Why Advertising Agencies Really Fail The First Prospect Meeting

From our experience with advertising agencies, few agency principals instinctively know how to navigate the second hurdle (the first prospect meeting)  to winning new business-today on 3 Takeaways, I’m talking about that second hurdle and how to navigate it-stick around.

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. 

First, a shout-out to RSW new business director Liz Lindley, who supplied most of the content for this episode. 

Alright, I won’t keep you in suspense-the second new business hurdle is the first prospect meeting (I know, I already told you above, work with me). 

Many agencies fail miserably at it, and I’m not just talking about meetings you get from outbound prospecting, this can extend to first meetings from referrals as well.

Mastering that introductory meeting isn’t rocket science, but many agency principals fall into the same trap. 

I’ll lay out a brief scenario to explain:

You’ve overcome the first hurdle – scheduling a meeting with that dream client.

You enter the meeting excited to share your industry experience, lots of slides, case studies, client stories, your capabilities.

You share your story and it’s a good one!

You did a great job presenting your agency capes in the best light.

So, why didn’t the relationship move forward to a second meeting and ultimately a win?

Most first-meeting failures are caused by one simple reason, and it’s your first takeaway:

You talked too much about YOU.

Or if you want a formal takeaway-Don’t make it all about you.

And that leads right into your second takeaway-

The entire goal of your first prospect meeting is getting that second meeting.

It’s rare you’re signing the contract or starting the work after your first meeting.

By asking smart questions and doing a little research before the call, your prospect will walk away with the mindset of: I like them. They’re smart, understand my business and I want to learn more. 

Many agency principals believe the introductory meeting is their “one chance to tell prospects how great we are.” 

They have a trepidation that keeps them from planning ahead. 

If you dump everything into their lap at one time during the initial conversation, it’s tough for prospects to distinguish your value and continue the conversation. 

OK let’s go back to the scenario I laid out.

You didn’t get the second meeting, because the prospect walked away without an understanding of your value-because you didn’t listen to their challenges or understand their priorities. 

Without those insights, you can’t really tell a relevant story based on your prospect’s needs, only your assumptions and accolades. 

Agencies have to show they’re playing at a higher level to be invited to the table, and it starts with how you manage the first meeting. 

And that’s a good segway into your third takeaway-

Let your competitors fire up their slide decks.

Let them use up all their time listing their capabilities and walking through case studies that may not apply, while you follow a simple agenda and land the second meeting. 

And in episode 80, I’ll lay out that simple agenda, so stay tuned for that. 

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

3 Tips To Organize Your New Business Plan – 3 Takeaways Ep. 78

Our RSW agency new business summer road trip series started a few weeks ago-a different RSW team member creating blogs and videos talking about different new business issues and offering up ideas on how to best address them. 

And we’re gonna get into it right now. 

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. 

I mentioned our road trip content series, we also created a Summer Road Trip physical map, similar to the old-school fold-out maps. 

If you don’t know what that is, then. . . I feel very old. 

But if you’re an agency principal watching this, you’re probably getting one-watch your mail-old school

That map is intended to help you organize your own road trip into the world of new business. 

And on the way, you’re going to see those everpresent road signs, right. 

That’s what your first takeaway is all about, and it’s this:

Don’t get stuck in the Agency New Business Roundabout.  

If the person tasked with new business is an agency principal, client work is always the #1 priority, new business will take a back seat. 

If the agency hired a new business director, most last an average of 18 months. 

And you’ll start to feel like Clark Griswold driving in London-yeah-never sure exactly what the plan is to enter and exit the roundabout, and feeling like you’re just going in circles with no plan. 

So we’ve already got several posts you can access with those links, to help you start that plan. 

But we have 2 more takeaways and they’re important, here’s your second: 

Technology Is Your Friend, But Don’t Let It Overwhelm You

Just like, in an actual road trip, you may have an old school map as backup in the glove compartment, but you’re using Google Maps, or Waze-whatever your preferred app is.

And there are a lot of those apps, right? 

Just like there’s a lot of tech and platforms you can use to drive new business

And it’s all shiny and cool, but what do you really need, especially to start the trip? 

You really need a CRM and an email platform that tracks activity.

That’s what you really need out of the gate. 

Once you have those two things, you can start to research, and add other platforms/software that make sense and you will actually use

Don’t get buried with, or spend a ton of money on, all kinds of tech you’ll never use, at least not at first. 

