Your time is precious; why waste it reading something that doesn’t have value — right? For today’s post, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the sources I turn to for useful content about agency new business. I’ve rounded up fifteen examples of worthwhile posts along with a summary of why they merit a click-through. Even if you follow agency new business closely, some of these may be expected choices, but I think there are others here that will be new to you.
15 agency new business posts that are worth a read:
- Hubspot’s Marketing Blog: The Best Advice for Agencies in 2018: 15 Experts Weigh In
Created as a promotion for Hubspot’s Agency Expert Webinar Series (sign up and watch past episodes here), this post features digestible tidbits of advice from the likes of Michael Gass, Peter Levitan, Jody Sutter, Drew McLellan, and Sharon Toerek, all recognized experts in the agency new business space.
I’ve said it a million times: not all new business is good business. But how good is your agency at turning down new business when it's warranted? In this article, Dann Albright interviews agency leaders to uncover all the reasons they have declined to take on a client. Read and learn — you just may save yourself a money-draining headache!
- Agency Mania Solutions: Industry Updates
Throughout the year, Agency Mania Solutions publishes industry updates that summarize “newsworthy client/agency relationship developments and relevant marketing or agency management trends from the past month.” These are a valuable source of information that can help busy agency owners stay on top of industry news with minimal effort. This link directs to the industry update archive, where you can find the latest edition.
- Ignition Consulting Group: Stop Filling Orders and Start Solving Problems
Tim Williams is a recognized thought leader in the agency new business space. You probably won’t go wrong with anything on his blog, but this is as good an example as any. Read it for ideas about how to offer greater value by altering your agency’s approach to client engagements.
This is another roll-up of easy-to-digest insights from a variety of sources. In this case, agency leaders share the strategies and marketing tactics that have helped them generate new business. It’s well-organized by sub-category (referrals; relationship-building; knowledge of client and industry; compelling content; strategic partnerships; SEO and industry directories; conferences and awards; products, PPC, and other tactics). Worth a look.
I described some other examples of what agencies are doing to win new business here.
- Econsultancy: Agencies, Do You Win Business By Accident Or Design?
This post was inspired by a Benchpress survey of independent agency owners in the UK which found winning business was the biggest challenge for 38% of them. Author Ben Potter theorizes this phenomenon has less to do with winning business per se, and more about winning the right business, which is a factor of having a well-designed and consistently implemented agency new business program. He then offers examples of what that looks like in practice for agencies.
It’s easy enough to find statistics on sales and new business in general, but it’s somewhat more challenging to find current metrics on sales and new business for agencies in particular. BarnRaisers has done a good job of pulling together useful data from various sources that can help provide benchmarks and set expectations for your agency new business program.
- #LetsGrow!: How Long Does It Take to Get a New Client?
This links to the third post in a three-part series by John Heenan. The first post is here, and the second is here. I like the third post best because it includes illustrative examples and cites data (in fact, one of the reasons I like the #LetsGrow! blog is because Heenan often incorporates insights from his own survey data). The series on length of time to close agency new business is valuable because agencies don’t often know what that should look like (particularly if they don’t track KPIs and know the length of their average sales cycle), and having it come from another source seems less biased than when it comes from me personally, especially when there is data to back it up.
- Agency Management Institute: How Agencies Can Execute on Strategic Selling
Sales has a PR problem. People hate being sold to, and people hate selling. Agency leaders included. If you could just blog your way to new business, you would, right? Or simply provide excellent work in hopes it will yield referrals. I get it. But someone has to be able to close. There has to be some new business structure in place to ensure you get the right new clients and not miss opportunities. That’s what sales does. So the answer is really not to stop selling but to get better at it. In this post, Robin Boehler discusses how to do that by understanding your prospect and solving their business challenges. Instead of talking at them and selling your fixed menu of solutions. Try this approach and I think you’ll find sales much more palatable.
I wrote a related post here.
- SAKAS and Company: Want Better Profit Margins? Stop Selling Against Yourself!
Karl Sakas’ blog is a great resource for ideas on improving agency operations, growth, and profitability. In this post, he describes how agencies undermine their own value and profit margins by lowering prices. With specific scenarios of how this happens in the course of agency/client negotiations, Sakas provides some easy tips and “do this, not that” examples.
