3 Tips On Crafting Effective Emails Prospects Won’t Ignore

For this episode, we’re bringing you 3 pieces of advice on how to craft effective emails from our own RSW/US new business directors.

Welcome to “3 Takeaways”, your agency new business video series where we focus on one new business category and give you three takeaways to help improve your new business program.

If you’re driving new business for your advertising agency or PR firm, you’re always looking for ways to make your emails more effective.

In this episode, we’re giving you 3 quick tips, or takeaways, directly from 3 of our new business directors here at RSW.

Your first takeaway on crafting effective emails is from Brandon Buttrey:

Shy away from links, bold, italics, underlines and attachments.

I like this one a lot, Brandon points out as well,

The e-mail should read like a conversation between two people.

I’ve talked about this before in these episodes, and it’s a prospecting mantra of mine:

Talk to your prospects, not at them.

An email full of bold or underlined copy with multiple links screams sales email.

I’m not advising you never use any of these, but early on, especially, avoid all of them-just reach out with simple text.

Your second takeaway is from Amanda Mudd:

Be literal in your subject lines.

I’ll give you an example.  You‘ve heard that your subject line should reflect, in some way, the content of your email.

So, one way to be literal in your subject line, and a great way to use your case studies, is naming the company that’s in your case study in your subject line.

And that’s it, just the company name.

It should obviously relate to the prospect’s industry you’re reaching out to, but getting your email opened is that huge first step.

And just the company name will create some interest, and quite frankly, maybe some confusion, but that’s a good thing.

Chances are better they’ll open it.

And your third takeaway is from Carrie Shoemaker:

Be Enthusiastic, upbeat, and confident.  Be memorable. 

Advice you may have heard before, but so many salespeople don’t embrace it.

Your enthusiasm and passion shows, on the phone or video, sure, but in email and voicemail as well.

There’s a balance-you don’t want to be over the top in your enthusiasm, but it humanizes you.

So much sales outreach comes off as an ad a robot wrote.


🔔 Subscribe for more free content on how to help improve your new business program: https://bit.ly/2Mn0gXy

If you’re looking for a more effective business development strategy for your ad agency, email Lee McKnight Jr. at lee@rswus.com. He would love to talk.

Or, if you’re not ready for that step, you can read about how our outsourced business development programs work here.

My Ad Agency Did The Work But I Can't Talk About It

What do you do when a client won’t let your ad agency talk about the work you did for them?

Keep watching for 3 ideas to still use that work when you’re prospecting.

Welcome to “3 Takeaways”, your agency new business video series where we focus on one new business category and give you three takeaways to help improve your new business program.

The idea for this episode came from an Adweek article titled Brands’ Silence Hurts Agencies. PR Is a Win for Both.

The short version: it talks about brands or companies, not letting an ad agency publicly talk about the work they created for that brand.

Worth a read, but per usual, Adweek tends to focus on larger agencies, so I wanted to focus your takeaways today on small and mid-sized agencies. 

Because it’s an issue for you as well.

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way, and your first takeaway:

Discuss publicizing your work early with your client-or don’t. 

I don’t mean to be flip about this-but you can take one of two paths. 

The first is you bring it to the table early. 

Fair enough, there may need to be some negotiating, as I get into shortly, there are ways to use that work as part of your new business strategy that don’t involve plastering your client’s logo across your site. 

Or there’s the other path: if it’s not mentioned, it’s fair game, but again-in my opinion, you’re taking baby steps at that point, not plastering the logo-more on that.

Now let me point out-I get that this is your new client. 

Your goal is not to make demands or piss them off out of the gate on this subject. 

A lot of small and mid-sized agencies are working with bigger companies, and some of those companies will make it known early that you cannot talk about the work-period.

At that point, and circumstances will dictate, you don’t want to push it any further.

But it’s not necessarily over at that point. 

If there’s not a firm policy, you have some potential leeway-for example, your second takeaway:

Create docs, mini-case studies or one-pagers that are only used in your prospecting as one-on-one communication, that you can share with them.

Or a non-published, password-protected landing page, not something you’re posting on your site or on any public platform.

Again, I’m not advocating you jeopardize your relationship with this client.

If you feel in your gut that this step could bite you, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. 

In some cases, it may be.-

For example, I’ve had conversations with agency principals along the lines of, “this is a long-term client that we’d really like to replace”, so you need to at least create something that talks the work only in direct communication.

But even that may make you feel queezy-fair enough. 

Another option, and your third takeaway:

Talk about the work in one-on-one conversations.

