By Category: New Business Lead Generation

» Know Your Outreach Numbers to Win Ad Agency New Business

Key to daily objectives
by Todd Knutson  |   published on April 25, 2012

client referralReaching out to prospects you don't know - whether through cold calling, referrals, or networking - is a numbers game. Once you know your numbers, you can plan your weekly outreach so you meet your new business objectives.

Here's what I mean: A sales trainer I'm familiar with does the following every day:

  • Calls 15 companies he's never called before.
  • Has a conversation with 7 of them (approximately 50%).
  • Out of the 7, gets a meeting with 1  - 15% conversion from conversation to appointment (1/7); and, 3% conversion from unknown company to meeting (1/30).

If he does this every day, he knows he'll set, on average, 1 meeting every day, for a total of 5 new meetings every week. He'll also have at least 3 second or third meetings per week - carryovers from meetings in prior weeks. Of the 8 meetings each week, he expects to close one sale per week. Over the course of the year, he'll close 50 new accounts. 

While his business is more transactional than a typical ad agency's, there are two key takeaways:

  1. He knows how many calls to make every day.
  2. He plans his daily schedule to give himself time to meet his daily objectives.

What's your approach?

Many new business people shy away from cold calls. From my experience, they only work for those who aren't afraid of them. If you don't like making cold calls or don't believe in them, try another approach.

Let's say that you prefer to network with friends and colleagues, and people you meet at conferences; or, that you only pursue new business if it's from a client referral. It's still a numbers game. I recommend that you analyze the funnel that led to a few of your recent new client wins to determine:

  • How many total people did you reach out to initially?
  • How many good conversations resulted?
  • How many meetings did you set?
  • How many proposals did you issue that resulted in your wins?

Once you know your numbers, you'll be able to do the math to determine your daily targets: how many people you need to network with, or how many clients you need to approach for referrals in order to reach your new client targets.

Have I explained this well? If not, please email me - I'll be happy to walk you through your numbers so you can set daily targets that will make you successful.


» New Business Prospecting Without the Cocktail Umbrella

It takes hard work
by Todd Knutson  |   published on July 21, 2010

drink with umbrellaMany of us start feeling sluggish during the heat of the Summer. Prospecting for new business can feel pretty unappealing, and as the clock moves towards 5:00 pm, it's pretty easy to start thinking about taking a swim or sipping a well-chilled cocktail (perhaps one with an umbrella).

Unfortunately, working less on ad agency new business will not yield more new clients. Nor will it get help you become a more effective new business person.

As Malcom Gladwell discusses in Outliers:

...the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

He cites numerous examples of what it takes to rise to the top of your profession. Here are a few:

  • 10,000 hours to be a great musician, chess or hockey player (and I would argue just about anything else).
  • Working night and day to build a business.
  • Having parents who lead by example and set the expectation for you to work hard and not settle for mediocrity.
  • Being born during a group of years that position you take advantage of technological breakthroughs.

We are lucky today: there are opportunities to excel all around us. In your new business life, it takes hard work - and time. If you put in the hours, continually educate yourself, experiment, and keep striving for higher levels of performance, you'll achieve your goals.

So, resist the little cocktail umbrella, at least today. Instead, do a little more research, make a few more calls. Add a few more hours towards the 10,000 you need to become a new business expert.


» 36 “No"s Can Still Make a Right for Ad Agency New Business

Consultative selling at its best
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 17, 2010

prospectorI was told a story a few month ago about a salesman and his son. They're not involved with ad agency new business, but their story and the lessons learned are 100% applicable to a successful hunter.

Howard Weisnberg is a master salesman of the old school - he believes sales is a numbers game. His approach is simple: make as many calls as possible while offering solutions in a consultative way to creatively get to the buyers' needs and budget. He often surprises his customers with packages and prices they never thought of. His deals range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars; on average he sells $50,000-$80,000 per month. His profit margin is the highest in the company's history.

