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Agencies Agency Leadership Pitching

‘More chemistry meetings, please’: Agency new business leaders’ 2024 wish list


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

April 18, 2024 | 8 min read

Beyond the dream of standardized RFI questions and credentials, what do new business people in the marketing industry want to see change in the near future? We asked them.

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What do marketing new business pros want to see change in their profession? / Girl with red hat via Unsplash

At a recent roundtable with new business professionals from The Drum Network, they shared with us the dream of a standardized and rationalized pitch process that would no longer take days’ worth of repeated work or wasted effort on doomed responses. Before we let them go, we let the assembled experts loose to dream for even more. Here’s what they’d like to see change in the new business and ‘growth’ game in the next few months: more chemistry meetings, deeper respect, and more early honesty.

George Sanders, head of growth, Earnest: “I hope that we’re going to see more return to human-based networking. We’ve got so much automation, at such veracity and scale, that people are losing trust in businesses. They want to connect with real human people who understand what they want, and who care about what they do. The dream sold by lead automation and demand generation agencies is facing a lot of scrutiny: if those companies were that good, they would be more successful themselves. I think they’ve tuned into an anxiety a lot of marketers have but we haven’t really seen their promises develop.”

Claudia Harris, business development director, George P. Johnson UK: “More chemistry meetings, please! More ‘let’s get to know you’, rather than just filling out forms for the rest of our lives. We as agencies have to share our uniqueness in every way possible. We can’t do that if we’re constantly filling in forms.”

Celia Clark, international client engagement Director, Team Lewis: “I just want to see generally better behavior. What’s changed a lot is the online and in-person weird hybrid thing, which also allows some clients to behave really badly: to not have cameras; to be doing something else. We also need to remember some basics, like the fact that a budget is a really helpful thing for an agency to have. It’d be good to see a bit of a reset.”

Nitin Rabadia, commercial director, Kepler: “There are signs that things are improving: we’re seeing intermediaries and pitch consultants looking at best practice for pitches. People are aware that there are problems, and admitting there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. In the last few pitches we’ve done, everyone’s said, ‘we want to hold a fair process’. So things coming down the road are looking better, cleaner, and fairer than they have in the last few years. Meanwhile we always see a cycle between consolidation and specialism. Now, we’re in a consolidation phase, but I hope that people understand that in certain areas, you need specialist skills.”

Claire Duggan, head of engagement, Seven Stones: “We need to be clear about what we do, to be clear about where we fit for the client, and then to stay in our lane. It’s quite easy, especially amid economic pressures, to think, ‘well, maybe we can do that print job, maybe we can design that stand’. But it’s so important that we keep doing what we’re good at, and articulate that as a really strong proposition that we articulate to clients so they’ll see when you’re right in the sweet spot of what we’re looking for. We have to hold our nerve and not try to diversify on everything.”

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Christopher Booker, new business director, TRO: “We need to pay attention to what’s going on with marketing content right thanks to AI. Growth in that area has been exponential: the amount of new services out there. AI will supercharge the production of generic content (and generic lead generation). But the flip-side we have to really look at content and the connections we make to create things that are more valuable; creating more valuable connections and relationships.”

Mark Buist, director of group sales, DRPG: “We need to be bolder. Bold enough to say, ‘No, we're not the right agency for you’. It’s about identifying your ideal customer, being more discerning, and when the opportunity does come along, evaluating it, and making certain that you’re the right agency for the work. I’ll happily help a client and say they ought to be talking to someone else. If we stand closer, shoulder-to-shoulder, it becomes a better marketplace for us all.”

Christi Tronetti, head of growth, M&C Saatchi: “It’s about demonstrating the value of our industry, and all of us coming together for the greater good. We have our own numbers and our own objectives, but if we came together in more regular forums to articulate our value as an industry and what we provide for clients, and all the billions of pounds of revenue generated by our industry – if we could think about our higher-order benefits not just for clients, but for the economy and for culture, then we could come back to clients in a more strong position. I think we’ll get better and better at doing that as an industry. That’s how we’ll prove our value above the machines.”

Agencies Agency Leadership Pitching

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