Author Archive

Flash Report – Special Edition

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Flash Reports

FYI – Our message to advertisers: I thought you’d like to see what we posted at LinkedIn and Facebook Monday. Clients/Advertisers were the target but as you review your agency’s business development efforts, it helps to be aware of options clients have at their command to find you. I’m certainly prejudiced since we’ve been managing agency searches longer than most. I see some sites as just an exercise in keywords and link building. Those techniques do work however, and clients are drawn like flies to some of these services but then the burden of doing the research and work is on the client. Feel free to share your thoughts and to do so drop me an email. chuck@agencyfnder.com Here’s what we posted:

AGENCY SEARCH: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO IDENTIFY THE BEST MARKETING OR AD AGENCY PARTNER.

From agency search consultants, marketing match-makers, agency directories and aggregators, finding the best resource for selecting an ad agency or marketing firm isn’t always what you would expect. Once upon a time clients used to find a new agency by asking colleagues for recommendations, asking media reps, or going to their files for a folder labeled “Ad Agencies.” Back then many agencies practiced the fine art of mailings and calling on potential clients. Advertisers relied on national and regional publications such as Adweek and AdAge to identify the hottest agencies. Agencies used clever direct mail tactics and even took out ads to reach clients and identify their agency as a potential resource for future connections. But now …

We posted at:  http://www.agencyfinder.com/category/blog-posts/

Special Note: You’re getting this newsletter even though you have yet to finish and set your profile active. In order to participate in any of our client searches, you need to finish up. Can we help? You first created your profile on DATE and last updated on DATE2. Login with your User Name and Password (both are case-sensitive).

P.S. – KNOW ANY PROFICIENT PERL PROGRAMMERS

We’re looking to connect with proficient and capable Perl programmers. Some of our website and database is running in Perl and we’re looking to make new contacts. If you know of someone available for a 1099 opportunity, please let me know or have them reach out to me directly. chuck@agencyfinder.com

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Agency Search: Everything you need to know to identify the best marketing or ad agency partner.

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

Easy Advertising Agency and Marketing Partner Search

From agency search consultants, marketing match-makers, agency directories and aggregators, finding the best resource for selecting an ad agency or marketing firm isn’t always what you would expect.  

Once upon a time clients used to find a new agency by asking colleagues for recommendations, asking media reps, or going to their files for a folder labeled “Ad Agencies.” Back then many agencies practiced the fine art of mailings and calling on potential clients. Advertisers relied on national and regional publications such as Adweek and AdAge to identify the hottest agencies.

Agencies used clever direct mail tactics and even took out ads to reach clients and identify their agency as a potential resource for future connections. Then as now, clients with truly large budgets reached out to or were found by the traditional “Agency Selector Consultant” – early-adopters like Dick Roth and MorganAnderson, eventually the likes of SRI, Pile and so on.

Its 2018 and now there’s a dizzying array of many different types of vendors who purport to offer easy or more effective ways to guide an advertiser to find a potential new agency or marketing partner. 

Before examining those options, let’s see if we can agree on a few fundamental factors when finding and hiring a new agency. Years ago, a client was often heard to suggest “you won’t find a diamond if you’re looking among lumps of coal.”Translation? You may not find a perfect agency partner if you’re looking among a collection of unqualified candidates. So the focus must be on identifying qualified candidates at the outset. The challenge: A client may or may not know the right questions to ask or how to match a potential agency’s capabilities with their most urgent marketing needs.

There’s more. Time and again industry experts write articles and blogs to suggest how to initiate an agency search and conduct a review with a mere handful, say 5-8. In a massive sea of agency candidates numbering anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000, without a very precise process, how could a marketer possibly narrow that down to the best 5-8 agencies? Seldom do those articles spend any time to address this salient issue most relevant to the client. I will share some options, but for the moment, let’s examine agency attributes and what ranks on the client’s wish list.

Drawing on our 20+ years providing match-making to advertisers, when given choices, their first is desire is for relevant experience in their own business category. Why? Because then a marketer doesn’t have to spend time bringing an agency up to speed on their nickel. However, some clients actually stipulate against prior experience or the anthesis thereof. Contending they don’t want to inherent ideas used and abused before. Regardless, category experience is a weighted attribute one way or other.

Finally what about services, location, size, case histories, work samples, a dog friendly environment (yes, they have asked for that), client testimonials and then some? Certainly they are important factors but for each client they are weighted individually.

