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Our 2016 Thought Leader Survey presented questions from six industry Thought Leaders about current developments and trends in the industry.

Although each panelist presented different questions for the survey, a common thread across many of them centered on the need for an agency to have a strongly differentiated positioning.

In addition to the survey questions, each panelist also offered a piece of agency new business advice.

Again, a common theme across much of the advice centered on how important it is for agencies to clearly define their position in a way that sets them apart from the vast field of agencies across the country that look a lot alike.

Michael Gass, founder of Fuel Lines Business Development LLC is one of our Thought Leader panelists.  Fuel Lines provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

Michael’s services have helped many businesses thrive here in the U.S. and abroad; he has trained over 200 agency CEO’s and their senior management teams in all 50 states in the U.S. and in over 21 foreign countries.

In the advice he offers through the RSW/US 2016 Thought Leader Survey, Michael stresses the importance of your agency staking out a niche, an area of expertise in that few others can profess to possess.

He acknowledges how disconcerting this can be, as many agencies worry that defining themselves too narrowly might “scare off” either current clients or limit opportunities with potential ones.

However, Michael can cite examples of big business his clients have won through a clearly articulated niche focus.  And, he advocates an approach to do this that reduces the risk the agency perceives to be associated with a niche position.

Michael says, “Fish away from the boat.” 

The implications call for commitment and consistency in content development.  And in differentiated positioning.

Among the questions Michael presented for the survey were:

  • How many qualified leads does your agency attract online per month?
    • Almost 62% of respondents indicated they see 1-4 qualified online leads.
  • How much time per week does your agency dedicate to inbound marketing and social media?
    • Over 70% of respondents reported spending 5 – 10 hours per week on inbound and social media.


Well established differentiated positioning, communicated clearly across business development channels, drives the strongest results.  If you are spending more than 10 hours per week on inbound marketing and social media, and seeing less than four leads per month, you probably need to…

Fish away from the boat


This focuses your agency new business development efforts on your niche.

Does this mean abandon the boat?  Heavens no!  Learn how to keep the boat ship-shape as your fishing expedition progresses by reading Michael’s section of the RWS/US 2016 Thought Leader Survey.

Read more from our Thought Leaders Survey panelists and consider how their recommendations can benefit your agency new business program:

Mark O’Brien:  No Silver Bullets

Blair Enns: The Only New Business Indicator That Matters

Jay Baer:  Account-Based Marketing – What’s in it for Agency New Business?



Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.