There is no question ad agency growth is important.

Agency Growth

Agency growth takes time, flexibility, ambition and passion.

There have been countless books, articles and conferences trying to highlight the art of winning new business. As we often say, new business is the lifeblood of any agency. Growth should be top-of-mind for every agency leader.

So how do you win that client you really want? You know it will take time, energy, and lots of effort, but what approach to take? How should you introduce your agency to that great client?

Below are the 8 basic new business approaches we’ve seen work over the years:

1. The Honest Approach:

The Process

  1. Make a call and ask if you can stop by to say hello.
  2. Honest approach works best around the holidays.
  3. Try to avoid going into details or rationale over the phone.
  4. You’re pushing for a first visit.
  5. Position it as just a casual visit.
  6. Being “in the neighborhood” usually helps.
  7. Honesty works.

The Benefits

  1. Quick and easy.
  2. Low cost.
  3. Little effort required.
  4. Can get a first meeting.

The Negatives

  1. A “no” really stops the new business process.
  2. Doesn’t give prospect much to judge you on.
  3. Agency awareness really helps and lack of awareness really hurts.
  4. Next step sometimes isn’t clear.

2. The Phantom Agency Approach:

The Process

  1. Make a call and explain that your agency has been tracking the account for about 6 months.
  2. You have everything that the current agency has done all laid out for the 6 months.
  3. Then your agency has developed on its own what it would have done in those same 6 months.
  4. In the call you explain you would like to lay out what your firm developed and how helpful it might be for the client to see how much further ahead you might be with another approach.
  5. It’s a major tantalize to a good prospect.
  6. Approach really works best with a CEO.

The Benefits

  1. Clearly shows your agency’s expertise.
  2. Allows you to be a Monday morning quarterback.
  3. Shows prospect alternatives that are ready to go.
  4. Shows agency commitment.
  5. A hard thing to pass up.

The Weaknesses

  1. Expensive, a big commitment.
  2. Lot of waste if you get a “no.”
  3. Can you get a good bead on everything client is doing?

3. The Big Idea:

The Process

  1. You call up the prospect and relay the fact you’re your firm has come up with a significant idea for the prospect.
  2. You want to bring it by and show it to the prospect.
  3. You go and dazzle them with your brilliance and win the account.

The Benefits

  1. Sounds appealing to a client, especially if it’s more than just a creative solution.
  2. May not be difficult to develop the idea.
  3. Easy to show and explain.
  4. Can be quickly done and taken over.

The Weaknesses

  1. Big Idea may not be considered helpful, then what?
  2. Many corporations are skittish about unsolicited ideas for legal reasons.
  3. Does the Big Idea lead to more work?
  4. Big Idea makes it easy for prospect to say “Thanks” but not proceed further.
  5. Big Idea may take time to develop.
  6. Don’t wait until you have an appointment before developing the Big Idea to avoid, “Great, can you come now?”

4. Door Opener Mailing:

The Process

  1. Agency develops a door opener mailer that is easy to remember.
  2. Send mailer to prospect and then call behind it.
  3. Use mailer to start a phone relationship.
  4. Call several times, and if you can’t get through, wait 60 days and repeat process.
  5. The better the mailer, the better chance of getting through.
  6. Average 15% – 20% initial contact on first series of calls.

The Benefits

  1. Quickly builds awareness.
  2. Offers opportunity to create a business relationship over the phone.
  3. Mailer is easy to remember.
  4. Easier for agency personnel to make “warm calls” (calls behind a direct mail piece) than making cold calls.
  5. Positions the agency right away.
  6. More professional approach.
  7. Shows agency commitment.

The Weaknesses

  1. Easy for prospect to ignore.
  2. Doesn’t create a lot of urgency.
  3. Continual contact helps (more mailings).
  4. Requires agency discipline to maintain and do.

