Author Archive

90 Days, Give Or Take (says Drew McLellan of AMI)

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Remember those goals you created in your retreat, summit, on a long car drive, in the shower, etc. for 2018?

That seems like eons ago, doesn’t it? You had plenty of time. You just needed to get a few things off your plate before you really dug in and got started.

Well, guess what — we have about 90 days left. In the US, Thanksgiving is three months from today. And whether you celebrate US Thanksgiving or not, we all know that by December 1st, things begin to grind down to a crawl for that last month of the year (and the first two weeks of January). So if we’re going to make hay, we need to do it right now.

One of the most paralyzing things we do to ourselves is to bite off more than we can chew. Our grandiose plans are so overwhelming that we don’t even know where to start. It’s time to trim that plan down to the essentials.

I want you to identify the two things you can do that would have the most impact on your agency by the end of 2018. It might be getting rid of a toxic employee. It might be doubling down on mentoring an AE so they can take more day-to-day work off your plate. It could be a new business push or fixing an internal system or process that is broken.

Whatever they are — no more than two. And then this week (yes, before the end of the day Friday) put together a simple plan for making it happen. Calendar it. Commit to it. Build an internal team if you need to. But, the finish line is now visible to the naked eye, so we can’t put these things off any longer.

You’ve got 90 days to set yourself up for success in 2019. Don’t dilly or dally. Just get it done!

Thank you Drew!

 

Gads, What a Burden! I’ve Come to realize it’s time for a new Marketing Partner; Now What?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Agency Search Tips, Blog Posts

Quick Survey:

Maybe my load’s not that heavy, but circumstances have brought me to a place and time where it’s appropriate to start looking to hire a new marketing partner. Take a moment to guide me and others faced with the same challenge; comment to identify your favored options. Additional comments welcome.

  1. Hire a conventional “big bucks” agency search consultant (if affordable)
  2. Reach back to those in my “Other Agencies” folder that have already approached me
  3. Conduct a Google or Bing search for agency candidates – a true Do It Myself project
  4. Use an on-line agency search “service” or directory to find qualified candidates
  5. Ask colleagues for suggestions and referrals
  6. Ask my media buddies for suggestions
  7. Other …

P.S. – It’s known as agency search and it’s degrees harder than hiring a new CMO.

We’re conducting a brand evaluation search for an existing online retailer of fitness DVD’s and mobile App subscriptions.

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Pitchcast, USA/North America

The Opportunity:  AgencyFinder is managing a brand evaluation search for an existing online retailer of fitness DVD’s and mobile App subscriptions. Original, hybrid workout developed by a former professional wrestling champ-turned-yogi for men who need a workout that will increase flexibility, improve cardiovascular health and is easy on the joints. They used our pull-down menu to identify their budget in the $75K – $150K range (exclusive of media and production) Location – Georgia USA

The Assignment: The require a creative firm that can help them evaluate their current brand and be their strategic partner in helping to expand into new markets. This may require re- inventing the brand from the ground up. Whether they re-name some of their products, or create extensions with a new look and feel, they need a company that can lend an experienced hand in redesigning an online product for growth. For the initial campaign, their focus will be on the rollout of their new Senior Fitness program. So in that respect, marketing to seniors will also be an important capability they are looking for.

Special Notes: They are looking for a shop that may have done marketing for companies like Gaiam, Beachbody, or fitness apps like DailyBurn, Peloton, or Nike Training Club. They’re looking for firms that “get it” when it comes to celebrity-driven products. And they prefer to work with people who understand their core fan base from the professional wrestling industry, as it completely shortcuts the need to educate people on the audience, effective media channels, etc.

Budget: $75K – $150K range (client to provide details during initial telephone interview)
Covers: Fees exclusive of media and production

Search Query: (desired but not mandatory agency attributes)

FIELDS SERVED: (some relevant categories)
E-commerce
Healthcare
Health & Fitness products
Sports Entertainment/WWE
Weight loss

SERVICES DESIRED:
Brand positioning
Corporate identity
Creative services (digital, non-traditional)
Internet marketing
Web site design & development

MARKET SPECIALIZATION:
Consumer – Male
Consumer – Female
Consumer – Mature

ACCEPTABLE BILLING ARRANGEMENTS:
Cost-based fees
Monthly retainer
Project billing
Variable hourly rates for employee category

MINIMUM YEARS IN BUSINESS: 2 years

ACCEPTABLE LOCATIONS REGION:
Any US

The Ideal Candidate: If this opportunity is in your agency’s “sweet-spot”

and you’d like to qualify for an invitation, you need to tell us and be …

Full-service advertising, integrated, direct or digital marketing firm
Be or become fee-paid at $500 US Registration @ AgencyFinder
Have capacity to take on and service this new account
Be or become up-dated within your agency profile
Have relevant category experience
Be prepared to move quickly

Your Telephone, the Failing New Business Development Tool

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Flash Reports

Prologue: The majority of agency new business authors are of the “How To” variety. They volunteer pleasant, positive but not necessarily tried & true, battle- proven kinda stuff, but makes sense, sounds good kinda stuff. Not here. We’re an agency search consultant (match-maker) and get to hear from clients about all that How to stuff that didn’t work. And I’m here to report it to you now.

