Ad Agencies Need a Position for New Business

The starting point for any ad agency new business program is your positioning. It is a fundamental prerequisite for small and midsize agencies. Positioning is everything. But it is also the place where most agencies where most fail.

Every decision an agency leader makes will be a better decision when made against the backdrop of a well-defined positioning. And every decision either contributes to or detracts from the agency brand; very few are neutral.

Branding your agency means moving from the middle and taking a side. If you don’t claim a position, you will be positioned simply by your location. Which is really no position at all.

They (agencies) are so eager to be ‘full-service’ that they try to stand for everything. But standing for everything is the same as standing for nothing.”

Tim Williams, President of the Ignition Group and author of Take a Stand for Your Brand

Positioning is what differentiates a brand in the customer’s mind. It is how you go to market.

Advertising agencies need positioning because prospective clients have lots of choices—and if you don’t stand out, you are going to struggle with new business.

In a recession your competition steps up their new business activities. Small to mid size agencies are out trolling for more business. Larger agencies are willing to accept smaller accounts when business is tight. Referrals and newtworks tend to dry up.

Brand coach Josh says, “If you can’t say why your [agency] brand is both different and compelling in a few words, don’t fix your statement, fix your [agency] company.”

Can you define your agency in a simple statement? I can’t begin to tell you how many agencies I know struggle with this.

Answering such a simple question isn’t that easy is it? One way to approach it is to think about why your agency brand matters to your target audience. I’ve taken a number of agencies through a series of steps to discover what makes them the only.  It is a discovery process that is a journey to the core of their business. Remember, you can’t promote your way to being the one and only — you have to start with it.

Without a point of differentiation you will find it difficult to effectively market and promote your agency and you will struggle to succinctly  define your agency and what it does.

Clear positioning provides:

  • An increase in your agency’s relevance
  • A direction for how your agency spends its time, money and resources
  • An understanding on the types of persons to hire
  • A better new business win ratio
  • A strong appeal to a select group of prospects
  • Prospects that line up with your agency’s core strengths, what you do best
  • A broader market area

Stop taking a “shotgun” approach to new business. Your agency will still obtain new business from referrals, networks and from those CMO’s who worked with you in the past but have changed companies and want to work with your agency again.  If properly positioned, narrowing your agency’s focus, it is possible to have the right kind of prospects who seek out your agency when they know who you are and what you stand for.

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Michael: Nice post simple, true. We push our clients to have a unique position and so often as agencies, we fail to hold ourselves up to the same standard. In addition to the other things you mentioned, I strong agency position gets your staff all pulling in the same direction. If they don’t know who you are…how will anyone else.

  2. David, I appreciate your comments and your affirmation. I just read a Forrester study titled: Fight the Recession With An In-House Agency. A Forrester study together with the In-House Agency Federation shows that firms that have an internal agency are more than satisfied with the quality, low cost, and stability that this department provides.

    Agencies of the future, more than ever are going to need to demonstrate a strong point of differentiation that is strongly appealing to their target audience.

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