16 Must-Know Prospecting Stats For Your Agency

16 Must-Know Prospecting Stats For Your Agency

Prospecting for a strong pipeline is your first hurdle in the new business process, and is never-ending and always evolving—influenced by technology, budgets, and how brands work with agencies.These 16 must-know prospecting stats for your agency will help you get ahead in today’s sales environment. Keep these stats in mind as you monitor changes in business development trends and make proactive prospecting a priority in order to keep your pipeline full. 

Here are 16 must-know prospecting stats with insights on everything from email subject lines to response time on form submissions. 

1. More than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process, followed by closing (36%) and qualifying (22%). If you find prospecting to be the most difficult part of new opportunities, you’re not alone.

2. 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line and nothing else.  First impressions can make or break a potential sale. Tell people right away that you’ve got something worth their time by writing effective subject lines.

3. Only 24% of sales emails are opened.

4. The average person deletes 48% of the emails they receive every day. This task takes them just five minute

5. Most prospects want to read emails at 5 and 6 a.m. Use an email scheduling tool to get in front of all the early birds to ensure you send your message at the perfect time.

6. HubSpot Research found 72% of companies with less than 50 new opportunities per month didn’t achieve their revenue goals. This is compared to 15% with 51 to 100 new opps and just 4% for companies with 101 to 200 new opps.

7. The average salesperson makes significantly more calls in the last month of the quarter. Gong’s data science team analyzed 15 months of data and found the average salespeople made far more calls in the last month of the quarter than the first two. And the success rate of those calls were usually lower than any other month. Devote time to proactive prospecting each and every day. You should be prospecting just as much on the first day of the month or quarter as the last.

8. It takes an average of 8 cold calls to actually reach a prospect. And 55% of all salespeople follow up less than four times.

9. 45% of salespeople give up after just one follow up with a prospect.

10. Even after you have reached a prospect, it can take an average of 18 more calls to actually connect with a buyer.

11. On average, 5.4 people are involved in a purchase decision, and each person’s job function and even geography are often very diverse.

12. On the first call, 6 out of 10 buyers want to discuss pricing on the first call, and more than half of prospects want to see how the product works.

13. Seven in 10 B2B buyers watch a video sometime during their buying process. Use this to your advantage by sending a customized video. Videos about product features are most popular, followed by how-tos and professional reviews.

14. 77.3% of salespeople said their company provides at least one quarter of their leads.

15. At least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what your product or service.

16. Drift tested the response time of 433 companies. Only 7% responded in the first five minutes after a form submission. More than half didn’t respond within five business days.

These 16 must-know prospecting stats reflect uncomfortable truths that sales teams deal with every single day. Ready for some good news? We handle all of this for you. Catapult Agency Growth is the dedicated business development partner to agencies of all sizes and types. Our team of expert advisors will work alongside your internal team to implement a results-driven sales and marketing strategy that identifies and generates new revenue opportunities on a consistent basis.

agency awards to consider in Q4

Agency Awards To Consider In Q4

Awards are the best way to get independent feedback on the quality of your work. We understand entering takes time and added resources, but the reward is worth the effort. Similar to our Q3 list, here’s a quick glance at the agency awards to consider in Q4. Winning, or just being a finalist, is a huge PR opportunity that differentiates you from your competition. Awards also help your prospects identify who is doing some of the best work and the impact they make on client success.

Your hard work and innovation needs to be recognized. These are the agency awards to consider in Q4:

Award Sponsor Category Application DeadlineEntry Fee
MarCom AwardsAssociation of Marketing Communication ProfessionalsPrint media
Strategic communications
Digital media
October 17th$95 per entry
$175 per campaign or plan
Agency of the Year AwardsCampaignVariousEarly Bird - October 10th
Standard - October 24th
Early Bird $550
Standard $625
Effie AwardsEffieVariousFirst Deadline - October 15th
Second Deadline - October 22nd
Third Deadline - November 5th
Final Deadline - November 12th
First Deadline $975
Second Deadline $1,425
Third Deadline $2,225
Final Deadline $2,625
Creative Media AwardsMediaPostMedia creativity and innovationEarly Bird - October 18th
Standard - November 22nd
Early Bird $295
Standard $350
SIA AwardsService Industry AssociationService industry categories:
Early Bird Deadline - October 25th
Entry Deadline - November 15th
Late Entry Deadline - December 13th
Early Bird Deadline $40 per entry, $65 per campaign
Entry Deadline $50 per entry, $75 per campaign
Late Entry Deadline $60 per entry, $85 per campaign
AME AwardsNew York FestivalsConsumer products and servicesDecember 15th$845

Brands are always looking for innovative outside partners, and showcasing an award you’ve won is that meeting point.  It helps validate your work and honors your team of experts. Not to mention, winning is guaranteed to enhance your credibility among clients and prospects.

