Every once and a while someone comes back into your circle of friends.

new business pro

Janet Fitzpatrick-Wilks
Story As A Service

Janet Fitzpatrick-Wilks was a client of ours back in the day. Sadly, we lost contact with her after she moved to the far side of the world where she was involved in both agency and client leadership positions. Her experience has spanned many positions, multinational clients to worldwide agencies, and her ability to grow any business has been proven time and again. She was one of AdAge’s Top 25 Marketing Women to Watch, and has one of those strategic minds that’s always on.

And now she’s been kind enough to share a few thoughts on the world of ad agency new business:

Who’s Your Agency’s Best Client? And Why Are You Neglecting Them?

It’s a question that repeatedly cropped up across my (lengthy) career.

As agencies went about the business of client prospecting, often less than systematically, it begged the question “is this the way we’d approach it for our own clients?” Sure, categories and prospects were identified and connections made, but what came next? Most agencies were still playing the short game. Their primary goal: Get onto the pitch list and win.

But advertising isn’t a short game.

What if there is no imminent pitch? What consistently great value could we offer to help nurture contacts into prospects and over time – sometimes a long time – convert them to clients? A challenge marketers face every day.

The World We Live In:

How can relationships be built that are strong enough to accompany the ever-mobile Marketing Head, wherever their next job may take him or her? Too often we simply didn’t have a good answer for the long game. Most agencies weren’t set up for it. It isn’t in our collective psyches.

Sure, we had some stories to share. We might distribute some “thought-leadership” content now and again, or issue press releases about awards we’d won, office moves, promotions and speeches given, or clients’ awards and work. Blogs and social channels were (reluctantly and often scantily) populated. And of course personal connections were still important, though finding the time and resources to make those meetings valuable was often tough.

Yet, we still put 90% of our efforts into playing the short game, plunging time-after-time into RFP feeding frenzies, scrabbling our way through pitches fraught with urgency and inefficiency.

It felt like Ground Hog Day. Where was the well-oiled machine that should have been humming along nicely by now?

People would state with conviction: “it’s all about the work” while truly believing it was all about the price, though in reality passion, chemistry, goodwill and trust more often than not defined the winners. And those bonds aren’t built in a day.

Strange but true, agencies that make their profits from world-class communications and marketing often have a massive blind spot when it comes to applying these skills to marketing themselves.

In fact if we approached our most valued clients’ marketing the way we approached our own, we’d probably be fired.

New World of New Business:

Have new business practices changed over time?

Of course they have. We’re in a different world today and relationship marketing must be integral to an agency’s promise. If you aren’t helping generate leads, nurture relationships and close sales you’re unlikely to flourish for long, and your clients might not hang around to watch the show. Today agencies are populated with digitally savvy people, who understand the mechanisms of relationship building and content marketing. They have their hands firmly on the data and technology tiller.

So yes, it’s changing, particularly in the larger companies.

More marketing investments are being made. Agency CMOs are increasingly common and visible – and when Business Development and Marketing work hand in hand, good to great things can happen.

Has the traditional ad agency new business practices changed enough?

No, they haven’t. Many agencies are still moving too fast to press pause long enough to re-evaluate their own models. This isn’t layering some new ideas on top of the “old way” of doing things: Rushing to submit boilerplate RFP’s and then performing in beauty parade after beauty parade – often at enormous cost. That old way is unsustainable.

rethink new business

Learning only happens when we’re forced to rethink our beliefs about what we know to be true.

It’s time to take a completely fresh look at your business growth model and marketing strategies. If you don’t treat yourself as your own most valued client, winning is going to get tougher. Some fresh thinking and a healthy overhaul of your business development and marketing strategy may be overdue.

So, to get you started, here are 12 questions which, when turned on their heads, actually become 12 suggestions:

  1. Do you have a dedicated head of Marketing, and does he/she have the necessary authority and resources to work with?
  2. Does Your Head of Marketing collaborate closely with your Business Development Team?
  3. Do you have a clear, documented business growth plan?
  4. Have you developed a targeted prospect list, and is it updated regularly?
  5. Are you managing prospects through CRM tools, using lead scoring?
  6. Are you using Marketing Automation Tools?
  7. Have you developed personas and touch point analyses – just as you would for your clients?
  8. Have you mapped out your content calendar for 12 months, and do you review it in detail monthly, or quarterly?
  9. Does it include a rich mix of evergreen, topical, social and experiential initiatives? Does it include video, infographics, whitepapers, events and a range of the content tactics most marketers favor?
  10. Have you set measurable goals?
  11. Do you use your resources to not only design and develop content – but to promote distribution and outreach?
  12. Does everyone in the company know that they share responsibility for business growth too? And do they have enough passion and knowledge to enable them to do that? In other words: Don’t short-change internal culture building, and let your very best people loose!

Rethinking and systemizing your approach can be hard in the hurly, burly of everyday agency life with all it’s attendant pressures, but there are smart, streamlined and cost effective ways to do it today. It simply takes commitment.

So, don’t let your business get in the way of your business. Treat yourself as though you are your own most valued client.


Janet Fitzpatrick-Wilks
Story As A Service 
An L.A. based marketing and communications strategist, story-crafter and content wrangler! Having worked globally at senior levels, with leading full service and Media agencies, and Marketers, my focus is to help build pathways to growth through dynamic, effective content marketing.
[email protected]
Photo by Evilien