If you really can’t, or don’t want to, have anything public-facing, or are too concerned about physical or digital versions being out there, another option is discussing the work in a prospect meeting, in one-on-one conversations.

And maybe you don’t actually mention the brand directly to be safe, but what you did and what the results were.

Thanks for watching 3 Takeaways-lots of new business content our site at rswus.com, just hit the resources drop down. 


🔔 Subscribe for more free content on how to help improve your new business program: https://bit.ly/2Mn0gXy

If you’re looking for a more effective business development strategy for your ad agency, email Lee McKnight Jr. at lee@rswus.com. He would love to talk.

Or, if you’re not ready for that step, you can read about how our outsourced business development programs work here.

Ad Agency Prospects Are Thinking You All Do The Same Thing

In a presentation I gave in Ontraport’s Agency Summit (a shout out and thank you for having me!) on ad agency business development, I pointed out that ad agency prospects will often think agencies look and sound alike, framing it with a brief story and a quote:

We all do the same stuff.

I took it from a panel on agency new business at a conference I attended, with the panel comprised of high-profile agencies, primarily holding company firms, and one of the panel members who drove new business for the agency, said,

Let’s just get this out of the way, we all do the same stuff, right?

Like a lot of people attending (all agency folks) I thought that was an interesting thing to say to this audience.

She went on to talk about the difficulties, and importance, of agency positioning and differentiation, and it’s the reason I bring it up.

She made important points, but I also thought about it in a different context, that is, the way your prospects view you, especially at the top of the funnel.

Something you always need to remember:

“You all do the same stuff” is how ad agency prospects view you.

That is, until you effectively differentiate yourself, through your positioning, content AND your outreach.

Until then, your prospects will lump you in with the other firms reaching out to her or him.

There are agencies that feel like their talent should speak for itself, that they don’t need to differentiate or create case studies, or content.

If you’re a small to mid-sized agency, no matter how talented you are, you can’t have this mindset.

But we are differentiating, we’re creative!

Yes, well, you make it harder on yourselves by using the same words to describe your agency.

Case in point, here are some random blurbs taken from real agency sites:

-We’re creative

-Deep strategic insights

-Focusing on the power of. . .

–Insightful strategies

-Stand for something

-We’re strategic

-Be relentless

Ad Agency Positioning-Get To The Point

When agencies use any of the above examples, with no context as to how they might actually help a prospect or client- they’re all just words.

Whether you’re discussing who you are in a conversation or writing copy for your site, the first few things you need to do are:

  1. Tell them functionally what kind of agency you are
  2. What kind of clients you do it for/what verticals you focus on
  3. What challenges you solve

An example: We are X agency, we’re a digital communications firm, expert in creating and driving multichannel buying experiences for major retailers to help drive sales.

It doesn’t mean you don’t also talk about the kind of insights, results or experiences you create for clients as well, but if a prospect doesn’t get a clear idea of who you are and what you actually do for clients, that’s a problem.

One big business development challenge for ad agencies: Executing An Ad Agency New Business Refresh

We’re an outsourced ad agency business development firm that works specifically with ad agencies, marketing services firms, and PR firms to find better qualified new business opportunities and get you closer to close.

RSW/US is headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, with experts in lead generation, targeted prospect list building, and content creation driving our ad agency business development programs.

More about our advertising agency new business strategy and outsourced business development programs here.

Be sure to visit our YouTube channel and Agency New Business Blog for further insights.

Download this one-pager at the bottom of this post.

So two members of our RSW/US Marcom team, Steve Taggart and Bailey Kocent, created an ebook called RSW Tune-ups, a visual guide to driving more new business in 2022.

We’ll ultimately be releasing it in full, but we’re starting by releasing individual agency new business one-pagers, designed to cover different business development challenges advertising agencies are faced with.

Download the first, Building Awareness here, and the second, Targeting The Right Prospects, here.

Every agency has been there: you know you need to update your new business strategy, but old habits die hard and you soon realize it’s much easier said than done.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure it sticks and execute an ad agency new business refresh:

Executing An Ad Agency New Business Refresh

1. Positioning = 3 Sentences or Less

Think of your positioning as the fuel that gets your vehicle moving – without it, you’re not getting anywhere.

In 3 sentences or less, it should explain who you are, what you do, and, who you do it for.

Here’s a short video on avoiding the ad agency se of sameness in your positing: The Ad Agency Sea of Sameness – How To Steer Clear

2. Nail Down 20-30 Companies

Start off by nailing down 20-30 ideal companies to go after.

Prospect against 20-30 ideal companies for a month, planning on an hour each day or 2 every other day.

See where you are after that first month and adjust.

