The number one reason ad agencies new business plans fail

discipline ad agency new business

Why new business plans tend to fail and what you can do about it.

For ad agencies that have a new business plan, the majority fall short in its implementation. The reason? According to a poll conducted by Mirren Business Development , when asked “What is the primary reason new business plans fail?”, 57% responded that it was a lack of discipline/accountability followed a lack of team commitment – 21%.

Here are 20 tips to overcome the lack of discipline/accountability and team commitment assuring success implementing a new business plan for your agency: 

  1. Set goals that are realistically achievable within the culture and resources of the agency.
  2. You’ll need to convert your strategic plan into a game plan that includes Milestone Dates, To Do List, Resources, Assignments, etc.
  3. One person who is responsible. Have a new business director/manager who is held accountable for its execution. If “everyone” is responsible for your agency’s new business, in actuality no one is. But that doesn’t mean that others, particularly agency principals aren’t involved in the process.
  4.  Top management must be intimately involved in the process. No one in the agency feels the pressure to succeed more than the agency principals. Like it or not, they are the face of the agency. Their involvement is important for new business and they shouldn’t shy away from this responsibility.
  5. Determine what is needed to achieve your priorities: People, funding, equipment, space, training/development, etc.
  6. Get organized: Use a program such as Basecamp, an excellent, inexpensive online project management tool to help in the implementation process.
  7. Make assignments: clear communications with those who must help with implementation of the various projects is a must. Who is doing what and when. Make sure they know their assignment, due dates and be prepared to prod, poke and push for completion
  8. Look for ways to simplify your internal processes. From RFP responses, to new business reporting … always invoke the K.I.S.S. principle.
  9. It may also be wise to outsource some services when possible. For some agencies outsourcing certain aspects of their new business program to services such as Catapult New Business orRSW is the best option. I know of a large full service agency,with their own PR department, that chooses to outsource PR for the agency to keep it consistent.
  10. I say it often, you can’t improve it if you can’t measure it. Be sure to have measurements in place, but again, keep them simple.
  11. I would suggest developing a 1 page monthly new business report on activities and results.
  12. Be prepared to make changes. This is not an exercise in perfection –  Plans give you a road map to our goals, but you have to be ready to make adjustments, based on your experience in execution. Every plan will have obstacles. Don’t abandon your strategy at the first obstacle, create “work-arounds”, solutions, even temporary ones that will allow you to keep the process moving. Don’t let anything stop implementation.
  13. Create rituals for new business. If you are responsible for new business, you know how easy it is to get side-tracked within the agency environment. I would encourage you  to simply set up a routine in the morning that you do as soon as you wake up. This works so well because what you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. A bad start usually leads to a bad day.
  14. Consistency is a key component to ad agency new business. Remember that consistency is more important than perfection.
  15. Do the things that you dislike the most first and get them out-of-the-way. It provides me with an incentive to get to the tasks that I enjoy the most.
  16. Stay focused on the process. I’ve learned to maintain a consistency through the ups and downs by paying attention to the processes that I’ve created for new business. This makes me less prone to distractions and knee-jerk reactions. I know that if I consistently work the new business program that I have in place the results will come.
  17. Use simple reminders. I use reminders, either on a sticky-note, my computer DeskTop, pop-up alerts, to keep me on course throughout the day. I know what I want to achieve by the end of the day and I use a variety of tools to help keep me keep me on track.
  18. Celebrate successes. New business is tough. Especially in this economy. Life in the trenches for new business is nonstop hard work and often goes unnoticed. For the well-being of your new business team, it is important to stop, take the time to celebrate each new business victory.
  19. Resolve to stay the course. New business efforts are highly relational and take time to come to fruition.
  20. Incorporate “lessons learned” from accessing your accomplishments into the next year plan.

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photo credit: Andrew_D_Hurley 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. Excellent post (and not just because we’re mentioned in it-thanks Michael!). Each one of these points could be it’s own blog post. if there’s a big-picture road map for new business, this would be it. Nicely done.

  2. Craig Lindberg says:

    Jim Collins’ in his book, Good To Great, speaks about ‘a culture of discipline requires disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and then take disciplined action.’ Michael you’re 20 point action plan does a great job of helping put that into a process to follow to be successful. Thanks!

  3. Thanks Craig. I need to put Collin’s book on my list of books to read this year.


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