And your third takeaway is-

Zig When They Zag

If you’re on the road, you don’t want to go the same way everyone else is going if there’s a better route less traveled. 

So with new business, for example: you know your competition is most likely predominantly prospecting, if at all, with emails and on LinkedIn

They are probably not picking up the phone to reach out to prospects. 

They are probably not using any form of direct mail. 

They are probably not creating a lot of content. 

The first two you don’t know for a fact, but people generally don’t like to pick up the phone, for example. 

Email and LinkedIn are great prospecting tools, but relying on them solely will not get you to your brand new client destination on this road trip. 

Find a way to stand out-mix up your platforms and use each of them in concert with each other. 

That way, you’re not hitting your prospects too often with any one platform or method, and you have a better chance of actually breaking through. 

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

How Fowling Will Help Up Your Agency New Business Game- 3 Takeaways Ep. 77

Ad agency friends-have you ever heard of fowling

Whether you have or not-it has many similarities with ad agency new business. 

And if you don’t know, I’ll tell you what it is

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

Are you familiar with Fowling? 

Created in Detroit apparently, Fowling is a game where you essentially throw a football into a set of bowling pins and try and knock them all down

Like bowling, but you’re using a football instead. 

You have two boards where each set of pins sits, 32 feet apart. So-Fowling.

So, we’re about to go Fowling as a company, a little outing.  And that’s apropos, because Fowling is a lot like agency new business.

You thought this was going to be an instructional fowling video didn’t you? 

Well, sort of, first, because it may sound easy-it is not.

I have seen women and men throw perfect spirals and hit nothing. 

So Lee, you’re thinking, how else is Fowling like agency new business?  Oh, I’ll tell you.

Here’s your first takeaway:

Patience is a virtue

OK, before you stop watching, this a building block of new business. 

But there’s some of you watching and you’re thinking, yeah, I know that, but you don’t live it. 

And you’re going to lose that big client, and suddenly need new business. 

Then you’re prospecting from a place of desperation. You don’t want to be there-check out episode 49 of 3 Takeaways for more on that. 

And you absolutely need patience for Fowling.

I’ve seen it get down to the last pin and take a long time to knock it down.

OK, your second takeaway:

Precision is key. 

It’s tough, but those footballs have zero play-it goes to one spot and then bounces away, typically. 

Same with new business-if all you’re doing is mass emails with zero homework, or intent, you may get a hit every now and then, but you’re wasting time in my opinion. 

Alright, and your third takeaway: 

You need to get creative.

In fowling, after the thirteenth time trying to hit those last two pins, maybe you try and throw it underhand. 

Not very graceful, but I’ve seen it work. 

Same with new business-there will be a time when you’ve used all your case studies, don’t have new content, you’ve used your site-in those cases, you have to get creative. 

Google is always your friend, you can always find some piece of news on the company or industry. 

Or maybe you send an old school letter. 

Whatever you do, you can’t wait for things to happen. 

So there you have it: fowling and new business.  Who knew? 

Thanks for watching 3 Takeaways.

How To Handle Toxic Rock Star Employees – 3 Takeaways Ep.76

This episode of 3 Takeaways is about handling toxic rockstar employees at your agency: what that looks like (especially when they’re a rockstar), and how to handle it post-pandemic.

Hey, 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.

Today’s episode is sponsored by the legendary indie record label IRS records, original home to REM and The Go-Gos, to name a few. (OK, not really a sponsor).

So we’re talking about toxic employees at your agency, and what that looks like post-pandemic.

From talking with all kinds of agencies, the pandemic, for a lot of firms, put those employees on the back burner.  

These problems didn’t go away, there was still Zoom and those employees were still there, but there were bigger, and other very real problems.

But here we are, mostly post-pandemic, and agencies are adopting all kinds of models: stay-at-home, in the office, hybrids, and have put a fair amount of planning in place.

And those toxic employees may have gotten a pass over the last year plus, especially if they did well, if they were rock stars. 

If they’re producing, sometimes you overlook a certain level of toxicity, especially if that employee knows how to walk right up to that line, but never quite cross it.

I had an agency describe this very situation recently, involving the employee who drove new business.

And with employees coming back, or staying home, whatever your model, you need to deal with that toxic employee now.  

