How Marketers Discover New Ad Agencies

This is post #2 in our series around our 2024 New Year Outlook Report, and we’re talking how marketers discover new ad agencies.

This is a question we asked marketers in our survey, and for initial comparison purposes, here are the top 4 ways marketers found new agencies in 2022 and 2023, in order:
2022:                                                                                2023:
1) Networking 73%                                                        1) Past agency relationships 55%
2) Past agency relationships 67%                               2) Direct agency outreach 50%
3) Friends/co-workers 60%                                         3) Networking 40%
4) Direct agency outreach 44%                                    4) Friends/co-workers 35%

To provide a backdrop for this comparison, from our 2023 Agency New Business Survey:

Only 44% of ad agencies said they are satisfied with their new business program. In ‘22 it was 49%, and in ‘21 it was 52%.

Let’s look at a breakdown of the top 4 ways marketers found new agencies in 2023, and what it means for business development in 2024:

How Marketers Discover New Ad Agencies

Past Agency Relationships

They remain a strong factor but have seen a sizeable decline.

This suggests that while past relationships are important, marketers are a) increasingly open to new connections, or b) (and most likely) agencies are not doing the work to stick with and pursue past clients, especially as they move to new companies.
This is one of several strategies we employ at RSW/US.

While we have a team dedicated to building lists of new companies/contacts, we also mine past relationships (where appropriate). It’s continually surprising how often agencies don’t incorporate this into their business development strategy.

Direct Agency Outreach

An increase in effectiveness, indicating a growing openness to direct communication from agencies. Certainly, it’s as difficult as ever to break through to prospects.

And to be clear, your prospects typically don’t want to be sold to.

The inundation of ineffective sales emails, to give one example, is not helping those agencies that are reaching out with relevance.

The key to effective outreach is to show that prospect how you can help solve their business challenges. To be effective, agencies must alternate and make use of multiple avenues of outreach.

For example, at RSW, we use phone, email, social, and physical mail, coupled with our tech stack to make the process more efficient.


There’s a significant decrease in the use of networking to find new agencies.

Post-Covid, we’ve seen a return to more in person networking and events, but we saw conference attendance for marketers drop 14 points, from 29% to 15%.

While networking will always be important, agencies should take advantage of this trend and maintain ongoing outreach to fill the gap.

Friends & Coworkers

Another notable drop, implying that personal recommendations are becoming less influential compared to other methods, yet somewhat odd, as comparatively, this can be seen as an easier way to find new agencies.

But again, agencies should take advantage of this trend.