3. Avoid Shiny Objects At The Outset

All the ongoing new tech is glamorous and cool, but what do you really need?

For a solid new business program, you need a CRM and email platform that tracks opens and clicks.

Don’t get buried with all kinds of tech you’ll never use.

More content around avoiding those shiny objects: How To Add Value To Agency New Business Prospecting

4. Don’t Do What Your Competition Is Doing

You know your competition is most likely prospecting with emails and on LinkedIn.

Both are great prospecting tools, but relying on them solely will not get you to your brand new client destination.

Mix up your platforms and use each of them in concert with each other.

If you’re looking for a more effective business development strategy, email Lee McKnight Jr., VP of Sales at RSW/US at lee@rswus.com.

Learn more about our outsourced business development programs here.

Learn more about our process here.

To view please fill out the form below

While we offer the resources found on our site at no charge, we do ask for your assistance in maintaining a certain level of knowledge about who is accessing our valuable assets. We will never sell or distribute your information to any third parties.

The Ad Agency Sea of Sameness-How To Steer Clear-3 Takeaways, Episode 92

When it comes to positioning and messaging, firms are often stuck in the ad agency sea of sameness, and it’s typically because they’re so busy taking care of clients, they don’t take a step back to survey their peers, and their competition, to see how differentiated they really are (or aren’t).

So in this episode we’re talking 3 building blocks that make up the foundation of your agency new business program, and a visual guide to help you get there.

Welcome to “3 Takeaways”, your agency new business video series where we focus on one new business category and give you three takeaways to help improve your new business program.

Biggest business development challenge for you firm, show of hands, who knows it?

It’s the struggle to stand out in a sea of similar firms. to stand out in the ad agency sea of sameness .

Two members of our RSW/US Marcom team, Steve Taggart and Bailey Kocent, created an ebook called RSW Tune-ups, a visual guide to driving more new business for ad agencies. 

We’re starting by releasing individual agency new business one-pagers, which you can download below, along with about 12 links, when you click through, to related content we’ve created-it’s the good stuff.

This first one-pager covers building awareness, focusing on three business development building blocks. 

First one is Positioning, and here’s your first takeaway:

Advertising agencies all do the same thing.

If you follow us at RSW, you may have heard me say this, don’t think it’s ever been an actual takeaway. 

But is it true? No.

But it is the way your prospects view your firm, until they don’t-you show them otherwise.

Always remember that.

Sure, agencies do a lot of the same things, but you have to be very clear about what makes your firm different, in terms of the way you help and make your clients successful.

The second building block from our one-pager is case studies

And your second takeaway:

Create a case study template you can easily update. 

That may seem way too basic, but I know many of you watching are about 6 case studies behind because they’re a pain in the ass to create.

And agencies are seemingly always reinventing the wheel with case studies, quite frankly.

You should revisit a couple of times a year, in terms of older case studies, but create a concise template to make it as easy as possible to create new case studies.

The third building block is outreach.

And your last takeaway:

Revisit your process every quarter.

You know, if it ain’t broke and all, but one thing I want you to think about-

What’s your new business mix, how is it coming in?

If it’s 50% organic growth and 40% referrals-neither of those are sustainable in the long run-as I’ve said before, both are necessary, and if that’s working, by all means, run with it, but neither are truly dependable.

One thing we all know about this industry-clients leave, eventually.

You’ve got to mix in some outbound in there.

Download your visual guides here:

Business Development Challenges For Ad Agencies: Building Awareness

Business Development Challenges For Ad Agencies-Targeting The Right Prospects


If you’re looking for a more effective business development strategy, email Lee McKnight Jr., VP of Sales at RSW/US at lee@rswus.com.

Learn more about our outsourced business development programs here.

Learn more about our process here.

Why Don’t Ad Agencies Actively Pursue New Business?

A question as old as time (ish): Why Don’t Ad Agencies Actively Pursue New Business? 

Well, the answer will take us on a journey, through a labyrinth of long days, longer nights, and-actually that’s not true, the answer is fairly straightforward.  

And you may be thinking, it’s also obvious Lee, why write a post on it? 

For many small and mid-sized ad agencies, it is obvious that your agency isn’t actively pursuing new business, but taking the time to ask why is important for the health of your business. 

 So why don’t ad agencies actively pursue new business? 

 Reason #1: We’re enjoying the cash cow (also known as staying stagnant) 

I’m borrowing this first one from an agency owner who described their current situation this way: 

We’re doing well, but I’m taking a step back and seeing that we’re enjoying this cash cow (client) and the stability it’s bringing us now, but I’m also seeing this client represent more and more of our business. Going down this road just means we’re staying stagnant, in terms of new, new business. 

