Know Your Outreach Numbers to Win Ad Agency New Business »

Key to daily objectives
Published on April 25, 2012

client referralReaching out to prospects you don't know - whether through cold calling, referrals, or networking - is a numbers game. Once you know your numbers, you can plan your weekly outreach so you meet your new business objectives.

Here's what I mean: A sales trainer I'm familiar with does the following every day:

  • Calls 15 companies he's never called before.
  • Has a conversation with 7 of them (approximately 50%).
  • Out of the 7, gets a meeting with 1  - 15% conversion from conversation to appointment (1/7); and, 3% conversion from unknown company to meeting (1/30).

If he does this every day, he knows he'll set, on average, 1 meeting every day, for a total of 5 new meetings every week. He'll also have at least 3 second or third meetings per week - carryovers from meetings in prior weeks. Of the 8 meetings each week, he expects to close one sale per week. Over the course of the year, he'll close 50 new accounts. 

While his business is more transactional than a typical ad agency's, there are two key takeaways:

  1. He knows how many calls to make every day.
  2. He plans his daily schedule to give himself time to meet his daily objectives.

What's your approach?

Many new business people shy away from cold calls. From my experience, they only work for those who aren't afraid of them. If you don't like making cold calls or don't believe in them, try another approach.

Let's say that you prefer to network with friends and colleagues, and people you meet at conferences; or, that you only pursue new business if it's from a client referral. It's still a numbers game. I recommend that you analyze the funnel that led to a few of your recent new client wins to determine:

  • How many total people did you reach out to initially?
  • How many good conversations resulted?
  • How many meetings did you set?
  • How many proposals did you issue that resulted in your wins?

Once you know your numbers, you'll be able to do the math to determine your daily targets: how many people you need to network with, or how many clients you need to approach for referrals in order to reach your new client targets.

Have I explained this well? If not, please email me - I'll be happy to walk you through your numbers so you can set daily targets that will make you successful.


Procurement Snapshot for Ad Agency New Business »

What procurement does and why it exists - from the client's perspective
Published on April 19, 2012

david stirlingMany a new business person's blood pressure increases when you start talking about procurement. Frustration is natural when attempts to "persuade the unpersuadable" are unsuccessful - as in trying to communicate creative or subjective value to a person who's really only interested in getting the cheapest price.

Like it or not, procurement is here to stay.

Think about this: at a recent ANA event procurement reps outnumbered VPs of marketing! You might take that as a bad sign, or you might conclude that it's good news: representatives of procurement departments are trying to educate themselves about marketing and advertising. If this is even partially true, it should make every ad agency new business person who works with procurement want to better understand the function.

David Wilson, President of Stirling Consulting, provided an in-depth look at procurement during the recent 2010 New Business Conference. Here's a summary of my notes from the session.

Procurement is often looking for new suppliers to introduce to their internal client (the marketing team). Dont' be afraid to get to know them and develop a relationship. They're not the enemy.

Why does procurement exist?  It's driven by the needs of the organization, which is usually to reduce expenses and increase working capital (the latter is usually accomplished by collecting amounts owed faster and paying vendors slower).

What is procurement's internal reputation? In a 2009 survey, 78% of Chief Financial Officers viewed procurement positively. Why? They're achieving 5%-20% annual cost savings and helping companies better manage risk. So, the trend to use procurement will continue.

Definition of a good procurement process: "An ongoing process of decreasing overall costs and managing supplier risk, while improving internal and external processes."

Principals of a good procurement process:

  • Rigorous
  • Ethical
  • Cross functional
  • Focused on total cost (not just price), quality and service
  • Have clear objectives
  • Make objective decisions
  • Be grounded in strategy

It's important to note that within "the big corporation", procurement departments are at varying stages of their own evolution and maturity:

  • Competent (e.g. are very knowledgeable about marketing, savvy about developing innovative partnerships)
  • Emerging
  • Lagging (e.g. "siloed" from the rest of the company, just focused on reducing costs, short-term oriented, ignorant about marketing)

As an agency new business person, you need to be prepared to deal with all three types.

What's procurement's decision criteria? For a "competent" department, they will consider quality, technology, strategic value, service, innovation and cost. When considering agency selection, "cost is significantly down the food chain".

