Let's talk a moment, shall we, about New Business. "Yeah, yeah, yeah!!! New biz,new biz, new biz!!!!" (They all scream salivating heavily!)
I believe the time is just about perfect for all us little cowboys and cowboy-ettes to start thinking that "Well, maybe there is a damn light at the end of the tunnel!" And, it ain't the train…you know the rest of that saying. The econo-clypse is passing and time to get back into the game.
"New Business, you ask? "Yes!" I exclaim emphatically! And not the recession type (Where your Uncle Herman happens to strong-arm a Lodge Brother in order to give you a taste of his retail clothing, storm door emporium and deli account…) I'm talking about New Business. The real stuff.
Here's a couple "Rules of the Pitch."
- You never, ever, ever win an account in a pitch – you only lose it.
- If you are an incumbent agency – decline to pitch. Full stop. No exceptions. (Well, a couple but more on this later.)
- If you're going into a pitch and you are unsure whether you will win. You've already lost.
- Research, homework, more homework and then more homework inside info and investment spending (Notice I didn't say spec here!) wins new business.
- Always drive the new biz effort from your position of strength. Not simply what happens to fall into your lap.
Now, let's expand on these ramblings…er, I mean truisms…or well, truth be known … crusty-salty-old-dog-urban-lore-chestnuts.
1. You never, ever, ever win an account in a pitch – you only lose it.
If, for whatever reason, you are in a shoot out or make the finals in a pitch-a-rama and you haven't got, in your little sweaty hands, inside information, have at least three quarters of the decision making team on your side or have absolutely positively researched and developed the "right" plan of attack and nailed it beyond belief (That is generally seen when the VP Sales and The VP manufacturing start hugging, celestial choirs are heard in the background and the CEO starts to cry during your Dog and Pony!) well, don't be surprised when the other guys win. Because they have probably gotten all of the above and then some. Ask a quick question "What kind of relationship do I have with the key decision maker at the prospective client?" "Oh yeah, you know … what's his name."
2. If you are an incumbent agency – decline to pitch. Full stop no exceptions. Without fail incumbent agencies just don't win. Unless there's major miracles like agency mergers and takeovers will, in fact, give an incumbent a leg up. But if you have an account and the client calls for a review it certainly isn't because you are the reason they get up in the morning to go to work. Something is definitely rotten in Ads-ville. And quite frankly the cost, time and effort spent against a long shot … well, that's not why we're in business. Is it?
3. If you're going into a pitch and you are unsure whether you will win. You've already lost. How can you run your business on a long shot or gamble? The big picture here is to grow your business. If you haven't gotten a really good read on what the prospective client wants, how they want it, why they want it and where you fit in, you are wasting a lot of time. I would recommend revisiting your New Biz strategy and try more growth from existing clients and their connections.
4. Research, homework, more homework and then more homework inside info and investment spending (Notice I didn't say spec here!) wins new business. And I love this part. Agency X has a design on some new biz. What do they do? They scour the rags and see who's up for a review. Well a/ that's too late and b/ if you read it in the papers how the hell do you think you're going to get an advantage! Let's look at where new biz comes from. 1. Existing business…it costs roughly (I say roughly because I can't be bothered to look this up…and you guys don't want a page of stats) 6 times as much to get new business as it does increasing your business from an existing account 2. Relationships of many kinds with your customers and their customers and associates. With suppliers and associates and lastly with your network. 3. From the sky (As in dropped in my lap!) I really like 1 & 2. 3 I'm always happy about 3 but don't put it up as collateral at the bank.
5. Always drive the new biz effort from your position of strength. And new biz should be approached from your viewpoint. Like, hey man what's your agency's USP eh? Like, do ya do retail? Or financial institutions or drug companies? Hi tech or cars??? Then if ya don't have a USP…get one. And if ya do "What the hell are ya pitching some retail coffee chain if you specialize in financial service related companies or industrial hi-tech?"
Look at your organization. Where can a new piece of business fit in. Are you light in media? Do you have hot-shot suits? Are you known for your creative? Look at the departments and see where a new piece of biz will fit with the least amount of investment and change… "Hey we are doing a ton of media specialization in this category…it's really similar to that type of industry… Hey we won't have to reinvent the wheel or staff up to meet their needs… or better hey we have a ton of expertise in this type of advertising "Who needs this type of advertising?." And don't forget you make money by driving out costs.
Now, a very important element is time… and timing. First designate resources to the task. Have a NEW BUSINESS department or at least a person with appropriate funding.
Someone sitting on the phone cold calling doesn't provide the best results.
Nor does it bode well if the CEO has to do all the cooking, bottle washing and selling. Know that it costs money. I do not believe in spec but I do believe in advertising (Yeah, you should be advertising too!) and I do believe that stuff costs. Furthermore if you don't have a specific person handling this type of activity and a decent budget, it either gets lost in the shuffle – especially if some other day-to-day stuff gets in the way, and it also falls prey to on again off again strategic thinking. Because lot's of times the agency owner who ends up doing this is busy paying bills, hiring and firing and putting out assorted fires.
Now a word … about research. You want to beat another agency. It's easy. Out-work them. Out research them.
Interview the prospective client – at as many levels as possible. And if they are reluctant to sit with you and your key personnel for a few meetings either you are being used as "Well we'll give the account to my brother Joe, but we better get a couple of others in here to make it look good." Or these guys don't take what we do seriously. Both reasons prevent you from getting close to your prospect and should send up huge red warning flags. Interview their food chain up and down … suppliers, customers, channels of distribution … even competitors (and that is very interesting because who knows how many of them might need an agency … because I believe you are after this prospect because you have specialization.
God forbid someone recognizes this and snaps you up before their competition does. Any organization that is involved with your prospective client should be investigated. (Associations, Securities Commissions – if a public company – community groups and trade shows and conferences within their industry.
Search the press-clipping services and retain a research company to provide you with detailed packages. Utilize the media monitoring companies for samples of ads the company has done and get a full rundown on media spending (by category, spending by month, by region, by product/brand and full category overviews – look for trends!) And talk to the media. Trade mags are the best for this type of info. These guys have some pretty interesting information if you can tap it. Talk to somebody at the old agency (somebody always knows somebody – ask around.) and find out what the scoop is. Why the change? What happened? Mind you, don't take all you hear as gospel truth. After all, they probably just got fired.
And then, if you can try the product or service yourselves. Really look at what this prospect does for a living. Get under their skin. Think like they do.
Does this make any sense? I hope so. I have seen so many great agencies that should have won clients but didn't because they didn't understand the process. It has nothing to do with pretty pictures charts and slick presentations. It has to do with results and relationships. If a client is assured that you know his business, that you understand him and see the future you're a winner.
Also I believe the client doesn't care what you did for Blogs & Company last year. They want to know what you're going to do for them … tomorrow.
This certainly is a "skim-the-surface" going-over of a very, very important subject and I don't take this lightly.
Take care…and don't take any prisoners.