As a new business tool, the telephone is failing. Time was, when a courageous young man (in difference to women, back then it was men) saw his desk phone as his connection to agency prospects. Following a regimen that consisted of preparing compelling print collateral meant to be mailed to a prospect list of 500 carefully chosen prospects, then mailing them on a consistent schedule and then, with courage and commitment, that young man would follow by phone and ask – “Did you get the rubber chicken I sent?” (Yes, in those days he actually got through) Didn’t matter if he mentioned Rubber Chicken or industry study, the whole idea was to strike up a conversation that could lead to a relationship. And “yes Virginia” (see Wikipedia), agency success does depend on relationships.

But within the industry, there’s been a change of heart. Not sure who or where it started, but the notion spread that proactive outreach and rubber chickens were no longer in vogue. The new mantra? Content. Yes content is now king. It’s the politically correct way to clap your hands, wave your arms, whistle, beat the conga drums and blow smoke in their direction. The idea is to make as much Internet social media noise as you legally can so you draw them magnetically to your agency website. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news – it drew them to your website.

Agency websites; let me digress – I could write a book. Admittedly they’re getting much better, but by example, when their agency prepared the “walk-about” home page video, they apparently missed their agency’s young couple in deep embrace in the back corner. Maybe it’s rehearsal for a client video; I would have cut it! Let’s move on to About Us. Do Not, I shout, write no-interest paragraphs about starting in your basement or how your un-named team has vast experience covering 89 years. And don’t fail to identify at least one person who works there, and that leads me to The Team tab.

Chemistry Wins New Business; Not Creative!  That’s what the Guru of Growth taught for years and its truer now than ever. That’s why your Team tab can make or break your firm with the visitor. Here’s where you can let the prospect see the people behind the curtain. The smiling faces and interesting beards (men only please); the interesting location and hobby shots. If you’re all “suits” as they say and pictured in suit and tie, that sends a nice business impression; yet if the prospect company is led by millennials, that buttoned-up look may cost you. On the other hand, if you’re a young agency with Millennial management, that might off-put some dinosaurs. You can’t win them all but this level of openness and honesty may prompt that desired prospect call regardless.

Staff Characteurs?  So your Director of Business Development is a Pit Bull? Cute sketch. Good inside joke but not appreciated by the prospects you chase that are dog lovers. What about those multi-frame serious-to-goofy shots? Some are really funny and clever. But their value is offset when others fall flat. Has anyone thought of blank squares with titles for everyone? Group shots show your camaraderie but when you don’t or can’t identify them, it loses value. (I often enjoy trying to identify the CEO in a group shot; only to be surprised by who really is). On posted CV’s, use caution. Some folks have such intimidating credentials that it’s possible some prospects could be reluctant to engage!

Back to the telephone. One quick thought just came to mind. If you want to make a call to a new prospect (as in one that is not yet a great friend) DO NOT CALL FROM YOUR CELLPHONE! Cellphone quality is erratic, inconsistent and picks up ambient sounds. Do not expect a first-time prospect to be patient with all that. Call from a land-line in your quiet office.

Now, after all the research, content and key words you’ve invested, let’s talk about the horrors experienced by prospects calling your agency. Having called thousands of agencies, I speak as an authority and say agency new business telephone protocol is atrocious! Beginning with the universal agency announcement – “Thanks for calling Blander Agency; if you know the extension of the party you’re trying to reach, enter that now. For the agency name directory press 2. For the Operator press O.” What should the first-time prospect do that was guided in by your content or Contact Us page? What name do they enter? In most cases, that name is nowhere on your Contact Us page; matter of fact, neither is your agency location. Why not another option – “To speak with us about handing your account, Press 1.  Move frequent callers to 2 or 3.

