This Hall-of-Fame Football Coach’s Secret Weapon Will Improve Your Agency’s New Business Calls

What happens in your agency after the new business call ends?

For too many agencies, it goes something like this. Everyone is pleased with the call, how nice the prospect seems and leave hopeful for future possibilities. But, too many agency new business calls end without a clear idea of what was learned about the prospect or the company. What’s worse, often there’s no clear sense of the timeline, next steps or who’s responsible.

That’s why it makes sense to follow the same approach that legendary NFL coach Paul Brown did when he started reviewing game film to evaluate opponents and his team. Brown, who was the first to use film study, took the time to dig into each contest, understand what happened, and use the information to plan for the future.Your agency should do the same.

Poor follow-up is a chronic issue at many agencies. It creates stress, uncertainty, and disappointment for all involved. It’s an emotionally draining experience, whether you win the business or not. You know the firm could do better with a different approach.

Finding a Solution: The New Business Call Debrief

A post-call debrief is a structured conversation that revolves around the sharing and examining of information after a prospect new business call or meeting. The conversation enables a team to discuss what went well, identify opportunities for improvement, and define next steps.

It also brings a team together, strengthens relationships, and fosters team learning.

Coach Brown of the Cleveland Browns knew the importance of using information to strengthen his team. Brown climbed from high school coaching to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His approach to film study created a blueprint for the modern NFL. He was the first coach to scout opponents through game films, leading to finesse and insight that led the Browns to three NFL championships and four AAFC titles.

Football coaches and players spend hours each week poring over film of a 60-minute game, yet in the business world, such a review of a much-shorter new business call is extremely rare. That’s unfortunate because studying the “game film” yields valuable insights.

In sales, the post-call debrief is an opportunity to “review the game film.” It helps us assess what we did well, what we did not so well and what areas we need to improve. Unfortunately, we are often so busy that we do not give the proper amount of time and attention to this debrief.

A football coach watches game film to gain insights on how the team can improve and how to prepare for the next game. As a salesperson, you should use the post-call debrief for the very same reason, gaining valuable insights into your improvement and preparation.

The Post-Call Debrief: Know What’s Been SAID

The post-call debrief is a four-step process – SAID – Schedule, Assess, Interpret, and Document. Each step is important and gets your team’s ideas and recommendations to the forefront.

Here’s a closer look.


With a formal debrief process, your team will treat the time and topic more seriously. Making the team aware of the post-call process will help them gather useful insights during the call and come prepared.

You need to schedule 15 or 30 minutes on everyone’s calendars immediately after the new business call. If not possible, it should be scheduled within a few days. The details of the call will be freshest, and you can begin to take action.

Eventually, the more you debrief, the more effective and efficient the process becomes.


This stage calls for a candid evaluation of the call. The expectation, set by the most senior leaders in the room, should be for people to learn and that one’s position on the org chart is not relevant. If those leaders make themselves vulnerable and admit to errors, it permits everyone else to do so too.

Leaders need to set guidelines for the assessment. There should be no pointing of fingers. The results, both good and bad, should be considered team results, recognizing that everyone had a hand in creating them.

The U.S. Army refers to this approach as “leaving your stripes at the door.”

Be prepared with the questions you and the team need to answer to understand the call. Here are some examples:

  • Did we accomplish the goal we outlined in our pre-call plan?
  • What did we do right?
  • What could we have done better?
  • What should we do next time?


The crux of the debrief is asking additional questions about each stage of the call and its outcomes. Ask all participants to come to the meeting with thoughts on the following two sets of questions:


  • Does the prospect fit our ideal client profile?>/li>
  • What are the compelling reasons for the prospect to make a change?
  • What did we find out about our competition or the incumbent’s relationship with the prospect?
  • What is the prospect’s sense of urgency to act?
  • Do we understand their decision-making process?
  • Is there truly an opportunity?


  • What is the next step with this prospect?
  • What assets do we need to create or provide?
  • What is the timeline?
  • Who will own the process?


It’s important to record the answers to those questions, especially any lessons learned, in a format that can be used for later reference and use. Using a template can be a helpful way to create uniformity across the agency and familiarity for employees.

Be sure to take notes and distribute them to all those present and other key stakeholders. Save those notes in your CRM.

It bears repeating that documentation needs to be done as soon as possible after the meeting or new business call. Memories fade fast! If the debrief is not happening immediately after the call, instruct each participant to scribble down or dictate their key impressions, thoughts, and answers to the questions above. It’ll save you hours of trying to remember details in the long run.


The biggest hurdle to debriefing is starting to do it, especially if you have a culture where this sort of open communication isn’t the norm. If you do so, your teams will be stronger, more confident and clear.

Using the SAID framework and a template for your post-call debriefs gives everyone a voice and has longer-term advantages, too. Analyzing the results of these calls gives your agency more data that can reveal patterns of behavior that can be changed. The “teachable moments” help everyone improve their approach to initial sales calls. Over time, everyone will get better and more new business will come your way.

Paul Brown made his teams champions by carefully analyzing what happened and using that information to play better. It’s a winning plan for agencies to adopt for their new business strategy.

Agency Execs: Ad Age’s Best Places to Work 2019 Is A Wake-Up Call

The employment rate is currently sitting at 3.7%, the lowest it has been since the ’60s. At this point, the number of jobs available greatly surpasses the 19% of marketers actively searching for new jobs. As an agency executive, it’s time to step it up if you seek to hire, and more importantly, retain top talent because your employees can quite literally go anywhere else.

So, how do you get your agency in a position where all your employees are asking themselves, “why would I ever want to work somewhere else?” The answer- empower your staff to have satisfaction out of the work that they produce at work while also supporting their personal goals and ambitions.