Great agencies focus on their clients’ goals, and award programs provide you an opportunity to take a step back and review how others in your category are creating success stories for their clients. Make sure you are selective about the awards you enter. Your entry should accurately represent what you do best, and remember to always be honest with yourself about where you stand among the competition. And if you don’t win, make it a learning opportunity for your agency. Share with your team why you feel another agency won, and how you can elevate your entry next time. Insights and discussions around what your competition is doing will only make your team stronger.

As you plan for 2020, think about how you can start off the new year in a big way by earning a prestigious award!

8 Tips for Closing The Sale

8 Tips For Closing The Sale

Let’s set the scene here: You’ve managed to secure a meeting with a C-level executive for a global brand, and now it’s time to deliver your presentation and make your pitch. What happens during the next hour will determine whether you have a shot at closing the account or not. With that being said, many agencies say their biggest struggle is their sales approach and that they don’t fully understand what an executive hopes to get out of a meeting until it’s too late. So let’s rethink the entire process for your agency with these 8 tips for closing the sale.

If you ask a dozen sales people for their best tips on closing, you’d probably get a dozen different responses. While many sales techniques are as different as those who are executing them, there’s still some tried and true tips everyone should use to effectively close.

Here are 8 tips for closing the sale and winning big business.

1. Earn the right.

Before you can close the deal, you must earn the right to do so. You earn it by delivering on your promises, consistently following up, and showing up for meetings on time, every time. Make it clear during every interaction with the prospect that you are well prepared and eager to serve them and increase their bottom line. Focus each touchpoint on how you can help them instead of what you can get out of them, and you will eventually earn the right to ask for the sale.

2. Make the work the focal point.

Brands primarily want to see the work an agency has produced. Your opening remarks on a call or greeting during an in-person meeting should last no more than five to ten minutes. As the agency principle, you may provide some background of the agency’s culture, but should not waste time trying to impress the prospect with your industry philosophy or views of the landscape. Just get to the good stuff. It’s what your prospects want to see. 

Find a simple way to provide your current list of key clients or accounts, so they can see if there are conflicts or similar businesses. Make sure a creative director is available to give more detail on your work.

3. Provide context and results.

Brands want to know how your agency uses creativity to solve business challenges. Don’t just show the highlights – prospects want to see your full scope of work. Case studies work best in order to clearly articulate your client success. When presenting case studies, use context, action, and results (CAR). Give a brief overview of the challenge for each campaign, and discuss the action you took, and with some key results. We also recommend including a timeline of your project or cost data to show your efficiency. Be prepared to defend your creative choices while presenting case studies in a way that reinforces your client’s trust and makes it hard for your prospect to live without you.

4. Sell more value.

In a price-sensitive market, you win the business when you can show more value than the asking price. Value is determined not by the market, but by your customer. Show them your product or service is more valuable than the price, and the sale is yours.

You can also showcase how your ideas translate across different mediums to prove your value. Share at least a handful of case studies that represent your portfolio across various categories. Don’t worry if there isn’t anything specific to the vertical your prospect competes in. Brand executives will expect to see work that goes well beyond their own category. 

 5. Prepare and plan.

If you’ve spent the time to make your prospect understand your value is greater than the price you are asking, it’s time for you to prepare and to plan for the close. Preparing includes all the information, paperwork, forms, etc. you need to move forward and making sure you’ve had the right conversations with the right people. You should also anticipate any last-minute objections your prospect might have and how you will respond to them.

6. Make them understand you’re different.

Your prospects want to know your unique capabilities. Identify what makes you different from the agency down the street — those are your superpowers. Maybe you have a specialty in a particular vertical, like experiential activations or events. Maybe you have a lot of experience with a particular target audience, have done work in a specific product category, or you’ve launched new brands with tremendous success. Look for opportunities to consistently reinforce your superpowers to prospects.

7. Under promise and over deliver.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of promising something you cannot deliver. If your product or service takes some time to fully execute, never promise you can deliver something sooner. It’s common sense, I know, but you’d be surprised what someone will guarantee when they’re under the pressure to close the sale. 

If you under promise, you’ll have ample opportunity to over deliver. Why over promise when it already takes long enough to gain trust from your buyer? And when you exceed the expectation you’ve set, your prospect will realize your agency can be an essential part of their business.

8. Ask for next steps.

After any touchpoint with your prospect, ask the customer what the next steps would be. If they are unsure, make suggestions of steps that move you closer to closing.  Keep in mind – the next step could be to finalize the deal, but often, inexperienced sales people add too many steps before trying to close.

