I don’t care how big or old your agency is — you want to win more new business. If I could bottle business development success — I’d be a billionaire. Honestly – getting new business for your agency is not as mysterious as we make it out to be.
There is a methodology that works. But it requires work. That’s why agencies struggle. They wrestle with being disciplined enough to do the work consistently.
That’s why I knew I needed to get Peter Levitan on the Build a Better Agency podcast. Peter’s book, Buy This Book, Win More Pitches, is a brilliant read on how to get your agency noticed and pursued by clients you’d love to work with. Peter has spent his career building successful brands, digital technologies, publishing and advertising environments, and highly effective marketing programs for Fortune 500 companies. He has 30 years of experience running Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide, his own Portland Agency, and as the CEO of two Internet start-ups.
On the podcast, Peter and I talk about truly differentiating your agency, how successful agencies prospect and what you need to do right now to get your new business program in high gear. We also delve into personas and how inbound has changed the agency new business model.
You’ll probably listen to this one more than once when working on getting new business. Peter’s straight to the point style and 30 years of success in the field success make for an incredible interview.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/peter-levitan/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below.
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build A Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.
Drew: Hey everybody. Thanks for checking out this episode of Build A Better Agency. Drew McLellan here and I am really excited about the topic today. This is a topic that I love to talk about, agency owners are obsessed in talking about and our guest today is a huge expert in the area of getting new business and in pitching and positioning your agency, so we’re going to dig into all of that. Build A Better Agency is all about helping agency owners just like you do it a little bit better, so you can make a little more and worry a little less and so with that, I want to introduce today’s guest, Peter Levitan.
Peter is a builder of successful brands, digital technologies, publishing and advertising environments and highly effective marketing programs for Fortune 500 clients, ad agencies, tech companies and publishers. He spent 16 years at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, running their business development and some major accounts. He owned his own agency, I believe up in Portland and was CEO/founder of two Internet startups. Many of you are familiar with The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches., which was a great read. And we’re going to really dig into Peter’s expertise around how agencies can grow their business. So Peter, welcome to the podcast.
Peter: Well, thank you very much. Thanks for the introduction. One thing you didn’t say, was that I did all of that in two years so.
Drew: And you are only 29, right?
Peter: Actually 26, thank you.
Drew: That is right. Sorry, didn’t mean to overshoot. So Peter, give us a little more background. Have you always been in the agency business for the most part, is that the lion’s share of your professional career?
Peter: Well, it’s interesting. I was thinking the other day, what is the string? What ties sort of my having left college to where I am today and I realized that to a certain extent, I can call it creative selling. I started as a photographer in San Francisco. I had a commercial photography studio. Then I moved back to New York City where I grew up and went into advertising, then I had two Internet companies and then my own advertising agency and my own business today, which is helping agencies develop better, smarter business development programs and across that entire life span, I realized that I have been selling. So, whether I’m selling my photography to agencies or today selling my consulting practice to agencies, it’s all about selling. So, I think I’ve really come down to the conclusion that I know how to sell stuff.
Drew: Well and when you think about it that, isn’t that what agency’s job are too is to help clients sell their stuff, so it makes sense that you’ve hung out in that space for as long as you have then.
Peter: Right. Well it certainly helps.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. So I know one of things that a lot of our listeners are thinking is Saatchi & Saatchi and he did big brand, big new business, so help them understand maybe a little bit about your own agency after you left Saatchi and just how some of this translates, everything we’re going to talk about today. If I’m a 10-person agency in a second tier or third tier city, how do I scale this stuff down?
Peter: Well, it’s really about fundamentals and as I say that word I’m thinking about the start of NFL football season. To a certain extent, while the NFL is different from high school football, essentially they’re trying to get the ball from the what is it called? Wherever they start into the goal. And to a certain extent, that’s all that agencies do and it’s consistent whether you’re a 1,000 person agency or a 10 person agency. And what it comes down to is understanding what your goal line is, understanding what your objectives are and I don’t think, frankly, that that’s any different in my conversations with major agencies down to small shops, 2, 3, 10 people. It’s really understanding what the objective is and then focusing on it and I think that that’s in particular, critical for small agencies that are time stressed, management is stressed. It’s really all about focusing and understanding what the objectives are and being realistic.
