Author Archive

Duncan Connor

As Content Strategist, Duncan helps create content that helps agencies create a repeatable new business process to support their agency growth goals.

Outsourcing Agency Business Development: Why You Need to Consider It Now

The road to agency new business Nirvana is paved with never-ending training, consulting, workshops and self-help guides. Undoubtedly, growth through a systematic business development program often eludes agencies, but there’s no reason for agency business development professionals to go at it alone.

The reality is, like anything worth doing well, its hard. Really hard. New business is work that the vast majority of those within the professional marketing services industry didn’t sign-up for, and have no inclination to be held accountable for now, or in the future. I see it and hear about it from out of work agency new business people and frustrated agency owners every day.

The good news? It is possible for your agency to have an effective new business process in the year ahead. While it can be difficult to know what your competition is doing to be so successful, we have found that the invisible trend has increasingly been to outsource your new business.

Over the past five years, for more agencies than you’d guess, the answer to solving the business development equation has come from partnering with an outside firm for proactive prospecting. More recently, the trend has evolved to include organic client development too, once the exclusive domain of the agency account and leadership team.

Why are more agencies increasingly handing the reigns of client growth over to a third-party? It’s a daunting thought for some, but for those who’ve experimented with this model, success has come quickly. “I’ve seen agencies win more business from our involvement in their organic client development efforts this year than any other,” said Dave Currie, President of List Partners Inc. “Its often the low hanging fruit that everyone can see, though rarely is there a systematic and accountable plan to harvest it,” he continued.

What value do agencies find in outsourcing?


A Systematic Approach.

Agencies often find that creating a new business process from scratch is difficult. It’s usually thrown together last minute at the onset of a lost account and the strategy and tools are often lacking. Outsourcing to new business professionals, like Catapult, allow agencies to implement a systematic approach to how they win new business. Teams are able to move swiftly into market because there is a proven model of success, and the tools to back it up.


We come across agencies every day that have multiple people working on new business, but not dedicated to it with 100% of their time. Once you have this “we all chip in approach,” when it fails, who is accountable? All? Nobody? With this outsourced model, it is very clear who is accountable for success and we can put clear objectives and goals at each stage of the process. This leads to greater transparency and understanding to who the responsibility of driving new business lies with.

A Specific Focus on New Business

Similar to our Accountability point, according to Hubspot’s Agency’s Pricing & Financial Report, 66% of agencies do not employ a full-time new business person. What does this mean? Those in-house people that are working on new business do not know where to spend their time every day. If I have learned anything during my time as a new business professional, it’s that you cannot minimize the importance of focus. Focus ensures greater success by keeping all efforts dedicated to prospecting and driving conversations with those most sought after prospects.The invisible trend of outsourcing may always remain slightly hidden due to the nature of the business, but we are seeing more inquiries than ever from agency execs that are seeing the benefits of having a systematic approach that provides accountability and focus. I’m confident we will continue to see an increase in adoption of outside resources to manage new business in 2017.

When you can win more business at a lower cost, why would you not outsource?

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Why the Most Successful Leaders Go Beyond Best Practices

What are best practices? It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between proscriptive company rules and guidelines that have a basis in legal compliance, and best practices which are designed to move the business forward efficiently. They’re good to have, but sticking to them no matter what can prevent good companies from getting to great.

If you got sick in the middle ages, there’s a good chance that the village doctor would prescribe a course of leeches to your skin, or just go ahead and cut you so he could bleed the troublesome humor right out of you. I could be wrong, but if your doctor tried that today, you might want to sue them for medical malpractice.

Best practices are the best way we knew to get results at a given time. But when times change, those practices need to change, too, and you should constantly be thinking next practices, alongside best practices. Here are a few things to remember:

Best practices have an expiration date

Best practices change over time, across cultures and from industry to industry. It’s not just medical advances like the one above that go out of date, other technologies change, too. You wouldn’t think of circulating important information by telegram rather than email, but 100 years ago it was standard. As recently as a decade ago, working from home was a perk few people enjoyed but now it’s viewed as a great commute alternative, and can make employees more productive and more motivated. Industry leaders see the benefits of change early and adopt practices that leverage those benefits.

Technology changes faster than best practices

Best practices get to be best practices by delivering consistent results most efficiently, but best practices are never cutting edge. To become accepted as a best practice, any process needs to be adopted widely, and earn acceptance across the industry—and that takes time to establish. As a result, best practices can lag technological advances by months or even years as technologies emerge. New technologies can be expensive, but the benefits of early adoption—from preferential pricing to being recognized as an expert when the tech goes mainstream—can often outweigh the cost.

