Agencies struggle to attract new business

17 November 2009

CINCINNATI: A majority of advertising agencies in the US believe it is much harder to secure new business in the financial crisis, but few have diversified their approach in an effort to overcome this problem, according to a study by RSW/US and Second Wind.

A total of 212 agencies took part in a poll conducted by the two organisations, with some 40% of this group arguing that obtaining new business is "harder" at present than in 2008, a figure that fell to 25% for those stating it is "a lot harder".

Some 24% suggested conditions were largely unchanged, while 10% of participants thought attracting briefs was now easier, but only 1% suggested it was "a lot easier".

The main challenges in this area included the fact there are fewer available opportunities, mentioned by 57% of the panel, while 46% felt it was now "harder to break through to prospects".

More specific to agencies, 18% of the sample reported that they "can't make the investment in a new business programme", while 17% had "less time" to spend on this activity.

In terms of collecting fresh chores from advertisers, 68% of shops identified referrals as being in their top three sources, compared with 61% citing further billings from existing clients, and 54% who elicited such revenues via networking.

In 24% of cases, "clients switching to new companies" played such a role, with cold calls on 20%, speaking engagements on 15%, organic search on 9%, email campaigns on 7%, social media contacts on 6%, conferences on 5%, while paid search posted a score of zero.
Just over 40% of respondents had hired a new business manager at some point over the last three years to try and generate leads, but only 16% described their results as being "very successful."

In all, 22% of agencies "never" used social media as a tool to prospect for clients, while just 3% said they "often" did so.

When rating themselves on this measure, 17% of those companies taking part in the survey awarded themselves a score of two out of ten, with 14% raising this figure to five, 10% to seven, and 1% to nine.

Almost three-quarters of agencies had an account on LinkedIn, while 67% had established a presence on Facebook, as had 57% on Twitter, while 56% also boasted a corporate blog.

Some 56% of contributors most frequently employed LinkedIn to try and attract prospective accounts, with 16% using blogs for this purpose, comparisons that stood at 13% for Facebook and 9% for Twitter.

Almost a third of participants updated their LinkedIn page around once a week, compared with 28% that never did so, 18% posting new information once a month, 10% less often than this, 7% once a day, and 6% at least twice every 24 hours.

With regard to Facebook, 35% "never" modified their official page on the site, with a quarter engaging in this activity on a weekly basis, 13% monthly, 11% daily, and 7% more than five times a week.

Just 12% of agencies "tweeted" at least twice a day, with 11% adding one comment a day, 18% doing so once a week, and 5% once a month, while 47% "never" left material on the microblogging portal.

This latter total stood at 45% for blogging, falling to 28% when it came to issuing weekly updates, 16% for monthly additions, 5% for both daily and highly infrequent activity, and just 1% for more than one entry a day.

Data sourced from AdWeek, RSW/US; additional content by Warc staff