If your agency wasn’t listed on this year’s Ad Age Best Places to Work 2019, there is always hope for next year, but you’ve got to start making changes now. Here is what the recipients of this award are doing differently:

1. Culture That Puts Employees First

Having ping-pong tables, beer taps and gaming consoles certainly won’t hinder your agency’s culture, but there is more to it than “free stuff.” When it comes to attracting talent, these awards prove that employees care more about benefits, fair pay, health insurance, and PTO.

For example, several of the agencies listed allow their employees to work remotely while also providing unlimited vacation days. Zach Morrison, president of Elite SEM, explains it perfectly as he quotes, “Most agencies are client-first. We believe in being people-first; they deliver for clients, which delivers the overall success of an organization.”

2. A Workplace That Stands for Something

Many of the agencies who made this list are incredibly passionate about something outside of their business. More importantly, they actually incorporate the importance of their beliefs deep into the roots of their culture.

The media agency, UM, is a perfect example as they passionately strive for diversity among their hallways. A personal goal of theirs is to have an employee diversity mix in 2020 that reflects what the US population is projected to look like in 2040. Whether that be gender-based, ethnicity-based, or LGBTQ-based, the goal for the organization is to have the company directly represent every diverse population in which they serve.

3. Leadership That Builds More Leaders

People want to feel important; it’s really as simple as that. It’s vital for your agencies leadership to let entry-level and mid-tier employees feel heard while also teaching them how to grow within the company.

Two agencies on the list do a really great job at achieving this. The digital agency, Again Interactive, has never had an employee leave within 26 months. “We always enjoyed being at places that weren’t these huge agencies where you lose your name, become a number,” said CEO, Glenn Whiting. He explains it all starts with how leadership trusts and empower their staff. When someone has a great idea, they should be encouraged to speak up.

Cogent Entertainment Marketing does a great job at this as every employee is set up with a mentor inside or outside of the company. The owner of the agency found that his employees care more about achieving success than receiving free gym-memberships and several lunches, things he refers to as “wasteful” perks.

So what can you learn as an agency executive from these awards?

According to Ad Age, six things that matter most to employees today are benefits, company culture, employee development, company environment, employee engagement, and employee perks. Having toys around the office and numerous perks will not solely win the loyalty of your employees. Instead focus on building a culture full of transparency, trust, and growth. Also, rising generations are more successful when they feel their employers care about their contributions both inside and outside of work. Invest the time to know what makes your team tick.

Building a better culture today will lead to a better agency tomorrow – and who knows, maybe you’ll see your agency’s name on this list next year. Good luck!

The Pre-Call Strategy That Will Always Push the Sale Forward

Are you dissatisfied with how your last sales discovery call went? Do you often find yourself complaining that the prospect was unqualified or not ready to buy? Maybe you felt great rapport but hung up the phone with no clear next steps. Or maybe you sent follow-up materials and never heard anything back. Without pre-call planning, those outcomes are likely.

Stop blaming the prospect and take responsibility. Pre-call planning helps prevent failure on the call itself, which is often due to one of the following:

  • Not enough preparation
  • Lack of understanding about what makes an initial call successful
  • Too much focus on the agency’s offerings, not the prospect’s business needs

In agency new business, your first call with a prospect is not a pitch or a presentation. It’s a way to establish two-way communication. Business isn’t won on the first call, but through multiple calls that build a relationship and lay a foundation. Each call needs its own objectives and outcomes aimed at moving the sale forward.

To be effective, each call requires pre-call planning that identifies objectives that advance the relationship. To accomplish this, you have to conduct research, share insights from your agency’s unique point of view, and strategically uncover the prospect’s needs by asking the right questions at the right times.

Getting Your Agency READY for the Pre-Call

Pre-call planning is the research process and alignment of stakeholders used in preparation for a sales call to optimize the call’s effectiveness. Agencies should follow the READY framework of pre-call planning to be more successful.

R eview the Research

It’s critical to invest time understanding the prospect’s business. Failing to invest time upfront will greatly affect your success. Research and review takes time, which is why many agencies skip this step.

Understanding the prospect’s business is the first opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors. It empowers you to ask smart questions and align your services with their needs.

You can collect information from many sources, including:

  • Analyst reports
  • Annual reports
  • Blog posts
  • Company website
  • Financial press
  • Industry media
  • Social media
  • Speeches and conferences
  • WinmoEdge

Along with basic information on the company (employee count, revenue, fiscal close, year founded), you’ll also want information on the prospect (name, position description, past roles, education, volunteer roles). Finally, you need to understand the company’s agency relationships, media spend, media mix, planning and buying periods and creative work.

Prepare a meeting brief in advance for key stakeholders, including everyone who will be on the sales call, your subject matter experts, and senior leadership. The focus will be on reviewing the research, defining roles for call participants, and agreeing on the questions to ask.

E stablish Your Value Proposition

You want to set your agency apart by providing interesting and new insights that get the prospect thinking about new possibilities. You need to provide new perspectives that will address the most critical needs in a compelling and resonant way. This includes clearly and concisely articulating the value your agency brings to the prospect.

Today’s enterprise-level decision-makers are busy. They expect you to have an idea of the impact you can make and share that with them on the first call. At this level, they won’t take time to do a needs assessment.

Establishing your value proposition should be a focus of the pre-call planning. You’ll need an understanding of the following:

  • What challenges is the company facing?
  • How can your agency impact these challenges?
  • How is your solution different than other agencies?
  • How can you prove this?

To develop your value proposition use this formula:

Value Proposition = Business Driver + Movement + Proof

The pre-call work should shape what these value propositions are and how to present them effectively.

