Point of View: New Business, John Wright (McCann Worldgroup)

John Wright, Director of Strategic Business Development, EMEA & CEE Regional Officer at McCann Worldgroup shares his experience in new business

How would you define the business development role?

Well for all of us at McCann Worldgroup, we frame the whole function and strategy around the broader concept of ‘Growth’ – it’s an engine that works across the whole group and all our agencies and capabilities. It is much broader than simply ‘New Business.’ It needs to work with existing client teams to drive organic growth and help retain the clients you already have. It constantly looks at how we package and develop our product offerings and how we integrate our disciplines and – when relevant and appropriate – our agencies. It plays a master diagnostic / or / coordination role and is often the first point of contact a client will have, so having a clear story is key. It’s about being a kind of roving ambassador for growth – you want to inspire everyone in the agency to think about how we grow, and the role that they play in making that happen.

What’s your background and how/why did you move into business development?

Like many, I spent a long time working my way up the agency ladder in account handling roles. The more senior I became, the more I realised that growth was at the heart of everything I was doing. I had always loved pitching and leading teams so felt an affinity to the role. I then worked as a consultant for a couple of years which gave me an even broader business knowledge. I was offered the role while still working as a consultant and it was a great opportunity to combine my agency experience with the learnings from my time as a business consultant.

How has the role in general (not just your own) evolved over the past few years?

One of the most significant changes has been driven, not surprisingly, by the integration of disciplines; the need to be able to coordinate the development, pitching and retention efforts of very different disciplines, staffed with widely different types of people and personalities across multiple markets, is more important than ever.
Equally important has been the need to match the needs of the client as they move from what one might call a global approach to more centralised multi-regional approach. At McCann Worldgroup we talk about the concept of Deep Globality, and commit huge time and resources to understanding what’s really happening in the places where our clients’ brands live. That helps us flex, stretch, and evolve – as the media landscape has changed over the last decade, the marketing model that fuelled the growth of global communications networks has changed beyond recognition. So, we need to reflect that too. Where in the past, one might win a client centrally and it fed the network via many local offices, that client now likely requires only a few hubs, so we have to play a leadership role across many more local and semi-regional opportunities.
In short, it’s about constantly reminding ourselves that the better we are as marketers – understanding our clients’ brands, business, challenges, and opportunities – the better our work will be and the more successful we become.

What particular skills do you need to do this job?

It’s obvious and a little clichéd but strong people skills are key. This allows you to build strong teams, create a common purpose across many different people, often in many countries, and of course create chemistry with the clients during the process. Then tremendous energy and commitment. You are on a never-ending treadmill so you need to be resilient. Things will go wrong, you won’t win everything but you need bounce back keep the energy high and go again. You need to be able to think on your feet as well as have a longer-term strategy for success. We have developed an attitude of fast response to bust inertia and keep the wheels turning. Emails and calls are answered as quickly as possible. You can't let things gather moss, they are vital to someone somewhere and to a great extent, how you behave will be a demonstration of behaviour copied across the network.

What advice could you give to somebody entering the industry who might be interested in a new business role?

First, the quicker you can think beyond a single function, the better. Frame the whole thing around growth, and the broader marketing challenges clients (new and existing) are facing. The days of the old salesman-new-business guy smarming and charming are long gone. The good news is that ‘New Business’ is labour intensive and teams, whether they be a client team or new business team, are always looking for help and support. Don’t be shy, raise your hand and offer to help in any way. You will only truly understand the thrill and excitement when you experience the process first hand and the learnings you gain will be incredible. 


To learn more about him, look at his talent profile below:


John Wright
Head of Strategic Business Development, EMEA McCann Erickson
TOPIC: New Business