Six Ways Ad Agencies Are Winning New Business

Six Ways Ad Agencies Are Winning New Business

download adHere is a headline from a 2009 Advertising Age article:

By the way, am I the only one confused by AdvertisingAge / AdAge branding. Which is it?

“Six Ways Ad Agencies Are Reeling in New Business Now  Some Novel and Tried-and-True Tricks to Snag Accounts in Recession”

I found the article searching for ways that advertising agencies are winning new accounts. Since the article was from the dark days of the recession, I thought… hey maybe there are some insights that are applicable to today’s agency world. Here’s the Ad Age article and my take.

“Client cutbacks amid the recession have placed intense pressure on agencies, who are clamoring to hold on to the clients they have and starved to add new business where they can. “When times are tight, even the huge agencies go after the tiniest of accounts,” said Ann Billock, a principal at consultancy Ark Advisors in New York. Below, Ad Age shares some of the ways agencies are managing to still snag business.


Having an ample Rolodex is essential to growing your agency, but networking doesn’t have to be about three-martini lunches. Via Group, Portland, Maine, has developed a clever way of drumming up new business. Once a month, founder-CEO John Coleman organizes a get-together of eight to 10 marketing executives to discuss topics such as “technology’s role on the evolution of society and culture.” 

Yes! Create events, face-to-face events that attract your most cherished client prospects. My Portland agency Citrus ran events about new marketing trends in the late 2000’s for clients and prospects. We were able to get folks from LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Microsoft to come to Portland and discuss the newish world of digital and each company’s advertising products. This was a no-brainer for us. We initially ran these in our lobby and when the attendance grew, we rented a big rock hall to add a bit of hipster. Your agency can do this easily. Start small… rent a bar at happy hour and drink and talk. You’ll look smart and cool and sell face-to-face. Beats cold-calling.


Having an influencer on your team is a huge asset. Take Dave Armano, VP-experience design at digital agency Critical Mass, or Steve Rubel, senior VP-director of insights for Edelman Digital (and an Ad Age columnist). These are new-business people on social-networking steroids. 

I suggest that your agency designate a partner (reasoning to follow) to author and be the face of your social media. Get out there and do a really great and powerful and consistent job in social because it works (see my recent article on how social works hard for my brand and… because if you can’t look good in social media (!!), how the heck can a client think that you have the chops to ever recommend any social programs to them.? Do unto others, baby.

OK, why a partner? Do you really want to build an employee’s brand and then watch them go across town? This happens. I don’t thin AdvertisingAge gets this one: “Sure, the thoughts they share are their own and not their employers.’ But in the end, the agency wins with talent that is active in consumer conversations.”


Agency-positioning efforts such as Kevin Roberts’ “Lovemarks” platform (he really siuggests that a consumer can learn to LOVE their tootpaste) at Saatchi may not be new, but they really can work. One of the more recent platforms to emerge is Publicis Groupe’s “Contagious Ideas”…

“It’s not just some abstract theory,” said Mark Hider, exec VP-director of engagement strategy for Publicis USA. “There is a conversation going on about brands whether we like it or not,” and the key is to “monetize brand conversations, and then alter them in your favor.”

Obvious, right? Um, no. Most agencies don’t look all that different than the shop down the street. It is very easy to look and sound different. Don’t believe me? Call me.


Every client seeks flexibility in a partner, but increasingly that requires taking it one step further to build custom-made solutions. There’s WPP’s Enfatico, the agency it built from the ground up for Dell, and more recently DDB Entertainment, a dedicated agency unit at Omnicom for Blockbuster. 

LOL. Blockbuster!!! Guess this article was from the olden days (I bet you have employees that have no clue what Blockbuster was.) OK, here is a better point than AdAge’s building a brand new agency – clearly a point for the holding companies.

You a smaller agency? Why not create niche agency service for a category like Louisiana’s Innovative Advertising did when they offered the restaurant category their specialized website The Fridge. Innovative’s kicking it for their beer client Abita and other edibles, why not isolate this sales message?


Mitchell Levy, CEO and author at Happy About, says books are the new calling card. According to Mr. Levy, the author is the one asked to speak at conferences and events, and books are a great networking tool when sent to both existing customers and new prospects. 

Um again. I wrote a book on agency pitching and because of that, I have given presentations about how agencies should write books. Please do this for your agancy and follow my directions on how you can make it  a painless process. A link: Yes, You Can Write and Publish A Business Book in 6 Months


Personal attention goes a long way. Anyone who knows Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based agency honcho Jordan Zimmerman knows he is not only accessible to clients 24 hours a day, he’s checking in with them on a daily basis. It’s no coincidence that the shop in the past two years has grown its operation by leaps and bounds, winning an astounding 85% of pitches.

Really, daily? LOL. Do you know a client that wants to talk to an agency CEO daily? Does your cousin want to catch up daily? Ok, the real point is that a small to medium agency CEO’s should be up front and center and accessible with clients and prospects. Why not put the CEO’s contact in the Contact section of your website? What else should the CEO be doing?

That’s it. Know what?

What worked during the recession works today. I always tell my agency clients… Have a bias for action! Want me to tell that to you — lets talk.

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