Win More New Business!

You CAN win more new business! The books all state that the president of the agency has to do new business. The AAAA’s state that you must have $10 million in billings before you can hire a new business professional. This can cause a rub if your agency falls below that level – or if you’re a president who can’t find any more time to do new business. What’s a leader supposed to do?


Tips To Win More New Business:

Tips To Win More New Business

Growing an agency is a puzzle to many.

1. Lead Right! Agency senior management often finds themselves working “in the agency” rather than “on the agency.” At most agencies, senior management is trapped into the role of being the number one skill player. That’s like a football coach trying to run with the ball. Get off the field and let your agency advance the play. Set expectations and train your staff.

2. Position Right! Agencies have been out positioned by the consultants and the brand specialists. Agencies are forced to deal with lower level functionaries on the client side in conference rooms while major decisions are made at the CEO level in the boardroom. Reposition your agency with a consulting side and an advertising side. Set your firm up for long-term growth. Run around client-side junior coordinators that don’t have the brains or the talent to give your creative staff solid direction.


3. Grow Right! New business must be focused on lead generation. New business is the lifeblood of the business and leads are the heartbeat. Your new business effort needs to be split into winning the opportunity and winning the account. Find and identify hundreds of clients who are unhappy and want to change their marketing communication company.

4. Prospect Right! Selecting your list of prospects is one of the most important decisions your firm makes. Work hard to discover the right prospects without spending all of your time searching and sorting. Locate the best prospects quickly and efficiently by “raking” the market – strong outreach that nudges a wide range of prospects on a regular basis. Ensure your team understands how to move from simple awareness with best prospects to a solid relationship, a critical transition in the new business cycle.

5. Close Right! The number one objective on any prospect first visit is to move them firmly towards selecting your agency. You need to close the account quickly, often within 48 hours, certainly within 7 days. This is a critical mindset your people need to adopt before representing your firm at an important first-meeting with a prospect. Never forget that the most important step in closing an account begins with the first visit you make on that account.



Want to get your agency growing? Order in a DayOne right away. It’ll bring clarity to your efforts, consensus to your management team, and peace of mind to you that you are getting serious about new business and taking positive first steps.


DayOne is a one-day new business assessment and planning session conducted by a senior consultant from Sanders Consulting Group at the agency. It’s one-third evaluation, one-third reporting, and one-third new business planning. It’s the most important new business day in an agency’s life.


To schedule a DayOne retreat at your agency, call Sanders Consulting Group at 412.897.9329 or email New business help is just a click away.


More Ideas For Growth:
How Any Agency Can Survive in This New Era
Agency Clients: You No Longer Care
Ad Agency Creative Approach To Leadership
Ad Agency Strategic Plan Development
7 Ways To Overhaul Your Account Management Team


 Great puzzle photo by AtypicallyStrange

How Any Agency Can Survive in This New Era

The marketing communications industry is experiencing change on a colossal scale.


High Performing Ad Agency

Tap into high performance!

Not since the introduction of television have so many profound currents converged to change the course of the ‘traditional’ agency. Whether it’s digital, the continuing wave of consolidation, the real prospect of integrated marketing communications, or the possibilities of social, agencies must look forward to make certain they don’t become merely a footnote in history. Standard measures of performance do little to help agencies prepare for this brave new world. Comfort in the status quo is a bygone luxury.


What Makes a High Performing Ad Agency?

In our work with thousands of agencies, we’ve discovered several common characteristics that separate the highest performers from those who are treading water. These high performing agencies are the ones that will survive, prosper, and redefine the industry for years to come.


Fortunately, bigness (or smallness), reputation, and strong income statements are not barometers of high performance or long term success. Any agency, in any market can set itself apart and emerge from the pack. What counts is doing the “right” things well. In fact, we have found that the traditional measures of financial health and creative awards, while a good barometer of recent success, can undermine an agency’s ability to flourish in the future.


