You Don’t Win New Business By Playing the Quarter Slots


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.

Is your agency’s New Business approach based on playing the quarter slots?

Many agencies take a low probability approach to New Business. Maybe not by design but by practice.  They might get invited to pitch a business where they are a long shot or target companies that would never consider them.  They meet and end up saying, “Let’s just send them something.”  Most of us have done it.  I know I have and it is not a good idea.

It’s just like being in Vegas and walking past a row of slot machines and saying, “Hey I will just throw in a quarter.  What can I lose?” Vegas casinos got rich with that thinking. The quarters add up. Many agencies approach New Business like they are going to hit the jackpot by playing the quarter slots and they are just going to end up New Business broke.

Successful New Business programs are built on a methodical deliberate approach.  I spoke in Lincoln, NB last year and visited a local agency with 120 employees.  They had not let anybody go in what was obviously a very tough year.  Their New Business program was based on targeting four verticals and 4 verticals only.  Even though the Agency Principal had experience in other categories they never deviated.  They said they never pitched strangers because clients in those four verticals knew who they were.  That’s the kind discipline that New Business often lacks.

I always put language in my RFP’s saying if you aren’t a good fit don’t submit.  Yet agencies do.  They waste their time.  When I tell them they don’t make the cut, they are often disappointed even though they had no business submitting.  They have simply deluded themselves.

If you are an excellent agency in one area why stretch to get included in something you aren’t a good fit for?  What kind of impression does it leave with clients and what kind of word of mouth does it generate?

Passing on a pitch is a good thing. I have read that the Richards Group has a policy that if one of their current accounts goes into review it won’t compete to keep the business.  I think that just happened with the Red Lobster review.

I will tell you why agencies should stop playing the quarter slots. New Business pitches take a lot of work.  New Business can be disruptive to the agency and require lots of time.  Time that could be better spent on promoting your agency, expanding your thought leadership, being more active in social media, writing press releases about your agency, networking and other more productive activities.

Approach all New Business decisions by asking yourself would I bet my retirement fund on this or my kids college tuition?  That’s the high probability approach.

There is one simple way to avoid playing the quarter slots and that is having a short list of 5 or 6 criteria.  An opportunity to do good creative, category experience, potential for profitability, geographic fit etc. All opportunities must fall into the majority of those criteria or you pass.  It’s that simple.  That’s how your agency will become more focused, methodical and in the long run more successful.

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

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


7 thoughts on “You Don’t Win New Business By Playing the Quarter Slots

  1. Hank,

    Good points about how agencies or really any company responds to an RFP. One thing I have learned while working for a financial software developer was that more often than not, the RFP recipient is seldom in Column “A” on any RFP. Your responses will be compared to a company already selected by the firms sending out the RFP. If a company wants to really respond to an RFP, one task that needs to be undertaken is taking the steps to move your position for Column B, C, D, or whatever into Column A, so others are compared to you. Easier said than done, but some of the tactics for this are found in “Solution Selling” by Keith Eades.

    Keith also has a companion book called “The Solution Centric Organization.” I am not connected with his books or company, I just find the information in the books he has written to be helpful. Thougth I woudl pass it along.

  2. Hank, This is so right, and it applies to B2B marketers as well. Particularly in my field – consulting services. With long-term sales cycles and relationship sales, it’s much more important to cultivate your brand, develop highly personal relationships, lay a foundation of trust. The mass-mailing approach gets you no where. Sure, it SEEMS cheap, but you get what you pay for! Thanks for this – great read.

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