New Business Has Got Nothing to do with Advertising

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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.

Although I am being a little facetious here, the truth is that there is a big difference between pitching New Business and running a piece of business.

New Business is theatre and running a piece of business is advertising.

One is about the pursuit of a new love and the other is about being married.  When you are pursuing a new partner you always go over the top in trying to impress them. The flowers, the poems, the new restaurants, the new clothes. That is the same philosophy you should take in the New Business process.  It comes down to passion.

The majority of what gets presented in New Business doesn’t see the light of day based on my experience.

You have to remember that for many clients advertising is the most exciting part of their day.  If you work on commodity products all day long in a competitive category it is not exactly stimulating. The entertainment component can be huge.

You have to think about your New Business presentation as a theatrical production that is going to stimulate and entertain your audience.  That is why I tell agencies to avoid the PowerPoint leash.  Reading off a PowerPoint is not unique and often neuters you.

There are more entertaining and communicative visual ways to present your information.  Agencies often send me e mails saying they dropped the comfort of their conventional PowerPoint presentations for boards or other vehicles and it worked for them.

If you embrace that New Business is theatre then your Boardroom should look like a theatrical set that resembles a war room of visuals.  When I did the Jenny Craig review, one of the agencies had 25 visuals outlining the history of diet advertising. It said a lot. Memorable sets make for great theatrical productions.  You get to show that you did a lot of work and get sweat equity credits and you can visualize your response to the RFP. That is more powerful than any PowerPoint presentation.

The other mistake that agencies make is that they want to sit down around a table and keep things informal and just talk. They want a sincerity session. That is not theatre.  Sure you get to talk about their business but I think you have more impact when you present on your feet weaving your story for the client’s future success.  Great orators can communicate vision and be very persuasive.  People want to follow them and work with them.  I have seen few theatre productions where people just sit down.

Clients want great presenters to be part of their team because they may have to present their Marketing and Advertising plans at conventions, Board meetings, etc and want somebody who is good on their feet.  Communication skills count a great deal because many clients aren’t very good at it and they want somebody on their team who is.

Theatre also gives you a great opportunity to demonstrate your passion.  If you think of the conference room as a stage you will project your recommendations and beliefs with more fervor, more intensity and more conviction.

All theatrical productions have a program.  I personally love when agencies have a tray liner or a single page with photos of all the people that are going to present, their titles, and the agenda. Just like a program.  If we visit 3 agencies in one day and meet 6 people at each agency you have to remember that is a lot of people and the Jims, Sarahs, Franks, Jameys, all start to blend.  Clients always take the programs with them, make notes on them and refer to them.

Of course to create theatre you have to repeatedly rehearse and that is what many agencies often don’t do.  Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and you will be more of a well of a well oiled production.

So start standing up, take the stage, lose your PowerPoint and start performing.  It will help you win New Business.

Besides conducting 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 new site about New Business Development that has helped many agencies win more New Business.  They can be easily downloaded for $19.99.

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6 thoughts on “New Business Has Got Nothing to do with Advertising

  1. I really enjoyed reading this Hank. It takes me back to my agency days. Great orators who can present the “theatre” in a sincere way that adapts throughout the presentation to the needs of the client can quickly win the hearts and trust of the client company. Listening and reacting, combined with a spot-on presentation can certainly go a long way in winning the business.

  2. Hank – PPT is a crutch disguised as a time-saver at worst – a tool at best. The “theater” part of what you talk about is the “people” part of the human interaction. People don’t aspire to do business with companies (powerpoints), people aspire to do business with people (presenters). Your point regarding much of a new business presentation not seeing the light of day, while true, has troubled me for some time. It’s often a true statement because a new business presentation is often the antithesis of REAL client engagement. Meaningful client engagement involves listening and probing and a conversation. A new business meeting often involves presenting ideas based on little more than supposition linked to the premise that the client wants to extract new ideas from competing agencies – and treat everyone equally.

    Dating is fun. But if you are good at it, so is a committed relationship. In that room, we are evaluating new business prospects for a long-term relationship just as they are evaluating us. You have to. Listening and having a meaningful conversation is a big part of that. Otherwise, the resulting relationship is likely to end up in the same dumpster as the new business presentation that was based on nothing.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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