Business Development Tips

Every agency has them; every agency new business consultant has them; virtually anyone who’s taken a crack at agency new business development will claim to have some. There aren’t many real secrets, but there are some simple tips worth noting and worth doing.

  • In the “outreach” category, you need a computer, telephone with headset, and contact management software (ACT, Goldmine, etc.) That platform will give you a place to create prospect and client databases, plus it allows you to “auto-dial” anyone in the database and record your discussion notes “on-the-fly.” It’s absolutely THE most efficient way to manage business relationships. Anything less is cheating yourself and your agency.
  • In the prospect “first meeting” category, if you haven’t been in the audience for our presentation, you need to experience “The Agency Tour as a New Business Tool.” That presentation by our sister-company Sales Marketing Institute, Ltd. was being made to select agency gatherings back when AgencyFinder was born and still is. Telephone to arrange for yours.
  • In all your dealings with a prospect – know your agency, know your people, know what your agency has done and for whom, know what your agency can do and how, be punctual, be honest, be forthright, be sincerely enthusiastic, be inspirational. Don’t be “all that”, don’t be a bore, don’t hog the floor, don’t steal thunder from others.
  • Ask until you understand; then ask again. Restate what the prospect said, and look for confirmation. Don’t offer solutions until you’ve heard the problem. Don’t speculate (in their business category), but do speculate using fictitious examples to demonstrate how your agency does do things.
  • Be careful what you say about anyone to anyone. Assume that any two people of the opposite sex that work together are much closer than it appears. Deal or no deal!

Marketing, advertising and public relations are passionate processes. Find and pick passionate marketing partners; then have fun!

What is Pay-to-Play, Agency Search Consultant & Outsourced Business Development?

All three are just a few of the many business development options available to advertising agencies and pr firms. Each agency needs to maintain on ongoing series of efforts to identify and reach potential client candidates. Each option is a mechanism for the sake of a first-meeting; a face-to-face situation when agency and prospect can talk and evaluate each other from a potential “marketing partner” standpoint.

Pay to Play:`

To many, this is the exciting, positive, fast-paced de-facto business model for Las Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, Atlantic City and every Indian gaming casino in the US; people go there for just that reason. Want to participate in the office football pool, basketball pool? You’d better be ready to pay to play!

Agencies pay to play all the time. Think of all the new business development efforts that cost agencies money. Like the very clients they seek, the agency needs to investment-spend for its own new business success and how they do that is their decision That includes business development director, new business co-coordinator, prospect database and companion computer, agency brochures, agency mailers and follow-up phone calls, the agency website & SEO expenses, PPC campaigns, agency public relations, management speaking tours, new business committee, directory listings, association membership fees, new business seminars, then prospect golf, football, baseball, basketball outings, dinners, cocktail parties, travel & entertainment and even the pricey pitch consultant!

The “Rules:” – Back in the early 2000’s, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) in partnership with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) introduced a document entitled ANA/AAAA “Rules of the Road” for Agency Search Consultants. They meant well, for they were trying to stop the pejorative “pay to play” – the double-dipping by consultants who were hired and compensated by clients who then turned around to invite and require that agencies pay as well. Either to pitch, to learn how to pitch from the experts, to receive a post-review critique, to input agency credentials for this or next time, or to settle up on a percent of the winning agency’s receipts.

The “Rules” were meant to guide and protect members, but did so by imposing non-binding rules on consultants and service providers who were neither members nor could they become members. The document describes “Pay-to-Play” as a negative practice (not withstanding the above-mentioned examples to the contrary).

The document declares: “Agencies should not be required to pay a fee to a search consultant in order to participate in an agency review conducted by the consultant; similarly, agencies should not be required to pay such a fee for winning an account review. Agencies also should not be required to pay a fee in order to have their credentials listed in a consultant’s database as an inferred means of participating in account reviews conducted by the consultant.”

It continues: “Consultants who participate in new business searches, compensation reviews, or other assignments for advertisers should neither solicit business from agencies nor accept assignments requested by participating agencies. Consultants also should disclose to their clients, in advance, any fees or commissions they have received, or will receive, from any agencies involved in the search process for any type of services rendered to those agencies.”

