Ad Agency New Business is Harder Because One Key Ingredient is Lacking

Ad Agency New Business Missing Ingredient

Creating and maintaining agency new business is often harder than it should be because one key ingredient is often lacking.

Positioning is the foundation of any agency’s new business program. It is also the area that many agencies have not addressed because of either procrastination or, more likely, their unwillingness to make the difficult business decisions.

“Contrary to common belief, all agencies have pretty much the same basic capabilities, and processes. They all claim to have proprietary tools, and they may have different labels for what they do, but the approach is essentially the same at big or small agencies.” – Avi Dan, Forbes contributor who has 30 years of leadership experience with top global Madison Avenue agencies.

Without a differentiated position, ad agency new business is much harder than it needs to be. A lack of positioning creates many problems such as:

  • No positioning usually means there is no clear target audience and thus little awareness or appeal for an agency’s services.
  • Without positioning and a clear target audience, agencies lack focus in every day tasks such as who to hire, what to read, what events to attend, etc.
  • It is amazing that agencies think they are really different from the rest but without positioning, from a prospects perspective, they all look and sound alike and thus have no appeal.
  • Expertise is the only true differentiator. Without a differentiated positioning of expertise, agencies are treated as vendors and abdicate control of the client/agency relationship.
  • Agencies without positioning remain in a perpetual state of re-branding. They can never quite make it happen.
  • With no point of differentiation, agencies are confined to work in a smaller geographical area. Why would a prospective client travel hundreds of miles, passing over hundreds of other agencies that are just like yours?
  • Agencies that have no positioning are forced to chase new business opportunities and have little choice but to work with clients that are not a match with their core strength or chemistry.
  • Agencies carry over their undifferentiated positions into social media where they will have no success with this new communication channell for new business. They will be forced to go back to the interruption type tactics used in the past, such as cold calling.

I know how difficult agency positioning can be but, I also know that a lack of positioning creates even more hardships.

Agency owners must understand there are many benefits that come with the hard decisions about positioning.

“As a general rule, ad agencies try to be all things to all clients for fear of losing potential business. We were no different. But narrowing our focus on a particular target audience gives us a much better focus for new business and has led to more opportunities than we could have imagined.”  Stephanie Holland, president at Holland + Holland

The BENEFITS of positioning:

  • First and foremost it makes your new business efforts, the lifeblood of the agency, easier.
  • It brings your agency’s business into focus. You will know who to hire, what trade publications to read, what events need to be attended and where to find and engage prospects online.
  • It will allow your agency to stand out from your competitors. It is much faster to build awareness and create appeal with the clients that match up with your agency’s core strengths.
  • You can become positioned as an expert, which allows you to price your agency’s services at a premium.
  • Positioning also allows you to be more selective about the clients you choose.
  • It allows agencies to control the client/agency relationship from the onset.
  • It leads to a better pitch-n-win ratio and more often winning new business without having to pitch. New client accounts will be more profitable from the beginning.
  • Agencies that are well positioned are not forced to chase new business and therefore, more of their time and effort can be given toward deepening their expertise.

An example of how to easily create a niche for new business:

A small ad agency in Lehigh, PA is specifically targeting musical instrument and equipment manufacturers. They recently landed the Peavy account based on a positioning that was created through a niche blog, Sound Marketing: Helping Music Brands Be Heard.


  • Prospects are looking for expertise. Building a positioning of expertise around the agency owner(s) is key.
  • The niche blog lives offsite. Thus allowing a greater focus to a particular target audience than most agencies would be willing to do.
  • This positioning created the appeal and opportunity for the agency to land a national account well outside of their market. Peavy is headquartered in Meridian, MS.
  • This inbound approach doesn’t interfere with the agency’s local and regional new business strategies. It provides an opportunity for small to midsize agencies to land much bigger accounts without a pitch or an RFP.

Additional articles of interest:

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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