Drew: Yeah if anything, smaller agencies are trying to do the same job, they just have fewer resources to do it with, right?
Peter: Exactly. It’s interesting, the Saatchi bit. I haven’t worked there in about 20 years, but it becomes the way people position me. So, I’m positioned as a Saatchi guy and I certainly use those words because frankly, let’s face it, that it helps me position myself.
Drew: Absolutely, great cache.
Peter: Exactly. But the reality is I probably learn more running two Internet companies and running my very own agency, which fluctuated between about 25 and 35 people over the course of 7 years. So, I learned more running an agency than I ever did actually working at Saatchi and this is in respect to business development.
Drew: So give us an example of something that eluded you when you were at Saatchi, but you learned, you got punched with it square in the forehead at either your own shop or one of the startups?
Peter: Well, I had an interesting point in time near the end of my career at Saatchi. I was running business development in Europe and at the same time we were a very successful London agency, but we were having trouble in our New York office. In fact, things were kind of falling apart. It was the last year that Morris and Charles actually owned and ran the agency and New York itself was having problems. So I moved from London back to New York to run business development and I started to ask around to see what the plan looked like, P-L-A-N and people said, “Well we don’t have the business development plan.” And I realized something, well two things.
One, you need a plan and when I started to talk to management about having a marketing plan for the agency, they couldn’t wrap their head around that. I think that they were so used to doing things the old way, then the idea of actually having a plan with objectives and strategies and target audiences was something that was alien, strangely enough to an advertising agency. So that was my big lesson. It’s important to have a plan.
Drew: Yeah, absolutely. And yet, most agencies that are listening to this podcast and most agencies that you and I interact with on a regular basis, don’t have a plan for getting new business. So, when I talk to agencies and I say, “Well tell me about your new business plan,” I get the, “Oh, well.” First I get the cobbler’s children excuse and then I get the “Most of our businesses is word of mouth or referral.” So in essence, I translate that to, “We sit around and wait for opportunity.”
Peter: Well, I agree completely. I think the problem with the word “referral” unfortunately is on one hand it works. There are a couple of agencies in Portland that have been around 30 years and they are very well known and they get incoming calls. That’s nice. The other problem with referral, which is really a problem, is it becomes the default. So if you don’t do anything else and I ask an agency, “How do you win business?” And they don’t do anything, they say, “Well, referrals.” Well of course it’s referrals, but if you were to sort of turn it into a dating situation, it’s like sitting by the phone, waiting for the phone to ring. It’s not a particularly robust technique in terms of growing your agencies. So, referrals I think are good. It’s nice to be referred to because I think your reputation is the most important thing you have. On the other hand, you’ve lost control of the process at that point.
Drew: Well, my perception of that is, is you don’t have the volume that you need and they’re choosing you versus you choosing who you should be working for. So you’re taking whatever comes through the door as opposed to saying, “Here’s who we should or shouldn’t work for.”
Peter: Exactly. Even though you said it, I’m sure you’re tired of the analogy of the cobbler’s children. It’s absurd. It doesn’t make sense and frankly, if I was a client looking at agencies, one of the things I would look at and I’m not everybody, is how do they promote themselves? So, I’ll go to the website. The first thing many clients look at is an agency website and it is mind blowing to me how similar they are and they’ve gotten even more similar as a lot of agencies use similar WordPress themes. It’s just bizarre. I don’t understand it, but it’s such an easy fix.
Drew: Well and even worse than the themes are the language they use to describe themselves. I was poking around on your website and your blog and you had a great blog post where you basically showed how different agencies refer to themselves and they use every agency it seems like use the same 10 words to describe themselves.
Peter: I’ll be kind to agencies. It’s very difficult to find new words to express what you do when what you do is very, very similar to the guy down the street, so I get it. I’ll point to your audience to two websites that I think are interesting. A friend of mine in London has an agency, great name for the agency, London Advertising. It’s essentially a one page scrolling website. They have a video, which is something I always recommend agencies to do, just figure out a way to get a short video on your website to introduce yourself. And so I suggest people look at London because these are very strategic guys. And I found a website the other day that I thought was just the way it was actually drawn as an illustrated. It’s a website for a public relations agency, international agency called Frank PR and right off of that, you’ll see that these do not look like all other agencies and you don’t have to build a website that is wacky, you just have to find an angle and both of these companies have done that.
