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Agency Advice from Traction CEO Adam Kleinberg

Kerry Guard • July 10, 2012 • 4 minutes to read

By way of a mutual contact, I had the opportunity to grab a quick cup of coffee with Traction Agency CEO Adam Kleinberg this week.

Traction calls itself an interactive agency, but they believe everything is interactive. They are part advertising agency, part innovation consultancy and have worked with brands such as Salesforce, Virgin Mobile & Walmart.

My goal in sitting down with Adam was to pick his brain about three things:

  • Selling in new business
  • How to grow your agency
  • Understanding the hiring process Adam was more than gracious to share some bits of advice and we wanted to share these with our readers. Please keep in mind, these tips are all paraphrased and should not be taken literally unless there are quotes around the statement.


Tip #1: Be a 3rd Grader and Go Make Friends

Of all the great advice that I heard over the course of this conversation, this was the most valuable (and simple) piece of advice Adam shared about selling in new business ...

"The best thing in the world you can do is become friends with somebody." Take all the complexities out of selling in your agency and stick with this one piece of advice. Any time you meet a potential business contact, do everything you can to build a rapport between yourselves.

You never know; that new friendship may not buy your lunch that very day. But down the line, the quality of that relationship will begin to pay off in the form of introductions, actual business opportunities and, worse case scenario, simply a good friend to grab a beer with and shoot the shit.

Tip #2: Relationships Are Everything

Adam dropped this gem when I asked him when he found success selling in new business opportunities for Traction.

If I could boil down this part of our conversation to three micro-pieces of advice, they would be:

  • Treat your relationships with a long term goal in mind: You're not going to sell in enormous contracts to clients who barely know you. It might take years and multiple job postings before that individual decides to work with your agency, so don't try and rush to the finish line and risk losing that relationship for good.
  • Trusting relationships help cut through the clutter: You know the quickest way to get fast tracked into a new piece of business? By having a trusting, lengthy relationship with the client. It's the quickest way to avoid taking part in 20 agency cattle call RFPs that suck all your agencies time and resources.
  • Relationships = friendships: I couldn't help but state this again; when people like you they want to work with you. Become friends with people and the professional opportunities will organically grow.

Tip #3: Watch Your Numbers

Take an active role in understanding how each client or project your agency works on makes you money.

For example, there may be less exciting pieces of your business that brings in revenue (basic production services, consulting, etc) that can get overlooked in the general hoopla of executing really groundbreaking, out-of-the-box ideas.

But ...

... You don't want to overlook these revenue streams, as oftentimes they are consistent sources of revenue that keep the lights on and allow your agency to go out and pitch the more unique & exciting pieces of business.

Never overlook the importance of the basic 'bread-and-butter' services that your agency provides.

Tip #4: Understanding When to Hire

A couple questions to ask yourself when it comes to staffing up your agency:

  • At what point could I use help? As in, when would it be  nice to have  an extra pair of hands?
  • Conversely, when do I feel that I  need  help?
  • What's this additional help worth to your agency in terms of dollars and cents? As in, what should you be paying for this help?
  • What will bringing on this help bring in terms of growth? Try applying a tangible value that will be recognized by hiring on this extra person.

Tip #5: Stay in Touch with People

This was my second favorite piece of advice that Adam gave me: learn how to stay in touch with your relationships.

For example, Adam has a contact that he grabs a beer with once every six months.

There are others that he contacts more / less frequently, but he actively invests in the relationships he's built in the past to cultivate them into new opportunities for his agency in the future.

Don't get caught up in the allure of non-stop pitching of new relationships; make an effort to invest just as much in your existing relationships.

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