Archive for the ‘Measurement’ Category

EP60: What can we expect in 2022? | Rory Spence | The Wow Company

January 10th, 2022

So here we are in 2022.

I’m not really one for resolutions, but there is something about a new year that makes me want to clear the decks, remove distractions and create a renewed sense of focus. A new notebook and a tidy Dropbox tend to help but I find data the most useful tool. Whether that’s marketing data, new business pipeline analysis or attributing the source of new client wins, good data removes emotion and really allows us to identify marginal gains.

With this in mind I wanted our first episode of the year to focus on agency performance data – and who better to talk to than The Wow Company.

This year, Wow launches the 10th annual BenchPress report, the largest survey of independent agencies in the UK, so I invited Rory Spence to join me to pick through a decade of statistics and uncover the insights that can give us confidence – or caution – for the year ahead.

Spoiler alert – you might need to increase your prices!

Whatever your agency plans are for this year I hope you are feeling refreshed, energised and inspired. Let’s make 2022 one to remember.

You can find all the previous BenchPress reports here and contribute to the 2022 report here.

Rory’s recommended read is I’m an Agency Owner, Get Me Out of Here by Jonathan Leafe.

EP32: Benchmarking performance | Peter Czapp | The Wow Company

September 1st, 2019

Almost every agency owner I meet will, sooner or later, ask the question “how does this compare with other agencies?” They could be talking about any number of measures; marketing investment, pitch conversion rate, client retention, or new business resourcing to name just a few. And I understand why this question is important. Running an agency is not just hard work, even with the best laid plans, it can be unpredictable. Clients, budgets, the economy, technology, opportunities, skills, services, resources are all shifting all of the time, and amid all that change, it can be hard to measure success without context.

One of the resources I will often reference in response to this question is the Benchpress Report published by The Wow Company.  I invited Peter Czapp, co-founder of The Wow Company and The Agency Collective, to join me for this episode of Small Spark Theory to discuss his findings from the current report, and to dig a little deeper into the trends and correlations behind the wealth data collected over 7 years of agency benchmarking. 

We’ll be sending one lucky listener a copy of Peter’s recommended read, the ever popular With Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns, simply listen in to find out how to win.

You can find out more about the Benchpress statistics on cash flow, new business, and how agency owners spend their time here and statistics on pricing, profit, and the impact of artificial intelligence on agencies here. You can also access Peter’s webinar sharing the latest benchmarking trends for agencies.

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

Winning like a pro

September 13th, 2016

As our Paralympians continue the gold rush in Rio it seems that Team GB has managed to pull off the seemingly impossible – matching up to that glorious golden summer of London 2012. As Miranda Hart described so brilliantly in her love letter to Team GB we have been swept along in a wave of athletic prowess, mindboggling endurance and national pride. Most of all, we are doing that most un-British of things. Again, and again, we are winning.


And as someone who has spent their entire career focussed on winning (the business kind) I can’t help but look at this performance (the sporting kind) and wonder what we can learn from such success.


There is good news for those of us focused on winning new business, rather than medals. We really can apply the very same techniques used by those finely honed athletes to improve our win ratios without even breaking into a sweat. You almost certainly know about it already. It’s called marginal gains.


Let’s take a step back, if you haven’t yet heard about David Brailsford and the story of his success with the British cycling team then you can read about it here. Its an incredible feat – taking the cycling team from a single gold medal in 76 years to the success we see today. In short the marginal gains philosophy (also previously referred to in business circles as nudge theory) focusses on small (1%) improvements in individual elements of performance which over time positively effect the overall result. In cycling, these improvements ranged from riders’ use of antibacterial hand gel to reduce illness and increase training time, better mattresses to improve sleep quality and wind tunnel testing to improve aerodynamics.


In Rio this year, evidence of marginal gains was apparent in many interviews with our winning athletes, and not just in cycling. Teams of people were credited, not just coaches but nutritionists, clothing technicians and medics and more.