Drew: So I think we’re in agreement that a lot agencies struggle with getting new business and where they struggle is they don’t apply their resource to it in a thoughtful sort of planned way. I’m curious your take on how that comes to be. When I look at the situation, I think every agency owner will tell you without hesitation that new business and cash-flow and having enough work to keep their good people busy, is the heart of what makes their agency thrive. So in theory, they’re saying it’s their oxygen and yet they don’t do anything to make sure they get more oxygen. So, from your perspective, what gets in the way of agencies having a robust new business plan or marketing plan and actually doing all of the things that they tell their clients to do to help grow their business?
Peter: Well, I think one of the issues and believe me there are many, so it’s hard to completely generalize, but I think one of the issues is that many agencies actually do not understand sales. And I often find and sort of laugh at the idea that we call sales in the agency business development and it becomes an euphemism. The bottom line is it’s sales. I just don’t think a lot of agency CEOs or leaders actually understand the sales process. Frankly, I think that they should read sales books and I have to say I know many of them do that, but they need to read them, they need to look at videos online, they need to go to conferences where people are talking about sales to both be conscious and be stimulated to do it right.
So I’m going to say that since easily 60% to 70% of agencies don’t have business development plans, even a one pager frankly, guys, one page. They also don’t really understand sales. I invented three words today, I’m sure they’re somewhere out there, but smart sales pressure. I thought, “Okay, that’s really what it’s about.” It’s being very smart about who your potential customer is or in this case client. what their needs are, how you’ve positioned your agency to meet those needs and then you got to apply a little pressure to it. And it’s not cold-calls, it’s more like warm calls and it’s very much about fault
Drew: Well and again, if the way you’ve built your agency is sort of the friends and family model, which turns into the referral model, you haven’t had to sell aggressively certainly because you’ve had opportunities presents themselves and in often cases in that situation, there is no shoot-out or pitch or whatever, it’s yours to lose, if anything at all.
Peter: Well, I did some math recently and I use it in a presentation I give on pitching and I try to find an average agency, 10 RFPs a year, 6 pitches a year, plus business development can cost an agency $500,000, all right? Now, somebody might say, “Well how is that possible?” Well, how much does it cost to do 10 RFPs? How much to do six pitches and either you’re paying yourself or you’re paying a business development director some money. It’s not that hard to get to 500,000, though some of that might be soft cost, but it’s imperative that agencies figure this out.
As a side note, another agency I point people to is an agency that just got purchased call G5, so the letter G, the numeral five based in Bend, Oregon, which was one of the two cities I had my agency in in Oregon. And they’re worth looking at simply because they picked a niche and they stayed with it and it’s a niche that has not only a business development plan, but more importantly a business model to it that will make money. So, it can be done, but it requires a great deal of focus and an understanding that this is an expensive business and you better get it right. I think it’s about staying hungry frankly.
Drew: Yeah, well I think it’s about recognizing that you’ve got to keep the pipeline full and continue the push for getting new business because at any moment you’re at huge risk of the big one walking away and I think when we went through the recession and talent was cheap, it was easier to let people go and hire new people and all of that. I don’t think it was easier emotionally, but it was easier just from a supply and demand point of view. But as agencies are facing a real crunch in finding and keeping great employees, the ebb and flow of business that requires agencies to lay off and hire, lay off and hire, gets to be a very expensive proposition.
Peter: Yes. In particular, I live in Portland, Oregon and it’s famously known as the city where the young move to retire and one of the reasons we say that is that people come here looking for jobs and even in a city which is very desirable and has a relatively low cost of living, the agencies here are really hungry for talent and a key reason for that, unfortunately, are the somewhat lower margins than the agency business. So it’s not only incumbent that you are active in seeking clients, but it’s certainly seeking the right clients. It’s really understanding what kind of clients you should have, what are the ones that are going to be in the higher margin and again, it’s just really all about focus.
