About Steve Boehler

Steve Boehler, founder and partner at Mercer Island Group, has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Sprint, Nintendo, Abbott Laboratories and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles and Jif.

10 Tips for Planning Your 2018 and 2019 Agency New Business Activities

A finely tuned agency new business plan requires preparation and planning. Here are ten tips for planning a better, more successful agency new business effort: 1. Distinctly position your agency Some agencies try to be everything to everyone, or so their positioning would have us believe. As a service provider, that’s an understandable position to take, but it dilutes your offering when a prospective client comes along with specific needs (which is, really, all of them). The ability of an agency to differentiate itself begins with a compelling agency positioning. You don’t have to be so hyper-specialized as to become irrelevant for most AOR searches, but small tweaks in the way you talk about your agency can make a big difference in how you’re perceived. A great historic example was Kaplan Thaler Group’s “We make unknown brands famous. Make famous brands icons. And create ideas that become part of our culture.” Start with a philosophy that’s true to your work and style, and infuse that into everything else: work processes, interaction processes, and ultimately a positioning statement. 2. Focus on business issues This one is so obvious, yet so often forgotten in the rush to talk up your agency. Business issues should be an undercurrent to, if not the outright focus of, any conversation with a prospective client. Even if the client’s not willing to share all issues outright, there are ways to make the conversation more about them than you, and better yet, to show how you’re the solution they need. The successful matchup of client needs and agency offerings begins with an agency’s ability to draw explicit connections between the two. 3. Highlight service The importance of outstanding service delivery can’t be overlooked. [...]

By |October 23rd, 2018|

The New Business Development Strategy: Turn Your Efforts Upside Down

Agencies everywhere are finding new business development to be a greater and greater challenge. And, unfortunately, the business development strategies of most agencies are destined for failure. 1.  Unattainable growth rates are often needed to achieve agency growth objectives 2.  The investment required and the low odds of winning pitches is debilitating 3.  The stress on organic growth is intense and rarely achieved 4.  Too much reliance is placed on a small group of senior “sellers” 5.  Difficulty “standing out” in pitches leads to expensive, wasteful theatrics 6.  Cold calling experiences are generally unsuccessful and de-motivating If you experience some of these challenges, your team is not alone! Most agencies face these challenges – hence an opportunity exists to re-invent the industry’s new business development strategies. The Problems with Agency New Business Development Strategies Today Most agencies approach new business development in a three step fashion that is fundamentally flawed: 1) Competitive Pitches and Reviews These are by far the biggest area of focus for most larger agencies. Reviews get most of the business development resources – in people, focus and money. Reviews, however, can be a fools’ paradise: you must make it through the questionnaire stage against a dozen other agencies just to be a finalist (1 in 12 odds) – and then, upon becoming a finalist, the odds are generally only 1 in 4 that you will win. If you do the math, there is a 2% chance of being awarded the business at the time you receive the questionnaire. There must be a better strategy! And yet, while this is such a bitter place to invest – because many of the largest accounts are awarded through a review – it is easy [...]

By |October 2nd, 2018|

The Most Important Principle of New Business Pitching

I learned the most important lesson about new business pitching from an unlikely source for a man in my business: record producer Jimmy Iovine. In 2013 I was a proud dad sitting in the audience at the University of Southern California’s commencement ceremony. The keynote speaker was famous music producer and co-founder of Beats headphones, Jimmy Iovine. He told an unforgettable story that I’ve applied to sales conversations ever since. As I remember it, Jimmy described his start as a sound engineer working on an early Bruce Springsteen album. After working on Born to Run with producer Jon Landau, he was asked to work on the follow up album, Darkness On the Edge of Town. He was tasked to find the right drum beat for a song, and it wasn’t an easy job. After spending six weeks working around the clock trying to get the sound that Bruce had in his head actualized with instruments, Jimmy became frustrated. Bruce wanted a specific sound that he had trouble describing, and Jimmy was failing time after time at delivering what the Boss was looking for. No matter what they tried, it wasn’t working. Bruce kept rejecting the work, which left Jimmy feeling disrespected and on the verge of quitting. When All Seemed Lost, A Pivotal Moment It was then that a pivotal moment took place: Bruce’s manager looked Jimmy straight in the eye and said something to the effect of, “you go back there and say to Bruce ‘I’m here to support you. This is not about me. It’s about the album.’ You will have a friend for the rest of your life.” Jimmy swallowed his pride and did just that. In the end, Jimmy never nailed [...]

By |July 24th, 2018|

Seven Steps in the Agency New Business Development Process

Agencies know what it’s like to do new business development, but do they know how organizations think during their search for an agency? When a company decides it needs help, what does that process look like? And what can agencies do to earn new business? Agency owners don’t like to hear it, but business leaders don’t pay much attention to which agency is doing what, nor do they search for agency blogs to find a right fit. Instead, the people running those businesses think about the problems they face and wonder how an agency could help alleviate their burdens. Unfortunately, business leaders rarely have time to conduct a thorough search for a solution on their own. Higher-ups usually delegate the task to a mid-level manager who searches for an hour or two. Agencies have a limited window of time to get noticed and appeal to a prospect who’s typically a junior employee reporting to the ultimate decision maker. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable. Delegated searchers look for content, list placement, and prospect-friendly websites. People should be able to find your agency easily and decide for themselves whether you offer what they need. There are thousands of articles about how to attract that web traffic—but this isn’t one of them. Instead, let’s discuss what comes next: the first meeting. The First Meeting: Differentiation Whether you go with a formal presentation or an informal coffee meet-up, the truth is that all the business development process presentations look the same. Steve Boehler, a founding partner at Mercer Island Group, recently joined my podcast to talk about what businesses experience during the search for an agency. Steve told me: When we’re briefing the client to get them ready, we tell [...]

By |June 20th, 2018|

How to Position Your Agency for Success

Every day across the globe, agencies are working hard to differentiate their clients and help drive their clients’ growth. These agencies use the art and science of positioning to help their clients stand out from competition in an important and authentic manner. Sadly, most of the agencies doing this fine work have not worked the same positioning magic for themselves, in spite of the fact that they compete with dozens—if not hundreds—of other agencies on a daily basis. There is an abundance of talented and effective agencies who have failed to differentiate themselves. As a result, they are missing out on the significant (and very profitable) growth opportunities triggered by a compelling brand position. So, how to position your agency for success? Let’s talk about it. The Challenges of Agency Growth As you no doubt know, there are numerous challenges when it comes to growing an agency today. These challenges include: • More competition • Greater complexity • Difficulty expressing the uniqueness of your agency • A more educated and informed buyer who does his/her agency research without your knowledge Most agencies face these challenges. There is, however, an opportunity to address these challenges by positioning your agency in a truly unique, compelling and differentiated fashion. In this paper we will share the learning we have regarding how to create such a differentiated position for any agency by leveraging best practices that we have learned from our 28 years of agency related consulting. The Great Agencies of Old Most agencies today face the challenge of how to effectively position their firm and how to present their agency in a compelling, client-centric manner. It was not always like this! The great agencies of old stood for [...]

By |June 5th, 2018|

5 Mistakes that cost agency owners money