Getting out of an ad agency new business development slump

The agency business is a cyclical business. Particularly in new business development. You’re up for awhile. And it feels awesome. You seem to win everything you win…you hire some terrific talent…your existing clients love you and reward you with incremental business…you are a press darling. You become one of those agencies people read about in Ad Age!

But then…bee-yoop. It all goes to crapola. A piece of business is lost. Some people leave. The press turns. Bloggers get downright mean. And you have a hard time attracting terrific talent without paying a premium.

What to do?!

The following are a few things to consider in your new business development efforts.

Take a look at your past
Audit yourself. Take a look the two most critical areas in new business development for your ad agency: prospecting and closing. By prospecting, we’re talking about all of the strategies and tactics you employ to increase the number of pitches your agency earns. “Closing” is referring to pitching. The stuff you do when you’re convincing a potential client that you are the right agency for them.

Take a look at your competition
When’s the last time you did some homework? The last time you checked out the agency space with a critical eye? Take a look at some of the agencies featured in the trades and industry blogs. Note the kinds of things they’re doing. How they position themselves and their professionals…their capabilities…their digital presence…and their new business activities. What’s different about their efforts? What do you like and not like? What might work at your agency?

Take a broader look, too. What’s the category doing? Why? What are the consultants saying in the space?

Take a new look at your target
With what you’ve seen at your agency, the competition and the category, let’s get some perspective from the people buying our services. CMOs, Vice Presidents of Marketing and agency decision-makers of all shapes and sizes. How might you describe them? What are their challenges? How do they think? What’s changed over the last three years for them?

These kinds of questions and many more like them will help you pull together a plan that you and your agency can execute to reverse a new business slump.

And while it’s awfully self-serving to suggest you should hire out an audit, it is entirely possible to do this yourself. (Though, naturally, there are some inherent benefits in hiring an experienced new business expert! But I digress.)


Oh, by the way, here’s a different take on an audit. It’s from an customer experience perspective. And here’s a post that discusses common closing problems and a potential solution. And then, apparently another closing post was written that looks at zen, motorcycle maintenance and agency new business.