Pitch Consultants Advice For Advertising Agencies

 Advice For Advertising Agencies That Want to Win

A chunk of my book on how to win more advertising agency pitches included interviews with industry playas. These folks were agency owners, 4A’s execs, search and pitch consultants, procurement decision makers and legal experts. Many readers found these interviews to be invaluable in helping to craft pitches that did not make any of the big mistakes that lead to coming in “second.” By the way, have you ever noticed that all of the not-chosen come in “second”?

More advice. I just came across the 4A’s “One Piece of Advice” for Agencies. Agency Search Consultants Advice for Agencies. (January 2018.) Since this advice is, in many cases similar to the advice in my book (and includes some of the same interviewees), I am forwarding the long PDF to you as continuing confirmation that some agencies do things right and, according to the consultants, many are still getting it wrong.

A link to the full document is below. There is so much truth here that I’ve highlighted one major point from each consultant’s advice.

 Agency Search Consultants Advice for Agencies

“One Piece of Advice” for Agencies January 2018

4A’s asked industry leading agency search consultants to provide “One Piece of Advice” that the association could share with members as they begin thinking about their 2018 new business plans.

The 4A’s consultant request noted, “Based on your knowledge of client marketer needs/wants and industry dynamics, what is the one thing that you would recommend that an agency either do or not do that can help the effectiveness of their new business efforts? We welcome your advice in any area of the agency search and selection process (prospecting, RFI/RFP submissions, creds, chemistry, presentations, etc.)”

Opportunity Assessment

Joanne Davis Consulting: “It’s not about you; it’s never been about you; it’s never going to be about you. It’s about the client.”

Do you really need to hear this again? It is always about the client and her goals, opportunities and issues.

Mercer Island Group: “Something the consultants understand better than most agencies is that you can’t offer a prospect relevant value until you have identified the prospect’s true business needs. The basic idea of the elevator speech is inherently flawed — as are most agency pitches; if you’re talking about things the prospect has no interest in, they will stop listening.”

Why do you think that pitch consulatants keep saying… that it is always about the client’s goals and issues?

Drexler/Fajen & Partners: “Agencies could spend more time really understanding as much as possible about the prospect’s business and their people and be prepared to demonstrate that in a natural way.”

Study big time: the client, its industry and the macro and micro business opportunities.

Read More »

Will You Sell Your Advertising Agency?

The Big Question: Will You Sell Your Advertising Agency?

Will you be able to sell your advertising agency someday? The simple answer… probably not. That said, see below for two Portland “advertising” agencies that just got bought.

I Know You Want It

Most of the advertising agencies I talk with want to get bought – sooner or later. Who wouldn’t? However, most will not. There are a range of reasons. But here is the big (rather obvious) one:

Most agencies have not created enough value for a second party to want to buy them. A key question I ask agency owners is, “Would you buy your agency?” You can imagine the general answer once the CEO puts her thinking cap on.

Value is created by having one or more of the following:

  1. Your agency is a revenue powerhouse and is very profitable.
  2. Your specialty is unignorable. Example: you are a brilliant mobile marketing agency or specialize like this Boise agency.
  3. Your client list is spectacular.
  4. Your strategy and creative chops are notable and world-class.
  5. Your leadership is super smart.
  6. You are in a geography that a major agency network needs to be. This benefit has been diminished over the years but can still generate interest. How is your Saigon office doing?

OK, On To Portland

I’ll start with me. I sold my agency six years ago. I did this because I was realistic. We were not cool enough for WPP or large enough for Publicis or special enough for MDC. But, we were very attractive to another Portland agency that needed to grow faster. They bought our revenues, clients (from Nike AOR to major healthcare, to a lottery and casinos and hospitality accounts), our very sharp staff (all of them) and it was all made easy since we were in town. I also wanted to get the fuck out of the industry (I had been it for close to 30 years) and did not want to go through another reinvention so I took a reasonable offer.

Instrument Bought By MDC Partners

Here is the first paragraph of the press release.

MDC Partners announced today that it has acquired a majority partnership interest in Portland, Oregon-based digital agency Instrument. Founded in 2002, Instrument is one of the largest independent, digital brand and experience innovation companies in the U.S. The agency’s 175-person team of strategists, producers, designers, engineers and content creators helps drive businesses and engage consumers. This new partnership accelerates MDC’s growth and builds its portfolio of modern, innovative and digital-first agencies.