Especially in this job market-you can’t afford to have one employee drive other good employees out, rock star or not.

So how to deal with that employee now, in your post-pandemic agency world?

Here’s your first takeaway:

Create or update your standards of behavior. 

It’s surprising how many agencies don’t have these in place, or maybe you haven’t updated the existing standards to reflect your agency post-pandemic.

Now is the time to do that, so an employee, and specifically that toxic employee, can never say he or she didn’t have clear guidelines.

Here’s your second takeaway:

Be specific and clear when it comes to performance. 

This goes beyond behavior, and towards expectations for each department, or individual.

What they’re doing well, and what needs to be improved. 

You have to avoid mixed signals, and document all of it.

And that way, all employees are clear on what to expect, and they see leadership making that clear.

And so with that toxic rockstar, it’s made clear to them, and possibly that will help their behavior, or help agency leadership document instances where the behavior continues.

And your third takeaway:

Make sure there is an outlet for employee feedback, and encourage employees to use it.

If that employee is truly toxic, you, as an agency principal, need to know and should want to know. 

And look, sometimes certain employees just don’t get along, that doesn’t mean one of them is toxic, but when it’s clear, you’re better off addressing it sooner than later.

And you can do all the cost/benefit you want when that toxic employee is a rock star, and it may be hard to replace them, but ultimately, is that the kind of culture you want existing at your agency?

What Clients Expect From Your Agency-3 Takeaways Ep. 75

Ad agencies, we just released a brand-new report on marketing tech and agency new business tools you will want to hear more about and specifically in this episode, a recent trend you need to be aware of, what clients expect from your agency, and a few key categories you can use to help increase your client retention in the future. 

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.

 Organic growth and client retention are top of mind for ad agencies-check out episode 68, where we get into that, it’s a nice complement to this episode. 

Another one is marketing technology, and we recently released a brand new report, RSW/US 2021 Marketing Technology & Agency New Business Tools.

You’ll want to download it, because we surveyed marketers on a specific, brief set of questions around Martech tools and their potential challenges in relation to the agencies they work with, and then performed a more in-depth survey of ad agencies, with a total of 19 tool categories: 12 on the tools you and your peers use to support clients, and 7 on the tools you and your peers use to help drive agency new business.

Let’s jump into a couple of the initial stats from our report-your first takeaway: 

67% of marketers say their company’s spending on analytics and marketing tech tools is increasing. 

And as a bonus takeaway: 88% of agencies recognize the need for these tools.

Your clients, if they don’t, will come to expect it. 

At the enterprise level, they already do, and that will continue to those non-enterprise clients. 

If your firm has already started investing in these tools, you’re ahead of the curve and you should consider including language to that effect in your positioning. 

And along with those two stats, there’s another, recent stat, that you and your ad agency team need to be aware of and it’s your second takeaway: 

CMO tenure slipped to just 40 months in 2020, the lowest average since 2009. 

CMO tenure has always been a roller coaster, but the lowest since 2009 is worth paying attention to. 

And one of the quotes from the Drum piece this stat came from,

Top marketers are coming under severe pressure from ever-tightening budgets coupled with a need to improve return on investment.

And further in our report, when marketers were asked what techniques/tasks their companies would work to improve, over the next 1-2 years, they zeroed in on “experience optimization” and “general audience analytics”.

These stats certainly represent more potential opportunities for agencies to deliver value, ROI, and ultimately increase client retention.

Certainly for those agencies that take advantage.

I’ll leave you with one last stat from our report and your third takeaway:

Only 56% of agencies have specific individuals that “own” activities related to finding marketing analytics and tech tools at their agency.

This is short of the 70% of marketers who responded saying they have dedicated people exploring new ways to use tech to drive their business.

For small and mid-sized agencies, understandably you typically won’t be able to dedicate someone full time to that activity, but you can certainly have an individual who “owns it” as part of their job description.  

Or, as we do here at RSW, have a revolving group of individuals who meet monthly, for example, to examine current/new tools.

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


Using Client Work To Land Prospects — OK 3 Takeaways Ep. 74

Two accounts are a conflict. Three accounts make you a specialist agency.

I love that quote, and I got a question on using client work to land prospects and agency conflict of interest for small and mid-sized agencies that you’ll want to stick around for in this episode.

