10 New Business Problems and Solutions for Ad Agencies

george costanza and ad agencies

For ad agency new business, why no try doing the opposite of what you’ve been doing in the past.

“The Opposite Episode” of Seinfeld, George Costanza comes to the realization that he should try to do the opposite of everything to break his cycle of bad luck. So he does and his luck dramatically changes and everything begins to go his way including getting a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees and moving out of his parents’ house.

Almost my entire career in advertising has been spent in business development. Working with a lot of advertising agencies through the years, I’ve found they all have common problems when it comes to new business:

  1. The overwhelming majority have no target audience
  2. No point of differentiation
  3. Don’t use the marketing tools they recommend their clients use
  4. Have no new business strategy beyond personal networks and referrals
  5. Inconsistent new business practices
  6. Are their own worst client
  7. Use the same descriptive language that other agencies use to describe themselves: Great creative, strategic, outside-the-box thinkers, fun to work with, proprietary process
  8. Poor at promoting themselves
  9. Are always in a mode of redesigning their Websites
  10. Stay in a perpetual state of rebranding themselves

When business is good, new business practices are usually shelved and only pushed when more business is needed which causes a roller coaster effect. Turning the lead generation pipeline on and off like a faucet. This creates a a major problem because it generally takes months of consistent effort to generate leads from the agency’s new business pipeline.

How do you correct these problems? Do the opposite:

  1. Choose the best target audience for your agency. You can’t be everything to everybody.
  2. Create an appealing point of differentiation.
  3. Use the social media marketing tools you recommend to clients.Be an active participant.
  4. Have a written social media strategy for new business success.
  5. Be consistent in implementing your new business strategy. Keep processes simple and gauge them by what it would take to maintain when your agency is at its busiest.
  6. Allow your agency to become your best client.
  7. Social media can help your agency redefine itself with a language that resonates with your prospective audience.
  8. Practicing what you preach, using the tools recommending to clients and learn to promote your agency the right way. Don’t throw away your marketing mind when it comes to your own agency.
  9. Allow your agency’s Website to become the agency brochure. This will be the place to show your work, present your credentials and capabilities. In social though, always lead with benefits.
  10. Social media is the best tool I have ever used for agency branding. By incorporating all of the above.

I started my agency new business consultancy just prior to social media becoming mainstream. I soon discovered that social media can actually teach agencies how to do new business, the way they should have been doing new business all along.

Check out this article: “Social Media Teaches” Ad Agencies to Promote Themselves the Right Way”

Additional articles that may be of interest:

photo credit: [noone] via photo pin cc

photo credit: kisokiso via photopin 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. joshuafleming says:

    I think you address an interesting topic here.

    If you consider the large agency structure – account execs and account directors work with the clients so there are less people internally to argue with about direction. Then, you’ve got a VP somewhere waiting for the client to complain, and if the client is quiet, the VP has nothing to worry about and they tend to stay out of it.

    When it comes to new business, you have too many people that aren’t used to working with each other inserting their egos and wisdom. In other words, too many chefs in the kitchen. Have you ever met an ad agency exec who didn’t think their ideas were superior?

    Large agencies should look to hire people specifically for new business or at least designate a few key people. Kill the committee and show some trust. Until they do, smaller more nimble agencies will be better positioned to land business because more time will spent on ideas than on arguing.

    Thanks for posting, Michael, insightful as always.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to add your insights Joshua. Your feedback is always appreciated.

  3. The last agency I worked for had 9 of the 10 problems listed. In most cases, even if you pointed out these deficiencies, it was like telling the Emperor that he had no clothes. As Joshua pointed out, its the egos that prevent agencies from growing and evolving.

  4. Thanks Neil. It still amazes me that there is such a “commonality” of problems of small-to mid-size ad agencies.

  5. those who are interested in ad agencies they will get detail idea about the problems and solution which may occur. This is very useful.

  6. Here’s Number 11: Agencies don’t know what their clients really think of them.

    Solution: Get some objective client feedback and use it to improve everything.

  7. Good addition Rusty. Thanks for sharing.

  8. great work, thanks

  9. Very well done Michael and that image to die for – talk about branding and differentiation. Stellar post an and thanks for sharing.

  10. Very kind. Thanks!

%d bloggers like this: