One particular challenge agencies face with getting  new business-just getting the process started.

Or I should say, getting the process started well.

An agency cobbles together a list that’s been languishing in their database, puts together a general newsletter and sends it out to that entire database.

They’ve just had a Spinal Tap moment.

New Business

For those who don’t know, Spinal Tap is a comedic “mockumentary” that follows the rise (it’s a small rise) and fall of an over-the-top heavy metal band in the 80’s.  (it’s fabulous.)

The Spinal Tap moment has become synonymous with a musical artist blurting out the wrong city in front of an audience. (e.g. yelling out “Hello Cincinnati” when you’re playing in Omaha.)

I love this Springsteen story as told by guitarist Steven Van Zandt from a few years back:

“The first time I was like ‘Did I just hear that?’ The second time I looked at [bassist] Garry [Tallent] and said, ‘Did you hear what I just heard?’ . . . .I’m like, ‘Please, God, don’t give him a chance to do it again before I get a chance to talk to him.’ Sure enough, he did it a third time and I’m like, ‘That’s it. This crowd is about to rebel. They’re going to attack us!’ I just grabbed him and said, ‘You don’t realize it, but you’re saying Ohio and we’re in Michigan.‘ He was like ‘What!?’

He made a great joke out of it. He said, ‘I’ve been worried my whole life I’m going to do that and I finally did that.’ I guess the last gig was Cleveland. Maybe it was that. He didn’t have the city wrong. In his mind he knew he was in Detroit, but somehow Detroit wound up in Ohio for a minute.”

When your agency sends out a general email to a non-specific set of prospects, you’re doing the same thing, just replacing the city name in the Bruce example with the company name.

But too many agencies see a consistent effort as a mountain too big to climb-so make it smaller, start with a hill.


For those of you who are stuck in this spot, here’s a 5 step exercise to test out:

1)    Focus on a specific sector, based on your experience.

2)       Pick 25 companies, and no more, from the specific sector (ideally that you want to work with.)

3)       Take 3 minutes to research each company and find something about them, or about the industry, if nothing else.

4)      Craft a concise email that includes:

What you do

How your work with X company (a current or previous client) relates to the piece of news you’ve found.

And that you’d like to talk briefly to have you both gauge a fit.

5)      Do this in no more than three paragraphs of 2 sentences each and stick to that.

Send it out and follow up, with just five prospects a day if that’s what it takes to realistically get it done, using all channels available (social, phone, mail, etc.).

This will be overly basic for some of you, but there are just as many, I know from personal experience, that try to bite off too much.

Start small if you’re having that problem and increase the list numbers from there.

And soon, as Spinal Tap would say, you’ll turn your new business efforts up to 11. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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.