Ideas for Creating an Ad Agency New Business War Room


command center (often called a war room) is any place that is used to provide centralized command to determine the best course of action.

Every agency needs a “new business war room”, a place within your building that is organized for and focused on nothing but new business.

Usually the new business person is the “odd duck” of the agency. Why? No one else likes doing what they have to do, which is to sell the agency.  But it is amazing at how quickly the new business director can get roped into almost everything but agency new business. Endless meetings throughout most days with no time left for execution of the agency’s new business strategy.

When I served as the VP of new business for the BOHAN agency in Nashville, we were fortunate to have our own space dedicated solely for the purpose of new business. We often called it our New Business War Room, because this was the place that we were able to focus on the lifeblood of the agency’s new business efforts.

No matter the size of your agency, I would suggest that you designate an area just for the purpose of agency new business. Here are some of the features, equipment and arrangements we had for our new business area that may spark some ideas of your own:

Multipurpose Room:

  • Comfortable seating for about 15 people. The chairs were on rollers and could be easily re-arranged or moved entirely out of the way.
  • Not a typical conference table, but two tables that could be set apart for workshops, focus groups, etc. A large whiteboard, flip-chart, a large bulletin type display board. This provided us our own space where we could keep visuals of on-going new business projects.
  • Large flat screen TV, wireless Apple keyboard and presentation remote, Apple Airport, DVD player and sound bar.

Work Room:

  • Equipment and materials to create customized notebooks, presentation-leave behinds, RFP covers and special delivery boxes.
  • A collection of agency work that was well organized, that could be easily gathered and customized for a specific prospect.
  • Storage for agency collateral materials, new business direct mail pieces, printed agency newsletters, prospective client gift items such as hats, shirts, pens, thumb-drives, etc.
  • Files: Hard copies of previous RFPs, new business intel on current prospective clients, materials from prior pitches.

New Business Server:

On our agency’s server, we had a designated area for new business that was password protected. Only a limited number of staff persons had access. It included:

  • RFP resources: to help with new RFP requests, we had all of the previous RFPs broken down into sections such as Experience, Staff, Billings, Case Studies, Processes, Client Lists, Work Samples. This made the RFP process much easier.
  • New business intelligence on prospective clients: current news, press releases, staffing info, current work, agency relationships, etc.
  • Intelligence on competitor agencies: client lists, news updates, press releases, staff changes, etc.
  • Electronic prospective client data base, a collection of prospective client data from sources such as The List.
  • Electronic samples of the agency’s creative work and a system to add new work consistently.
  • Web-based microsites for prospective clients, specific to certain areas such as healthcare and leisure products. Two of the agency’s core strengths.
  • Downloadable Agency Fact Sheet and Agency Brochures that were specific to certain prospective client groups.


  • Quiet, comfortable, individual offices, designed for long hours, for the entire new business team.
  • Nice common areas for collaborative discussions.
  • Our own kitchen area with bar seating. A nice plus for prospective client meetings as well as meetings for our our agency staff.
  • Our offices included a large balcony overlooking the city of Nashville, where we also entertained prospective clients, after hour drinks, grilling, etc.

Having our own space on a separate floor of the agency allowed us to stay rifled focused on new business. Making calls, gathering intelligence, cultivating and engaging our prospects. It was amazing the amount of work we were able to do.

Systems were in place to keep us in the loop of the new creative work and we had consistent communications with our staff regarding the efforts of the new business team working on their behalf.  We still participated in the monthly and quarterly meetings but avoided being brought in for a lot of the daily meetings that went on in one of the agency’s other four conference rooms.

I hope this can serve to help spark your own ideas for creating a space for your agency’s new business. Be sure and share some of your best ideas us.


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 overview and the balance between investing in a new business war room / area can be addressed by the efficiencies in responding to RFPs and increased winning percentage. I’ve also used wikis to gather ideas and foster discovery throughout the agency. Because wikis tie the idea back to the person who posted it, there’s a huge incentive to post your idea as soon as you can. This makes it easier to identify who came up with the new million dollar campaign idea 😉 mark

  2. Thanks for the advice Mark. Very much appreciated.

  3. This is a great list of the must-haves. I have a lot of experience in public sector too and I made sure the RFP materials were always well developed to make the submission process more efficient. It can be quite draining to meet those bid requirements.

    I also implemented the asset library of all demo material, and presentation decks. I even had a sign out system (for samples that were essential but in limited supply) to makes sure they were accounted for.

    I believe you have to protect the agency credential assets and not let the “good stuff” slip away in leave behind situations.

    Thanks again!


  4. Thanks for the additional tips Peter.

  5. I think this is the first time I’m commenting on your blog, so let me preface this by saying this is also the first time I disagreed with stuff you’ve written. And we’re brothers in arms: As the director of the marketing agency partner program at HubSpot, a big part of my mission is to help agencies figure out how to get new business. I generally read your stuff with great interest because you have much more experience inside bigger agencies than I do: which is none.

    So with humility and no-sugar-coating, here’s my thoughts re: this post…

    “Usually the new business person is the “odd duck” of the agency. Why? No one else likes doing what they have to do, which is to sell the agency.”

    I think that’s the most telling part of your whole post. I think that agencies need to fix their thinking about sales if they want to stay relevant to today. Sales is about helping people. Not “pitching” and it seems to me that agencies need to get that straight in their head or they need to change their offerings so that it provides “measurable” value to their clients, so they can feel good about selling what they sell. In helping about 50 small agencies fix this at HubSpot, they’re seeing excellent results. I’m not sure if this can carry over to bigger agencies, though? Thoughts?

    Re: the rest of your post: There’s a few things that seem to be out of date. The one that screams 1994 to me is this one: “On our agency’s server, we had a designated area for new business that was password protected. Only a limited number of staff persons had access.” Any good sales hunters today can probably pull that stuff together with a few clicks using a cloud based CRM, online data sources, online news feeds, and social media monitoring tools.

    I certainly see the value of having a room when inviting prospects and clients to visit. But, shouldn’t PROCESS and METRICS govern the sales process, not a room?

    What am I missing, Michael?

  6. Peter,

    I’m not sure where you are coming from. I think you are reading more into this post than what it was intended to do.

    This article was about setting up a designated area for new business personnel within the agency and providing some ideas to facilitate the effort. Helping them to maintain their focus for new business in the typical agency culture.

    The Ad Agency New Business War Room isn’t intended for prospects or clients other than social events where we had a cool indoor/outdoor space overlooking the city.

    If you don’t think my focus is upon people and solutions for agency new business, you clearly don’t know me nor have you read much of what I’ve written.

    The reference to the “server” was in regards to relevant agency materials, such as RFP responses. Many agencies have not addressed simplifying the RFP process. They tend to over customize and waste lots of time and energy.

    And FYI … though I work with some larger agencies, my clients have primarily been small to midsize agencies and they are my primary audience.

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