Ad agency having explosive new business growth by leading with social media

Social media teaches ad agencies to do new business the right way.

I thought FUEL LINE readers would like to have an example of agency good news in the midst of all of the bad news.

The Russo Group, a small ad agency (full time staff of 19) in Lafayette, Louisiana, is having explosive new business growth using and leading with social media. Instead of laying off they are hiring. 104% net profit over this time last year. New clients, all outside their market, located in California, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington D.C. Washington state even England. All won without having to pitch and their prospective clients called them. Her new business programs hard cost for last year? $11.95.

I talk with ad agency CEOs on a daily basis. There is a lot of doom and gloom in the beginning of 2009. I understand the pain and frustration many small to midsize ad agencies are having in the midst of a global economic crisis and a revolutionary shift in the advertising industry. Here are a few comments that are typical of what I’m hearing:

“We are an old company living on the concept of high design and total quality production when the world is YouTube video quality. We’re trying to sell $5,000 identity packages when web sites in India design logos for $50. What the reality of that is that the $50 logo is acceptable quality because it’s done in time for the next wave of Twitter messaging your client is sending out.”

“We’re fighting alligators,  employees are worried and paralyzed and the demands of our time just to save business without revenue is daunting.”

“I know how to make money on a $35,000 print ad but how are we going to make money on social media?”

“I spent the night thinking about my little company. We’re dead. Dead in the water. 60 days, 90 days, I don’t know but we’re dead.”

“We just had the third client in less than two weeks to tell us that they are drastically reducing their ad budget for this year.”

Now for some good news. I think you will enjoy FUEL LINES first podcast interview with Jaci Russo, principal of The Russo Group. Jaci is impressive (more so than her interviewer).  Jaci’s agency was started in February 2001. A typical small full service ad agency that had been obtaining new business through a cold calling system, referrals and networking.
Realizing a change was coming, Jaci lead her agency into social media and she is using it as a new business tool.
The results:
  • 8 new clients since January
  • Agency’s profits up (January 2009 vs pre-recession January of last year) 104%
  • New clients located in Texas, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois, Washington State, Washington D.C. and London
  • All new client accounts won without a pitch
  • All of these prospective clients that became clients initiated the call to the agency

In the following audio taped interview with Jaci Russo, she discusses  social media, its impact upon her agency’s business model, new business acquisitions and profits.

Interview with Jaci Russo

“There is a change coming … you can’t be all things to all people … people like to do business with people they like … not everybody likes us but that is okay … we’re now fishing in a global pond … we’re not laying off, we’re hiring … we don’t see a recession … clients are still spending but they are moving their budgets into different places … I feel very connected to what is going on in the world …  if you have nothing else but time social media is not a bad way to invest it … social media right now is the biggest tool in the tool box for now … most results and least expensive … this is how (new business) is suppose to work.” Jaci Russo

I want to say thanks to Jaci for willingness to share and provide positive example to agency’s in these trying times. Also a special hello and thank you to the staff at The Russo Group. I’m told they all are readers of FUEL LINES. And to all of those who have asked, they are not my clients. I recently met Jaci through Twitter.

Here are a few ways to engage Jaci online. I’m sure she would enjoy hearing from you.

Additional articles that might be of interest:

  • Social Media “Teaches” Ad Agencies to Promote Themselves the Right Way
  • Ad Agency Survey Finds Traditional New Business Methods Aren’t Working
  • Is it the end for cold calling as an agency new business tactic?
  • Social Media Impacts Ad Agency New Business
  • A Revolutionary Time for Ad Agency New Business
  • Agencies Gaining New Business Opportunities Using Social Media
  • Unconventional Times Call for Unconventional New Business Methods
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    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. Thanks for this post Michael. The winds of change seem to be blowing faster every day as social media gathers momentum. It’s great to see new things happening, if only for the excitement it brings.

    2. Thanks Mike. These are exciting times.

    3. Hey, Michael. As always, this is a great post. BKV, one of the sponsors of the 60 Second Marketer, is experiencing similar growth but for different reasons. BKV’s focus is on interactive and direct response, both highly-measurable forms of marketing. The term “highly-measurable” seems to go over well with C-Level executives (go figure, right?). Anyway, BKV has hired perhaps a dozen new staffers in the past 3 or 4 months. Who says the economy is tanking?

    4. Thanks Jamie and thanks for sharing about BKV!

    5. Debbie Horovitch says:

      This is a really fantastic post – I have shared it with my many ad agency contacts in Toronto (by sharing it on my Facebook profile, and I’ll ReTweet it in a few minutes).

      After I was laid off from my Media Manager position last year, I took some time to consider the focused direction of my career and what “technicians of media strategy” many media departments have become – planners plan media (conventional), buyers buy broadcast time and the IP departments allocate online ad dollars. Facebook wasn’t even allowed at my last agency (shocking, I know, but I was using it at home!)

      Last summer I was exploring environmental sustainability in advertising, and found most of the information on blogs and other social networking sites. Even though I was a guest blogger on a golf blog for 3 years, I really didn’t understand the breadth & depth Social Media and really wasn’t a regular blog reader. Now I know that Social Media entirely changes the game, both for marketers and the advertising agencies who help them allocate their budgets most effectively (and since the economy turned, even more efficiently).

      Becoming focused completely on learning everything I can about the social media sphere since October has completely changed my outlook and brought me to a place where I have a unique, valuable and competitive skill set for conventional agencies. Most are seeing their budgets slashed while clients are willing to reallocate a portion of those budgets to the people who can offer them effective strategies to interact with & engage consumers where they are talking about these brands in an open manner- in social media.

      Michael, since you speak with agency CEOs daily, could you please let me know if you come across any who are looking for someone like myself, a creative and client-focused Media Manager/Director, experienced in planning & buying all conventional media and now absolutely encouraging clients to engage social media strategies. I am willing to relocate almost anywhere and love to travel.

    6. Thanks Debbie. I appreciate the kind words and will certainly keep you in mind if I hear of opportunities. If you haven’t already I would suggest registering with Lots of agencies I work with use them as a resource when looking for agency staff.

    7. This was a very inspiring read with so many good points! It is encouraging to read about flourishing businesses during a time of such economic hardship. Will definitely follow in Russo’s footsteps as we attempt to make our own agency grow and succeed like The Russo Group!

    8. It is wonderful to hear of others having success given all of the media attention the economic woes. I can’t imaging getting clients w/o pitching to them on-site!

      Good post!

    9. I felt that it would be encouraging to other agencies to know what Jaci Russo and The Russo Group have been able to accomplish through social media.

    10. I enjoyed this article very much. My thanks to Ashley Cox for telling me about it on Twitter! P. 🙂

    11. Great post–thanks for sharing. I had the pleasure of meeting Jaci this past week at Mirren during a roundtable discussion with John Winsor of CP+B on crowdsourcing and enjoyed hearing her perspective.

    12. Jaci has been doing a great job leading her agency in social media. Glad you were able to hook up with her.

    13. dan chambers says:

      Good stuff – i wish i had read this 6 months ago!

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