New Business Must Be Part Of Your Agency Culture

I was invited to speak at an agency recently and the topic was “creating a culture of new business within the agency,” specifically aimed at small to mid-sized agencies.

(The agency actually put together a new business week, focusing on different aspects of strategy, process and tools-something to consider.)

Throughout my presentation, I focused on new business as an agency-wide endeavor, not just a member of leadership or a new business director-driven process.

How does that manifest itself, given not everyone in the agency can literally touch new business, in terms of the day-to-day prospecting?

To answer that question, I went back to a series we created a few years ago called “10 Agency New Business Questions.” (Handy ebook available here.)

In that series, we asked individuals who found success heading new business at their respective agencies 10 questions regarding their new business strategy and experience. (The series has many excellent real-world examples of new business success I encourage you to read.)

New business and agency culture

A few pertinent quotes in regards to new business and agency culture. The first from Paul Pomeroy at ab+c in Wilmington, DE:

New business is at the core of our being, so it permeates our entire agency and our culture.

Everyone at the agency touches new business in some way during any given month. We do this by design.

It keeps everyone focused on the value and importance of new business. However, on a day-to-day basis, we have one person dedicated to sales and one to the marketing side of our program.

And another, from Jeff Fromm at Barkley, in Kansas City, MO:

We have over 325 partners at Barkley and all of them support new business by providing exceptional client service and creative work.  From time to time, some of them directly work on new business based on the size of the pitch and requirements.

And finally, from Mark O’Toole, then at HB Agency  (now part of Eric Mower) in Newton, MA:

Once a month, we invite team leaders from various parts of the company for creative brainstorming and goal-setting.

It’s a good way to broaden the number of HB professionals involved with business development without over-committing resources.

Individuals here at any level have financial incentive to bring in leads and new clients as well.

We are transparent with staff, sharing at a high level progress with prospects, new business goals, successes and challenges, and the company’s financial position.

The common thread through all these quotes: a culture where all agency employees are reminded they help drive new business, are incentivized to help drive it (in HB’s case) and where multiple agency members touch new business, or provide ideas/feedback.

If you get a chance to read the eBook, you’ll see though, that each structure is different; point being there’s no “one way” to succeed with this type of culture-most important is that agencies explore it and make the effort.

And a final note from a Harvard Business Review post, To Motivate Employees, Show Them How They’re Helping Customers.  In it, the author, Francesca Gino, discusses the benefits of leveraging the social aspect of work, and more specifically:

Interactions with the beneficiaries of one’s work can be highly motivating because they heighten workers’ perceptions of the impact of their work.

One of the direct benefits of an agency-wide new business culture is individual departments gaining a deeper understanding of what the others are doing (even in agencies that foster a “no-silos” culture, people are busy and tend to focus, understandably, on their own functions.).

And even more importantly, a diverse array of agency employees seeing that they have an opportunity to present ideas that are being heard.

Take the time to consider how you might lay the groundwork for a culture where new business is ingrained within the agency.

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.