Archive for the ‘Marginal gains’ Category

EP10: The pitch | Tony Spong | AAR

October 7th, 2017

Losing a pitch is just bad news all round. It costs an agency big; in time, money, resource, morale and confidence. So as new business performance improvement goes, there is surely no better place to make tangible impact than in the pitch itself.


The good news is that the opportunities for making marginal gains in the way we approach, plan and conduct our pitch activity are not only plentiful but often relatively simple.


In this episode of Small Spark Theory I chat to Tony Spong, Managing Partner at the original client-agency intermediary, AAR. Tony’s career has spanned both client and agency roles before settling squarely in the middle, where he has led hundreds of agency pitches. Who better to provide a unique insight on what works, what doesn’t and why?


As always, we’ve got a competition for you and will be giving away a copy of Tony’s recommended read ‘The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember’ by Nicholas Carr.  So listen in to find out how to win.


Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory


For more information on improving your agency new businesses effectiveness, please get in touch.


EP9: Culture | Katz Kiely

September 6th, 2017


The people part of our business can so often get overlooked in our efforts to generate new business. Yes, we might think about chemistry once we are faced with a pitch opportunity but beyond that, our thinking tends to get muddled when we consider the power of our people to drive referrals and introductions. There might be an expectation that this will happen, or an unspoken, mild resentment when it doesn’t, but the reality is that only a fully engaged, motivated and inspired workforce will act as true ambassadors for your agency.


Your culture is more than the Friday beer trolley, jolly Facebook page or annual karaoke / bowling / pizza night. It’s the glue that binds your people together with guiding principles, a way of working and a desire to succeed for the greater good of the business.


It’s the bit that truly makes your agency bigger than the sum of the parts. And for those agencies that really get it right, it’s the bit that will turbo charge new business.


In this episode of Small Spark Theory I chat to Katz Kiely. Serial entrepreneur, technologist and organisational change ninja, Katz shares her experience of culture and the way people work together, from agencies to start-ups and the UN.


This is one episode you will not want to miss!


As always, we’ve got a competition for you and will be giving away a copy of Katz’s recommended book ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely. So listen in to find out how to win.



Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory


This episode was recorded at Cameo Productions.


For more information on improving your agency new businesses effectiveness, get in touch with Lucy Mann.


EP8: Productivity | Robert Kelsey

August 17th, 2017


So far in our Small Spark Theory podcast series we’ve been exploring the ways we can make marginal gains in our agency new business and marketing performance. We’ve discussed the tweaks and improvements, the tips and tricks that can help us perform better, and see a better return on our time and money.


So far so good.


But even with clear objectives, effective planning, brilliant processes and all the communication skills we have discussed, our best efforts can still be undone by a lack of productivity.


How many times do we find ourselves finalising a pitch deck in a cab on the way to a meeting, scrabbling to submit an RFI seconds before the deadline or simply looking at our new business pipeline and knowing we just haven’t implemented enough of the plan to generate sufficient new opportunities?


Most of us will be familiar with the feeling. The procrastination, indecision and ultimately – paralysis.


So why does it happen? And what can we do about it?


In this episode, we talk to best-selling author Robert Kelsey. Founder and CEO of a successful London PR agency, co-founder and deputy chairman of a leading entrepreneurs’ think tank: The Centre for Entrepreneurs, Robert’s books: “What’s Stopping You?“What’s Stopping You Being More Confident?” and Get Things Done” have sold over 100,000 copies and being translated into 10 languages.


Spoiler alert: The answer to our lack of productivity is rather more complex that we think and requires some honest self-appraisal. The good news is, a tidy workstation and good stationery are still very important. We’re stocking up on nice notepads and post-its right away…


As always, we’ve got a competition for you and will be giving away a copy of Robert’s book “Get Things Done”. So listen in to find out how to win.


Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory
For more information on improving your agency new businesses effectiveness, get in touch with Lucy Mann.

EP7: Events

July 9th, 2017


Getting in a room together with clients and prospects is undoubtedly the best way to foster good relationships. But creating the opportunity to connect in person, outside of the cut and thrust of delivering day to day project work, or a credentials or a pitch scenario, can be a challenge.