We hope these 8 tips for closing the sale guide you during your sales cycle with the prospect you’ve always dreamed of working with. Being skilled at closing is arguably one of the most important techniques to master in sales. If your agency wants to improve your current sales process including positioning, pitching and closing, contact us today.  Whether you need to elevate your existing business development plan or don’t know where to start, Catapult can assist in creating new business opportunities that will help scale and sustain your agency’s growth.

four tips to help you craft a powerful pitch

Four Tips to Help You Craft a Powerful Pitch For Your Agency

Your elevator pitch is the most important tool for converting strangers into clients. And guess how long you have with the average person before you lose their attention? 8 seconds. Even a goldfish can focus for longer. In fact – if you’re still reading this, I’ve kept your attention for longer than most humans! Now, that’s some perspective. So how do you sell your agency to a prospect without it falling on deaf ears? Here are four tips to help you craft a powerful pitch for your agency.  

1. Open with a hook.

Since you only have eight seconds to grab someone’s attention, you must open with a hook that’s captivating and makes them want to listen to the remaining 22 seconds. The most effective way to do this is to address your prospect’s pain points. This is crucial because as their agency partner, you want to focus on how your service increases their bottom line. 

Here’s an example: Instead of “We’re a content marketing agency for businesses” try something more powerful like “We create custom content that increases sales for our clients by 50 percent.”

2. Be different.

We can’t stress this enough. Help your prospect distinguish you from all other agencies by including a unique selling proposition (USP). This is not the same thing as your niche, but rather about the benefits you offer that other agencies in your niche don’t.

If your agency offers additional services that others don’t, make sure to highlight them in your pitch. Get creative in how you present your USP so you can effectively capture your audience’s attention longer your competitor. 

3. Get rid of the industry language.

Although certain services might be essential to your agency, don’t assume your prospect fully understands what they are, how they work, or how they benefit their business. Using too much industry language can be off-putting and cause your audience to lose focus (more than they already do). Instead of “We A/B test post-click landing pages to optimize conversion rates”, which is likely to lose someone a lot faster, simply say “We create web pages designed to increase your sales and then test those different pages to see which one generates the most revenue.”

If you find it difficult to simplify your message without your typical insider language, ask for feedback from someone who represents your ideal client. Deliver your pitch to them first, then offer alternatives without the jargon and see which captures their interest more.  

4. Use an analogy.

When you get rid of the jargon in your pitch and still feel like it doesn’t adequately describe what you do, consider using an analogy that does the explaining for you. An analogy encourages your audience to use their imagination and increases their engagement with your pitch. It may even be relatable to an experience they’ve had before.

Give real examples of recent solutions you’ve created for clients and how it impacted their business. You can do this without revealing the client – refer to category, to size of brand, or some other marker that makes it relevant to the prospect.

5. End with a question.

Don’t let the delivery of your perfect pitch be met with awkward silence. End it with a question to keep the conversation going and clarify how you can work together. And don’t ask just any vague question. Instead of asking, “How do you see us working together?” consider, “What sales goals are you still trying to reach?”

Make sure your question doesn’t assume the prospect fully understands how you can help them and can’t wait to do business with you. If they aren’t sure how to answer, it can be even more awkward than the silence of not asking at all. Your question should give them an opportunity to address one of their pain points and help you fill in the gaps where your agency brings value and increases their bottom line.


With all these tips considered, here are some other factors to keep in mind:

  • Your pitch is simply a quick introduction to your business.
  • Keep it around 30 seconds long.
  • Sparks interest and response throughout it. 
  • Make sure it’s clear, authoritative, and relatable.
  • Your pitch is about them, not you.
  • Highlight your value and the problems you solve for similar clients.
  • Ensure you always include the unique differentiator of your agency. 

Use these four tips to help you craft a powerful pitch for your agency that will resonate with prospects and won’t be ignored. Perfecting your pitch is the first step to growing your agency. With that being said, remember to always shift your focus away from selling yourself: instead, empathize with your prospect’s needs, respect their time, and make your it personal. These are the most effective ways to sell your agency and break through that crucial eight second mark. 