Complacency leads to disruption

Compliance can lead to complacency, and in some industries, disruptive technologies can wreak havoc or steal market share from established players at a blistering pace. From taxicabs to vacation rentals to networking events, organizations that clung to best practices and resisted change all lost ground to more agile digital competitors that chose not to be bound by the same rigid rules. The real conundrum here whether your best practices put the customer at the center of what you hope to achieve, or whether your best practice is simply a hoop for someone to jump through, a roadblock on the way to excellence.

In the end the best, most timeless best practice you can adopt is to empower every employee to ask why—why do we need a best practice? Why do we need that specific best practice?—and to explore how the problems we face can be overcome creatively.


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You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong…So Why Is Your Account Under Review?

The agency review process is like getting a text from your significant other that says, “We have to talk.” It doesn’t necessarily mean something bad is on the horizon, but it’s sure to cause some anxiety for a while.

Agency reviews happen for a lot of different reasons, but hardly any of them have anything to do with the agency screwing up. It’s true that a particularly misguided or unsuccessful campaign may trigger a review sooner rather than later, most of the time there are ordinary boring reasons for agency reviews.

A New Chief Marketing Officer

DailyVista’s Vulnerable Account Index, which ranks the likelihood that a brand is going to put an account under review, uses an algorithm that includes dozens of factors. The strongest indicator that an account may be heading into review is the appointment of a new CMO.

A new CMO may have relationships with other agencies they’ve worked with in the past, and they want to continue that relationship in their new position. Or they may just want to review and reset expectations with the existing agency.

Last year got off to such a brutal start for media agencies going into review that AdWeek called it Mediapalooza, with billions of dollars in ad spending going under review and becoming available for agencies to win. AdWeek includes a quote from a source at BMW, who said, “It is a standard BMW process to put all contracts up for review every few years,” which reinforces the ordinary, cyclical nature of the agency review process.

Average tenure of CMOs decreased for the first time in a decade in 2015, which is an indicator that more CMOs are on the move, and therefore have fewer years of tenure in their current position. If that trend continues it’s likely that more agencies are going to head for review in the near future.

“Procurement often reviews relationships every 3-5 years, and CMO median tenure is about 26 months. So, if an agency incumbent isn’t battling against a new CMO, procurement wll look at the relationship shortly anyway,” said Josh Stone, managing editor and lead new business analyst for DailyVista. “Procurement-led reviews usually go with the incumbent anyway, but it can often be a huge a waste of money and time for both sides.”

Brands Change Direction All The Time

As brands figure out what channels represent better ROI for them, they move budget around. For example, a brand that had an unimpressive return on programmatic last year might look to change its marketing recipe, beginning with a review of the agency providing the programmatic service. This review could be to determine whether the problem was the strategy employed by the agency, whether the brand’s goals were unrealistic, or if the creative (provided by a separate creative agency) didn’t stand out from the crowd.

And it’s not just massaging budget numbers. Sometimes a brand might decide it needs to investigate its options before putting money behind a strategy or technology for the first time. Adtech and marketing technology are hot industry buzzwords in 2016. And you probably haven’t seen anything yet. The advent of augmented and virtual reality entertainment (like this incredible VR movie) could cause a major media placement shift over the next few years. And it’s not just movies—augmented reality is on the way, and when Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality engine and MicroSoft’s HoloLens find their way the mainstream, all bets are off. These new technologies have the potential to open an infinite and hyper-targeted market for media sales.

What Will Happen At The Review?

You’re probably accustomed to periodic meetings with your clients, from project kick-offs to QBRs and new direction meetings. A formal agency review isn’t significantly different in terms of preparation. You’re going to have to be prepared to discuss at least a few of these topics:
• the original brief
• how your formulated the strategy
• how it related to the goals that were set
• what unexpected challenges you encountered
• how you overcame them
• your results
• what strategies you would employ in the future
• what other services you can offer to the brand

After the review the brand will take some time to consider its options. They may even talk to other agencies to compare processes, strategies and even individual relationships. Yes, even the individuals on the account and how they engage with the client.

Ultimately the incumbent agency will either continue as the agency of record with some or no changes requested, or the brand will move to an alternate vendor.

How to Respond

Whatever the client chooses to do, it’s nothing personal—it’s just business. If your client decides to go with a different agency, how you respond to disappointment will likely affect whether you’re the client returns to you in the future.

Consider the Rinck agency. For nine years, the Rinck multiple channels for Gorton’s Seafood. In September 2016, Gorton’s consolidated agencies and Rinck lost a long-standing client. How did the agency respond? With this amazing video that reiterated how much Rinck had enjoyed its relationship with Gortons.

If that video gives you the warm-and-fuzzies, imagine the positive impression it left with Gortons.

It’s important to remember that a review is just a review. It’s not a foregone conclusion your agency is on the chopping block, but you can rest assured if your agency is under review, you’re not alone. At the very least, try to see a review as an opportunity to find out what direction your client is moving in. Try to determine for yourself if that shift is representative of the client’s market, and if you might be able to win business from other brands that are shopping around for a new agency.

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