By David MacGregor
New business is the life blood of an agency - or at least a measure of its hunger and ability to persuade clients to join their roster.
1. A glamour client will always have many suitors.
You know how it works - it's natural selection, right? The best looking girl will have the most guys in hot pursuit. Amongst them will be the best looking guys and jocks. Some brands are desirable for more than their budgets - they have a history of doing great work or their products are on-trend. What does that mean for your agency? - You're not jock or rock-star, you don't have a trust account or the best family connections. I wish I had better news for you, but I think they best thing to do is to walk away. Even if you did somehow manage to hook a glamour account the chances are they will always be flirting with rivals, distracted and judging you not on your merits but on what they are missing out on. With these clients you're really not missing out on much other than superficiality and neurosis.
2. Don't wait to be invited to pitch for an account.
Be proactive and don't assume that ads are the answer to everything. Find a category that is interesting to you and develop a deep intelligence about it. Know who the movers and shakers are and how influence is interconnected. Become a part of the conversation - make yourself useful.
Also think about developing solutions for client that are proprietary to you. When I cofounded BrandWorld we developed Family Health Diary without being asked to by a client (even though it solved our client's problem - many brands, not much money). The intellectual property remained with our firm and it became a media platform used by almost every brand in the healthcare category at one time or another. We owned the monopoly on the brand, so client's couldn't buy it from anyone else.
3. Don't assume an account won't move.
Actually, never assume anything. As with most things in life, being there when a client feels they need to make a shift is vital. It may be your interaction with them that prompts the desire for change - it may be dumb luck. But if you want to win an account then open up a channel with the brand today. They will move at some stage - count on it.
Dig the well before you need the water.
There is a trend towards brands having a portfolio of creative and communications suppliers - get your firm on the roster and secure territory from there. Sometimes it's not the 'account' that moves - but the budget might.
4. Invest in a pitch but know when to draw the line.
Pitching for business is like buying a house in an overheated market. If you don't buy well in the first instance you are never going to make a profit. Over-investing in new business doesn't make sense. If you are a brand owner reading this you also have a responsibility to guide the firms competing for your business with clear expectations. If you say 'no finished visuals or speculative tvcs' then stick to it. An agency that can't take direction will make a poor partner. It might seem like the exact opposite but an agency that overcommits is also going to be a needy pain in the ass when they present ideas in the future. Start as you mean to go on. Don't step outside of your management style for the sake of a pitch. The first few months of dating are quite different to married life.
Agencies invited to pitch should also think twice if the terms of the pitch are onerous or favour the client too much. A client that wants you to jump through hoops and perform unnatural acts to win their business?…let's just say some clients are better off with someone else.
5. Don't let your new business drive alienate your existing clients.
Nothing annoys existing clients more than being made to feel unloved or neglected while their agency is out hob-nobbing in the trade press with their latest acquisition. It's kind of like seeing your bank's advertising on TV telling you how special you are (if you are thinking of changing banks) while charging you exorbitant fees and giving you nothing special in return.
This phenomenon probably keeps the cycle of new business churning - a revolving door…Just remember it's more profitable to expand your businesses profits by providing more services to existing, happy customers.
In this case we didn't - you win some you lose some.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.