Important things to recognize about procurement:

  • Agencies must understand client decision making
  • Harness the client's self-interest [as discussed in numerous posts, your proposal needs to be all about them, not you]
  • Identify the additional value your agency brings to the table
  • Recognize the cards that you hold - you're likely smarter about your subject area than anyone inside the prospective client

Hope this helps you crack the procurement nut!


What Clients Want From Agencies »

Relationship-building advice
Published on April 09, 2012

ROIWhat's most important to CMOs according to four senior marketers? Return On Investment. If you're in charge of new business at your ad agency, your opportunity is to demonstrate that your agency will grow your prospect's brand and generate significant ROI.

That's what representatives from American Express, Travelocity, E*Trade, and Empire Blue Cross told a packed audience at the recent Mirren New Business Conference.

Biggest challenges for marketers in 2011: accurate metrics

The biggest challenge for digital marketers is to carefully set up campaign goals in order to accurately measure results. Equally challenging is that we still can't measure the results of TV, print, or outdoor with much accuracy.

These four marketers concluded that just about the only accurate measurement in aggregate is the number of new customers. If it's up, you're probably okay.

Tables Stakes for Agencies in 2011

  • Analytics
  • A big idea
  • Good creative

What Separates Agencies

  • When an agency clearly knows what it's really good at, it separates itself from the pack. Do you know where your agency can add real value?
  • Where's your passion? Too many agencies don't have it, and marketers can immediately see  that it's missing.
  • The ability to ask a lot of smart questions. If you show up and talk, you've lost.

Recommendation to get in the door: a unique idea or perspective on your target's business. It must be something that can ultimately increase revenue and provide ROI.

Turnoffs - What NOT To Do in a Pitch

  • Ignore the rules
  • Show up with less people than the client
  • Show a lack of respect for the client's time


Small Touches Create “Wow” The First Time Your Prospect Visits Your Agency »

Be the guest
Published on November 16, 2011

fruit basketYou fly into a strange city. Your flight is delayed. It's raining. You manage to find a cab that takes you to the hotel in a car that's sorely in need of new shock absorbers. The hotel restaurant is closed and there's nothing open nearby. It's midnight, so that's no surprise. You're irritated and tired. What a great way to start your trip to visit a prospective ad agency whose work you really like. Strike one.

In the morning, you find that the "continental breakfast" is hard boiled eggs, over-ripe bananas, mealy apples, and tepid coffee. Cabs are nowhere to be found, but the front desk person manages to call's 20 minutes late. Strike two.

You arrive at the agency, only to find that no one's at the front desk. The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 am. In fact, there aren't many people around at all. Is this the right day, you ask yourself? You walk around the office and find someone back in a corner, ear buds in place. They have no idea you're there until you touch them on the shoulder and scare them half to death. They have no idea what to do with you. Strike three.

Sound far-fetched?

Contrast that hands-off approach to this one, using the same storyline:

  • The agency has arranged for a car service to take you, comfortably, to your hotel.
  • Knowing the potential for a late arrival, they've provided you with a basket of food. There's a hand-written note inside welcoming you and saying how much everyone is looking forward to meeting you in the morning.
  • One of the agency principals picks you up for breakfast at 7:15 am. She's taking you to the best breakfast spot in town.
  • The front desk person is at his desk when you arrive, and has been on the lookout for you ever since he got a text saying that you were 5 minutes away.
  • Lots of employees are around when you arrive; there's a buzz of activity.
  • Before the meeting, as the principal told you would happen over breakfast, you're taken on a brief agency tour with a really fun, effervescent employee who makes you feel completely welcome. In fact, you start thinking to yourself, "This is a fun place to work - I'd like to work with these people." She makes a point to introduce you to the creative team, since that's the reason you're there in the first place.

Home run? Maybe not, but at least you're still in the game.

Followed up with a thank you note...priceless.


Innovation to Drive Ad Agency New Business »

Break the mold
Published on July 14, 2011

One of the most thought-provoking and mindset-challenging sessions at the 2011 Mirren New Business Conference was "The Innovators Panel." Why? Because all organizations, including agencies, must innovate to remain relevant.

The chart, below, gives you a simple way to visualize the transformation that needs to take place for real innovation.

