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Small Spark Theory: a marginal gains approach to new business and marketing

New business is one of those subjects guaranteed to get a reaction from agency owners everywhere. Many will have a nagging feeling they should be doing a bit more, wonder how other agencies manage to land the accounts they covet, have moments of wild inspiration and energy then falter because the day job just, well gets in the way.
Gunpowder’s Lucy Mann has worked in agency new business for over 25 years and has witnessed these scenarios, and many more like them, as an outsourced new business telemarketer, a new business recruitment consultant, in house new business developer, in house head of marketing, and new business mentor across multiple disciplines and agency shapes and sizes.
Regardless of size and discipline, many agencies encounter the same new business challenges, and more and more, the solution is not necessarily an ambitious marketing plan, or expensive sales resource, but instead a forensic application of process and a marginal gains approach to performance improvement.
Gunpowder’s podcast, Small Spark Theory® explores the small changes we can make to our sales and marketing process to achieve better new business results. With contributions from a range of experts, each episode will examine a single element of the process in detail, providing manageable tips for improvement.

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Music from Jukedeck - create your own at
Host - Lucy Mann
Producer - Isabelle Jarvis

Jun 7, 2021

In the discussions we’ve had on this podcast, and in the work I do with agencies, the theme of walking in the clients’ shoes has been a recurring one. From rethinking our messaging to talk to client needs rather than services, to our approach to prospecting and the way we build advocacy with our clients.


But aside from simply understanding the client / prospect business attributes - structure, revenue model, audience, product and service lines, what we really need to get a handle on is change. What’s shifting for them? Buyer behaviour? The competition? Regulation? Supply chains? What does the change mean for them? I’d argue that a key differentiator in the best performing agencies is having a process for staying ahead of these issues and having more informed conversations with clients, a commitment of time that our traditionally lean servicing models often overlook.


However, as we stand here in 2021 blinking into the sunshine after the dull shock of the past year, there is change that we cannot ignore. Every client business will have been affected on some level from the pandemic, meanwhile the issues of sustainability, climate, diversity and inclusion are rightfully gaining traction. To ignore these challenges as we work together with our clients is missing a vital opportunity.


Someone who has been leading the charge for such conversations is Jennifer Crowley, Client Partner and Digital Sustainability Lead at Kin+ Carta and BIMA 100 Class of 2021.


In this episode we explore the benefits on engaging on broader businesses challenges and understanding shared values, and how, with such wide reaching topics, we can find marginal gains to build better client relationships.


As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Jennifer’s recommended read – Greener Marketing by John Grant.


Also mentioned in this episode: