Breaking into the big-time and selling to a national brand usually involves going through an agency. However, locating the best point of contact at a media planning and buying agency with hundreds—if not thousands—of employees is a process that requires experience, skill, and quite a bit of patience. Many of these organizations are structured in a way that makes finding key players nearly impossible, particularly for hyperlocal vendors who aren’t familiar with the process.
Here are five strategies for finding the right person to pitch in an agency setting, from a combination of agency insiders and hyperlocal executives who are responsible for connecting with these groups on a daily basis.
1. Search at the holding company level. “Identifying the right group or team within the agency world to connect with can be maddening. Many agency structures are confusing with titling conventions that don’t translate. My advice is to search at the holding company level — IPG, WPP, PUBLICON — including keywords like, startup, innovation, and technology. This should surface the key agency groups you’d want to connect with.” (Kenton Langstroth, IPG Media Lab)
2. Visit agency events. “With agencies, I don’t think there’s any silver bullet. It’s a lot of showing up. Agencies have all sorts of interesting events. [For example], they do ‘lunch and learns.’ I go to all sorts of different lunches at agencies. Really, it’s just showing up, talking about our product, and sticking around for an afternoon answering questions. Typically you can glean who the right person is from that.” (Alex Finkel, Roximity)
3. Leverage online communities like SellerCrowd. “A really interesting tool that I have discovered lately is a site called SellerCrowd. It’s a community for media sellers, and it allows you to either a) sort through their existing information, or b) just ask the community, ‘Who is the person in charge at this agency for this account, and what is their email address?’ It’s an incredible tool.” (Alex Finkel, Roximity)
4. Ask brands for agency referrals. “Gauge need and interest by reaching out to the brand directly, [and] ask for a referral from the responsible person at the brand to the agency. You usually get referred to the account management team, but we have seen the most success in aligning with members of the media team who see the value in what you do. [As you] build trust with the agency, let them know that you want to work with them not against them.” (Trevor Sumner, LocalVox)
5. Target one level higher than the product user. “It really depends on your product. In general, targeting one organizational level higher than the user of the product is a good bet. That person will have the power to say yes. Initially, try the phone and leave a voicemail for the sole purpose of sending and email with, “Left you a vm -” in the subject line.” (Jeff Gibb, Simply Measured)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.