Agency Advantage 54: Peter Levitan on Developing Skills a Client Can’t Ignore

Image for episode 54 of the Agency Advantage podcast

In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Peter Levitan (Twitter) about how to develop skills a client can’t ignore.

Peter has owned his own two-office agency, bought and sold three agencies, worked for the largest agency in the world in New York and London, wrote the book Buy This Book. Win More Pitches. The list goes on, and on, and on. Peter knows his stuff.

When talking to agency owners, Peter estimates that 80% of them don’t have a real business plan written down which is a fatal mistake.

In today’s talk, Peter explains why a business plan is so important, how to develop one, and how to use that plan to develop skills that clients can’t ignore.

Referrals are great, but if that’s all you rely on for new clients and aren’t sure how to grow beyond that, then this is the episode for you.

Get a full transcript of the interview with Peter.

Key Takeaways

Your agency needs a business plan [0:00 – 4:30]

In simple terms, a business plan tells you how you’re going to make money. It does that by laying out who you’re going to make money from and what you’re going to do for them.

Ultimately it comes down to understanding what your business truly does and tailoring it to the needs of the market. In Peter’s experience, 80% of agencies don’t have a real business plan.

The reason this is so crucial to the success of an agency is because unless you understand where the money is going to come from, you can’t create any real plan for how to deliberately grow your business. You can coast by on referrals for a while but to build a thriving agency, you need more than that.

You need a plan.

Develop skills a client can’t ignore [4:30 – 19:30]

Peter takes a slightly more lenient view on how narrow an agency needs to specialize but agrees wholeheartedly that some specialization is needed to stand out in the market.

If you’re a generic “full service agency” or even a “digital agency” then clients aren’t going to immediately know what you do. If, on the other hand, you focus on SEO, PPC, a specific industry, or even a specific region, then you are increasing your chances of success because it makes it easier for the clients to say, “That’s exactly who we need to partner with.”

The value of specialization goes beyond changing a few words on your website. You need to work to actively promote your brand position to the market.

For many agencies, the best way to do this is to develop a thought leadership program dedicated to addressing every pain point and fear that their target clients suffer. This isn’t rocket science, but by actually executing on it and addressing their pain points with key insights that make them go, “Aha!” clients won’t be able to ignore you and you will see real results.

“Unfortunately, business development is easy” [19:30 – 24:30]

This quote from Peter caught me off guard but when he explained it, it made sense.

None of the work surrounding business development needs to be complicated or difficult to implement. The trouble is that most people don’t actually do the easy stuff because they aren’t organized enough.

Without being organized, it will be hard to manage when to call your prospects, when to send that newsletter, and when to publish your blog post. For most of us, our day is a constant game of whack-a-mole, putting out whatever fires pop up. With just a little bit of deliberate effort, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Peter suggests keeping it simple by creating a calendar and assigning due dates for all of the various pieces of your business development plan. Whatever strategy you follow, it all needs to come back to the idea of treating yourself in the same way you treat your clients. You need to go on your client list, and when projects are due, you can’t push them off.

The last thing everyone does in their agency is their own business development but if it keeps getting pushed back, it may be the last thing you’re ever going to do because there may not be an agency any longer.

If you don’t have good processes in place for how to manage your “real” clients, then you need to fix that as soon as possible.

Want to learn more?

If you like his advice in the podcast, Peter doesn’t complicate his call-to-action. In his own words, everything you ever want to know about him is right on his website at

Resources mentioned:


London Advertising
Saatchi & Saatchi


Peter on How To Write An Advertising Agency Book [Inbound 2014]
Why Bots Are the Next Big Frontier for Agencies
100 people to watch in the chatbot space
Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.

  • Hi, Andy! Great episode as always. What is the name of the tool that you and Peter use to transcript your podcast to text?

    • Andy Baldacci

      Hey Emilio! I followed up with you about this via email, but I wanted to post my answer here as well in case anybody else is curious.

      We currently use for transcriptions because they are affordable and fast, but their quality isn’t perfect so we also have a proofreader give them an edit before they’re published.

      Another tool that I’m very curious about is Google’s Cloud Speech:

      I’m going to start playing around with that to see how accurate it is. If it’s decent, then that could be a great solution because of how cheap it is.

      Hope this helps!