85% of Agency New Business Directors last less than 2 Years


With the release of our 2017 RSWUS Agency-Marketer New Business Report, several stats are worth noting, specifically around new business director efficacy and tenure.

One of the initial questions we asked agencies was “Have you hired a full-time new business hunter/director as part of your staff to prospect for leads in the past 3 years?”

55% of agencies responded they had not hired a new business director in the past 3 years.

So that translates into those agencies either not actively pursuing new business at all, or they’re handling it internally. The first is problematic for obvious reasons (referrals can’t be consistently counted on for example) and the second tends to be inconsistent.

Can you drive new business internally?  Of course, many agencies do, but that usually means it’s a partner or owner attempting to drive it, while wearing many other hats within the firm.  Driving new business is a full-time job on its own, and tough to do when you’re trying to run a business day-to-day.

85% of agencies said their New Business Director lasted less than 2 years.

Ouch.  That’s a big number-compare it with CMO tenure, currently at 42 months, and you understand why agency partners get so frustrated with the hiring process.

We listed a few reasons why we see so high a percentage within agencies:

1) The NBD doesn’t have a well-organized methodology

2) He/she is too green/not tenured enough.

3) The NBD is easily distracted by all the other things going on in an agency.

20% of agencies with an internal new business director report she or he as “very successful” and 40% say he or she was unsuccessful or middle of the road in terms of performance.

If there is any one takeaway I hope you get from this post, it’s for you to think about how you’re measuring new business success.

The three stats above all paint a somewhat gloomy picture about internal new business directors, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Agency owners often have a new business mindset that centers on the following tenets:

  • I need to see closed business in 2-3 months
  • I’ll give this person 2-3 months and if the above doesn’t happen, he/she is out
  • My only measure of success is closed business within the above timeline

It goes without saying that the end goal of all new business activity is closing business, of course, but realistic success parameters have to be laid out by leadership up front for a new business director to succeed.

Realistic being the key word here.  The wrong hire or an ineffective NBD account for a good portion of the stats I’ve laid out above, but new business directors also leave after a year or so because expectations weren’t detailed up front or were completely unrealistic.

Bottom line is this: if leadership is not mentally vested in agency new business as a process, with realistic expectations of success over time, they will never have a successful new business director.

Author: Lee McKnight Jr

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 lee@rswus.com. 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.