A Plea to Ad Agencies: Give the cobbler’s children some new shoes

ad agency new business program

Creating a consistent new business program doesn’t have to difficult. 

There’s an old saying that cobbler’s children have no shoes. It refers to the fact that a busy cobbler will be so busy making shoes for his customers that he has no time to make some for his own children.

If I had a dollar for every ad agency that has used that metaphor as their excuse for why they neglect their own new business program I could have retired long ago.

It’s time to stop treating your agency as its most neglected client and promote it to your most important client. It’s time to give the cobbler’s children some new shoes!


Empower your new business director.

Give them the clout and resources to get what they need from the agency as if they are the primary contact person for your most important client. Their projects are not put on the back burner when the agency gets busy. Allow them the time, resources and realistic expectations to build a consistent new business pipeline.

Choose your best target audience.

Who is your agency’s target audience? That is the first question that needs to be answered. Without it there is no direction for your agency. It’s time to take a rifled approach to your agency’s new business. You can’t stay focused if you don’t have a target identified.

Practice what you preach.

Use the tools that you recommend your clients use. This is especially true when participating in social media. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Create a new business program using social media to generate inbound leads for your agency. This doesn’t replace traditional methods for agency new business but refines, enhances and integrates them into a powerful new business machine.

Be transparent.

The transparency that social media mandates is changing the way agency’s do business, and it is a much needed change. It compels us to lead with benefits instead of capabilities. Everything is now laid out bare on the table, including agency compensation. Perhaps even more performance based agreements. On the client side perhaps replacing our current broken system of pitches and RFPs with something new. Long term relationships should be a mutual goal because it benefits both the client and agency. For that to happen there must be the “win-win” for both and that can’t be done without being transparent.

Be a leader not a vendor.

If you want to stop clients from treating your agency as a vendor you must lead. To be in a position leadership means to have a genuine expertise, a point of differentiation. Your agency can no longer afford to be everything to everybody. So the next question you need to answer, “what is our expertise?” When you answer this question, plant that flag in the ground, this is what we do best, it will command respect, higher premiums and give clients outside your market a reason to do business with your agency. A small agency was recently included in a pitch for a national account because they were willing to say this is who we are, this is how we are different than other agencies, this is our expertise. 

Additional agency new business articles that may be of interest:

photo credit: Pranav Prakash via photo pin cc

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 love this post — thanks for tweeting the link for me to re-read and remind me to share with my team. We are in the midst of this process and your suggestions are right on.

  2. Thanks Sandi. I’m glad you found it helpful.

  3. Andrew Hansen says:

    I’ve long felt that there’s a real business opportunity for “the agency’s agency” – a firm that specializes in helping marketing agencies market themselves. I suspect somebody’s already thought of this and is hard at work. But very few people know it because, just like its clients, the agency is so busy doing great work for paying customers that it can’t spare any resources for itself.

    Seriously, thanks for tweeting this again. The advice is timeless.

  4. Thanks for your comments Andrew. There are a number of companies providing these type services to agencies. And you are correct, a lot of agencies are so busy focusing on clients that they need help for themselves.

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