4 Essentials to Sustainable Agency Growth

What does growth even mean? We find most agencies think growth is about adding more and more new clients to their portfolio. Other agencies believe growth is about long-term marketing efforts to build stronger awareness with prospective clients, and driving inbound new business. From our 15 years of experience working with agencies of every size and kind, we see two core things that successful agencies do well under the banner of “growth”. First and foremost, they focus on building success for clients with quality work and measurable impact in order to drive retention and organic growth. Second, they have a clear plan to drive new business through these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth:

1. Have a workable, proactive sales process in place.

Without a structured sales process, you may take on any opportunity thinking it’s essential for the financial health of your agency. However, the cost of the client can sometimes be more expensive than the revenue it brings in. Taking on any and every opportunity happens when your sales team doesn’t have appropriate guidelines to work with. If a proper sales process is designed to help them drive quality leads, you’ll save time and money, allowing them to work more strategically and more effectively.

We find every great sales process includes:

  • Understanding the buyer’s journey and using it as your starting point to an approach based on the needs of your prospect.  
  • Clearly defining each stage of the journey and what activities are involved.
  • Identifying the value for your agency in each phase of the process.
  • Creating a strong connection between the marketing and sales team.
  • Finding the pain points of potential clients and highlighting your solutions in solving them – this is what makes your agency hard to dismiss.

2. Define your ideal client.

Buyer personas are not a new concept, but in today’s competitive agency landscape, it’s more important than ever to understand who your ideal client is, what their needs are, and whether your agency has a “right to win” with them. An effective buyer persona answers the following: 

  • What industry do they work in?
  • What is their company size?
  • Who are the key decision makers (and influencers)?
  • Where do they look for agency partners?
  • What are their key pain points?
  • Which services do they need?
  • What kind of budget are they working with? 

These questions will help focus your efforts and generate the opportunities you want.

3. Upsell and retain clients.

Many agencies are a bit passive when it comes to expanding scope with current clients. Account teams are not natural sales people, and are (rightly) focused on billable time and the business at hand. So how can your new business team help? Create a plan for each client that helps them understand other ways you can help their business. It’s an effective sales approach that benefits the client who has already experienced the quality of what you have to offer. And think about the energy and resources you’ll save as opposed to looking for new accounts. Focus on keeping current clients happy and identify new ways your expertise can bring even more value.  

4. Hone your unique selling proposition.

To understand your current unique selling proposition, ask your existing clients where they look for a new partner and how they found you. Most importantly, why they chose your agency and the measurable impact you have on their business. Your USP should not be centered on a philosophy or theoretical outcome, but rather a quantifiable one focused on your particular expertise. This is critical to differentiating yourself to prospects, helping your agency evolve, and supporting your growth. 


Creating, understanding, and working these 4 essentials to sustainable agency growth will create a sustainable pathway to revenue generating opportunities. We know it seems challenging to navigate the overcrowded, undifferentiated landscape at time. But by making these key areas a priority, your agency will be on the right track to repeatable, revenue generating opportunities. 


The Top Marketing and Advertising Associations to Join Right Now

As an agency owner, you’re overwhelmed. Just managing the everyday stuff – client emails, strategy sessions, vendor and freelancer partnerships, and even students who want an internship can be a challenge. We know you need help, too. Whether it’s advice from industry pros, access to more information, training, or industry news, a marketing and advertising association can be a good choice.  Here are the top marketing and advertising associations to join right now.

These associations will give you access to people who have been there before. The people who understand the complexities and processes of running a marketing firm. Networking with other executives and having open conversations about the challenges you’re facing can not only help you gain insight into better managing your business, it can also tremendously impact the success of your growth in an ever-changing landscape. 

Below, we’ve curated detailed information on the top marketing and advertising associations we think are worth your time to explore, along with their top recommended events.

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA)

The ANA arms members with the skills, tools, and resources to grow their careers. With best-in-class content, events, and training, the ANA helps members build stronger brands and provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA’s membership includes more than 680 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising. 

The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA) which operate as divisions of the ANA, and the Advertising Educational Foundation which is an ANA subsidiary.

As one of the leading associations within the advertising and marketing industry, we highly recommend joining the ANA if you’re an agency executive. Their events are highly relevant to agencies and companies and most of the members are corporate marketing executives.

Save The Date

Event: 2019 ANA Masters of Marketing Week
Date(s): October 2-5
Location: Orlando, FL


Mirren works closely with CEOs and their management teams to support agencies through consulting and training regarding best practices in new business development. Their membership gives you access to their resource center of On-Demand Learning and Advanced Webinars. Although Mirren is technically not an association, we included them because they are a household name for agencies. 

Save The Date

Event: Mirren CEO Summit
Date(s): November 7-8
Location: Chicago, IL


Founded in 1917, the 4A’s is the national trade association representing the advertising agency business in the United States. As a management-oriented association, the 4A’s offers members the broadest possible services, expertise and information regarding the advertising agency business. Its membership produces approximately 80 percent of the total advertising volume placed by agencies nationwide. Although virtually all of the large, multinational agencies are members of the 4A’s, more than 60 percent of our membership bills less than $10 million per year.

