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New business – the perennial agency challenge

For a few months in 2022, the new business headache may have been eclipsed by an upstart sibling, recruitment. But in time honoured fashion, across the industry all eyes are firmly fixed on new business pipelines as we look ahead to next year.

It’s not news that new business, marketing and client development activities are essential, all year round, not just to be wheeled out when client work is easing off or there’s a gaping hole in the pipeline. But it bears repeating, given the resourcing constraints many agencies have faced this year.

Leaving market conditions aside, one of the biggest opportunities to ease this new business conundrum is a very simple change in mindset.

What your new business and marketing activity should be doing (all year round) is identifying new relationships. Building awareness, starting conversations, building trust, demonstrating skills and insight.

If you’d like a gardening analogy, effectively you’re planting seeds and tending to young shoots. Some might get lost to the frost, some might get eaten by slugs, but with care and the right watering and conditions, you’ll see some strong sturdy plants blooming next summer and maybe even for years to come.

We would never expect to plant seeds in October and see a full floral display by Christmas, but this is exactly the kind of pressure I see agencies putting themselves under for new business results.

Switching your objective to identifying and connecting with the right prospects and starting meaningful conversations, rather than looking for immediate briefs, is a far more realistic and effective approach. But it does mean you have to start now, and never stop.

Here’s the rub. When we think of marketing, it’s easy to think about campaigns and get seduced into tactical activity – after all there are lots of shiny new channels and tools vying for our attention. But without a solid strategy, stop-start tactical activity is hard to measure and even harder to sustain.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Raymond Loewy’s MAYA principle. The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable approach to design.

I’d like to adapt this acronym as a helpful aid for agency new business and marketing. It’s Lucy’s MAYS principle. Most Advanced, Yet Sustainable. What’s the most advanced marketing that our agency can SUSTAIN over time?

Perhaps you don’t need to be on Twitter. Maybe webinars aren’t right for you and your audience won’t listen to a podcast. But there will be a marketing and new business strategy that is right for you. That you can continue to implement, year round, which builds your reputation, starts conversations and fuels your pipeline, consistently. 

Lucy Mann delivers training on this topic in a workshop called Marketing Your Design Business. Find out more by emailing

About: Lucy Mann

Lucy helps agencies optimise their new business performance.

Drawing on 30 years’ new business experience, Lucy works with agencies to create workable new business and marketing strategies and plans, mentors in house new business teams and helps client service teams build deeper, more profitable relationships.


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