The two qualities that can’t be relegated to statistics are creativity and chemistry. There is no consultant or service that can deny the client the opportunity to make those judgments.

Now let’s consider the various agency search resources with a few examples:

1. Traditional “Agency Search Consultant” – Roth Ryan Hayes, MorganAnderson, Select Resources, Pile & Co. We have yet to discover who was first to convince an advertiser to compensate a consultant for finding and assisting in the hiring of marketing firms that would otherwise be spending their time and money to introduce themselves to that advertiser, as had been the age-old B2B custom. So be it, it was done. These consultancies range from a few employees to an unbelievable collection of top-notch talent, most of whom have agency credentials. If you want and need it, they will sit side-by-side in meetings, manage much of the process and agency interaction and take an active role in the entire process. There’s a large list of 22 to choose from, but you will pay and generally, you need a substantial budget to justify their fees.

2. Traditional “Agency Directory” – These directories have content developed over time by the agencies themselves. Redbooks.com is the best example. In their words: “For almost 100 years, Advertising Redbooks has been providing competitive intelligence and prospecting data to media companies, advertising agencies, manufacturers, advertising services and suppliers, libraries and more. Looking for relevant content on companies and the advertising agencies that work with them? Advertising Redbooks is the source for uncovering key advertiser and agency relationships.” Historically this directory of both advertisers and agencies has been a great resource for vendors looking to sell goods and services to listed agencies and advertisers. It’s a comprehensive but pricey subscription service.

3. Traditional “Phone Book” Directories – You would know them as the Yellow Pages. Because they serve specific regions, the initial attribute is location. In earlier print versions, agencies were listed alphabetically. Now, like Google and Bing, he who pays gets best position! It’s a hodgepodge grip and grab process that at best, wastes time and at worst, wastes money. But for a small-to-medium firm wanting a near-by agency, it can be a limited but handy resource. Free but not that efficient.

4. On-Line Search Engines – Google, Bing & others – Self-explanatory. Provide incredible reach and coverage but tend to lack depth of available data. You can spend hours and keywords filling your bucket and you can fall asleep as you negotiate a wide variety of agency websites. You’ll need to create your own matrix to evaluate the relative merits of candidates they present. Free, but data is disparate and the process is significantly time consuming.

5. Digital Search Engine Matchmaker – In 1997 and as what was then a “vertical finder” pioneer, we launched AgencyFinder.com as a reverse-engineered adaptation of MarketPlace’s CD-ROM list creation tool. AgencyFinder blends the digital matching technology of a business dating service with its own, unique blend of one-on-one staff consulting to help hundreds of clients find the right agencies. The first algorithm criteria is always vertical market experience. In its first pass, it limits itself and identifies 35 or fewer “perfect candidates.” Each agency, when selected, is based on the content they contribute and post using some of the 500 offered data fields. Finally staff consultants send invitations (Requests for Dialogue – RFD) to 15 or so. Any and all agency content is contributed by the agency alone and reviewed before approval and activation. This service includes multiple client consultancies, agency invitations and due-diligence interviews. The service is free.

6. Association Membership Directories – Best example is the 4A’s. Founded in 1917, this trade association represents the lion’s share of the major agencies in America and is the leading authority representing the marketing communications agency business. Utilizing an updated on-site search engine, navigating within their members is straight forward. There’s also a wealth of valuable editorial information here about many aspects of the client/agency relationship and the proper elements of an agency review. Search registration is free.

7. Super Directories, Data Aggregators – AdForum, AgencySpotter, Clutch.co, ranked.com. If you’re into research and think you need tons of data, this is your cup of tea. With directories, it is incumbent on you to do it all – find, evaluate and ultimately invite and connect with the agencies you see as candidates. Search management is your responsibility. Note that listing positions are often a function of agency payments or sponsorships. When these directories first come to market, it’s not unusual to claim content for thousands of agencies, yet in-fact it takes months and even years for agencies to contribute of their own volition. This quick-fix is sometimes accomplished with data scraping, also known as web scraping, and is the process of importing public information from someone else’s website into your spreadsheet or local file. It’s one of the most efficient ways to get data from others on the web, and then channel that data to their website. A rigorous clicking exercise will often revel “empty profiles” with notes to the affect the placeholder hasn’t yet had time to contribute. Generally these are free services.

Conclusion

Testimonials, case histories, third-party assessments – When agencies are allowed to speak with clients, that gives the agency an opportunity to decide and show what content best represents their candidacy. In these areas anything collected and inventoried at a third-party site can quickly grow old and obsolete. Don’t weigh down the front of your process with too much research. Decide what your criteria for selecting an agency is before you start any process. Then evaluate what the agencies send for your consideration.