So how can we apply this theory to agency new business? Put simply we need to step back and break down the process. We need to look at the individual elements of our marketing and sales process and look for small improvements.


Here are just a handful of the elements I see underperform again and again:


  • Client and prospect data management
  • Website performance
  • LinkedIn
  • Content creation and planning
  • Credentials documents
  • Credentials meeting preparation
  • Effective post-meeting follow up
  • Client development research & planning
  • Client satisfaction measurement
  • Promoting referrals


And that’s without the BIG ONE – pitch planning.


Applying a marginal gains philosophy won’t be easy. It requires honesty, commitment and buy-in from the whole team. But imagine if you could make a 1% improvement to each of these steps. How much would that effect your win ratio and ultimately, your bottom line?


To find out how to improve your agency marketing and new business performance, get in touch.







The revenue growth opportunity your agency could be missing

August 10th, 2015

Here’s a question: What does your agency quality assurance policy look like?


In my experience it’s usually something that has been pulled together with the sole intention of ticking a box during a procurement-led roster review or tender process. In most cases, it had been inherited from another agency, topped, tailed and tweaked a bit. Ask anyone in the agency not directly involved with procurement, RFIs or tenders and I doubt they will know of its existence, let alone its content. It might talk loosely about approval processes and meeting clients objectives but rarely offers anything of any substance.


The reason for this is completely understandable. The tender process is so excruciating that the quality policy is relegated; along with the professional indemnity insurance certificate, the health and safety policy and other such delights, to the folder marked ‘Must Have’ deep in the dusty RFI archive.


But here’s the thing. Your quality assurance policy could, and should, be critical to protecting and growing agency revenues.


So let’s go back a step. It’s hard to win clients. I’ve talked about this a lot in previous posts, in fact I talk about this all the time – and you know this already – but few agencies I speak to are putting the necessary safeguards in place to make the most of those hard-won relationships. The much discussed IPA report From Mad Men To Sad Men painted a grim picture of the state of client/agency relations when it was published last month.


Much like new business, the development of existing client business is often haphazard and even in the hands of the most proactive client service teams, the client plans, the process and momentum can get abandoned when things get busy. Moreover, rarely is anyone measuring the activity and opportunities generated from coordinated client planning.


We know that effective client planning and proactive, business focused (rather than project focused) account direction can build more profitable relationships – however, combined with a quality programme, a process that measures the quality of the client relationship then we can start to see significant bottom line advantage.

Late last year during my DBA workshop (Turning Clients into Advocates) we discussed client satisfaction programmes and the experience and opinion in the room was varied.


Of the 10 agencies present:

  • 7 hadn’t tried it
  • 1 had tried it and found it a complete waste of time
  • 1 had tried it and whilst it hadn’t been successful, knew why it hadn’t worked and wanted to try again
  • 1 had a successful programme up and running – it had been transformational for the business


My experience is closer to the latter. Gunpowder has worked with an agency for the last two years, up-skilling the client service team and building a framework with which to measure client satisfaction. The results? Existing client revenues were maintained against a predicted reduction in budgets, satisfaction scores went up, and the referrals from happy clients resulted in significant new business wins.


So, what are the ingredients for a successful programme? First of all we need to think of it as a quality programme rather than a client satisfaction survey. It is not a one hit wonder. To really see the results it requires time, planning, resource, investment and commitment. Ideally it needs to happen every year and be carried out by a third party. The benefits need to be clearly communicated to clients, to staff and the process must become part of the agency culture. It will probably feel uncomfortable – you are being measured, you are accountable, there’s nowhere to hide.


Nevertheless, the benefits of a well-executed quality programme are worth it. You’ll gain respect from your clients. Deeper, more informed relationships. You have the opportunity to discuss and fix problems before they fester. You can monitor the relevance of your service offering. You have benchmarks for performance, for individuals, teams and the agency as a whole. Best of all, the process inevitably generates referrals.


