Is the traditional role of the “new business” person often flawed? What can agencies do to get it right?
It’s not so much flawed as varied, so agencies’ expectations are often wildly wrong.
Everyone broadly knows what a Creative Director or Head of Tech does, but new business is different. Not only does it span sales, marketing, PR, operations, internal comms, finance and more, but also everyone has their own view on where it begins and ends.
Clearly there are huge nuances around the remit, as well as the skills, seniority and personality that goes into getting a good, long-term fit and a sensible set of KPIs.
Although we’ve come a long way from ‘welcome aboard, here’s your phone, now piss off and make the magic happen’, exactly how far – and in which direction – varies massively. No wonder new-business job descriptions are so often generic.
When I was a candidate, you could immediately spot the agencies that would struggle. Their JDs would be three-page shopping lists of everything remotely newbiz-related, or insanely unrealistic contrasts of seniority and skills, like the classic ‘hungry pitch manager… capable of a consultative CMO sell’. Good luck with that.
So there’s no magic bullet – just a brutally honest assessment of what the business needs at that moment and what infrastructure is in place, coupled with a realistic view on what you can get for your money.
Have emerging disciplines such as service design and innovation meant that the way agencies stand out has changed?
Absolutely. For me, these disciplines have reignited the evolution of new-business, which had stalled since the downturn. The agency’s own customer experience has become the definitive differentiator.
Just like with consumers and brands, choice increasingly outweighs client knowledge. Agencies are largely me-too and far less memorable for it. Worse still, generalists routinely pile into any emerging discipline with the flimsiest claims of capability.
So, agencies that reflect their genuine expertise beyond their marketing have a far better chance of standing out. This forces you to serve a discrete audience and back-up your claims. Not only do your new-business efforts become more tailored, but your tools and processes become specialised, refined and repeatable.