Hosting an event, which either showcases thought leadership to your existing clients, or allows you to demonstrate your expertise to a wider audience can be prove to be a highly effective weapon in your new business and marketing arsenal.


But where to start? Will people turn up? And what will we say when they do?


In this episode of Small Spark Theory, we explore how to make the most of agency events and avoid some of the most common mistakes (a clue, it’s all in the planning)!


As always, we’ve got a competition for you and will be giving away a copy of Adam Grant’s Give & Take. So listen in to find out how to win.


If you feel inspired to host your own event here are some of the tried and tested London venues we like:



The central events team at Firmdale manage event spaces for all of the hotels in the group including Ham Yard, Charlotte Street, Haymarket and Soho Hotel. Plenty of fabulous rooms for private dinners, screenings or larger scale events.


Swan at the Globe

With wonderful views across the river to St Paul’s, the Swan can cater for meetings, private dining or larger events. Get in touch with the aptly named Lucy Beer who’ll talk you through the available options.


J&A Café

Lovely Clerkenwell space available for private hire for evening events.


Jones Family Project

Great location near Old Street, interesting space options and a dangerous cocktail list.


Forge & Co

Shoreditch co-working space can cater for a range of events.


Riding House Café

The Stables private dining room is a hidden gem for private dining group of up to 14 people.


Vinyl Factory Soho

A bigger space for a larger scale event with a central location.




Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

EP6: Agency Websites

June 5th, 2017


Something interesting happens when you ask an agency leader about their website. Usually a slight shift in their seat, followed by a sigh, a pained expression and a mumble about the site being due for an overhaul. A similar thing happens when you talk to marketing or new business practitioners in an agency, there’s a sense of exasperation or worse, resignation.


At a Design Business Association new business event in November, I asked the assembled audience of 60 agency folk, how many felt their website truly represented their agency offer. Just five hands were raised.


We’ve heard it all before. This isn’t a new dilemma, and we all know the reasons why so many agencies have a suboptimal website. It’s a perfect storm of lack of time, lack of resource, a focus on delivering client work, creative differences and the search for the perfect portfolio execution. But if we’re not careful, months, then years pass by and what should be a highly effective weapon in your new business and marketing arsenal is undermining the rest of your efforts and affecting the return on any new business investment you are making.


But the good news? This is a huge opportunity to make marginal gains. In this episode of Small Spark Theory, we explore the common website pitfalls and how to tackle them. And in true marginal gains spirit, you’ve only got to be that little bit better, engage with one more budget holding prospect to make a difference to your bottom line.



If you’re not sure about your website, try our quiz, just answer the following with a yes or no.



1.    Has your current website been redesigned or significantly overhauled in the last 3 years?


2.    Do you have a blog?


3.    Is your blog a subfolder of your main site (eg: or a separate, but linked url?


4.    Do you update your blog at least once a month?


5.    Are there sharing links on all of your blog posts?


6.    Is there a twitter feed on your website?


7.    Are links to ALL of your social channels active and easily seen on your website?


8.    Does your website talk about your people/team?


9.    Does it name the senior team/key contacts?


10. Are there contact details for named MD, or new business contact?


11. Get someone outside your agency (your mum, a neighbour, someone on the bus) and ask them to read the ‘About Us’ descriptor on your homepage. Do they immediately understand what you do?


12. Are your case studies up to date?


13. Do your case studies make clear the problem that you solved and what you actually delivered?


14. Do you track Google Analytics?


15. Do you know the primary source of your site traffic?


16. Do you update the content on your website yourselves or is it done by a third party?


17. Are you using SEO keyword techniques when you upload content?


18. Have you ever used Google Adwords?


19. Do you have a legal footer on your homepage stating your company registration details etc.?


20. Are you happy with your website?



If you score more than 10 no’s – feel free to get in touch, we can help!


Website grader is also an excellent resource to put your site through its paces …


This month’s book recommendation is  To Sell is Human by Daniel H Pink, listen to this episode for a chance to win a copy.




Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

EP5: Lead Generation | The Future Factory

May 8th, 2017


Prospecting, cold calling, lead generation. Call it what you will, most agencies recognise the need to supplement the more reliable client and network referrals by investing in generating opportunities with new audiences.


