The Alliance of Independent Agencies brings you ‘Rollin’ With The Pitches’ – a series profiling its members and those bearing the weight of winning new work.
New business. Adland’s greatest juxtaposition. Clandestinely whispered, yet boomed from the hilltops. Lifeblood of the agency, but vampiric drain. Terrifying and tantalising in equal measures.
Our interviews give a candid view from one of the most pressurised gigs in the industry, with insight and anecdotes from inside the war rooms and across the pitch tables.
In the community spirit, we invite readers to submit their own questions for future interviews to firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus after bearing their heart, each interviewee will kindly make themselves available for private musings.
Q> What’s your role, and how long have you worked in new business?
Jamie> CEO of an agency called Initials, so I’ve been in new biz since day one of the agency in 2006 (16 years ago).
Q> Do you work exclusively in new business, or have other responsibilities within your agency?
Jamie> Most of my role focuses on agency growth, so new biz in its traditional sense forms a core part of this. Marketing of the agency is increasing in importance though to both new and existing clients.
Q> Are you focused on building the pipeline of opportunities, converting the leads, or embedding new clients? Or a new biz rep for all seasons?!
Jamie> Can’t take eye off any part of the funnel, as at any one point of this there will always be a particular challenge/opportunity to engage with.
Q> What’s the most novel way you’ve engaged a potential client?
Jamie> Creating a post murder scene for Doritos. Imagine a real life version of Cluedo, and a new biz pitch woven into this scene.
Q> Can you let us into a pitch secret or special tactic?
Jamie> I get asked this a lot. Unfortunately the secret is that there are no silver bullets. Success demands discipline across all your major channels to market. At any one point, one channel may be more successful over another, but it won’t stay that way for long. So constant innovation is also required.
Q> Biggest win?
Jamie> BP – 10 years ago
Q> Most painful loss?
Jamie> BP – 10 years ago. We won this after a full blown pitch. Fully engaged with teams in place, fees, contracts etc… then the client disappeared. We tried everything to connect, but for whatever reason we couldn’t get back in touch. To this day it remains a mystery as to what happened. If Sherlock Holmes existed, Baker Street would be my next stop.
Q> How have you learnt to deal with the failure? What would you recommend to those struggling with the pressure?
Jamie> As long as you are confident in your team and the product, you just keep lining the opportunities up, as it is a numbers game to win what you want/need. It’s easier to get over the losses that way, and equally bank the win, and get on with the next opportunity as soon as possible. Covid has taught us a lot about the unexpected.
Q> What is the best piece of new business advice you’ve ever been given?
Jamie> Ideas, great teams, agility, and value for money are all key components to wining pitches. But if you can demonstrate to the client that you want their business more – in any way you can – the wins will appear.
Q> What’s been your biggest disaster?
Jamie> Jugs of water over the pitch boards, spilling coffee over the client, projectors not working, dongles not working, forgetting power cables, laptops fizzing, turning up to the clients office at the same time as the client turning up to ours… The list goes on, and will continue to go on…At the time, it feels like the biggest disaster in the world, but the following day…is another bright blue day.
Q> Most comical pitch moment?
Jamie> To bring a particular idea to life, we arranged for one of our creatives to dress up as a protesting banana and storm into the client offices (and our meeting) mid-pitch. Unfortunately, the client’s business was going through a redundancy process that day, so the office mood was not really aligned with life size fruit being aggressive! You had to be there to get the idea… Unfortunately even though the client was also there, they didn’t get the idea…and surprise, surprise, we didn’t get the business.
Q> What does your agency’s independence mean in the world of new business?
Jamie> A blank sheet of paper – demonstrating both entrepreneurialism and creativity. Most networked agencies will find it a challenge to embrace this.
Q> What scares you most when it comes to new business?
Jamie> It used to be the day of the pitches, but you do enough and it becomes more exciting. So the more you can get involved in, the better. They are fantastic learning curves…and great fun as well
Q> What roles does data and analytics play in your new business efforts?
Jamie> Huge amounts more than it ever did. There’s proper science now around how the new business funnel operates, as we all need to demonstrate ROI back to the business.
Q> Book / podcast / film / person – what’s your top recommendation?
Jamie> Spencer Gallagher – Agencynomics by Cactus -Book, Podcast, Person
Camilla Honey – JFDI – Person
Steven Bartlett recent interview on his Diary of a CEO with Rory Sutherland – time very much well spent