Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner of The Artemis Partnership, has a long history working in the advertising industry. Over the past five decades, through leadership roles at some of the biggest ad agencies and as a consultant working with agencies of every size and specialty, he has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge on how new business decisions are made. Bob knows what agencies get right in this process, and perhaps more importantly, what they too often get wrong, and he uses this information to help their clients grow revenue and increase profits in highly competitive markets.
Bob and The Artemis Partnership team are focused on helping their clients pitch less to win more, and they do this through disruptive business development practices, and by helping them uncover the decision-makers’ hottest (and coldest) buttons before the RFP even hits their inbox.
We sat down with Bob to learn more about their fresh take on new business development, the importance of building strong relationships with decision makers, why measuring ROI alone can be misleading, and the best new business strategy for success during economic uncertainty.
WPI >> Tell me about yourself and your company. What types of agencies do you work with? What services do you provide?
Bob >> I’m an advertising veteran, dating back almost to the Mad Men era. I’ve held leadership roles at BBDO, McCann Erickson and Saatchi & Saatchi. More importantly, since going to the consulting side of the business, I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of large, medium and small agencies. And, maybe more importantly, I’ve worked with many verticals not associated with marcom.
So I’ve seen how business is developed - and how decisions are made - outside the ad biz. And this perspective reveals what agencies get right - and get wrong - about new business. So, that’s what I focus on: How agencies can take a fresh and badly needed look at business development strategies and tactics to win more often, make more money, and have more energized people.
WPI >> What are the biggest challenges you see clients face today? What are the biggest trends you see in new business?
Bob >> Nothing surprising here: Agencies are severely challenged to penetrate the clutter and noise which envelopes corporate decision-making. How do they make themselves meaningful and relevant and keep that position?
Trends? Agencies trying to buy new business by expanding their capabilities.
Not sure if this is the “biggest,” but it’s happening all the time. And I’m not sure it matters to prospects as much as agencies want to believe it does.
WPI >> What excites you about working with agencies on their new business efforts?
Bob >> The work and the people. Considering that I work with lawyers, accountants, engineers, consultants and other experts in various verticals of professional services, agencies are creative, innovative, energetic, and sometimes more open-minded.
WPI >> You help agencies break out of the stagnant “RFP-proposal-chemistry check-pitch” process with disruptive business development practices. What makes your practices so unique and successful?
Bob >> They’re not unique insofar as how they’re used elsewhere in professional services. And successfully.
But agencies? Nope, very few even try to break out of this ridiculous, inefficient process. In fact, the biggest threat to agency existence today - management consulting firms - (AI notwithstanding) use these non-agency tactics regularly.
WPI >> Success in business development comes from a deep understanding of the real needs and values of the decision makers. How do you help agencies uncover this often “hidden” information?
Bob >> We show our clients how people really make decisions - especially executives who have a lot riding on the line. And how to understand this for each specific pursuit and then how to use it to give yourself an unbeatable edge.
There’s much to say about this. For now, one simple general truth. The real decision-making factors are rarely provided in the RFP. To win, an agency must know these factors, which means that the agency must know the decision-makers. And if the RFP keeps you at arms’ length, you’ve got a problem. Because chances are someone else DOES know the decision-makers and, if they’re smart about it, they know how to use this info for an unfair advantage.
WPI >> Agencies are keenly focused on ROI for their clients, but too often fail to or incorrectly measure the ROI of their business development efforts. How should agencies be looking at ROI to help them make better decisions about the allocation of resources against business development efforts?
Bob >> If an agency is willing to do the hard stuff, they can measure ROI meaningfully. They’ll need to apply a dollar figure to the time invested in a pursuit, whether it starts at the RFP/RFQ stage, or when a contact is made before an RFP. How much actual time and money did you invest in that pursuit? And, if you won, how much profit did you make?
We measure profit, not simply income, since profit keeps your lights on and gives you what you need to invest in your growth. Revenue alone can be badly misleading. When you do the calculations, you’ll see the connection of profit to pursuits and give yourself a chance to focus your investments on pursuits that will lead to better, more profitable outcomes.
WPI >> Agencies are also keenly focused on their clients’ path to purchases, but many haven’t outlined the Path to New Business Wins. What are the key stages in this journey and how should agencies be thinking differently during each stage?
Bob >> First, agencies have to realize that there are stages they’re not putting any focus on. The new business journey (as I say in my book) begins l-o-n-g before the RFP with relationships that you build with high-value prospects. And I don’t mean search consultants. I mean the clients themselves.
Yes, your journey might have started when you received the RFQ or RFP. But among the dozens of other agencies that received that RFQ, there are a small number who began the journey long before you did. If they were smart about it (and many aren’t), they are far ahead of you in this race.
WPI >> With a recession looming (or maybe already in one depending on where you are in the world and whether you’re willing to say the dirty word!), what advice do you have for agencies as they search for new business opportunities?
Bob >> When economic times are tough, agencies often make terrible decisions. Too many to list here. But one common and avoidable mistake - going nuts to find new revenue opportunities. Trying to get into more pitches. Chasing anything they might send you a check.
I understand why this might make sense. And doing this when they might have cut resources to save money. Sheesh!
Here’s the better strategy: Be MORE selective about what you pursue. And focus even more on your real strengths, your most compelling success stories. In our economic times, clients want results. If you know the kind of results you get for your clients - and you can tell a compelling story about it - it’ll be your best strategy for success during economic uncertainty.
This article is an installment in a series where Worldwide Partners speaks with experienced consultants and service providers that are part of our WPI Faculty. Check back for more interviews with our industry’s leading consultants in PR, business development, financial services and more.