This industry is hard enough, you should enjoy your success and celebrate those cash cow clients. 

But when they turn into a gorilla client, and represent 30, 40, or 50% of your overall business, you’re doing your team, and yourself a disservice. 

 Reason #2: Clients Have To Come First (aka we’re too busy) 

Fact: clients do have to come first. 

No way around it. And you’ll sometimes still hear the proverb of the cobbler’s children to describe this scenario. 

It’s a dated reference (apparently back to the 1600s-yikes), but it still fits. 

And while it is a fact, it’s also convenient. 

You can and do set aside any pursuit of new clients because your team is working hard, and it’s necessary work., so you feel (mostly) okay in continually pushing it aside.

Until it’s not OK.

 Reason #3: The whole team is involved. In everything 

Business development should be an agency-wide endeavor, a part of your culture. 

With all good intentions, the agency owner wants to make sure the team is involved in the new business process, EVERY step of the way. 

While that’s admirable, I’ve seen more often than not, the entire process come to a screeching halt. 

Everything from messaging to case studies to your prospect targets has to go through every team member in this scenario, and that’s a great way to mire any potential progress in the new business swamp. 

You can and should get the entire agency involved in business development and acknowledge that participation, but someone within the agency has to be in charge and make the decisions. 

If you need some guidance on infusing business development throughout your agency culture, these should help: 

New Business Must Be Part Of Your Agency Culture 

How Can You Instill A New Business Mentality Throughout Your Agency Culture?  

 Reason #4: Hiring an agency new business director Is tough (and retention is tougher) 

If you’re new to us, you may not have heard this stat, but the average tenure of a new business director is 18 months. 

And while it is hard to find those individuals, agencies tend to make a few key mistakes during the hiring process: 

  • They hire on the cheap, typically someone junior, and think they can train them up. (That does not usually happen BTW.) 
  • They hire an individual with a network. (Not an inherently bad decision, but what happens when the network gets tapped out?) 
  • They hire the individual who really knows how to talk to prospects, but primarily at shows, events and in in-person situations.  

In any conversation I have with an agency, if they do have someone doing a good job in the new business position, my advice is hold on to them.

Because they tend to move on for greener pastures. 

And, it’s difficult for one person to do it all, from top of the funnel, to initial meetings, to proposals and pitching.

Not to mention content, case studies, etc. (Which is incidentally why we sometimes get hired to help that individual as a member of the team.) 

 Reason #5: We don’t have a new business plan 

For a lot of small and mid-sized firms, they just don’t know how to put together a scalable process to pursue new business. 

I get it, and not going for a shameless plug here, but it is essentially why RSW exists. 

In all fairness, putting that process into play can be overwhelming. 

But you can’t let the lack of a plan stop your pursuit of new business.  

You won’t be able to go gangbusters on a sweeping, internal  outbound program rightout of the gate if you never done it before, and that’s OK.

Baby steps are key here.

Start with organic growth, your network, and referrals, and put together an initial list of 50-100 companies that make sense to target, based off your expertise and current client base.

We have lots of content at rswus.com to help you get there as well.

No time like the present.

How ‘Work from Home’ Has Indelibly Changed Prospect Outreach Lists For Advertising Agencies

In a never-ending trickle-down effect, B2B sales professionals are consistently aware of the challenge March 2020 has had on closing business, and on quality prospect outreach lists.

But looking beyond the close, if you peel back the layers in the sales process –this goes all the way back to the first step:

Connecting with leads

For industries that were able to go remote and have in turn stayed remote, the pre-March 2020 baseline sales technique of ‘given me a lead, HQ phone number and address and I’ll setup the meeting’ is a thing of the past.

Yeah, maybe that prospecting technique was gone before March 2020, but any remaining stalwarts to that methodology have been kicked to the curb since working from home (WFH) became the new normal.

Fast forward to 2022 and that simple plan has become less effective as an outreach tool by a wide margin.

It’s more complex for advertising agencies in 2022-

  1. Does the corporate number have a real person on the other end?
  2. Are the automated prompts going to provide an option to connect to my lead?
  3. Is their phone line set-up to relay calls if they are WFH?
  4. Do they call in to check their VM?
  5. Do they even have a physical office space at the headquarters anymore?

The simple answer to all these is. . . MAYBE?!

Setting up your Director of Business Development with multiple touchpoints is not only the key to effective outreach in 2022 but if you aren’t doing it, you’re wasting everyone’s time

– from the higher-ups you report your outreach efforts to, to the prospects who are dialing into their VM to delete your message.

