Are Your Agency’s New Business Efforts A Waste of Time


It is great to have perspective in business and in life. I have learned a lot about the ways agencies hunt from my hunting experiences and being an agency review consultant.

I often see many new business efforts that are a total waste of time. I could be talking on the phone to somebody who sees opportunity and I think they are wasting their time. But we have all been there.  I have to admit that on occasion I am guilty as charged. Because creative people see opportunity they can often be mislead by too much personal passion. It is a fine line to walk.

I think that agencies need to access where their New Business plans are on the opportunity meter. In New Business there are two P’s. Probability and Possibility. The best metric is probability but many agencies with short runways chase possibility and that is the wrong strategy. Chasing possibility is something you do when the larder is full and things are rosy and toasty and not needy. But needy agencies often lose radar.

I have learned over the years as a  search consultant that clients switch agencies or work with agencies for two P’s. Pain and Promise. When I do an agency review the pain is getting pretty acute. Then there is the Promise component. Most clients love to embrace promise. That is an idea that can move their business ahead and make them an internal hero.

In the Old Normal clients had more time and would take a call with somebody they had a solution for them and possibly take a meeting. In the New Normal nobody answers the phone from a blocked number or a number they don’t know. If you get lucky and get them on the phone by calling at 7.30 AM or 6.00 PM they are less likely to take a meeting based on your sell that want to see how your platform of marketing solutions can align with their marketing needs. You are selling solutions looking for a problem which is akin to going through the Eye of the Needle.

At a recent New Business Conference in LA put on by Think LA and Mirren I had the opportunity to hear a client speaker from a major cool national brand that all small, medium, and major agencies would love to have.  They had also worked on the agency side. Somebody asked him what was the best way to connect with you?  Do you like email?  He turned to the audience and said do you know how many emails I get a day?  I could see that he was overwhelmed by today’s New Normal.

What’s the best way to get to you?

Networking is what he said.

Connect with Hank on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook:


Watch:  Power of Networking.

Read: The Most Powerful Word in Agency New Business is No.

Agencies Need to Focus on the Things that Clients Can’t Do.

When is it time to Fire Your Agency.

Peeling the Onion or New Business.

Winning New Business Is Easy.


10 thoughts on “Are Your Agency’s New Business Efforts A Waste of Time

  1. Based on my experience in agency business development, I don’t think it was any easier in the so-called “old normal” than now to get prospects to respond to any efforts at connecting, whether mostly by phone just 10 years ago or emails now. In fact, a colleague made the jump from an agency to client-side role (years ago!) and told me once that he had gained a new appreciation for the challenges I faced in in securing even the most basic capabilities presentation. As the creative director for a major brand, he would get cold-calls every day, occasionally 10 or more in one day, all of which he routinely ignored (told me he felt bad, but regardless ;).

    I believe the 3 most important things in agency sales are timing, timing and timing – but I think you define/control your timing with a smart relationship-development effort that keeps you on the radar for the moment when something new comes up. Everyone occasionally benefits from “lucky timing” but there’s no substitute for persistence and patience…

    • Agree. I think new biz is an array of things you set in motion. Networking takes all forms. In the new normal Linkedin helps keep one’s name in front of people. In the old normal, I once sent a simple snail mail letter to a client prospect. His admin asst. had read it too and socked it away in a folder. One day they were having a discussion about the frustrations with their existing agency when she recalled that letter sent 6 months earlier, got up retried it and suggested they take a look at it. I got a call that afternoon, had lunch the next day with them and got a nice piece of business without a review.

  2. I always had good luck and fortune by growing new business by working with existing clients. First, keeping a client is much better than losing one. 2nd, demonstrating that advertising (and publicity) work and provide R.O.I., therefore they’re worthy of having the budgets increased. 3rd, getting current clients to recommend us to their sister divisions or companies within the corporation. Nurturing these are all good uses of agency time.

  3. Michael Galvin

    My best results were from networking and referral, without question. But “strangers” have to be part of the mix as well. What I found most useful was to research a prospect’s business and come up with a specific recommendation: website needs examples of success stories, ads need a call-to-action, etc. Not every prospect agreed with the recommendation but ALL appreciated I’d done the homework – which means I burnished the agency’s reputation. And quite a few times, it led to a meeting.

    • Agreed in total. Calling to ask “what can we do for you?” in effect expects the prospect will be your salesperson — but not their job to figure out the answer to that, it’s ours. (Note the corollary to this for further developing existing businesses — should never ask “what *else* can we do for you?”) Any attempt, networked or cold-call, needs to start with a resource having at least some idea of where they think they can add value — demonstrate at lease some investment in the prospect’s business before expecting them to make any to learn about yours. And despite anti-cold-calling sentiments, I think a cold call could be considered a first step in building a relationship and adding that someone to your network. Networking is only successful if you can keep refreshing current contacts *and* adding new ones. Nice if someone can facilitate an intro to someone you might be able to add but at some point, we’ve been through our networks and need to look at how to grow them without help.

  4. Thanks for this. The challenge with strangers is time. I often do the same. Research, send screen captures, offer suggestions etc and get a thanks or we know this. They know if but don’t change. That’s the elusive road of New Business. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Dean Kraemer

    In the 80s and 90s I could connect with potential clients fairly easily. Today, the game is so different, so splintered, and there is so much more competition for marketing dollars, and not just from ad agencies, from entertainment companies, content creators, etc. So many more companies have taken advertising in house, they’re all focused on the internet, they all think social media can get them customers for nothing, it’s a mess. People rarely respond to an email, frankly they respond to a LinkedIn message and calling on a phone now is heartbreaking — the phone system is automated, you don’t have the extension, the receptionist won’t give out the extension, it seems to be designed to keep annoying people away , like disgruntled customers who want to complain. It’s still a numbers game, the numbers are just much worse.

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