 A ffirm the Desired Meeting Outcomes

Your team needs to be on the same page about the desired outcome of the call and make sure to plan for the call with that outcome in mind.

Here are a few examples of possible outcomes:

  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss an identified situation or problem
  • Schedule a demo of your product or service
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to review a proposal, case study or work example
  • Secure a referral to another person involved in the decision process

D etermine Your Questions

Asking the right questions of your prospect will get you the information you need to make informed and appropriate suggestions about solutions.

While you never want it to feel like you are reading from a script, you should prepare questions ahead of time that will advance the conversation. Use open-ended questions, and be prepared with follow-ups. But don’t be afraid to deviate from your list if the situation calls for it.

These questions should focus on gaining information about problems and gaps, the business impact of existing solutions and the payoff of making an agency change.

How many questions?

Gong, a conversation intelligence software solution for sales teams, analyzed conversations with executives at mid-sized and large companies. Surprisingly, their research shows that successful initial sales calls include only four questions on average. Unsuccessful calls have eight.

This means you need to be aware that after a few questions, your odds of success decrease with each additional query. That means asking the right questions is critical. Here are a few examples.

Issue-related questions

  • What’s the central issue you’re hoping to tackle?
  • How long has it been going on?
  • What have you tried to do to solve it?

Impact-related questions

  • What happens if you don’t solve this?
  • How do your employees and customers see this affecting them?

Importance-related questions

  • Compared to other things on your plate, how important is it to solve this issue right now? Why?
  • What’s your timeframe for fixing this?
  • Who would notice most if it didn’t get done?

Results-related questions

  • What baseline results are you looking for to determine if the work is worthwhile?
  • What would it look like if we were wildly successful together?
  • How would the results show up on your balance sheet?

Other-related questions

  • Who else needs to be involved?
  • Who will get the most benefit from the solution we’ve discussed?
  • Who will be the most vocal support and the loudest opponent?

Y our Speaking Roles

Once you’ve reviewed the information, it’s time to assign roles for the call. This step eliminates confusion about who is quarterbacking, who is asking questions, and who is taking notes.

Consider assigning a chairperson, who’s responsible for ensuring the meeting achieves its objectives and helps the group reaches decisions efficiently. The chairperson resolves issues and ensures everyone is clear on the will of the meeting, even if not everyone agrees with it.

The chairperson is responsible for making sure the research is reviewed and the value proposition is clear. This work should then inform who needs to attend the actual call and what part they will play according to the four stages of a successful sales call.

The chairperson should open the call, explain its purpose and gain the prospect’s agreement on outcomes. Others might ask questions or deliver the value proposition. The chairperson should close the call after agreeing on next steps that advance the sale forward.

The Value of Getting READY

Consider again that last frustrating and unsuccessful sales discovery call. Are you going to keep lying to yourself that the lead was unqualified, or are you going to take responsibility for the call’s failure?

Imagine how different it would have been for you and your team if the READY framework had been applied. READY provides your team with confidence and ensures you end every call with clarity.

If you’re ready to take to responsibility, implement the READY framework for your next five sales calls. After the fifth, evaluate their outcomes and compare to your other most recent calls. You will find your team conducting the calls more harmoniously, asking better questions, getting better answers, and advancing a greater percentage of calls toward new business wins.

10 New Business Tips From An Agency Search Consultant

New Business Directors have an ever-growing list of responsibilities and time continually serves as a limited resource. As a result, new business executives are always on the hunt for the best insights, tips and tricks that will make them more efficient and all around more successful at their jobs. And who better to provide the inside scoop than an agency search consultant?

Sitting in on every pitch their brand is presented and hearing all of the brand’s feedback from what they liked and what turned them off, search consultants see a side of this business no one else has access too.  Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the author of @AARLisa: New Biz in 140 Characters (or Less) and renowned agency search consultant, Lisa Colantuono.

Through our conversation, Lisa shared her insiders perspective on how agencies can improve their new business with these 10 new business tips:

  1. Relationships Will Always Win Against Tools

    Lisa explains, “We are selling relationships and team extensions, not tools. Agencies think they can win the pitch by showing off the technologies they use, but the truth is, if the team can’t truly work together, those tools are inconsequential.” People want to work with people they like.  Credibility + Trust + Relationship Building = New Business Success.


  2. Have a Position and Stick To It

    When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation. Brands are coming to your agency for expertise in which they do not have in-house. That means your agency needs to be an expert in something. H  Lisa explains “Being an expert in something trumps being a jack of all trades; it’s much richer. Client’s don’t need an agency that follows a one size fits all policy.” Of course, standing out can be difficult when you have 66K+ competitors in the US market alone. It’s critical that your agency identifies where you stand out and focuses on those specific markets in which your expertise will deliver uncontested value.


  3. Pitch With Passion

    We all want more clients and more revenue, but you’ve got to stop chasing anything and everything. Be truly focused on the brands you want to work with and more importantly, have the expertise to help (your “right to win” business.) It makes all the difference to a client when you’re truly interested in building their brand for authentic reasons starting with sheer passion.  “When you really love something, it shines through and it’s contagious. Truly be interested in that prospective client’s brand and the rest will happen more naturally.”


  4. Protect Your Intellectual Property

    “Do not do full-blown creative spec work for nothing,” Lisa says. Of course, clients need to get a sense of your creative expertise. And you can give them a taste through creative explorations but do not fall into the trap of producing creative spec work as part of the pitch process. These brands are paying you for your expertise for a reason, so don’t hand over your knowledge and hard work for free.