You’ll have a quality policy that doesn’t just sit in a tender application folder gathering digital dust, you’ll have a quality mark, a programme you can shout about, build into your new business credentials for all the world to see.


What are you waiting for?


Gunpowder provides Account Development workshops and bespoke client satisfaction-led quality programmes. For more information, get in touch.

What’s in a number?

March 11th, 2015

How well is your agency’s marketing performing? About average? Getting better? Could work harder?


What about your new business pipeline? Is it growing? What does ‘good’ look like? And which marketing activity is producing the best leads?


And what about your clients? Are they happy? If so, how happy? Are they more or less satisfied than last year?


If you are asking yourself some or all of these questions then you are off to a good start. A successful marketing and new business programme requires continual monitoring, not least because budgets are always limited and resource is stretched – so efficiency and effectiveness are paramount.


I’ve written much about the importance of measurement before. And not just measurement of results, but of activity too.


Even the most beautifully crafted marketing and new business plan can fail miserably if the small, manageable steps required for implementation are not being tracked. Momentum is lost and suddenly weeks, then months have gone by without action.  So measure everything – with digital tools to support so much of our marketing and sales activity, pulling this information together has never been easier. The data is all there, waiting to show you what’s working and what isn’t. Use it, analyse it, report it. Audience numbers, site visitor numbers, content view numbers, sharing numbers, database numbers. What’s gone up, what’s gone down, by how much, why?


Tracking your new business pipeline seems obvious, of course you’re going to track monetary value, but try tracking and cross referencing volume of leads at the same time – this fluctuation alongside marketing campaigns will be revealing in itself.


And then there is client satisfaction. The benefits of measuring your relationships with your clients go far beyond simply identifying service shortfalls or promoting referrals. In fact there’s a dedicated post coming next month to detail exactly how a well-executed programme can impact your bottom line.


But for now let’s focus on the numbers. Client interviews are always enlightening, the conversations shedding light in the most unexpected ways but it is when you combine this qualitative insight with quantitative data that you can truly understand how you are performing. Did you do better this year than last year, overall, by client, by individual, by service, by team…. What’s gone up, down, by how much, why?


To find out more about Gunpowder’s bespoke Client Satisfaction programmes contact Lucy Mann.


Have you got the X Factor?

November 13th, 2014

As we hit the midway point in another season of warbling wannabes, with Simon Cowell’s shirts unbuttoned to an all time low and the first ‘shock exit’ already in the bag, I’ve been pondering the motivations of our nation of viewers.


What makes us pick up the phone and vote for one talent over another? History shows us the best voices often bounce out of the process whereas the comedic, or those with ‘a story’ stick around for a lot longer. Vanilla just doesn’t cut it.


And what does this have to do with agencies? Well quite a lot as it happens.


The choices we make in business are more emotional than we think. And for clients, where cost, strategy and creativity are equal; it is personalities, relationships and the ‘experience’ that can make the difference between hiring, retaining or referring one agency over another.


If, like most of the agencies I meet, the vast majority of your business comes from referrals you are in good shape. Clearly this means there are some clients and other people in your network who are advocates. They get you. They have made a connection with you that sets you apart from the competition. Their experience of working with you has been positive. They trust you to deliver. Moreover, they know that if they recommend you to someone else, you’ll make them look good by association.


Yet what’s interesting to me is that many agencies do nothing to actively promote referrals. There are no systems in place, little management of client data, not much in the way of account development planning and rarely any process for measurement of client satisfaction. Interesting because 10% more effort here has the potential to deliver far greater returns than 10% more effort in cold new business hunting.


So, if you’ve been pretty good at getting referrals but need more business, think about your X Factor. Find out what it is about the experience of working with you that clients like, the emotional stuff, and do more of it.


My DBA workshop: “Turning Clients into Advocates” takes place on November 24th.