The 4A’s is the ultimate organization for agencies of all types and sizes. They offer valuable training, conferences, and best practices in how to drive agency sales, profits and develop new business.

Save The Date

Event: 4A’s Mothers@Agencies
Date(s): August 28 – December 4
Location: Online Program

Event: Launch for Leaders
Date(s): September 18-19
Location: New York, NY

Event: 4A’s Stratfest 2019
Date(s): October 15-17
Location: New York, NY

Insights Association (IA)

The Insights Association is a founding member of Privacy for America, a coalition working with Congress to modernize data privacy protection via a bold new national paradigm. Their members are the world’s leading producers of intelligence, analytics and insights defining the needs, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers, organizations and their employees. 

IA more wide-reaching content designed for easy consumption. You’ll find videos and case studies on particular trends, as well as frequent editorials on the latest marketing news. Membership is divided into multiple levels, but the focus is primarily on research and data as opposed to more social aspects of marketing.

Save The Date

Event: CEO Summit Europe
Date(s): September 11-13
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Event: CRC 2019
Date(s): October 22-24
Location: Orlando, FL

Event: Converge
Date(s): December 10-11
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)

The IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. 

The IAB has many tools and classes for free without requiring membership or certification which is always a plus. This includes fee calculators and ad view-ability guides. Certification is divided into several different specialties and levels of expertise, allowing you to customize your training based on your position and goals.

Save The Date

Event: 2019 NewFront West
Date(s): September 11-12
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Event: Direct Brand Summit
Date(s): November 20-21
Location: New York, NY

Agency Management Institute (AMI)

Founded in 1995, AMI provides training, consulting, and original survey data on salaries and benefits for small- to mid-size agencies. But the core focus is the owner peer networks, where members meet for two days twice a year to discuss financials, business development, marketing, and staffing.

AMI wants to help agencies “increase their AGI by at least 25%, attract better clients and employees, and best of all — exceed the agency owner’s life/financial goals.”

Save The Date

Event: Build a Better Agency Summit
Date(s): May 18-20, 2020
Location: Chicago, IL

agency focus

Agency Myth: Narrowing Your Focus Results in Missed Opportunities

You hear it all the time – brands are moving more advertising and marketing functions in-house. From media buying to SEO to full service offerings, every day brings news of another brand deciding it’s better, and cheaper, to do it themselves. Brand experience is the same. As brands embrace experience-led thinking, they tend to hire internal experts who understand creative through the traditional experience lenses of activations, pop-ups and live events.

This leaves your agency with two options – either expand your offerings and cast a wider net for more opportunities or waste time going against the current. But moving out of your niche causes your agency to be spread too thin. As a result, you’ll find yourself relying on freelancers to fill in the gaps and run the risk of damaging relationships and reputations by underdelivering. We’ve also seen agencies start to create friction with clients’ internal agencies who are trying to protect their shrinking piece of the pie. Both approaches can create barriers to sustainable agency growth.

We suggest a third option for success. 

Focus. It’s not a dirty word. Go narrow, clearly identify where you excel, and make it your mission to be absolutely best in class in that area. All too often we see agencies who have a fear of focusing and differentiating themselves because they are afraid of leaving money on the table.

Brand marketers continue to turn to those who know a subject area, a target audience, a technology or tool, or a sub-discipline of marketing and advertising. They want genuine expertise over generalization.  This should resonate with you more than anything. Whether you are partnering with in-house teams or part of a multi-agent effort, in order to adapt to today’s landscape, narrowing your focus should become your new normal. While it may mean closing off certain revenue streams (in the short term), it ultimately future-proofs your agency by making you an ideal partner with valuable expertise.

But how do you narrow your agency focus? To get started, here are two things to consider.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

This one is trickier than most think. If may seem risky to lower the number of revenue generating avenues in front of you, especially when times get tough, but the truth is, expertise will always be valued. It is critical to assess what your agency does well, and strengthen in these areas. At the same time, be intentional about removing offerings that aren’t at the core of your business, or within the capabilities of your own team. Expertise will ultimately lead to increased trust and more honest, profitable relationships. 

Build relationships with trusted partners.

“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
-Steve Jobs

We know you don’t want to say no to a prospect or client, but it doesn’t mean you should be quick to say yes. As you eliminate your non-essential offerings, reach out to partners that are experts in that field, and cultivate new relationships with them.

