By Category: New Business Tools/Resources

» A Tablet to Cure Magazine Ad Sales Blues?

Wonderfactory prototype is an exciting development
by Todd Knutson  |   published on December 03, 2009

media decoderThe Wonderfactory, in collaboration with Time, Inc., helped design the prototype of what Sports Illustrated magazine might look like on a tablet computer.

Revealed on December 2nd, this innovation could allow magazines and other periodicals to charge for content on tablet computers, and give advertisers data on who’s seeing their ads.

Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times broke the story. A few highlights:

  • Apple, HP and other computer manufacturers are expected to offer tablet computers sometime next year.
  • "The general guess is they’ll be like big iPhones, with interactive touch-screens. The larger size makes it feasible to put a magazine page on a tablet."
  • The functionality is anticipated to let readers interact with the magazine stories, ads, and content, watch videos, see additional photos, get live updates, and particpate with what's going on in the story.
  • Readers will also be able to email, print, save, and share stories and content with friends via social media channels.

From an ad sales perspective, this should create opportunities for media departments across the country. It's anticipated that readers will be able to use the touch screen to interact with ads, view video clips, product comparisons, prices, and purchase directly from a story. In turn, this should open up a whole to way of thinking about ads that will lead to increased innovation.

From a new business perspective, you have to think that this type of take-it-with-you technology - a tablet that's bigger than your i-phone but much more portable than a Kindle - will open up a another vehicle for innovative apps and offerings. Ad agencies and other marketing services firms should be able to leverage innovative offerings to generate both organic growth and new business.

While I'm generally not an early-adopter, the thought of being able to do most of my "required reading" on a highly portable tablet computer that provides online interactivity, is really exciting.


» New Digital TV Service Can Help Generate New Business

Introducing Leap Media
by Todd Knutson  |   published on November 19, 2009

leapSmall and mid-size advertising agencies can now offer their clients Digital TV services. A low-cost, turn-key solution, which you can offer as your own, is available to drive new business.

Leap Media Group, founded by TV industry veterans, was created expressly for "smaller, and mid-size agencies looking to develop an interactive TV capability", reported Joe Mandese in MediaDailyNews at the end of September.

Mandese describes digital TV advertising as, "any ad unit on TV beyond the traditional commercial spot. Some examples include interactive TV spots, video on demand messaging, and program guide ads." (Full disclosure: Leap became a client of The List after the article was published, but we have no stake in their business.)

Says Leap co-founder Chris Pizzurro:

"Wouldn't you just love to have something on the TV set where the consumer can just press a button and enter your sweepstakes or make a request for more information?"

Leap offers agencies free planning, buying and executing interactive TV campaigns. Leap generates fees "directly from acquiring advertising inventory from cable and satellite operators and from other interactive TV platform providers", so agencies don't have to bear the cost.

When I read the article in MediaDailyNews, I immediately thought of ways that agencies can offer this service to help generate new business. First, you'll need to work out a deal with Leap so you can "white label" their service, i.e. brand it as your own. Next, your new business and account services staff will need to bone-up on digital TV: educate yourselves about what's going on, what the future holds, and what's in it for your clients.

Once you have the service in-house and fully understand it, here are three ways that offering a Digital TV capability may help you drive new business:

  1. Include digital TV in prospect conversations. If you've done your homework (as described above) and fully understand what's in it for your prospect, ask them smart questions to reveal their potential interest in digital TV, and then match their need with your new capability.
  2. Enhance your next pitch. Digital TV may provide some powerful benefits to those you're pitching, and this capability has the potential to differentiate you from the competition.
  3. Generate organic growth. As a small to mid-size shop, many of your clients won't expect you to have this capability. This could be a new service to enhance an existing relationship, or perhaps even help you retain one that's looking for new ideas. For flat-fee clients, this represents a way to charge for an additional service.

Additional insight: Chris Pizzurro provided me some additional information about how consumers and digital TV are evolving: Video On Demand (VOD) and Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) are expected to penetrate 50% of U.S. households by 2011. Consumers with digital TVs now know that their TV remote can do more than just change the channel. For example, consumers use their program guides many times a night, and banner ads are appearing on the guides. Same for VOD, where consumer usage numbers are growing year-over-year. Consumers are exposed to :30 second ads, but fewer than on traditional TV, so many prefer it.

