In this episode of 3 Takeaways, we talk the agency new business hit and run: one project and you’re done.

It’s great to get that initial project, but the goal is to land and expand.

Sometimes you know going in that’s the situation, just one project, but more often than not agencies don’t do enough to hedge their bets and increase their chances of further work.

Watch this episode to learn three reasons why agencies get caught in the agency new business hit and run, and what you can do to avoid it.

Blasphemy! You don’t want to be the AOR? Explain.

And so I will.

In a normal day, I talk to multiple agencies, and a little while back, I had a conversation with an agency principal that stuck with me.

He described a client they had: a Fortune 500 company they’d worked with for 3 years ongoing.

Every bit of the work was project work, and while they were essentially the lead agency, this principal was getting frustrated:

Why aren’t we the AOR?

To the point that he brought it up with their main contact, who, if I remember correctly, was the VP of Marketing.

He did this carefully, but had a relationship strong enough that he could be up front with his client. The conversation went along these lines (in my paraphrase):

Agency Principal: We’ve done some really good work for you and we really enjoy the work we do for you.

Client: Absolutely, your team is fantastic.

Agency Principal: Always like hearing that and appreciate the confidence.  But I did want to throw something out to you.  With all the work we do, we’re essentially your lead agency, but you don’t have an AOR-this is a little bold on my part, but why aren’t we your AOR?

Client: John, you essentially are our lead agency and I hope that doesn’t change for the foreseeable future.  But you’re right where you want to be.

You don’t want to be our AOR

Agency Principal: (Perplexed) Why?

Client: AOR’s Get Fired.

Moral of the story?

Don’t be afraid to embrace project work, although the goal is always ongoing projects in that case.

And don’t self-select when it comes to new business opportunities.  You find some agencies who aren’t open to certain project work, will only meet face-to-face, or simply aren’t willing to entertain a change of direction in new business strategy.

Does that mean you take any and all opportunities?

Of course not, but I see far too many agencies whose lack of new business flexibility leads to missed opportunity.

Don’t be that agency.

Agency new business often comes in the form of an initial project, and that’s not a bad thing, but agencies don’t often think long-term about avoiding the new business hit and run.

What is this new business hit and run you speak of?

I can’t take credit for the term, one of our clients threw that out in a conversation.

The hit and run is one project and you’re out. Good that you got the project, but your team busted their butts on it with the hopes that it would lead to more work, and possibly an AOR relationship down the line.

So why didn’t you get any more work (if in fact there is more work to get)?

1) You didn’t ask

Might seem self-evident, but it happens.  Some agencies use hope as a strategy and assume that the solid work they did on the first project will inherently lead to more. Don’t make that assumption-diplomatically make it clear that you want to continue the relationship, in fact, make a case for it.  Treat them like they’re still a prospect.

2) Before you actually got the work, you didn’t treat them like a client

Ultimately you got the work, so you did something right, but just getting the work isn’t always enough.  In the first meeting you have with them, show you’ve done your homework and show them what it’s like to work with you, before you actually start any work. It instills the perception in the future client’s mind that you’re an ongoing concern and not only focused on this one project.

3) The client labeled you

You do amazing digital work, and that’s what you did for this project. And that’s how the client sees you-as an amazing digital agency.  But you also have solid traditional chops and production skills.  Make sure, early on and ongoing, that you make it clear what you do, and all you can do.

4) There isn’t any more work-for now

You finished the project and haven’t heard anything else about another opportunity. Don’t assume you’re done, timing really is everything.  Just because there’s nothing at the moment, doesn’t mean there won’t ever be again.  You have to stick with them, and as I mentioned above, treat them like a prospect.  Send them updates on new work, new blog posts or new case studies and tie it into their ongoing challenges-you know what some of them are now, you’ve already done some work for them.

Sometimes the hit and run is unavoidable, but don’t leave it to the whims of fate, be proactive in pursuing more work.

The RSW/US 60 second agency new business video series, specifically, talking Project Work.

It’s been a hot topic from our 2017 New Year Outlook Report and with multiple agency principals I’ve talked to. Many agencies are embracing this ongoing trend (no, it’s not new) but just as many marketing services firms are still AOR-centric, and that’s something they need to think about.

In-House Agencies-Friend or Foe?

We’ve talked about trends like increasing amounts of project work from our latest survey report, and another is the rise of in-house agencies.

Nearly 80% of agencies predict their clients will move some marketing services in-house in 2017-that’s a 23% increase over 2016’s prediction.

Now it’s only that-a prediction, but it’s based on what agencies are seeing and hearing.

The good news however: marketers predict a smaller shift, with 84% saying they’ll be moving 20% or less of their marketing services in-house in 2017.

Nevertheless, it’s yet another potential roadblock to your new business strategy.

Which leads me to an email conversation I had with an agency considering our services.  He pointed out our recent report was helpful in that it validated several trends they’d experienced.

As I’ve talked to agency principals the past few weeks, the one thing they all point out, in regards to our report, is the affirmation that other agencies are going through similar experiences.

Best to Combat In-House Agencies?

There are two ways to look at this, you can combat the trend, but in some cases, you can also embrace it.

For example, I revised this post after I talked to an agency principal this morning-he mentioned they’ve been working with a client for years now who’s been heavily investing in internal resources.

They don’t see it as combat, but a chance to supplement, act as part of the team or guide some of that internal activity.

But then there are those cases where combat is in order. The biggest edge you have as an agency in combatting work moving in-house is this: in-house agencies don’t (typically) possess the innate skills your agency does.

You know this of course, but here’s the problem (with apologies to in-house agencies)-they often think they do possess those skills.

That’s your real problem, and you can counter that, but you have to show your clients, or potential clients, that’s the case.

How? I came across a must-read post by Paul Fahey at Overit, titled 4 Ways Mid-Sized Agencies Need to Evolve in 2017.

You should read it in its entirety, but it was serendipitous, as it fit very well into the discussion on in-house agencies and what it means for new business.

Enter Paul’s post:

We believe that it is the agency’s job to bring tools to the people (our clients) who aren’t classically-trained in what we do. That’s how we bring value – by acting as our clients’ missing piece, accomplishing what they wouldn’t be able to do on their own.

But in order to bring that value, you have to actually land that potential client first. And of course, it’s not just in-house agencies you’re competing with. Per Paul:

As a small to mid-sized agency, if you want to compete with larger firms, you need to become an expert in the verticals where you want to work.

Marketers have told us just that-in previous reports, 87% of marketers said it was important the agency they hire specialize in their industry.*

So while Paul’s post isn’t directed specifically at the in-house agency rise, the steps he and the team at Overit have taken as an agency will absolutely help to counter that trend:

-We went after projects we didn’t think we’d have a hope of getting – and got them

-We pursued passion projects – launching a new alternative weekly in the region, sponsoring our fourth TEDxAlbany event and more.

-We went hard on virtual reality and new technologies and pounced on holes in the industry.

Paul talks in his post about the agency developing a risk-taking culture-as an agency, it’s something you should consider, in whatever form that takes.

So-while our report discusses some of the obstacles you’ll face in 2017, there is absolutely reason for optimism, whether that’s the increased amount of spending marketers predict this year or more opportunities in the form of project work (land and expand!)

But, you’ll only benefit from those opportunities if you sustain a clear point of difference, provide value to your current and potential clients and have a strategy in place to consistently drive new business.

*(Specialization is a whole other post, and there are obviously different ways you can specialize beyond a single category.)