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:
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.