How Agencies Can Win More New Business

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I have conducted the Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets agency reviews and also spent years developing successful New Business programs for agencies.

These are my perspectives from being on both sides of the street so to speak.  As an agency review consultant I have seen countless presentations.  I have seen what works and what doesn’t and what clients respond to.  I have seen long shot agencies make it to the finals because they showed more passion, worked harder and were smarter.

There are three stages in agency reviews.  Getting invited, the dance and the altar.  I have already blogged and written often about the need for agencies to be very easy to find and connect with.  Many have challenges in that area. info@ doesn’t work these days.

The next stage I call the dance. This is where the client and I visit a medium list of agencies for presentations, agency tours, chemistry checks, and meeting the people that would be involved on the business etc.

Want to win more New Business this year?  It is simple.  Treat the initial meeting like the finals.  I have seen agencies that were perceived to be long shots make it to the finals based on the passion they distributed during the initial meeting.

So here is some advice for agencies.  First, treat the prospect like a client. From the first time you hear from them find reasons to interact with them.  This helps build chemistry and gives the client the perception you are already involved with their business.  Checking the Linkedin profile of your contact gives you lots of content for connectivity.  Make the discussions initially very business focused and not just trivial housekeeping questions.

Secondly show sweat equity.  The agencies that treat the initial meeting like a meet and greet and opportunity for an agency tour and a chance to review the agency’s general capabilities presentation don’t go very far these days.  The agencies that move on are the ones that have turned their board rooms into war rooms and have the walls covered with store tour photos, competitive ads, the client’s advertising history, preliminary positioning options, and initial research move on.  If you are just going to go through the motions that day pull out of the review.  You will not create a good reputation for your agency.

Set the bar.  Focus your entire efforts on setting such a high bar that you will be the front runner.  Outwork the other agencies.  Go farther. Do more. Dig more.  Think harder. Demonstrate your creativity with your insights and your approach to their business.  When we visited a number of agencies during the Jenny Craig review many of their staff members had gone on the Jenny Craig diet.

Agencies often ask me what the order of the presentations is.  They say they don’t want to be at the beginning because they think they will be forgotten.  If you think you will be forgotten you don’t have a very memorable presentation. Memorable presentations aren’t forgotten.  Agencies got lost in the sea of sameness, not a sea of distinction.

Rehearse and then rehearse again.  Make sure you have a client team not people who have just met each other that morning.  Remember that clients have ears.  We have met with agencies and when they are getting themselves set up I hear things like, “Oh, you are the direct response person.  I have heard your name.  Nice to meet you.”

In closing also remember that New Business has nothing to do with advertising.  New Business is about theatre.  Do not sit down presenting.  Use the room as your stage.  Clients want to be informed but they also want to be entertained and engaged with passionate, well rehearsed presentations.

So treat the prospect like a client and treat the initial meeting like the finals and your New Business efforts will thrive.

Besides conducing agency searches, Hank also helps agencies build effective New Business programs.  He frequently speaks to AAF Chapters on Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business and Networking Your Way to New Business.  You can contact Hank at hank@hankblank.com

He has two CD’s on his site about New Business Development that has helped many agencies win more New Business.

Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business Part 2

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I have conducted the Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets agency reviews.

When I am hired to do a review the pressure is on me as the consultant to develop the initial  long list of suitable agencies.  The client obviously has a problem and time is of the essence.  I also demonstrate my capabilities by making things happen in a timely way. I need easy connectivity with agencies which often does not happen.

I have written in the past that Agencies do not make it easy to connect. Their contact info on their site is often info@ or contact@ or they want you to fill out a form with your budget and when you want to start.  Very silly.

If I send out 10 RFP’s to agencies you would be surprised how many I don’t even hear from. I usually have to chase down over 50% of the agencies that I have contacted. That is because they don’t read those e mails.

And it is not any easier when I call them.  Many agencies have substituted receptionists with automatic voice mail systems.  I am often making calls in my car in a no hands cell phone state so I need easy access.  On many occasions when I key in the last four letters of the person’s last name the message comes back.  “No such person.” No joke.

I love the phone menus that name a specific person and an extension.  For John Smith dial 1.  Simplicity is best and leads to connection which leads to getting more new business. I am on a tight timeline and need to find suitable candidates quickly and you are making it hard for me so I will move on. There are lots of options out there.  How can you win new business if I can’t even invite you to the party?  You also have to remember that 80% of clients do their own reviews and they won’t try as hard as I will to connect with you.

Beware of the gatekeeper if you have somebody that answers your phones. Are they an ambassador or disaster?  When I was conducting the Jenny Craig review I phoned a prominent agency and asked the gatekeeper for their new business person by name.  She said that he wasn’t in.  I said that I was an agency review consultant and wanted to leave my name and number.  She told me that he doesn’t return calls.  True.  Since I lived in the agency world I always try to contact multiple contacts from the agency that I think can help navigate me into their organizations.  A few hours later one of the principals called me while on vacation and told me they would be thrilled to participate.  So who is manning your phones today and what are they saying.  Are they the newest and lowest compensated employee at your agency?  Do they know what an agency review or search consultant is?  Do they know who to connect them to at the agency?  Have you sat down with them and educated them about the importance of new business?

To win new business you have to be easy to connect with.  Simple thoughts but painful experiences.

Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business

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Obviously I am being very facetious.  Most agencies would die for new business.  It boosts their reputation, helps their recruitment, and elevates the agency’s energy and enthusiasm.  Never mind the financial ramifications.

But New Business is also their heroin, and like all drugs, it clouds their perspective and reasoning. Like Leonard Cohen wrote, “Johnny Walker Wisdom running high at closing time.

I have had a long career successfully developing New Business at agencies across North America. I have also conducted agency searches for clients such as Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets. During those reviews and others I started keeping a journal of the mistakes that agencies were making and that turned into a presentation that I have presented to many AAF Chapters called Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business. The stories aren’t invented, they were created by agencies.

In most cases agency people are incredibly smart and interesting people but New Business makes them stupid.  When I did the review for Villeroy & Boch, a company marketing extremely high end luxury brands, I had agency suggest that they had relevant experience because they worked on high end semiconductors.  I have seen agencies on the East coast spending hours chasing West Coast based clients when the client would never consider an East coast resource.

Agencies often make lots of mistakes in the beginning. They stretch to be included in a review when they are long shots and chasing a low probability opportunity.  If they get included their chances are minimal but the time and resources they waste are great.  Often they are greatly disappointed when they are cut but they should have not participated.  Spending lots of time on low opportunity understandings is not a smart New Business Strategy.  Just think of the benefits that they could achieved if they had directed that time to more high return activities like their social media presence.

I think that many agencies get misdirected because they have no New Business Plan.  They have an organic plan but not a systematic process that they pursue methodically without interruption.  They are not as disciplined with themselves as they are with their clients.

The other major mistake that agencies make is while most agencies are terrific about marketing their clients they are very poor at marketing themselves.  They explain that they are world’s best kept secret. If that was the result of their activities for their clients they would get fired and it would not be acceptable. Yet agencies have allowed it to be acceptable for them. These are not the times for cobbler’s children excuses.  Clients come and go but your asset is your agency.

Now is the time to make your agency your number one client. More to come.

Hank Blank is an agency search consultant based in Laguna Niguel, CA. He has conducted reviews for companies such as Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Bock, and Raley’s Supermarkets.  He also helps agencies with New Business Development.   You can reach him at hank@hankblank.com or visiting his site at www.hankblank.com to check out his CD called Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business.