Growing Your Company

Ad Agency New Business & Things Marketers Want You To Know
By Lee McKnight Jr.

The process of pursuing and closing ad agency new business currently takes place at a time of vast change - coming out of the recession and with tools agencies didn't have access to even five years ago. In many ways, it's recently gotten easier - agencies tell us that budgets are opening up and projects are more numerous. The recent trend of agencies turning business away that's not right for them is one I hope continues to thrive. But for these very reasons, agency new business is about to get harder, if it hasn't already.

Why? As budgets open up, and as agencies become, rightfully, more selective in what they take, competition becomes that much greater and the need to differentiate becomes more critical than ever. So why, specifically, will agency new business get harder? Agencies aren't very good at differentiating themselves.

We recently interviewed Tom Martin of Converse Digital and as he put it, 'Agencies get concerned about giving away their "secret sauce" for fear that prospective clients or other agencies will pilfer it, but the fact is, the majority of the secret sauce across agencies is pretty much the same.

The crux of the problem is agencies either don't like to admit it, won't admit it or are too close to see it.

You can also factor in that "penetration of in-house agencies has increased 16 percentage points, to 58%, from a similar survey conducted in 2008."

So while we're seeing ad agency new business in a better place today, certainly relative to several years ago, now is the time to ensure you have a strategy in place - one that remains consistent, provides value to your prospects and is actually targeted to those prospects.

We conduct quarterly surveys every year around agency new business, and in our survey result reports, we include sections of open-ended comments from marketers.

So below are 7 crucial comments taken directly from Marketers to agencies, the majority of which they wouldn't tell you directly (and in most cases shouldn't have to) and which will ideally serve as reminders and inspiration to make sure you get in the door and stay there.

  1. Please know who we are!
  2. Get in the door with one solution to an identified problem. Earn trust with one project and then take the work - over time.
  3. Know our market - don't assume you know our market.
  4. Emphasize the client's needs, not what you've done for others in the past.
  5. Try to make them relevant to our business; we don't have good imagination about how it would work for us.
  6. Bring the account team that is being considered for the new client, don't put the sales team up front and switch to another team after the business is won.
  7. The media landscape is changing so quickly in both B2C and B2B. In the past, I considered it more important to have industry experience, however, I think now it is more important to have a broader experience, across different mediums (traditional, digital, social) and the creativity to know how to use each to optimize ROI. They can learn about the industry, but knowing these new mediums and how to deploy them strategically and cost effectively, is extremely important.

Lee is the Director of Business Development at RSW/US, a full-service outsourced new business development firm that works solely with marketing services firms to help them meet with right-fit prospects and ultimately close business. Lee also handles marketing and social media for RSW/US. You can find him on Google+ ( or Twitter (@leemcknightjr).

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