Ask any child and they will tell you their game plan for the one night they get to go wild, be free, and collect as much booty as they can carry.

Trick-Or-Treat Lessons for New Business

Have a plan, work the plan, and enjoy the new business.

Ah… Halloween! For a child, this is the ultimate life lesson in setting goals, planning, and follow-through. While many kids just hit the road and run about willy-nilly, stumbling around in the dark looking for that rare house with something good, our winner returns with a pillowcase filled to overflowing with premium candy.

What lessons can we take from those little demons who understand the rules of trick-or-treating better than the others?

You just have to master the 5 rules of strategic trick-or-treating first:

Rule 1. Get Motivated!

All the successful kids are motivated to find and collect as much candy as possible. What’s your motivation for growth? For more new business? Is it to find a way to get rid of that one awful client? Or is it to find more revenue to hire additional staff? Find and identify that single motivating factor to get you energized. Too many agency leaders act like those kids who are just out having fun, drifting along with the crowd, not looking for ways to increase their candy haul. They sit back and relax, just happy to have found that one home with a great morsel of candy and missing the great opportunity one neighborhood away.

Rule 2. Avoid the Mob.

Many kids will form huge mobs in the mistaken belief that, by overwhelming the homeowner, they can score the big one. Plus, there’s safety in numbers. Resist that temptation. The mob triggers the defensive instinct in the person handing out candy. You don’t want that. Most agencies don’t have a tangible product to sell so they focus on highlighting their “creative” capabilities – of course, this ends up looking the same as everyone else. You’ve blended into the mob trying to snag any morsel handed out. Reject this thinking! Clearly define your role with prospects regarding exactly what you bring to the “front door”. 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. As the market continues to fragment, agencies have to work harder to stand out!

Rule 3. Trick-or-Treat Where the Candy is!

Too often, many kids think if they head to the rich neighborhood for the big score they’ll end up enjoying a huge haul: bags full of premium candy. But that’s a lie! The large yards will slow you down, the candy is often discount bands, and the competition is huge. It’s often better to head out for the new neighborhood where speed, persistence and dedication will win the day. In new business, this means always be on the lookout for a prospect who needs strategic help (weak brand, selecting target markets, crafting the message, how to position, etc.). Look for opportunities to get your foot in the door with tactical help (how to select the right communication vehicle, how to allocate budgets, overcome objections, etc.). By zigging while everyone else is zagging with your capabilities you’ll be in position to take advantage of opportunities others miss.

Rule 4. Speed Wins!

There is only a small window of time for optimum trick-or-treating. It’s a race against the clock, so set yourself up for success by maximizing your ability to move fast. No elaborate costumes, nothing that limits your visibility, and wear running shoes! Speed is everything. It’s also the secret ingredient to winning new business. Most agencies focus all their energy on winning in formal presentations, RFPs, cattle calls, and capabilities presentations – all slow and reactive! Change all that. Decide now to adjust your new business strategy by trying to win before it ends up being a formal review. Put an equal amount of attention into preparing the agency to win accounts with solid, fast-close techniques, months before a formal presentation is called. Speed, simplicity and self-confidence are closely intertwined.

Rule 5. Have Discipline!

Don’t be one of those kids who eat as much as possible, as fast as possible, as soon as you’re home. These are the kids who burst in the door, dump their haul out of their bags, and eat until they almost get sick. One of the keys to success in new business is planning for the long haul. Most agencies spend all their time and energy pitching to prospects already deep into a review. Rather than trying to win every pitch late in the game – eating all your candy now – smart agencies build a long term plan. They spend just as much time and energy on establishing lasting relationships with prospects. They work hard to nurture their bag of goodies (prospects) and know that they will have an opportunity to enjoy something sweet down the road. Most of the other kids have a tendency to give up too early and fall back into that bad habit of eating everything now.

Lessons for Ad Agency New Business. 

Kids who plan their night of trick-or-treating have a huge competitive advantage. They are uncluttered with the baggage of tradition and keep things simple. They thrive on passion to get the best and move fast. They focus on being at the top of their game Halloween night. They dream big dreams and set the bar high…

And so do the most successful marketing firms when it comes to new business.

On Halloween, or in new business, you must follow the candy trail to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to end up.


Candy trail photo by Neo-Br