High Performing Agency Context

  1. Vision: The best agencies in the business have a strong point-of-view of success and how to achieve it. Their people understand it, are motivated by it and work towards the same goals. Every asset in the agency is focused on the same definition of success. Decisions are made at every level and are judged in the context of achieving the agency’s definition of success.
  2. Culture: High performing agencies create an environment that fosters success. Staff and management find it easy to be creative and productive in this environment. There is an energy and sense of common purpose that creates a buzz throughout the organization. Outsiders sense it immediately and want to be a part of it.
  3. Operations: The agency thrives in a state of disciplined chaos. While creativity, spontaneity and irreverence may be the style, understand that the agency’s backbone is “business first” rules the day. Time reports are completed, purchase orders issued, technology is used effectively and excuses are not tolerated. The trains run on time – for everyone.
  4. Creative: Plain and simple, the work must be great. All is for naught if the ultimate product produced by the agency is second rate. The work consists of more than the creative product. It also includes the strategy, the thinking, and the ability of the agency to help its clients achieve their business goals – whatever they might be.
  5. Growth: Growth is critical to thrive. Growth is not an accident. The best agencies grow on purpose, in ways that make sense. They take advantage of all of their capabilities to grow organically first, and through new clients, second. Resources are not squandered in the name of growth; revenue is not left on the table for someone else to capture. High performing agencies know how to grow.


Take a Hard Look Inside

I recommend every agency owner take a day to really study each of these five metrics. Give yourself a score. Even better, break out each metric into small nuggets for more in-depth measurement. This will bring focus and clarity to the attributes that are most critical to your long term success. Clearly identify what you are doing well, and where you must improve. Concentrate your energy on the doing the right things better. This will set your agency on a course towards high performance.


What This Means to You

Success stems from doing the right things well, not necessarily by remaining small. We’ve helped firms evaluate how well they are doing against these critical measures, against past performance (to make sure that progress is being made) and looked at their agencies through the eyes of staff, clients, peers, and industry experts. With, or without, outside help, you need to do the same. What should emerge is a view that is unfettered that has clarity and purpose.


Being small does not mean you will be nimble or be able to stay close to your client. Being a self-aware agency that constantly strives to always do the right thing and do it well does translate into growth.  Don’t be scared to grow, only be scared to do nothing. Give us a call at 412.897.9329 or email us at and see if we can’t help transform your agency.


Photo by piercey


Ad Agency Creative Approach To Leadership

Agencies must be prepared to implement creative new approaches to reach and communicate with clients and consumers.


Ad Agency Creative

Isn’t it time to be creative in your business approach?

This may take a new approach to develop best practices, new ideas, and growth. As many of you know our firm has specialized in teaching agencies how to grow and improve operations in the advertising industry for the past 30 years. We’ve worked with agencies of varying sizes on projects ranging from pitching a global brand to setting up a new business program to the redesign of a single agency process.


Avoid A Catastrophic Failure

Recently we were published in Digiday commenting on the failed Publicis-Omnicom merger and offered some recommendations on how marketing firms should prepare for the future.


Tips on how to prepare for the future:

  • Reduce costs. Cutting costs is an essential step to free up resources and invest in the future. Reduce or eliminate the lingering overhead from days long gone. If your agency isn’t generating close to 20 percent profit, look closely and start making some difficult decisions.
  • Increase existing client revenue. Adapt a client solutions market strategy versus an advertising or marketing strategy. Focus on selling strategic thinking, methodology and value-based ideas. Work hard to provide a more holistic solution to clients instead of piecemeal services.
  • Increase new client revenue. Understand that a new breed of client demands a new approach to agency growth. Clients today have come to believe that all agencies are equal. Check your brand, develop an effective outreach program, and change how you close with a focus on speed.
  • Restructure the agency. Restructuring goes far beyond the normal tactics of reducing payrolls, slashing overtime or stopping the drain on cash flow. Restructuring involves repositioning your agency to take the best advantage of the new market realities. Organize your agency with an eye on capturing the projected future market. The agency brand, culture, structure, processes and technology should all be revisited.
  • Improve efficiency. Get better at service and production. In today’s environment, efficiency climbs to new heights of importance because the cost of errors cannot and will not be passed on to clients. Errors, waste and spoilage all come out of the bottom line and must be reduced significantly or eliminated entirely. At the same time, the delivery of services has to speed up. No longer will clients be willing to wait weeks for a response.
  • Expand services. Meeting the more broad-based business needs of individual clients not only creates a strong bond with the client, but it also stimulates ideas for adoption across other clients. Develop a broad-based service offering based on a keen understanding of clients’ business and needs. This understanding can provide the basis for a total client-solutions market strategy. This is much more of a consultative model and is not in the traditional agency’s wheelhouse.

