If new-business is when you most need to stand out, then why do we all aspire to the same techniques?

A recent article on innovation reminded me of something I only learnt the hard way from years of new-business graft – ‘best practice’ isn’t the mark of quality it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – like ‘asap’ being the deadline-free lowest form of urgency.

‘Best practice’ new-business means ‘me too’ and doesn’t improve anything important – like making newbiz more fun, achieving greater success or getting better outcomes for clients.

Best practice is old news

Two sentiments in Mike Shipulski’s article ‘Moving Away From Best Practice’ were particularly relevant to new-business. Firstly:

“Just because a practice worked last time doesn’t mean it’s a best practice this time. More strongly, just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it was best last time. There may have been a better way”

Mike’s spot-on here. I’ve seen agencies flounder because they stubbornly stick to what worked before. Scrabbling around for little projects might have got your start-up going but, now you’ve got some scale, it’s resource-dwindling suicide.

Similarly, necessity is often the very welcome mother of invention in new-business – an urgently minted case study for that RFP or a clever new think-piece to fill the pipeline as Q4 looms. But being so last-minute is a tell-tale sign of vision being missing.

Bold work needs bold new-business

I also loved Mike’s simple sentence with a big lesson:

“If the work is new, there is no best practice”

If ‘work’ is the client’s problem, then your new-business efforts have to excel on two counts. Obviously you need to stand-out. But you’ve also got to prove you’re qualified to do something new. Tepid ‘best practice’ fails on both counts.

So if you aspire to do interesting, groundbreaking work – and if not, why not? – that’s reason enough for your new-business model to evolve.

Best practice – the basecamp of ambition, not the pinnacle

In fairness, all those books, blogs and seminars on ‘best practice’ are a decent induction for newbiz newbies and a healthy refresher for older hands. But their mass appeal can’t help but make them one-size-fits-all.

In our painfully over-supplied market, where clients are crying out for expertise like never before, agency CEOs can’t be satisfied with ‘best practice’ new-business. Otherwise, you’re guilty of a serious lack of ambition.

The truth is that agencies win the briefs they deserve. With new-business, the more you give, the more you get. And as Dave Trott said recently “what makes you great is what makes you different”. Hear hear, Dave.

Time to aim a bit higher with new-business?

Image: strategicdesignthinking.com
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