Point of View: New Business, Brittney McDonald (Phenomenon)

"It's not about pitching any client or brand, but finding the right one for the agency."

Brittney McDonald
New Business Director Phenomenon

Point of View: New Business

Tell us about yourself and what you do in your current position.
I lead New Business for phenomenon, which aside from leading agency pitches, includes anything marketing on behalf on the agency - PR, New Business Pitches, Marketing, etc.
How would you define the business development role?
Business Development extends far beyond winning new clients for the agency. Yes, that is at the core but Business Development is also a position that propels the agency forward – through pitch wins, organic growth, ensuring the agency is always reflected in the right now, and showing teams how to be part of the future agency, not just the present. I've always said that the Business Development role, or even the team, is the face of the agency both externally and internally. It's a big responsibility but it's a role that many people within the agency view as helping the agency achieve bigger, better things.
What’s your background and how/why did you move into business development?
I started in account management and when I entered the agency world (after working at a financial tech firm), never saw myself in any other track. However when I began looking at new opportunities at different agencies, I was asked if I'd be interested in interviewing for a New Business role. I had always viewed the New Business roles from a far and it was something I always wondered if I could do, so I took the interview.

Four hours and three people later, I knew I had to be in New Business. And when I accepted and began the role, I quickly realized I had A LOT to learn! That being said, I loved every second of it - the different categories, the high pressure/high stake projects, the pace at which it all moved, and the exposure to different teams.

I've since straddled New Business and Account Management roles, but when I made the move from NYC to LA, I focused on finding the right New Business role, at the right agency, which I've found at phenomenon.
How has the role in general (not just your own) evolved over the past few years?
As I mentioned in a previous question, it's so much more than just net new business. I think people expect New Business' sole responsibility to be just winning pitches. That is a huge portion of it, but it's also constantly thinking about how to position the agency and evolve our story. It's not about pitching any client or brand, but finding the right one for the agency.

Rather than being reactive when the agency is approached to be part of a pitch, the role has become proactive so that there's always an opportunity in the pipeline, and the agency is always energized about it's future.
Do you have a most memorable account win? Why?
The most memorable win was definitely the hardest pitch I've ever worked on. It was the masterbrand conducting three simultaneous pitches, each in a different category, in multiple global markets.

Each pitch advanced four agencies to final round, and the agency I was with at the time was the only agency to advance in all three. So we were conducting three separate pitches for the same masterbrand, with three different teams across five timezones. All three pitches were AOR wins, with two of the three being global. It was a massive undertaking for the entire agency, and our team was spearheading.

After months of pitching, we received news that we won AOR for two of the three!
What would you say is the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful client relationship
From a new business perspective, I think the biggest challenge is breaking through the idea that new business can't own relationships if they aren't "pitch clients". It's important that regardless of who runs the day to day on accounts or pitches, that collectively the agency is maintaining relationships with clients.

I recently had the pleasure of spending quality time with clients that are currently on our roster, and although we aren't actively pitching them, it's important to develop those relationships. I'm an extensive of the agency they've chosen to work with, and the more relationships and connections our clients can have across agency disciplines, the better the overall partnership.
What advice could you give to somebody entering the industry who might be interested in a new business role?
For someone entering the industry, new business is the best way to experience and collaborate with all disciplines within the agency. Especially if they don't fully understand the nuances of each discipline, they will experience it first hand after a few pitches.

I've always said, new business is a great place to start in the industry because you experience how a team should work together and how different roles collaborate. New business is at the center facilitating the entire project start to finish. From there it's easier to figure out what the best career track may be.

Brittney McDonald
New Business Director Phenomenon