WPP’s POSSIBLE Acquires Digital Agency Swift

The press release…

WPP announces that its wholly-owned company, POSSIBLE, the global creative digital agency that is part of WPP Digital, has acquired The Swift Collective, Inc. (“Swift”) in the United States.

Swift’s revenues for 2014 will be over US$13 million and its clients include HTC Corporation, Starbucks, Nestle USA and REI. Based in Portland, Oregon, Swift employs over 70 people. Swift is a digital agency that specializes in creative and strategy, branded content creation and social media.

The acquisition continues WPP’s strategy of investing in fast-growing markets and sectors such as mobile and digital.

OK, What’s Up?

A few things.

  • Portland is a hot “creative” geography.
  • These are both VERY digital shops.
  • They each have strong client lists. Google, Sonos, Levi’s.
  • They have decent (higher than most independents) revenues.
  • They are run by smart people.

So, you want to sell? Create value that someone else wants to buy. Start today and make creating agency value an objective. This goes beyond just adding clients. It means standing out in a sea of advertising agencies.



Frozen Emails And Business Development

How Not To Freeze Your Business Development Emails

I’m not a big fan of cold calls, cold emails, or cold anything (a key reason I live in Mexico.)

However, in the land of lead generation, there are times when a cold “Hi There” email might simply be the only option. Or, better yet, a smart element of a master plan.

A cold email, a smart cold email, can, if done well, create awareness of your advertising, design or PR agency and, more importantly, begin to seed the idea that you are an insightful marketer that is worth paying attention to. In the best of all possible worlds, the smart “intro” email becomes a much warmer email because it delivers a relevant and hopefully “must read” business insight. If part of a strategic sales plan, the email will become just one element in a longer, more consistent, business development campaign.

Who Gets The “Warm” Email?

I’ll discuss email techniques in a bit. But first, who are you targeting? If your plan is to reach the right people, then you need to figure out who the right people are. Yup a duh. But, you’d be surprised, and competitively delighted, to know that many agencies don’t really know who (is it whom?) they want to reach.

Get your lists right first

Direct to prospect Email is an outbound tool. I recommend using it to reach two target buckets. These groups come from understanding your agency’s brand positioning, its sales proposition, what potential clients will truly be interested in your message and your ability to stand out and be Unignorable.

The Big List

I’m thinking about targeting your agency’s master lead gen list. The longer one. This might sound insane, but my agency had a 1,000-decision maker mailing list. This was our ‘reminder’ list. Our objective was to create awareness of our chops just in case the client needed us that day or month. Note: our strategic list rarely had unsubs since we were slavish to delivering value. This large list is hard to personalize (beyond customizing the right fields). But, you can segment it so you don’t send useless emails that will make you look and sound lame. The key, as usual, is to deliver relevant marketing insights.

The Small List

In this case, I’m referring to a hot list of say 25 to 50 client candidates. These folks, who should without question be your client (example: you are a baby boomer specialist agency and your client target group sell laxatives – LOL). For this must-get group, you’ll need a much more direct, human and, again, highly relevant, super-sharp insight-driven program.

Your List Building

Buy a list. Yes, just drop the coin on this one.

Build a hand-built list using a low-cost intern.

Use email finder tools like Hunter.io, Skrapp, and Anymail. There are more. Just ask Google.

Get the event list from that industry event you just attended.

OK, The Cold Email

This is a well covered subject area, so I suggest that you take a couple of hours and do a Google search to better understand best practices. However, here are some thought starters and a bit of guidance.

  • Understand that your target market is inundated with emails. Many marketing people get over 100 a day. You have to break through. Within milliseconds. Subject Line is KEY!
  • Testing a range of email options to get to the most opens is critical. Examples: test subject lines; who From; copy length; graphics; timing (as in the day of the week and time of day); the timing of follow-up emails; your call to action and even the ‘hooks’ you use like what micro cases or research you use to get people’s attention.

For your very personalized emails (the ones sent to your hot list) do the following.

  • Spend the time researching the person. Get into their head.
  • Understand their key pain points and figure out how to address them. No, not every pain point, but one or two key ones.
  • Make the subject line personal. Let’s say you are that baby boomer specialist and you want to target Schwab’s marketing director. Use a line like this: “New Research For Schwab: Baby Boomer to Millennial Inheritance”.

 ……. Back to testing… test everything.

Does Search Engine Optimization Work?

