Agency Advantage 55: Mark Sneider on 5 Steps to Grow Beyond Word of Mouth

Header image for podcast interview with Mark Sneider

In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Mark Sneider of RSW/US who shares a proven methodology for winning agencies new business.

Mark is a 30-year veteran of the advertising and marketing service industry. Today he runs the 40-person agency, RSW/US, where he and his team help marketing service firms find and win new business. He’s been running the agency since 2005.

To help clients, RSW/US follows a proven methodology. Not only does this help its clients grow; it has also produced double-digit growth every year for RSW/US.

Deep down, every agency owner out there knows that having a real plan for winning new business is crucial to success. But most are crossing their fingers that they’ll get by on word of mouth alone.

If you’re tired of the feast or famine cycle, this episode is for you.

Get a full transcript of the interview with Mark.

5 Steps to Grow Beyond Referrals

Step 1: Define your positioning

Ask yourself what makes you different and why clients would want to take a second look at your agency. While you may say it’s because you’re strategic and smart and hard-working, every other agency says the same thing. You need to come up with an elevator pitch that truly sets your agency apart from the rest.

Is it a certain level of expertise? Is it a certain knowledge within a sector? Is it a certain knowledge and expertise within a sector? Is it a certain source of insights or process that helps you get to a better place?

To grow beyond referrals, first you need to have an answer to the question, “What makes you different?”

Step 2: Build the content to support the program

After you know what sets your agency apart, you have to create content to help give that position some authority.

The first step is to create a blog if you don’t already have one. To use your blog to build your reputation, Mark says you need to speak with one voice, create easy-to-digest case studies, and, above all else, focus on adding value.

Mark also goes a step further than most agencies by creating a physical component to go along with their digital content. He suggests creating a short brochure that introduces your agency, its value proposition, and previous work and successes.

Step 3: Build a list of prospects

Mark found that the more focused they were in terms of who they were going after, the more successful their programs were. In this step, take your positioning statement and use it to build a narrowly defined list of prospects.

Mark stresses the importance of cleaning your list, however you build it. If you buy a list, it’s not uncommon for 30% or more of the contacts to have bad information.

At RSW/US they have a bit of an advantage here because they’ve built a list of 100,000 marketers and other decision-makers. That being said, even with a high-quality database, they still make sure to clean their lists before contacting prospects for any campaign.

While it may not seem like much of a problem, if you’re already struggling to find the time for new business development, you want to make sure you’re maximizing time by only reaching out to verified prospects. An email bounce-back isn’t the end of the world, but if you’re doing higher touch, personalized outreach, you need to make sure none of your effort goes to waste.

Step 4: Start contacting your prospects

Once you have your list together, it’s time to start reaching out through all available channels.

At RSW/US they typically start by sending their prospects a letter attached to the brochure they created in Step 2. From there, the New Business Director will call and email the prospect the day the mailing goes out to let them know they sent them something. Then, a few days after, when they know it has arrived, they’ll start calling in earnest.

There are two things to keep in mind here:

  1. These calls aren’t just a generic “Wanted to see if you got my letter” call. Each call is adding value to the prospect by looking up news about them and their market and trying to engage them in genuine conversation.
  2. Your outreach process needs to be exactly that, a process. To get a meeting scheduled, it usually takes a minimum of 5 touches with your prospect. So if you want to succeed, you need to commit to the process. You can’t send an email or two and expect results.

Step 5: Go for the close

Once you have the prospect on the phone, you need to convince them that, “Hey, you’ve defined some problems. We’ve looked at those same problems in a unique and different way. It might make sense for us to sit down and have another conversation about how we can grow your business moving forward.”

From there, it’s all about keeping the focus on the client. Mark estimates that 84% of agencies spend their pitch talking exclusively about themselves. Your clients are looking for insights, and if you give them those insights you’re going to stand apart and increase your chance of closing the deal.

You want your prospects to look at you and say, “This agency gets me. They’re bringing some interesting thinking to the table. They value my opinion. We’ve had a good business conversation and they haven’t flipped open their PowerPoint and told me about everything everyone else has.”

If you can consistently do that, you’re going to come out ahead.

Want to learn more?

Mark and the team at RSW/US practice what they preach, especially when it comes to creating content to support your positioning.

To access webinars, surveys, blog posts, and other types of content, head over to If you have any specific questions or challenges you want to talk through, Mark’s email is always open. But if you want his email address, you’ll have to listen to the show.

Resources mentioned:

The Three “C’s” to Successful Pipeline Building: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

GoldMine (CRM)

SharpSpring (Marketing Automation)