Now let’s talk about the Operator option.  It’s a joke!  You might get an announcement that the call is being transferred to the Operator (please wait), the eventual answer says “Hi, this is Janice. I’m away from my phone at the moment; please leave your name and message and I will call your shortly!” What is that job other than answering the phone? Such incompetent BS! I’ve even had the “being transferred” message just repeat and repeat; never offering a chance to leave your message!

Finally there’s the “I don’t care” mentality. I’ve had situations where, no matter how I tried or what tricks I employed, I COULD NOT raise a living soul at the agency. One such time I was calling an agency with world-wide offices. I couldn’t raise anyone or the Operator in their New York office, so I called Chicago, thinking if it was a weather issue they would know. I failed to raise a soul in Chicago so I called San Fran. Finally found someone but that party had no idea what was happening in Chicago or New York, and didn’t seem to be concerned or looking to report that which might be broken. Talk about dinosaurs.

In Closing: Dear New Business Professional. Whomever made the decision to register your firm did the right thing. But if your profile is incomplete, out-of-date or still at the free Iridium level, you ain’t going nowhere. Pre-AgencyFinder we taught agency new business, so we’re familiar with what you do and what you spend. For starters many have tried outsourcing “dialing-for-dollars” at $3,000 – $5,000 Per Month! Please don’t suggest we’re expensive.

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How to Choose the Best Digital Agency

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Client Search News

5 MUST ask questions as well as a guide to help you find the best digital marketing agency to grow your business online.

I was listening to the excellent Robert Craven the other day on the Google Partners Podcast and it occurred to me that it must be a real challenge for a company or brand, to find a digital agency.

There is quite simply a plethora of agencies out there and to complicate matters still, they all focus or major in different disciplines, all claiming to be ‘the best’ or ‘leaders’ in their field. Furthermore, many will display badges of honour – winner of this or commended for that. No wonder people get so confused…

So, I have written this guide to try and help people when looking for an agency to help them grow and develop online. I have also highlighted some key questions to ask as well as some key questions that need to be asked by your potential agency.

Who am I?

I am Reggie James, founder of Digital Clarity. I have worked in the digital marketing space from its initial inception and launched one of the first paid search (PPC) agencies, as well as a tracking and attribution software business used by digital agencies in the UK called DC Storm.  The DC standing for Digital Clarity. This company was acquired by Rakuten in 2014.

Prior to this I worked at two search engines, helping both agencies and clients get found online, and I continue to help clients achieve this today.

What is a digital agency?

A digital agency is the umbrella term given to organisations that deliver services ranging from web design through to Paid Search (PPC) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The term Digital Agency may also cover a whole host of other specialisms that sit under each sub service.

The challenge

There is a major problem in the digital marketing space that is sadly being perpetuated by a number of agencies who were one day a PR Agency and today dress themselves up as a ‘Social Media Agency’. This happens all the time and can cause confusion and bad experiences.

Many clients that I meet may have had their fingers burnt or are reeling from some horrendous experiences where they thought they had signed up for a service with a reputable ‘Digital Agency’ only to find that the team at the agency were not all that they seemed or worse still, were learning some new skills whilst on the client’s payroll. Though shocking, this is not uncommon and quite frankly unacceptable.

Thankfully, things are changing. Experience and verification by both independent bodies and platform owners like Google are helping customers find the cream. In certain disciplines like display advertising, the use of blockchain technology is helping create a public ledger of post GDPR audited agencies and sites.

The importance of digital agencies

So, knowing what we know, it is also vitally important to point out the incredible value great agencies add to their clients.

It is rare to find companies that have the digital marketing prowess, collective skills and manpower that a truly good agency will have.

From creative thinking and strategy through to execution and management, well admired agencies can deliver both resource and fantastic return on investment (ROI).

What should a good digital agency do?

You work in an industry or sector where you have competition. No two businesses in your sector will be the same. The same is true of digital agencies.

A good digital agency will take the time and effort to get under the skin of your business. Whether you are selling to consumers or businesses direct, the need to understand the lead time and business process of your company as well as the competion and where you sit in the venn diagram of your industry are all basic first steps of good digital agency practice.

The questions you are asked by your prospective digital agency will determine whether the agency is the right fit for you.

What types of digital agencies are there?

Firstly, there are many. Here are a list of a few below.

The extended specialist

Web Design, these services could include:

Design & Development
User Experience (UX)
Innovation
Languages
PHP
Python
Net
CMS

WordPress
SiteCore
Etc.

Branding

Messaging
Logo design and development

The Jack of all trades

These are referred to as full-service digital agencies and in many cases can be the larger agencies. This agency model is going through a seismic shift as many clients may be paying for a suite of services that they will never use or simply do not even need.

