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January 14, 2004
The Art and Science of Winning New Business
 

Winning is pretty much everything in advertising these days.

If you win, people believe in you and thus you win more.

We were just awarded “Agency of the Year” from both AdAge and ADWEEK on the strength of winning more than half a billion dollars in new business, and in the process tripling the size of our agency.

How did we do it? By creating a dynamic new business culture and adhering to it. Here are some of its key tenants.

The most important word in new business is “No.” Sometimes agencies mistake their convictions for the client’s. Learning when you can’t win and saying “no” changed our conversion ratio from 30 percent in 2002 to 90 percent in 2003.

Clients hire confidence. They can sense insecurity the way dogs smell fear. So you must believe in yourself and your pitch. Include confident people in your pitch team and exclude dissenters and doubters. They may mean well but will poison your presentation.

“Through the looking glass.” Right and wrong are different in new business. In a new business pitch, the consumer is not the consumer. It’s the client. Study their careers, the advertising they like and the advertising they produced in the past. And if you cannot predict who will make the decision and how, you cannot win except by luck.

Dictatorship rules. Democracy is nice but it does not win new business. Dictatorship does. There has to be a single person, your best, most powerful and most decisive person, with total power over the new business process if you want to win consistently.

Friends. The new business team must be truly good friends who genuinely like one another, believe in each other and are willing to support each other‘s performance. When people disagree or even silently disapprove of each other’s performance, the client gets scared off. It means the agency doesn’t have even its own act together. It suggests the agency will be a bad, argumentative partner for the client. You can’t win this way.

Back Load. The closer you are to the end of the pitch process, the more important everything becomes. Back load your spending and back load impressions on the client. Long distance runners know they must have enough of a kick for the “bell lap." So do agencies that win consistently.

K. I. S. S. Simple strategies always beat complex strategies. And the most brilliant strategy can always be made simpler and easier to understand.

Monotheism. Don’t show too much work. Multiple choices are almost always vanity, or worse. The client will get confused and it will dilute the impression of your best work. One idea is usually best. Unless you’re an incumbent defending the account or firmly in the lead and confident they are only using the work as back-up to already wanting to hire you, show one idea.

Be memorable. Use clear, likeable and energetic language. Use big, impressive, proprietary visual aids. Reasonable language is forgettable. Incendiary rhetoric is memorable. Powerful verbs are like magic words. Use Power Point to deliver the “headlines” of a pitch, but don’t think it will be memorable. You are more memorable than a screen. A room full of human beings reading words on a screen is lousy theatre and a terrible way of distinguishing your character and abilities. Be more imaginative and personable.

Be passionate. Clients almost always lose passion for their business problems and appreciate agencies that bring back that passion to them by their genuine enthusiasm. Passion is an enormous asset in new business, surpassed only by confidence and reputation.

Transform losses. If you lose, don’t accept the loss as a loss. Work it. Find out exactly why you lost from the client and address the issue substantatively and with charm. Fix the problem to the satisfaction of the client; even though the pitch is over, this client is a new prospect.

The matrix. Have a chart and about 5 minutes of your presentation devoted to segmenting all the audiences for the work you propose. Include, along with consumers, company employees, management, shareholders, trade press, general press, members of the community in which the client is located, analysts, competitors, special interests and word-of-mouth drivers. Show how you will reach each audience with your message, what their response will be and how you plan to audit , measure and adjust the messages to follow up on progress.

The first 100 days. Before the end of the pitch, show the client exactly what you will do if you win the business, quickly and briefly, but in enough detail on a timeline to demonstrate that you really thought it through. Demonstrate that you have the resources, people and foresight to get to work.

Winning is fun. Good luck.


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Commanding tanks in the Israeli Army is not a pre-requisite for an ad career, but the experience has certainly helped Avi Dan. As Berlin Cameron/Red Cell's Managing Partner/CMO, Avi knows how to fight the good fight. In the past year, Berlin Cameron/Red Cell has won half a billion dollars in new business and has just been selected as "Agency of the Year" by AdAge and Adweek.
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