And whether this activity is managed in-house, or outsourced to a lead generation specialist, it certainly is an investment; either in salary, in fees and always in time. At best, this activity can be highly effective, delivering sizeable portfolio clients but for every success story, there are untold examples of ineffective prospecting activity.


Alex Sibille and Dan Sudron set up The Future Factory 2011 and since then, their team of 30 have worked with over 300 agencies undertaking lead generation and new business training for some of London’s biggest and smallest creative, comms and digital agencies. Last year their clients won new business in excess of £15m through The Future Factory’s work. In this episode, Alex and Dan join me to discuss the common lead generation pitfalls and opportunities for performance improvement.


This month’s book recommendation is The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns, listen to this episode for a chance to win a copy.


You can find out more about The Future Factory here.



Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

EP4: Agency Growth Planning | Felix Velarde

April 3rd, 2017

For agency leaders, managing the day to day business of client and staff needs whilst staying focused on a clear growth trajectory can seem an insurmountable task.

Whether you are looking for a high value exit, attempting to break through the turnover ceilings of one, two five or ten million or simply want to avoid the boom and bust revenue rollercoaster, this podcast episode is for you.

Agency growth expert Felix Velarde has founded, grown and sold agencies many times over and now works as a consultant and mentor focusing on strategy-driven growth and agency scaling. In this episode we discuss the need for differentiation, building superstar teams, and power of planning and process.

This month’s book recommendation is The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick M. Lencioni – as always we’ll be giving away a copy – tune in to find out how to win.

You can read more about Felix here.

Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

EP3: Communication and Presentation Skills | Catherine Allison | Master The Art

March 6th, 2017

Sound the new business klaxon! You’ve got an opportunity to meet the prospect of your dreams.


That first meeting, the pitch, the first strategy or creative presentation with any new prospect or client is a huge opportunity to dazzle, yet this last precarious mile of securing the business can so often be derailed by nerves, lack of preparation or simply lack of experience.


How do you become an engaging presenter? How can you get rid of pre-pitch nerves? How can you make the very best first impression?


In this month’s podcast I’ll be exploring how we can make marginal gains with our communication and presentation skills with new business supremo and former actress Catherine Allison, founder of Master the Art.


You can also be in with a chance to win a copy of Catherine’s recommended book: Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority by Caroline Goyder


You can find out more about Master the Art via the below links: @mastertheartltd



Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory

EP2: PR | Tim Duncan | TDC PR

February 13th, 2017

Raising your agency profile works hand in hand with new business lead generation, but with so many (free) social media channels at our disposal, it’s easy to overlook the impact of a planned and coordinated PR approach.


In this episode I chat with Tim Duncan, founder of TDC PR about his PR successes, tips for getting noticed and published.


And there’s another competition – we’re spoiling you!


You can find out more about TDC PR via the links below: @TDCPR @SODA_ZINE


Tim’s book choice: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 


Richard Seymour’s Ted Talk


Introducing Small Spark Theory™

January 24th, 2017

For many years now I’ve had the opportunity to observe new business performance in a wide variety of agencies and regardless of size, or discipline of agency, the challenges are remarkably similar. There are familiar patterns of success, ebbs and flows of revenue, euphoric wins and debilitating disappointments.


And I’ve become fascinated with those patterns, the formulas for success, the reasons for failure and a little obsessed about how we can become more effective in our marketing and new business endeavours.


Increasingly, the solution is not necessarily an ambitious marketing plan, an expensive sales resource or brilliant marketing idea (although that never hurts) but instead a forensic application of process and a marginal gains approach to performance improvement.


This brand new podcast series, Small Spark Theory™, explores the small changes we can make to our sales and marketing process to achieve better new business results. In this, the first episode, we set the scene for the using marginal gains and think about how to get some solid foundations for growth in place. Oh, and there’s a little competition too. What more could you want?!


With thanks to Matthew Syed for audio extract permission. Matthew’s book, Black Box Thinking is available here.



Follow us on Twitter @gunpowdertweets and join the conversation at #smallsparktheory