Creating A Website That Works for Ad Agency New Business

1 a website that works

How to simplifying the web design process and provide creative focus specifically for new business. 

Your agency’s website is an important tool for new business. It is the primary platform for your agency’s credentials, capabilities and case studies. It is the primary platform to showcase your creative work. But, from my experience, most agencies are in a perpetual state of redesigning their websites. They make the process more difficult and painful than it needs to be. Often, the end result is a design that isn’t very conducive for new business. 

Mark O’Brien has written an excellent book to help put an end to this “perpetual state of redesign”.  The book will make your website development process easier, with less pain and give it a much longer shelf-life. Every agency owner should read it.

The book was a help to me in the redesign for Fuel Lines this past year. I’ve just reviewed the book for a second time, preparing for this article. I was amazed at the amount of material I found to be important, enough for me to use my yellow-marker to highlight. Author and consultant to creative agencies, David C. Baker, also found it to be helpful for his website’s redesign. David writes,

I’ve read this book several times, and in fact, I modeled my website on the premises inside it. I had so many “aha” moments reading this book that I quit marking them down.

Mark provides practical helps to oversee the functionality and design process for an agency’s site from a prospect’s perspective. He writes in every day language what most readers will understand, even the “digitally challenged” agency owner. Mark’s philosophy and insights are spot-on for developing a website that works well as a new business tool.

I had the privilege of speaking at the same conference as Mark. His session was one of the highlights for me as well as for other attendees. Mark and his company, Newfangled, have worked closely with ad agencies for over 15 years. It was evident how his interworking with so many agencies has led to a thorough understanding of the challenges in designing their own websites as well as those of their clients.

Here’s Mark’s assessment of the typical agency’s website design;

Many agencies believe that their site’s central function is to show their visitors how creative they are. I disagree … The site’s key role is to generate business for the firm, and demonstrating creativity is only part of what converts a visitor into a prospect.

You will not lose a site visitor because the home page is not splashy enough, but you will lose plenty if the site is so “creative” that the visitor cannot figure out how to get to your portfolio section within the first five seconds of landing on the site.

Mark’s experience and understanding of the typical agency culture led in him to develop a 9-Step Process that will save time, money and energy for creating your agency’s website.  You will find that this process will also work well for developing your client’s websites.

Here are some of the highlights from A Website That Works:

  • Your site can be yet another brochure for your business, or it can be the sole source of twenty percent of your closed new business each year.
  • The site’s key role is to generate business for the firm, and demonstrating creativity is only part of what converts a visitor into a prospect.
  • People constantly evaluate your firm based on your website.
  • Inspire your visitors by the work in your portfolio, but not necessarily by the creativity of the portfolio itself.
  • The main problem we all encounter when approaching a web development project is that a commensense approach to web development does not work.
  • … getting creative with navigation is the next most common print to web misstep I see agencies make.
  • There are two absolutely necessary ingredients for creating a modern marketing website for your firm: a commitment to specialization and a commitment to writing.
  • Your specialization is defined by your focused expertise, which is defined by your positioning statement, which is prominently placed on your home page.
  • Once your site attracts the right people and informs and inspires them through your work and expertise, it should then bring those people into some sort of relationship with you.
  • … if the only call to action you have on your website is a link to your “contact us” page, then you have a website without any calls to action.
  • When you take the time to go through the 9 Step Process I describe in this book, you will have a system for analyzing and planning marketing sites that stand the test of time.

Click on the following links for a full description and review of Mark’s book: A Website That Works: How Marketing Agencies Can Create Business Generating Sites or if you prefer, the Kindle Version.

Leaders Read and Readers Lead.

Here are some additional books related to agency new business that I recommend:

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. I totally agree, Michael, the book “A Website that Works” is awesome! I have read it twice on the Kindle and have practically highlighted the entire book. It’s also great for statistics to communicate to potential web clients. I often site this one: “Your site can be yet another brochure for your business, or it can be the sole source of twenty percent of your closed new business each year.”

  2. Thanks Becca. I’m sure Mark will appreciate your endorsement as well.

  3. Hi Michael,

    I’ve uploaded the portion of Mark’s book where he discusses keeping the agency blog and website together.

    Is there any instance where you agree with him?

    In this post

    you are specifically speaking of a niche blog and agency website to be separated.

  4. Dan, That is the only area in Mark’s book where I disagreed and look forward to a continuing dialogue with Mark to help him to see my view point from a new biz perspective. I still strongly advocate that the “niche blo” live offsite.

  5. Michael,

    While this book is still on my “to read” list, The quote you’ve pulled out about the typical agency’s website is spot on. My agency’s new site launched about 10 months ago and along with our hard-fought and well-tuned SEO, it accounts for well over the 20% of closed new business that you’ve called out as a highlight of the book. We’re an agency that’s more than 2 decades old, but since rebranding/renaming and launching our new site, nearly 90% of the inbound new business inquires I’ve received have been a direct result of my website. And my close ratio is better than 1 in 5 (i.e. 20%).

    Prospective clients tell me that they contacted me (in part) because my website gave them the information they needed. It was easy to see how to contact me, and I invited them personally to do so. This among other things, helped them make an informed decision about what agency in my market they would contact.

    I’m amazed how many agency’s websites are NOT focused on prospective clients. Fully half of my current clients have likely never seen my current website. The only people visiting my site are my future clients. That is what the focus should be on.

    How important do you think an agency’s website is to their current clients?

  6. Matthew, Thanks for sharing your insights and the foresight to focus your agency’s website redesign from the perspective of your prospective client audience. Well done!

  7. Do you advocate having separate social profiles as well? Like a facebook page for the agency and one for the niche blog?

  8. The social profiles linked to the niche blog should be those of the author(s). ie. The Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google + accounts are the author’s personal accounts, Dave Carter and Scott Kuhn. But once the blog was established the group added a Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and Twitter account to expand the online footprint for the blog.

  9. Thanks so much for this very thorough and generous review of my book, Michael, I appreciate it very much.

    It’s true, we do disagree on the offsite blog topic. I’d be very happy to have a discussion about it with you. I think it’s healthy that we’ve got different perspectives on a few things and I’m sure there’s a lot we could learn from each other on this and many other topics.

    It’s always a pleasure speaking with you.

    Becca, I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! Thanks for taking the time to say so.

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