Innovator's Quadrant

Same Services for New Clients

New Services for New Clients, with Different People
Same Services for Same Clients

 New Services for Existing Clients


Most businesses and agencies strive to achieve either "same services for new clients" OR "new services for existing clients." The most difficult, risky, and potentially rewarding move, however, is to provide "new services for new clients, with different people." However, to accomplish this transformation you will, over time, have to radically change your business model.

How to Blow Up Your Agency

Here are some of the ideas offered by the panel, which included Ed Boches from Mullen, Winston Binch from Crispin, Aaron Shapiro from HUGE, and Tony Signore from Taylor:

  • Stay in tune with start-ups and trends - Listen (see below)
  • Host weekly tech "meet-ups" in your office(s)
  • Recruit from the hacker community
  • Develop an internship program to attract the best and brightest talent

Develop a "Listening Culture"

It's critical that your organization pay attention to what's going on in technology and marketing. Here are 9 ways the panelists suggests you stay current:

  1. Attend tech panels
  2. Host tech meet-ups
  3. Read Wired magazine
  4. Get outside your industry
  5. Attend SXSW
  6. Attend TED
  7. Teach a class on a college campus (innovation is taking place by those in their twenties; you'll learn from your students)
  8. Hire a strategy firm like Jump Associates to help you
  9. Read Tim Brown's Change by Design; and, keep in eye on what his company, IDEO, is doing

As you develop new talent, new ideas, and new services, here are a couple of ways to start getting traction with your existing or new clients:

  • Bring new technology in a "lab format" to your clients every month. Teach them. Let them play with it. Experiment. See what happens.
  • When you recommend new technology or new services, be sure to explain why it's a good idea to try it out. Most importantly, before deploying it, establish metrics - how you're going to evaluate the experiment.

Lastly, make sure your website matches your capabilities. For example, if you're really good at social media or developing apps, don't tell. Show. Show your capabilities via video. Hire a young film student to tell your story for you. All you need is a 2-3 minute video.


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Objectives and Key Results
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Everyone likes the best of...
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As a way to kick off the New Year, here are the ten most-read posts from 2009. Enjoy!

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  2. The Other Reason Why Your Clients

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The good news is that everything is measurable
published on December 15, 2009

A reader recently wrote me, saying that he's a new ad agency CEO, but has never managed a new business department. What objectives should I set, he asked? What should I measure? As many agency

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How Not To Be The Talk Of The Prospect’s Office »

"Jarring" is not the reaction you want
published on December 11, 2009

talk of the townA few weeks ago I wrote about how not to self-destruct during your first meeting. Unfortunately, in this true story the agency became the talk of the prospect's office. Here's the back-story.

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A Tablet to Cure Magazine Ad Sales Blues? »

Wonderfactory prototype is an exciting development
published on December 03, 2009

media decoderThe Wonderfactory, in collaboration with Time, Inc., helped design the prototype of what Sports Illustrated magazine might look like on a tablet computer.

Revealed on December 2nd, this innovation

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The “So What” Behind a Prospect’s Pain and Aspirations »

Reveal the answer to close more new business
published on December 02, 2009

so whatBefore a prospect can become a client, they have to clearly understand the value of working with your ad agency or marketing services firm.

Does your current new business process demonstrate what

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The Other Reason Why Your Clients Buy Marketing Services »

Help them create a new future
published on November 23, 2009

aspriationThe common approach to selling marketing services is, "Find their pain, and then show how you can solve it." But, if you only focus on your prospect's pain, you're leaving half the potential new

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New Digital TV Service Can Help Generate New Business »

Introducing Leap Media
published on November 19, 2009

leapSmall and mid-size advertising agencies can now offer their clients Digital TV services. A low-cost, turn-key solution, which you can offer as your own, is available to drive new business.


