Tapas Gupta
Guest Article

How to get ahead in advertising...

Some survival tips by an adman.

Experience has shown that a good new business manager in an advertising agency has a different mindset from the majority of her established colleagues. Such a mindset is essentially entrepreneurial and has a knack for sniffing out new business opportunities with greater enthusiasm. This attitude stems from the survival instinct of a keen businesswoman; if new business is not coming in then it is not possible to survive and grow in a competitive market.

How to get ahead in advertising...

Tapas Gupta

Managers may be classified as either maintenance managers or entrepreneurial business managers. A good maintenance manager services existing accounts well and keeps clients happy. But she lacks the power and energy to go the extra mile. An entrepreneurial manager not only does her job well keeping clients happy but also searches for new opportunities through new challenges that present themselves.

An entrepreneurial manager sees a recessionary market as an opportunity. The marketer is constantly reviewing the brand's performance, marketing inputs and strategies including advertising. The client is always looking for innovative solutions for his brand. An entrepreneurial manager is able to demonstrate her interest by presenting a fresh perspective to the problem. She can also rise up the career ladder faster.

One of the basics of preparation is to make a list of prospects by category. Parameters used to gauge the 'satisfaction index' may be category, company, brand, size of the business, agency(s), number of years with existing agency, level of dissatisfaction with current agency, top managers of the client company, and proposed new launches/brand extensions. For example, one could make, as a rule, 10 cold calls in a month, generating responses from at least four and convert at least two pitches.

At this stage, one may prioritise the 'hit list' on the basis of the reputation/brand, size of the business and its potential, satisfaction index, agency's experience in the category, and contacts at the client's office.

New business prospects may be categorised as cold, lukewarm or hot accordingly and as and when contact establishment, pitch presentation opportunity and shortlisting/negotiation has been completed.

A few tips on handling new business pitches:

1. New business calls should not be delegated. It is a top management responsibility and the likelihood of success is higher if it is treated that way. Business leads can come from anyone who matters in the prospect's company.

2. Make one person at the client's office the 'ambassador' or your spokesperson. He/she may not be a decision maker, but can be an influencer and informer.

• In a multi-agency pitch, go for overkill. That means not only an outstanding presentation but also creative 'effects' that leave a lasting impression. For example, when one of the world's most reputed writing instruments company from the UK was entering India, McCann Erickson made a pitch, among others. The agency's extra effect consisted of hiring an exhibition hall for the presentation and putting on display a collection of vintage writing instruments made by the prospect's company since its inception along with old posters and other items connected with the brand in that Gallery. The team from the UK was very impressed. McCann won the account.

• And this experience of 'effects' came to good use when McCann pitched to the Coca-Cola brand against formidable rivals, Lintas. While the presentation was greatly guided by McCann's Atlanta office, the 'effects' were mind-boggling. At the Oberoi, Mumbai and with active support from the Hotel, the management had, made to order, a giant 6-foot tall Coca-Cola bottle of ice. This was specially installed by the Hotel right in front of the presentation venue at the Oberoi. The Coca-Cola International team stood in front of the exhibit before entering the venue, completely 'frozen' for a few minutes, appreciating the ice sculpture. McCann Erickson won the Coca-Cola business, easily.

New business is rarely won across the table. But sustained effort at pre-selling and post-selling often does the trick. Pre-selling is when you make an impression with the client before the actual presentation and they start believing that you are someone they can co-opt as their professional partner, sharing the same passion for their brand.

Post-selling includes follow-ups starting with a 'Thank you' letter for attending the presentation preferably with a token memento. Continue to engage the prospect's attention. Send him/her competitive information, interesting news items relevant to their company/brand and specimens of your good creative work from time to time. They may not always send you a thank you note, but you will certainly be at the top of thier mind.

(The author is founder and managing director of full-service communications firm - BEI Confluence Communication and former president and CEO of a McCann Erickson agency)

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