Both of Howard's sons are gifted salesman. Last year his son, Adam, took a job selling B2B training courses that average about $1,500 each. At his company, all new hires are given "proving leads". Each of these leads has already been called 30-40 times by past new hires.

Adam closed three deals in his first week.

Okay, let's consider what's going on here:

  • You have a talented father who passed on his skills to his son.
  • You have a company that knows there is value in "old, dead leads" and recognizes that good sales people will find it.
  • You have a son who is clearly able to find a buyer's need where others were not.

New Business lessons:

  • Does your agency have a group of prospects that you consistently work over the long-term?
  • Do you abandon efforts after the first rejection?
  • Are you consistently working to improve your sales skills - to practice identifying needs and establishing value?

As Guy Kawasaki (former Apples exec and founder and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures) said in a NYT interview some months ago:

Success in business comes from a willingness to grind it out...



» Brian Goodall on Getting Your Ad Agency Noticed

> 50% is falling in love
by Todd Knutson  |   published on June 15, 2010

brian goodall

Ad agency search consultant Brian Goodall, of Jones Lundin Beals, keeps it simple when he talks about how to get your agency noticed by corporate marketers. In fact, he boils it down to a couple of bullet points.


  • Marketers have to fall in love with you. Cause this to happen and you're more than 50% of the way to a win. Most call this "chemistry". You influence it by how you act, the people you bring to meetings, how each person interacts with the marketing team, as well as all the little things that take place from the marketer's first contact with your agency right up until they award you their business.
  • New business = Show business. You have to present well and dazzle your audience. It's really simple, he says: "leave your boring presenters at home."
  • The Big Idea trumps everything. It's a requirement to get far in a review. But, it's not sufficient: a big idea and lousy chemistry doesn't equal a win.

The question that so many small and mid-size agencies (i.e. those with less than 100 employees) have is this: We're a regional agency trying be national. How do we do it?

Brian's response:

There's no substitute for doing work that gets noticed...and...if they don't come to you, go to them.

He mentioned three regional agencies that do a great job of getting noticed in a crowded market:

  1. The Via Group (Portland, ME). In 2008 they held a "salon series" in NYC, to which they attracted Fortune 100 CMOs, and the media.
  2. Lindsay, Stone & Briggs (Madison, WI). For the last 20 years they've held a "Brandworks University", most recently last month.
  3. Erwin-Penland Advertising (Greenville, SC). They hold a conference for movers and shakers. [Note: I wasn't able to confirm if this is an ongoing event, or something that EP held in the past.]

These three agencies are very successful at these initiatives, he feels, in large part because they make it all about the clients and not about themselves.

If you're a regional agency it may take extra effort to put yourself on the map, but as we all know, some pretty well-known shops have done it from such places as Miami, Austin, Richmond, and Portland (OR).


» Client Perspective: How Your Agency Should Engage With the CMO

Insider tips
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 20, 2010

cmoHow valuable is it to hear directly from three CMOs to learn how they like to be contacted, what you need to know about them before you do, how to pitch, and how smart you need to be about their business? If that's of interest, read on.

The current and former CMOs of Wyndam Hotels, Capital One Retail Marketing, and Cablevision sat down at the recent New Business Conference to discuss ad agency new business. They spoke candidly about how to prospect them. Their insights are similar to those expressed by the CMOs of large and small companies alike.

Here's what they said, written from the perspective of the CMO:

What you need to know about me:

  • Understand my business.
  • Understand my industry.

How to interact with me:

  • Have an idea about how to apply your expertise to my business.
  • Share your insights on my business. Tell me how we're doing. If you think we're doing something wrong, tell me so (respectfully).
  • Listen to me as we get to know one another. Respect me. Demonstrate that you were listening.

What you need to recognize about big companies:

  • I'm trying to stay one step ahead of other executives on the senior management team. How can you help me be smarter?
  • I'm the only voice of marketing on the team.
  • The board of directors is interested in ROI. Know how you're going to drive sales.

