1. Choose 5 Companies That Make Business Sense. Buy 5 3-ring Binders
Let’s start backwards (always a good idea in new business). First, go to your local stationery store and buy 5 large 3-ring binders. Do not buy them at Wal-Mart or any other chain. They will not work. It is bad karma. You are an entrepreneur and the core of your new business program must be entrepreneurial, in every sense. These binders will sit on your credenza until you feel a current account is vulnerable. That may take a day, a week or a month. It will not take longer than that.
What should go into these binders? Start with this checklist:
Overview of company
Sales and Stock Performance
Products and Services
Bios on all players (not just Marketing)
Who at your agency knows whom there?
Structure of marketing department
Former agency relationship
Where to look?
Current Challenges, Outlook
Forbes, WSJ, Fortune (alerts)
Redbook or Brandweek listing for the company
Where to look?
Redbook or Adweek listing(s) on agencies
Website for any information
Recent press: Adweek, Ad Age
Apparent Marketing Strategy
Overview on current campaign
Examples of advertising
Subscribe to trade publications
Brief overview on each competitor
Now comes the hard part. Which 5 Companies become your primary new business targets? First and foremost, your top 5 prospects should make COMMON BUSINESS SENSE. This does not always mean that you have matchy-matchy relevant experience in their category. This is a short cut to the truth imposed upon agencies by Search Consultants and New Business Seminars. Of course, relevant experience is helpful, but there are other equally important criteria that should guide your decision. Pretend you are a college basketball coach and you are recruiting a starting 5. You won’t win with 5 point guards or 5 centers. Strive for a balance. And recruit these companies as you would players. You are recruiting your agency client roster.
Some criteria to consider:
1. Geography (duh) — A 180-mile radius from your address is not a bad start. Although some agencies like Crispin were forced to expand their geography (Hurricane Andrew 1992). With the amount of effort and study required to devote to this program, I recommend keeping all 5 prospects within a convenient commute to the prospect.
2. Industry Experience — this either really works or it really doesn’t. More and more clients are anxious to break out of their category and become, as David Lubars says, “A category of one”. Study the history of the CMO; is he/she a category “follower” or a trailblazer? Don’t assume category experience is ALWAYS a plus.
3. Demographic — this was the key to Crispin’s success. They made a decision to break out of the typical South Florida agency mindset (real estate, hospitality, tourism) and follow their passions. Today they are known as pop-cuturalists but it all started with chasing prospects that they “had a passion for their products”. That morphed into the agency that “knows how to talk to young consumers”. The logic trail was a) “chase the brands we like” > b) become known as the agency that speaks to enthusiasts” > c) those brands not so coincidentally had young enthusiasts. > d) become known as the agency that knows how to talk to young consumers > e) RESULT: Masters of pop cultural language. Sounds easy? It took 10 years. The account trail was: Giro Helmets > Mountain Bikes > Truth (huge break aided by a class action lawsuit in Florida) > Mini > Burger King.
4. Psychographic — What triggers do you ignite for your current clients? What do they sell? Not products or services — are they affluent? Blue collar? Are they low-interest purchases? Big-ticket purchases? One-time purchases? Daily transactions? e-commerce? Moms? Single gay dads?
5. Purpose — GSD&M is doing a great job selling “Purpose-based Branding”. Want to know what it is? Google it and Roy Spence. Buy the book on Amazon.
Criteria to dismiss:
In short, any criteria that is self-serving.
1. Creative opportunity (you can win awards on the local tattoo parlor, like Jelly Helm did)
2. Case study opportunity
3. It’s a “dream account”
4. You want to fill a vacant category on your roster
5. They “need your help”.
Form a new business “council” of your most ambitious people (not your most “senior”). Ask for input. Make a decision on 5. Put a stake in the ground. Assign a team to each “account”. And GET SMART on your prospects’ business.