New Business Development Team of the Year 2020: Ashley Walters and Susanna Max, Curiosity

Susanna Max and Ashley Walters, Curiosity
Susanna Max and Ashley Walters, Curiosity

With a 100% close rate of major business pitches resulting in nine new clients in 2020 at Cincinnati-based Curiosity, Ashley Walters, chief development officer, and Susanna Max, marketing manager, have notched success at the fastest-growing agency in the Midwest. The pandemic has, of course, changed the process of attracting new clients, with opportunities for persuasion more limited and different in their format. Of the agency’s new accounts this year, 90% of the deals were completed remotely. Walters credits much of the success to the agency’s reimagining of how to pursue clients. “When you stop thinking about it as pitching and start thinking about it as building relationships built on vulnerability and authenticity,” she says, “you see meaningful results.”

The agency credits its success in part to rewriting the book on how to pitch clients, with its internal creative playbook that makes the process accessible to all team members. This is central to Curiosity’s culture — instead of pitch teams, every employee, regardless of their title, sees business development as part of their responsibilities. Support from strategists, designers, social, a data scientist, paid media experts and a project manager are also crucial. The nimble nature of Curiosity provides another advantage, allowing the company to adapt quickly to changed circumstances, moving money that would have been spent on travel and other pitch support into marketing efforts. 

Curiosity’s success at business development has helped Walters and Max elevate a small shop in Cincinnati to a nationally known agency. It isn’t, however, just about bragging rights. During a difficult year, Curiosity was able to retain 100% of its staff, and even bring on new hires. 

Return to the Campaign US Agency of the Year 2020 landing page

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