There are many great agency leaders, and they all try hard to be perfect.

Perfect is the Enemy of Winning New Business

You don’t have to bowl a perfect strike every time to win in new business.

Most leaders work hard making sure everything the agency produces is as close to perfect as it can be; the most beautiful creative, the most powerful presentation, the very best marketing plan or client event. No detail too small.

Being a perfectionist can be a great asset to any agency. But for some agencies the drive for perfection hurts more then it helps. And this is most glaring in new business.

Several years ago I was working with a great little agency. They had been in business for over 30 years, had a great roster of a few good clients, a fabulous location, and did some outstanding work. The problem was they couldn’t break past the 10-15 person size. They had gotten close a few times, but something always seemed to get in the way.

I was there for a short new business review and training session we call DayOne.

My first observation was about their brand. To put it politely, it was a bit dated. The president told me they had been working on a new brand for over seven years. I thought he was joking until he pulled out a thick file that had years of ideas, brand expressions, concepts and more. Page after page of some really good ideas, powerful branding work, but nothing was ever executed. He had been hammering on coming up with the “perfect” brand that matched his vision, and just couldn’t seem to crack the code. Not able to develop the “perfect” brand he had allowed the world to change around him and his agency ended up looking old, tired, and dated.

A little over an hour later and we had “good enough” brand, complete with a brand pyramid, a strong positioning statement, and a strong creative direction for them to follow. Within thirty days, and my constant reminder about not stopping to tweak and make it perfect, they had a new website, new marketing materials, and a strong plan for growth.

Below are the areas that we’ve seen many agencies let perfect get in the way of good enough:

  • Brand that reflects the current state of the agency and market
  • Current positioning brochure (send-me-something piece)
  • New business mailers/outreach
  • Social media programs
  • Consulting programs and tools
  • Analytics or bench marketing tools
  • System of ongoing outreach aimed at prospects
  • Agency public relations program
  • New business plans
  • Facilities and agency tour
  • New business pitch decks

Unless you’ve got all the business you could ever want, both currently and in your pipeline for the future, it’s important to keep moving. Agencies can’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress. Don’t be obsessed with getting every single detail of every single initiative exactly right. Just do something, anything, and keep the new business ball rolling. Focus on generating leads, building relationships and winning new business! Adjust and adapt the plan as necessary. The important thing is that to get out there do something.


Bowling photo by Benjamin Réthoré and used under Creative Commons