- Hubspot’s Marketing Blog: 9 Reasons Why Your New Business Program Is Failing
Originally published in 2016, the information in this post is still valid. In the past, Hubspot’s Agency Post (now rolled up under the Marketing section of Hubspot’s blog) has published a lot of useful content about agency new business from a long list of industry experts. Historically, it’s been one of my favorite sources to follow. Unfortunately, they’ve made some changes and now publish less new content specific to agencies and agency new business. But you can still find relevant and useful posts there. This one offers a list you can use to do a quick “status check” on the health of your new business program.
Marketing Dive is great for picking up newsworthy items and pulling out the key takeaways under their “Dive Brief” format, followed by “Dive Insights.” In this case, they tackled one of the more interesting agency reports published this year, Forrester’s “Agency Holding Companies Need a Brave New Business Model.” Taking a “research + recommendations” approach, the report includes ideas about how agency holding companies might overcome industry threats and make adjustments to survive.
I recently wrote about holding companies and the agency model of the future here.
I’m always interested in qualitative and quantitative research about agency new business. In this case, Workamajig conducted a small survey of 122 agencies in four categories (creative, digital marketing, PPC/SEO, and inbound/content/social media) about the pricing tactics they use on their websites. *Spoiler alert* — They found only nine of the 122 agencies published their prices upfront. However, their research went beyond the obvious question and provides additional insight into how common it is to ask for budgets upfront, use website contact forms, and offer free consultations. Additionally, they provide ten pricing tactics to improve agency profitability. Time spent exploring what is working (or not) for other agencies is usually time well spent. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than by my own trial and error any day!
For additional perspective, here’s our own look at agency compensation models.
I love this post. Not because it publicly shames the agencies used as examples, and not even because I necessarily agree or disagree with all of the writer’s critiques. For me, that’s not the point. I love this post because it takes clear examples of copy from agency websites and explains why they don’t work. We’ve taken a similar approach in the past with some case study and niche positioning posts.
If there is anything I want readers to get from a post like this, its to understand that even though they may be bona fide rock stars at branding and writing website copy, that doesn’t mean they have executed it flawlessly on their own site. The problem with agency positioning and website copy is that those responsible for it are almost always too close and lack the necessary perspective to critique it properly. You could look at your own website hundreds of times and never see it the way it appears to a new visitor who has never heard of your agency. It gives a false sense of confidence. And that’s what’s so dangerous for agency new business, even at great agencies.
I’m including this because of an item they picked up about Zulu Alpha Kilo (you may remember them as the masterminds behind the #SayNoToSpec video in 2015). Zulu Alpha Kilo has a new site called smarterpitch.com and it features a video on the World’s Worst RFP (sorry in advance for any PTSD it may trigger). Beyond that, the site is an educational resource for both clients and agencies interested in improving the pitch process, and it’s meant to be a starting point for an ongoing conversation. So to be clear, the smarterpitch.com site is worth your time more than the Agency Brief article itself...but this is technically a list of articles, not websites. (Sorry, Agency Brief — but good catch!).
Here are some blogs I follow regularly which you may be interested in checking out:
- Hubspot’s Agency Post
- The Sutter Company Blog by Jody Sutter
- Drew McLellan’s Agency Management Institute Blog
- #LetsGrow! Blog by John Heenan
- The New Business of Advertising Blog by Peter Levitan
- Sakas and Company Blog by Karl Sakas
- “Agency Issues” posts on Databox.com’s Blog
- Propulsion Blog from the Ignition Consulting Group
- “Agency” posts on the MarTech Advisor Blog
- “Agency New Business” posts on the Workamajig blog
- “Agency” and “#Agencies” posts at AdAge
- “Agency Culture” posts at Digiday
- “Agency News” at The Drum
- “Agencies” posts at AdWeek
- “Agency” posts at Campaign
Wrapping it up
I hope you found something new here that might help your future new business efforts. As always, I welcome your feedback and additional ideas — chime in on social or via the comments below.
Images licensed via Canva.