Archive for the ‘Resource’ Category

EP49: Raising your profile – part one | Sarah Paterson | CommsPeople

February 8th, 2021

Many of the conversations I’ve been having with agencies over recent months have centred around marketing and new business resource.

This is good news. It shows that we are looking forward and taking positive action to create better, more sustainable agency marketing practices. In particular, the biggest shift I have seen is agencies recognising the need to prioritise profile building activity, and in turn realising that there is a gap in their existing team skillset to provide this.

Over the coming months I’m going to be focussing on the different ways we can look at building agency profiles and the varying shapes of resource available to help us do that.

To kick us off for this episode, I invited Sarah Paterson, co-founder of CommsPeople to join me in sharing the story of her lockdown start-up; providing flexible support from a  talent pool of high calibre communications professionals.

This is an ideal solution for agencies with great ideas for connecting with prospects with relevant content, but find themselves too caught up in the day to business to make it happen.

If you need help defining your audience and content strategy then feel free to get in touch with me here or if you want to discuss a brief for support from the CommsPeople talent pool, you can reach Sarah here.

As always we are giving away a copy of Sarah’s recommended read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – listen in and find out how to win.

And of course, if you have a new business or agency marketing question for us, or a top tip to share, please get in touch.

Useful links:

2021 Freelance trends

How to manage freelancers 


EP38: The first new business hire | Dave Corlett

March 2nd, 2020

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about small agencies. Typically, those with headcount up to 10/12 and/or annual revenues under £1m.

It’s worth pointing out that this band of agencies makes up an increasing large proportion of the UK landscape. But regardless of their specialism, at this size, effective new business resourcing is a common challenge. Whether the goal is steady growth or revenue maintenance, often the numbers simply don’t warrant a dedicated new business recruit and good external lead generation resource can be out of reach.

It was this thinking that prompted the launch of the New Business and Marketing Bootcamp – designed specifically to provide leaders and founders of this type of agency with the tools to create effective new business and marketing plans and take control of the process.

But what about when you break through that threshold and are ready to hire your first in-house new business talent? Our industry is littered with war stories of new business hires that that were at best ineffective and at worst, damaging to the agency brand. And for new business folk, there can be wildly unrealistic expectations to manage.

So how to get the balance right? For this episode I chatted to Dave Corlett from Workbrands. Having spent 12 years in new business development roles, Dave shares his insights on making new business roles stick, the importance of collaboration, communication and how to stay competitive.

If you are running an agency and considering your first new business hire or starting out on your new business career – this is the episode for you!

Listen in to find out how to win a copy of Dave’s recommended read: Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age.

Details of the New Business & Marketing Bootcamp can be found at 

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

The New Business Equation

July 5th, 2014

Finding the formula for continued new business success can feel like chasing the Holy Grail. A winning streak can so often be followed by a dwindling pipeline, or even worse, an unexpected dip in client revenue. The peaks and troughs seem impossible to avoid, and losing pitches is costly and bad for morale.


Meanwhile advances in digital technology have opened up a world of opportunity for agency marketing and new business, yet the ever increasing choice of tools can be overwhelming, time consuming and counterproductive if used inefficiently.


How can you market your agency effectively, build a pipeline and maintain momentum? How can you keep on winning?


I will be exploring the formula for achieving sustained new business success at a breakfast event exclusively for DBA members on Tuesday 22nd July.  For more details and booking information click here.

The perfect agency new business team

March 27th, 2014

Making the decision to hire dedicated new business resource often marks a tipping point in an agency’s development.


But making the right hire isn’t easy. Many times over the years have I heard variations on the sentiment: “Ah yes, we’ve had new business people in the past, they come in, play around with some lists and case studies and are gone again six months later”. Now, whether it is sales people selling themselves into the wrong role or agencies with unrealistic expectations, it is clear that finding the right match is a challenge.


So what is the answer?


Well, the chances are that we are asking the wrong question. Instead of thinking “Who can we hire to sell more?” we should be asking how our current clients buy from us already and work back from there.


For most agencies, current revenue is made up from retained or repeat business from existing clients, referrals from existing clients and network and a slice of ‘new’ new business. And in most cases, those clients have bought services from the senior team. An MD, client lead, creative lead or strategist. They have bought into the people at the heart of the agency and the relationships have grown from there.


So, to add more business, it may well be that you don’t need a ‘closer’ at all, because the best people to close a deal are those who are already in the business delivering the work. Perhaps you just need a ‘sweeper’, someone who can free up the time of the senior team by managing the process around pitching or RFIs, or even simply managing the database of contacts.


Or, if your pipeline is thin and it is leads you need, then think about specific lead generation resource, either external or in-house and marketing resource to ensure that your website is updated and optimized, your social channels are up to scratch and any content and collateral is doing its job. Some of this resource may even be in the business already.


Whoever you hire, make sure there’s a plan, a process and measure as you go. For help with new business planning get in touch.


Digital distraction – a force for good?

September 10th, 2013

I was once given some very good advice, second hand from a business coach. The motto was “If you are going to be in the room, be in the room”. This proved valuable advice for me. As someone who seemed always to be juggling too many things at once, the discipline of focusing on one thing at a time and doing it well was something of a revelation. By making lists and prioritising I was able to get things done more effectively, meetings were focused, my productivity soared. And they key to “being in the room” was removing distractions.  Simple.