OK, I got a question from a longtime fan of the program, Dan from Baltimore, Maryland:

Something I’d love to hear more about is the use of client work to land prospects from the same industry. Is it ok? Permissions? Beg for forgiveness?”

The first thing I thought was, yes, agencies do that all the time with case studies, right?

But that’s not really what he meant.

So let’s dig into this topic.

First thing to point out, I’m leaving holding company agencies out of this conversation-potential conflicts get locked out or resolved very early in those situations, right?

I’m talking about those smaller agencies.

To Dan’s question, is it OK to share that work with prospects in the same industry?

First thing to ask-is there a non-compete in place?

Which leads to your first Takeaway:

Don’t sign a non-compete and do have a conflict policy in place.

In reality, this will not always work and you will have to sign that non-compete, but you should have a policy in place, in lieu of signing that, to at least give you an alternative you can offer that gives you some leeway, and doesn’t completely constrict your ability to work in that category.

And a bonus takeaway here- if a non-compete is on the table with a new client, think really carefully, if you’re in a certain geographic market, can you charge them what you need to justify that exclusivity?

Can be tough.

But let’s say you’ve already signed that non-compete, or more often with small to mid-sized agencies, it’s understood that you won’t be going after competitors.

It turns into a gray area, right?

There are less AOR’s, more project work, and how broad a definition does a client consider a conflict?

So you have those clients that are sacrosanct-we’re not going after anyone even close to what they do-too important a client.

Then you have those clients who do not care-go for it.

It’s that middle ground Dan is asking about though, isn’t it.

And in those cases, it’s typically that geographically, you’re not going after a direct competitor in their backyard, and there’s not a formal non-compete.

So here’s your second takeaway:

Ask or beg for forgiveness.

Which I guess could be two different takeaways, but if ethically, you can plainly see that yes, this is similar work, but there is no direct competition-you can ask and explain, if you have that relationship with your client.

Or you can prospect those companies outside your client geo, and one-on-one with that prospect, not on your site, not in your content or email blasts, describe the work, possibly name drop the client to your prospect, and beg forgiveness IF it ever comes up.

But even that might feel, “I don’t know”, so the best way to handle is your third takeaway-

If you got this new client, would your existing client be unhappy about it?

It really is best to establish it up front wherever possible, especially because so much of it is situational and case-by case.



Ad Agencies Are Bad At New Business 3 Ways To Fix It – 3 Takeaways Ep.73

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.

Okay, so we work with small and mid-sized agencies at RSW to help them drive new business.

What I’ve always found fascinating, still, in my 13th year of working here, is how good ad agencies are at the client work they do, and how terrible they typically are at doing it for themselves. At bringing in new business.

The reasons are many, we’ve talked about them: lack of time, hire that didn’t work out, just not being good at it.

Let’s talk about this last one. I

I’ve had conversations where an agency principal will say-we don’t get it, there’s no reason why we aren’t getting more new business-when we start working with a client, they love us.

And I’ll say, that’s great, that’s how it should be-but what are you saying to your prospects up front, what are your competitive differences?

We’re really smart, we’re an extension of your team, we’re really fast, we have a ton of experience, we make our clients look like heroes-TIME OUT.

All those things are great, and when you work with a client, all those things are important.

BEFORE you start working with them, and they’re not a client, they’re a prospect, all those things make you sound like everyone else.

And especially when you hire a new business director internally, and you equip them with that kind of messaging, it’s no wonder new business directors only last 18 months on average.

If you, or your new business director can’t speak with confidence and passion in a meaningful way to prospects about how you can help, then you’re selling from a position of weakness.

So how can you arm yourself, or your new business director with tangible selling points, that will help them pick up the phone, or write an email that doesn’t suck?

Here we go-Your first takeaway:

Build a strong prospecting brand for your agency.

We’ve said in previous episodes, how strategic you are, how smart you are, even how awesome your culture is-none of that should be in your elevator pitch.

Your prospecting brand is how you present your agency ongoing to your prospects and is really a mindset that should inform your entire new business process.

To have an effective prospecting brand, you need to answer YES to these three questions-

-Are your new business efforts memorable,

-Are you providing value, in some way, with every touchpoint, and

-Are you building prospecting trust?

OK, your second takeaway:

Write down your prospects’ challenges, by vertical.

Speaking to challenges within those verticals is one great way to show your expertise and authority.

I’ve asked agencies, what challenges do you help your clients solve?