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How to Build Rapport, Before Talking New Business »

People do business with people they like
published on November 13, 2009

genuine85% of buyers of marketing services state they're more likely to purchase from a provider with whom they've established some kind of personal chemistry. This was cited in a white paper I read

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Great Rainmakers Sell While Serving Their Clients »

Stay true to yourself
published on November 09, 2009

keys to serviceTo many marketing services providers, sales is the equivalent of checking your values at the door and becoming a slimy salesman. Your mental image is along the lines of getting a prospect to part

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A Hint of New Business Team Conflict = No Win »

Good chemistry means learning how to have difficult conversations to maintain harmony
published on November 04, 2009

chemistryYou've seen it happen: two members of your team aren't getting along. You've tried to repair the damage, but everyone knows it's there. While everyone tries to cover it up in the pitch, it still

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First Meeting Self Destruction: Happening Today »

How one agency is turning an opportunity to win into a likely loss
published on November 02, 2009

drop the ballAgencies will do almost anything to get a first meeting with an ideal new business prospect. But once the meeting is secured, optimism often turns to disappointment, and too often it's because the

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Knowing What You’re Worth: Part of Your New Business Allure »

The issue is timeless
published on October 30, 2009

SteinmetzKnowing what your services are worth and being able to articulate and sell the value to a prospect is a critical new business skill.

I was recently emailed the following story, which was delivered

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What’s Working in Agency PR to Generate New Business? »

Guest Post
published on October 27, 2009

NorthenJanet Northen is Partner and EVP Director of Agency Communications at McKinney. She's been in agency PR for many years, including significant stints and Fallon and The Martin Agency. When I think

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New Business Cold Calling Conundrum: Research More or Make More Calls? »

The answer depends...
published on October 22, 2009

conundrumThis is the last in our three-part Q&A from our reader in Finland, who posed an often-debated question: "Should I thoroughly research my prospects and make fewer calls, or research less and make

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What’s The Best New Business Strategy for a First Meeting? »

Question and answer from a reader (#2)
published on October 20, 2009

build relationshipRecall that I promised to answer three questions from a reader in Finland. His second question is, "What's the best strategy for a first meeting?"

I've written in the past about the importance of

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As a New Business Person, Can you Close at the First Meeting? »

Answers to a reader's new business question
published on October 16, 2009

first meetingA reader from Finland recently emailed a few questions, which I'll answer over the next few days. The first is, "When you're selling something as intangible as advertising, how can you close at

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Prepare Now for the Year-End Game of New Business Musical Chairs »

Don't manage your career, Exceed Expectations
published on October 14, 2009

musical chairsCome year-end, we'll see ad agency new business people engage in the annual ritual of getting fired and finding new jobs at different firms.

This game of musical chairs creates turmoil within

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Delivering on Expectations, Communication Create Organic New Business Growth »

How Justin is turning around an almost-lost client
published on October 08, 2009

no surprises

Customer retention, let alone organic growth, usually comes down to people delivering on promises. Missed deadlines, less than acceptable quality, and poor communication all naturally lead to

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Forwarding is the New New Business Networking Strategy »

Cultivate your network with relevant information
published on October 07, 2009

newspaper article

It wasn't that many years ago that you'd send snail mail that included an article with a note attached that read something like this,

Saw this and thought you'd enjoy it.

The approach was simple

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Social Media, a Good List, and New Business Karma »

Helping your network with no expectation of ROI
published on October 05, 2009

karmaOne definition of karma is "actions that bring bring upon oneself inevitable results". I was intrigued by a recent conversation with Jane, a new business person, who claimed that this was the key

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Guest Post: Repairing the Ad Agency New Business Highway »

Signs of a turnaround
published on October 01, 2009

Dave Currie, President of Catapult New Business sits in a fairly unique seat. Catapult gets meetings with corporate marketers for its agency clients. While Dave speaks with dozens of agencies a

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We Cut Our New Business Team [to increase revenue?] »

It's a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face
published on September 30, 2009

It's my birthday (it's not divisible by five, just another on the short march towards the big five-oh), and I've given myself permission to rant after hearing this comment one too many times from

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Data Accuracy Essential for Proactive New Business »

Just because you have a database doesn't mean it's accurate
published on September 28, 2009


Most agencies have a new business database. Twelve years ago, while working at another company, I would've agreed with the majority of agency principals who believe that their database resembles

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New Business Face-to-Face or Virtual? »

Study reveals execs prefer face-to-face
published on September 23, 2009

face to face

According to a recent Forbes Insights study, business executives prefer face-to-face meetings and conferences over virtual meetings, and overwhelmingly agree that they're necessary to build

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Benefits of a New Business Referral System »

The lifeblood of most agencies
published on September 21, 2009


When you analyze the cost of acquiring a new client, generating new business from referrals is usually the least expensive. Realizing this, the natural question to ask is, "How do I get more?"