I hope some of you see this as an opportunity. If you pursue it, I'd love to hear how it goes.

» A Hint of New Business Team Conflict = No Win

Good chemistry means learning how to have difficult conversations to maintain harmony
by Todd Knutson  |   published on November 04, 2009

chemistryYou've seen it happen: two members of your team aren't getting along. You've tried to repair the damage, but everyone knows it's there. While everyone tries to cover it up in the pitch, it still shows. You don't win (instead, you come in "second"). The VP Marketing cites "chemistry" as what made them choose your competitor.

Hopefully, you hear "chemistry" as the reason why you lost.

Discord in a marketing services company is felt by everyone around those who are out of sorts. It's therefore critical that we all know how to skillfully and effectively diffuse and repair relationships.

As I was faced with one of these situations recently, I gravitated to a Harvard Business Publishing article by Peter Bregman called "The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations". Peter emphasizes the importance of really listening to those who are upset until you completely understand the issue.

He suggests Three Things to Do to Communicate Listening:

  1. Ask questions. Ask open ended, exploratory questions, such as who, what, when, where, how, why, etc. These will clarify what the other person is saying and feeling. Stay away from leading questions and statements that pretended to be questions but won't fool anyone, like "You don't actually believe that, do you?"
  2. Actually listen. Shut up and hear what the other person has to say. Avoid thinking about anything except what the other person is saying. Try to hear what they're NOT saying, but are implying: the desires, fears, and assumptions behind what they're saying.
  3. Repeat and summarize. Recap what you heard, trying to use the same words they did, and check to be sure you understood them correctly. If you didn't get it, ask the other person to repeat what they said so you hear the whole thing again. What you really want to know is what you got wrong. Ask what you missed. Once they've told you, repeat that part again and ask them if you got it right this time.

This sounds easy, and like most things it's harder to do than it is to write or say. But it works, so it's worth the effort. If you try this approach, I think you'll find that you develop the habit of asking questions instead of jumping in and suggesting what should be done to fix the problem.

We all want to be heard. Once we know that we've been heard and understood, we're generally much more willing to compromise and find a solution that works for everyone involved.

For new business teams, getting back to a stable state of affairs is critical, since chemistry is a critical ingredient to winning new accounts.


» Prepare Now for the Year-End Game of New Business Musical Chairs

Don't manage your career, Exceed Expectations
by Todd Knutson  |   published on October 14, 2009

musical chairsCome year-end, we'll see ad agency new business people engage in the annual ritual of getting fired and finding new jobs at different firms.

This game of musical chairs creates turmoil within agencies and for those terminated, and can be avoided. But the onus falls on the new business person to remain in the game.

What we know for sure is this: the ritual will begin in the next two months, and conversations about performance are taking place now as management teams plan for 2010. If you're a new business person, what should you be doing today?

I recently read an interview with Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company, who was asked by Adam Bryan of the New York Times, "What's your best career advice?"

Here's Mr. Mulally's answer:

Don't manage your career. Think about just exceeding expectations in every job you do, continually ask for feedback on how you can do an even better job, and the world will beat down your door to ask you to do more and more. I've never laid out a career, and, frankly, I'd propose that you really don't know what a job is until you're in it.

Exceeding expectations means:

  • First agreeing on measurable outcomes with your boss.
  • Meeting or exceeding those outcomes.
  • Solciiting feedback, and then raising the bar and repeating your success next year.

As you have only 2.5 months to deliver on your 2009 goals, if you're behind you have your work cut out for you. If you feel you'll keep your job, start now to build your 2010 plan - if you haven't already - with your boss' input.

If you think about it, Q4 is late to start working towards your 2010 goals, as today's efforts likely won't pay off until Q2 next year.

If you see the writing on the wall in terms of your future employment, it's also not too early to start looking for a new job, so you have a seat when the music stops.