Monetization. Each service has their own business model for how they make money. However, revenue should flow from either agency or client but never both. A “Chinese wall” is not enough to prevent the potential for ethical conflicts, so know who pays what and when before your proceed.

I wish you happy hunting!

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Oh Say Can You See – Or at Least Establish a Relationship With This Vision-Testing Expert

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

Client is a medical instrumentation company dedicated to developing advances in preventive health care. Their non-evasive vision-testing is both a highly technical, and a healthcare vertical at its finest. This client, a manufacturer of modern visual electronics, has a specific limited-duration (project) on the table but if successful would lead to a long-term relationship. Client is a pioneer offering patented technology in their vision testing systems. Budget: TBA

Instead of Lowering Your Price, Lower Your Client’s Risk

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

Guest Author, Tim Williams

You’ve just found $100 on the sidewalk. Should you put it under your mattress or buy a lottery ticket? What role does your tolerance for risk play in your decision?

In business circles, risk is almost always treated as something to be minimized. But can risk also be an economic positive?

The iconic Peter Drucker made a profound observation when he said “All profit is derived from risk.” Ponder that truism as you consider the nature of the compensation agreements you developed over the last 12 months. It’s likely you injected little to no risk in your proposals, which is in directly violation to the principle that if you want to make more money, you must take more risk.

Harvard’s Benson Shapiro offers this perspective: “Performance-based pricing is insurance. It insures that the seller does not undercharge the buyer.” In other words, introducing an element of risk in your compensation agreements not only holds the potential of making more more, but also making you a better pricer.

Who Bears the Most Risk in Agency-Client Relationships?

Now let’s look at risk from another perspective. Jack Skeels of AgencyAgile believes “The primary mediating characteristic of buyer-seller relationships is how risk is handled.” Says Skeels:

“When we ask agencies, ‘Who carries more risk in the relationship, you or your client?’ the answer is almost always ‘We do.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Your client carries more risk than you do … by a million miles … Clients are completely vulnerable to your efforts (which they don’t see, understand or control), and when you fail, they can die.”

The method of agency compensation is an important factor here. Clients who buy hours are really only buying buckets of inputs that may or may not correspond directly with the needed outputs. But more importantly, these inputs may or may not produce the desired outcomes. Herein lies the risk being taken on by the client. The agency will work its hours and collect its fees regardless of whether or not the work is effective. While every good agency desires to do good work, there is no real economic incentive for them to do effective work.

True, the agency can get fired at the end of the contract period, but that misses the point. After nearly 30 years using the hourly rate system, smart clients have realized that this approach has a fatal flaw. Brand growth has been stagnant for more than a decade, and most major marketers have been slogging along in a low-growth mode, unable to generate the needed ROI on their marketing investment. These clients have now concluded that the hourly rate system does absolutely nothing to help this situation; they’re simply “renting people” in advertising agencies.

Accompanying this current low-growth cycle for brands is an understandable low-cost mentality. Hence the rise and power of procurement. The prime directive at corporations everywhere seems centered on efficiency and cost cutting.

But what are these client organizations truly buying? No company ever saved its way to success. My friend Tom Lewis, formerly of the IPA, observes that professional buyers of marketing services are now squarely in the habit of attacking the seller’s cost base, insisting on as low a profit margin as possible while purposely leaving workload ill-defined. This, Lewis says, results in a low seller’s profit and a low cost of purchase for the buyer. In return for a lower price, the buyer unknowingly accepts compromised quality and effectiveness.

So instead of complying with buyer requests to lower costs— which will not provide the client with what the results they’re attempting to procure — could agencies instead lower their client’s risk?

Three Things Clients Buy

One of the world’s foremost business strategists, Michael Porter, asserts there are three main reasons businesses buy the services of companies like agencies:

To increase their revenues
To lower their costs
To decrease their risk

While most agencies don’t know it, even the most hard-core procurement professional thinks in these terms. Former WPP head of procurement Tom Kinnaird emphasizes that cost is just one of four areas in which procurement professionals seek a “win.” They also seek to obtain value, maximize cash, and minimize risk. This risk can take the form of:

The risk of suboptimal performance by the seller
The risk of not receiving the promised features and benefits
The risk of the service provider not producing the agreed-upon results

Writing in the WPP publication Atticus, Scott Brenman proposes the idea of a “threat audit” to help identify risks your clients face. He then recommends including on briefs a section about risks and threats to keep both agency and client focused on ways to minimize them.