Read the whole thing.


The old line about “ad agencies don’t really have any clients, they only borrow them for a bit” is truer today than ever. You must always be building awareness and relationships with new prospects. And that takes setting up and running a consistent new business program — if you want to grow, that is.


iMedia Connection published 8 ways agencies can garner new business. It’s a detailed outline of how successful agencies really generate growth.  The last thing you should worry about is working on new business. So follow these steps and get your program up and running, once and for all. There are eight steps to setting up an effective new business development program.


The top line points:

  1. Build brand congruence
  2. Identify your prospects
  3. Build an outreach system
  4. Track progress
  5. Handle leads the right way
  6. Do a chemistry litmus test
  7. Widen your circle
  8. Always be refining the process


Read the whole thing at iMedia


And there is this little article on how do you know if your marketing firm needs a new vision at LinkedIn:


Some managers may believe they have a sense of direction already. The feeling is sometimes we’ve gotten along fine up to this point, why do we need a new vision? Here are some warning signs we often see within agencies that indicate the need for leadership to get involved. Often these only show up when there is a lack of direction or uncertainty about the agency’s vision.


Read “Is Your Firm On The Wrong Path?” at LinkedIn



Final Thought:

Proactive agencies are aggressively attacking the need for best thinking, new information and growth ideas with the goal of positioning them for the future. Ad agency creative should be more than your product. As always, we’re standing by to help. Why not give us a call at 412.897.9329?


Photo by RawPoetry

Ad Agency Strategic Plan Development

These are tough times for the traditional advertising firm.


Ad Agency Strategic Plan Development

Take the Plunge: Leap into the Future!

The fundamentals of marketing are changing, traditional forms of advertising no longer get the same bang-for-the-buck, and digital is gaining more and more market share. Clients are more fickle than ever, jumping from one agency to another. In order to survive and prosper, you can’t afford to sit back hoping for the good old times to return. Be the leader and address your top strategic challenges now. It’s often been said that doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the very definition of insanity. Perhaps now is the time to embrace change, rethink your agency’s strategic direction, and set a new course. Leap into the unknown.


What Drives Failure

In order to rethink the future of your agency, we have to examine a very real case of failure. Take a look at a brand like Blockbuster– once the world leader in delivering packaged creative entertainment to the masses. What’s to blame for their demise? Failing to recognize the impact of new competition like Netflix? Perhaps, but Netflix was around for over six years before Blockbuster even attempted to offer home delivery services. Was it a lack of online delivery? Blockbuster owned a full range of content and could have created a powerful solution.


Why couldn’t Blockbuster compete with Netflix? Was it something unseen, unknown that the leadership of Blockbuster failed to grasp? Perhaps it wasn’t just Netflix that doomed Blockbuster, but a wider shift in how people think, live and interact with brands?


The advent of instant-access, always-on, digital technology is transforming the world we live in, in obvious ways AND in some ways that are unseen and unknowable this early in the process (read our post on the Digital Kaboom). One possibility we must consider is that the ease of access is altering how customers think, how they relate to brands, and raising their service expectations. Perhaps it was as simple as the leaders of Blockbuster failed to understand how customers’ desires were changing.


Blockbuster, filled with smart business people who had hired some of the top consulting firms in the world, failed to identify fundamental shifts in their market right up to the point where they were no longer relevant to the consumer. They missed entirely the evolution of the new rules of consumer behavior.


Is the ad industry about to be Blockbusted? What is really happening to the advertising industry? And more importantly, what will be the impact on your agency, short-term and long-term? And what about the consumers… they keep on moving. Are clients starting to fundamentally change without us noticing?


Leadership Is About Change

Leadership is about trying new ideas, new directions, keeping the clients happy, helping them solve their problems, and most importantly addressing their needs and issues. This is where the difference between leadership and management, between strategic thinking and day-to-day operational thinking, becomes evident.