» Guest Post: Repairing the Ad Agency New Business Highway

Signs of a turnaround
by Todd Knutson  |   published on October 01, 2009

Dave Currie, President of Catapult New Business sits in a fairly unique seat. Catapult gets meetings with corporate marketers for its agency clients. While Dave speaks with dozens of agencies a week, his new business team talks with hundreds of corporate marketers. He quickly feels changes in the new business climate, so its in that capacity that I asked him to give us an update on the recession.

So what are you seeing out there in terms of a recovery, asked an eager new business director at a Chicago-based agency earlier this morning? Are some categories showing more promise than others?

highway repair

These questions have become the norm in recent months while talking with a wide variety of business development people across the country.

I'm happy to report that, yes, we're seeing significant signs of an initial recovery in all our key indicators. There are also several categories that are showing more promise than others.

Three Quantitative and Qualitative Key Indicators We're Watching

1. Internal New Business Metrics

  • In the past 12 weeks Catapult has noted a 20+% increase in conversion ratios within our clients' new business funnels.
  • In the last 6 months, initial interactions with prospective clients, quality conversations, and qualified meetings have all steadily increased.

2. Reported New Business Wins

Quantitatively reviewing our clients results as well as information provided by MediaPost's "Accounts on the Move" (subscribe here), reveals that in the last three months there's been a 12% lift in awarded new business.

From a qualitative perspective, on each call and email exchange I have with agencies, I ask how they're doing. Increasingly, the response is positive. This morning, for example, I received an email from a large, full-service agency in New England whose principal said, "We're seeing things pick up a bit, let's hope the trend continues!"

We also speak with hundreds of corporate marketers each day. From these conversations we've identified that marketers are:

  • Increasing their spend over the same period in 2008.
  • Looking to invest their remaining 2009 budget so they don't lose it in 2010.
  • Open to conversations around proven results and ROI.
  • Seeking better value through alternative compensation models.
  • Open to innovation.

3. Traditional Market Analysis

Here are three indicators, among others, that continue to provide good insights into market (and mood) shifts:

  1. Wall Street Journal's daily economic data
  2. The U.S. Leading Indicator at Econtrends
  3. The S&P 500 snapshot at CNN

The general consensus seems to be that, although a broad-based recovery may be 12 months ahead, it looks like we have a relatively stable foundation for growth.

On the new business front, some markets are showing signs of recovery faster than others. If you can take advantage of opportunities earlier than your competitors you may be able to capitalize on a changing market.

Some of the positive changes that we're seeing now and expect to continue into 2010 include:

  • Big-box retailers. The upcoming holiday season / seasonal influence is helping.
  • Regional finance and banking. This sector is experiencing positive changes, though some banks are still in trouble.
  • Consumer OTC and health care. Seasonality is impacting the sector (cough / cold / flu and consistent spending through the downturn).
  • Consumer package goods. In particular, the healthy snacks category.
  • Quick-serve restaurants and casual dining. We've seen a 45% increase in opportunities in the last six weeks.

What can you do to take advantage of this opportunity?

Agencies that have undertaken the following are seeing improved new business results:

  • Having a clear, unified vision and brand.
  • Differentiating themselves in a saturated market.
  • Positioning themselves as experts to their prospects.
  • Investing in self-marketing.
  • Communicating with prospects throughout the economic downturn.
  • Addressing a known or assumed business challenge.
  • Carefully targeting the right prospects.
  • Sending specific messages to specific job titles.
  • Utilizing a mixed-media approach in their outreach, including social media, and employing multiple prospect touch-points (up to 15 in many cases).


» Your Favorite New Business Questions

by Todd Knutson  |   published on September 04, 2009

What are the best questions to get corporate marketers talking?

We all have our favorites, so why not combine our knowledge and put together a list of the best? Below is a form to enter your favorites.

Submit yours and then I'll create a Top 10 Questions list that you'll be able to use.

» Agency New Business Killer or Promoter: Your Director of First Impressions

You are judged on first impressions
by Todd Knutson  |   published on August 27, 2009


A recent survey reveals that only one in three agency receptionists meet the characteristics of a Director of First Impressions. Staffed well and you'll have another new business weapon in your arsenal.