The “Rules” is a flawed document: Changes may come, but for now, the “Rules” fails to define Agency Selector Consultant. What IS unethical and an unsavory practice is when any consultant accepts payment from both advertisers and agencies under any circumstance at any time. “Double-dipping” is almost against the law! It’s as silly and unethical as trying to hire and pay the District Attorney to defend an accused murderer.

Agency Search Consultant:

In keeping with the intention of the “Rules”, an Agency Search Consultant should be defined as “An independent third-party professional, hired, managed and compensated by the “Client” (advertiser/searcher) to identify, evaluate, invite, orchestrate and manage (all or in-part) a process to assist the “Client” in hiring a marketing partner.” (emphasis on compensated by the client). ONLY if the consultant is being paid by the client do the “Rules” apply. And even then, punitive action (if any) should be imposed on the ANA & 4A members for their failure to comply with the document..

Outsourced Business Development:

Everyone knows that agencies turn outside to hire pitch consultants to help land the “big one.” Years ago it was said that as the incumbent, Leo Burnett spent $1 Million or more just to contend to retain the Oldsmobile account. The details were never confirmed, but one could assume that beyond employee billable-hours charged to the job, there were some pricey, high-powered pitch consultants involved. Would you blame them with that much at stake? Is it ethical? You decide …

Dialing for Dollars:

For more than just the “big one,” there is a proliferation of independent, third-party, outsourced service providers who engage in various forms of “dialing-for-dollars” (telemarketing for first meetings – “would it make sense for you and my people to meet?”). Some do nothing more than what the agency could and should do themselves; some are reasonable (meaning not a staggering fee) while others charge something along the lines of what the agency would spend if that person were on-board full-time.

The distinguishing characteristic for many is their “arms-reach” model. Seldom does the caller ever meet the client prospect in person. Seldom if ever is the caller involved in anything more than locking down a “first meeting.” And often the caller uses an “alias.” In that light, the caller implies that he/she is working AT the agency they purport to call from and they’re doing so as an employee. In most cases, the agency even creates an agency voicemail box to further perpetrate the misrepresentation (as in fraud).

The advertising agency community already suffers from a much-less-than-enviable reputation. One questions what agency management is thinking when they agree to such wholesale misrepresentation to begin what otherwise wants to be a great, trusting, engaging, ethical agency/client relationship? How attractive would your agency be; how long before the prospect hangs up if you tell them you outsource creative and strategic thinking?

Agency Business Development – “The Lifeblood of every Agency”  – Yours may be affordable; is it ethical?

Nothing to Lose!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, with virtually nothing to lose.

That’s our business proposition, and it’s been on the table since May 1997. Our Annual Subscription Plan puts your agency immediately “in play” for every agency search that’s active and hot, with virtually no risk, and virtually nothing to lose. In the agency world of business development, our $500 US initial installment is truly chump change!

Nothing to lose is more than you can say when you’re hot on the trail of the latest breaking industry news – where that “too little, too late” announcement claims a Top 100 agency just resigned their $25 Million client for philosophical differences (as in – they were fired).

Just because it’s a glamorous account and just because you want it doesn’t mean you have a shot. But if you’re a red-blooded All-American new business street-fighter, you’re going to try; we do understand. But start tabulating your expenses on that pursuit – phone calls, faxes and/or e-mails, the infamous FedEx shipment (dimensional mailer, clever bits & pieces, the “We’ll Shoot This Dog” poster, melted candy mailers and more), your unsolicited and potentially targetless spec proposal, the trip to grip, meet & eat, and the inevitable Dear John. We know that’s fun, but there’s generally plenty to lose and no way to know until it’s too late.

Rather than that scenario, when your agency profile rests comfortably in our database (the eHarmony or of the advertising industry), you have little if nothing to lose!

We’ve been saying it for years – AgencyFinder, the Art & Science of Marketing Partnerships.


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