It’s funny, after awhile you forget some of the great stories that come out of the agencies we’ve trained.

growing your ad agency

A guest post from a big ad agency exec.

And then, out of the blue, we get a call from someone we worked with many years ago. Now, a very successful leader with one of the worlds largest marketing firms, I had to ask if he could send a short note his experience with Sanders Consulting. This is what he sent – and remember, the Headline, BodyCopy, Logo, Illustration are all profiles out of our training – what we call chemistry:

When we first decided to work with Sanders Consulting in Europe, back in the ‘90s, we had just slipped from #10 agency in regional new biz revenue to #11. For a network that was #1 in terms of size, offices and just about every other measure, not good. It was clear that the business was changing and we could no longer rely just on a few major multinational wins to sustain the network; “feeding the bear” as some used to call it. We needed to be successful new biz hunters of local business in every local office and in a situation where managers had grown used to being fed business regularly, that was a big ask. We had to introduce a whole local support infrastructure and a central part of that would have to be new business training.

So we called in Sanders and introduced a whole range of pitching techniques, each of which was tried and found successful, even if we had to Europeanise a few. Probably the most revolutionising for us was Prospect Profiling. Until then it is fair to say we had  had a “BIG AGENCY” way of pitching, which was providing diminishing returns. It soon became clear that this approach suited one profile group exactly, but our client portfolio was clogged with those clients and we could not really pitch more because of conflicts. So we had to learn to adapt our approach to suit emerging types of both local and international clients, who in most cases did not share the culture of the established multinats.

To cut a long story short, in three years we were #1 audited new biz winner in Europe and 70% was coming from local clients. The knock-on benefit of that was that by the end of the decade, we had evened up our client portfolio in most offices to a balanced international / local fit, which meant we were more attractive locally to top talent and could also provide a better level of local support for international clients when required. Our audited conversion rate in last rounds over hundreds of pitches has reached over 70% for several years at a time and has rarely dropped below double what we should win based on the odds of number of agencies pitching.

We won a massive financial account in Germany when we realised the key client was an Illustration. Until that point we were really not getting on well and about to be dropped from the competition. The local team thought the work was not good enough and had kept just throwing new work at him, but it was everything except the work. We worked over the weekend to sift all the stuff the client had rejected, repackaged it with the right kind of theatre and pitched it Monday morning in a way that helped him to see how it fitted all his needs. He was big enough to admit the work had been good all along and appointed us on the spot.

Elsewhere we pitched a beer client who was clearly a Body Copy, but had a consultant who was pure Illustration and was known to have a friend at the incumbent agency. We first decided to pitch to the Body Copy, but realised she would probably take the consultant’s advice, so decided to slant everything to the Illustration and rely on his influence. It worked, we won.

We pitched a global telecoms company that had an off the scale Illustration as Brand Director and pitch leader. We used that knowledge to get to the finals where we simply weren’t sexier than another higher profile agency. We lost. But we had noticed an influential Logo in the team and got on well with him and his colleagues. A year later the Illustration left and the account came to us without a pitch.

We were invited to pitch a very famous food brand and profiled the recently arrived Marketing Director from Australia as a heavyweight Headline. We cut the fat out of the pitch, produced a very pragmatic and effectiveness-oriented deck and won in style. Interesting thing was the relationship was so strong that we were able to do creative award winning work for that hard bitten effectiveness-led lady.

The war stories could go on forever, but it is not just in new business that the learnngs from Sanders have helped us. It was not long before managers started asking why, if profiling was so successful for winning it, why didn’t we apply the same principles to keeping it. We found that Account Execs were being taught everything except how to be a good Account Exec and that meant understanding their clients far better. Managers also asked if profiling could help sell better work to existing clients, well it could, but it became very clear that producing “Illustration” ideas and expecting a Logo client to buy them was asking for the moon. There is never just one right creative solution and profiling the client helped us to match the needs of the consumers with the constraints of the client corporate or personal culture.

I don’t believe through the application of Prospect Profiling, we have ever deceived a client, nor tried to  make our people something they are not. We have used it to make a better fit between what the client needs and wants and what we provide in terms of people, product, and presentation. It is a win win for both sides. As a leading Marketing Director of a massive global food company once said to a seminar for new biz leaders: “Don’t come and pitch to us until you have done your homework and understand us and our culture”. He meant get profiling and make sure we are going to enjoy your visit.

Best regards,

Name withheld to respect the winning agency’s brand!

How to Win New Business in Advertising.

Working with agencies on new business, I am always amazed to find how many are missing the same key ingredient – seem to miss at how to win new business. Agencies do not trip over producing successful creative approaches or in describing the quality of their service offerings.  They most often trip over failing to distinguish between new business and advertising. The key is understanding how new business is different from doing great work for clients, why good chemistry is essential, and how NOT to make yourself difficult to hire.

We consistently take calls from ad agency leaders dissatisfied with their new business effort, but dedicated to breaking their losing streaks with the next presentation of their capabilities (capabilities presentations are for losers). Often these calls come to us at the eleventh hour when losing is not an option. We can help, but boy does that make it tough.

If you’re not sure where to start our DayOne program was developed for agencies exhausted with the chaos of new business at their agency and dedicated to fixing new business once and for all. It is my hope that we can help your firm the way we have helped thousands of other agencies.


Photo by MiniMonkey