Drew: So a lot of experts out there talking about agency new business and some believe that a good strategy for small to mid-sized agencies is to, as you describe the agency in Bend, to sort of niche themselves in a category or an industry and ride that industry or category, and others suggest that it’s dangerous to just pick one niche and that you should have multiple legs on the stool if you will. So I’m curious, what’s your take on that?
Peter: Well, we’re in the agency business for different reasons. So one is make a good living and another is to have fun. So when I point people at G5 sometimes and they look at them and they go, “Well wait a minute”, they’ve really only concentrated on four or five categories, one of which, for example, is storage units, another are apartment rentals and they said, “Well that just doesn’t look like a lot of fun.” Well, okay, I get that. So it is a balance between fun and making money, but the bottom line is you got to make money first. So I think that it’s imperative for agencies to figure out what is it they want. Let me give you an example.
I talk to a lot of agencies and I say, “Well what do you specialize in?” And I would say half of them say healthcare. Now why healthcare? One, obviously it’s a huge industry. Two, it’s very local. It works for smaller agencies and I asked them, “Well how are you getting healthcare business?” And the great majority have not employed a very smart thought leadership process to sounding and looking different and looking like an expert in that category. So I think that you have to specialize a bit in categories. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a healthcare only agency, but if you are going to say, “I want a healthcare account,” you better walk the talk.
Drew: Absolutely and I think oftentimes too they jump into a broad category like healthcare as opposed to sort of carving that down even deeper and saying, “You know what, we’re in the pharma side of healthcare,” or one of the agencies and one of my networks, they work with small and regional hospitals, so they’ve narrowed their niche to a more definable sort of category that allows them to have a deep expertise in that.
Peter: Well, you have to look desirable. It’s kind of like going out to the bar, assuming most people still go to the bar and they don’t just use Tinder to find dates these days, but you have to look good. And I’m just not sure that, just saying I’m a healthcare agency is enough these days. There’s too much competition out there. How do you look and act different? One of the things my agency did and this is a few years ago and actually it’s still a relevant strategy, was we studied the major healthcare brands in our region and nationally on the basis of how they were doing in social media. And we created a thought leadership program that was very compelling to marketing directors. They wanted to see not only how larger organizations were using social media, this was very quantitative, but how their competitors were. And we wound up winning two fairly major accounts based on that alone because we look like experts and we were giving them exactly the kind of information they wanted. Did it cost us a lot of money? No, but it cost some time, but it was very focused. So there are lots of interesting ways to get this job done, one of them isn’t just saying, “We’re a healthcare agency.”
Drew: Yeah. So in that example, how did you package that data? Did you hold an event? Did you create a white paper? Did you do a webinar? How did you, A, let them know you had the data and then B, how did you deliver it?
Peter: Well we did two things. We created a digital document and we created a physical document that we sent, so we knew who the let’s say the top 20 marketing directors we wanted to talk to. If people go on SlideShare, look up my name, Peter Levitan, on SlideShare, that document exists. So at is point it might even be man, seven or eight years ago, but you’ll see how we created some charts and created a very compelling look at a category. Now, let me tell you that we borrowed that idea from a company in New York called L2, which did the same thing for the luxury market, so I urge your audience again to take a look at L2 in New York and see how they did it. And really what it’s about is educating your market and by educating them, they realize that you’re smart. And of course you have to follow it up frankly with some phone calls. You still have to nudge them. As we all know, marketers don’t necessarily put two and two together and then make the call, you’ve got to call them, but you’ve warmed them up at that point.
Drew: Yeah, you actually have to try and sell.
Peter: You have to sell.
Drew: Yeah, yeah.
Peter: Correct. Smart sales pressure.
Drew: I like it. You better patent that right away and get a trademark on it.
Peter: Like warm calling. I should have patented it that way too, but okay.
Drew: Hey, what about the idea of every agency that presents itself, refers to itself as a full-service agency regardless of if they have 3 employees or 300 employees, what’s your take on that?
Peter: Well there are a few things going on now. Most agencies were full-service once upon a time, then we started to see a move into direct marketing, which has been happening for years, but I’d say about 10 or 15 years ago, direct marketing started to look really attractive as digital marketing started to happen because analytics, all of sudden we could really track everything. So there was a move into that. In fact, one point I renamed my agency Ralston 360 from Ralston Group. The 360 moniker, which I think became overused, was really about understanding the full spectrum of marketing.