Smart leaders don’t wait for the often-too-late-marketplace to inform their decision making. And they never wait for the competition to pave the way. It’s the truly unique firm that is out there on the edge, working on the “next big thing.” Not just keeping their finger on the pulse of their industry, but always looking for inspiration for new ideas. Understanding the client’s needs and demands is basic agency management. Staying ahead of clients, anticipating their needs, requires a little bit of thinking. Creating something new before clients even know they need it is the real challenge.


Proactive agencies are willing to set a new course that is unique within the industry. They don’t just seize new opportunities, they create them. Is it a Blue Ocean Canvas, Porter’s Five Forces Model, SWOT or some other strategic tool that can create something new? Is it a tool that empowers you to move beyond your competition, or leadership? What are you doing to help create your agency’s future? Whatever you call it: a tool, a session, a role, it is created by thinking strategically about your business.


Most agencies operate with a day-to-day mindset, dealing with clients and staff issues as they arise. Few, if any, have the time to think about the marketplace, much less about what the future may look like. Fewer still have the courage to set a new course. So I have to ask, in a world where most marketing firms are being commoditized, where there is little to no difference between agencies, why wouldn’t you do a bit of strategic planning for your firm?


Ad Agency Strategic Plan Development

The consultants call our industry “fluid and dynamic” to describe the constant change, but it’s too soon to identify the new rules. Now is the time to develop a strategic mindset. As an agency leader, part of your responsibility needs to be strategic thinking. Your staff and clients are expecting you to be the visionary, the leader who can articulate what the future will hold, and who will have to confidence to see it through to the end.


6 Keys to Successful Strategic Planning:

  1. Eyes Wide Open: Make sure you have a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing your industry.
  2. Know Yourself: Dive deep into your organization. Identify your key strengths and weaknesses. No fluff.
  3. Cast a Wide Net: Don’t rely on your team’s narrow focus. Reach outside and involve a broad spectrum of great thinkers.
  4. Beg, Borrow, Steal Ideas: Learn from the best practices of other industries, study how others overcame challenges.
  5. Execute, Execute, Execute: Establish priorities and an implementation plan. Focus on accomplishing the short term now. Adapt as you roll out.
  6. Track Progress: Make sure you understand the levers of change. And watch closely to ensure progress is being made. Communicate the changes to entire staff.


Commit To Change

You can place all kinds of business strategies in place, but if you don’t know your clients, and listen to them, your clients will eventually leave. This is what happened to Blockbuster, plain and simple.


A structured, properly conducted strategic planning session forces you to evaluate the state of the industry. To go out and learn what’s working and what’s not. To identify new trends, new ideas, new technology. It enables you to view the industry with a fresh perspective and hopefully come up with some creative ideas on how to best prepare your agency for the future.


Perhaps it’s time to create a multi-disciplinary change team of staff members designated to envision a future where your agency can thrive. Their goal is to create a new environment that takes advantage of your strengths, addresses your weaknesses, improves teamwork, and plans for the future.


Strategic thinking is a mindset, difficult to maintain in face of the constant day-to-day pressures. It’s something we always challenge clients to do… so don’t we need to do the same for ourselves? Give us a call at 412.897.9329 or email


Photo by JelloCloned-raee


Which Game of Thrones House is Your Agency Most Like?

Game of Thrones: Which House is Most Like Your Agency?


The only thing you really need to understand about the HBO series “Game of Thrones” is that everyone wants to be king. That one goal helps to simplify this incredibly complicated adaptation of an intricate book series. The question on everyone’s mind is what great house will end up winning the throne in the end?


The question I wanted to ask is which agency will end up ruling if they were one of the great houses? If you’re wondering the same thing take the quiz below and discover which of the “Game Of Thrones” Great Houses your agency is most alike. And keep watching the HBO series to see if you’ll survive, thrive, or have your head stuck on a pike in the end.

Check below to see the possible results:

[Read more...]

5 Ways to Help Brand Your Ad Agency

The problem with branding a traditional advertising agency is there is nothing to hold on to. There is nothing tangible to grasp, shake, and define as being unique.


Brand Your Ad Agency

We’re great at everything!