Bespoke Client Satisfaction Programs and Account Development Skills Workshops are available, see me for more information.

The Client/Agency relationship stripped bare

June 26th, 2014

How do you measure your relationships with your clients?


At this year’s Cannes Lions, Tim Leake from RPA presented the findings from his research conducted in association with USA Today. The results make interesting, but not wholly surprising reading. For example – 90% of Agencies believe they understand their Clients businesses but only 65% of Clients believe this to be true.


As Tim points out, “considering we’re communication companies, we suck at communication” The full presentation is here and well worth a five minute read.


Considering that almost every agency, when asked, will cite client referrals as their main source of new business revenue, surely delighting clients, thereby maximising the potential for those prized referrals and safeguarding forecast revenue, should be a priority. But simply assuming clients are happy isn’t good enough. Asking them outright how you are performing, how you could do better and measuring your performance, is brave but necessary if you want to grow.


Gunpowder provides bespoke client satisfaction programmes for agencies who want to get closer to their clients. To find out more get in touch with Lucy Mann.

Do you know your new business ROI?

June 25th, 2013

I recently had the pleasure of spending a morning with Otto Stevens from Waypoint. As the former CFO of iris Worldwide, Otto knows a thing or two about growing profitable agencies so I was keen to understand his thoughts on new business. I particularly liked what he had to say about ROI so asked him to share his views on here:


It seems curious to me that not many agencies have definitive outcomes to measure the return on investment (ROI) in new business. 


Now when I say new business I mean new business personnel, marketing and research costs, pitch costs. Many agencies when planning for the new financial year will realise that they have a gross profit gap that needs to be filled. You can get this from existing and new clients.


Why shouldn’t you measure new business in the same way as you measure the productivity of agency people? If you measure it, you can manage it.


  • How effective is the new business attraction and conversion?


  • Did the pitch costs justify the gross profit won?


  • Is the new business director doing his/her job?


In my experience if your investment in new business is not returning gross profit on a factor of at least 6 times in 12 months then perhaps you should return to the drawing board.


Interested to know more? You can contact Otto here or, if you are thinking of going back to the drawing board, see me.


When new business is bad business

February 14th, 2013

Have you ever lost a pitch and thought “knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t have gone for it” or “we probably dodged a bullet there”?


Losing a pitch that you didn’t (in hindsight) want to win, is with out doubt the worst possible scenario. You will have dedicated untold hours of strategic and creative time and budget, not to mention travel, research and materials. And then there is the damage to morale. Losing, just doesn’t make people feel good.


So how do you avoid losing what you didn’t want to win? You need to learn to look a gift horse in the mouth.


  1. Work out what a good client or project looks like for your business.
  2. Create a set of criteria that each opportuntity can easily be scored against.
  3. When that new business opportunity comes knocking, make sure you ask all the questions you need to, to satisfy yourself that this represents a viable opportunity, and one that you feel you can win. Ask about budgets, ask about deadlines, ask why the opportunity has arisen and most importantly of all, ask who’ll be making the final decision and how.
  4. If the answers don’t satisfy your criteria. Just say no.


Interestingly, saying no is even more important for a start up. In those early months and years, it is very easy to take any business that comes your way. Hungry for revenue,  and with your first salaries and other overheads to consider, it’s hard to say no but beware: the projects that you accept in the early days will define you as a business as you grow. With limited resources you need to think ahead to how those case studies will help you attract your ideal clients.


Turning down new business opportunities will always feel like going against nature. We spend so much time and energy trying to get noticed, that an approach from a new prospect, particularly an unsolicited one is exciting to say the least. It means the website is working, your network is delivering, and that last blog post must have really struck a chord.


But evaluating the opportuntity against an agreed set of criteria will simply give you greater control, and the more questions you ask, the more answers you’ll get and the more informed decisions you can make.


For more information about lead qualification and new business planning see me.