You’ve seen the headlines. The advertising industry, and ad agencies, in particular, have enjoyed more than their share of “doom and gloom” stories lately.
The New York Times recently reported Forrester predicts ad spend will decline 25% this year, and won’t recover until 2023. Several recent articles have similarly predicted deeper advertising industry cuts and more agency closings in the weeks and months to come. Then there are the ongoing layoffs. All of it paints a rather bleak picture. But it’s not the whole story.
There is also business to be pursued, pitched, and won right now. As our team has established relationships with marketers at hundreds of companies across industries, I know that’s true because we are watching it unfold.
The sky is not falling: a view from the trenches
I won’t sit here and tell you everything is back to the way it was—or even close. We all know better. I will say, however, that there are opportunities to pitch and win. I’ll share a bit of what I’ve seen lately.
More and more, I am hearing that agencies are busy pitching business. Several of our agency partners have let us know in the past week or two that they are swamped with work and new business opportunities. This is inclusive of pending business that we have brought to them, in addition to numerous other project opportunities they are working on.
I don't disclose this for self-promotion, but to share what we see happening through our roster of partner agencies across the country. The point is—with a nod to Mark Twain—any reports of the advertising industry’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The other day, I spoke with an agency partner whose team is swamped. They are currently in the process of pitching three potential clients. This particular agency has had active pitch opportunities every time we’ve spoken to them throughout the pandemic. They are having to decline desirable opportunities—not for lack of interest but lack of bandwidth.
They are at capacity, which is an ideal situation because they are able to cherry-pick the opportunities that are best for them and say no to ones that aren’t the right fit. A few months ago, who would have thought that could be the case in 2020?
There are a few reasons we see this activity, but perhaps the most significant one is that in many industries, marketing budgets have thawed. Marketing departments have realized that budgets can’t be frozen indefinitely, and with no end to the pandemic in sight, there must be momentum. Sales continue. Marketing must continue. The work goes on.
The budgets might not be as big, the engagement may only be a project, especially to start, but that is nothing new. Margins might also be tighter, but there are opportunities to secure new revenue.
What if your agency isn’t seeing new business movement?
So what does it mean if this is inconsistent with your agency’s experience? What if you don’t find yourself on the receiving end of those RFPs, or among those agencies getting calls about pricing?
If that’s the case, here are my questions to you:
- First, is your agency proactively pursuing opportunities it has a right to earn?
- Secondly, has your agency made any necessary pivots to lean into the target industries and service offerings where its best opportunities lie?
Some agencies have taken harder hits by virtue of their industry experience and service offerings (think: travel & hospitality, experiential). They’ve had to make more adjustments and face greater challenges. But that’s not the only factor.
Can you guess the main thing all of those agencies that I mentioned are now pitching and winning business have in common? They continued their new business process through the early days of the pandemic.
Yes, they paused it for maybe 10-14 days and then took careful baby steps from there, adjusting their messaging and tactics weekly (as described here). And you know what? Between the number of other agencies that stopped their new business outreach and those that continued sending tone-deaf messages, these agencies were able to stand out because they proceeded with caution. The efforts that we made months ago with these agencies are now paying dividends.
Agency new business is a long game. Keeping the pipeline full is an ongoing activity that is never “done.” With that being said, if you haven’t been actively developing relationships, there is no better time than the present to get started. There is no end in sight to the opportunities out there, so if your agency is not receiving RFPs or inquiries, it's time to get back to your new business efforts.
Curious about what we do for agencies?
- New Business In the Time of Coronavirus
- Thoughts on Selling Agency Services Amid COVID-19
- Don’t Devalue Your Agency, Even In Times of Crisis
- Prospecting In Difficult Times