The full service agency model, when analysed deeper –  one can normally see a shift toward a certain service. This means the agency at one point specialised in a discipline and then augmented services or bought companies to align disciplines. Why? More than likely, to win new business or keep existing business.

The ‘me too’ agency

These are agencies where they may have been involved in non-digital work, but are looking to capture new work by adding the word ‘digital’ to their name, or offer services that are out of their comfort zone. This can Web design agencies who suddenly feel they are SEO specialists and start dabbling in the art and science of Search Engine Optimisation. Quite simply, this normally ends in tears.

Questions to ask

I covered this question in an earlier blog when i looked at choosing a PPC Agency and it’s always worth going back to compare questions.

In many cases where I have come across a client who is in a toxic situation with an agency, I have often been asked to mediate or help transition the relationship to its natural conclusion. On reflection with both the client and the agency, it is normally the questions and due diligence that has led to both parties starting off on the wrong foot.

So what questions can a client ask a prospective digital agency? Here are 5 must ask questions:

What disciplines of digital marketing do you do?

Search? If so, PPC or SEO or both?
Web Design and Development
UX / UI
Digital Transformation
Social Media
Etc.

If it’s more than one of the above, which areas do you specialise in?

Of your specialist disciplines, can you demonstrate your skills-sets with some examples?

Case Studies
Testimonials
References
Etc.
How will these skills help my business?

Can you share projections?
Your process
The day-to-day running of the account
Analysis and reporting
Etc
How would you go about working with me?

On boarding process
Needs analysis
Etc.

Conclusion

Once you have your answers to these questions, it will much better help you shape your opinion of both what you require as well as see if the agency is the right fit for you and your business.

Note: This is an opinion piece  by Reggie James, founder of Digital Clarity and not necessarily those of AgencyFinder.

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Agency Owners — No Rest For The Weary?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Owning, leading or even just working in an agency is a fantastic gig. You get to be surrounded by wicked smart, witty, committed teammates, you get to save the day for clients on a regular basis and let’s face it, the work is fun most days.

We are lucky. Damn lucky. But we are also tired. Along with all of those privileges comes the worry of keeping the sales pipeline full, dealing with the human side of your team and clients (which can be both joyful and tragic as we all walk out our lives together) and long, arduous days (and nights, and weekends….).

Drew McLellan

We work at a pace that is fast and furious, shifting from one client to the next and often working weird and long hours. That is unsustainable without giving yourself some respite.

But we’re not so good about giving ourselves that break. It’s not about taking a vacation or a long weekend or just not checking email for 24 hours — it’s about survival.

Back when I was a kid in the business (call me 30 or so) I remember one of my mentors saying “This is a young man’s game, Drew.” And that was before the 24/7 connectivity we have now. I think he was both right and wrong. Our chosen profession does require an incredible amount of energy and passion but that’s not about being young. It’s about recognizing that it’s an endurance sport and we have to train and plan for that.

Here’s my challenge to you — when was the last time you didn’t check email for 24 hours? When was the last time you took 5 workdays off (in a row!) and played as hard as you work? Who (family, friends) are you not getting enough of in your life?

If you don’t like the answer to those questions — fix it. And then go to your 2018 calendar and schedule some breaks for yourself. Re-fill your bucket so you don’t come up empty.

This post courtesy of Drew McLellen, Chairman & CEO at AMI, Agency Management Institute and  President of his agency McLellan Marketing Group

 

One More Time; Let’s Simplify Branding & Marketing

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Partenerships

Our company matches advertisers with qualified marketing firms, so we constantly field requests for branding firms, branding services, or just for branding. Conversely, it seems every agency today declares themselves to be a branding or digital agency. So just like media alternatives have grown to a complex set of options, so have the meanings of branding and marketing. Here are some versions that may help simplify things.

Image result for kentucky peerless distilling co

Start with Branding. The one I like says it’s the essence of a product or service. “The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character.” Or “a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is.” Accordingly, the toolkit of adaptations agencies claim they can bring to bear on branding generally seem reasonable, but they generally serve as participles to the noun branding. Does it seem reasonable then that the essence of anything could serve to promote itself? Any more than a race horse could win a race without running?

That’s where marketing comes in. Marketing runs the race. Some say “Marketing is the process of bringing goods or services to market.” How’s that for simple! Marketing then as an all-encompassing concept is far-reaching. It could include research, advertising, public relations, direct marketing, social media, experiential and more. Curious then how digital fits in that set. Yet most agencies today are want to declare themselves as a digital agency. To add to the confusion, it seems everyone pontificates about branding and marketing. Since those conversations will undoubtedly continue, in the meantime I hope this helps.

