Data is wonderful when it keeps confirming an important finding. The finding in this case is that ad agencies have a better chance of winning new business pitches when they take the time to position their agencies for greater differentiation. You can’t stand out at a cattle call by looking exactly like the other bovines.
Our late founder, Tony Mikes, said that pitching new business in his days as an agency owner was once as simple as making a phone call and getting a one-on-one meeting with the client. Now, clients issue RFPs for even small projects, and smaller agencies may find themselves competing with big-city mega-agencies to win that small piece of business. Unless you can determine a way to capture the client’s attention in that kind of crowd, you will not win the pitches you conduct.
Turn on the Spotlight
Mark Sneider of RSW/US, the agency search/new business pros, recently shared the findings of their annual new business survey. He noted that 60% of marketers say they receive 6-10 calls from agencies per week. With that amount of competition, figuring out how to tell your agency brand story in a way that makes you memorable is like standing on a crowded stage and suddenly having a spotlight turned on you.
In a new business survey from Vennli, a provider of primary research, the firm noted that agencies gain credibility and improve perceptions of effectiveness when they are seen as experts in their field. That means your agency should build perceptions of your core competencies over time as part of your promotion and positioning efforts. You want to be known for being best at a few specific things. Grow that perception, and watch how your invitations to pitch become more focused; also, you can tailor your prospect list to focus on your core competencies, or on several prospects within a targeted category, saving time and effort even as you build a strong reputation.
Get Smart Before You Pitch
Two other findings of interest from Vennli are that 70% of marketers expect pitching agencies to have done primary research before making their pitch; and that 89% of agencies reported they win pitches at least half of the time when they use primary research to develop their pitches.
As with your core competency, you can conduct research around specific industries or product categories, and pitch multiple clients within those groups. This amortizes your research costs, and helps you become well-versed in your targeted prospects’ market and competitive challenges.
When agencies rely solely on building their brand, or fail to do the necessary research specific to clients’ immediate problems, they may end up standing out in the crowd for all the wrong reasons. They also have to bring a strong offering to the table, in the form of a smart but cost-conscious solution, and have the skill sets to execute it. Many clients seek an agency that can not only address the immediate need, but rethink the client’s overall strategy if the research points in that direction. Remember that clients decide which part of that toolbox will hold the most influence over the final decision. In other words, doing one new business tactic well won’t win the game; agencies need to bring their “A” game to every new business tactic to ensure they finish near the top in all deciding factors.
“We’re Your Best Choice”
New business is not a zero sum game. You won’t improve your win rate by focusing on just one strategy. Demonstrating expertise and research-driven knowledge of the client’s situation and customers are just two tools in the agency new business toolbox. With competition high for even smaller projects, agencies must hone every aspect of new business development. Like cross-channel marketing, each tactic or step should be linked to the rest to create an intricate but persuasive web of interest aimed at attracting prospects and convincing them your agency is their best choice.
As your interwoven tactics support and improve your positioning against your competition, you’ll find you can work less on selling your agency at pitches, and more on selling your ideas and strategies to answer the client’s needs.
Second Wind can help with primary and secondary research to improve your new business planning and pitches. Visit our services pages to learn more about research options, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.