A significant paradigm shift has taken place that impacts how ad agencies acquire new business that effects the knowledge and skills new business directors need to make it happen.
“With over 50% of client relationships lasting less than two years and the average CMO tenure 27 months, the role of new business at our agencies is more important and a bigger focus than ever.”
Heather Witalisz, Training Director for Mirren Business Development, recently asked me, “what are the top three things a New Business Director must do to be successful?” As I reflected back on my answer I thought this would be a helpful topic to flesh out a bit more. So here are three things a new business director must do to be successful:
1. Digital and Social Media Savvy
The role of the agency new business director is becoming more complex. People who have done this job well in the past are finding it difficult to find success in this current climate.
According to a recent 4A’s and Arnold Worldwide survey, 90% of agency staff say they have to figure things out on their own due to the lack of training.
Unfortunately this bodes the same for many agency new business directors. You may have to create your on ‘continuing education program’ when it comes to digital. It’s important that you do, because it’s almost impossible to ‘sell it if you don’t understand it.’
Having a working knowledge of social media isn’t even an option any longer for an agency’s new business director. Social media is having a big impact on how agency’s promote themselves and how they are found online by their prospective client audiences.
Here are the ways social media is impacting agency new business:
- A paradigm shift for how new business is acquired. According to a recent CMO survey, 80% of decision makers say they found the vendor, not the other way around.
- SEO is now a critical part of new business strategy. According to Marketing Sherpa, 80-90% of business to business transactions begin with a search on the web.
- An agency blog is a necessary component for marketing your agency. As necessary as it was for an agency to have a Website, it is now as relevant for them to have a blog. It becomes the gateway to the agency and puts a face to it.
- The growth of new media mandates agencies participation. Social media is now mainstream, your agency’s credibility is suspect if it isn’t walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
2. Be Empowered to Lead New Business
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 for agencies 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.
3. Create a Narrower Niche and Appealing Position for Your Agency
The FOUNDATION of an ad agency’s new business program is its positioning. Creating the right positioning is a lot like fishing. A successful fisherman fishes for a specific fish, with a specific bait, the right equipment and he knows just where to fish. He has developed the expertise to land the real trophies.
“The common failing among agencies seeking new business is the inability, or unwillingness, to name what they stand for,” Bob Lundin, Agency search consultancy Jones Lundin Beals
Combining social media with your agency’s niche can become an appealing and powerful positioning. Here are a few examples:
- Holland + Holland advertising, Birmingham, AL, through their blog She-conomy: A guys guide to marketing to women, has been invited to 3 national pitches in the past year as a result of their differentiating positioning. That had not happened before in their 25 year history.
- The Littlefield ad agency, Tulsa, OK, is carving out a niche through their The One Thing blog: The casino marketers guide to understanding gamers, written by the agency’s new business director, Kelly Fiddner.
- MAX Advertising, Atlanta, GA, has created The Matte Pad, Marketing know how for the legal profession, written by its CEO, Tom Matte.
Agencies desperately need an expert/specialist in the mechanics of new client acquisition, someone who has the sole focus and capabilities to bring “life-giving” new business to the agency.