How small ad agencies prospect against big ones

Hello, fellow new business development enthusiast! Today, my friend, come a few quick thoughts on how smaller ad agencies can win the prospecting war against the big guys. They were inspired by a Twitter exchange last week with an actual Thunderclap fan. (There are two, ya know. Three if we count The Missus!)

Anywho, here are a some things that will get your brain working:

  • Specialize. While yours truly has successfully executed several positioning projects – or helped craft elevator speeches – or even think about how your mantra can be used across your business… a fine resource for you to also consider is Tim Williams of Ignition Group. He does positioning well. He even wrote a 4As booklet on the issue that is absolutely worth reading.
  • Well placed publicity. Nothing like a little third party recognition to bring some attention to your agency. I was just reading a deck a search consultant pulled together that offer up some tips on how to work with (beyond writing them a big, fat check), and they talked about how important it is to get your work discussed. Makes a lot of sense to me. But here’s an idea that moves beyond a head nod – write a “ten trends…” piece on a category or audience you know particularly well. NOW is the time, by the way, to execute something like this. Marketers are planning 2011 now. And then pitch your trends piece to some trade magazines that cover that category. It won’t make their print issues, but could make their website. Not as sexy as getting ink in Fast Company, the NYT or Brandweek. But in many cases, a heck of a lot easier, because trade magazines are always starving for good copy. They are also better targeted.
  • Social media. Agencies love this drug. Because it’s a great way to get inbound pitch opportunities and doesn’t feel like selling. Social media can be a size-neutral thing. In fact, I suggest that the agencies really doing social media the right way are some of the smaller guys. And I also contend that small agencies seem bigger through social media. For now, you’re being spared the idea that social media, in and of itself, is NOT a strategy. Many elements of social media – like having Twitter, or a blog, or a Facebook page – are a tactic. But I digress! Get more good thinking from Michael Gass at Fuel Lines.
  • Here’s another one: continue the efforts. So many plans start with the best intentions, but ultimately lose steam after a couple of months. This is particularly true with the big ones. And it takes forever to execute the most simple things. You need to be the Energizer Bunny in new business, and keep going and going… Actually, give that hopper a call. You don’t see him much on TV, so he might be available. Cheap.
  • Add personal outreach to your effort. Believe it or not, some of the big guys still have a “wait by the phone” mentality when it comes to prospecting. We know better. “Outreach” here can mean follow-up after a mass email. Or simply asking your current clients if they know anyone you can put on your mailing list. Or…you get the idea.
  • Chase the small fruit. Great big companies have small brands that need the care and attention you can provide. They may also not have as many agencies clamoring for them.
  • Finally, chase the “crap” assignments. You know what I mean. Just wrote a post on this one. You can check it out here.

Anywho, enthusiast, thanks for reading! Hope these have been helpful. And if you’d like to chat about some specific strategies that are made just for your agency, feel free to give me a shout. Happy prospecting.