  5. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

    Stay ahead of the curve. So many agencies are still trying to sell instead of offering value. You want to teach, not sell. By teaching, you are being proactive. In our interview, Lisa claims, “This works for both new business and stewardship. You want to make sure that you know what’s going on in the industry, what’s news, and what’s new. Then bring that info to your prospects and current clients.” It’s crucial that you are sharing information that they can think about and possibly integrate for their brands. Whatever you do, don’t make them come to you and ask about some new trend they found on their own. You are so much more than a salesman; you are an educator.

  6. Know When To Say No

    Growing your skills and portfolio are always a plus, but your agency isn’t going to be a great fit for every brand, and that’s okay. The worst thing you can do is take on a client in which you don’t have the proper expertise. As Lisa explains, “Don’t chase new business that you end up saying yes to anything and everything. No is a very powerful word and it should be used appropriately and strategically to be fair and benefit both parties.” In fact, use these opportunities to recommend other agencies and build those strong referral relationships that are sure to lead to better fitting opportunities in the future.

  7. Use The Element of Surprise

    There is a time and place for pitch theater, but you definitely don’t want to overwhelm or overpower your knowledge, insights or expertise with glitz and glam. As Lisa puts it, “Why are fireworks so engaging?  It’s the element of surprise.” The element of surprise is very powerful because it helps people to stay engaged and remember. Don’t confuse it with pitch theater, which the glitz and glam can overpower the actually content, that is much more important.


  8. Don’t Text and Talk

    It might seem like a no brainer to not text while meeting with a potential client, but apparently, this happens way more often then it should. Give your undivided attention to your prospects and clients when meeting with them. Put all interruptive devices away. Lisa said, “ I have seen new business professionals lose the pitch for something as simple as texting their assistant to bring more coffee into the meeting.” The prospect or client doesn’t know who you are texting or what it’s about. All they know is that you feel that text is more important than listening to what they are saying. Word to the wise, put down the phone.


  9. Use Public Relations to Your Full Advantage

    This is an ongoing effort, but start by building relationships with the media. Pitching to journalists is no easy task without having first established some kind of relationship with them. PR will benefit your agency by putting a magnifying glass on your story. It will help project your knowledge and expertise. Lisa adds, “The best way to pitch media a compelling story is to stand for something or stand against something. Let your opinion be heard.”

    There are many agencies who do a great job but one agency who stands out  is The Richards Group. They have  a news section on their website full of published press releases about company updates and news, client awards, the agencies awards, and campaigns on which the agency is working.


  10. Listen more than you speak

    Your clients have a lot to stress about. Losing talent is something they worry about, they need agility, they require quick thinking, and they do expect different innovative creative solutions. On top of all of that, they want bold thinking, but none of that happens without listening first. Lisa quotes, ”Clients get agitated when agencies think they know more about their brand then they do especially during the pitch process.” By being a proactive listener, you are listen “between the lines” and truly analyze what keeps the marketer up at night, what’s pressuring them from the top, and what they actually need to accomplish. Some of the best relationships and outcomes are based on truly listening to understand, not merely respond.

  11. BONUS

    Become friends with the client team! As Lisa mentioned, “Friends care about each other and do things to help each other without thinking ‘what’s in it for me.’ When you do things that are selfless, everybody benefits from that.”


Overall, Lisa’s advice is to focus on building relationships in all aspects of your profession. Building relationships require you to care, be honest and establish trust. The truth of the matter is, people do business with people they like (it’s worth mentioning again). And if you can make a prospect like you before they do business with you, you’ve already won!

The CMO Sweet Spot for Agency New Business

As the business development lead at your agency, you may already have a solid understanding that the CMO has more turnover than any other c-level position. What you may not know, however, is why and how it directly affects your prospecting efforts.

In December 2018, our sister company, Winmo, released the annual CMO Lifecycle Tenure Analysis report and it’s full of new business opportunities that you can bank on. The report analyzed over 2,400 CMO tenures across a variety of industries and also by gender.

So before you kick off the new year by pounding the phone with cold calls and shooting out emails to every CMO in the US, here are a few items that will help you build a strategic plan and reach CMOs more efficiently:

Who’s Coming In, Who’s On Their Way Out

When a CEO hires a CMO, they expect a complete brand transformation…and fast. We’ve found that CMOs typically rotate up or out of their positions around the 43 month mark. Six to 18 months later is usually when the new CMO will shake up their AOR. What does this mean for you? Start paying attention to this ‘new biz sweetspot.’ Not only do you have a possible win with the incoming CMO, but potentially with the outgoing CMO…if you know where he/she lands.

Not Every Industry Is Created Equal

According to Winmo’s report, more traditional industries such as financial services, education, associations, and travel average longer tenures. Other sectors such as consumer goods, digital business providers, restaurants and retail, however, show higher turnover rates. When prospecting, prioritize those top turnover categories to fuel your prospecting lists with new potential opportunities.

Prioritize Your Right To Win Categories

After analyzing the tenure report take a look and see if there are particular industries in which you specialize. These right to win clients will be low hanging fruit for prospecting. If you are experts in retail and consumer goods, prioritize your prospecting and spend time crafting your messaging to appeal to the CMOs and decision makers in those spaces. Your credible portfolio in these spaces will make them much more inclined to have the initial conversation.

Unfortunately, no crystal ball can tell you exactly when to contact a CMO, but this Winmo report is pretty close!  Keep an eye on those brands you’ve been hoping to work with and use this resource to your full advantage! If it’s creeping up on their 3 year anniversary, get your messaging ready. Tailor your outreach strategy by prioritizing your right to win categories. Now you’re ready to go out there and win over those dream clients! Happy prospecting!

