A Well Written Letter


I was dropping my son off at school this morning as he was off on a bushcraft course – three days camping by the sea in Dorset, canoeing, rock climbing, survival etc. Sounds great fun! I got talking to the headmaster about the company that was running the course and how he had found them.

He told me that several years ago they had written to him; a hand written, two page letter, describing what they did and how they thought they’d be the perfect fit for the school. They had done their research and knew the ethos of the school. They referred to this and how they could fit in because of their own ethos.


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Retention: How to Prioritize Clients

Running a marketing firm of any size is a juggling act. Not only are you working on several different client/agency initiatives at any given time, but you’ve got projects from several different clients as well.

Often competing client conflicts will drive staff and leadership crazy. Starting a new project vs. finishing another, what comes first? The clients all the while breathing down your neck claiming “I need it yesterday!” All this and more adds to the already chaotic work environment and makes organizational planning a difficult task.


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Who’s the MAN! for agency new business.

Back to basics – SALES. It’s what we do – call it what you want, but that’s it. Many years ago I was making a speech at an Omnicom conference (DAS to be precise) and I was talking about sales and an MD of an agency at the end said that it was all well and good, but that he wasn’t in ‘sales’ he was in ‘advertising’. My response was that his CEO would probably say that he was in the business of selling the services of an advertising agency, not ‘in’ advertising per se.


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Engagement; Engagement, Enthusiasm and Engagement.

UntitledThe AABA pattern, also known as a diacope, is a very common rhetorical device you are probably very familiar with.

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo”; “my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse”; “alone, alone, all alone”; “You villain, villain, you damned, smiling villain.” And my personal favourite from Carry On Cleo, “Infamy, Infamy, they’ve all got it Infamy”.

Another tool is Chiasmus, a rhetorical device that originates from the Greek chiazo, meaning “to shape like a letter X.” It is a figure of speech in which the second half of an expression is reversed to mirror the first half, i.e. A/B, B/A (where the letters represent words, phrases or parts of speech).

Perhaps the best known example of chiasmus is JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Another is, “We don’t get stop playing when we get old, we get old when we stop playing.”

These tools are great to use in your new business pitches and can really make you stand out.

There’s a really interesting interview with Mark Forsyth (@InkyFool) on Radio 4 that was broadcast in November 2013 that you can listen to HERE.

And you can buy his book HERE.

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“Just one more thing …”

columboI just finished a training session about the Columbo moment …

Firstly, understand this. When speaking to a prospect and trying to get them to agree to meet with you, there is a battle of wills going on. In my opinion, if the person is the decision maker and they already use an agency like yours – they are worth meeting.

They, conversely, are busy and may not necessarily be reviewing so are wary of committing time.

If you start asking them qualification questions like “are you reviewing” or “are you happy with your incumbent” they will jump on these as a way to put you off meeting them. So don’t ask them. YET.

Get a meeting in the diary and the, just before you say goodbye …

“Just one more thing …  help me tailor the meeting towards your specific needs, could you tell me a little bit about what you are looking to achieve over the next six months or so?”

As the battle is already over you will get loads more information than had you asked before getting the date.

“Well, as you’re coming in anyway why don’t I send you the brief we gave to our agency a couple of months ago. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what YOU would do if it had been you.”

Now THAT’S an opportunity.

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RSW / Mirren Guide to New Business Tools

spaceOur colleagues over in the US recently undertook a survey with Mirren into the new business tools used by agencies.

While social media is an extremely popular tool for agency new business (used by 87% of agencies), only 18% think it’s effective. And can you guess what the most over-rated of all the social media tools used for new business is? If you guessed Facebook, you’re correct. It’s too personal and not useful for prospecting.

Any guess on the most over-rated CRM? Agencies tell us it’s Salesforce. They think it’s too complex, too expensive, and not designed for the agency world.

And the most over-rated presentation software? Prezi. Agencies complain of it crashing, it being too distracting, and too hard to edit.

With so many new business tools popping up every day, how does one know what’s best for their agency’s new business needs?



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How to Choose a New Business Agency

We’ve been around longer than most new business agencies or indeed prospective clients, so I think it is fair to say that when it comes to the problem of how to select a new business agency we’ve seen the good, the bad and the plain ugly!

So here we go – here’s our view on how best to go about it.

1 – Google “new business agency” – discount anyone not on the front page, you want someone who’s good at marketing themselves and if they can’t even figure out SEO then there’s no help for them. It’s not like there are thousands of us out there!

2 – Make a list of the hygiene factors you NEED. Is location important, do you want someone who works with other agencies like you or do you consider that a conflict.

3 – Choose an initial list of five, call them and speak to the MD, tell him or her about what you are looking for and take ten minutes or so to get a feel for them and what they are like.

4 – Whittle the list down to three and invite them in to take a thorough brief from you so that they can submit a proposal. Don’t ask them to bring the team they’d have working on your business in at this stage. If they already know then they’re choosing the team based upon who is available and not who would best fit the brief.

5 – Once you’ve seen the proposals, you’ll probably have already discounted one, have one favourite and one close second, so the nest step is to visit those latter two at their offices to meet the prospective team. Ask to meet them without the MD, see what happens. This will indicate the amount of trust the MD has in his or her team! Don’t grill them, just get a feel for them – would you be happy having them represent your brand.

6 – Take out a credit check on them – you want a partner that is financially stable.

7 – Ask to see their entire client list and then choose three clients at random and ask them if you can speak with those clients.

8 – Make your decision.


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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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Puzzle or Mystery? Agency New Business, a Paradigm Shift

Whilst on holiday I read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, “What the Dog Saw”, a collection of his writing from The Spectator. One of the many insightful essays was on the vagaries of the stock market and hedge funds and how too much information can be a bad thing. His hypothesis was that in the pre internet age, trying to anticipate market movements was a puzzle. One had to search for the right piece of information and once found it was added to what you had already found until the picture was complete. Very neat and tidy.

With the advent and exponential growth of the internet, however, we are surrounded by all the information we need. Search Google for instance, for “will facebook shares rise in value” and you will find (as of 9.30am GMT, 7th August 2012) 93,900,000 hits. So this is no longer a puzzle. It is a mystery; we are surrounded by so much information our role is not to search, but to be intuitive and know what is useful and what is not.

The same is, of course, true for agency new business. Taking a single source of information and hoping it will provide the answer to the puzzle (is the client happy with their agency or not?) is, at best naive. Surround yourself with as much information as you can about the company and think, deeply and intuitively.

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Quality, Quantity, Price – Fee Model for Agency New Business

There are many different models for pricing new business agency services – the most popular of which is a fixed monthly retainer. Now this CAN be the best way, depending upon what both sides need from the relationship. But consider this triangle – we call it the QQP Triangle.

Quality – the quality of meetings arranged is of paramount importance of course; but what exactly does quality mean? it means different things to different people at different times. Sometimes, or for some agencies at all times, quality criteria threshold can mean there MUST be a brief available; for other agencies (or at other times or even for certain prospects) there does not need to be a brief, as long as the prospect has a genuine interest in meeting. So, quality can be movable.

Quantity – the quantity of meetings arranged can be changed quite easily, by either altering the Quality criteria or the Price (i.e. buy more time). Sometimes this makes sense; you lose a client and suddenly need a boost – we’ve all been THERE for sure!

Price – the Price therefore, we believe, can be altered by both the amount of time bought but also by both the Quality and the Quantity of opportunities delivered. It’s quite straightforward and can sometimes be the most efficient way of delivering Quality, Quantity AND Price in a format to both parties satisfaction.

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