Guess What… Search Engine Optimization Does Work

The chart above is from WordPress analytics on the source of my incoming traffic. Yup, Search Engine Optimization works. Just look at all the traffic I get from search engines. And, note how many searches come from just Google. In one month… 2,538!

When I ask agencies that contact me how they found me… the answer is always via a search engine (OK, sometimes because they read my book on pitching – know what, go up top and buy it.)

The Drill

So, here’s the drill. I’ve been blogging on one subject, ad / advertising agency business development for five or so years. I’ve got over 600 super well targeted and keyword optimized blog posts. I support these with amplified mentions, emails to over 2,000 subscribers, posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. As you can see, Google wins hands down.

What can your agency learn from this?

  • Be single-minded. Find your competitive agency positioning and blog accordingly.
  • Use the right keywords that your audience wants to read.
  • Blog often.
  • Have long posts. Yes, its ok to have short ones like this. But, Google likes loooong posts.
  • Work to get people to link to you.

You know this stuff. So, just do it. If you want incoming, you have to work at it.


I know, you are very busy. And, you only have 17 blog posts. And, your best writers don’t want to blog. And, you worry about being too dedicated to one subject. Then, I advise my clients to do a range of other tactics.

One is to guest blog on much busier sites.

The Basics: An Advertising Agency New Business Plan 

Your 2018 Advertising Agency New Business Plan

I admit it. I am going to repeat myself (you’ll know it if you’ve read some of my 600+ blog posts.)

The marketing communications service industry must have a solid advertising agency new business plan to survive in today’s lower margin marketing world.

Wha? Agencies do not have a solid plan? According to ad world research, most do not.

While repeating some of the core tenets of sales, I’ll add some new thinking based on my working with agencies in the USA and around the globe.

That said, the bottom-line for building a productive advertising agency new business plan is to do the actions that are tried and true – with the objective of standing way out. These actions are general sales actions that are modified for selling a highly competitive service like your advertising agency. By the way, congrats if you’ve gone beyond just offering a service to having a tool or system that you can resell. Give me a shout and I’ll show you examples of what I mean.

Start Here.

You have to break out of the competitive pack. I don’t care if you’re a two-person or a multi-national. You need to say something to a prospective client that stands out and makes them want to make direct contact or say yes when you ask to speak with them.

The agencies that win today deliver messaging that is: well targeted, succinct and competitive.

 Because of this starting point, distinctive agency positionings help clients to quickly recognize the agency’s expertise and value.

I’ve put “winner” agencies into three messaging buckets. They tell prospective clients: ‘what we do’, ‘how we do it’ and ‘who we do it for’ to illustrate the strength of their individual positioning strategy.

The Start Here is without question your agency’s positioning.

There are essentially 5 positionings for an advertising agency.

  1. You are a full-service agency. That means when I visit your website you have a list that includes service offers that include: strategy, branding, advertising, content, data management, media buying, mobile, podcasting and on and on. You do it all. Frankly, your agency might do it all. But, today a large percentage of clients simply do not believe that one agency can be an expert in both high-level design and content development and Instagram and programming. Or, mobile and video and TV commercial production. To get this jack-of-all-trades right, you’ll need some savvy copy and some serious proof.
  2. You specialize in a geographic location. Agencies that do this tell prospects that they are a Southern agency or all about Adelaide or just want to work with big city clients in L.A. or NYC.
  3. You specialize in being strategic or have a specific media or technology expertise. I love it when I hear that an agency can say something as specific as… “we are a mobile agency”.
  4. You specialize in a demographic. Some agencies tell clients that they are woman’s marketing or millennial or Hispanic or LGBT specialists.
  5. You tell the world that you are Creative. This can be a tough one to sell. The definition of “Creative” is in the eye of a beholder. Just saying it isn’t good enough. Yup, some agencies can get away with this. But, you better have a “Work” section on your website that can prove this point – unquestionably. If you are in fact Creative, you better have an award plan that delivers third-party adulation. Clients need to see that industry experts agree with the fact that you are in fact Creative.

Have A Sales Plan (Or, If You Prefer: The Advertising Agency New Business Plan).

Business Development. Sounds cool. But, to get to the point, it is good old fashioned sales that you are going after. Both terms work. But, I highly suggest that in today’s tough branding / advertising / digital / content etc. market that you have to be a good salesperson = company sales plan to get sales.

To get a qualified lead and then a sale you need to sell. Frankly, most advertising agencies do not have a great deal of experience in sales. Repeat: To sell, you need a sales plan. This plan must include: Read More »