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New Business Prospecticide »

Add value so you don't kill your prospects
published on September 17, 2009

Pros-pec-ti-cide  [pros-pek-tuh-sahyd]


  1. The act of killing prospects.


What a great word! I came across it in an article by Paul McCord. He raises valuable issues and recommendations that

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5 Reasons New Business Change is Hard, And How to Avoid The Common Traps »

Real change requires real effort
published on September 16, 2009


A recent Harvard Business School article addressed why it's so hard to change, which is a good follow up to my last post on the need for constant change and improvement in ad agency new business.

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Perfection in Ad Agency New Business Is…Change »

A call to action
published on September 14, 2009

You've probably heard the expression, "Change or Die". Winston Churchill had another take on it that, to me, is even more powerful:

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.



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To Defend or Not To Defend - It’s a New Business Decision »

And it needs to be a sound business decision
published on September 10, 2009

sword defense

A few years ago I was faced with a decision about whether or not to file a lawsuit. As I considered my options, an old friend related to me what his even wiser lawyer once counseled him about

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$40,000 Off Our Fees. Your Next New Business Pitch? »

($ Canadian, that is.)
published on September 09, 2009

$40,000 off coupon

How many of us are willing to offer $40,000 off agency fees to bring in a client? Well that's what The BrainStorm Group did at the end of May. And it worked.

Ron Telpner, chairman and CEO of the

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Your Favorite New Business Questions »

published on September 04, 2009

What are the best questions to get corporate marketers talking?

We all have our favorites, so why not combine our knowledge and put together a list of the best? Below is a form to enter your

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The Agency New Business “Busy Paradox” »

"Busy-ness" abounds in good times and bad...
published on September 02, 2009


Not long ago I had to let someone go who was always the first to arrive and last to leave. She willingly put in time on the weekends without complaint. And when she was at work, she worked; it

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Do Retainer or Project Clients Build an Agency’s New Business Pipeline? »

What's the right mix?
published on August 31, 2009

layered drinkAd agency clients regularly ask us this question, "What's the best mix of retainer vs. project work?" I think the answer can determine how successful you are at creating a sustainable new business

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Agency New Business Killer or Promoter: Your Director of First Impressions »

You are judged on first impressions
published on August 27, 2009


A recent survey reveals that only one in three agency receptionists meet the characteristics of a Director of First Impressions. Staffed well and you'll have another new business weapon in your

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Ad Agency New Business is a Marathon, Not a Sprint »

One benefit is time to think and plan
published on August 26, 2009

marathonIn a recent post I wrote about the importance of getting away from ad agency new business to get refreshed and re-energized. But there's more to it: it's taking a long-term view of the work you

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Negotiate to Win New Business For Your Agency, Without Giving Away Your Profit »

Resist pressure to reduce your fees
published on August 24, 2009

negotiatingA recession is a scary time for the person trying to maintain the financial health of the agency.

I got into a conversation with a fellow CEO the other day about the pressure agencies are under to

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Skillful Listening Critical to Ad Agency New Business »

Listening = Winning
published on August 20, 2009

active listening

We've all heard the expression, "People love to hear themselves talk." When it comes to new business, your success is often determined by how well you get your prospects to do the talking.


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Prospecting Tip: Use Your Cell Phone for Ad Agency New Business »

One of the old rules may need to be rewritten
published on August 19, 2009

cell phone with lock

It wasn't long ago that calling a marketer on their cell phone was considered "too personal".

However, as cell phones are becoming mobile computers, and the lines between work-time and

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Agency CEOs: Your Actions Drive New Business Revenue Growth »

Growth is within your control
published on August 17, 2009

Support sales

CEO beliefs and behaviors either contribute to revenue growth or work against it. The questions is, are you helping or hindering your agency generate new business?

Here's an article by Michael

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Ad Agency New Business Mistakes are Magnified in a Challenging Economy »

The skills of your hunters and farmers are critcial to landing and retaining clients
published on August 14, 2009


Tight client budgets, hungry competitors, and aggressive new business hunters make for a tricky new business environment. That's what we're all experiencing now, and probably will for some time -

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