The problem unfortunately today with full-service, while most clients need it, it just doesn’t provide enough of a niche basis for them to be able to position you differently than the other guys. The reality today is most of the digital agencies I know are being asked to do a full-service work, but they’re at least being able to position themselves in a niche. I like full-service. The problem, unfortunately, is while the clients probably want that, what they don’t get out of that is any differentiation between you and the next guy, so I don’t like those words, full-service.
Drew: We go into the field and do some research with CMOs and sort of different attitudes they have about agencies and how they work with agencies and everything every year. And last year, we explored the idea of the words full-service and what we heard from the folks who participated in the research was they don’t believe it. When they look at an agency of 20 people and they know how complicated marketing has gotten especially on the digital side, they sort of say, “I don’t think so.”
Peter: Yeah, to an intelligent marketer that I agree completely. Really, nobody’s figured out mobile marketing yet, so how could you conceivably say that you understand the full spectrum because there are elements that are changing so fast today that very few agencies that actually lay claim. Now, that said, I’ve seen agencies that just say, “We’re a mobile agency” and they’re doing very, very well, so I avoid the full-service. There might be other ways to express that. The one thing going for full-service is that clients are a little bit concerned about having too many agencies. So there are a lot of factors here. It’s just really understanding where your internal skill set fits into the spectrum.
Drew: So when you work with the agencies, I believe where you start as sort of hey, what do you want to get out of this? What are your objectives? And then how do we position you to help you achieve those objectives, Yes?
Peter: Yes, well it’s very much about positioning, but I’ll even take it to the next step. It’s not enough to have a good positioning, it’s how you express it and I’ve been sort of moving into an interesting world and it’s very much back from my Saatchi & Saatchi days. I ask agencies if they want to be famous and what does that mean. Do you want to be well known? And then what do you want to be well known for?
And so I suggested yes, let’s get to a positioning that makes sense, that’s based on a business plan, which means if you get those kind of clients, you’ll be making a very good living. But part of having a positioning, the most important part I think, because you can have a positioning that no one hears, is to make sure that you get the word out, so how do you express it in your inbound and outbound marketing is probably the most critical element. Yes, you need an objective then a positioning, but then how do you get the word out? And I think unfortunately, that’s how many, many agencies fail is they just have not figured out, again, back to the sales point unfortunately. How do we enunciate the positioning? How do we get those words into the people’s heads?
Drew: So I know one of the things you do a lot of work with agencies around us, the whole idea of how to pitch different and better, so what are two or three mistakes that most agencies make in their pitching activity?
Peter: Well, it’s funny. I knew this was coming. I have to admit it, so I put up a poster I made from the 12 cartoons on my website, which are the 12 mistakes that agencies make, so I’m not going to say all the 12 mistakes, but it’s a pretty funny cartoon. Couple of examples, one is load the room with agency staff. It’s that disproportionate, we’re going to have six agency people and three clients. It doesn’t work in dating and it doesn’t work in a pitch.
Another certainly is agencies actually are afraid of being distinctive, “Oh my God, I’m too different.” The bottom line is clients need that. And another is that agencies don’t really think very hard about how to build chemistry with the clients, and I’ll say based on the range of agency consultants that have provided input into my book, in many cases it comes down to two things. One, agencies are not listening, they’re talking about themselves, which also creates the problem of agencies are not building chemistry. Most accounts are won on a chemistry basis. Yes, sometimes if it doesn’t work, there’s not much you can do about it, but I suggest agencies that they really have to manage the chemistry process, which by the way starts with the first time the guy goes and looks at your website.
Drew: So what are some ways that an agency can focus on and improve the odds on the chemistry side? What are some things they can do to try and up their game in that arena?
Peter: I think it’s critical that you understand the personas of the people that are going to be in the room with you. I used actually sort of an interesting angle, which I found by accident one day. We all go to LinkedIn and we read the profile, we read the recommendations of other people, so you go to my profile in LinkedIn, you can read what other people said about me. What I realized one day was, I would learn more about someone if I read what they wrote about someone else, all right? And I have a really good example in the book of a CMO who when he recommended his ex-employees, talked about the things that he appreciated about those people. So now it’s his voice telling me what he values and I’m not a genius, but somehow I stumbled into that and I thought, “Wow, that’s a very interesting way of understanding the person I’m pitching to.” Because now I’m hearing him talk about what he likes.