KBS+ co-founder Jon Bond believes that agencies aren’t really in the ideas business — or even the results business — but rather the insurance business. The best agencies, he says, embrace the idea that their essential purpose is to reduce risk for their clients. Bond proposes that agencies should proactively sell their services this way, which he believes leads not only to more new business wins (risk reduction is a powerful proposition) but also better pricing (the best insurance companies command the highest premiums).

In the end, Bond says, “Economics are more powerful than negotiation.”

Propulsion is written by Tim Williams of Ignition Consulting Group, a U.S.-based consultancy devoted to helping agencies and other professional firms create and capture more value.

Fresh Faces & Features

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Flash Reports

CONTENTS:

  1. Fresh Faces & Features
  2. What Can We Do For You?
  3. New Login Option
  4. Has the Weather Affected Your Business?
  5. Database Cleansing – Some Surprises
  6. Know Any Proficient Perl Programmers?

FRESH FACES & FEATURES

I hope you’ve noticed but if not, we’ve got some new fresh faces on our home page. A bit more diversity; a bit more variety. We also repositioned the two call-to-actions; that for Search and Enroll. Over the years we’ve vacillated between our first “I Need an Agency; I am An Agency” to this new version “Find an Agency; Enroll My Agency.” Any thoughts to contribute?

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR YOU?

Every year’s there’s a new crop, a new batch of enthusiastic agency business folks. Some come to that table with previous experience; others are brand-spanking new, when you’ve been at it as long as we have, you sometimes forget what newbies want and need. So – regardless of your status, if there’s something you need with regard to agency business development and you don’t find it here, let me know.

NEW LOGIN OPTION

No big deal, but it occurred to us that a “can’t- miss” login location should be on the home page adjacent to where you started in the first place. We did the same for searching clients.

HAS THE WEATHER AFFECTED YOUR BUSINESS?

Here in Virginia they’ve gotten pretty good at clearing the roads after a storm, but the side streets and rural roads take 2- 4 days before they are passable and safe. That means many people are either faced with a dangerous commute or they stay/work from home. Your location will certainly affect what happens at your place – any unusual or interesting “weather stories” you can share that we can share? I also want to express our condolences to any of you impacted by fire, land or mudslides, floods or blizzard conditions. Mother Nature is a formidable foe!

DATABASE CLEANSING – SOME SURPRISES

It was more than a little bit overdue, but with the respite recently during the “snow” issue, we rolled in to conduct a database clean-up. BTW, let me explain something you may have missed. In your profile you have five (5) places to enter someone’s name and contact info. If any of our emails get sent to any of those five, any one of those can elect to OPT-OUT. When that happens (if we don’t check to confirm), that action will take your profile OFF-LINE. You can’t be found in a search nor can you be invited. It’s rather common that the alternate new business contact moves on, and when they do, may still get forwarded email. They mean well when they OPT-OUT, but without knowing it, they can do you damage.

As an aside, I was surprised by the attrition we saw. It didn’t discriminate by size either; most small to medium, but some big guys as well. Some of that was the result of mergers – it’s a job in itself to stay current with agency health. Hope you are healthy!

KNOW ANY PROFICIENT PERL PROGRAMMERS

Finally, we’re looking to connect with proficient and capable Perl programmers. Some of our website and database is running in Perl and we’re looking to make new contacts. If you know of someone available for a 1099 opportunity, please let me know or have them reach out to me directly. chuck@agencyfinder.com

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Prospecting in Your Junk Folder

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Flash Reports

CONTENTS:   

  1. Prospecting in Your Junk Folder
  2. Will Yours Be the Last Digital Agency?
  3. They’ve Re-invented the Light Bulb
  4. What Did You Call Your Firm When You Enrolled (It Matters)
  5. New Business is For Active Profiles; Is Yours?
  6. Invitation and Fee-Paid Go Hand-In-Hand
  7. Watch for Our Shiny New Faces

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PROSPECTING IN YOUR JUNK FOLDER

I don’t know about your agency, but here at AgencyFinder we want to see each and every new business inquiry that comes our way. We’re on the lookout for prospective client (advertiser) registrations and inquiries (the pre-cursor of an agency search) and the registration of each and every agency looking for new clients. For that reason, we keep a sharp lookout for scams and viruses – exposure is the price we pay to be certain we miss nothing!