How To Identify & Close Your Agency’s Right-To-Win Clients

With the rise of in-house agencies and management consultancies, your prospects have more options as an agency, and you have to work harder than ever to prove your value proposition. Without a process in place that is solely focused on developing new client relationships, how can you best forecast a positive revenue trajectory? Sure, you may get that occasional referral here and there, but other than that, you are just blending in with the crowd.

In 2019, your agency needs to get aggressive with winning the clients you were made to work with! So if you are ready to start going after those clients, the first thing you need to do, after you hire a dedicated person to manage the workload, is identify your agency’s right to win business.

What Is “Right To Win” Business?

Right-to-win business refers to prospects that should have been clients yesterday.  They check every box in your list of an ideal client and your agency can confidently say “We are the best at solving your particular problem”. RTWB Is an extrapolation of the client successes that you’ve had within unique segments. These are segments that you can explicitly convey a measure of impact through the SOW and deliverable for your client.

If we can say that we have a “right to win” to your business, then we need to be able to prove it through case studies and past work that is directly applicable to those right to win prospects.  

Naturally, there are challenges of accessing the information needed to develop a case study or show success metrics. But this is an essential part of the process and should be built into the program and agreed upon by all controllers of information before the assignment is started. Your ability to prove success is imperative to retaining the client you’re engaged with as well as proving to new prospects that you’re able to deliver.

How You Identify Your Agency’s RTWB

RTWB may be based on a specific industry, like adult beverages, or it could be tied to a niche audience, like moms. The important consideration is to be as specific as possible and thoroughly evaluate how and why your team has expertise and impact with your RTW target.  At Catapult, we often concentrate on a specific problem that we solve for our clients better than anyone else, which in turn can be applied across verticals. Understanding your clients’ and prospects’ problems shows that you understand more about them than just what vertical they operate in.

Many agencies believe they know their key categories, but as they begin to do the work, they are unable to clearly convey how or why their smattering of clients fit the definition of RTWB. This is often due to the nature of network-related business or assignments that fall in their lap, dismissing the agency from establishing and investing in a specific expertise, like category.

Yes, there are exceptions, but the majority of marketers want to understand and see evidence of your ability to “be successful” in their category. For a CMO, whose job is on the line based on the partners they select, they need to feel fully confident that you can understand and deliver on their objectives. However, success is a very subjective idea, and you need to make sure it is clearly defined by your prospect, so you and your team can understand and appropriately set expectations.

Need Help Getting Started?

As you begin identifying your RTWB, find answers to these three questions:

  • Who have I had the most success with in the past?
  • Who do I want to work within the future?
  • Where can I honestly say that our agency is superior to other agencies?

If you need a second set of eyes on your agency to help establish your right to win business, contact Catapult. Identifying RTWB for our clients has helped our firm generate over $1B in new business opportunities. We would happy to provide you with any additional value that will make your agency more successful.

6 Can’t-Miss Events for Agency Executives in 2019

Ah yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I don’t mean the holidays. Now is the time when all the top industry conferences begin releasing details about this year’s must-attend events.

2018 was brutal on marketers at every level, in every industry, and of every discipline. Decreasing consumer attention spans, newer, more advanced technologies, and higher pressures to drive real business value have put challenges on everyone. But no one is feeling the vicious influence of these demands like marketing agencies are.

As we plunge into 2019, it will be crucial that agencies continue to pave a path that enhances culture, retains top talent, and builds incredible value and trust with clients. These are six events that will keep agency executives in the know and ahead of the competition throughout the new year:

The SoDA Academy

April 9th-10th | Long Island City, NY

This two-day event is invitation only, though you can request an invite here. The event strives to help agency leaders balance their dual roles as marketers and managers by aligning attendees with best-fit SoDA faculty leads that will provide the most value depending on their interests and needs, whether those be peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing, best practices or accelerating professional growth.  

Mirren Live

May 8th-9th | New York, NY

Mirren Live is a two-day conference that gathers 400+ agency professionals to learn from the industries most forward-thinking new business professionals. Attendees can expect to solely learn about driving agency growth through business model and new business innovation.


September 3rd-6th | Boston, MA

Inbound celebrates a community of people who are passionate about marketing, selling and providing amazing customer experience through inbound practices. With 24,000+ attendees, speakers such as Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, and Gary Vaynerchuk, educational breakout sessions led by top marketing,  sales and customer success leaders, and awesome entertainment, you can’t miss this event.

Ad Age’s Small Agency Conference and Awards

Dates TBD (Typically held in July) | New Orleans, LA 

Not only is this a great opportunity for your agency to get on the map (should you enter the awards), but its also the place to be if you are looking for loads of inspiration and practical agency advice. The 300+ attendees include agency professionals from around the globe. Additionally, this conference is a great place to learn about how to implement a successful new business strategy that will get your small agency in front of huge brands. Did you miss this event last year? No sweat, here is a quick recap!

ANA Masters of Marketing

Dates TBD (Typically held in October) | Orlando, FL

The Masters of Marketing is a five-day event where 2500+ attendees come to hear CMOs and industry disruptors share their incredible stories of mastering brands, driving growth in innovative ways and discussing what they are needing from their agency partners. This event brings together all the top CEOs of major brands making it prime for agencies interested in prospecting and networking opportunities.

Mirren CEO Summit

November 2019 | Chicago, IL

Mirren CEO Summit is an event you will want to register for quickly, as it only has 130 seats. A more intimate event, the summit addresses the most important issues regarding agency growth. The summit is broken into four pillars- business model, operations, marketing, and leadership, where top agency leaders share their insights and personal challenges with agency growth.


Catapult will be at these events. Which can we expect to see you at in 2019? If we left any out, please leave them in the comments below!

