Be a New Business Superstar

Steve Ratti
Steve Ratti



new-business-superstarBeing a new business superstar is easy. It took me years to figure it out, but once you get, you get it. It just takes some focus, dedication and a winning formula.

What’s that formula?

1. Be Willing to dedicate the agency to a new business plan by executing it on a daily basis.

Having a plan is great. You can spend countless hours on metrics and probabilities and target analyses, but if you are not working it everyday, it’s not going to work.

Hint: Hire someone completely dedicated to new business full time. Then have them lead the team with the next nine daily practices.

2. Be flawless by identifying and smoothing out all the rough edges of the agency (AKA red flags).

No one expects an agency to be perfect, but there are always a few things that really need to be addressed.

Hint: Try asking an agency visitor or new employee if they see any red flags. You’ll be stunned and horrified at what they notice: The creative director has trouble presenting, the reception area looks like an accounting firm, the presentation deck has work from the Papa Bush administration.

Listen to these people — don’t get defensive and take it to heart because it’s what every outsider thinks, too.

3. Be Visible by making it easy for future clients to discover and learn more about you.

Agencies are like the shoemaker’s barefoot child. In fact, I once heard a SoHo agency owner pitch his company as “the best-kept secret in marketing.” I almost fell over in disbelief. Time to make some shoes.


  • Get included in Ad Age’s 2013 Agency Report and be listed in directories like “Red Books.”
  • Participate in award shows like “One Show” and the Effies.
  • Announce new accounts, campaigns, employees and promotions.
  • Have a useful and creative website (the keyword here is “useful”).
  • Punch up your SEO
  • Have a Google AdWords campaign. How about two campaigns?
  • Create agency content like books and videos.
  • Give speeches.
  • Write articles.
  • Comment on articles and blogs.
  • Tweet and update your LinkedIn profile with everything just mentioned.

You don’t have to do it all, but for crying out loud, you’re a communications company. Communicate!

4. Be Relevant by prospecting the right companies, pitching the right brands and not wasting time and money.

Nothing eats up agency resources faster than pitching the wrong account. So how do you say no to the wrong opportunities? By saying yes to the following hints:

  • Replace lost accounts with their closest competitor – immediately.
  • Follow up with all lost new business pitches from the past.
  • Keep tabs on clients who have moved on to new jobs.
  • Expand into new categories that are akin to your agency roster.
  • Bake in category experience from past agencies into the new business plan.
  • Chart out new territory with baby steps, If you want a car account, win a dealership or auto-parts store first.

5. Be Knowledgeable about every category, company and executive in your business development pipeline. It sounds ridiculously hard to do, but it’s not with today’s technology.


  • Input all the companies you want to pitch in Google alerts to get emails whenever they are in the news.
  • Sync your Facebook or LinkedIn profile with Newsle, and you’ll be able to see every article that mentions your connections’ names.
  • Make marketing sections of relevant trade magazines like Nations Restaurant News part of your daily reading list.
  • Bookmark newspaper sections that are in your industry wheelhouse like the Detroit News Auto Insider.
  • Be first to know about account reviews and other opportunities.

6. Be Responsive to all opportunities with a well-built and fast-moving new business production and research system. Not only will this help you stop reinventing the wheel for every pitch, but you’ll also be able to pitch more often.

Hint: This will take some time to build, so delegate a team to pump it out as fast as possible instead of having it take, like, forever.

7. Be Attentive to what prospects really want by paying close attention to their every word.

This happens all the time. A meeting ends, the client leaves and the agency can’t agree on what was actually said. You can’t call them back and ask because then you’re a moron. But is it even more moronic to pitch the wrong thing later? Yes. Yes it is.

Hint: Hiring an intern who gets invited to every new business meeting just to take notes is a great investment. They love being in the room with all the “grown ups,” and you’ll never misread a client or forget a word.

8. Be Astounding by always going beyond the prospective client’s expectations.

When preparing for creative presentations, every new business team has to make the same decision. Go in with more ideas that are less fleshed out OR show up with fewer ideas that are completely blown out.

Hint: Unless the client asks for a specific number of campaigns to be presented, always show up with more ideas. You can blow them out later.

The proof is in the pudding — Just a few accounts I’ve won by presenting more than 4 campaigns: Mount Airy Resort & Casino, Verizon FiOS, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, Dow Jones Newswires, Hasbro (twice), Coty and Ranch *1 Restaurants.

9. Be Excited not only to win new business but to actually work on the business.

Have you ever heard the line: “The good news is we won the account. The bad news is we won the account”? Or how about this one: “The day you win a new client is the day you start replacing them.” Don’t let this attitude sink into this relationship.

Hint: When setting goals with your new client, make one of them trying new ideas regularly. Clients like to be excited too, so take the lead.

10. Be Yourself while executing these 10 daily practices because it’s what people really want.

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