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THE SOLUTION FOR BEING TOO EXPENSIVE

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

It’s early January. My phone rings. It’s Sue, a former client I spoke with two weeks earlier. She had called to share she was leading a new firm and they were growing like mad. She needed our help again. I had always liked Sue. We did really good work for her and she’s a straight shooter. I trusted her. We also hadn’t worked together for quite some time and our prices were higher now and our process more finely tuned.

The conversation we had two weeks ago had gone well. I walked her through our process-framed case studies and gave her a proposal for the work with options. This was the green-light call, I was certain of that.

“Hello, Sue. You ready to hire us again?” I joke.

“Well, I wanted to talk to you about that,” her tone sombre.

Uh-oh. I knew she was looking at other firms. I suspected they were all local and generalist in nature. Is she calling to give me bad news?

“Okay…what’s up?”

“I know you can do a good job. But you’re just so much more expensive,” she says. “My firm is young. And your price is just….,” her voice trails off.

To keep the conversation from turning from bad to worse, I jump in.

“Sue, do you mind if I ask you a question? Is your firm trying to be the low-cost provider in your sector?” I know the answer.

“No, of course not.”

“Well, neither are we. I know you’re looking at other firms, and there are some good designers here locally. But let me tell you why we’re worth every penny. Then you can make your decision. And if the decision is not to hire us, that’s fine. We’ll still be friends, okay.”

“Sure.”

“So the first reason we’re worth it is that we specialize in your sector. And this gives us insights that other firms won’t have. Are the other firms you’re talking to going to be able to hit the ground running, or are you going to have to start by explaining in excruciating detail exactly what it is you do? You know me, Sue. We’ve worked together before. You won’t have to train my team. I’ve already done that for you, by working for dozens and dozens of firms in this sector.”

She says something non-committal. At least she’s listening. If I go down, I’m going to go down swinging.

“And Sue, we’ve shown you exactly how we work. I walked you through our process-framed case studies. We’ll take you through each step in that process, just like we do with all our clients. Now, did any other firm show you exactly how their process is going to work, or did they just wave their hands a lot?”

Again, a non-committal answer. But I think I’m making headway, so I keep on. Next, I make a strategic move.

“And Sue, you know you can split this project into two portions. We’re better than anyone on the planet at strategy…” Did I really just say that? “…so why don’t you hire us for the strategic part, and then you can give the tactics to some low-cost (inexperienced) pair of hands?”

I’m doing what Win Without Pitching calls “stepping on the tactical to raise the strategic.”

This has worked with other prospects in the past. Once we finish the strategic component, it’s actually pretty tough for the client to go elsewhere. Their comfort level and their confidence in our abilities is pretty high by that point. But it doesn’t work this time.

“No,” she says. “I don’t want to split this up. All that will happen is the second firm will say, ‘Well, we wouldn’t have done it that way.’ So the results will suffer. And I don’t have time to babysit this process. I’m looking for a firm that can act as my marketing department. I’m too busy to babysit them, or to play referee.”

“I totally understand that, Sue. You don’t want to have to play referee. Our goal is to deliver great results for you, which is why we put together the proposal and price options the way we did. We can handle all your needs.”

“And Sue, there’s one more thing I want to say. I normally don’t do this for very many people, but we’ve worked together before and I trust you. So I’m going to do something I don’t normally do. I’m so confident that our process will deliver great results that I’m going to give you a money-back guarantee. How many other firms are that confident?”

“Not very many.”

“That’s right. So, you want to know whether we’re worth the investment. I understand that. I’ve given you three reasons. First, we know your sector. You won’t have to train us. Second, we’re going to be following a clearly defined, well-honed process. And third, I’m giving you a money back guarantee. If you get to the end of the strategic phase and you don’t think our deliverable will work, then you give us one chance to fix it. If we don’t fix it to your satisfaction, I’ll give you your money back.”

There’s a silent pause.

“Sue, this reduces your risk a lot.”

“Hmm…” She’s thinking about what I’ve said.

“Sue, what concerns do you have?”

“None, I just need to think about it.”

“Okay. That’s fine. Again, I want you to know that I’ll respect your decision, no matter which way it goes. As you think about it, if you have any other questions, give me a call, okay?”

“Okay.” There is a pause. “Oh, I do have one more question.”

“Sure.”

“Well, we had a really good year last year, and I need to get some money off my books. Can I pay you for the whole year in advance with money from last year?”

I laugh. “Yes, Sue, I’ll take your money, no matter what date is on the check.”

She laughs too. We trade some pleasantries and hang up.

