How Well Do You Really Know Your Advertising Agency?

Arnold Worldwide ad agency new business

It is essential to know your agency inside and out if you want to be successful at new business.

Any good salesman has to be knowledgeable about the product or service being sold. The more you know about your agency the more confidence you will have. This is a first step for those in business development and is a prerequisite to developing a plan for new business.

Fully acquaint yourself with  your agency’s two most important assets: chemistry and creative.

1. Getting to Know Your Agency’s Chemistry

“People want to do business with other people that they know trust and like.”

Agency chemistry is often a determining factor in winning new business. This is more than the agency’s brand. It is the bond and the emotional attraction a prospect has with an agency. This connection is made by people, not by brick-and-morter.

Here are some ways to better know your staff and how they click.

Conduct a SWOT analysis, an inventory of your agency’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Use open-ended questions built around these four areas. Keep your SWOT short and simple with a bullet point list. This is a very straightforward, non-complicated process for gathering agency information quickly.

A SWOT analysis will give a focus and structure for conducting the following:

  • Internal survey to provide a picture of how the staff perceives the agency and ask questions that relate to their perceptions of the agency’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)
  • External survey of current and past clients to provide a picture of how they perceive the agency.
  • One-to-one interviews of your key executives and possibly the entire staff.
  • Review staff bios.
  • Review current and past client lists.
  • Analyze primary competitors.
  • Examination of your current positioning, promotional strategy and materials.
  • You might even consider conducting a personality trait inventory for key staff.

From this analysis, create SWOT analysis report. This shouldn’t be  written from one person’s perspective so be sure to include others. This process will help to lay a good foundation for developing your agency’s new business plan.

2. Getting to Know Your Agency’s Creative Work

The engine for any agency is in its creative work. It’s the soul of the agency and anyone charged with selling an agency’s services will need to fully understand the creative process.

The first agency that I ever worked for had a long hallway with creatives on one end of the building and account service on the other. Lots of meetings were done in a large conference room in the middle, but those on the account service side of the building didn’t fully understand or appreciate what happened on the creative side.

In all likely hood, if you are charged with new business, you are not a creative. Here are some suggestions to get to know your agency’s creative work:

Spend time with the creative team.

Ask to sit-in on their creative sessions. Plan a time to meet with the creative director afterwards for a debriefing on what you witnessed, to better understand how the process works at your shop. The route from creative brief to campaign can vary greatly from agency to agency. It’s important for you to understand how your agency does it.

Visit the sample room. 

I was fortunate that the agencies I worked for had a creative sample room and made sure there were a good number of samples available from every campaign.  I can’t tell you the hours that I spent reviewing all the previous agency campaigns. I would ask many questions of those who were involved creating the strategy and creative execution. This helped me to have a good understanding of all the current and some of the most important past campaigns. You not only get a feel for the creative process, but you will understand the story behind each piece of creative.

Review the agency website. 

It is helpful to review the agency’s website from a prospective client’s perspective. What would their perspectives be? How is the agency positioned? Most agencies are in a perpetual state of redesigning their website, so it probably isn’t going to be where it needs to be. The current website is what you have to work with in the immediate future, so view it from your prospects. Understand the creative rationale behind the design so that you will have answers for the questions they may have.

It would also be good to understand the creative rationale and thinking behind the design of your agency’s website.

Review and evaluate your collateral or sales materials.

It is helpful to carefully review what sales materials you have to work with. Many agencies will have materials that were created for a specific audience with information that links agency benefits to the prospects point-of-need. You will find this kind of information helpful on the way the agency was positioned to reach clients in the past. You can learn from it even if it was wrong.

A walk through the agency.

Have the agency owner give you a tour of the agency as if you were a prospect. You will usually find the story behind the agency during this tour along with creative examples and illustrations. You’ll learn much about the decisions that were made to start the agency, the agency’s location, the agency’s mantra, creative that is on display, etc. Be curious and ask a lot of questions. It will be a valuable use of your time.

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photo credit: David Salafia 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.

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