Plain and simple, here is the information you need to thrive in the ad agency business development role (which is where we put our outreach list building efforts at RSW and RSW/Lists).

Prospect Outreach List Priorities For 2022:

  • ‘Must haves’ – Email & Direct or Mobile Phone.
  • ‘Nice information to have’ – HQ City/State, LinkedIn.
  • ‘If it’s there, why not?’ – HQ Phone, Revenue, Website.
  • ‘Only if you have a mailing piece’ – HQ or Home Mailing Address.
  • ‘Just for talking points’, a value add – Personal Social Media Account.

The goal is not just finding the best title at the corporate HQ anymore, its about finding a good title with the most touchpoints.

Put your time and energy into finding the information that works, not just what’s readily available.


For further content to help you build more effective prospecting lists, the RSW list team wrote this eBook, which you can download free: The Prospecting List, Turbocharged: Pumping the Right Fuel Into Your New Business Engine

If it’s one thing advertising agencies are consistently being told, from seemingly everyone (and especially since the pandemic hit), it’s that they consistently need to prove out their value. 

Adweek recently issued a series of pieces, with one title being, what add agencies should be doing to demonstrate their value in 2022. 

A quote from that piece: 

In 2022, agencies need to do a number things to strengthen their value, including establishing their own brands, helping clients make their agency rosters more efficient and negotiating better revenue structures. 

See agencies, that’s all you have to do this year to strengthen your value! 

Just establish your own brand, negotiate a better revenue structure and help your clients make their agency rosters more efficient. 

Oh, and do all the work, and get more new business and hire all those people and do more with much, much less. 


OK, I’m being obnoxious, the Adweek piece actually has some very solid points, and ones we’ve spoken to before. 

But it is frustrating isn’t it? 

All you hear as an agency is you need to prove your value, yet, that’s what you’re doing every day through the work you do for your clients, right? 

Yes! But, proving value does need to go beyond the work, and that’s in your control as an agency. 

Tired of Hearing Your Agency Needs To Prove It’s Value This Year

See, it’s the YEAR of value! The entire year!

Biggest Challenges Facing Marketing Agencies in 2022 

From our 2022 New Year Outlook Report, we asked marketers and agencies what they thought were the biggest challenges rolling into 2022. 

In this post, I’m focusing specifically on the challenges facing agencies.  (Marketers are on deck.) 

Starting with the understatement of the year, 2021 did not go as planned.

For marketing agencies, the year was not all negative however — 2021 saw a rise of needed organic growth for many firms, although the flip side of that was budgets that were all over the map. 

Two areas where marketers and agencies align in terms of their perceived challenges:

   1) Staying relevant/educating clients and

   2) staffing and retention. Marketers and agencies listed some version of these two challenges repeatedly, and it mirrors several stats we discussed in this report. 

Other notable challenges are being able to offer a more robust suite of tools, per marketers, and on the agency side, multiple responses from them addressed the lack of actual face time with clients, resulting in weaker relationships, continual CMO churn, and “balancing the expectations of employees in today’s labor market with the expectations clients have for quick turn service.”

And ever-present was also new client acquisition. 

Thankfully, several of these challenges are within your firm’s control.

In a continuing theme from previous sections, educating your clients on the marketing landscape needs to be a priority as we still wade through COVID’s uncertainty.

Per section IV of our report, this doesn’t mean you must be the expert across all facets of the landscape, there’s not enough time in the day, but you can prioritize the information that will be most valuable to your client and do the homework. 

Per the Adweek piece I mentioned earlier, from Marla Kaplowitz, the president and CEO of the 4A’s,

Clients are hopefully going to continue to be looking to agencies to offer the external perspective, the provocative point of view and to give a sense of what’s going on in culture,

Kaplowitz says of the core value agencies provide.

Also in your control is the acquisition of new clients.

For many firms, organic growth replaced an actual new business strategy last year, and while organic growth is a wonderful thing, and should be part of your strategy, you can’t sustain growth on organic alone, just as you can’t sustain growth on referrals alone. 

Staffing is obviously less in your control.

The cyclical nature of our industry and the country dictates this will change, but COVID has of course affected the workplace permanently in many ways as well.  

Flexibility is key here, and it will be challenging as you try to retain your culture, but taking a step back and looking at your employee retention, and simple steps like reviewing your firm on Glass Door and Google Business for example, will help you attract new talent.

And being flexible in work-from-home/office balance looks to be a permanent fixture as well. 

The good news there: agencies were well-placed, for the most part, before the pandemic to allow for that flexibility.