Following is the second in a series of monthly posts titled, “10 Agency New Business Questions,” in which we ask individuals who’ve found success heading new business at their respective agencies 10 questions regarding their new business strategy and experience.
In this post, we asked 10 Agency New Business Questions to Paul Pomeroy at ab+c in Wilmington, DE.
ab+c was recently picked by Adweek as “that agency” in Delaware (per Adweek-“the one you can’t help but admire, or envy. The one where you’d like to work—or if you’re lucky, where you do work.”)
Paul has been with ab+c since 1999 and serves as Managing Partner and Director of Marketing, where he provides strategic counsel to agency clients in addition to managerial support. Prior to ab+c, he was a senior communications consultant for a DC-based consulting firm that specializes in marketing communication strategy. More recently, he served as national director of a DC/Delaware-based non-partisan education and lobbying organization.
Born and raised in Delaware, Paul served three terms as an elected member of Newark City Council, stepping down after his final term. During his time on Council Paul focused on business and economic development issues, founding the Greater Newark Network and the newly formed Greater Newark Area Economic Development Partnership. Paul’s commitment to improving the community can be seen through his involvement with organizations such as Goodwill Industries of Delaware and Delaware County, the Friends of the Newark Free Library and the Delaware Humane Association. Paul also chairs the board of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.
Paul received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in marketing from Georgetown University, and holds a Master’s degree from The George Washington University’s School of Business and Public Policy.
1) How long have you been leading/involved in the new business strategy at ab+c?
2) Was your background in agency new business prior to joining ab+c?
Not at all. I sold wholesale food products. And then technology services.
And then other strategic communications services.
And I was involved in politics. I unapologetically came from the world of sales and marketing, and not from the world of advertising.
3) How is new business structured at your agency, in regards to a solo or team configuration and staff numbers dedicated to new business?
New business is at the core of our being, so it permeates our entire agency and our culture.
Everyone at the agency touches new business in some way during any given month. We do this by design.
It keeps everyone focused on the value and importance of new business. However, on a day-to-day basis, we have one person dedicated to sales and one to the marketing side of our program.
4) In terms of strategy, how have you found success—through a specific niche/specialty or a more horizontal approach based on service specialty, and why?
We have succeeded by identifying core areas of expertise among our employee base and focusing that expertise on appropriate client prospects.
We do this across a broad range of industries and service specialties.
The diverse backgrounds of our talented employees are our greatest new business asset. However, an agency needs to be true to itself and recognize its own strengths.
If your strength is PR and if all of your practitioners are PR experts, by all means position and market yourselves as such.
If 95% of your clients are in financial services and your team is passionate about financial services marketing, market yourself as experts there. But I don’t believe you need to be niche- or service-specific to be successful in your new business efforts.
5) Which do you find more successful for your program—inbound, outbound or a blend of both, and why?
Nothing beats new business from within an existing client account or from a client referral.
We greatly value our clients, and we want to grow with them. We treat their referrals as gold. However, we also have a relentless outbound program.
The entire time I have worked in the world of advertising, “sales” has been a dirty word among many agency experts. I think just the opposite. We need to own it and love it. Prospective clients need to know that you want to work with them—and that you’re willing to tell them so.
6) Which channel do you find most successful in winning new business: social, direct mail, phone, email/email campaigns or referrals? Feel free to pick more than one, and why?
We use them all as part of an integrated sales strategy to fill our lead pipeline, and over the past 10 years we have directly linked each of these tactics to successful lead generation.
But specific to winning new business…well…I suppose my answer is the same. Sales cycles can be long in this industry.
So we need to constantly be out in front of our prospects to build awareness and brand value.
And we use those all those channels to showcase the talents of our clients and employees. When the right client is ready, we like to make sure that they know how to find us.
7) Which social media platform is most effective for you in terms of new business, and why?
We try to build brand through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool quite a bit.
8) If you could point to one main indicator of success, what would it be?
We track all of our new business efforts much the same way we track client campaign efforts.
We go with what works and we change and adapt when needed.
And we constantly learn from our mistakes and from pitches where we end up being a runner-up. All of this helps us to ensure that we are attracting the right type of lead and ultimately the right type of client.
9) Why do you think it’s so difficult for agencies to run successful new business programs on their own?
Two main reasons: First, if one person doesn’t have responsibility for a program’s success, then nobody does. Somebody needs to have complete ownership of it.
Second, some agencies are reluctant to embrace selling. Every company in every industry needs to sell to stay successful.
10) If you could give one piece of advice to a mid-to-small size agency looking to kick a new business effort into gear, what would it be?
You need a sales and marketing plan—one that is documented and shared throughout the agency.
Regardless of the size of your agency. Make one person responsible for its successful implementation.
And then be patient.
As I’ve already noted, our sales cycles can be long. If you’re not sure where to start, consider soliciting consultative advice from an outside expert.
I am unabashedly a proponent of what RSW/US has to offer, but there are others out there that can provide sound guidance. Just make sure they get you and your organization’s strengths and culture.
And work with clients that help you grow—personally and professionally. At the end of the day, agency new business is about linking your smart, talented, earnest employees with smart, talented, earnest client partners so that you can both flourish.
Wait, did you say one piece of advice?
Thanks again to Paul for being a part of our interview series.
Several helpful takeaways for agency principals and new business directors in Paul’s interview:
First, note that Paul’s background was not in advertising. He comes “unapologetically from the world of sales and marketing.”
A question we often get from agencies is shouldn’t a new business person come from an agency background?
The answer is not necessarily-look to sales and marketing experience first.
If the candidate has that experience, while only one component of an ideal new business hire, don’t discount them if they don’t have that agency experience.
Second, Paul mentions that “everyone at the agency touches new business in some way during any given month.”
That’s where your agency needs to be, but even more importantly, as Paul points out, while new business at ab+c is a team effort, “make one person responsible for its successful implementation.”
Completely agree-we’ve talked to agencies with multiple-person new business committees and decision makers who brought the effort to a standstill over differing opinions.
One person has to own it.
we also have a relentless outbound program
Understandably that takes effort and commitment, but there’s a reason ab+c was on the Adweek agency map mentioned earlier in this post.
As Paul points out, “prospective clients need to know that you want to work with them—and that you’re willing to tell them so.”