Drew: Yeah, right. In his own words he’s describing.
Peter: In his own words, absolutely.
Drew: What he values, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Another thought about chemistry?
Peter: Well, it’s an interesting problem. First of all, let me say that it’s really any smart business meeting, you should do some rehearsal. In a pitch, you should do a lot of rehearsal, but here’s a potential problem.
Drew: Wait a second, so you mean rehearsing in the car on the way to the pitch is not enough?
Peter: No and I’m willing to say that I’ve probably done that myself. I will say, in the days that I worked at Saatchi London where we thought we were really hot shit, we didn’t rehearse very well. And in fact, in the book, it’s the story I called “the worst pitch ever” where we did no rehearsal and lost the opportunity to win the Adidas global business. So yeah, I’ve got a good story about that. Here’s the downside of rehearsing and it happens in agencies where not everybody is super [inaudible 00:29:08] and the great presenter, is people get so locked into what they rehearsed that they can’t break out. They’re not listening to the client in the meeting and they can’t adlib and I’ve seen that happen unfortunately. So on one sense, you need to rehearse, and the other is you need some ability. If the client says something that’s not in the script, you need to be able to get off script.
Drew: Yeah, in a hurry.
Peter: In a hurry and this is not easy stuff because I think we’ve all had our, I’ll just pick on one person, the creative director who completely goes off track and talks for 20 minutes about some shoot he did in Brazil.
Drew: Right, or the person who’s rehearsed so badly that they forget their line in essence and freeze.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. So when you think about getting new business from the agency perspective, how has it changed over the years? What’s different today than say back when you were with Saatchi or early in your career? What are the agencies need to be thinking about today because a lot of agency owners have been doing this for a long time and I suspect whatever new business activity they have, whether it’s they belong to their local chamber or they sit on a trade show committee for the industry that they service, they’re doing it the way they’ve done it for the last 20 or 25 years, so what’s different?
Peter: Well, without question, the biggest difference is inbound marketing. It used to be reputation. You work at Saatchi & Saatchi, we’re going to give you a phone call, or it was outreach where I knew the people I wanted to work with, certainly an issue at big agencies. And small, frankly is you get into the conflict problem, “Okay, what are the categories left that I can go pitch?” So you better be going after the clients in those categories. But the biggest difference today is the world of inbound marketing, whether it’s search engine optimization or understanding how to use LinkedIn and Twitter and other tools. It’s imperative and I think it’s a missed opportunity for too many agencies. They just don’t understand it.
They don’t know how to create lots of content, they don’t know to create the right content. And when I say right content, a lot of agency blogs talk about things that other agencies talk about. They’re not talking about things that are of great relevance, so the kind of client that they want to attract. So I think there’s a slight failure there, while agencies better understand inbound marketing for their clients, they’re not using it intelligently for themselves.
Drew: Do you think that’s because…again, back to our cobbler’s children example, do you think that’s because they don’t invest enough time in it or that they don’t give it enough thought or that they’re not willing to narrow the focus and discourage somebody with a buck in their pocket from calling?
Peter: Well, I’m going to say it’s all of the above. I think the biggest issue is time. I’m a good inbound marketer, I’m good at search engine optimization, I’m a writer [SP]. Now, those to a certain extent are my personal trades and not every agencies owner is going to have those personal trades, but I think that they have to think like a manager and figure out how to be able to attract and it’s an attraction strategy. How are we going to attract the kind of clients that we want? And I don’t think you can just live on attraction strategy alone. There’s this concept of winning without pitching. The bottom line is you’re going to have to pitch, and you’re going to have to do outbound marketing, but is ways to tie all of that together. There’s no reason that inbound marketing and outbound marketing aren’t the same thing.
I talked about my healthcare analysis. Well that was both inbound, people found it and it was outbound, we sent it out. But I think the key difference today is and this is unfortunate, some prospects will go to your website, figure you out and choose never to call you up on the phone. And that’s the big different today versus pick a number, 15, 20 years ago. A lot of decisions are made outside of your control.
