What makes a great ad agency new business rainmaker?

long term agency growth from the best ad agency new business rainmaker in the business.

You need a new business rainmaker.

I was recently doing some account service training with a small agency down south, and as par for the course, I asked about new business. The owner responded that, “…we have all the new business we can handle.” What? That sounded suspicious so I asked for some specifics. He informed me that on average he gets a couple of good leads a week and carefully selects the ones he wants to go after. The rest he helps by pointing them in a good direction, often referring other agencies around town.

Wow. The owner is correct. He does have all the new business he can handle. And he even was measuring the correct metric – the number of leads! He went on to tell me this is how it’s always been, as long as he could remember. He had already grown one agency and sold it to a larger firm, and just running this agency to keep busy. And he’s been doing the same thing to win new business for over 20 years.

It seems I discovered one of those rarest of birds: the new business rainmaker. You know the type, the new business star that can lure prospects into the agency. If you’re like many agency types you’re wondering just how in the world do these rainmakers do it. How many agencies would love to have good leads flowing into their shop? Week after week? Year after year? I probed a bit deeper to see if I could uncover his secret to winning new business. Below is an outline of his approach.

The Agency New Business Rainmaker:

He stated that his goal was to do the opposite of what every agency out there was doing. In effect, he wanted to reverse the normal business gears – to have prospects call him and beg for help!

After many years working hard in the agency business he decided there were only three challenges that every agency must overcome to win new business:

  1. Lack of understanding by the prospect
  2. Lack of trust by the prospect
  3. Lack of time by the prospect

He set out to build a semi-automated system to overcome these challenges through education, outreach and quick response.

When he first started rather than market his ability to do advertising, he started by marketing the power of advertising. As the marketing world evolved, he kept evolving his educational process; from advertising to online to social to marketing automation. At every step of the way he kept educating a large pool of prospects about the latest and greatest trends in marketing. Freely giving out great insights and tips on how to effectively market in our changing world. Along the way he would casually mention how his agency was solving a unique set of problems clients seemed to have. Specific problems that aligned with many of his prospects needs.

For his education process he mostly used direct mail followed with friendly more personal updates to build his brand and deepen the relationship. He also found ways to “bump” into prospects at events and around town. His goal number one goal was to build trust over time with a large number of likely prospects.

He never tried to sell, never tried to set up a meeting, he never pushed. He just waited for the prospects to be challenged by some marketing problem. They would, of course, reach out to the one person that seemed like he had some answers. Converting them into clients was as easy is offering a great solution “just in time” to save the day.

He outlined how his approach worked: First, it gives prospects an opportunity to learn. The prospects were able to interact with his agency without being sold or talked down to. Second, it builds trust as he is perceived as the expert in all things having to do with marketing and advertising and is not pushing for a sale. So prospects listen to him when he gives them advice. Third, prospects never forget his brand, as he “nudges” them throughout the year – a constant reminder. Often his message lands on a prospects desk right as a critical issue must be dealt with. Good things happen when prospects get a timely reminder about a proven problem solver. Naturally they call.

He is then able to walk into the prospects office and have a great discussion about issues and needs. If the opportunity looks like something his agency can handle he quickly swings back in with a solution. No proposals, no high pressure pitches, no long nights.

This new business process allows his agency to pick and choose on the types of clients he works with. He’s able to generate a steady stream of prospects who want to work with his agency over the competition.

The Rest of the Story.

As he was describing his system I started to get a little nervous. This was sounding all too familiar. His system was almost identical to what we’ve been teaching agencies for over 30 years! And I know it was developed by our founder, Stuart Sanders. Could it be that someone else developed a program that is almost identical to ours? So I asked, “Where did you get the idea for this type of new business system?”

It seems that many years ago he attended a new business conference where some new business consultant outlined this very process. Some guy named Stu something. He liked the idea, and he had been using it ever since.

Small world.

The funny thing is we still teach this very process to many agencies all over the world. Isn’t it time you create your very own new business rainmaker?


Great photo by JD Hancock