How to succeed working with big companies:

  • Educate procurement. Many procurement groups want to reduce the cost of agencies. The more educated they are about agencies, the better decisions they'll make.
  • When there are product groups in a company, make sure you're talking to both marketing and the product group(s).

What to remember when you're going to pitch me and my team:

  • Demonstrate results.
  • Show your emotion and passion.
  • Remember: the agency needs to be smarter than the client - that's why we're hiring you.

The best way to get on my radar:

  • Get referred in by someone I know; or,
  • Have something to say that's really relevant to my business.

This is great stuff. Hope you can put it to good use.


» 9 Steps to Close 60% of Your Ad Agency’s First Meetings

Case Study: Cinquino & Co.
by Todd Knutson  |   published on May 05, 2010

crisisWas your agency able to win new business from 71% of your first meetings in 2008? How about 60% in 2009? That's what one small agency in New Jersey accomplished after being on the brink of closing its doors in 2007.

Crisis often creates opportunity, which is what happened for John Cinquino. His agency won zero accounts after 34 first meetings in 2006-07.  As he and his team faced the possibility of losing their agency, they decided to things differently.

They made a pact to put the quality of first meetings before quantity. And they vowed to learn how to win.

Here's what they learned:

  1. Start with a hard target list that's focused on specific categories.
  2. Develop key case studies for each category.
  3. Hire a strong new business hunter.
  4. Your new business hunter is responsible to prospect and set up first meetings.
  5. Your new business hunter also preps the prospect for a "10-minute qualification call"with one of the ad agency's principals, who will be the only person at the first meeting.
  6. The agency principal uses the qualification call to identify the prospect's pain points and needs. When it goes well, this call may last 20-30 minutes (and the prospect will NOT be looking to get off the phone).This call:
    • Establishes rapport between principal and prospect.
    • Helps the principal understand, "What hurts?"
    • Provides specific areas for the agency to research to prep for the first meeting.

    John's recommended questions to ask the prospect:

    • What did you do in the last year that didn't work?
    • What issues are you having with your competition?
    • What issues are you having with your brand?

    The key is that you identify their pain points quickly, and then move on to the next question. You want to get just enough information to be able to connect the dots. This will enable you to do your research on the prospect's competitors, distributors, and the brand itself prior to the first meeting.

  7. Conduct meaningful research based on what the agency principal learned on the qualification call. Keep top-of-mind that every prospect wants to know more about:
    • Their customers
    • Their competitors
  8. The agency principal goes to the meeting prepared to take charge. Share your research and talk about the prospect's business. Try not to let them ask about you; when they do, answer briefly and then move on to something else you learned, or ask them another question.
  9. The agency principal leaves the meeting with very clear next steps. By now you should have a very good idea what the prospect needs. Before you leave the meeting, agree on a date for you to return to present a proposal to solve one or more of their issues three (3) weeks later.

With this approach, Cinquino & Co. closed 71% of their first meetings in 2008 and 60% in 2009. They now have three new business hunters instead of just one...out of a total staff of eighteen people.

John has proven that these nine steps work and is now in rapid-growth mode - and did so right through the recession.


» Ask for a Referral to Generate New Business Leads

by Todd Knutson  |   published on April 27, 2010

ask We all know we should ask for referrals. But it's the rare new business or sales person - in any company or industry - who habitually does. Even rarer is finding a company that has institutionalized the process. One of those is The Brooklyn Brothers, a New York City-based agency.

Paul Parton, Owner, talked about their process at the recent 2010 New Business Conference. Here's their approach (Paul's ideas, my words):

With every win...

Ask for a Referral. A referral can be either:

  • Internal = organic growth: the name of someone inside the company that your new client thinks would be a good fit for your agency. They might work on another brand, be responsible for a different marketing discipline, work in a different division, or perhaps be in a related organization.
  • External = new client: the name of someone outside the client company. This could be a former colleague, friend, etc. The best form of external referral is one where they call or email ahead of time to let the contact know that you'll be reaching out to them. Second best is for your client to give you permission to use their name when you contact the prospect.

