How search consultants can survive in the ad agency new business world

Hi. A couple of well-written stories came up recently in our industry’s leading trade book, Ad Age, that made me think a bit more about search consultants. I worry for their business. There are, after all, some good guys out there. So I wanted to write a few hundred words on what they could do. The first story in Ad Age was about search consultants whining about procurement in the most recent Mirren conference. The second story was about the changes taking place in agency compensation (and the rise in performance incentives.)

Oh, and in full disclosure… I also worry because some of these guys will begin to get into my business – giving paid advice to agencies and agencies alone. They become an ad agency new business consultant. It’s bad enough that some play both sides. Happy to accept checks from either clients or agencies. We don’t need any more of this monkey business. Papa’s got a mortgage to pay. But we digress…!

So, what’s a search consultant do to?! Here are some thought-starters:

Sharpen your own marketing and business development
The Ad Age article about agency compensation was based on a survey performed by a highly regarded and well known search consultant. Very, very smart. Naturally, I encourage you to take a look around this site for new business strategies. But   here’s another place to find some inspiration and innovation. This “place” lists a few non-agency resources for professional service business development. Having suggesting this, though, there are a couple of really easy things to consider:

  • Develop win-win partnerships with other professional service offerings (law, accounting, etc.)
  • Get published regularly. Very smart guys out there doing this right now. But there are many platforms still available.
  • Re-engage with all your past clients. Odds are good they’ve moved on from the brand you served. I wonder if there isn’t some way you could keep in touch with your old clients each month with some valuable, helpful information.

Change up what you offer
Try to take a 30,000 foot view of what’s happening in the CMO suite. What are they looking for that you are not providing? Blow apart the Integrated Marketing Communications function. Find the areas in which your skill set has value. And yes, that’s a big, fat hint.

Agencies are beginning to build practice areas and market their specific expertise in targets or categories. Is this something for you to consider?

Change your business card
Buy someone, join forces, or become part of a much larger firm. For instance, my experience has suggested that when a management consultant gets an agency search project, they bungle it. I wonder if there isn’t an opportunity there for you.

And these are just for starters. It’s not lost on the industry that the most successful search consultants are changing the way they do business. They have already employed one or more of the thoughts outlined above. YOU can do this, too!

Many search consultants are actually nice folks. Competent, fair, smart professionals that are industry experts. While I feel for you, we are at a point when change must be necessary to thrive. Don’t make me pull this car over!

Gentle reader, should you have any thoughts related to helping a search consultant out, feel free to share with the class.



Here are just a few posts written about the consultant world on this blog:

The consultant world in ad agency new business

Do you need to know agency search consultants?

The 4as List of Search Consultants (and how to use it)