Prospects start evaluating your agency on their first interaction, which is often the person who answers your phone.

Done well, in the eyes of your prospect or client, your agency may gain a competitive advantage over anyone else they're talking to. Done poorly, and well...they may dread the idea of calling, and won't.

Personally, I've been struck by the rudeness of receptionists at certain agencies. To get a better feel for how widespread the problem is, I asked eleven of our sales and new business people to give an overall grade to the receptionists they speak with at agencies all over North America. Now, these eleven speak with about 35 agencies a day, so that's about 385 per day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. That's a lot of agencies, so while not scientifically based, it's a decent sample.

In answer to the question:

What percent of agency receptionists fulfill the role of a good Director of First Impressions? Only 34%.

There were some highs and lows (e.g. New York agencies: 5%), but even accounting for them the average was the same. This is not good news for ad agency new business.

What to do to fix the problem?

Below are some suggestions. I'd like to thank Jann Driscoll from Catapult New Business who significantly contributed to the list. She used to work at Cox Communications and for a time was in charge of training people in this critical role.

  1. Evaluate how you're doing. Call in from a phone your receptionist won't recognize, or ask a friend to do it for you. Evaluate how they handle the call.
  2. Think about the skills you want in the role. A director of first impressions needs to have a passion for the agency and also be able to do a tough job - be the gatekeeper, research director, operator, friend, and of course the first impression anyone has with your brand.
  3. Teach them your brand. No one off the street can possibly step in on day one and understand the history of your agency, its culture, positioning, etc.
  4. Set expectations. They need to know that their job is making a superior first impression with every human interaction….never just passing someone off, always exuding empathy, courtesy, and confidence, and always demonstrating that they are a true resource for the person on the other end of the phone.
  5. Train them in customer service. This means both internal and external customer service. How you want them to treat employees is as important as how they're to treat prospects and clients.
  6. Broadcast their title. Put it on their business card, on their employee file, on your website. Let them know that their role is critical to your future business success.

The challenge for most agencies is that the "front desk" job is often taken for granted, and perhaps even considered a necessary evil. If senior management makes sure that your Director of First Impressions is welcomed into the business, treated well, and provided ongoing coaching and encouragement, you'll have created another member of your new business team.

So, you must be asking yourself, "Who does it well?" Well, here's one agency that does: Brains on Fire. if you want to hear what a great Director of First Impressions sounds like, give them a call. If you want to see what one looks like, click here!


» Skillful Listening Critical to Ad Agency New Business

Listening = Winning
by Todd Knutson  |   published on August 20, 2009

active listening

We've all heard the expression, "People love to hear themselves talk." When it comes to new business, your success is often determined by how well you get your prospects to do the talking.

I've asked some great new business hunters what they think about that and the common answer has been, "When I'm on my game, I'm asking questions and listening really carefully to both what's being said, and what's not."

I've also asked sales coaches to recommend a target percentage for the amount of time a prospect should talk. They've said,

You should be listening at least 60% of the time.

As that's more than half the time the question is, how do you improve your listening skills? Here are the steps that I recommend:

Eliminate Distractions

  1. Turn off your cell phone.
  2. If you'll be talking on the phone, turn off your computer monitor - unless you need it for your presentation, in which case close your email.
  3. Turn away from your desk or clear away anything that might take your mind off your current conversation.


  1. Put yourself in a "student mentality". You want to be curious and open to new ideas. Remember, this is all about what you can learn from the person you're talking to.
  2. Think only about your prospect: Give them 100% of your attention.

How to encourage your prospect to keep talking

  • Use short, positive prompts. For example, "umm-hmmm", "Oh?", "I understand", "Then...?", "And...?"
  • Use open-ended questions. Questions that start with What, Who, Which, or How can expand the conversation.
  • Use close-ended questions. Questions that start with Would, Did, Do, Can, Is, Would, or Are can be used to prompt for specifics.
  • Restate. Every so often repeat what you think your prospect said. Paraphrase in your own words. For example, "Let's see if I clearly understand..."
  • Offer modest feedback. Share short insights and experiences, and then listen carefully to confirm.
  • Probe. Ask questions to draw your prospect out and get deeper information. For example, you might ask, "What do you think would happen if you...?"
  • Permit silence. Let comfortable pauses and periods of silence slow down the conversation. Give your prospect time to both think and talk.
  • Summarize. Interpret what you heard and check for understanding. For example,"So it sounds to me as if...."

