The Canal Barge Analogy

I was reminded recently of the “Canal Barge” theory for agency new business. It was first told me many moons ago by, if I remember correctly, Graeme Green from LGM (that’s showing how long I’ve been in this business!). It goes like this.

ImBARGEagine the marketing director is the pilot of an old fashioned canal barge (the brand) being pulled along by a dray horse (incumbent agency). He has a pretty solitary existence and is always looking out for something to amuse him or help him perform his role more effectively – a good pilot never leaves school!


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Think Like a Marketing Director

So, you’ve got a new business meeting lined up with a marketing director, manager or whoever is the decision maker for your service. You’ve done your preparation, but remember, so has your prospect. Typically they’re pretty busy people and believe it or not they don’t spend all day thinking about agencies, dealing with agencies is typically about 10% of what they do or would LIKE to do!

So they usually leave it as late as possible so they’ve got a good idea about you before the meeting takes place. Ten minutes before they’re due to meet, they go back to the email you sent confirming the meeting and if they’re like me they right click on the email address and then visit the website from the domain contained therein.

Rule one. Make sure that the email domain points to your website. Common sense really, but you’d be surprised. One of our PR clients recently came back from a meeting and said to me “they though we were an ad agency! where did they get that idea from!”. Well, we had several emails to and fro with the prospect discussing possible PR projects so this was a mystery to us all. But wait! There was the answer. The PR agency email addresses were from the same domain as their sister agency, their much larger advertising agency they shared a building with – IT had obviously decided to make life easier for themselves. Oops.

Rule two. Make sure your website gives the right impression. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re going in to try to get them to use you for their social marketing. What would you expect? Well, I’d expect a really good socially enabled website, I’d expect them to be an agency that is talked about and respected. So, how many followers do you have on Twitter and what’s your Klout score? I’d expect them to be using Facebook really well and for them to have a lot of interaction on it – how many Likes do you have? I’d also expect them to have a lot of people subscribed to their email list – so if you have one of those gadgets that tells people to “Join us like ten other people us” then maybe remove it and buy some followers? I’d also expect them to be using Pinterest in a creative and entertaining manner.

Don’t expect anyone to trust you to do for them what you don’t do for yourself.

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How to Measure Success in PR – Are You Sure?

The MD of a PR firm told me this and he swears its true. They had been working for a client for six months on a project, at the end of which they went in to see the CEO of the firm with the Comms Director – they had a report and the press clippings etc.

As they started the presentation, the CEO stood up and said “I don’t need to know all this, does it pass the door test?” The PR firm looked a little confused. The Comms Director sighed, picked up the press clippings book and walked to the door.

She opened the door (which was a fire door) and used the press clippings book as a door stop.

The door stayed open.

The CEO said “Fine, retain them” and walked out.

Now, before laughing TOO loud and thinking what a ridiculous thing to do, answer this question. How do you measure the success of your new business agency or manager if you have an in-house resource?

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Littlewoods call review for agency new business

I see in Campaign this week that Littlewoods is talking to agencies again!

This isn’t actually a shock to me. We arranged for one of our clients to meet with them in December, the meeting was due to take place in January. Sadly, our client decided that the meeting was going to be a waste of time and asked us to cancel it.

His exact words were, if I remember correctly, “why would I want to meet them? They do everything in-house these days and are unlikely to be changing, so can you please call them back and make an excuse for me.”

I’ll bet he’ll be on the phone any minute now asking if we can resurrect the meeting!

What’s the moral of the story? Simple; if your RSW account manager arranges for you to meet someone, there is a reason. They are trained in how to pick up on what is NOT being said as much as what IS being said.

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Praise indeed …

One of my team was on the phone to the marketing director of a leading insurance company yesterday pitching an integrated agency. After five minutes he was asked a very blunt question …

“Are you on the payroll at XXXXX?”

Now, RSW is different from most new business agencies. Unless specifically asked not to do so by our client, when asked this question or a similar question along the same vein, our team are instructed to tell the truth. Along a similar line we are also different in that our account managers and directors don’t use pseudonyms – we are who we are and we’re proud of it.

Anyway back to the story …

So our AM replied

“No I’m not. I’m a specialist employed by a consultancy used by XXXXX to help them win new clients.”

The marketing director replied.

“I thought so. I get loads of these calls but I could tell you were a specialist because you’re so good!”

We got the meeting (which has a brief attached BTW) and also the marketing director asked for our details because he is going to recommend us to his other agencies and a friend who is starting up an agency.

Good call!!!

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Why Advertising Agency New Business Gets Neglected …

Just had lunch with an old friend and we were discussing the fact that some agencies pontificate forever about starting a new business programme but never get around to it even though they know they should and we came up with this scenario which may not be 100% accurate but has some home truths and is (in our opinion anyway) quite amusing …

31st March year end. FD calls a meeting.

“This year we need a HUGE big business drive. Sort it out!”

The poor soul with the task then starts reviewing her options and decides to call in three new business agencies for talks. This takes until half way through April, proposals submitted, teams met and a decision on whom to appoint made my mid May. So the campaign will start in June. But then the call comes …

“We DO want to do this but think that September would be a better time because no one’s around in the summer …”

September comes along.

“Wow we’re just so busy now, I’ve just come back from holiday, I’ve got the boat to attend and it’s pitch season so we have two on the boil already. Let’s talk again in October. I’m not putting you off, but the timing needs to be right.

Come October.

“By the time we’ve had the briefing and you get going it will be November. Will we get meeting in the diary before Christmas?”

Realistic reply – “maybe not, meetings booked in November may happen in December but more likely January, as will the meetings booked in December, so you’ll have a busy start to the year!”

“Oh, in that case we may wait until January, I don’t want to spend two month paying and not attending any meetings …”

Come January 15th (no-one can get hold of the client as she was skiing over Christmas and New Year!).

“My goodness I’m just soooo busy, let’s get this going in February”.

Come February …

“I’m off skiing again for two weeks over Easter, let’s start after that” …

Come May …

Repeat and fade …

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Digital Success Story

A digital agency we started working with six months ago has had the following result. Meetings booked, 18. Meetings attended, 12. Clients pitched for as a result of these meetings, 12. New clients won so far, 2. Pitches lost, 0. Still waiting to hear back from 10. Size of clients pitching for? all clients have an anticipated total digital budget estimated at between £250k and £500. Good work team!

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Lost in Translation

Here’s another one along the same lines from RSW new business research.

PR firm pitching for a major mobile handset manufacturer. Goes to a lot of trouble having their business cards printed in Japanese, learning appropriate phrases and etiquette.

Turns up, does the pitch, gives Japanese “presents” and leaves confident that they have done the best they could to win the business. Albeit a bit confused as to why there weren’t any of the Japanese HO people present.

The clients (for there were half a dozen) kept quiet throughout the pitch, but once the agency was out of earshot, raucous laughter could be heard throughout the building and the coms director laughed so much she had hiccups for the rest of the day.

So, who was this Japanese handset manufacturer?

Nokia. Oh dear.

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Why we didn’t ask that agency to pitch

This is a quote from a client given to us whilst we were researching the RSW New Business Report into agency pitch practices. I thought I’d share it with you. A salutary lesson to us all. 

“We had a PR proposal with more grammatical errors than accuracies.

“The email came with an attachment inviting us to click to download their ‘Broacher’.

“When you opened it, it wasn’t even a brochure. It was a proposal to a client – a different client”

Head of PR
NHS Trust

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