Fast forward 15 years and the game has changed beyond recognition. Much has been written about the evils of this digital age. Our days are an assault course of distractions – from our own needy smartphone tics, to the constant barrage of emails, texts and social media notifications. We are dual screening, checking in, hashtagging our way through life, and business. Many a meeting now takes place accompanied by furious tapping into keyboards and phones while conversation falters, skype connections sputter and die.


But. There is a kind of digital distraction that I believe is a glorious force for good.


Take Google. A simple Google search can take you off on a journey into the unknown. By beginning to research a company, a prospect, a brand with a few keywords you can helter skelter through all kinds of facts, links, soundbites and unexpected connections.  The more you look, the more you find and the web of information (literally) expands.


For new business folk – this is wonderful news. Your clients and prospects need to see that you understand their business, their markets, their people, customers and competitors, and getting the inside track has never been easier, if you look, and are prepared to keep looking, the answers are there in the far reaches of the web. Interviews, shareholder presentations, chairmans statements, annual accounts, LinkedIn job descriptions provide a range of clues – not always facts – but clues that will help you to build a war chest of questions, intelligence and contacts.


So make time for the Google breadcrumb trail and embrace the distraction of Google alerts.  Enlist the help of Flipboard and Delicious and set up bookmarks to organise your findings. File stories, set up tags to categorize LinkedIn profiles currently outside your network.


The clue you have been waiting for may only be a few clicks away.

How to bring new business prospects in from the cold

February 21st, 2013

The best new business opportunities are undoubtedly those that arise from your network and referrals. But this inevitably needs  supplementing with proactive prospecting. So, how do you start a dialogue with someone who hasn’t ever heard of your or your agency? This month’s guest blogger Alex Sibille from The Future Factory shares her top tips for getting in front of cold prospects.


  • Purchase a database of relevant contact details. Or if you’d rather not spend out, LinkedIn and corporate websites should serve you quite well.


  • Find someone within your team, or an external specialist, with time to dedicate to prospecting, networking, researching, cold calling, schmoozing and marketing your agency to these target brands.


  • Expect approx 10-15 hours focused work to deliver one new business meeting – once you have started to create a pipeline of dialogues and opportunities.


  • The first month or so you will be honing your pitch, starting to raise awareness of your agency, as well as researching and building relationships with the decision makers in your target companies.


  • Splitting your time roughly 50/50 between calls and emails is a good guide.


  • Telephone calls give faster returns, and allow you to probe for more information, but some people are more easily accessible via email.


  • All approaches should be backed by a reason to get in touch. Developing this and the background research into your targets should take place over the first month, and then ongoing as you add new targets to your list.


  • On the phone, before you launch into a pitch, the first step should be to qualify that the person you are talking to does indeed look after the area you think they do.


  • In emails, short and personable usually does well.


  • Now and again you’ll be asked to send creds to a cold prospect you’re trying to impress. Ideally these should just be a page or two highlighting your most noteworthy achievements. If someone wants more detail they can investigate your website, or discuss further with you in person. Here is a brilliant example. A video showreel is another great way to convey your agency’s ethos.


For more advice on lead generation contact Alex Sibille

Getting fit to win in 2013

January 11th, 2013

As we limber up for what promises to be another challenging 12 months, our thoughts undoubtedly stray to this year’s new business target.


Many of you will have returned to your desks last week, armed with a robust and well resourced plan, a handful of prospect meetings in the diary and a pitch or two underway. Well done, keep up the good work. But for anyone feeling a slight flutter of panic at the new business shaped hole in your revenue forecast, read on, help is at hand.


First of all it is worth remembering that there is no magic bullet. New business success comes from consistent and focussed activity based on a considered and robust plan. If you don’t have a plan, or have a plan that doesn’t work or isn’t being implemented – see me. Meanwhile there are some non-negotiable basics that you need to address to if you are to get in shape. Ask yourself these questions:


1. Your website. Can Google see it? Would someone who doesn’t know your agency be able to clearly grasp what you do within 3 clicks? Is there a blog? When was it last updated?


2. Social media. Twitter is great, but don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t cracked it yet, we’ll be talking about that in a later post, but Linked In cannot and should not be ignored. Is your personal profile up to date? What about your company page? And what about everyone else in the agency? Do you and and your team routinely connect with contacts as you meet them?


3. Case studies. Are they up to date? Does each one tell a story? Can it tell more than one story? Do you demonstrate results?


4. Phone and email. An unsolicited approach from a prospective client is a beautiful thing. However as Recommended Agency Register Director Diane Young observed in the Drum last year, a surprising number of agencies fall at this very basic first hurdle. Does everyone in the agency who could possibly answer the phone know how to to handle incoming calls and take messages? Does the email address or phone number on the website go to a human being. Fundamentally, will any new business prospect be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone at your agency within 24hrs of their enquiry?


If any of the points above leave you with more questions than answers, then do get in touch. There is no doubt that 2013 is going to challenge us all, but there is still business out there to win. You just need to stack the odds in your favour where you can.