What Are You, A Schoolboy? Ask For The Order.

This is another guest post from Portlander Peter Levitan, a former ad agency principal and Baby Boomer with a new book out about Boomers “offing themselves” before they go broke.

Ad agencies fail in many areas, but not asking for the order takes the cake. How can agencies be so passive when it comes to soliciting new accounts? Where is the juice?

I just took a look at 30 agency websites to see how they deliver a sales pitch and then ask for the order. Guess what, they don’t. In virtually all cases, there wasn’t any direct sales pitch and I even had to hunt down the agency contact person.

The general approach to agency websites is: “We are cool, our work is great, we have some well-known clients, here is our philosophy, we have nice photos of our leaders and offices, maybe we have a blog and a Facebook page and oh, by the way, here is an email address and telephone number. Hey, call us if you are interested.”

Hello…it is 2012, the ad industry has been in a recession, traditional solutions are suspect, the marketing world is in constant tumult, we are just figuring out digital, mobile and social marketing (maybe) and clients are nervous. So, what’s up with the soft sell?

How bad is it? Try finding one agency that effectively solicits a business lead from the first page of the agency website. Please, find one. I couldn’t.

Imagine being a savvy CMO looking for an agency that knows how to sell products and services, and looks like it wants her business. I’m not sure that I’d be impressed. Interestingly, “ad” agencies are not alone in this. Even direct marketing agencies drop this ball.

When will agencies start to realize that their website is more than a creative brochure? It will soon be a new year, so there’s no time like the present.

To kick start your thinking, here are three self-promo ideas for your agency to pursue in 2013:

1. Delight and deliver a surprise so big that a prospective client looking for an agency with big ideas will be compelled to make contact. Think it can’t be done? Think again. Boone Oakley did it way back in 2009, and has now received over 1.3 million page views. How many views does your agency’s site currently get?

2. Ask for the order. Take a look at Amnesty International’s site. Amnesty’s big on the call to action. Amnesty has no choice; if they don’t grow they fail. Isn’t that a bit l like your agency? You may not want to act as hungry as a not-for-profit, but I bet that there is a middle ground between acting like a charity and too-cool-for-school passivity.

3. Bring your Biz Dev person, or team, into focus. And find a way to do something different with the site’s sales funnel. For instance, take a look at Wunderman’s “Contact” section. It’s not a big departure, but it is moving in the right direction.

Ad agency business development is never easy. But, you don’t have to make it harder on yourself by appearing overly nonchalant and burying your ASK.

Ask the “pretty girl” or dream client on a date. When you do, your chances of going somewhere together significantly increase. As a friend likes to say, “I’ve tried asking and not asking, and asking works a whole lot better.”



About Peter Levitan

Peter worked at Saatchi & Saatchi for 16 years. He was CEO and founder of Advance Publication’s New Jersey Online. Most recently he was CEO of the Portland ad agency Citrus which he sold in 2011. Peter also recently wrote Boomercide: From Woodstock To Suicide about Boomers “offing themselves” before they go broke.