Some of our and even YOUR best new business opportunities may be found in your junk folder. Even with our open and generous protocols, from time to time we find something precious trapped in there that didn’t make it to our Inbox. So each and every day at end-of-day, we carefully navigate from top to bottom, looking for gold. If you aren’t already in the habit of doing that, I suggest you start.

WILL YOURS BE THE LAST DIGITAL AGENCY?

Almost every one of our recent agency registrant claims to be a “digital agency.” If they literally mean they do nothing but digital media, to the exclusion of print (newspaper, magazine, etc.), out-of-home, radio, television, direct mail and then some, then what’s the established ad agency, integrated marketing communications firm, sales promotion firm to call itself even when they too have extensive capabilities in “digital?” I recall the subtle shift from calling oneself a marketing communications firm to the shortened “mar com.” Earlier than that, we saw the evolution from ad agency to integrated marketing communications firm. So what’s in a name? Before a sea change to something new, will yours be the last “digital agency?”

 THEY’VE RE-INVENTED THE LIGHT BULB

We’re pleasantly polite when we say we were the first on-line and off-line Internet consulting service to match advertisers searching for a marketing or advertising agency with an advertising agency seeking new clients, or our shorter version, we “invented” the Internet agency/client match-making service. ADWEEK made note of that in their August 4th, 1997 piece entitled “Online Agency Search Tool Launched.” Our run-up to launch took most of a year and I recall my concern that someone would beat us to the punch. Since then, I’m flattered that we’ve seen our share of copycat “lights” but I’m annoyed and you should be too by Johnny-come-lately launches making statements like “We researched the marketplace and found nothing that gave clients a tool to find candidate marketers. Hence our cute new baby!” Say what?

We’re working on an AI-version of AgencyFinder, but until we launch, and even then, unless an “agency search service” incorporates human involvement by those with agency business development or client CMO experience, algorithms alone don’t cut it!

Update: Monday January 8th this appeared in the 4A’s SmartBrief: Commentary: The danger of tech giants’ algorithms – Wavemaker’s Dan Plant writes about his experience this Christmas of being an online consumer and how algorithms used by Amazon, Google and Facebook may deliver relevant product recommendations, but also completely erase any sense of brand identity or quality. “The algorithm is essentially commoditizing every single product out there, ensuring that the only differentiator becomes price. Once that happens to your category, it becomes a race to the bottom,” he writes.

WHAT DID YOU CALL YOUR FIRM WHEN YOU ENROLLED? (WORTH REPEATING)

When you enrolled, you had to decide how to classify your firm, and we gave you these choices:

* Advertising Agency (SIC 7311)

* Direct Marketing Firm (SIC 7331)

* Integrated Marketing Communications Firm (Not yet classified)

* Media Buying Firm (SIC 7319-9902)

* Digital and Interactive Media Firm (Not yet classified)

* Public Relations Firm (SIC 8743)

* Sales Promotion Firm (SIC 8743-9904)

* and Minority owned and operated

Over the years and related to my “”Last Digital” piece above, we’ve learned something we can share. Truth is, when a client enrolls and builds their profile, they seldom come with any predisposition as to “type.” They don’t tend to linger; just a quick swipe at ad agency or “integrated.” If you selected anything else, come back and change your Primary business to one of those, then be more precise with your Secondary choice. It WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE in your traffic volume. Note: During our human management of the process, we look in all the Classification buckets to be sure you won’t be overlooked.

To capture those in pursuit of all things digital, in the Services Offered section, check off both Digital production & Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.),

NEW BUSINESS IS FOR ACTIVE PROFILES; IS YOURS?

Some agencies quit our registration process prematurely and don’t realize they did so. When you begin, you are walked through 2 or 3 pages. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A complete profile lets you describe your firm using more than 500 data fields; then 7 short essays you write, same for case histories and confidential client list. When that’s finished, you click at Item #13 – Set Your Record Active. When you log back in you’re greeted with “Welcome Back “Agency Name.” If you didn’t get that far and you still need to finish, you’re greeted with just “Welcome to AgencyFinder.com.” We assume you enrolled to get new clients. Please finish things up so we can do that for you!