If clients ask you to take on something outside your narrow focus of expertise, suggest sharing the load with a trusted partner. The benefit of this is you keep your trusted relationship with the client while also building a strong relationship with partner agencies. As a result of this, there could be reverse opportunities as those partners begin recommending your team when in similar situations. It can feel risky to ask for help, but if you’ve laid a solid foundation, you should be able to avoid a situation where you underdeliver. 

Here are the benefits of narrowing your focus and finding your true point of difference. 

Fewer competitors.

When you offer everything, you’re really competing with everyone.

A few things happen when your agency finds the importance in narrowing your focus and becoming the best at your niche. You may notice your competition is virtually eliminated. The more you focus on your niche, the less other companies will offer what you offer. Once you determine your focus, your competition will be a fraction of what was there before, and you’ll realize only a handful of agencies are doing exactly what you are. 

More partners.

When you narrow your focus, your competitors can become partners. 

After eliminating thousands of agencies that were once your competition, you’ll find you now have many potential partners. You’ll also realize there are so many companies with complementary services to a similar client. This aspect of narrowing your focus could lead to the greatest amount of growth for your agency. Coming together with other partners who specialize in different skills in the same industry can help achieve the greatest outcome for clients. 

Improvement at a faster rate.

Practice one thing for hundreds of hours instead of hundreds of things for one hour. 

Once you eliminate the other things that were dividing your attention, you’ll soon realize your can spend so much more time learning and practicing on your area of focus. You will find you can keep up with the latest methods and trends within your niche that you never had time for before. A narrow focus helps you improve at a much faster rate. 

Higher value.

The most important benefit of narrowing your focus is the increased value you can bring to your client. When you provide a specific service for a specific industry, you are better and faster at solving problems. You’ll understand the needs of your client quicker with less of a learning curve on each new project. It may seem like you are eliminating potential clients once you find your niche, but remember how valuable you’re making your agency to the clients that are right for you. Ultimately, you’re growing your pipeline and your business. 

We are all living in a world of sameness that needs more specialists.

Think of all the revenue generating opportunities you will create when you excel in your uniqueness. A tight focus on your core expertise ensures your agency is easy to buy and difficult to dismiss. That’s what true differentiation is all about. 

Key Takeaways From The 2019 Ad Age Small Agency Awards

This was my 6th consecutive year attending the Ad Age Small Agency Awards, and it is consistently one of my favorite conferences. Year after year, I enjoy celebrating those agencies that take a risk, build a team, and create phenomenal work. Additionally, the curated perspective and insights I walk away with make the conference an even more valuable investment. Here are my key takeaways and the list of winners from the 2019 Ad Age Small Agency Awards.

Key Takeaways:

1. Making it to the stage requires years of hard work.

This year’s conference award recipients were honest about the work involved in building a small agency. Not a single speaker, panelist, or awarded principal made their journey sound easy. It’s a big risk venturing out, being “small”, and remaining independent. Brands likely aren’t beating down your door, there are challenges in retaining top talent, and, ultimately, you’re responsible for closing the clients that will move you forward. But the Small Agency Awards is a reminder of the incredible success stories! When strategic planning, passion, and perseverance collide, great things happen.

2. Congregating is essential.

The Small Agency Awards especially showcased the importance of congregating. It’s about finding inspiration and leadership insights. It’s invaluable to spend time connecting with other agency principals that are wearing the same shoes as you. Additionally, the Ad Age team develops relevant content and programming to facilitate growth, learning conversations, and insight that will bring a new dynamic to your agency.

3. Winning the right client is everything.  

What I always recognize during the award ceremony is that agencies don’t win awards on their own; it takes the right kind of client to “win.” That doesn’t mean you have to be awarded, but winning is a successful engagement with the client. You can’t innovate with a conservative client. It’s hard to get the exposure you want when a client that wants to do it the way it’s always been done. Ambitious agencies require ambitious clients in order to facilitate effective work, to challenge your team, and to maintain a healthy client/agency relationship.

The Winners:

The winners of this year’s awards have proven their adaptability in an environment where the only constant is change.  These agencies are small, but their results are huge. Here is the complete list of the 2019 Ad Age Small Agency Award winners.

