Point of View: New Business, Josh Huling (Campbell Ewald)

In essence, my job is to do for my agency what my agency does for its clients. It’s both that broad and that singular.

Josh Huling
Associate Director Business Development Campbell Ewald

Point of View: New Business

Tell us about yourself and what you do in your current position.
As associate director of business development at Campbell Ewald, my role is to work with our CMO to develop opportunities to grow the agency through current accounts, new business pitches and prospective client outreach.

Our business development team is a tight nucleus — almost an agency within an agency. While the role of business development teams varies from agency to agency, our team is intimately involved in leading and supporting at each touch point of the business development experience for prospective clients. This includes developing content for written responses, architecting pitch assets and narrative arcs, developing proposals and scopes of work, supporting the pitch team to ensure a holistic vision, and working with consultants and new leads.

In essence, my job is to do for my agency what my agency does for its clients. It’s both that broad and that singular.
How would you define the business development role?
New business isn’t the lifeblood of an agency as is often suggested. It’s the voice.

Good agencies have a point of view of the world, of their clients’ and prospective clients’ businesses, and of their audiences. Business development is the agency’s ability to speak relevantly to customers and prospects about that worldview.

So we’re the voice, but an effective voice first requires listening. We listen to understand our organization and what makes us unique. We listen to our clients and prospective clients to understand their unspoken challenges. And we give voice to the areas where our capabilities and our clients’ needs intersect.
What’s your background and how/why did you move into business development?
My background is in account management, which gave me a solid foundation of project management, relationship management and communication skills. But through business development, I’ve been able to shift to a strategic planning approach in my role.

I made the jump to business development at a time when I was looking for a challenge and a way to accelerate my career. Business development works in dog years — a year there is worth several in other areas of the agency, and it had a reputation for being one of the most challenging positions in the agency. That was really all I needed to know.

Since coming to business development, I’ve been challenged mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically. It has opened my set of experience and my knowledge of advertising exponentially. It has let me evolve the role to match my skill sets and helped me develop new skills — all while contributing directly to the growth of an agency that I believe in.
How has the role in general (not just your own) evolved over the past few years?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen some major trends in the opportunities for agencies:

Clients are looking for integration. That’s a change from just five years ago when we saw clients divvying up disciplines to multiple agencies. Clients are realizing that most agencies aren’t built to collaborate with other agencies, that most brand marketing teams don’t have the bandwidth to manage multiple agencies themselves and that the proliferation of media channels requires a more integrated approach. By bringing back shops with integrated disciplines, clients are seeing operational efficiency that allows them to put more time and money into their communications. They’re also reaping rewards when it comes to the communications themselves: more seamless experiences across the consumer journey, greater consistency across channels and a holistic view of how everything is working together.

There's no appetite for uncertainty. It’s no secret that brands are struggling to find their way with their consumers. This manifests in a range of recurring symptoms that we see in business development, including high-CMO turnover among brands, fewer AOR contracts and more project work, reduced budgets and sharp increase in interest in data and analytics, and data visualization. These are all symptoms of the actual problem: brands have decreasing tolerance for the industry’s increasing uncertainty and are looking to mitigate this risk by minimizing their exposure to it. As agencies, our role is increasingly tied to our ability to confront this risk aversion head-on and show clients the road map to their short-term and long-term business goals.

The quest for 1:1 is becoming more mass. More channels, more content, more data. Advertising began as a person-to-person model but it evolved to a mass media discipline. Over the last few decades, and particularly in the last several years, we’ve seen a technology-enabled shift toward person-to-person communications with what’s basically “small batch” messaging. As a result, oft-overlooked capabilities like content development and CRM have begun to pop up more on client wish lists as they search for ways to serve customized content through a growing network of highly targeted channels.
Do you have a most memorable account win? Why?
In business development, every win is memorable. No pitch feels the same, and each has its challenges. But the best pitches are those that capture the excitement of the agency and result in a win. Our win of the Travelocity account in late 2015 is a great example of this.

It was one of those pitches that everyone gets excited for. Our passion for this brand showed in our writing, in the room, in the produced materials and in the thoughtfulness of every moment of their journey with us. We transformed the agency, vandalized (temporarily) advertising, developed an interactive pre-read experience, and connected it all with a clear point of view and vision for the brand.

Those pitches aren’t just the most successful; they also tend to be the most fun and memorable. That comes from chemistry with the client, a deep understanding of their business and an idea that resonates enough that people want to pour their energy into it. Travelocity is an example where that trifecta came together beautifully.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful client relationship
Trust is, without a doubt, the biggest challenge facing our relationships today. With the level of change undergoing communications and the steadily increasing number of channels needed to piece together an audience, brands are reliant on communication specialists to chart a path to business results. The main triggers we see for budget reductions, agency searches and souring relationships all come back to trust. Whether in a new business context or with the client you’ve had for over a decade, it is the primary barrier that we’re consistently working to overcome to win, retain and grow new opportunities.
What advice could you give to somebody entering the industry who might be interested in a new business role?
Do your homework.

For those interested in considering business development, I always want to know WHY they’re interested in a discipline that’s surrounded by a lot of misinformation and myth. A lot that you’ve heard about business development is true, but it’s not all fancy dinners, drinks with clients and frequent flyer miles. We work nights, weekends and occasional holidays. It’s not for those who don’t adapt well to various levels of stress, and it’s not for those who don’t like uncertainty. It’s not for people who aren’t passionate about their work, but it’s also not right for those who get overly invested and can’t move on.

But if you’re driven, ambitious or curious, then business development might be a good fit for you. If you’re looking to be constantly learning, constantly adapting, constantly growing and constantly at the center of it all — then business development could be a good fit. And if you’re interested in a business development role, raise your hand. Volunteer for the next pitch. Offer your personal skills to help in your free time. Give yourself a chance to feel the heat before you jump into the crucible.

Josh Huling
Associate Director Business Development Campbell Ewald