February 6

RSW/US 2024 Agency New Business Outlook Report Findings

Hot off the presses. I received an advance copy of the RSW/US 2024 Agency New Business Outlook Report. The agency sample came from the RSW/US database of over 7,000 marketing services, advertising, and PR firms in the U.S. and Canada, ranging in size from under $3M in capitalized billings to over $75M.

The report has a ton of great information and strong conclusions, but a couple of tidbits jumped out at me—specifically, the change in why marketers initiate agency reviews AND how those same marketers are finding agencies. By all accounts, the 2023 business development landscape was challenging for ad agencies, marketing firms, and PR agencies alike, which is why every one of them should read this report.  I've recapped the report's highlights and provided you a link to download your copy

Lack of Proactivity: #1 Reason Marketers Decide to Review New Agencies

45% of marketers reported that their current agency's lack of proactivity was why they initiated an agency review process. Whenever you see 50% growth in a single variable YOY, you better take notice and respond as appropriate. As RSW pointed out, "There were many factors out of any business’s control in 2023, but proactivity was not one of them. Marketers are increasingly seeking agencies that more proactively respond and provide strategic advice or thinking.

RSW 2024 Report Charts Why Marketers Initiate Agency Reviews

50% of Marketers Discover New Agencies Through Direct Agency Outreach

However, not all direct outreach is equally effective. It's no secret that carving a path through the noise to reach prospects remains daunting. Prospects, quite understandably, are not looking to be bombarded with sales pitches. The flood of sales emails, many of which need to be far better targeted and more relevant, only adds to the challenge for agencies striving to engage meaningfully. The secret to intelligent outreach is rooted in showing genuine interest, sending highly personalized information, and demonstrating that your agency can help prospective clients solve relevant business challenges when appropriate. 

RSW/US 2024 Report Charts How Marketers Discover New Agencies

But more interesting, this growth in willingness to hear from strangers comes at a time when marketers say they're relying less on references from Friends/Coworkers AND previous agency relationships. Combined with fewer indicating Networking as a primary source of new agency discovery, 2024 looks like a perfect storm for agencies that invest in brilliant, targeted, outbound business development versus strictly relying on referrals and pitching for new business to power growth. 

Marketers Are Falling Out of Love with the RFP/RFI Process

21% fewer marketers felt RFIs/RFPs are an effective agency hiring process. That's a substantial single-year drop (from 82% in 2022 to 65% in 2023). And 50% of those same marketers reported issuing fewer RFPs in 2023 compared to 2022. I applaud this trend, but if your agency traditionally relies on "pitching" to win new business and you don't have a disciplined business development process in place, 2024 and beyond may prove difficult years. 

RSW/US 2024 Report Charts RFP Usage to Hire Agencies

How Agencies Should Approach Business Development Differently in 2024

If you believe RSW’s data is accurate, and I see no reason to doubt it, and you’re one of those agencies that has always relied on referrals and/or pitching to secure new clients, 2024 is the year you should invest in a proper business development process. If you're not sure where to start, let's talk because I've created these programs for numerous agencies, including my own.  

STEP 1: Become Known for Knowledge
Position your agency as THE TOPICAL EXPERT or at least one of those experts. That way, when marketers seek information to solve a problem (whether searching the Internet for knowledge or asking colleagues for recommendations) within your area of expertise, they find you or your content and begin an invisible conversation with your agency. A conversation that might turn into a client if you play your content marketing cards right. 

STEP 2: Cold Call with Content
The RSW/US data clearly shows marketers seek more proactivity from their agency partners. What better way to show how your agency is proactive AND possesses the intelligence and insights to help them solve their challenges than sending them HELPFUL information before they've hired you?

In fact, it's one of the most effective ways to create new connections with qualified prospects on LinkedIn. My current LinkedIn cold-calling campaign produces an outstanding 18.9% conversion, on average. And you can start testing the approach as soon as you finish reading this post! 

STEP 3: Play Better Defense
As my high school defensive coordinator always told us, "Boys, the easiest way to go undefeated this season is never to let the other team score." 

We've all seen the research on the cost of keeping a customer vs. acquiring one. Proactivity is cheap. Smart agencies will invest in tools and training to ensure their clients receive a constant flow of new, insightful, and actionable ideas to grow their businesses.

Best of all, with a strategically focused internal content curation process, you don't even need to generate ideas yourself. Instead, you can borrow or, better, iterate on others' ideas.

Are you unsure how to do that? No problem; it's just one of the many topics I cover in my agency business development workshops. Schedule a discovery call with me to see how our customized workshops can help drive more business for your agency this year. 

Need Help Jump Starting Your Business Development Program?

If this all still seems a little overwhelming, let us help you. We offer a range of agency business development resources ranging from free, helpful content like this article to one-on-one coaching, online courses, a powerful agency pricing template & proposal builder, and customized business development workshops and training programs.

Or if you need something else, why not schedule a call with me to see if we can help? 

This post was originally published on Painless Prospecting, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call

If you're a first-time reader and liked this piece, why not consider subscribing so we can stay in touch? Of course, you can break up at any time if you don't like what we send 😉.  Till next time. 

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