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, they 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:

  • Hunger.
  • Business objectives. That means… how are you gonna make moolah?
  • Sales objectives.
  • The right positioning.
  • Powerful, hard (actually impossible) to ignore targeted messaging. Deep insights work here.
  • An inbound strategy. This means being both efficient and smart. Example. I named this post “The 2018 New Business Plan For Your Advertising Agency“. I used “Advertising Agency” vs. “Ad Agency” because Google Trends tells me that people search on the word “Advertising” more than “Ad”. You can see the chart at the top of this page.
  • An outbound strategy. Better yet, an Account Based Marketing plan.
  • Cold-calling. Nope, go for warm-calling.
  • Use a CRM system and have a biz dev calendar. Oh, and make new business everyone’s business.
  • Study your analytics. Do more of what works. That means, continuously optimize.

Oh, and have a true dedication at the CEO, CEO and ECD level to doing what’s right to drive growth. Does your agency management act as hungry as Jeff Bezos?

 Your Website.

 I am signaling out your website as a marketing tool because agencies spend an inordinate amount of time adjusting and rebuilding their website. Get it right the first (or probably fifth time).

Major point. Your website is about sales. Not beauty. Beauty is nice. But, add the goal of beauty after you nail your sales objectives.

Please demonstrate some humanity and charisma. Even chutzpah.

Content amplification. If you have a blog post — use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and a zine and whatever to amplify the message and/ or insights. Once you have something tasty… share it broadly.

Another point. Your prospects will give you 6 to 9 seconds to determine if they should spend time on your website. Give them a reason to stick around.

OK, some good news. You probably can’t do any worse than these agencies.

RFI’s and RFP’s.

I owned my own agency. In the case of RFI’s and RFP’s, I made sure that we did not respond to the wrong ones: the ones that were not a good fit or didn’t have the right budget. Have a litmus test for deciding which RFI’s and RFP’s are worth the big effort. Do not say yes to every request for a date. Know what – read my book on pitching. It includes how to manage these, occasionally, time-suck client fishing expeditions.

If you respond to an RFI or RFP… read them hard and respond according to the request, which means, follow their format to a T. No client or agency consultant that has asked 10 agencies to respond (a nightmare in itself) wants to figure out your very own creative way of responding.

But (there is always a but), figure out within the client’s request… how to stand out based on your read of their needs and your agency’s brand proposition and, importantly, personality. This is a date. Act accordingly.

The Pitch.

 Follow this link for my blog posts on the art of pitching. Or buy my book on pitching.

Last Point.

The business of advertising and marketing communications services has gotten unbelievably difficult. The current playing field: Too many agencies. Lower gross margins. Clients, especially procurement departments, are better at negotiating than you. Your competitors often bend over father than you. Clients are bringing the work in-house. To make matters worse: many agencies have not created strong hard to ignore value based on their competitive positioning.

And, finally… most agencies do not have, even ones that have a sales plan, do not run it on a continuous and super smart basis. No plan + a start & stop program + no C-suite dedication + no hard to ignore messaging + looking me-too = no new business.

One More… Stay Hungry.

If you ever wake up and think… uh, I just can’t get the new business / sales juices flowing. Just look at WPP’s one year losses.


3 Thoughts On Advertising

3, OK, 4 Thoughts On Advertising

Here are some thoughts on advertising driven by three recent reads.

What If There Was No Advertising?

Imagine a world where all advertising was erased from the environment. That means no more urinal or bathroom stall ads; no more behavioral retargeting; movies and tv shows without commercials (oh, that’s Netflix); no outdoor boards on Montana highways, and on. Hard to visualize? Maybe, but here is a series of “ads” that have been erased. Jorge Pérez Higuera can help with his photo series Public Spaces. As he says…

We live in a world surrounded by advertising. Every day, we are presented with thousands of advertisements—but do we pay attention to them?

We have become accustomed to advertisements, and so we ignore them. This is part of the reason why companies are constantly seeking new places to advertise in, often at the expense of our public spaces.

Paradoxically, we barely resist the privatization of these spaces, while on the internet we use plug-ins like AdBlock (an application with a line of code that suppresses advertisements on our browser) because we consider the continual assault of banners an invasion of our privacy.

Advertising Is Back! Y’all.

From a Business Insider article.

2017 was a trying time for ad agencies, with issues ranging from transparency and brand safety concerns to the looming threat of consulting firms coming to a head last year.

But the prospects for the advertising industry look a lot brighter in 2018, according to new research issued by UBS.

The investment bank surveyed 350 global marketing executives and 500 US CFOs and has predicted that ad agencies will bounce back in 2018, buoyed by a growth of 4-5% in global advertising spend.

The recovery in 2018 will be driven by a number of factors, UBS analysts said, including large advertisers increasing the scope of work with creative agencies and big sporting and political events driving increasing spend on brand media.

This is particularly interesting, as it runs counter to the trend of advertisers doubling down on direct advertising in recent years, where they have prioritized marketing strategies that drive measurable results.

So, I’ll believe this when I see it. That said, the ad industry has gotten way too into tech and has forgotten that ideas, big ideas, drive the business. Data geeks beware. By the way, if you are a data geek, shouldn’t you be working at a hedge fund?

TV Is Dead.

Bob Hoffman rails against the over-hyped world of digital media. In fact, he has built a mighty fine post ad agency ownership biz on his thinking and talking. He is right and usually finds some “facts” that support his views. Last week he railed, with supporting numbers, that TV still rules the Super Bowl. Surprised that the big box wins? I’m not.