5. Capabilities Presentation:

The Process

  1. Call good prospect and ask to come by to show your agency capabilities.
  2. Go and give a review of your capabilities and hope it leads to a business discussion.
  3. You want business discussion to lead to some opportunities where your firm can be of service.

The Benefits

  1. A traditional agency approach long used in the industry.
  2. Shows agency range of services and case histories.
  3. Not difficult to prepare for.
  4. Not difficult to do.
  5. Little agency commitment.

The Weaknesses

  1. The capabilities presentation may not lead to any meaningful business discussion.
  2. Easy for prospect to say “Thanks, we’ll call you if we need you.”
  3. Your capabilities may not relate to their current business needs.
  4. Hard for client to see benefits of taking action from non-related agency capabilities.
  5. Long history of not working.

6. The Social/Business Approach:

The Process

  1. Check with friends, contacts, media sources and figure out how to meet the prospect at a social/business meeting.
  2. Examples include clubs, civic meetings, charities, associations, trade shows, church, and university opportunities.
  3. Attend and “bump” into the prospect, introduce yourself, and start a conversation about things you have in common.
  4. Don’t pitch business at the meeting but exchange business cards and offer to call next week because your firm has a point of view about their business.
  5. Reconfirm with a personal letter.
  6. Make the follow-up call.

The Benefits

  1. Gentle way to do new business.
  2. Very targeted and personal.
  3. Little wasted time.
  4. Little agency effort required.

The Weaknesses

  1. Takes time to set up.
  2. Usually doesn’t create immediate results.
  3. Can be ignored.
  4. Can position you as a friend, not a corporate resource.
  5. Might be seen as manipulative if the truth comes out.

7. The Referral:

The Process

  1. Find/arrange a contact you have in common.
  2. Go see the contact and ask them to make an introduction for you.
  3. Ask your contact to write a letter on your behalf making an introduction.
  4. Offer to write the letter to your prospect.
  5. Follow up with your prospect.

The Benefits

  1. Nice way to make contact.
  2. Conveys an obligation for the prospect to meet with you.
  3. Not easy to brush off.
  4. Establishes some credibility.
  5. Not difficult to set up.

The Weaknesses

  1. Mutual contact might not be seen as a good judge of company needs.
  2. You need to find a mutual contact.
  3. Mutual contact might not be willing to go to bat for an agency.
  4. Easy for prospect to meet with you and then brush you off.
  5. Has no way for follow up after the first meeting.
  6. May be seen by prospect as strictly a social get together.

8. The Inbound Approach:

The Process

  1. Develop a strong point of view in a narrow category, function, or industry.
  2. Research and dig deep, create some models and metrics to show case your expertise.
  3. Create enough strong content to support your point of view and drive prospects to your site.
  4. Set up a prospect scoring system.
  5. Focus on key words, SEO, landing pages, and Google ranking.
  6. Follow up with good leads with targeted information, insights and marketing tools.
  7. Send a steady stream of good information to the prospect and build your expertise, awareness, and relationship.

The Benefits

  1. Provides focus for your agency brand.
  2. Easy for prospects with a need in your area of focus to find you.
  3. Little out of pocket cost.
  4. Establishes your agency as an expert in area of focus.
  5. If handled correctly it’s easy to close.

The Weaknesses

  1. Takes consistent effort to create enough good content.
  2. Need to understand how to follow up.
  3. May miss good prospects.
  4. It takes time.
  5. Passive effort.
  6. More competition every day.
  7. Requires a specific set of skills.
  8. Despite all your work the prospect may still ignore you.

 

There is no such thing as a common new business approach.

The fundamental principles of new business have always remained the same – find the client, win the client, and keep the client. Setting up a new-business system that works, and provides consistent ad agency growth, is essential.

 

Money by Aaron Patterson. CC-BY 2.0

 

Bob Sanders

President at Sanders Consulting Group
Our only focus is helping creative organizations develop new directions for growth and operational excellence. We do no work for clients. We're on your side.