I was reminded recently of the Canal Barge analogy for agency new business. It was first told me many moons ago by, if I remember correctly, Graeme Green from LGM (that’s showing how long I’ve been in this business!). It goes like this.
Imagine the marketing director is the pilot of an old fashioned canal barge (the brand) being pulled along by a dray horse (incumbent agency). He has a pretty solitary existence and is always looking out for something to amuse him or help him perform his role more effectively – a good pilot never leaves school!
You, the person in charge of new business at your agency, should follow the barge on the tow-path and every so often come up alongside and engage him in conversation and pass him something he might find useful. Maybe a new updated map or some rope made from a new improved material. Maybe even some vittles to soothe his hunger.
He gets used to your presence and is grateful for your company and the goods you provide him with. Then one day …
… his dray horse goes lame and can no longer pull his canal – disaster!
So he turns to you and asks …
“I don’t suppose you have a dray horse do you?”
Your job is done. Patience has played off and your agency can now take over and help guide him to his destination. Just watch out for those sharp stones though because never forget, someone else has taken over your previous role of gift-giver. And that, is the canal barge analogy for agency new business.
Many agency owners take too short-term approach to new business and if the client isn’t immediately looking to change agency they think of it as waste of their time to continue nurturing the relationship. The really great agency owners are like great football club owners; they hire the best people to manage the process and trust their long-term strategy.