INVITATIONS AND FEE-PAID GO HAND- IN-HAND

AgencyFinder is an annual membership opportunity. Pay in advance and you’re fee-paid for 12-months.  That means all the client invitations you can handle for no additional charge. In a way it’s the e-Harmony or Match.com of the advertising industry, at least from the standpoint that our fees, like theirs, pay for “opportunity introductions.” Our affordable $500 Manager Plan entitles you to be found in a review, invited and introduced to a client, then hold your “due-diligence” phone interview. All that for just $500! (Contender Fees extra)

Or select the EVP Annual Business Plan @ $2,995 and save $2,505 over the Director Plan and you’re fee-paid for 12-months. Upgrade or Enroll Now.

WATCH FOR OUR SHINY NEW FACES

Later this week we’re introducing our new faces. Please be on the lookout!

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UK Furniture Store Invites Your Assistance

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Pitchcast, United Kingdom/EU

Client sells furniture but mainly beds, mattresses, sofas, TV Stands and so on. Been in furniture industry for around 4-5 years, however this particular business is a new start-up. They are looking to appeal to the general masses by selling low/mid-end furniture. They plan on becoming a very well-established independent furniture retailer in East London as they have years of experience in this industry knowing what sells and what does not, also having good relations with a lot of suppliers across the UK. Have been using Google AdWords. Budget: < $100,000

Every Agency Needs a Fashion Account – Here’s Your Opportunity for an Unusual One

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

This client owns and distributes two brands of eyelash growth serums. Located in the US but they practice business internationally.  Their business channels include direct to retail (wholesale), direct to reseller (direct sales), and eCommerce. They manage all aspects of the business, including manufacturing, packaging, shipping, packaging design and digital marketing.

Client recognizes that to move the company further, they need assistance in driving new customer acquisition for eCommerce, stronger marketing and collateral support for retail partners, and a complete remaking their social media presence and storytelling. Their overall goals is to dominate the prestige/mastige market for the non-prescription eyelash growth serums, internationally. Their full-service ad agency will partner to strategize on brand development, positioning, growth strategy and technology for both their lines. Their agency partner must be experienced in international growth, creative and innovative in storytelling, be open to new technologies, and open to educating the client.  Budget $750,001 – $1.5MM fees, production and media.

THE DISRUPTIVE AGENCY MODEL – IS YOUR FIRM READY FOR THIS CHALLENGE!

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

By Judy Shapiro. Published In AdAge November 16, 2017.

Editor comment: The headline question “Is your firm ready for this challenge” is AgencyFinder’s. As Judy points out and as I suspect you know too, your agency is challenged like never before, to integrate the technologies and media alternatives. The question might be – when will you find the time?

In a recent Ad Age post, I heralded a new era for agencies where “quality scale” was new revenue created through the design of trusted user experiences that can be deployed at scale. This level of sophisticated marketing design is beyond the scope of ad tech platforms or management consulting firms with their limited executional, real-world experience; presenting agencies with a potent new growth area.

That vision set the stage so now let’s turn our attention to the practical details which will require, perhaps, challenging almost everything we think we know about how agencies are run today.

Align to clients’ new “trust” value equation
A staggering 60% of top 100 advertisers plan to review their agencies in the next 12 months, clearly reflecting clients’ radically changing expectations of their agencies. More than ever, brands need their agencies to be experts at creating trusted digital experiences while remaining operational and financially transparent. This complex dance of positioning, creative, data and technology is new terrain agencies must conquer.

Yet this requires highly trained people not easily monetizable via typical agency fee structures. The answer lies in disrupting old fee structures in favor of industry certifications of people, not technology, similar to certified engineers from tech companies. We have the foundation for standardized accreditation with strong leadership from IAB, 4As and ANA, among others. An added benefit of standardization is that the industry can be more transparent and comprehensible in tackling complex disciplines like programmatic, predictive modeling, AI and data.

Re-invent agency structure to excel at the art and science of modern marketing
It’s no surprise that the pendulum is swinging in favor of reintegrating tech, media and creative under one roof so that agencies can focus on contextual user experiences within an agile campaign architecture. Unfortunately, this goal cannot be easily achieved by clinging to the traditional agency structure that was built 30 years ago.

It’s time to rebuild the agency model from the ground up with an emphasis on agility, measurability and efficiency. In this vision, there are three competency areas making up a core team:

Progress planners. This is where the strategy and campaign planning responsibilities are. Within this is team are account planners; creative and technical campaign planning; experiential designers — translating experiential design into workable campaigns — and social engagement planners.
Performance planners. This new expertise will plan the performance of all marketing programs with a new set of tools and competencies; media planning (all platforms), campaign proforma modeling, fraud management and customer experiential journey mapping.
Platform planners. This is where agencies connect the dots between platforms, programs and business results. This team owns predictive modeling, audience data, privacy compliance, transparency and platform auditing. This is also where clients get support with their technology challenges such as data integration.