Small Agency of the Year

Gold winner: JohnXHannes
Silver winner: DCX Growth Accelerator

Company Size

1-10 Employees
Gold winner: Opinionated
Silver winner: Interesting Development 

11-75 Employees
Gold winner: TDA
Silver winner: Noble People and Badger & Winters 

76-150 Employees
Gold winner: Via
Silver winner: The Escape Pod


Gold winner: B-Reel 
Silver winner: Swellshark

Gold winner: Borders Perrin Norrander 
Silver winner: Copacino & Fujikado

Gold winner: Highdive
Silver winner: Mono

Gold winner: Erich & Kallman
Silver winner: Siltanen & Partners

Gold winner: Preacher
Silver winner: Bandolier Media

Gold winner: Creative Energy Group
Silver winner: Peter Mayer Advertising

International Agency of the Year
Gold winner: We Are Pi

Experiential Agency of the Year

Gold winner: Imprint Projects 
Silver winner: IW

Best Agency Culture

Gold winner: Imprint Projects
Silver winner: Orci

Campaign of the Year

Gold winner: Association of Graphic Designers, “Speak the Truth”
Silver winner: Admirable Devil, “The Operation: A Data Lifecycle Story”

Gold winner: We Believers, “Burger King Traffic Jam” 
Silver winner: No Fixed Address, “The Public Toast” 

Gold winner: JohnXHannes, “Corazon” 
Silver winner: Walrus, “Feats of Middle Age”

Pro Bono
Gold winner: Bensimon Byrne, “The Healing House” 
Silver winner: DCX Growth Accelerator, “March for our Lives, Bulletproof Schools”

Gold winner: DCX Growth Accelerator, “Palessi”
Silver winner: Zulu Alpha Kilo, “The Away Game” 


If you’re a small agency owner or executive, cheers to you. When it’s hard, remember why you started. Build your network, and even if you can’t attend conferences, find a network of agency principals with whom you can grow. And make the investment in your agency’s success. Don’t hope the client that will put you on the podium will just walk right into your office. Proactively commit to the strategy and resources that will expose your talent to the brands you set out to work with.

Be your best, invest where it matters, and the work will follow.   

The 40% Rule and Why it Matters for Agency Growth

Agencies that follow the 40% rule are more successful in consistent growth over time.

The rule is simple: No more than 40% of your agency’s revenue can come from one client.

The better you understand your current revenue and forecast of new revenue, the better prepared you are for bumps along the way. It also ensures you don’t end up with a client whose loss would significantly affect the health of your agency. Trust me, I know there is nothing more rewarding than landing a large client. It allows you to grow your resources and capabilities and provides an influx of new revenue. However, leaning on that huge client without balancing their portion of your total billings can also bring future challenges.

In 2017, we hosted a webinar focused on driving agency growth and building value before the sale, and the information is just as relevant today. In the webinar we highlight how to follow the agency 40% rule and stress the importance of why you need to live by it. 

If your agency is not following the 40% rule, you have an elephant in the room.

Think about it: what happens when the business from your major client dries up? Or it could simply go away due to things entirely out of your control – your work is great, they love you, but then there is a corporate change in agency relationships. This situation is one nearly every agency faces, especially during key growth phases. I’ve worked with many who got their start by landing one big client who contributes most of the revenue and forgot about the 40% rule until things were in the danger zone.

Here’s how to ensure your agency doesn’t fall into the trap.

There are two primary strategies to help balance your revenue streams – proactive new business development and active diversification. A well-balanced agency will have solid programs in place for both. These programs will create a planned buffer of new business opportunities in a robust pipeline for new clients, and generate organic revenue growth from a diverse base of existing clients.

New Business Development

A focus on client service provides your agency the best opportunity to do work, however, by its very nature, the focus on billable hours often gets in the way of an active new business program, dedicated resources, and an overall strategy for developing new business. Agencies that find a balance between client service and self-preservation typically have a proactive new business development program.

A healthy new business development program typically includes the following three steps:

1. Clarify Your Positioning

To potential prospects, agencies often look quite similar. This isn’t surprising since most agencies market themselves based on their list of services and projects. Your positioning is ultimately about creating a unique impression of your agency in the mind of your prospects. It provides the “elevator pitch” that could lead to your next client. 

Positioning allows you to clearly define the unique niche your business will serve. Achieving simple ad agency positioning requires you to answer these essential questions. 

  • What verticals have you worked with where you’ve seen the most success?
  • In what areas does your knowledge of the customer truly make you unique? 
  • What types of proprietary tools or methodologies has your firm developed that may be unique? 

Creating intellectual capital and content is much easier with clear positioning. You’ll also find it makes building your own strategy much more effective.

2. Create Intellectual Capital

Well-deployed intellectual capital can dramatically increase awareness of your agency by leveraging the strengths of your team. The right intellectual capital involves tapping the knowledge of each team member within your organization and helps stir interest in your agency, strengthen current relationships and ultimately attract new clients.

Like knowledge, intellectual capital is gained through experience or association. It’s basically a way of sharing what you’ve learned by teaching it to others. Intellectual capital also demonstrates your expertise in a specific category and provides credibility for your agency. In its truest sense, intellectual capital helps explain why your agency exists and what is important to your team and your clients.