The 3 R’s of Sales Email Personalization at Scale for Agency New Business

Are your business development reps spending the right amount of time on the right targets for agency new business? At many agencies, those tasked with prospecting struggle with how much time to put into email personalization and which prospects are worth the effort. They may also struggle with where to go to get the best information about their prospects.

You need a clear process that focuses your time where it’s most likely to pay off. Sales reps need access to resources and data that will enable their personalization efforts to have the best chance of success.

What can you gain? By personalizing with relevant information and sharing valuable content, your outreach will receive higher open rates, more responses, and position your agency as an expert.

Here’s a closer look at the Three R’s to email personalization at scale.

Step 1: Rank Your Prospects

As seen in this recent piece, ranking your prospects is a crucial element to any agency new business strategy. Ranking lets you focus your efforts proportionally.

Ranking puts your prospects into tiers based on their fit and value to your agency. Each tier gets a different level of research and personalization. Here’s a common approach to tiers:

  • Tier 1: Your top ten to twenty most ideal targets accounts for fit and value land here.
  • Tier 2: You have a right to win these prospects, but their fit or value is not as strong as the Tier 1 group.
  • Tier 3: These prospects generally fall at the edges of your ideal client profile.

Once your ranking work is completed, you have a much clearer perspective on what work needs to be done for which prospects. Your biz dev team will thrive with the clarity and context.

Step 2: Research Your Prospects

Knowing what to research can be challenging, but this can be broken into two components: Information and Resources.

The information you’re looking for are the news, characteristics, or connections that allow you to demonstrate your relevance to the prospect. Here are a few examples of insights to consider in your research:

  • Trigger Events– Look for recent happenings with the company or prospect that often bring about change. Examples include a decision-maker who’s on the move, a successful funding round, acquisition, new office opening or relocation, awards, new business win, industry recognition, or a promotion.
  • Market Dynamics– These factors consider conditions and forces that are at play for the company, including size, growth, maturity, disruption, competitors.
  • Company– Corporate fundamentals are important, so be sure to know the size, revenue, profitability, growth, market share, stock performance, outlook, history, and job postings.
  • People– This category goes beyond leadership profiles, but also looks at the stability tenure, attitudes and preferences of those leaders, along with corporate culture and values.
  • Strategy– What is the company’s business model? Look at strategic initiatives, priorities, successes, and failures.
  • Agency Relationships– Which agencies, if any, does the company have relationships? What are the type, size, and locations of those agencies? Are they working with independent or networked agencies? How long have they had these relationships?

There’s another set of information that’s much more personal for the sales rep and the company:

  • Connections– Know if there are any links from your company into theirs via past employment, association memberships or mutual LinkedIn connections.
  • History– Understand the complete interaction history with the prospect, including emails, meetings, deals and outcomes.
  • Door Openers– Look at personal connections such as university ties, shared hometowns, conference attendance. The connection may be a common one (fan of the same sports teams or bands) or an uncommon one that’s dug up.

This information, when used strategically, will help get the email read and lead to more responses. The question is where to get that information. Here are the resources to consider:

  • Official
  • Company website
  • Annual reports
  • SEC filings
  • Analyst reports
  • Investor relations
  • Press releases
  • Product and technical literature
  • Speeches and conferences
  • Media
  • Blog posts
  • Industry publications and websites
  • Financial press
  • Influencers and bloggers
  • Social media
  • WinmoEdge, which provides industry insights and news

Now that you have your information secured, it’s time to make the pitch.

Step 3: Write to Your Prospects

Armed with your information, the writing needs to be done for each tier. Here are some suggestions:

Tier 1You need to approach this writing with the mindset that it’s your right to the prospect’s business and your job to figure out how to get it. The content should be highly personalized and creative so it grabs your prospect’s attention.

Meet with your team and create an account plan that examines their business, identifies ways you can impact their company and what content (case study, white paper, video, work examples) will be most relevant.

It’s interesting to note that Hubspot research confirms that email personalization leads to better response rates … to a point. After more than 50 percent of the template is changed, the impact on response rates is negligible. As such, group prospects around a shared attribute so templates can be created as starting points.

Tier 2: Personalization still matters in this tier, but you don’t need to do as much, generally spending about 5 minutes per account. Each of these prospects also receives personalization but not to the same degree as Tier 1 prospects. Less research is sufficient and should be embedded at the beginning and end of the email with the remainder of content templated.

A little can go a long way. A SalesLoft study of 6 million sales emails showed that personalizing just 20 percent of email content increased open rates by more than 40 percent and reply rates by 112 percent compared to those with no email personalization.

Tier 3: You will not provide the same level of personalization but use templated content that’s customized to the prospect’s industry, persona or problem/challenge the industry typically faces. Include basic email personalization such as name and company. This catch-all approach does not require or merit high touch and personalization.

Maximizing Agency New Business with Email Personalization

Whatever the level of personalization or customization, every touchpoint should add value back to the prospect. The content you share needs to be so valuable that a dream client should want to pay for it. It needs to play off of the challenges you identify and tie them to your agency’s unique point of view.

The Three R’s (Rank, Research, Write) help to optimize your prospecting by providing the appropriate levels of research, personalization, and scale. Your prospecting volume will be balanced, and your work focused proportionally. What’s more, your sales reps will feel empowered and be more successful.

The Three R’s are powerful for your agency not just in the business they’ll help you win. They also empower your business development reps to create compelling, relevant messages. By scaling your email personalization, your agency gets more meetings, more opportunities and more business won from your most sought-after clients.

8 Qualities That Are Shaping The Modern Marketing Agency

2018 has kept marketers at every level on their toes. We’ve created timely, culturally relevant content and compelling stories that allow us to better connect and engage with consumers. We’ve integrated and adapted significant amounts of technologies into our strategy to prove marketings ROI. And, we have A/B tested numerous campaigns to ensure we are keeping up with the increasing and almost impossible demands of our customers.