Less than a week later, I have a check in my hand for more than a quarter-million dollars. She never negotiated the price.

What just happened?

Maybe she called to tell me I didn’t get the job. Maybe she called to negotiate on price. But she called. And I won the work at a higher price than any other supplier.

Reading this conversation, ask yourself how confident I sound. Pretty darn confident, right? Where does that confidence come from? It comes from the expertise my firm and I have built in our one sector.

And how does this expertise manifest itself? It manifests in expert processes.

And the money-back guarantee is a great way to back that confidence with action. I know that most challenges are no match for the systems we use to develop a solution. Yes, there are outliers, those thorny, horrendous problems that cause my team to stretch and sweat. But I’d asked enough questions to know that Sue’s challenge isn’t one of those. So the risk I’m running in making the offer is very, very small.

Our expertise and the resulting confidence also manifests in expert sales processes. I knew how to help her reach a decision that would be in both our interests. Thanks, Win Without Pitching, for all you’ve taught me.

The Money Back Guarantee Step-By-Step

When I first heard Blair talk about offering a money back guarantee, I was deeply skeptical. No, worse than that, I was frightened at the thought of actually having to write out a check. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But I’ve been using them for a while now and I’m here to tell you that they’re a lot less scary than they sound. I’ve made this offer three or four dozen times, and I’ve closed a fair share of those and no one has yet to ask for their money back.

I urge you to use money back guarantees. They’re incredibly powerful. The firm that offers them exudes confidence. And that’s exactly what the prospect is seeking. At the end of the buying cycle, buyers need reassurance. Many of your prospects don’t buy what you’re selling very often, so they’re unsure. They need to understand that you represent a safe choice. They need confidence. And that’s exactly what a money back guarantee provides. You’re offering to take their financial risk down to almost zero.

The Components

First, only guarantee the strategic portion of the engagement. It’s too easy for the tactical details to go sideways. When I was talking to Sue, that’s what I did, guaranteed just the strategic portion.

Second, you have to require the involvement of the principal. They can’t disappear while you’re doing your work, foisting you off on some low-level person with no power and no vision, only to pop back in and say, “Well, that didn’t work. I want our money back.” I didn’t require this of Sue, because I knew that she would need to be deeply involved in our process. That’s the way she works.

Third, the less “fine print” you have the better. So, no caveats, no exceptions, no escape clauses. This should feel like a handshake deal, not like one where the lawyers have to redline every clause. This is where you need to have the courage of your convictions. The only thing I told Sue in this regard was one minor detail: if it’s wrong, you give us one chance to get it right. But there was no other fine print.

Fourth, there needs to be a limit of some kind on the guarantee. Typically it’s a time limit. The guarantee can’t go on forever. This was implied in my offer; our strategic offerings only last a few months.

Fifth, give them a range of options. “We’ll get to the decision point. Then we can decide to proceed, or we can decide to stop, or we can decide to stop and I’ll give you your money back.” This fifth point is not strictly necessary, but it’s a more realistic representation of the possible futures than just: “You get your money back or you don’t.”

How to make the offer

When it comes to making the offer itself, here are some tips:

  • Make the offer to one person, not to the whole room. This will be the highest ranking person at the prospect company.
  • Look that one person in the eye. Focus on them. Smile. You want to humanize this moment.
  • Slow down. You’re making an incredibly important point. Your audience should sense the room lights dim and the spotlight on your face grow brighter.
  • Tell them that you don’t do this for everyone. (That’s true, isn’t it?) They’ll feel special.
  • Frame your offer as a way to reduce their risk. You can call it “financial risk” or just “risk,” but you want to highlight the benefit for them.
  • Be confident. Exude trust and power, even if you’re shaking on the inside. This kind of offer is the mark of a supremely confident professional. It won’t work if you telegraph your doubts through tone of voice or body language. Don’t mumble. Speak up.
  • Place your offer carefully into the flow of the meeting. You probably don’t want to lead with it. Wait for the right time, and once you start, don’t let anyone interrupt you. Once you make the offer, pause. Let the silence stretch. You want to sear this moment into their memory.
    Then ask a strategic, high-gain question. The one I asked Sue was a variant of this one: “How many other firms are so confident that they can deliver outstanding results that they’re willing to guarantee their process?” You want to distance yourself from the competition.
  • Practice by making the offer to a few “gimme” prospects first. These are the prospects that won’t ever take you up on it, or where the cost of failure is so low that you could afford to pay them back. These types of situations are low risk for you. In using these as practice, you’ll learn what it feels like to make the offer, how the words sound coming from your mouth, and what types of responses are typical.