As campaigns become a seamless integration of online and offline experiences, this new structure allows agencies to operationalize this revenue-rich experiential vision.

Pick a tech “trust” side and own it
Traditionally, agencies were neutral arbiters of tech, refraining from owning or even advocating for specific technologies. But neutrality came at high cost, leaving agencies underpowered in understanding ad tech well enough to protect clients. The opportunity for agencies of all sizes to become guardians of clients’ budgets against fraud and inefficiencies by mastering all the science behind ad tech; programmatic, content syndication, social, etc. By taking the side of transparency, agencies have an opening to reclaim their role as trusted advisors.

Agencies lost a lot in the preceding 10 years; talent, tech edge, advertiser trust and huge profits that went from agencies’ pockets into the pockets of VCs and tech ventures. To avoid the next ten years looking like the last ten, agencies must disrupt themselves to become masters of the trusted experiential world.

Judy Shapiro is CEO and founder of engageSimply.

Navigating The Seven-Year Chokepoint (Time to Review New Business Options)

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

Guest Author – Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching

Agency business development has evolved over the years as technologies and media alternatives have evolved.  Most agency “business development” employees have little-to-no formal sales training, so imagine their frustration as they face many things “new” each and every day. To that, now add the seven-year chokepoint as Blair explains … Ed

In running a creative firm, everything appears to change around the seven-year mark. There’s a chokepoint at about that time that requires a change in strategy to get through. Some make it and some don’t.

The seven-year chokepoint was perhaps the first pattern I spotted soon after launching Win Without Pitching in 2002 (as a consulting practice, initially). So many of my new clients had been in business for seven years that at some point in my initial conversations I would venture, “Let me guess, you started the firm seven years ago?” I was correct far greater than chance would have predicted, and that pattern has held for 15 years. Even today, my guess is that more than 25% of the firms in our training program came to us somewhere around their seventh birthday. There seems to be something about being in business for seven years that precipitates the need for help in the new business department. But let’s back up.

In The Beginning
It’s likely that you started your career as an employee, working for someone else and thinking, “If it were my firm, I would do things differently.” Then in a moment that The E-Myth author Michael Gerber refers to as an entrepreneurial spasm, you went out on your own. There’s a good chance your first client was one you took with you from your employer, or perhaps it was your old employer, who used you as an overflow valve or chose to purchase your more specialized offering instead of staffing it in-house.

Level 1: Validation
Things went well and time flew by. One client led to another and another. You added people and capabilities, making it all look easy if a little harried. New clients kept coming in. And then they didn’t. Somewhere around the seven-year mark, your network just seemed to tap out, and everything slowed right down. This spawns an introspective moment for many firm principals. Where am I? How did I get here?

If you were to look back on your seven-year journey, you would see your path leading from your starting point to where you stand now. Along the way, you would see binary switches, like railroad switches, each representing an opportunity that came your way. They’re all switched to “On,” or “Yes,” leading to where you are now.

Those opportunities were random, arising from your reach or network. Some came to you easily and some you had to hustle for, but by saying yes to all of them, you ended up in a random place dictated by those random opportunities. That’s okay because along the way you learned a lot, including the confidence that you can be successful in business. Validation. But right here, usually at about the seven-year mark, the wild randomness that was the hallmark of the first level of your business needs to be replaced. That first type of success is not coming back, nor would you want it to come back. It’s time now for level 2.

Level 2: Life-Changing Success
Beyond the chokepoint at which your business quits growing organically, the journey, if it is to continue, must be more deliberate. From here on out you must set your course to a specific destination. That requires a visioning exercise of not only where you want the business to be at a set point in the future—perhaps another seven years out—but what you want the business to be.

Positioning the firm for this journey is vital. Positioning is the word we in the creative professions use for strategy, and strategy, according to Michael Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School, is the answer to the question, “How are we going to become, and remain, unique?”

Think of the primary components of your positioning as the answers to the questions, “What will we do?” and “For whom will we do it?” While keeping Porter’s definition in mind, the answers to those questions posed today should paint a picture of a global leadership position in seven years. My personal belief is that if you’re not aiming for global leadership then what’s the point? You and your firm can be anything in seven years, so why would you aim for anything other than the very best of something? If you cannot imagine being a global leader in this new area, then you must narrow either the discipline (what you will do) or the market (for whom you will do it) until you can imagine it.

