15 New-Business Sins

After working on new business with four multinational agencies—as well as 50 or so small and mid-size agencies—and interviewing 15 key agency selection consultants, I have identified the more serious “sins” that agencies that aren’t getting much new business are committing. I call these the “15 Deadly Sins,” and they are listed below. (More later on how to correct these sins and win more often.)

How many of these sins is your agency committing?

1. Saying, “We don’t have time to work on new business.” Servicing clients and managing the agency consumes every hour of everyone on staff. Is this a convenient excuse? Maybe they just don’t want to do it.

2. Not doing enough to make advertisers aware of them. Therefore, nobody knows about them! People don’t do business with people they don’t know about. Agencies simply must get publicity, be recognized for creative awards, send mailings, make phone calls, make speeches and make people aware.

3. Does not have a business development plan with objectives, strategies, timetables, budget, etc. Like the plans you do for clients. It’s a lot harder to get there if you don’t have a clear idea of how you’re going to do it.

4. Has no sense of urgency. If they hear about an opportunity, they don’t do anything about it until it’s too late. Maybe they are just not “hungry” enough. “The early bird gets the worm” certainly applies in new business.

5. Doesn’t have anything ready when an advertiser says, “Send me something about your agency,” so the prospect receives something that is not competitive. Good Web site, OK, but you also need a professional-looking folder, case studies, reel, a PowerPoint presentation, etc.

6. Insists on talking only about the agency—with little or no knowledge of the prospect’s business. The prospect wants to hear what you think about them, and the prospect wants to talk, too! Always make your discourse with prospects a dialogue, not a monologue. Helps to establish good chemistry.

7. Has not appointed one person to be in charge of new business—giving them what they need to make things happen, such as a budget, tools, authority. There is no leadership—and not much happens without a leader.

8. Goes after whatever company it hears about or would like to have, regardless of whether it has a strong reason why that advertiser should be interested. You spin a lot of wheels doing this. Selecting the right targets is vital for new-business success.

9. Some members of their team have difficulty in making a “chemistry link” with prospects—yet the agency insists on putting them in every new-business situation. People have to like you, or they don’t do business with you.

10. Has not invested in having a top-flight creative product—one that is truly competitive —even though every study has shown that prospects value strategic capabilities and “great creative” over everything else. (Some search consultants say 98 percent of all advertising agencies are doing mediocre work!)

11. Does not have good capabilities in key services, which happen to be the ones the prospect feels are essential. Smart agencies either invest in having the full range of professional services, or they form key alliances to be sure of having what is needed, when needed.

12. Goes to a meeting with a prospect without having made any effort to find out (a) what the prospect’s business is, and (b) what the prospect is looking for from the agency. So they wind up talking about themselves, which never works (see No. 6).

13. Is not competitive with strategic capabilities, even though more and more advertisers are looking for that from agencies. Hard to succeed without it. Agencies who don’t have proven strategy skills won’t be considered by the smarter, larger budget advertisers.

14. Is way behind on having real capabilities in Interactive or Web marketing, when this medium is growing by 30 percent per quarter.

15. Is not keeping up with other agencies—with creative, technology, quality of staff, keeping abreast of trends, range of services, acquiring knowledge, having good strategic abilities, etc. So they wonder why advertisers who compare them think they come up short.

Solving these sins is the first step to achieving new-business success. Then you can adopt “The 15 Winning Strategies”—more on those another time.