It’s not uncommon for a new ad agency to launch with some clients from their former agency or with great publicity that brings in new prospects. It doesn’t take long for the agency principals to focus their excitement, passion, and enthusiasm on coaxing more new clients on board. As momentum builds agency leaders reach out to friends, former clients, former colleagues, and before you know it that new agency has a robust business. Networking, referrals, and a zealous drive for success keep the agency growing year after year without any formal new business plan. It’s a common experience in the advertising business, but like all good things, it won’t last forever.
It may last a year or two, five, even ten or more. Eventually, the network wears thin. Past clients move on, move out, or completely disappear. Clients turnover and opportunity moves on to the next new thing, leaving the founding partners wondering what’s on the horizon. They never had to do any formal business development, a matter of enviable pride. All they had to do was great work, and the clients flowed. The idea of calling up old friends and past clients asking for work turns arduous. They start feeling the pressure on the bottom line while looking at a pipeline of scarce opportunities they would have never considered before or worse, no possibilities at all. Sound familiar?
I’ve talked to many agencies that have been through this scenario. It is often accompanied by the blame game; market conditions, economy, politics, finger pointing, underperforming staff, served up with bruised egos and shattered pride. Some or all of those may be true however the biggest reason they stand at the precipice of extinction is the very thing they were most proud of before, no business development program. When times are good no one wants to think about it, let alone invest in new business. Everyone is too focused on today and the delusion that today will last forever.
99% of the time, it doesn’t last forever. And 89% of the time agencies find themselves scrambling to replace their cash cow account or panic about tomorrow and end up making bad decisions about what clients to go after, how deep to discount fees, and what staff to cut. If only they had committed to a formal new business program when they had a strong base of clients, and the confidence to stick with their original vision the edge of the cliff would be nowhere in sight.
If you are one of these agencies or you’ve got a new business program that has stalled or been neglected, now is the time to rethink your priorities. Eventually, the pipeline will dry up. And in today’s competitive environment with more agencies aggressively pursuing your future clients with sophisticated tools and techniques, the distance between you and that cliff gets shorter and shorter. A high-performing new business program is critical in good times as well as bad. It not only keeps opportunity flowing but allows you to manage that opportunity toward more and better clients.
The good news is it’s much easier than you think. Sure, agency new business has its ups and downs. Well managed by both the leadership and a new business person or team, it is the only insurance policy for a profitable future. With the right plan, simple or complex, and the right people, inside our outsourced, you’ll gain the confidence and peace of mind that comes with managing your future. But how to begin? Start by reading any of the posts below or head on over to jheenan.com and dig in.
Wondering how to start or what approach to take? Read this; Ad agency business development is hard. It doesn't have to be.
Don’t know which approach would work best for your agency? Read this; Choosing the right new business help.
Want to know how other agencies do it? I asked them; Survey: Ad Agency Business Development Practices.
Not sure what steps to take for a successful plan? Read this; 12-steps to a better 2018 new business plan.
Conflicted about who should lead business development? Read this; Does the Business Development person matter, and this; 5 critical qualities of a business development person.
Don’t know how to budget for a new business program? Try this; How much should you spend on new business?
Looking for tips about prospecting from your future clients; Advice from your future client.
Read what successful new business superstars say; New business advice from the pros.
Get your whole agency on board; Who is responsible for agency growth? Everyone!
And finally, the silver bullet, the secret sauce, the fundamental truth to ad agency business development; Make your agency your best client.
I’ve got a lot more ideas about how you can start or rethink your business development program, and I’m glad to share them with you. If you want help or simply want to talk about your business development program, I’m always open to a conversation. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!