And so often, the answers are not great, not at first.

Once you dig a bit, you can get specific-you’re helping your clients with those challenges right now.

And I say write them down, because you need to make them as succinct as possible.

You don’t have time to tell a story at the top of the funnel.

When I started at RSW as a new business director, with every agency client, I had a cheat sheet with a list of succinct challenges that client helped solve.

Not a script, but a reminder.

It was a huge help.

And your final takeaway:

Don’t sell all the time.

Take a breath and instead, send over an interesting piece of content, and tie into the work you’re doing for clients, if possible, your prospects will appreciate it.

And remember, 73% of marketers say they read agency blogs/content.

It works. Thanks for watching 3 Takeaways-lots of new business content on our resources page at the URL below-we’re here to help you drive new business if you need it at rswus.com.

You Must Do This For Prospecting Success

You will not experience prospecting success unless you prospect with intent. 

What does it mean and what does it look like?

Watch this episode to find out.

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.  

So let’s start with the definition of intent: it’s the act or fact of intending-don’t you hate definitions like that? 

But it’s then followed by one word:


Prospecting with intent is prospecting with purpose. It’s avoiding generic, aimless, let’s see what sticks against the wall type of messaging.

So for our 3 takeaways, we’ve got 3 ways to help you purposefully prospect.

Let’s start with the tried-and-true email, and your first takeaway, which is:

Find a way to provide value in your emails. 

Let’s take a look at this email.

Quick read:

I hope this finds you well.  I am following up on my previous emails to confirm you received them. I figure one last shot to connect makes sense, as I know our services provide value. If you are open for a quick intro call to discuss, please let me know a good day/time and I’ll send an invite. If you are not the correct contact at Rsw/us-Outsourced Lead Generation for Marketing Services Firms, can you let me know who I should speak with?

There is no prospecting with intent here.

First-I don’t know what his company does.

His original emails are not underneath, and he never mentions it.

Second-he’s done no homework-we are not an agency, and a quick look at our site would show that.

Third-there is no value here, other than he says, and I quote, I know our services provide value. Trust me dude.

And fourth, and really just a pet peeve of mine-he’s just lifted Rsw/us-Outsourced Lead Generation for Marketing Services Firms from LinkedIn, because that’s not the name of our company.  

So what is an example of an email that has intent, or purpose? 

I got this the same day as the other email.

Don’t like overpriced business phones that are clunky and/or unreliable? We’re X Company: We’re helping agencies such as yours upgrade to uber-fast telecom service for as much as half the cost (99.9% Uptime, Videoconferencing, Call Routing & more) Does this sound good? All I’d need is 2 minutes or less to see if we’d we’re a fit. Is there a good number/time to quickly call/explain the details?

You can quibble with certain aspects here, and she did call us an agency, but this is short, direct, and has purpose in that I know exactly who they are, what they do, and how it might bring value to my world.

Alright, your second takeaway:

Don’t expect your prospects to do the work for you.

We’re going to look at voicemail now, here’s a recent voicemail that was left for me:

Hi there, reaching out about an email I sent you today, April first, titled “growth”-as soon as you get a chance, please reply to the email I sent, and this is Chris, from”-you get the rest. 

Tough to find prospecting success with no intent or purpose here.  

Never got an email with that subject line, no idea what you do, and you’re also expecting me to find that email, and I should send my reply right back over. 

Yeah, I’ll get right on it.

When you give zero reason, or value to inspire, or drive your prospects to respond, your prospects will not do that work for you.

To help flesh out what you should do, our last episode, episode 70, is all about leaving effective voicemails.

Your final takeaway is this:

Update your database.

How does this translate to prospecting with intent? 

It goes back to the earlier emails I just talked, and our company being called an agency. 

It’s not egregious, we do only work with agencies, but I would guess well over half of the sales emails I get, I shouldn’t be getting.

It’s part of doing your homework.

And doing that up-front homework, to ensure the backbone of your prospecting effort- your list, is made up of the right companies. 

Now, it does take some manual work, and I know there are some firms in our RSW database that shouldn’t be there, but we’ve put in an effort over the last year to get that cleaned up, and it’s still ongoing.  

But you need to take the time, even in manageable chunks, to get that done.

So, thanks for watching 3 Takeaways-we’ve got lots of new business content, just look for the resources dropdown on our home page at rswus.com.