What could I have done better?

Thinking back over the conversation I had with Sue, there are some things I could have done better:

  • I should have sent her an email right after our conversation with the guarantee spelled out. This would have hammered home the point.
  • I probably shouldn’t have spent so much time questioning my competition. I was trying to draw distinctions, but looking back, I feel I might have overdone it.
  • I could have been much more clear about the three choices: if you don’t like it, we get a chance to make it right, in which case we’d proceed. But if we can’t fix it then we can decide to stop, or we can decide to stop and I’ll give you your money back.

That’s okay. I’ll do better next time.

Did Sue take me up on that offer of a money back guarantee?

We recently wrapped up the strategic engagement portion of the project with Sue. I had all 8 members of her leadership team in the room as my team and I walked through our findings and recommendations. At the end of the meeting, we do what we always do: ask them to fill out an NPS (net promoter score) survey. We got 9s and 10s from everyone, so our NPS score is 100%.

The next day I came into the office and sent Sue an email.

Sue,
I neglected to say one thing in our Monday meeting. I doubt I actually need to say it, but just in case, here goes:
Do you remember the sales conversation we had at the beginning of the year? That’s when I offered you a “money-back guarantee” on the strategy portion of our engagement.
Well, the strategy is set, so if you want your money back, now’s the time to ask.
Otherwise, full speed ahead.
David

Her response was simple:

David
Full speed ahead
Sue

By Win Without Pitching Coach David Chapin

MANDATORY READING – If new business wants more respect, it needs to become more proactive

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Editors Note:  This passed my desk today and I shared via LinkedIn and FaceBook with the headline:

My God, this man has got it! And it took an outsider to make the point so simply clear. Attention all New Business Coordinators. Either step aside or learn what it takes to do new business as it needs to be done. (And if  YOU are a NB person take heed. And if you’re an agency owner/Manager, please pay attention).

There’s recently been discussion that the industry needs to support its new business managers more. As one myself it’s no surprise that I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment: new business for any industry has a direct impact on a company’s growth, and there is nothing more important than this both culturally and financially.

However, I can’t help feeling like the role of new business has potentially lost its stature because we, as new business professionals, have let it happen.

I have only been working in the advertising industry for a few years – before I joined ad-land I worked in various ‘hard sales’ roles. And as an outsider looking into the industry, its definition of new business wasn’t really what I regarded as new business.

To me, new business has always leaned more towards a sales role than anything else. It has always been about developing narratives to persuade your target market that your product or service is the hand-in-glove fit for them and the answer to all their challenges. It is the proactive searching of the market to find clients that will benefit from your offering and then once you find them, building that relationship with them.

The admin has always come second for me. Don’t get me wrong, what comes after the initial contact is still absolutely critical to successful new business. But the hierarchy should always be proactive first, reactive second.

This is how it works in most new business roles, so why should it be different in advertising?

I think perhaps that new business departments or individuals have let their role become devalued. In far too many cases, the person responsible for new business in an agency is seen as the person who expertly answers the incoming RFIs or puts together the credentials document before an important client pitch or meeting. This isn’t new business; it is inbound admin at best.

The concept of waiting for briefs to come in is something that really grinds with me. In years gone by, the bigger, more established agencies have had the luxury of RFI after RFI landing in their inbox.

However, with the changing media landscape – as well as more and more clients looking to a wider range of agencies – this luxury is likely to become a rarity. Agencies can no longer afford to have their new business teams or individuals as in-bound sales or admin people.

The process of building relationships and actively trying to speak with prospects has become a lost art within the advertising industry.

‘Content is king’ is something that you hear at every new business breakfast, seminar and networking event. Yes, it absolutely is, but what is more important is what you do with that content. Posting content on your website or social channels is the easy part, but if we are honest it requires little effort.

Proactively shoving that content under the nose of your number one new business target in an engaging way is much harder. It can be easy to shy away from the harder work when it has become accepted wisdom that new business is more inbound then outbound.

If we want new business to be truly considered at the top table as a key cog in the machine – if we want our voices to be heard – then new business needs to stick its neck out. It needs to fight really hard to become a respected part of an agency’s makeup again – not by answering RFIs, building decks and getting good coverage in the trade press but by becoming more proactive, more outward facing and – essentially – more like sales.

It needs to take responsibility for driving the agency forward and making sure that every single person in the building comes on that journey.

Only then will us new business managers get our voice, one hustle at a time.

