Starting a new agency? Thoughts you should consider before turning the key in the door.

Lisa A. Colantuono agency new business

By: Lisa A. Colantuono, Co-Partner, AAR Partners, Co-Founder, Access Confidential.

Lots of new business advice from AAR Partners has been given over coffee throughout the years regarding a myriad of topics. But one topic manages to pop up over and over when industry executives decide to create a “break-away” agency. The question is often asked,

“What advice would you give to someone starting a new agency today?”

It’s a loaded answer to a loaded question. However, there are a few vital points to keep in mind if you decide to give it a whirl today.

The first piece of advice starts by knowing about my 4 ½ -year old nephew who has been calling me on his mother’s iPhone since he was 3 years old. Now at the ripe old age of 4 ½, he calls me on FaceTime while watching TV during breakfast while playing a game on his iPad. Welcome to the world of iBabies! The point? Digitally-centric thinking is a must. Many marketers appreciate mid-sized agencies today but still have a weak perception of their digital and social media capabilities.

“I’m very happy with the personalized service from our current mid-sized agency…feels like they are truly vested in my business but the digital and social media can be weak,” says Ed, CMO of a QSR chain.

Second bit of advice? Deep data. Again, marketers seem to agree that those smaller and mid-sized agencies have less access to deep data. But here’s the opportunity. The amount of data being streamed everyday is overwhelming. In fact, it’s useless unless you’re filtering the right data at the right time and interpreting it properly for the right insights. The industry seems to have more data than true insight. Marketers need less numbers and more intelligence to guide the investment opportunities. According to Beth Comstock, CMO at General Electric,

“The future of marketing is combining an understanding of consumers’ behavioral characteristics and data science.”

Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of talent. Creative must be backed up with strategic talent that stems from compelling research. Hiring more people who have experience in all marketing disciplines will create much more comprehensive agency teams.

“Hire the best you can afford and then try to afford more – make sure you don’t compromise even at the lowest levels,” says Jill Ackerman, Director of Marketing Analysis and Research, Lindblad Expeditions.

Starting an agency is no easy task. Then again, anything worth while takes more than just some luck but hopefully, these few bits of advice will improve your chances of success.

Click on the following links to learn more about AAR Partners, a leading North America agency search consultancy and Access Confidential, a new business resource tool developed by new business people for new business people. Includes:

  • Industry news alerts
  • Analyst reports
  • Search consultant insights
  • Executive contact information
  • Client-agency relationships
  • Search history
  • Executive profiles
  • Advertising spending
  • Creative sampling.
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. Great article, Lisa. These days having excellent social media marketing skills is a serious plus. Further, I completely agree with this point: “Creative must be backed up with strategic talent that stems from compelling research”

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