The general definition of “ad agency” is “we have a creative product.” Sadly, marketing “creative” ends up being the default branding touchstone. You’re an agency, you ARE creative. Marketing your creative chops is like a restaurant marketing the fact they sell food. You’re a restaurant. Great. Now what type of food? Pizza? Hamburgers? Vegan? Full service or just take out? Prospects know what they are looking for, but ad agencies hide behind “we’re creative… look at all these great ads!” Ad agencies never tell that prospect the type of creative they’re really good at serving in fear of scaring away some other prospect down the road.


Would you go to a restaurant that claims they’re great at everything? Great service, low cost, and five-star gourmet meals served fast, drive through or formal dining, we have it all! Come on in! No thank you. When branding an ad agency, you have to find a way to stand out, separate your firm from the rest of the so called “creative” agencies.


There are 5 key concepts that can help brand your ad agency:

  1. Identify the prospect: Find and fixate on a specific type of prospect. Industry, profile, generation, region, anything. Focus on understanding their world. What motivates them, excites them, troubles them? What are their goals, pressures, challenges they face? Your success in finding more ways to relate with the prospect has much more bearing on the success or failure of your brand than the marketing skills involved.
  2. Find your purpose: Clearly define your role with prospects regarding exactly what your firm brings to the party. A strategic partner that brings in business building ideas? A savvy marketing expert that grows brands? Or someone who knows how to get things done, regardless of the task. If a prospect is not sure how you can help them quickly, then they will move on and find someone who they understand.
  3. Listen, advise, they decide: One of the most difficult tasks for agency people is to learn how to be quiet. Many agencies fall in love with their work and cannot say enough about it. Unfortunately, most prospects do not care about you, only what you can do for THEM. Your brand should be built around listening to the market, the prospects, their staff, and always be responsive to what you hear. Offer insight, tools and knowledge about the prospect when you market your brand.
  4. Give them a map: It is up to you to help the prospect draw a picture of how your brand can help them. Failure to do so results in the dreaded “muddy water” brand. Clearly articulating your unique view of their market and having a proven process is like knowing the secret handshake. It gives you the inside track. It demonstrates that you understand them, their pain, their goals, and builds trust.
  5. Results gets results: Marketing is not just doing great work; it is assisting clients to reach a goal. Your brand should clearly demonstrate that you get results. In the market, in the mind of consumers, or even in the mind of the clients, you know exactly how to move the needle. Be specific. The more you show how you have helped, the more you stand out.


Ad Agency Branding Works!

Let me pull out an old file about one little agency. They were a traditional regional advertising agency, with a long history of success with a few key clients. The only real problem was they hadn’t won any new business in over 3 years. The new president started looking around for some help and called us. As we chatted, he stated that he wasn’t growing because his firm was weak in new business and was operating without a proper new business outreach program. He was partially right. But that wasn’t his biggest obstacle. He had a major brand problem.


Their brand was stale, out-of-date with the current trends, reflected the dreaded “we’re highly creative” and offered no focus, no process, and no content to demonstrate expertise. In other words their brand ended up being a wall of what we call “strategic-creative” words. These are words that all sound great but mean nothing. You know the type: “Highly creative… a unique approach… across industries… effective planning, innovative strategies, breakthrough creative, flawless execution, better brands … and of course results that exceed your expectations.” Nothing there. In fact, many clients feel a little dumber after reading stuff like that. So they run away.


After one session together, it was decided to re-brand, re-name, and add flanker offices to reposition the firm and to make them less regional. An aggressive and distinctive new brand theme was added that provided separation from every other agency in the region. An outreach program was installed to build the firm’s awareness and to encourage relationships with high-value prospects.


Our work continued for the next few months on targeting, pitch consulting, structure, and more. Those are the details. Here are the results: Less than 12 months later, the firm tripled in size, quadrupled in billings, and was going after some of the largest advertisers in the US.


A few years later, this firm was one of the most valuable agencies in the US, with several holding companies bidding to acquire them- all in time for the president to retire young. Branding really works.


When thinking about your agency brand, ask yourself if you want to eat at a restaurant that is supposed to be great at everything? Or do you want to eat at a restaurant that is the best at something you want? If you have any questions about branding your firm give us a call at 412.897.9329. Or just drop us a line


Photo by MartheMa 

Don’t Be a Revolving-Door Agency

client retention

Stop the client churn!

