New Business

Agencies are notoriously hard-pressed to create, organize and maintain a targeted new business process. It’s understandable. Clients must come first, and all the best new business intentions fall by the wayside when a client needs you – which is essentially “all the time.”

Agencies typically hire RSW/US for this reason, but for those agencies handling new business internally, there are 5 things we see agencies do that cost themselves new business (in more or less chronological order):

New Business

1. No plan

We see agencies recognize they need an organized plan of attack, and most put together a loose semblance of a plan but then let it drift until it quickly becomes “well, we don’t have time to follow up on the reach-out to these 25 prospects, but at least we did reach out. Right?”

No. Agencies need to have a very specific albeit simple plan for new business that plainly lays out what the ideal prospect looks like, how they will be contacted (physical collateral, digital outreach, etc.) and which core group or person within the agency will be handling the outbound/inbound process.

2. No consistency

Following from the first point, all the best planning in the world is for naught without consistent follow-through. Very tough to do for the majority of agencies, we’ve found – even for those who have an internal new business director.

Inevitably, that director of new business gets pulled into account management responsibilities or is tasked with more than one individual can really handle.

(Note to agency principals: if you’re going to hire new business directors, keep them focused on new business!)

Agencies most often fall short on the consistency front because they try to take on too much. Start small; be realistic about how many prospects you can handle during one month, for example.

3. Agencies don’t cut to the chase

Always painful to see an agency that espouses their philosophy or process to prospects first thing out of the gate. Bottom line-marketers don’t care (at least initially); they don’t have time.

Agencies have to very quickly give marketers a reason to care with straightforward language describing how they can help solve a problem.

New Business

4. Once agencies get in front of a prospect, it’s all about them

Ah, this one is equally as painful. In the initial meeting, we advise clients to shut the laptop and ask questions.

Get to the heart of the prospect’s challenge, taking cues from past and current clients. Ideally, you already know the specific challenges (because of course you asked), but if you don’t know details or the prospective client doesn’t know what they really need, start by using your general knowledge of inherent challenges and ask that prospect if they apply.

5. Inconsistent or non-existent follow up

This post has now come full circle.

Agencies have trouble keeping their initial outreach consistent, but even more trouble, inexplicably, in following up promptly, or well, with prospects. It’s a bit baffling, but something we saw early on at RSW/US, and thus incorporated it into our model- that is, not walking away after a first meeting.

Sometimes it’s black and white and extra follow-up really isn’t needed, but, more often than not, it takes a few meetings – maybe more than a few – to close.

Agencies do the research and the work, have that initial meeting, and then do the very thing they complain about when it comes to prospects: go dark. Agencies can’t let that happen. Be just as consistent pre- and post-meeting.

If you see any of these traits in your own agency new business effort, all can be corrected. The first step is recognizing new business is a commitment, so make it a realistic commitment. Starting and stopping the process will only end in frustration and, most importantly, less new business.


This post originally appeared on Central Desktop’s blog.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.