To achieve long-term success at proactive new business, ad agencies commonly use one of eight methods.
Here they are:
- Sell & Do: The antithesis of an organized, strategic, proactive new business plan – and vast numbers of small firms operate this way. With this method, everyone is busy until projects are coming to an end. Then, the scramble begins: dust off the credentials package, makes appointments, and (hopefully) drum up a new client. When the work dries up, the cycle begins again.
- Advantages: Easy to operate, no added cost, clients love hearing from a principal.
- Disadvantages: Principal has limited time, often isn’t good at sales, efforts are sporadic.
- Principal as Prospector. One of the agency principals dedicates a portion of his time to new business. He develops call lists, researches companies, and makes cold calls.
- Advantages: The CEO is usually well-received by prospects; high close rates if you’re good at it.
- Disadvantages: It’s easy to get derailed by emergencies at office; is sales your core competency?
- Referrals. Ideal for firms with principals who are great networkers. They nurture relationships with friends and family, current and past clients, and “affiliates” who may refer potential clients.
- Advantages: Moderate cost (travel and time), highly success if you’re good at it.
- Disadvantages: Time away from the office, and it’s difficult to acquire strategic prospects (the person you meet on the golf course may not be the best potential client).
- Committee. The agency forms a new business committee to ensure that everyone “owns” new business. Committee members help build prospect lists that include people they know and companies they’d like to work with, and pursues leads – in addition to their regular jobs.
- Advantages: Everyone has input, shares responsibility, low cost.
- Disadvantages: No one is accountable, committee members usually don’t know how to sell, often no consensus on best prospects, and committee meetings are often unproductive.
- Hired Gun. The agency hires a full-time, seasoned, new business professional. Conceptually, this person understands how to work a prospect list, make phone calls, send letters, schedule meetings, and land new clients.
- Advantages: One person is 100% accountable, brings experience, focus and sales skill to the agency.
- Disadvantages: Success depends on their skill level, and when the hired gun walks so does the new business pipeline. The agency who hires a less experienced person puts less money at risk, but risks their ROI.
- Outsource. The agency hires a company to handle lead generation, appointment setting, or even a complete ad agency new business process; or, services like presentation skills, RFP writing, pitch coaching, or research. A consultant might also help with strategy, process, or provide new business development training for in-house staff.
- Advantages: Someone is responsible and accountable for their hired purpose.
- Disadvantages: Success depends on the expertise of that firm’s employees (if any), and how well each party upholds their part of the relationship.
- Public Relations. The agency hires a full-time in-house PR person whose sole responsibility is to create awareness and build the agency’s reputation on a regional or national basis.
- Advantages: Excellent for internal and client morale; the firm’s new-found reputation will last for years.
- Disadvantages: Very time-intensive and requires a long-term commitment – regardless of client crises, new business pitches, etc. Success depends on the diligence and skill of the PR person.
- Target. This is an integrated plan for agencies dedicated to achieving long-term, proactive new business success. With this method the firm treats itself as a client. The key stakeholders write a marketing plan designed to build the firm’s brand. The plan includes:
- Competitive analysis
- Long and short-term goals
- Public relations
- Branding materials (testimonials, case studies, white papers, website(s), blog(s))
- Networking and referral activities (current/past clients, vendors, consultants, friends of the firm, other networks, trade associations)
- 100% dedicated sales effort that targets a small group of suitable prospects
- Advantages: Builds long-term brand equity with prospects, clients and influencers, usually very successful.
- Disadvantages: Time-consuming to implement, and requires the unwavering, long-term dedication of the firms’ principals.
Get started with one system:
- Pick the system that best fits your agency
- Select and empower one person to drive the process
- Write your plan
- Work your plan
The key to success is dedication to the system you choose. If you maintain your focus over time you’ll be more competitive and will win more consistently.