August 5, 2009

True New Business Debacles

Filed under: New Business — Joe Grant @ 7:00 am
Tags: , ,


Tale #1 – Agency A answers an RFP for a $7 million account right up its alley. The decision was made in an instant: go for it! They work day and night and basically halt all other new business activity – getting this plum is too important and besides, if they win it their problems are over.

Outcome: You probably know how this story ends. The final selection was put off several months. . . then one day the phone rings. “It was a really tough decision, it was so close. . . but we’re awarding the business to the other guys.” Too bad.

Really too bad because Agency A did virtually no other new business work from February until July, nearly half a year. They put just one big egg in their basket. . .and it didn’t hatch.

Tale # 2 – Agency B wins the MegaBiz account, its largest ever, located in a city 850 miles away. Happy days are here again! Except it’s a little like the snake that swallowed a pig – it takes a long time to digest and almost kills the snake.

“But that’s OK, we’re going to make tons of money on MegaBiz.” They hire some high-ticket staffers, open a satellite office, reorganize the agency – ain’t this fun? Overcome by hubris, the agency purposely stops all new business activity for most of the year: “Because we just can’t handle winning another big account right now.”

Outcome: Oops. MegaBiz income dribbles in at 15% of projection (it’s a long story but, among other things, because they didn’t dig deep enough upfront they weren’t dealing at the top of the food chain –  never even met the true decision-maker until after they landed the account). The agency reacts (correctly) by dumping a dozen people and shuttering the satellite office. But, cash reserves are down to zero, morale sucks, and the whole time not a lick of significant new business work gets done.

The moral to these stories? The biggest and costliest mistakes you’re likely to make are in those first blushing moments when you pick up the scent of a new piece of business. When the phone call or RFP comes in agencies have been known to go dumb like a gawky teenage boy asked by a pretty girl to dance.

All I’m saying is think each opportunity through, thoroughly. And never EVER stop working every single day on new business.


1 Comment »

  1. Amen! You don’t have to do a ton, when you do a little every day. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way (although fortunately not to the tune of your examples) more than once.

    Now…we’re on it every day. And we are having one of our best years.


    Comment by Drew McLellan — August 6, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

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