Pitch Predictor: Arthur J. Gallagher

This global b2b giant just announced they have hired a Chief Marketing Officer. This Wall Street Journal story has the details. Should you as an agency be asking, “just what is  an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm, anyway?”…then this might not be a new business prospect for you.

But for the five agencies that read this post that do know what it is…enjoy!


What George Costanza can teach us in ad agency new business development

So, George Costanza really wasn’t the inspiration for this little bit of ad agency new business inspiration. But I fell in love with the headline and thought it would draw you in. Rather, this morsel of business development thinking comes from a smart movie called Locke.

To me, the film is attractive because it’s makers reinvent the standard movie format. In some cases, they actually DO pull a George Costanza. They do the opposite.

In Locke, you see only ONE actor on the screen for the entire movie. And he’s driving and having different hands-free cell phone conversations to move the story along. So, the movie takes place in just ONE setting.

Listed in absolutely no particular order, here are a few quick thoughts that upend standard agency positioning, new business and growth practices.

  • Never doing spec work
  • ONLY pitching if invited
  • Create an agency that ONLY does execution and NO strategy
  • Become an agency that ONLY hires people above the age of 35
  • Hire no one over 30
  • Never using powerpoint, keynote or prezi in your new business presentations
  • Turn down a pitch opportunity and recommend another agency
  • Make your office a digital destination vs. a physical one
  • (Admobile, anyone?)
  • Calling yourself a consulting firm vs. an agency
  • Sell yourself to a client, technology company or consultancy vs. an agency holding company or roll-up
  • Hire out-of-work client CMOs instead of agency new business people
  • Specialize in only ONE old-school medium
  • Double your rates
  • Ignore the competition in your next pitch
  • Bring only two people to your next new business meeting
  • Add a strong call to action to your website
  • Present initial prospect thinking in a capabilities presentation
  • Turn in your RFP response one day early
  • Ask your existing clients for names to add to your email newsletter list

This is just a starter list. Doing the opposite works for Locke. And for George. So, how about you? What could work at your agency? Take a look at the existing structure of an agency. Pull apart different elements like what, who, where, how, when and why. And consider changing things up a bit to become more marketable.

Should you know of any good examples of agencies doing the opposite, feel free to share them below or drop me a line.

Happy George Costanza-ing!






Pitch Predictor: Lands’ End

Looks like this classic brand just got a new Chief Marketing Officer. The new CMO, Steven Rado, brings years of experience to his new position, including leadership positions at Office Depot and Victoria’s Secret. He will be leading a team of 50 professionals.


Innovation in ad agency business development through other professions

Are you looking for new thinking to find and win more ad agency business? Trying to do something new and engaging that will differentiate you from agency competitors? Perhaps you will find value in this idea: adopting lessons learned from other professional service industries.

Earlier this year, I was a guest judge for the Legal Marketing Association’s Your Honor Award Program. The awards recognize the best in legal industry business development practices. Every year, they elect someone who has relevant, but indirect experience. It was a pleasure to judge. And I picked up a thing or two that could be applied to the ad agency new business function. Here are just three quick thought-starters:

Leverage the power of the alumni network

This seems to be a much bigger new business tool in the legal profession than in agency life. I personally have very fond memories of my experiences with places like Ogilvy and Foote, Cone & Belding.

The legal business celebrates their alumni, treating them like university alumni. Think about what that could mean for your agency. And to me, agency size doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is as simple as a little “where are they now” snippet on a newsletter or blog. Or, if you’re driving the agency business development efforts one of those great big alphabet soup agencies, perhaps you take lessons from university fundraising, and create a magazine that lets former alumni see the latest agency news, work and accomplishments. Just don’t forget the bits at the end that update fellow alumni.

How might LinkedIN and other social media relate to this concept? While groups exist of agency alumni, I think there’s opportunity to do something different. And, the more positive, warm relationships your agency has with people outside the firm, the more pitches you’ll hear about.

Consider specializing. In a target, or a category or situation, or…

Seems like the legal profession is more crowded than the marketing communication industry. There’s a lot more specialization where you find more Latin being used. (Although this isn’t cause and effect. I just felt the need to shoehorn “ipso facto” into this post.) The legal business applies the concept to not only how they market themselves, but how they’re structured, and in some cases, where they’re located.

Heed the words of terrific consultants out there like Michael Gass, Tim Williams or a host of others. And make new business development easier, more efficient and more fun. Specialize.

Re-define and leverage “alerts”

Legal alerts are announcements of legal changes and are a very common business development practice in that business.  They are the perfect opportunity for a legal professional to add a quick bit of smart commentary to demonstrate expertise. I wonder if you couldn’t do this with content related to your agency specialization. Or, maybe this be a branding opportunity for you.

Why, Thunderclap’s own pitch predictions are an example of a relevant alert. You’re looking for more new business pitches. And Pitch Predictors and Thunderclap supplies them – free of charge.

Anywho, hope the inspires you to find new ways of pursuing your next agency new business prospect or winning more pitches. As always, you are welcome to give me a phone call to discuss what’s shared here. As well as talk about your agency’s new business challenges.


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!