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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hunter

How to Grow Your Agency

Updated: Jun 27, 2018

When pursuing new business for your agency – which can oftentimes feel like a fishing expedition – it might seem counter-intuitive to narrow your focus, because we've been taught that the more lines we have in the water, the greater our odds of catching something. But successful business development professionals (and those who consistently win fishing derbies) have outgrown this approach. It's better, they know, to fish out of ponds more likely to be stocked with the type of fish that will find their lure attractive. 

1. Focus your target industries.

While some agencies can get away with being generalists by virtue of their size, stature, or location, most are better served by declaring a specialty, either by industry / category (e.g. retailers, healthcare, or B2B) or type of work performed. You don’t have to go “all in” in order to demonstrate focus and expertise. In college, you can double-major in something and take other courses, rather than graduating with a General Studies degree.

Strengthen your strengths. If you’ve done great work for a couple of retailers, then seek out more of them. While sometimes you’ll have to steer around competitive conflicts, something cool happens when your strength in a given area becomes towering: clients forego their concerns about conflict, in exchange for knowing that they’re dealing with experts in their category. In other words, what previously ruled you out becomes what rules you in.

2. Focus your target companies through a scoring system.

List all companies in your “world” – including those that you might not have known about yesterday – and score them according to key criteria, such as their known motivation to switch agencies, the strength of your connections, proximity, and size (hint: bigger isn’t always better, because those fish are the most sought after). Take a weighted average of the scores so as to prioritize your prospects, from first to last on your list.

Parallel-49's "Moneyball" Approach to Ranking Prospects

3. Focus your message.

Does your agency have a “thing?” It could be a philosophy, a strategic approach, a creative vision. It could be a mission, mantra, ethos, or even a tag line. But it should sound different. Or at least different-ish. Better to risk sounding gimmicky than undifferentiated and uninteresting.

4. Tie it all together.

Your “thing” should come through loud and clear across your web site, pitch materials, RFI/RFP responses, and outbound email marketing (if you’re not doing email marketing, then we should talk). Your "thing" is what will identify you – beyond your people, client work, and location – as “that agency.” In other words, do for yourself exactly what you recommend for your clients: become known for something.

For examples of any of these principles in action, email me at and let’s chat.

Michael Hunter runs Parallel-49, a business growth consultancy that has advised Lowe’s, Panasonic, GE, and agencies including BBDO and Landor. A marketing executive at Best Buy, KitchenAid, and Campbell Soup, and Chief Marketing & Growth Officer for agencies, he works as a consultant and fractional CMO for non-competing agencies.

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