The Basics: An Advertising Agency New Business Plan 

Your 2020 Advertising Agency New Business Plan

advertising agency new business planI 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 disrupted and lower margin marketing world.

Wha? Agencies do not have a solid plan? According to ad world research, most do not. I’ve seen stats that say only 40% of advertising agencies have solid active business development plans.

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.

Be Unignorable.

That said, the bottom-line for building a productive advertising agency new business plan is to do the sales plan actions that are tried and true – with the objective of standing way out. That means having the goal of being unignorable. Not easy, but a ripe goal to pursue.

Start Here.

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.

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 6 positionings for an advertising agency. Whatever you choose…. please look like an expert.

  1. You are a digital agency. Yes, the market wants a digital specialist. However, in 2020 virtually every advertising agency is digital. So, when you day “digital” a potential client might need a bit more meat on that bone. Is there an area of digital that you can point to? Data analysis? Influencer marketing? Te worlds TikTok specialist?
  2. You are a full-service agency. This is a tough one. Selling in full-service means that 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, TikTok 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.
  3. You specialize in a geographic location. Agencies that do this tell prospects that they are a Boise agency or all about Adelaide or just want to work with big-city clients in L.A. or NYC.
  4. You specialize in being strategic or have a specific media expertise. I love it when I hear that an agency can say something as specific as… “we are a mobile advertising specialist”. or, that the agency is the ultimate purpose-driven agency.
  5. You specialize in a demographic. Some agencies tell clients that they are woman’s marketing or Gen X or Hispanic or LGBT specialists.
  6. 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 = a company with a robust sales plan to grow 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. Always be hungry.
  • Business objectives. That means… how are you gonna make moolah?
  • Sales objectives. What types of clients do you want and will they want you?
  • The right positioning. What will make that client want to take notice of you?
  • Powerful, hard (actually impossible) to ignore targeted messaging. Deep insights work here. Aim at being unignorable.
  • An inbound strategy. This means being both efficient and smart. Example. I named this post “The 2020 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. Know who you want to get and then have a smart outbound plan to make them love you.
  • Cold-calling. Nope, go for warm-calling.
  • Be where clients are looking for agencies. Read this.
  • Use a CRM system and have a biz dev calendar. Oh, and make new business everyone’s business.
  • Study your website and email stats and 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:

There are too many agencies.

Your competitors often bend over deeper than you. Getting priced out is a daily issue.Lower gross margins.

Client spending in decline.

Clients, especially procurement departments, are better at negotiating than you.

Clients are bringing work in-house.

The dominace of Google, Facebook, Instagram and Amazon.

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.

Let’s talk about growing your business. You are in a hurry, right?

Contact me now and take me up on my impossible to refuse 15-minute talk-to-me Vito Corleone offer. 





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