Jack Williams is head of new business at Atomic London

Good Business Comes From The Top Down

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Intro: I responded to Paul’s post below with this comment: “You have painted a very disappointing picture of our industry but it explains why so many agencies struggle investing in the expenses of business development.” Meaning – with margins so thin, I could understand what has long been a reluctance within agencies to invest in agency business development. Paul responded: “I didn’t mean it to be disappointing. It is merely a statement of how things are and have become under the holding company model.” I’d suggest it’s disappointing that it’s come to this for the fine agencies within the holding companies.

======

After reading about Sir Martin Sorrell’s resignation as CEO of WPP, I decided to look at the composition of boards of all the major holding companies.  It was a revelation, but not surprising.

First, let’s understand the function of boards.  They are there to set policy and priorities for a company.  This includes a multitude of items from finance, dealing with the financial community, personnel policy, compensation, moral leadership and many other areas of policy.

Looking at the members of each of the holding company boards reveals what we have known for a long time.  The holding companies, despite recently establishing cross-function agencies to pitch and handle major accounts which report directly to executives of the holding companies (e.g. WPP’s Red Fuse which was established to handle Colgate worldwide is an example).  The holding companies are definitely not advertising companies.  Not even remotely.  They are financial firms. And most have
no board members who know anything about advertising, communications or people management.

All the major holding companies have similar boards.  They are made up of investment bankers, fund managers, an occasional senior executive from an advertiser.  With the sole exception of Omnicom, there is not one single board member with an advertising agency background.  There are no real human resources professionals (“our assets go down the elevator every evening”).  Although one company has an executive recruiter on the board, but that person was not an advertising recruiter.  All the emphasis appears to be on making and managing money.

The irony is that before the holding companies came along, there were plenty of agencies which were highly profitable and extremely well managed.  Just look at Grey, Bates, even Deutsch.  They were money machines.  But no longer.  The holding companies have stripped away their essence, leaving almost all the big agencies the same.

No wonder things are as they are.

There is no emphasis on the work.  There is a lack of creativity.    Salaries are out of line with similar industries (entry level salaries are particularly poor so that agencies rarely attract the best and brightest young talent).  There is tremendous employee turnover. Salary freezes are the rule rather than the exception ; raises are delayed, forcing talented executives to look for new jobs in order to make a livable wage. Profits in advertising are actually low compared to other businesses.  Morale at most of the major agencies is, at best, only fair.

I have no sense that the holding companies are dealing with any of these issues. Rather, what we hear about is dealing with Wall Street.

It is time for the holding companies to encourage creativity among their agencies.  P&G and Publicis demanding that their agencies work together to make a better product is laughable since threats don’t make good ads.  While working well together is admirable, good work comes from a strong self-positioning, employee belief in the work and the willingness to fight for it.  Doing better work comes from not being afraid of clients and fighting for what is right rather than simply giving in because it might affect the profit level to be turned over to their holding companies.  BBDO is a perfect example of this.

It is time for the silos to end.  And that can only happen when digital and above the line are all under the same roof and all working together.  Almost every agency president I have talked to agrees with this, but being able to affect this change is complicated by the holding company ownership.  All it takes is for there to be one appointed leader who controls the entire process and has both the authority and responsibility to make it happen.

Agencies are managed for profit, but they would be more profitable if they were managed to encourage growth and creativity.  This includes fighting back against the procurement departments of prospective clients; agencies must be allowed to make a reasonable pre-tax profit which will fund growth. It means turning down accounts if a reasonable profit is being denied to them.  But the holding companies are looking at additional revenue at any cost – even losing money on new accounts. By procurement insisting on lower costs, they are precluding their agencies from pushing back for better, work – the holding companies demand keeping business at all costs.  I know one story where an agency was losing money on an account and resigned the business, which actually made the agency more profitable.  The president of the agency had his wrists slapped by the holding company CFO and was told it was beyond his scope of responsibilities (despite his contract called for maximizing the agency’s profits).  The company wanted the revenues and actually didn’t care about the profits.

It is time to address the excessive turnover among advertising employees.   If people are the principal assets, they should be treated that way.  Training programs for juniors are a thing of the past.  There is  some training for very senior executives, but these represent an elite few.  Employees cannot obtain timely promotions and rotations.  Once upon a time not so long ago, these were built into agency operating philosophy, but now that clients can dictate who can work on their business and how much they get paid, this is also a thing of the past. Constant wage freezes, in order to generate and maintain profit for the holding companies, forces aggressive and high-functioning employees to leave.

The list goes on.

Today’s post courtesy Paul Gumbinner, President of The Gumbinner Company, executive recruiters for advertising.  www.viewfrommadisonave.blogspot.com 

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