I was sent a copy of David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by a gentleman who through hard work and good judgement co-founded and lead to prominence one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies.

I have taken many lessons from his counseling of me, so I cannot be sure why he sent me Olgivy’s book to read.

I have enjoyed the read though and picked up any number of ideas and lessons from Ogilvy, who took his advertising agency from zero to $55,000,ooo in annual billings in 15 years. Those are in 1963 dollars.

One lesson really resonated. Though you have a very competent team, it’s critical for the leader of the company to make the presentations to prospective clients.

Most agencies send delegations to present their case to prospective clients. The head of the agency limits their participation to introducing a series of subordinates who take turns haranguing the prospect. I have always preferred to make the presentation myself. The final choice of agency is almost always made by the head of the client company, and chairpersons ought by harangued by chairpersons.

I have also found that changes of speaker lead to confusion with other angencies competing for the account. One orchestra looks like every other orchestra, but there is no confusing one conductor for another.

When we were invited to solicit the Sears, Roebuck account I bearded their board of directors by myself. Sophisticated corporations are seldom deceived by a show of bodies. The agencies with the best record in new-business solicitation rely on their leader to put on solo performances. (When you consider the repulsive personalities of many of these soloists, you are forced to conclude that singularity is an important ingredient in winning accounts.)

This is a good kick in the butt for me in a number respects. One, We work with a lot of large clients. New ones contact us regularly. I need to be on and lead any initial phone calls with such prospective clients.

Two, I need to be meeting with and making presentations to prospective clients in person. Following Henry Ford’s advice to dealers that they should “solicit by personal visitation,” Ogilvy started solicited advertisers who did not employ an agency, “figuring he lacked the credentials to knock any incumbent agency out of bed.”

Who knows? Being at this for 10 years, with the firms we have as clients and with the reputation I have built through blogging, I may be able to push an incumbent or two out of bed.

Good lessons for me. Maybe for law firms putting on beauty contests as well.

 Image courtesy of Flickr by Mark’s Postcards from Beloit