If you come up empty asking for a referral, don't give up. The second best option is to...

Ask for a Press Release. A press release can be either:

  • Thin: this is usually easy to get and simply means that they agree to your mentioning that you are now working together.
  • Thick: often harder to get initially, but very possible if you have a story to tell later - i.e. where your ad agency has helped them grow and you have a metric to share with the market.

A good way to make a press release part of your contract is to include it in the negotiation. For example, if the client is pushing for a reduction in fees, agree on a reduced fee and (ideally) both a thin release at the outset, and a thick release later on (my thought - agree on what "later on" means).

I like this simple and effective approach, and would add only one thing: ask for both a referral and a press release.  You've got nothing to lose by asking!


» 2010’s Top Industry Categories to Drive Ad Agency New Business

Latest information from research firm Mintel
by Todd Knutson  |   published on April 21, 2010

categoriesKrista Faron, Lead Innovation Analyst at research firm Mintel, gave an inside look at the industry categories predicted to experience growth in the coming year during the recent 2010 New Business Conference. And here are the contenders...

  • Vitamins and dietary supplements.
  • Luxury goods - on the high-end, companies like Tiffany, Williams-Sonoma and Hermes, as well as 'entry-level exclusive' brands.
  • Private label goods.
  • Sub-premium beer (e.g. Pabst Blue Ribbon).
  • Craft beer - those positioned as artisan products.
  • Anti-aging skin care.
  • Electronics - those with special features (e.g. 3D), offered at a price-premium, with cool technology.
  • Retail - dollar stores are growing at the low-end, as are exclusive "members-only" online retail sites offering deals in fashion, travel, beauty, home decor, etc.
  • Green - if there's a financial benefit to consumers. For example, you'll buy something that's going to save you money over time.
  • Pet food and pet services (e.g. insurance).
  • Teen market - any products that appeal to this demographic.
  • Out of Home entertainment - concepts like Cinebarre are a good example.

Filters you might consider as you evaluate categories:

  1. Find products that are special, unique or well-differentiated - that's what people will pay for.
  2. If there's a choice of companies with equally appealing products, pursue the company with smart management.

Trends to keep in mind:

  • Three of five males between the ages of 18-24 are now living at home.
  • 20% of Baby Boomers have a parent living with them. This is creating a "multi-generational" market in households, which offers a big opportunity for marketers who can find ways to effectively tap into it with appropriate products. (Think about how this trend will impact how and what these consumers will cook; the type of car they'll drive; what type of home they'll purchase; what type of household goods, furniture, etc. they'll need, etc.)
  • Full-service dining should also experience growth as more consumers choose to eat out with greater frequency - rather than preparing meals at home for larger, multi-generational family members.

There are lots of prospecting categories to consider, above, not to mention those in a recent post. So, fire up your prospecting database and start investigating companies that meet your criteria!

» The New Business Power of a Snail Mail Thank You Note

How does it make you feel?
by Todd Knutson  |   published on March 31, 2010

thank you noteI received two thank you notes in the last month that were different from all others: neither was sent via email. One was an "old-fashioned", hand-written note from a friend. The other was from a prospective vendor, typed on personalized business stationary, personally signed. Both made a lasting impression. Both have implications for ad agency new business.

The note from a friend came after I made the effort to visit him, his wife and 9-month old daughter in Seattle, on the way to the 4As conference in San Francisco. While it wasn't exactly on the way for me, it was at least on the same coast, as I was flying West from Atlanta.

His hand-written note expressed his appreciation for my visit and what my friendship means to him. But more importantly, and this is the new business implication, here's what it said about him:

  • I care enough to take the time to write a really well-written note, by hand (not dashing it off in an email);
  • I care enough to say really heartfelt things - on paper - even if (as a typical man) I may not verbalize it.