Once you have your vision of global leadership, it’s time to pursue it steadfastly. The traits or tools of the first level of success are hard work and saying yes to everything. But these admirable traits are not the tools that enable the second level of success. Worse, once hardened into habits these traits work against you, because the tools required to get to the next level are saying no, and innovation, which I define as a combination of creativity and risk.

From Yes to No
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” -Warren Buffett

Saying yes to everything ensured your survival at level 1. It put money in the bank at a time when any dollar was a good one. But now you must view every new engagement as a strategic decision that will take you one step closer to your strategic vision.

Think back to your journey. Standing in the present, turn your attention away from the starting point 180 degrees to your new destination seven years ahead of you. You will get from here to there one step at a time, with each new client representing one of those steps. So how many steps do you think it takes to get from here to that future version of your specialized global leader firm? The answer is no more than 28.

For reasons I have covered elsewhere, your new business goals should be framed around managing a healthy churn of clients at a rate of about one new one per quarter. Every three months, on average, an old client fades away and, if your new business machine is working, a new, better one comes on board. Whether you like it or not, each client will take you one step closer to, or further from, that strategic vision of a global leader. So you must choose your new clients wisely. Seven years equals 28 quarters, 28 new clients, 28 steps away from where you are now. If you were to say yes to the next 28 clients that came along, where would that get you? The answer is somewhere that looks a lot like here. But few get to stay here, at the seven-year chokepoint, for long. They either figure out the next level, or they go out of business. There are exceptions—lots of them—that stay in this purgatory for years, decades even, but nobody wants to be stuck here, past the point of validation but well short of life-changing success. The first key is discernment: saying no to engagements that do not further your vision.

You must also bring the same level of discernment to your role. What functions does it make sense for you to hold onto, and which ones should you shed? And it doesn’t stop there. This ruthlessness of delegating, cutting loose, or otherwise saying no to things and people that do not advance the firm to its strategic target of global leadership needs to become the new habit, replacing the one where you would say, with a smile on your face, “Yes, we can!” Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And increasingly, in level 2, you shouldn’t.

From Hard Work to Innovation
My wife will occasionally observe that someone “is very successful. She must work very hard.” Recalling Peter Drucker’s observation on the source of all profit, I respond like a robot, “No, she must take a lot of risks.”

That is the second shift required for level-2 success—to no longer equate success with your own hard work, but with innovation, which I define as a combination of creativity (the ability to see an opportunity) and risk (the willingness to make large bets). Don’t misread that to think you should never work hard or that working hard is not a desirable attribute. As the principal, working harder may have been the answer to the question in the first seven years of your business, but it rarely is afterward.

The hard work habit becomes ingrained, though. Boxer was the noble ploughhorse in Orwell’s Animal Farm whose solution to every problem was “I will work harder,” even when the escalating crisis increasingly called for creative problem-solving or risk. The problem with hard work is it is consuming, and creativity—the ability to see new opportunities for your firm and clients—requires waste in the form of time to think. That’s why every firm that pursues efficiencies must trade some level of innovation to do so.

Entrepreneurship Is Risk
The propensity for risk is a highly personal thing, varying from person to person, but it is the one characteristic that defines entrepreneurs. They are always making bets. The size or frequency of those bets can puzzle or even terrify non-entrepreneurs. I need a certain amount of risk to make my life on earth meaningful to me, but I notice that the entrepreneurs I admire most tend to take more risk more easily than I do. I wish I could match them, but alas, if I want to sleep at night, I cannot.

We all find the risk-reward tradeoff that’s right for us, but some of us tend to settle into too comfortable a zone, and as a result, quit growing. Your firm needs to grow its way through this chokepoint. It’s delusional to think you will do so without taking more risk.

When creative firm principals at that seven-year chokepoint consider a new positioning to take them to the next level, some of them want guarantees. “How can I be certain this (the new positioning they are considering) is the right one,” they ask? “You can’t,” is the answer. There has to be some risk in the decision. Those seeking certainty before making the shift will likely find that game-changing success will always elude them. Their challenge is to push their own capacity for risk, which brings them closer to failure as well as success.

One Level at a Time
Business is a game with hidden levels. By succeeding at one level, you get invited to play the next. The common mistake is to bring those first-level tools to the next level. Not only do they not work here, but they also work against you. Many of the habits you learned you will now have to unlearn. Accepting this inevitable obsolescence of tools is the key to obtaining all the advanced levels of success.

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