By Category: New Business Metrics & Management

Small Touches Create “Wow” The First Time Your Prospect Visits Your Agency »

Be the guest
Published on November 16, 2011

fruit basketYou fly into a strange city. Your flight is delayed. It's raining. You manage to find a cab that takes you to the hotel in a car that's sorely in need of new shock absorbers. The hotel restaurant is closed and there's nothing open nearby. It's midnight, so that's no surprise. You're irritated and tired. What a great way to start your trip to visit a prospective ad agency whose work you really like. Strike one.

In the morning, you find that the "continental breakfast" is hard boiled eggs, over-ripe bananas, mealy apples, and tepid coffee. Cabs are nowhere to be found, but the front desk person manages to call's 20 minutes late. Strike two.

You arrive at the agency, only to find that no one's at the front desk. The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 am. In fact, there aren't many people around at all. Is this the right day, you ask yourself? You walk around the office and find someone back in a corner, ear buds in place. They have no idea you're there until you touch them on the shoulder and scare them half to death. They have no idea what to do with you. Strike three.

Sound far-fetched?

Contrast that hands-off approach to this one, using the same storyline:

  • The agency has arranged for a car service to take you, comfortably, to your hotel.
  • Knowing the potential for a late arrival, they've provided you with a basket of food. There's a hand-written note inside welcoming you and saying how much everyone is looking forward to meeting you in the morning.
  • One of the agency principals picks you up for breakfast at 7:15 am. She's taking you to the best breakfast spot in town.
  • The front desk person is at his desk when you arrive, and has been on the lookout for you ever since he got a text saying that you were 5 minutes away.
  • Lots of employees are around when you arrive; there's a buzz of activity.
  • Before the meeting, as the principal told you would happen over breakfast, you're taken on a brief agency tour with a really fun, effervescent employee who makes you feel completely welcome. In fact, you start thinking to yourself, "This is a fun place to work - I'd like to work with these people." She makes a point to introduce you to the creative team, since that's the reason you're there in the first place.

Home run? Maybe not, but at least you're still in the game.

Followed up with a thank you note...priceless.


I Hear You Want to Leave….Say It To My Face. »

When new business success is right in front of you
Published on May 17, 2011

ted turnerBack in 1989 Larry King had been doing Larry King Live for about four years. His contract was just about up, so he started looking around for another network. He found that by moving networks he could double his annual salary, from $800,000 to $1.5M.

He told his agent, Bob Woolf, to make it happen. Here's what happened, as described in a Bloomberg Business Week article.

Ted Turner called Larry at 6:30 am, while Larry was in L.A. Ted had Larry's agent, Bob, in the office with him.

"I hear you want to leave," Ted says to me. "Say it to my face." I hear Bob behind him saying, "That's unethical." But Ted says, "Screw the ethics. Tell me goodbye to my face."

That's when Larry recalled a conversation from the night before, when he was asked, "Are you unhappy, is that why you're leaving?" "If you take all that money, the moment you're unhappy you're going to say to yourself, 'Why the heck did I make the change?'"

Larry told Ted that he was going to stay, and it turned out to be the right decision. His show took off and he was soon making a lot more money. And he learned an important lesson: Sometimes you don't need to make a change to succeed. Sometimes success is right in front of you.

It's not uncommon for an employee to seek greener pastures somewhere else. Sometimes they find them, and sometimes they don't.

In ad agency new business, it's pretty common for good biz dev folks to regularly get calls from recruiters and agency presidents offering "a great opportunity." It may well be. But the question you need to ask yourself is, "Am I unhappy." If the answer is yes, the next question is, "What needs to change here for me to be happy?"

It's quite possible that you can change the situation at your current agency, so you don't have to take the risk of moving, on the hope that what you find at the other end will be better than what you left.





How To Determine The Health of Your Internal Prospecting Database »

Size doesn't matter
Published on August 17, 2010

database cleanlinessSome ad agency CEOs would rather not spend money on a new business prospecting database. So it's not surprising that the decision to do so (or not) often comes down to a choice: spend money on an external resource or use an internally-developed and maintained database.

Before making this decision, though, it's important to consider the health of your internal database. Why? Two reasons:

  1. You might be spending more money building and maintaining it than it would cost you to subscribe to a superior product; or,
  2. You might not be spending enough money on it.

In the first case, choosing an external resource may make good business sense. In the latter, if you aren't spending enough, you'll likely be giving your new business team a resource that's old and out-of-date. They'll have to spend their time cleaning it, rather than generating new business.

Here are some questions to ask and answer in order to evaluate your internal database:

  • How many companies do you have in it? Are they the right companies, in the right industries for your agency?
  • How many of the right contacts do you have at each one? What's the average number per company?
  • What titles do you have? Are they the right titles for your agency? If not, which ones do you need?
  • What contact information do you want to have at each one (e.g. email, direct dial, proper title, assistant name, etc.) How many of your contacts have that depth of information?
  • When was the last time you sent an email to everyone in your database? What was the bounce rate? Was it greater than 5-10%?
  • When was the last time each contact name was telephone-verified for accuracy? How many of the contacts were gone? Was a replacement contact found?
  • How much do you pay (including salaries and benefits, IT costs, software licenses, etc.) to maintain your database?
  • What other information do you like to have to assist you in your new business prospecting efforts?
  • What services do you subscribe to in order to gain access to this additional information? How much do you pay for these services?