Minnesota-based agency, Brandpoint, leverages their intellectual capital in a big way with their Brandpoint Blog. Brandpoint’s speciality is content marketing and provide expertise from their team regarding content news, developments, best practices and emerging ideas. 

3. Develop an Inbound Marketing Methodology

Brands are bombarded by various agencies, data analytics providers, and business consultants with new solutions every single day. Despite the competition, most agencies still promote themselves with their client portfolio and awards they’ve achieved. Instead, what if you focused on providing a clear view of your agency and what you stand for? 

The best way to accomplish this is by demonstrating your knowledge and providing it to others. A dedicated inbound marketing program will allow you to create a systematic approach to reach your prospects. In addition, it can help you evaluate the most efficient content and distribution platforms.

By sharing your knowledge and educating your prospects, you are demonstrating your proficiency, creating awareness and establishing trust. Inbound marketing can be the catalyst for a consistent flow of new ideas and new potential prospects.

Diversified Revenue Streams

I know I have said it before, but diversification is key. Diversification of your revenue streams allows you to gain more fiscal predictability through more efficient income. In the book The Marketing Agency Blueprint, Paul Roetzer provides three primary options of diversified revenue streams including software development, education and publishing, and VAR programs. 

Software and product development are an alternate revenue stream for agencies who have the resources to build and market these types of products. Therefore, by generating consistent recurring revenue and licensing fees, software products provide a predictable business model to offset the ups and downs of a service business.

Developing a solid intellectual capital gives your agency the opportunity to monetize your knowledge and capabilities. Roetzer suggests online courses, webinars, digital publications or speaking engagements. All of these options are an opportunity for recurring revenue through education and publishing.

Value-added reseller (VAR) programs are those in which your agency provides services for third-party products. Your agency can earn compensation through licensing fees and referrals by providing your expertise on products and tools you are already using. Many marketing software companies offer affiliate programs including Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot, ConstantContact and MailChimp.

Consider all of this the next time you’re close to landing a large new client.

If you find yourself with an elephant in the room and not following the 40% rule, it’s probably time to begin thinking about your new business development plans. Waiting on referrals will kill your new business efforts, however, putting a new business strategy in place will consistently generate new clients for your team. Once your strategy is supported by consistent implementation, your agency will be protected from the extreme highs and lows of client wins and losses. 

All of this should be an absolute priority for any agency that wants to be more stable, more predictable, and more valuable.

Apply for These Agency Awards in Q3

While it’s exciting to win an award within your industry, most people question whether applying for awards is worth the expense and hard work it takes to submit them. Awards help boost your agency’s reputation, earn credibility, and differentiate your agency from the competition. 

At Catapult, we believe today’s agencies are creating incredible work that needs to be seen. How will your agency benefit from winning a prestigious award?

According to Forbes, here are five ways your agency benefits from entering awards competitions.

  1. Winning an award boosts your credibility.
  2. Awards distinguish you from your competition.
  3. Award recognition raises your organization’s spirits.
  4. Award ceremonies allow you to network with fellow honorees.
  5. Awards prompt you to take a closer look at what makes you qualified for an award and identify areas for improvement.

Big brands are looking for innovative outside partners. By highlighting your agency’s specific design, social, creative or activation capabilities, you can demonstrate your work to a large audience and stand out in the competitive landscape. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And you’re worth it (to borrow a famous advertising line). Here are five tips to keep in mind when you apply for agency awards:

  1. Follow all instructions. Many entrants fail because they miss the award entry deadline.
  2. Label everything carefully. Proper labeling can give your entry the edge it needs to win.
  3. Speak with someone who knows what the judges are looking for – nuances can make all the difference. 
  4. Keep things clear and concise.
  5. Be sure to answer every question exactly as asked. Coloring outside the lines is fine, but add content only if word counts allow after you’ve answered the question.

Similar to our Q2 list, here’s a quick glance at award shows with an application deadline starting in July of 2019. These awards have high standards, are widely recognized by the industry, and if won, are guaranteed to enhance your credibility among clients and prospects. Apply for these agency awards in Q3:

Award Sponsor Category Application DeadlineEntry Fee
OMMA Online Advertising AwardsMediaPost37 available awards in Online Advertising Creativity
26 available awards in Online Marketing
August 8th$395
How's International Design Awards How MagazineDesign: Graphics, Environment, ProductSeptember 6th$85-$110
Interiors AwardsContract MagazineInterior Design: Retail, EnvironmentSeptember 11th$275
Agency of the Year AwardsCampaignVariousEarly Bird - October 10th
Standard - October 24th
Early Bird $550
Standard $625