Whether you are a CMO at a global company or an account manager at an agency, each of us are feeling the pressures brought on by increased industry complexities. These include the heavy focus placed on customer experience, the impacts of data and technology, the heightened demand to drive brand and sales growth, and the need for a higher level of speed and agility.

Due to the environment that has been created by these coinciding and intensifying pressures, marketers have put a heavy focus on establishing agency partnerships that optimize their specific needs. This has forced agencies to change up everything from their pricing models down to their service offerings.

After reading a recent publication by AAR Group in the UK, they mentioned 8 areas in which marketers are demanding change from their partners that will inevitably continue to transform and evolve the modern agency ecosystem:

1. A Move Towards Simplification

One of the overarching trends shaping this year’s agency ecosystem is the strong need for simplification. With a significant focus on reducing duplication and cost, marketers seek to generate greater efficiency in time and management.

Though many marketers are drastically decreasing the number of agencies on their rosters, this does not mean that the era of specialist, single discipline agency is over.  Specialism, in particular areas such as performance marketing, conversion rate optimization and other outcome-related disciplines, is still required. Additionally, the wave of new technologies such as AI, Blockchain, and Voice are bringing further complexity that marketers will need help navigating. While integrated agencies are expanding their service offerings in this direction, specialist agencies are also winning their way onto the agency roster of larger brands.

The overlap between claimed skillsets between multi-disciplined, communications agencies and specialist digital communication agencies is another area in which marketers are seeking simplification. The need for multi-disciplined and single discipline agencies comes down to  marketers determining how the different agencies can bring various kinds of expertise together in a way that reflects the brand’s unique needs.

2. Integrated Strategy

Marketers have begun showing a strong need for greater strategic integration, especially concerning creative and media strategy. What we are seeing is leading brands demanding their own “custom shops” which has resulted in the rise of cross-holding company single-client teams.

As Wendy Clark, Global CEO of DDB Worldwide mentioned in a recent Ad Age article, “With the macro marketplace demands for growth, efficiency, and speed, it makes sense that brand marketers are looking for partners that are specifically set up around the way their business works.”

We’ve seen this trend become more prevalent among major agencies. For example, WPP’s demonstrated their plans to move toward more integrated workings with the Walgreens and Boots alliance and IAG and Publicis ‘Power of One’, which attempts to put clients at the center and facilitate access to all its services in a fluid, modular way.

As more and more brands ask that their agencies form multiple holding companies to collaborate as their specialist agency team, the more we can confirm the need for integrated strategy, simplicity, and efficiency from the progressive agency model.

3. Taking Creativity To The Next Level

We live in a highly competitive and rapidly changing world, and with such, marketers are expressing a strong need for external creative input and demanding big, transformative ideas. While in-house content creation is on the rise, there is considerable value that external creatives bring to the table; they’re constantly exposed to inputs and challenges outside of those internal teams are experiencing. This allows outside talent to challenge the norm and give solutions to problems the clients may have overlooked otherwise.

Brands have noticed that stand out talent is attracted to the environment and culture that modern agencies provide. Additionally, agencies are aware of the changes that marketers are demanding and their account management teams find new ways to be creative by knowing their clients and their client’s industries inside and one. So while in-house marketing continues to grow, agencies are not only working harder than ever re-establishing their credibility and expertise but providing an extraordinary amount of value and creative opportunity to clients.

4. Improving Speed and Agility 

While many brand marketers are struggling to adopt an agile methodology into their internal processes, they have challenged their agency partners to work in more agile ways to improve responsiveness, speed, and maneuverability.

Of course, this model takes two to Tango, but both clients and agencies are working together to make an agile system work. For example, some client marketing teams are working closely with their agency partners concurrently in sprints to benefit from greater agility. Co-location is also being adapted, with client and agency team members having increased face-to-face interaction and collaboration.

Marketers have been keen to the development of more agile ways of working but are often left frustrated by slow internal processes and decision-making, even when their agency team has the capability to move more quickly.

5. Proving Business Value

While marketers have always employed agencies to drive sales performance, data and analytics have brought an entirely different level of focus on attribution of value and ROI. Today, presenting your open and click through rate is simply not enough. Marketers now expect agencies to demonstrate real business value, not just communications or brand impact.

The challenges in attribution, however, arise when evaluating the complexity of many customer journeys and the fragmentations of touchpoints. We see a higher number of agencies investing heavily in more sophisticated attribution techniques and modeling by proactively working with clients to drive not only sales but cost savings that can be re-invested in new projects.

6. Improving Transparency And Rebuilding Trust

Transparency issues and ad fraud were two substantial controversies discussed by the media this year. We have seen challenges that are in danger of dissolving client/agency mostly trust through digital media and programmatic ad buying. These problems have taken place around ad placement, viewability, and measurement combined with blurry media supply chains involving multiple platforms each looking to have their piece of the ad budget.

When asking marketers about how agencies can fix these broken relationships, many responded with:

  • The demonstration and application of knowledge, and skill of the service the client needs, performance and results
  • Consistency, dependability, and appreciation of the client’s needs
  • No more suprises, if there is a problem, it needs to be brought up at the appropriate time
  • Regular updates, frequent communication, and full transparency
  • Respect for key priorities and senior level involvement
  • The development of a more intimate, close-working relationship with the client over time.

Advertising and media are still very much a people business, meaning, individuals can have a massive impact on the working relationship between the client and the agency. Client’s are supportive of their agency’s making a decent margin, but ties are diminishing when there is a lack of communication that leaves the client feeling the agency is putting their personal interests first.