Finally, after you have all this information at your fingertips:

  • What's the total annual cost of maintaining your internal database?
  • How happy are you when you weigh the accuracy and depth of information of your internal database in relation to what it costs you to have it?

Lastly, be cautious if you hear the argument (internally) that, "We have a really large database that we've built up over many years; therefore, we should use it."

The size of a good prospecting database has no correlation to anything. It's all about having the right companies and the right contacts and contact information.

If you're like most agency principals, you'll be surprised at what you learn. If you have questions when you're pulling this information together, don't hesitate to get in touch.


Save Time and $ Using Jigsaw-like Services for Ad Agency New Business? »

Look before you leap, and measure carefully
Published on July 07, 2010

jigsawIt's really tempting for an ad agency new business person to look at inexpensive data sources (call them "Jigsaw-like") and get enticed by their low-price business models.

We get asked about services like this all the time, so I thought it might be helpful to provide a framework to review them.

Of utmost importance: Accuracy. These services usually claim an accuracy rate of around 75%. Taking this number at face value, they're admitting that 25% of the data is wrong.

Now, the reality of measuring accuracy. Unless these services are actually cleaning their data themselves, they really have no idea how clean it is. The questions to ask yourself are, "Am I okay knowing that one out of every four contacts I get is inaccurate?" And, "Am I okay wasting 25% of my time?"

When you're purchasing data from a service that relies on users to keep it clean, be cautious about data accuracy claims.

Why does this matter? When you think of accuracy, think of this formula: accuracy = time savings. The more accurate your data provider's information, the faster you'll reach your intended decision-makers. The less accurate it is, the more time you'll spend researching, trying to find your intended prospect.

With this in mind, here are some Pros and Cons of "Jigsaw-like" services:


  • Wide variety of contacts
  • Inexpensive
  • Exchange out-of-date contacts with another
  • No long-term contract


  • No industry focus - you'll sort through lots of companies and titles to find good prospects
  • Inaccuracy
  • No research support
  • Highly competitive - millions of people are going after the same people
  • Value of your time - if you have a minimal amount of time to spend prospecting, how quickly you can get to decision-makers is critical

The best way to evaluate various data sources is to do some measurements. For example:

  • Out of 100 contacts, how many are incorrect information? More than 10 incorrect data points and you're dealing with inaccurate information.
  • How long does it take you to find the contact you're looking for? How does this compare to your current data provider?
  • Once you have your desired contact, do you have the (correct) email, direct dial, address? If not (or it's incorrect), how long does it take you to get this information? Does your current information provider have it? Is it accurate?
  • What's the value of your time? Calculate it as follows: (annual salary+bonus)x1.3 / 2080. This will show what it costs your agency to employ you, and takes into account taxes and benefits. If you apply this rate to the time it takes you to do what you've identified above, and extrapolate it annually, you'll have a true measurement of what your data really costs.

With this information in hand, you'll be able to decide whether a "Jigsaw-like" service is right for your agency.


New Business Metrics - How To Measure Your Performance »

It's tough to improve if you don't know how you're doing
Published on June 29, 2010

metricsHow do you measure the performance of your new business team? Is it just number of wins and revenue generated? If those numbers are good, do you know what they're doing well? If those numbers aren't good, do you know where they're falling short?

If you consistently measure the right things, you'll have all the information you need to hire, fire, train, and retain a high performance advertising agency new business person or team.

Measuring how you're doing is only effective if you're measuring against something. You first need to set an annual goal for each item. Then, break the goal down into monthly increments, and if appropriate, weekly and daily. With the goal, you can then measure your performance against your target. In addition, you want to measure yourself against how you did for the same period last year, and perhaps last quarter.


Marketing Metrics

Social media: On your blog, measure followers against your goal. Review posts that get the most reads (and be sure to write more of them). Identify which ones don't get read and adjust accordingly. Track how many reads you get per day and per week against your goal. Identify steps to improve reads based on how they're trending (up or down). Measure traffic sources - where does your traffic come from - and track it against plan.

Events you host: How many guests do you expect to attend; how many show - that's the show rate, which you need to predict future attendance. How much did the event cost? What's the event's cost per attendee? How many new business meetings do you get from each event? What's the event's cost per new business meeting held? How many pieces of new business do you win as a result of an event? What's the cost per new account landed? Over time you'll have enough numbers to evaluate whether to continue hosting events or perhaps to increase the number of events, and it'll be based on a true ROI.

Events that you attend: What's your cost to attend? How many new business meetings do you secure from each one? What's the event's cost per meeting held? How many pieces of new business do you win as a result of each event? What's the cost per new business account landed? Over time you will have enough numbers to evaluate whether to continue attending certain events and perhaps if you should increase the number of events you attend. That decision will also be based on a true ROI.