You know the type. It’s a place where clients come in and go out in a continuous stream. Agencies like this miss out on the most profitable parts of the agency-client relationship. It’s no fluke that across all industries it’s seven times more profitable to keep clients than to win clients.

The reason is simple. Older clients are easier to handle than new clients. The older client usually runs in a pattern that the agency has adjusted to. With a new client, the agency has to work its way up a learning curve that can be both steep and difficult. And that can be expensive in investment required and energy needed.

There’s a better alternative. Work to keep clients longer than the industry averages of 2-3 years. To do that, you need to do three things:

  • Build a client retention culture.
  • Make sure your management team knows how to maintain a strong bond with clients.
  • Upgrade your account team and help them manage the relationship with clients, not try to control clients.

Think Differently About Client Retention

Think about your current agency-client relationships and be sure the agency’s culture, defined as “the way we do things around here,” puts a high priority on retention and not on agency inflexibility. Many agencies operate with a philosophy that clients have problems and agencies have solutions and there the dividing line must be. The shared responsibility concept adopted by many manufacturing and service companies uses self-directed teams that include outside suppliers and vendors on the team. This concept has left agencies cold. The concept of working closely with clients in a joint-team arrangement, even though such a concept can dramatically improve retention, is against some agencies’ nature and culture.


Many problems with agency-client relationships are caused because of the lack of communication between agencies and clients and the poor understanding each have of each others’ worlds. By bringing the agency representatives and client representatives together to form a joint team with final responsibility for the advertising, communications are improved, understanding is increased and long-term retention is enhanced.


You can you implement a client-retention program that will positively impact your agency. How to implement these client-retention practices has been a focus at Sanders Consulting for 20 years. We’re proud of the many agencies that have used our learning programs to keep clients much longer than industry averages. The benefits are many. The agencies are fun to work at. Emergencies aren’t the rule. And clients aren’t using the revolving door.


Photo by blackboxberlin


Where is Your Ad Agency?

A recent poll among agency leaders nationwide showed clearly the strong fault lines running through the industry. Agencies are divided almost equally into three groups. Put yourself into one of the groups.


New Ad Agency Leaders

Look close, what do you see?

Breathing & Afraid

33% of US agencies recently polled consider themselves barely alive and thereby afraid to take any action. For these agencies today is an important chance to change business strategies and perhaps adopt another point of view. For the “breathing & afraid,” now is the time to develop a strategy necessity for survival – call some outside help and another point of view. Read, discover, dig in, find something new and make a change now.


Cautious & Deciding

These agencies in the middle are generally optimistic. They are deciding how to take advantage of the opportunities they see opening up. They’re cautious but want to move ahead. For these agencies, use this time to review many new management options in the areas of growth, retention, systems, and account service. For the “cautious & deciding,” now is the time to learn new tactics to start moving.


Bullish & Prospering

33% of agencies polled consider themselves very bullish about their future and the conditions they see around them. Their business plans are working well. For the “bullish & prospering,” now is the time to start tuning up what they are already doing well, enabling them to move ahead faster.


Wherever you’ve landed, implementing change in a marketing firm, ad agency, design firm, marketing department, or any creative group is not about theory.  It’s about definable action you can take today to improve your chances to grow, operate and lead. It’s time for action: shift the way you handle clients, discover new ways to inspire better performance, and get moving.


The New Ad Agency Leaders

Those agencies that are leading the charge to today’s market have redefined their functions, their structure and their processes, and just as importantly their culture. They’ve discovered new ways to achieve order-of-magnitude improvements in organizational effectiveness and personnel productivity.


Many of the new ad agency leaders we’ve worked with have implemented transformative change in:

  • Client service and satisfaction
  • Creative and strategic thinking
  • Management and staff attitudes and performance
  • Bottom line profitability


A very successful few have addressed all of them.

The future of marketing belongs to those agencies that discover how to enhance client satisfaction, client retention, client growth, and maximize profitability. They new marketing leaders have implemented new ways to reduce inefficiencies and frustrations throughout their agency. And they always create employee buy-in and commitment to their vision. They build personal and professional satisfaction, culture, throughout the agency. Only in this way can they truly prepare for the future and are able to change on a dime.


Image “the eyes have it” by (a)artwork