7. Maintaining Credibility

Many agencies are expanding their service offerings significantly to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of their clients. As agencies begin expanding into new areas of expertise, some are losing their overall credibility by moving too quickly and neglecting to adapt the shape of their talent as they evolve.

Agencies that have diverse capabilities can benefit from a more comprehensive approach for clients, but marketers have become leery of agencies putting a digital band-aid on old practices or unnecessary solutions. An example of this is the lack of mobile-first solutions or the risk of agencies pitching a creative platform for an ad campaign when there is so much more that is needed. Agencies have to be flexible with how they present themselves to clients as needs change just as clients have to be sure that agencies are not stretching themselves into areas in which they lack the required expertise.

8. Keeping up with the changes

As marketers are operating in more complex environments than ever before, there is now a heightened need for clarity in key decisions around investment, strategy, and technology. Additionally, there is an increasing need to continue learning new capabilities to adapt to the rapidly changing consumer needs and fast-growing competitive landscapes. Marketers are looking to their agency partners to help them make sense of complicated, uncertain environments and to help them continuously improve.

Marketers have recognized that in a digitally-led, technologically advanced world, there is no longer a need for complex agency structures. Instead, it is crucial to have an agile team that can quickly develop strategies based on the changing needs of the client. Client/agency relationships have been tested to their limits this year, but as we’ve seen in the recent months and will continue to see in 2019, agencies are working harder than ever to perfect these eight areas and deliver results that add extensive value to their client’s businesses.

4 Ways For Your Agency to Grow Organic Revenue

One of the most crucial aspects of maintaining revenue growth for your agency is to build thriving relationships with your current clients. From studying the brand’s industry, maintaining strong communication and having overall excellent business judgment, there is a lot that goes into establishing a secure and trusted client relationship. And in today’s world, these things are no longer “nice to have”; they are necessities.

Like every aspect of the current agency landscape, the way in which we manage our client relationships is in desperate need of innovation. However, this innovation comes with an excellent opportunity for revenue growth.

Here are four methods that your agency can adopt today to grow organic revenue while establishing long and successful partnerships in the future:

Embrace a culture that celebrates client relationships

At the 2018 Mirren CEO Summit, Tatia Torrey, the Chief Client Officer of Havas, discussed how each month the agency holds a “case study share out,” an event where the entire agency gets together and celebrates incredible work they created for their clients. In addition to being a celebration of hard work and creative freedom, it has the potential to grow revenue in numerous ways:

  • Allows junior level employees to practice speaking in front of large crowds/agency executives, preparing them for growth within the agency
  • Educates all employees on client trends, keeping them informed and up-to-date
  • Provides first-hand insights on different products/offerings and how they are performing in the market
  • Develops great content to utilize for agency outreach and advocacy

By giving your client teams a safe place to brag about the incredible work they’ve created for clients, you’re not only inspiring an environment that keeps the creative juices flowing, but you’re also developing a competitive nature that will help push your marketers to keep thinking bigger.

Demand that your account managers act like CEO’s

As the liaison between your agency and the client, it is crucial that your account managers treat their account as their own business. What I mean by this is that you should be holding them accountable for knowing all there is to know about their client’s business. This includes the brand’s history, the ownership structure, the brand’s market, the industry trends, etc. I suggest writing out a list of questions you expect your account managers to know about their clients and request that they take the time to answer each of them.

When your account managers understand everything about their client, they will have a unique opportunity to continually provide the client value, and never have to sell. Selling can be uncomfortable, but if your account managers are solving real problems that the company is facing, your agency will not only become a trusted advisor but also become invaluable.

Prioritize growth accounts

Evaluate the top 5 accounts you see the most growth potential with and prioritize them. This requires as much investment as new business, but you’ve already won their business, so you’ve already won half the battle.

Start by evaluating what your agency needs to do to keep the client’s current scope of work, what you need to do in order to grow other parts of the client’s business, and ensure that you have full visibility into what is happening in your client’s market. Find the problems your client is facing and start explaining how your agency has a solution.

These accounts don’t have to be chosen solely based on the opportunity for revenue growth. If an account has the chance to expand your knowledge, add to your portfolio or even diversify your skill set, it may be worth the investment so that your agency can round-out altogether.

Develop growth drivers

One sure way to organically drive new business is to develop service offerings in up and coming spaces. For example, Havas recently created The Annex, an extension of their services that is essentially market research on the millennial audience. Not only is Havas gathering data their clients will benefit from, but they are also attracting new client’s that want extreme cultural relevance. Additionally, by using this platform to host events that interest the millennial audience, (concerts, fashion shows, influencer networking events, etc.) Havas is also the first to know of upcoming artists, musicians, photographers and other talent that gives them an innovative advantage.

R/GA is driving growth through their newest service offering, Brand AI where they have begun building AI solutions that transform the consumer experience. Having a strong understanding of the impact voice and personalized data will have on the future of, well, everything, the agency is quickly growing this service offering by pitching the idea that “If you’re not thinking about AI, you’re going to get disrupted by someone else.” The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Nike, Uber and more have already jumped onto this service, and R/GA is getting way ahead of the competition as they develop and learn what will and won’t work for the future of AI marketing.

Whether your agency is evaluating where to allocate resources, how to find new clients, or how to retain existing clients, one thing is for sure, being innovative to achieve growth is not optional. From creating innovative services, attracting top talent and winning the best clients, the competitive nature of the industry is on fire. To master it all, you must start from the inside out and focus on growing organically.

If growth drivers for your agency include scaling outside your existing network, evaluating new assignment/comp structures or diversifying your client portfolio, check out how Catapult can help you grow sustainable and consistent revenue.