What’s working in new business?


New business is not getting any easier. Clients are besieged by agencies so how can you get more cut through? What’s really working at the moment?

Here are a few handy tips: 

Be firstThere is a huge benefit in being the first to make contact. The next time you have a really good trade press lead, don’t delay. A very effective ploy is to bike something over to the potential client on the morning of publication. It creates impact, shows you’re serious and, above all, it means you’ll be first.


Everything should feel like a crafted letter from you to the prospect, never just a mailer. Try hand writing ‘Dear….Yours sincerely…’ It just feels more personal. Don’t get used to simply inserting the same stock paragraphs about the agency’s approach. Slightly re-craft them every time with the particular prospect in mind. Personalised documents are proving particularly effective where the front cover mentions the individual and client – ‘Presentation prepared for…’ It also doesn’t take too much time and effort to include the particular client’s name at various points in the document, even when the document may apply equally to ten other companies.

Who is your most famous client?

Most agencies will have plenty of good client stories but only one or truly famous ones. Good agencies milk their most famous clients for all they are worth because they know that potential clients tend to graduate towards the big names. Choose your most famous client story and extract maximum mileage. Don’t just tell the same story every time. What are the three big insights that you can transfer to other brands? What challenges does the client face that would concern other markets? How can you reinvent ways of talking about this client?

Personalised URLs

This is where you contact a prospect with the offer of an online insight piece. The website address contains the individual’s name. The prospect visits the site and receives a personalised welcome page. It is relatively easy to do this across several hundred prospects and then track who hits the site. Very, very few agencies are doing this but it is an extremely effective tactic. Response rates are significantly higher than normal mailers and e-mails, and you get to know who’s interested by looking at lists of who has hit the site.

Positives in recession

Clients are going through tough times. Any viewpoint that sees a silver lining, spots an opportunity or turns a negative into a positive is a certain meeting getter. A lot of this is about thinking more closely about how customers are thinking, acting, reacting and buying during this recession. Is the client responding accordingly? Are they missing a trick?

Every meeting is a pitch

It’s easy to view a new business meeting as another credentials presentation. This is a big mistake. A new business meeting is precious. Make it count. Treat every new business meeting as a pitch. In what areas does the client need your help? What is your point of view? How are you going to argue your case? Think ‘argument’ not ‘presentation’. Admittedly, your information can be limited at this stage but dig deeper, think harder. This meeting may be the only chance you will get.

Focus groups

Very few agencies use focus groups for new business. However, running a couple of focus groups and then approaching a prospect with your findings can be a great way of entering a market where you haven’t got much credentials support. The trick is to find an issue that the client hasn’t already researched to death. Any visual output from the groups is effective at whetting the client’s appetite to win a meeting.

Single message

Single messages tend to work best in new business. Resist the temptation to chuck in more case studies, more examples. It doesn’t strengthen your case. It dilutes it. Be ruthless and stick to one point of view, one case study, one clear reason to meet. Ultimately, multiple messages usually confuse in a scan reading, new business situation. They are more easily binned. Finally, don’t forget that the most effective meeting getter is the same now as it’s always been – a letter (not a mailer) from you to the potential client with a thoughtful and constructive view about their brand and how your agency, specifically, can help. It is brave and memorable in its argument, not sitting on the fence. It is three quarters about them and one quarter about the agency. It is brand specific, not just market specific.    

Jonathan Kirk