My post title is a stat from our RSW/US 2017 Agency-Marketer New Business Report.  We asked agencies:

“Why is it harder to obtain new business?”

Per the graph above, the top answer was it’s simply harder to break through to prospects. I’ll get to that shortly.

Looking at the other reasons given, 38% of agencies said the reason is “fewer opportunities out there”. While I can only speak anecdotally, that’s not what we’re seeing with our own clients.

It’s true that in-house agencies are increasing (which we touch on in the report), turnover within the companies agencies pursue is still prevalent, and increasing competition all make the process of new business harder, but the opportunities are still there.  Maybe they aren’t the opportunities you want however, and I’ll touch on that as well.

It’s interesting that 18% said new business is harder because developments in technology are impacting offerings.  Certainly there’s evidence of that in programmatic buying moving in-house, for example, but I would actually argue developments in technology are helping agencies drive more new business, for those using the tools and platforms consistently.

And lastly, only 10% of agencies said there was less time in the day to obtain new business.  I was quite surprised by that number, as I would have expected more like 90%. Even those individuals hired specifically to handle new business tend to get pulled into other directions, like account management.

But back to the highest percentage, 69%, saying it’s harder to break through, coupled with the 38% of agencies who feel like there are fewer opportunities out there. The not-so-great news is, it’s harder than ever to break through to prospects.  It’s, quite frankly, a big reason why my company is hired by agencies to drive new business.

The good news is the opportunities are still there.  Absolutely they are. But when you have new business directors at agencies lasting less than 2 years, agencies thinking awards and culture are unique selling propositions, and the majority of agencies believing they differentiate themselves from the competition (when often they don’t), you understand  why agencies get frustrated and feel like it’s even harder to break through.

I propose you take a step back and take stock of your new business process.

While it is difficult to obtain new business, there is also every reason to be optimistic.

Because with a consistent, structured program and the right person or team in place, you can and will close business.

But you also have to understand that new business is a process, and be willing to consider, (consider being the key word), every opportunity that comes through.

Agencies say there are fewer opportunities, but they’re leaving work on the table, for all kinds of reasons.

Some of those reasons are completely valid-I’m not saying you should take literally any work that comes your way, that would be counterproductive, but we consistently see agencies not want to even talk to a prospect because they have preconceived notions about them not being a fit.

Make sure your standards aren’t so rigid that you’re missing out on an opportunity.

And I’ll leave you with this: new business has always been hard, and yet agencies are still obtaining it. You can do it, or you can hire someone to do it.

Stay positive and make a plan.


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.