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Advertising Creativity Career

Building relationships: 3 steps to grow your agency in the last week of December

The Future Factory


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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December 19, 2018 | 6 min read

New business is a lot like dating. It takes time, money and effort to increase your chances of striking lucky.

What does it take to build brand love?

Any sensible strategy, be it for marital or agency success, should never rely on just one source for potential suitors. Cold lead generation is the fastest way to take control of what the future of your agency will look like, from the kinds of brands you work with, to the outputs your agency will become famous for. But moving your gaze closer to home can sometimes be the fastest way to spark fruitful conversations and get projects flowing through the agency.

Here are three relationships that all agencies already have, and what you can do to uncover business development opportunities within them.

Current flames

You know that age-old problem, you’ve had a friendship with someone for a while but you’ve started to develop feelings and want more, they’re struggling to see you in another light and you’ve officially been friend-zoned.

At the start of the relationship, you might have sold yourself short only focusing on one of your services. Once you have your foot through the door, use this as a trojan horse to bring your other offerings to the table. Don’t be afraid to suggest an ad-hoc tissue meeting or request the opportunity to respond to other briefs your client is working on to showcase your broader services.

Referrals might feel tricky to ask for, but with 65% of agency clients won this way, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can pay dividends. If you’ve built rapport and a level of trust with someone then use your relationship to see if you can be introduced to others in the business or even someone in their extended network. The more specific you can be with the sorts of referrals you’d find useful, the more likely you are to get them. “If you know any other marketing directors in challenger FMCG brands, we’d love an intro as we know we could impress.”

If you’re not yet comfortable asking your clients for referrals, focus your agency’s activities on what you can do to make all of your clients advocates who will want to shout about you from the rooftops.

You may have fought your way on to a roster and then found that it’s not the golden ticket to a series of hot dates that you’d imagined. You often still have to compete to get recognised. Focus on developing a relationship with procurement as well as the brand and marketing managers. Rapport, along with updates on news and wins will help to keep you front of mind.


You’ve worked together but decided to have a conscious uncoupling, or for one reason or another, the relationship didn’t work out. Don’t be afraid to re-visit the past and re-light that fire!

Look at your past client list. Note down why the relationship broke down. If it wasn’t irreconcilable differences, get back in touch to see if they might be open to rekindling things. Explain how you’ve changed in the intervening years.

If your primary contacts have moved on, all the better! You’ve now got two ponds to fish in. Chances are that your contacts will want to bring new ideas and agencies to their new roles. Again, let them know how you’ve changed, and how your recent work lends itself particularly well to their new brand.


Something that seemed meaningless at the time can actually grow into something more serious. This category includes people and brands you’ve met with, at networking events, awards, chemistry meetings or even unsuccessful pitches.

Any stalker worth their salt can find the email address of an old fling. Be sure to make any email more about your prospect than yourself. You wouldn’t entertain a date that talked 90% about themselves, and the same applies in new business. Ask questions, show interest in their current marketing activity or recent interviews, and clarify why any information you share about yourself is specifically relevant to them.

If there were concrete reasons why you didn’t work together before, be sure to address those in your first outreach to dismiss straight off any objections that might be in the back of their mind.

The dating game

Building relationships with fresh new contacts is essential for the growth and development of every agency, however, this should never be at the expense of pre-existing relationships. By not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you can maximise the chances of success and your happily ever after.

Written by the Future Factory

Advertising Creativity Career

Content by The Drum Network member:

The Future Factory

With a mix of lead generation, board level consultancy and coaching, we help to make the future more predictable for agency Owners, Founder and Directors.

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