL

Hello, agency new business development fan! Did you know that Casual Male Retail Group got a new CMO? Find the story here. The new professional looks to be responsible for helping transform the Casual Male brand into the DestinationXL label.

As Americans get fatter, this makes a lot of sense. Just sayin’. Should you be wishing for a brand backgrounder to help you identify company, brand and decision-maker intel that can help shape your pitch, feel free to contact Thunderclap. Only one will be made available. Thanks! And, pass the potats.

Job Opening: Agency New Business Development Leader

Yours truly has been retained to help a 25-person Chicago-based digital, direct and data agency find a new business leader. The agency is looking to continue their record-breaking success. This is a very good job at a firm I have admired for years.

Simply put, the agency needs your expertise to help them get more new business opportunities. And then, help them win. Taking a strategic, consultative selling approach, this leader will focus on developing relationships and creating agency awareness with prospective clients, consultants and others outside the agency.

You will also own and drive the agency’s overall marketing effort, lending your expertise to agency positioning tweaks (and related materials), intellectual property, and industry thought leadership.

A new position within recent years, the ideal professional will combine social media and digital demand generation abilities with classic professional service marketing chops to help the agency attract terrific clients.

The agency offers a very solid compensation package, a budget, administrative support and a few untapped strengths to help you make an impact…and a difference.

“Fit” is crucial to the agency – we’re looking for someone with charisma, creativity and verve that is enjoyable to be around and will be a great, inspirational addition to the agency’s smart, hardworking team.

Desired Skills & Experience

  • Bachelor’s preferably in business or related field
  • 7+years of combined marketing/account/development experience with demonstrated direct, digital, database experience and 5+years in a progressive client-facing business development role within the marketing communications industry
  • Familiarity with the agency business development cycle process; must understand all phases from inbound inquiries to outbound presentations and managing an opportunity until a scope of work is signed
  • Strategic understanding of direct, digital and database marketing, mobile marketing technology & trends,  and an ability to translate that understanding to client business challenges
  • Must have experience and be fluent in digital (e.g. search, email, etc.), crm (e.g. and social (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Excellent interpersonal, presentation, listening and writing skills
  • Track record of building strong internal and external working relationships

We only respond to  applicants who possess the experience and qualifications that closely match the requirements of the above position.

Reports to: President

Strong base, plus inventive

About the agency
I like these guys. The strategy and creative work is good: purposeful, smart and results-oriented. This is a nimble, independent, relationship-based agency that has been around for 30 years. They keep clients and staff well above industry averages. They’re built on a foundation of behavioral marketing and relevant, personalized communications that generate customer engagement, interactions and measurable results. They work with both consumer and business-to-business clients in range of industries.

Should you wish to learn more, please contact Thunderclap at your soonest convenience. Happy to provide a more detailed description. Thanks.


Improve ad agency new business development with a brag file

Hey there, Daddyo! Thanks for stopping by. I spoke with another agency new business development guru the other day and she reminded me to write a few hundred words on the value of having a brag file. Both for yourself and for your agency.

In the continuing effort to be helpful, I thought there might be some value in sharing a couple of unique and interesting ways to use said file in smart career and business development for your ad agency.

But first, let’s define the term. A “brag file” is a collection of nice things people say about you. A part of your own permanent record. One of my first ones was mumble-something years ago when Dan Fox, Group Account Director at FCB wrote, “Nice job. Really!” on one of my Nielsen reports. It was routed through the Coors account team.

But this is just one example. Letters of recommendation, voice-mails and emails are great things to have thrown in your file.

And nowadays, you have a whole new source of things to add to the pile: tweets, LinkedIN recommendations, blog post comments and more. Of course, the higher the title from a recognizable source, the better. You could also collect other notable personal achievements.

From a career perspective, here are some more interesting things you might do with these kind of comments and positive juju:

  • Work it into a page and add it when you are asked about references
  • Sprinkle it in a resume
  • Throw them on your LinkedIN profile or on a personal blog
  • Share it with recruiters as you put your materials on file
  • Take a look at it next time you have a crappy day
  • Note why and how you received the accolades and make an adjustment or two

From an agency perspective, we’re really talking about a form of testimonials, right? With a little imagination, all of the above can apply to you. But here are some additional thoughts that might not immediately spring to mind:

  • Use them throughout an RFP response (or to add color to a specific question)
  • Create posters out of the comments and throw those on the walls between stop on an agency tour
  • Make a coffee table book out of them and put it in your lobby
  • Work them in in specific agent pitch videos

Anywho, hope this gets you thinking! Thanks.