Digital Hype Machine Never Sleeps

Speaking of the trade press, a story in MediaWeek just before the Super Bowl was headlined, “Super Bowl Viewers Embrace Multiple Screens.” The story had some amazing “statistics”:

  – “Nearly half (47%) of respondents will use secondary (digital) media to consume Super Bowl-related content”

– “Viewership via streaming services is expected to be up 45% from last year”

The exec VP of a digital media company had this to say, “There is no doubt about it—streaming is on the rise, and advertisers must either adapt to keep up…or face falling behind.” Ohmygod, the heartbreak of falling behind!

We return you now to Planet Earth where 98% of people watched the Super Bowl on TV and 2% streamed it online.

So, is TV dead? No, but to think that we’d rather sit through endless commercials when we can launch one of the many commercial-free options (Netflix, HBO, Amazon, soon Disney and Apple…) is, um, dopey.

Smart Ad Agencies That Get Off Their Asses – Win.

If you run an advertising agency. Or, just work for one that should be growing, take a look at my article How A Boise Advertising Agency Went Global. There is a lot of learning here – especially about having a specialty. And, the article itself is proof that a very narrowly focussed blog like mine can garner shares (like over 100 in a couple of weeks) and lots of views (like over 300.)

How A Boise Advertising Agency Went Global

Get Past Local. Go Global.

If you are a Melbourne, Dallas, Cardiff, Charlotte or Boise ad agency you just might be stuck herding smallish clients in your regional market. Becoming a global advertising agency is simply not going to be an option if you position yourself as a generic full-service or digital agency. Bottom line, a New York or Sydney client is not going to take a second look at you (or find you) unless you have a very specific service specialty that crosses borders – even states. Clients are willing to rule out the need for a local agency if they perceive that you have a specialty that they need – regardless of geography. Having a specialty will also make you stand out and drive your search engine marketing – as you will see below.

Boise’s Oliver Russell figured this out three years ago and blasted past their western state borders to become a global player.

Here is my interview with Oliver Russell’s CEO Russ Stoddard. Russ started Oliver Russell in 1991 and he and his agency have become leaders in the world of marketing purpose-driven companies, sustainability initiatives, and socially responsible organizations to help them better compete in the marketplace. Russ’s dedication to a category focus has delivered on his objective of becoming a global player.

Russ Stoddard Has Gone Global

Peter: What’s up?

Russ: I’m Russ Stoddard, and I’m a social entrepreneur. I have a creative marketing agency in Boise, Idaho, that works with purpose-driven companies.

Peter: How is business these days?

Russ: For us, it’s going remarkably well. We’ve got an area of specialty and differentiation, which means we actually have people coming to us, rather than having to chase clients down.

Peter: That’s great news. In terms of agency history, has that always been the case, or did you switch to a more specialized perspective at some point in recent history?

Russ: We’ve been around 27 years, and it took me 23 of those to finally take the medicine.

Four years ago, we repositioned very strongly around working with purpose-driven companies, which we define as those that have a very intentional bent around creating a product, service or business model that benefits society. Read More »

Buy These Advertising Books Today

Advice: Buy These “Advertising” Books

I first met Paul Arden when I moved to Saatchi & Saatchi London in 1991 to run the J&J account and business development across Europe. Paul was one of Saatchi’s most famous creative directors, had worked on major agency accounts like British Airways, Silk Cut (a cigarette brand) and Fuji. He was a very serious London dude dressed in Saville Row suits and Havana cigar smoke.

Our first argument happened about five minutes into our first meeting on my second day. I think (know) that he had disdain for American ad guys and he presumed that I was a dweeb. Because we had to work together, the head of the office managed our relationship by seating us next to each other at a table in the big Saatchi Wimbledon tennis tournament tent. The kind of big money client event that was standard in those days. We sat down at our appointed places, looked at each other, laughed and decided to like each other.

The next argument occurred when Paul created a rather expensive video (without anyone’s approval) to illustrate the big idea that we presented to Adidas when we were a lock to win their international account and I was going to build my own sports agency to run it. This was a big fucking deal for the agency and me. We didn’t win it. It was the worst advertising pitch ever. Read about it here.

Paul’s Books

I highly recommend Paul’s books. Smart, full of easy to digest insights (you like small books, right?) and rather witty. Buy them and put them on your desk. About $28 bucks will make you look like you have your act together. Reading them will help you get your act together.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.

Here’s the pitch on Amazon:

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be is a handbook of how to succeed in the world – a pocket ‘bible’ for the talented and timid to make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible. The world’s top advertising guru, Paul Arden, offers up his wisdom on issues as diverse as problem solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes and creativity, all notions that can be applied to aspects of modern life.

Whatever You Think – Think The Opposite.

From Amazon:

The inspired follow-up to the international bestseller It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.

Bursting with ideas, innovations, art, philosophy, science, and brilliantly bad advice from Paul Arden–a cult figure in the worlds of advertising, art, design, and marketing–Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite offers a new way to approach business and life.

Do me a favor by doing yourself a favor –  buy these.


Wowzer Content Marketing & How To Own TripAdvisor

Content Marketing Delivers London’s #1 Restaurant

This week, please watch this crazy video from Vice. Content marketing at its finest or, maybe, worst. Funny and scary.

Nonetheless, wowzer!

BIG QUESTION… If this guy can market (ok, with a bit of cheek) his way to number one, why can’t you market your agency to be perceived as number one?

(By the way… did you watch last week’s L2 video?)