Joe West
Joe West 15 March 2016

Agency New Business Legends - Why some agencies win everything and some nothing

Getting more new business, winning more pitches, being better at agency new business, are all topics never far from an agency’s boardroom agenda.

Jealous eyes peruse new business tables and regular winners are referred to as being hot or lucky.

But the truth is, and this is based on watching hundreds of agencies approach new business over the years, with some winning everything and some nothing, there is a formula for success, it is predictable, you can copy it and anyone can do it…

This is a complex area, it could cover 50 blogs and we already have a lot of content on it (download guides here), but as a starting point, here are two quick habits that the most successful agencies use to win.

1) Pre pitch – getting interest, briefs and pitches you can close

2) At pitch/interest – converting a higher proportion of interest to wins

Recognise the difference between cold new business and referral new business

It seems an obvious point. However, referral business allows an agency to stretch their remit in terms of delivery. Never done a TV ad before? Don’t worry I loved your motion graphic and I trust you!

Cold agency new business is different, (and MDs that want to be masters of their own destiny understand how important it is), you have to prove the right to consult and you will need to show evidence of expertise. Key to winning is removing risk for the client.

To do that you need to be clever in how you develop sales propositions and not just talk about vertical market expertise (and all the conflict hassle that creates). Agencies that fail to understand this come second, a LOT.

Agencies that win develop clever propositions that align to new trends and require a capability that they are better placed to deliver.

Not completely new propositions, they are too hard to buy and drive a lot of education interest, more the same sort of capability but with added innovation, that’s what appeals to risk adverse clients.

So successful agencies define more niche propositions that attract interest they are uniquely well placed to convert.

Take risk earlier in the process and be quick

Pitching is expensive. No question.

That’s why just about every agency MD has been to a seminar called “Winning without pitching” (or similar), it’s Nirvana, it is possible, but you need a proper inbound marketing strategy to make that work (download our guide to inbound marketing for agencies here - and yes we can help with that).

So while you’re investing in Hubspot and implementing a proper inbound plan, how do you close more of the competitive pitches that are already coming in?

1. Be quick and enthusiastic

Fast response drives conversion. Do bid/no bid analysis after you've got the full brief and told them how much you love their brand. Otherwise you can be slow to respond and seem uninterested – both are a killer to conversion.

2. Talk money early

That means volunteer typical project and retainer costs if they are being opaque about budget. This is the biggest problem in new business and you need to lance the boil early.

Although think whether this client is in the Fun, Fame, Fortune category (see more here)

3. Take risk earlier

Pitching is expensive, you are going to need to make an effort in the process and it will take studio time.

Time and again I have watched agency MDs disrupt pitches at early stage by sharing ideas and thoughts earlier in the process.

Again it removes risk and makes the agency easier to buy

4. Don’t leave work for the prospect to do

Too often agencies leave actions with busy brand marketers.

“Great meeting - so if you just write this all up into a brief we’ll be happy to respond”. Then see the lack of brief as lack of interest – as opposed to lack of time.

Use the meeting to define requirement, get to agreement, outline possible budgets and agree a response (an exec summary is always the preference). Write it up quickly, so that week, and follow up fast.

This is what successful agencies do. It works and they convert a disproportionate amount of interest. Interestingly, it is also how successful management consultants sell.

5. Pitch with them not to them

Working closely with a client to understand their underlying business requirement (as opposed to the brief they have written) is key to delivering what they need.

Involving them in your thinking and approach pre presentation loses the impact of a reveal, sure, but it also massively increases the likelihood of success.

If you want more specialist industry insight, you can download our 30 tips and tricks guide here.

Or alternatively, contact us if you want to know more.

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