The note from a vendor came from a potential landlord. We tend to outgrow our office space every four or five years, and I've been through two moves in the last 10 years. Never before has the owner of a building taken the time to write and express his personal interest in our becoming a tenant.

At the time he wrote the note, his building was one of six properties we'd narrowed down into a consideration set. It took this owner just a few minutes to separate himself from dozens of other commercial real estate people we'd been interacting with. Here's what he did:

  • He showed that as the owner, he cared enough about his building (i.e. his business) to meet prospective tenants.
  • He discovered that we live in the same neighborhood, though had never met, and related that in his note - i.e. he personalized it, revealing a connection that neither one of us previously knew was there.
  • He made himself available to answer any questions as we proceeded through our selection process.

I kept his note and commented on it to others. His thoughtfulness made an impression. In fact, we're going to have lunch together in a couple of hours and his building is one of our two finalists. Is that just a coincidence?

You may fall into the "it's far easier to send an email thank you note" trap as easily and often as I do. Note to self: get out of the trap!

Taking the time to think about and craft a well-written thank you note can be an incredibly powerful new business tool. It can quickly separate you and your firm from everyone else who doesn't bother to write, as well as from those who do, but who will resort to email.

If your note strikes the right cord, you have the opportunity to elicit the ideal response: "I'd like to do business with this person. They care. They have good manners. They'll do good work on my account."

» How One Agency’s New Business Approach Distinguished Them From Their Competition

As easy as...Above and Beyond Client Service
by Todd Knutson  |   published on March 18, 2010

Set yourself apartTrue story from a week ago: Midwest branding and packaging agency seeks Midwest healthcare account. Agency gets to the top of the list of prospective partners - before even meeting with the marketing director. How did they do it?

Before I tell you the secret to their success, let's refresh our memories about first impressions. If you go to, you'll see it defined as "first consideration or judgement". Recall, also, the statistic from a now-forgotten study: "You have seven seconds to make a first impression". One thing we know for sure, humans tend to quickly make judgements about other people. Oftentimes, that first judgement lasts a long time and takes a lot of contrary evidence to overcome it after it's fixed in our memories.

Twenty-five years ago, I met a guy in college who I thought was incredibly arrogant; I didn't want to have anything to do with him. However, in the last six months, I've had multiple interactions with him and have had to completely re-evaluate my opinion of him. Somewhere along the line either a) I judged him wrong, or b) He changed. I don't know which it is, but I now realize that my 25-year-old first impression was incorrect. The problem with first impressions, however, is that if he was the agency and I the prospective client, he was out of consideration, and didn't even know it.

Back to our Midwest branding agency.

Here's a direct quote from the marketer they're proactively reaching out to. I'm not going to attribute the quote as I don't have permission to do so, plus, it was a confidential communication between the two parties that was shared with me for purposes of helping other ad agency new business people and their principals to (hopefully) improve:

Got the package. Thank you. And yeah, you weren't kidding when you said you guys were all about client service. Most impressed that you tracked the package. Just as impressed with your follow-up voicemail. Having spend 20 plus years in the agency business, I am all about above and beyond client service. Unfortunately, too many of our suppliers/partners do not subscribe to that same way of thinking. After a week of having to make simple demands of such folk - your attention and "Johnny on the spot" like attitude was a refreshing change.

What they did was nothing more than go slightly above and beyond the expectation of the client:

  • They sent information about the agency at the request of the marketer
  • They followed up by email to say that it was on its way
  • They followed up by phone (voicemail) to check that it arrived
  • They tracked the package to be doubly-sure that it got to the correct office
  • They communicated all this in a professional and courteous way to the prospect

Pretty simple stuff, but as stated in the quote, unfortunately uncommon.

If doing these little things can be so effective, think about the opportunities that abound to help your agency stand out!


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