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Topic: Strategy

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Public Competitions For Communication Agencies?

Posted by jp.maitre on 125 Points

We are a small communication agency based in Paris. In 2 years, we have managed to work with lots of Fortune 500 types of client on big projects (in France we would call it more CAC 40). One of our employees is launching a branch in Los Angeles. Besides our network, personal connections, etc., I was wondering if you guys in the US have some sort of public competitions for agencies who want to get new clients/projects. As an example in France, by law, some competitions have to be public meaning that potentially, any communication agency could participate. I was just wondering if this type of practice existed in the US?

Thank you for your help!


  • Posted by Moriarty on Member
    [fair warning] I live and work in the Netherlands I only work with a small and carefully selected number of clients. [/fair warning]

    JP you say " some competitions have to be public meaning that potentially, any communication agency could participate"

    now if you know the kind of person you want, the kind of company you like dealing with, you can sculpt your campaign around their kind of character. That means you get to cherry pick the best of the bunch and you don't get landed with the difficult (and costly) clients.

    I hope this helps.


  • Posted by jp.maitre on Author
    Hi Moriarty,

    Thank you for your message.

    Yes I agree, it's better to focus on the clients you want to work with but I would say that our main issue there in LA is client acquisition and network.

    In the communication business, a lot of new clients come from your personal network. We have a good network of ressources in LA but we do not necessarily have the network to land new clients. So I was wondering if there was another way to get new clients when you don't know a lot of people in the city where you are launching? Like participating in open competitions where clients pick you because you are very creative, etc. not because you know the CEO of the company. We are just looking for a chance to show what we can do for a company. In order to do that in France, you usually need to be invited by the company to make a proposal, it's usually not the other way around...Does it make sense? How could we interest companies to work for them?

    Thank you for your help!


  • Posted by Moriarty on Member
    JP I've got to dash out for a while. I have some ideas for you. Think: who are your best clients and what kind of person are they. With that you can start doing some "client sculpting" (it seems this is a Moriarty original, Howie Jacobson says it isn't his - I asked him).

    M xx
  • Posted by jp.maitre on Author
    Thank you for your insight M.

    I totally agree with you. Asking the right questions is often critical and helps a lot. I guess the question now is once we have identified a profile of clients that we like to work with, how do we approach them? Called calls? Linkedin messages, networking events, etc.? This is why I was wondering if there was another way to actually show them what we can do for them in order to win their trust and land new contracts...?

    Any insights about that?

    Thank you for your help!
  • Posted by Moriarty on Member
    Hang on! Hang on!

    you have clients, right? Right now you have some people who like what you do. You get along great and they like your style of business. This isn't about how to approach them - it is how to identify their character. Coz that will carry across to your new branch*.

    Essentially you don't need to re-invent the wheel. You have good clients, good relationships. (You probably also have some bad ones too).

    This is essential 80-20 thinking: putting people to the metrics.

    Make a matrix with each client running down the spreadsheet. Across the top put the questions. Answer the questions in a broad kind of way, and as you get to the bottom you might want to start again because you have learned something about what you think and how you describe your answers. **This is not hard and fast. It is powerful - but relies on your own insights. It will give you a very good idea of where you are headed**


    (1) What do you like about them? (Not just their smile or Armani suit).
    (2) What do you not like about them
    (3) Costs incurred with them (if this is available - or just fudge an answer if you *feel* like they cost money, just put expensive!).
    (4) Money made through them (ditto to 3)
    (5) quality of relationship
    (6) their appreciation factor (they like what you do - or are always complaining)
    Plus anything that comes to your mind.

    Do this for as many as you can. Having done it, have a basic look at the data that you have produced. It won't be big and having done it yourself you will already have a strong feel for what is going on.

    This is the start of your ideal client profile. You can hone it further. This is good enough for a start - and you can use this to get more of the better kind of clients who make you mucho dinero and appreciate your work as well. Doing this and focussing on them will magically push away your worse clients. If you haven't done this sort of thing before, it will surprise you how something so simple can be so powerful.

    Have fun. M xx

    *sure, this will change, it will do for a very good start. You can refine all this later.
  • Posted by SteveByrneMarketing on Accepted
    Having spent several decades developing new business in the LA market, I have found that the direct contact method works the best. I employ a "dossier development" method that systematically determines who to contact and for what kind of project.

    There are some public agency RFPs, and both private and public competitions of the sort you are asking about from time to time. I stopped participating in most of those events - often too political, too many committees and meetings, and it's not uncommon that the ultimate winner was decided before the competition began (which is the position you want to have).

    Over the last five years, I would estimate that a third of boutique communications firms have gone out of business. LA is a fiercely competitive market anytime and this is a very difficult time. Do you have research to support the decision to open a branch office now?

    See my profile for contact information should you like to discuss further.
  • Posted by peg on Accepted
    If your objective is to show your company's skill, you might do one event or campaign on a pro-bono basis or low-cost basis, as a showcase account, in these areas:

    1. Take on a high-profile non-profit or arts group in the L.A. area -- one with needs that are a good match for the marketing traits you want to exhibit to large corporations. Choose an organization that has these major target corporations on its board.

    2. Approach L.A.-based accounts that combine your Parisian strengths and L.A. location, such as Air Tahiti, the Fiji or Tahiti/Bora Bora/Moorea Tourism Bureaus, and Alliance Francaise. Or, go into areas that are seen as French strengths such as fashion, luxury goods or wine -- particularly if you have similar types of accounts in France.

    3. Announce your company to prospective clients emphasizing your French sensibilities as a strength -- an agency with authentic savoir faire, an agency that does businesses in ways that are sometimes "foreign" to other marketing/advertising agencies, such as a la carte options or prix fixe fees.

    I strongly agree with Steve Byrne -- open-bid competitions are often unproductive and likely to use up your time and energy without providing the exposure you seek.

    Bon chance!
  • Posted by jp.maitre on Author
    Hi Steve, Hi Peg,

    Thank you both so much for your insightful answers, they are really helpful!

    Steve, I agree with you, the direct contact method is usually the best and actually works really well for us in France. As for the LA market, I have analysed and benchmarked more than 90 communication agencies accounting for 90% of the LA area's billing and wrote a full report for my boss. I will send you an email about why we are going for LA now, even though the outlook does not necessarily look good.

    Again, thank you for your help.

    Peg, thank you for your message. It sounds like a really good plan! One of our clients is actually a well known Parisian fashion designer and we have a few contacts in LA in the fashion and luxury industry. Targeting non-profit or art groups in LA is also very interesting and surprisingly I had not considered organizations like Alliance Française, etc.

    Merci beaucoup!


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