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This is where we share some of our knowledge, advice, reviews and thoughts, along with some interesting interviews with agency leaders and business owners.

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5 minutes with: Tom Poynter, CEO at Southpaw

Hear how Southpaw's CEO, Tom Poynter, is tackling business growth amid the challenging and ever changing market conditions of the creative advertising industry.



Name: Tom Poynter

Agency: Southpaw

Job Title: CEO


Tell us a bit about your agency? Highly strategic, creatively minded and passionate about brand building.


How do you differ from your competitors? We use the science of emotion to build brands. The reason being is that it is our emotions that drive so much of our actions and connections with brands and in a world where we are over consuming messages, it is connecting with consumer’s emotions that will allow brands to win.


What is your biggest pain point when it comes to finding new clients? We have an oversupply of agencies (circa 16,000 in the UK), clients are taking an increased level of services in house and both PR and media agencies are having to re-invent themselves to stay relevant. This means it is a very crowded dancefloor with lots of different types of agencies chasing the same lunch. As we are based outside of London, we find the intermediaries don’t care so much and we aren’t as connected to them… you asked for one pain point, didn’t you?


What is preventing you from growing as quickly as you’d like? We see a problem in the market, in that brands are focussing more on the short term rather than a blend of short term sales campaigns and long-term brand building. This has been fuelled by the crack cocaine effect of “digital firsts” and the rise of content marketing. Both have a huge role to play in the marketing eco system but we would like to see brands going back to marketing fundamentals and thinking more strategically and long term with their brand requirements and then seeking partners like Southpaw to strategise, create and implement those brand building campaigns. There just isn’t enough of those types of briefs in the market right now.


What are the most important considerations when deciding whether to pitch or not? You have to ensure the conditions are right to pitch. Otherwise it is too costly and becomes a huge distraction for the agency. Firstly, you have to have the inside track… have you got the client’s ear, do you understand their motivations, have you got a grip on the key decision makers, do you have clarity as to why the client wants you in the pitch final or are you part of the beauty parade, have you established the budget and how quickly can you make the relationship profitable if you win. Without understanding these aspects, we wouldn’t normally continue.


What do you love and hate most about pitching? Love the energy it creates, the culture it builds and the positive momentum you get within a pitch team and/or the broader agency. I dislike cost led pitches, typically driven by procurement because it devalues strategic and creative thinking.


If you could pick any brand to work with, which one would it be? And why? That question is way too tough. There are so many amazing brands out there. For us at Southpaw, it is less about the brand or the sector that they operate within, but more; do their values reflect ours, do they value strategic creativity and can we build a formidable relationship over the long term.


Do you have any other tips, advice or final words of wisdom regarding new business?

  • Build a plan and give it a go

  • Don’t be afraid to alter the plan as you learn on the way - Lead generation will work better for some, where as intermediaries or building your own content engine will work better for others

  • Ensure new business is everyone’s business and not just a select few

  • Get the basics right first in agency marketing across website, SEO, social content and thought leadership

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