Drew: Yeah, before you even know they…
Peter: You don’t even know they showed up.
Drew: You don’t know you’re on their radar screen.
Drew: Right, right. One of the things we were chatting about before we started the podcast was this idea of thought leadership. Where do you stand on all of that for agencies and how could agencies do it better than they’re doing it now?
Peter: Well I think it’s critical and it’s a very broad subject. Let me just pick one aspect, which I think a lot agencies haven’t figured out unfortunately and that is and I’ll use just two words, guest posting. There is such a need for content across all types of websites and I mean advertising websites, marketing websites, Huffington Post, Forbes. There is such a need for content. These sites are so voracious that there’s absolutely no reason that an agency leader cannot write for Forbes.
If you look at the people who are writing on forbes.com, there are agency owners, there are consultants, lots of people. Business To Community is another big site. The list goes on forever. So, I think one of the things that people don’t realize is while your website is somewhat limited in terms of the amount of attraction it has, there is absolutely no reason you can’t be writing for broader websites.
Drew: Absolutely. That’s a strategy that I have employed for years and it serves me well and it’s sticky, it serves you well for years and years and years, so, yeah.
Peter: Yeah and if no one in your agency’s great writer, then someone in your town is. Unfortunately, a lot of very good journalists that are out of work.
Drew: Yeah, absolutely. So if one of my goals with the podcast is to make sure that we give agency owners who are listening some next steps, some action items that they can take to advance the topic. So if someone’s been listening to us and we’ve touched on a lot of things, we’ve touched on positioning and pitching and thought leadership and niching yourself, all of those things, if an agency owner wants to take two or three steps on their own to begin to get better at any or all of that what, what would you recommend that they do in the next 24 hours, 48 hours to begin to improve the way they think about and create activity around the idea of new business?
Peter: Well, this is going to send a little pat, but my suggestion is go back in time and even if you can speed read, read two or three Seth Goden books. That maybe sounds simplistic, but…
Drew: He’s brilliant.
Peter: Yeah, there are a few writers out there who I think nail it and I really suggest that just really getting inside his head. e We’re very lucky in Portland, we have Powell’s Bookstore, which is an enormous store. I just go for an hour and sort of speed read business books. So that’s something I’ll suggest. Another is to really understand this concept of pain point. Again, sales people really understand it. What is the pain point that your prospective client has, whether it’s his personal pain point, he’s got to save his job or he’s got to sell a new product or a new service or he’s up against some competition, really figuring out what this means, this concept of pain point because pain points are what sales people use to sell.
Drew: Okay, awesome. Any last thoughts for our listeners in terms of this topic on getting new business in general?
Peter: Well, it’s interesting. Advertising people can be negative, right? “Oh, woe is me.” I think that there is so much confusion and change in the marketplace today in respect to digital marketing and it’s affect on the entire industry. I hate to say it, I’ve got an application on my Chrome browser, which avoids advertising, right?
Peter: It’s incredible and I think 30% of the population today has some Ad block on their machine. That freaks out advertisers, so we have a tremendous opportunity where we’ve got very worried clients tap into their needs and tap into their fears because we’re the guys that actually can create the programs that’ll solve those problems and help them build sales and that’s a great pitch.
Drew: Amen, amen. So, Peter, if listeners want to find you, they want to track you down, they want to read some of your writing, obviously they can find your book on Amazon. What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
Peter: Well, it’s interesting. I choose a while back to brand myself, so if you search Peter Levitan L-E-V-I-T-A-N on Google, you’ll find me, my Twitter feed, my website, you name it. And if you want to talk, I have something I call a “Corleone” offer, which is an offer I assume most people can’t refuse. Let’s just talk and I’ll certainly give you at least one good idea.
Drew: You’re right. How can I refuse that? So everybody go check out Peter’s website. If you have not read his book, it’s a great read, I highly recommend it. Peter, I know you’re super busy working with agencies all over the globe, so really appreciate you taking out the time to do this and to share your insights with everybody. Thank you.
Peter: Thank you and great luck with the podcast.
Drew: Thanks much.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other way we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.