Branding Email: If you use email as a branding vehicle - measure how many emails you send with each blast. What's the overall cost per blast, and per email? How many opens do you get? What's the cost per open? How many inquiries do you receive? What the total cost per inquiry? What new business do you win from emails? What's the email cost per new business account landed?

Branding/direct mail: If you use direct mail as a branding vehicle - measure how many pieces you send with each mailing, and the mailing's total cost. What's the cost per piece? How many inquiries do you receive (if any)? What's the cost per new business inquiry received? What new business do you win from direct mail? What's the direct mail cost per new account landed?

As you can see, if you measure all of your marketing activities, you'll soon have metrics on the marketing cost per new business inquiry, per new business meeting, and per new account win. This is incredibly valuable information for your future planning.


Outreach metrics

Networking / referral program: If you employ a networking and/or referral strategy, how many meetings or requests does it take for you to get one referral? How many new business meetings do you get for every 10 referrals? How many of these turn into new clients? You want to know these ratios so that you can determine how many referrals it takes to generate one new piece of business. Then, you can extrapolate and plan for the future.

Search consultants:  If part of your new business strategy is to keep in touch with various search consultants, I encourage you to track your efforts and the ROI. How many consultants do you keep in touch with? How often do you do so? What does it cost (in terms of time, travel expense, mailings, etc.) to stay on their radar? How many RFPs do you get from them? How many do you respond to? How many do you win?

RFPs: How many RFPs do you receive (separate from search consultants)? From whom? Be sure to track the source of each RFP (i.e. how did they hear about your agency) so that you can better target your future marketing efforts. Track the cost (in terms of time, out-of-pocket expense, mailings, etc.) to submit an RFP. How many RFPs do you get from each source? How many do you respond to? How many do you win? What's the cost per submission? What's the cost per new account won?

Directories: Many agencies submit their creative work and other information to websites that cater to corporate marketers. You should measure these sources as well. Capture the cost of each directory, the number of times your profile is viewed by a corporate marketer, and the conversations, meetings held, and new client wins from each directory. Then, calculate the cost per profile viewed, per new business conversation or meeting held, per account won, etc. This way you'll be able to evaluate whether the particular directory you choose is providing you ROI. [Note: some of these sites may be considered "branding sites" - i.e. the cost is relatively minimal and you just need to be there. That may influence your decision to maintain a presence on the site.]

The most important metrics with outreach activities is the cost per win and the cost per source. You need to be able to answer the questions, "What does it cost us to land a new piece of business? And, "What are the least (and most) expensive sources of our new business wins?" One of the best ways to do this over time is to rank your sources by the number of accounts won from each. 


Activity metrics

Using a CRM system, I recommend that you track all the outbound activities between your new business person and potential clients, which are typically the following:

  • Emails Sent
  • Emails Received
  • Quick Chat (example, "I'm sorry I've caught you at a bad time, I'll call you tomorrow.")
  • Good Conversations (this is a substantive conversation that moves the prospect down the sales funnel)
  • VM (left voicemail message)
  • DNLVM (did not leave voicemail)
  • Received VM (received a voicemail from a prospect)
  • Meeting Set (set up a meeting with a potential prospect)
  • Meeting Held (meeting was held with a potential prospect)
  • Business Won

With these activity measurements, you can create metrics that will allow you to determine what's working and what's not. Here are those I find to be the most valuable:

Total outbound activities = emails sent + quick chat + conversations + VM + DNLVM. You should use this daily, weekly, monthly, etc. to measure and ensure that activity is taking place.

Activities per day = total outbound activities for the month / # work days in the month (or week, quarter, etc.). How much is enough? Someone in new business who's charged with outbound prospecting to a significant number of potential clients should make at least 30 outbound calls per day.

Calls : conversations = total activities / total conversations. This is a measure of how many total activities it takes to have a good conversation with a prospect. These days, having one substantive conversation out of every five or six calls is good. 

Meetings per conversation: Total meetings set / total conversations. This tells you how many conversations it takes to secure an initial meeting. The lower the number the better your new business person is able to establish rapport, ask relevant questions, and establish a reason to meet. I think you should aim for a 1:2 ratio, or one meeting from every two good conversations. If you find that the ratio is higher, I recommend doing role practice to improve your new business person's skills.

Meetings held % = meetings held / meetings set. This is a measure of the quality of the meetings that are set. Over time, you should aim for nearly 100%, as this will mean that your new business person is doing an excellent job of identifying a need and establishing your agency's relevance to satisfy it. If meetings regularly don't take place, then they weren't quality meetings in the first place.

Business won% from meetings held = business won / meetings held. This will tell you how well you convert initial meetings generated from proactive outreach. Recall that in the above funnel, we used 10%. You should be able to do better. However, a note of caution: I can't tell you how many agency CEOs have told me over the years, "Put me in front of a prospect and I'll close the business." The exact same number have been terrible at moving an initial meeting along the process to actually winning. The objective of a first meeting is...a second meeting. Don't try to win on the first meeting. For more on this, read here.


With the information discussed in this post, you'll have all the information you need to allocate your resources to the sources and activities that drive the most new business for your agency.

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