A Social Media Prophet for Ad Agency New Business?


The growth of Social Media is dramatically impacting how agencies promote themselves.

I’ve recently been called a very excitable prophet who wants you to believe social media is the only new business tool. I am not that naive. But neither am I naive enough NOT TO BELIEVE that the advertising industry and the way agencies obtain new business has significantly changed. It will continue to evolve and the changes will dramatically accelerate. That isn’t hype, it’s the truth.

If some in our industry want to call me a prophet, so be it. But I’m telling you, “the flood is coming and you had better get on the social media boat!”

My epiphany, connecting social media to ad agency new business, came when I was reading the CMO’s Marketing Outlook Study and came across this statistic, “80% of decision makers say they found the vendor, not the other way around.”  

This report also stated that in 2008 social media would become mainstream. Social media has already impacted advertising as we know it. It also impacts new business development. Instead of chasing after new business it was more important for an agency to have an appealing position to be found by a specific target audience. As important as a website is for an agency it is now as important to have a new gateway to the agency, a blog.

I’ve never said that traditional methods don’t work. I’ve written in this blog about the best practices for direct mail, RFP responses, pitching for new business, even cold calling. I also believe that when the economic recovery comes, a lot of agencies will continue to obtain new business through their personal networks and referrals as they did before.

But, I don’t believe that doing new business the traditional way is the best method. There is a new way to do it more efficiently and effectively by incorporating social media as a central part of your agency’s new business program.

You can call me a believer, because I’m totally convinced of the benefits of social media for ad agency new business. It is like networking on steroids. Prospective clients actually initiate the contact with you and when they do the conversation is much further down the road and they are ready to do business often without you having to pitch for it. 

As an agency new business guy for almost my entire advertising career, I’ve found that social media provides the way you could only dream agency new business should work.

There is also an added plus. Beyond the benefits of providing a consistent, measurable new business pipeline, it is the best professional enrichment tool I have ever used as well as the best tool I’ve ever seen for simplifying the agency branding process. 

Why am I so confident when it comes to social media? I’ve walked the walk, not only talked the talk. I’ve practiced what I’ve preached and used the tools that I recommend my clients use.

I’ve blogged consistently for the past two years and spent countless hours getting up to speed; personally coached over 41 ad agency principals in social media and counseled and advised at least twice that number; have written 336 blog posts and received 810 comments; over 6,941 followers on Twitter and 8,489 twitter posts; not to mention maintaining an active presence with Facebook and LinkedIn.

I have a strong point of differentiation from my competitors and through conversations with my target audience I’ve been able to develop an appealing position. Even though I am a gifted “cold caller” I have yet to make a single cold or even warm call for my business. 

To better understand social and how it can benefit agency new business, for the past two years I’ve worked long days, nights and weekends with little time off. I’ve had the mindset that I’m back in grad school. I felt that I had this unique window of opportunity to get ahead of the curve, out in front of the wave. 

This is not the worst of times, it is actually the best of times for your agency. Small to midsize agencies have the same opportunity to gain market share as never before.

A comment to a recent guest post written by Jaci Russo, Should Ad Agency Pitches and RFPs Be a Thing of the Past? Chuck Robbins writes

“We have taken this exact attitude in our new business efforts. We were recently asked to pitch for some business against two other firms. We had already done some significant relationship building with the President of the client company (met through a social media reconnect) and we told him that we would not devote a weeks worth of hours to build a presentation for them for free. We had already identified two projects where he needed our expertise. I told him he was loosing valuable time with an agency presentation. He agreed and wrote us a check. You two are way ahead of me but I am catching up fast!”

With all of that said, I’m not offended in the least for being called an excitable prophet. Prophets usually have to stand alone while others try to maintain the status quo. 

So while other agencies debate the benefits of social, get in the boat and see for yourself what social can do for you and your agency. Clients are hungry for agencies that are willing to stop following the crowd and actually take the lead.



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. I’m a believer Oh Great one,thanks to you!

  2. John,

    It was my pleasure. It sure was hard keeping up with you! Congrats again on being selected as one of the top B to B agencies in the country!

  3. Hi Michael

    I am a new in ad industry.This article has given me a new insight for my upcoming venture.

    Thank you very much.

  4. Very insightful post. Many points to take away from here. Especially liked the closing point: Clients are hungry for agencies that are willing to stop following the crowd and actually take the lead.
    Agencies can not be afraid to put more than one foot in. When you jump into social media, you will instantly be immersed in it’s benefits.

  5. Thanks John for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found the post insightful. I fully agree about being immersed in socials benefits. Very true.

  6. Please tell me that it was a post where you were called “a very excitable prophet”. I’d love to read it and more from that person.

    thought the quote below was appropriate:

    “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.
    John Cage (1912 – 1992)”

  7. Thanks Dan … it was a series of posts on the Dangers of Social Media … http://www.agencynewbusiness.com and the 4 A’s Business Development Blog http://bit.ly/92iXVX

    My response:
    The Dangers of Social Media for Ad Agencies?
    The greatest danger of Social Media at this time is agencies NOT participating.

    Where is our industry’s creativity and the “outside the box” thinking that we keep talking about?

    Currently the problem is not agencies and new business consultancies all jumping into social media. The problem has been the lateness in their willingness to participate. Then, when they do, they don’t understand how to use it.

    They don’t know enough to have an integrated social media strategy and waste a lot of time with no results, become frustrated and don’t see the value of the time investment.

    Rather than banter about the Dangers of Social Media, agencies need to look at its genuine Benefits. I’m thankful for the few rebels out there in our industry who continue to push the envelope for how social media can be used, particularly for agency new business.

  8. Great recap and affirmation of reasons to believe. Evolve, or get left behind.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to comment Joe.

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