What not to do - things that may shut your prospect down

  • Interrupt. This is the fastest way to have a short conversation.
  • Dig for too much information. Use your intution before asking a probing or potentially too-personal question. Timing is everything. Ask the question too early and you've lost your prospect.
  • Advise. Similarly, you are in no position to recommend a course of action until you've earned your prospect's respect.
  • Patronize. Eliminate any phrases like, "I know just how you feel" from your vocabulary.
  • Give unwelcome reassurance. For example, the common phrase "Don't worry about that" can be taken to mean the opposite, so don't use it. 

Last night, I came across a quote in the book "Same Kind of Different As Me" that's a perfect summary of our listening challenges, and also food for thought:

Those who should listen cannot get beyond the sound of their own voices.

Here's the corollary for new business: "The person talking is the person buying". Your key to success may be as simple as asking qood questions and then letting your prospect talk.



» Prospecting Tip: Use Your Cell Phone for Ad Agency New Business

One of the old rules may need to be rewritten
by Todd Knutson  |   published on August 19, 2009

cell phone with lock

It wasn't long ago that calling a marketer on their cell phone was considered "too personal".

However, as cell phones are becoming mobile computers, and the lines between work-time and personal-time are blurring, doing so is becoming less verboten.

Just the other day I heard from a new business person who said that after being transferred to her prospect's voicemail, he offered his cell phone number "in case of emergency". Figuring it was worth a try, she called and he answered, and they had a great conversation. He was driving, didn't have any interruptions, and was able to fully engage with her.

The other advantage of this technique: No caller ID.

So, if you're not already doing so, it may be time to incorporate your cell phone into your trio of outreach tools:

  • Office phone
  • Email
  • Cell phone

One other suggestion: Forward your office phone to your cell phone.

You may have had a marketer leave you a voicemail on your office phone in the evening or over the weekend, assuming that you wouldn't be there to answer. If you do forward your phone, though, just be ready to have a surprised marketer on the other end. Be prepared to ask questions and try to engage them, even though it may be Sunday afternoon!

» Knowing your Target is Key to New Business Prospecting

White paper reveals benefits of good prospect targeting
by Todd Knutson  |   published on August 07, 2009
There's a direct correlation, in our data and in our experience, between companies who know more about their targets, and how successful they are at generating leads.

image's research report, What's Working in Lead Generation, is the result of interviews with 730 B2B marketers (including ad agencies and other marketing services firms).

It asked them, among other things, how well your company knows whom it should be targeting, in terms of:

  • Your target market (industry, geography, size, etc.).
  • Titles of decision makers in your target industries.
  • Specific names of companies that are the best targets.
  • Names of specific decision makers appropriate for you in your target companies.

Here are some surprising statistics:

  • Only 30% of B2B marketers know the actual names of decision makers they target.
  • Only 51% of those who rate themselves "Excellent" at generating leads know the names of actual decision makers.
  • 13% of those who rate themselves "Poor" at generating leads know the names of actual decision makers.
If you don't know to whom you're marketing, you are wasting precious time, money, and business resources.

Taking their argument one step further, they argue that good prospect targeting provides your ad agency or marketing services firm 4 advantages:

  1. Good prospect targeting improves the efficiency of your business development time.
  2. Good prospect targeting lets you establish relationships with the prospects who matter most.
  3. Good prospect targeting focuses your business development efforts for business growth.
  4. Good prospecting targeting saves money.

RainToday's research is in sync with everything I've experienced over the years. If you'd like to read or download the white paper, click here (full disclosure: it's so relevant that The List has sponsored its wider distribution; however, we had nothing to do with the research. Note: you'll have to submit some information in order to download it).


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