Yes, Your Advertising Agency Business Development Director Might Be Doomed. A 2020 Update.
Some updated thinking. I am asked on a high-frequency basis by agency management, that means CEO types, if their advertising agency should have a business development director. Because of this question, I thought I’d update this evergreen interview with Brooks Gilley who knows what’s up.
My current thinking based on talking with many agencies is that, at best, only 50% of advertising agency business development directors succeed. I am about to do some haranguing. Why?
- As is pointed out below, most advertising agencies have a low to a non-competitive brand position. The degree of positioning sameness – “we are a digital agency” or “we are creative thinkers” – and messaging sameness – as in no soul or a distinctive opinion or having the goal of being unignorable – is crazy. How could even a competent business director sell the 50% of agencies that cannot define a strong sales proposition? Or not have a well-considered target market?
- A huge chunk of agencies (it has been reported that up to 75% of agencies) do not have a master business development plan, think of it as a sales plan. How is this possible? And, worse, who is supposed to write the plan? I do not think that a business development director alone can write this plan. It should be an agency self-preservation and growth project.
- Many advertising agency leaders have little experience in writing a sales manager compensation plan. Here is a compensation plan you can use.
- Too many agency leaders hand off the role of business development to the director. I owned my own agency and I devoted at least half of my time to business development. And, I provided daily support and thinking and budget.
Give me a shout if you want to discuss your agency and its specifics.
Back To The Interview About The Doomed Business Development Director.
To quote the Beach Boys… Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Yes, wouldn’t it be nice to have a business development director that brought in more business for your advertising agency than you can handle? But is your business development director doomed from the start?
She or he could be if you do not have agency objectives, a competitive agency brand positioning, something to sell beyond, “Hey we are a full-service/digital/social media agency”. Or, not having a list of clients and categories you want to nail; an active up-to-date CRM system or you are now in a state of panic because you just lost your largest client.
I know that this is a tough job to fill and do. I managed my agency’s business development director at my own ad agency; for Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in New York and London and as CEO at two Internet start-ups. I have hired ten business development directors over the past twenty years. Some worked out and some, well, not so well. Again, this is one of, if not the toughest, agency jobs to position for success.
But, don’t take my word for it. Before you read on for an expert interview, you might also want to go to my blog post on how to pay an agency business development director.
An Expert Interview With Brooks Gilley On How To Hire A Business Development Director.
Brooks Gilley is the Founder and CEO of Portland’s 52 Limited. 52 LTD is a 15-year-old creative resource company that connects world-class talent with leading brands, marketing departments, design firms, advertising and digital agencies.
In addition to running one of the west coast’s leading creative talent agencies, Brooks ran the Portland Advertising Federation and worked at advertising agencies.
Peter: According to the RSW/US 2014 RSW/US Agency-Marketer Business Report, the tenure of agency business development directors was two years or less. ADWEEK reports that people in this position at large agencies last less than one year. Is this surprising to you?
Brooks: It’s not surprising at all, largely for the fact that agencies I have worked with on business development director searches come to us in a moment of panic, and that’s usually where the ask starts. It’s a role that is needed now but was probably needed at least twelve months before new business gains became an issue. Additionally, it’s not necessarily a strategic role that is esteemed at and supported within a ‘creative’ organization. [Read more…] about Is Your Advertising Agency Business Development Director Doomed?