Blog Posts

ADVERTISING AGENCY SEARCH – SIMPLIFIED

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

Note: Marketing firms call themselves everything under the sun. Truth is the “handle” or “descriptor” is not important, but what IS important is their experience, the services they provide, their “personality” and the likelihood for great chemistry, then location, years in business and this list goes on. However you searched for an advertising agency, digital agency. Marketing partner, PR firm so that’s our topic.

But oh the drama and angst of searching, finding, evaluating and then hiring a new advertising agency, digital agency. Marketing partner, PR firm. Some say it compares to finding and hiring a new C-Suite executive. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Follow these simple suggestions below and you’ll enjoy a pleasant and educational process that you might later tell your associates – was fun!

Step # 1, Rule #1– You will never find a winning partner among a pack of losers. Lesson #1 – The most important and critical stage of your review is the identification of candidates. The first temptation is a Google search. Google’s first assumption, like it is for a fast-food lookup is that you want your agency nearby, so they perform a local search. If that’s your desire, fine. But if you already know who’s in your market, then that’s of little help. Same for Bing and Yahoo. All steer you to websites where navigating and comparing can be a nightmare. Another revelation – there is no set standard for agency websites (thank goodness) but that means you’re in for lots of variety and confusion as you  page your way, or scroll your way through dissimilar agency websites. I do promise you will be entertained if you are easily amused.

Let’s find your candidates. Don’t try to identify candidates one at a time, look for a service or search consultant that will help. Try search terms like “Ad Agency Search Service,” “Ad Agency Database,” “Digital Agencies,” “Find PR Firms,” “Agency Search Consultant,” or other variants. If you want assistance a search consultant is your ticket, but they come at a price. One free search consulting service that’s been around for some time is AgencyFinder.com. Check them out. Once you’ve found what you want there or elsewhere, define what it is you need.

What do you need in location or locations, size (employee count), Capitalized Billings (aggregate spend), Years in business? Then more specifically:

·        Fields served (vertical market experience)

·        Services offered

·        Market Specialization

·        Membership in Professional Organizations

·        Compensation options

·        Media experience

·        Primary Business (ad agency, digital, etc.)

·        Other

Step #2 Identify 20 or more agencies (yes 20) and then spend time on their websites. Build a spreadsheet to manage your work. Look for reasons to remove some, not to invite them. Narrow your list to 12-15. Put together your invitational package (an outline of what you seek from the agency) but not an RFP – that’s premature. Prepare an invitation that can be sent by email, fax or overnight carrier. Don’t interview anyone until they have your invitation in-hand and have come forward. Instruct those with interest to send an email to schedule a day and time for a telephone interview. You invite 15; 10 may respond and wish to continue.

Step #3 Hold your due-diligence telephone interviews. The “format” is free-flowing but an opportunity to get to know each other, learn what they do and how they do it, probe to discover to what extent they have experience in and understand your industry. Note what questions they ask you. Determine if they are interested in becoming your agency. If YES, ask them to send you a “Pitch package” – a collection of relevant samples of similar work, then an open-format letter describing how and why they want your business. You or they eliminated 3. You are down to 7.

Step #4 Examine those agency materials and share what they sent with colleagues. Decide who to cut and who to keep. Notify both with pleasant, professional messages – email or phone. Those who are cut will invariably want to know why; try to be honest but gentle. DO NOT fail to notify those you have cut. You cut 2, down to 5.

Step #5 For those still in contention, let them know and if your budget warrants, schedule a visit to those agencies. Plan for an “Agency Tour,” an opportunity to see their facility, meet various employees, see finished and work-in-progress. Look as well for work lying around that isn’t in your wheelhouse, but something you might have admired. Form your opinion and make judicious notes. After visiting 5 semi-finalists your top 2-3 should be evident.

Step #6 Invite the Top 2-3 to come to your headquarters and make final presentations. Give them adequate time to prepare. You identify the assignment and provide the facility. Voila!!! Discover your new agency!

Now it’s Your Turn                                             SEARCH NOW

7 WAYS TO CREATE NEW REVENUE STREAMS

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

Guest Author: Tim Williams, Ignition Consulting Group

Tim’s contributions are “spot-on” and we’re happy to share them when available. His content is significant and if you read carefully, it suggests that running an agency is clearly a full-time job (for those who missed that class).  The same goes for everything you find necessary for new business development.  With today’s litany of business development options, it make sense to bring in someone with special skills to teach and train your people. Many of the skills required today are not “self-taught.” And if not special people with special skills, engage a service that delivers “opportunities.” Is your answer to Tim’s first question “Yes?”

Would you like to earn money while you sleep? Most of your clients do. 

While most product and service companies have diverse ways of generating revenues, agencies and other professional firms generally don’t make money unless they’re recording hours on a timesheet. “Work a million hours, make a million dollars,” as the saying goes.

This is why the agency business is not really scalable. As long as your product line consists of “billable hours,” the only way you can scale your company is to add more people. And with the current pricing pressures on the time-based compensation system, this makes agencies perpetually high-volume, low-margin businesses.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. An emerging crop of innovative firms across the globe are successfully cultivating new revenue streams, diversifying their sources of income, and yes, even making money while they sleep.

How do they do it? Here are seven ways you can accomplish this in your own business.

1. Diversification
Purposefully diversify your compensation approaches with clients

Your personal investment portfolio (the money you’re saving for retirement) is diversified for a very good reason: you’ll get a much better rate of return. The same logic holds for your firm’s compensation portfolio. If your revenue streams are generated in a variety of different ways, you dramatically improve the chances of earning an above-average year-end profit.

2. Non-Standardization
Replace a standard rate card with an array of revenue options (a “pricing stack”)

Besides being remarkably uncreative, a standard list of hourly rates is a wildly suboptimal way to capture the value you create for your clients. When asked by a prospective client to supply your “rate card,” respond instead with your version of a “pricing stack” — an assortment of different ways your firm pricing its services. These can include such approaches as:

FIXED PRICE OPTIONS 

REVENUE SHARING

USAGE

DYNAMIC PRICING

SUBSCRIPTION-BASED

LICENSING

ROYALTDIES

3. Risk Management
Bet on your own success by injecting elements of risk in selected opportunities

Not every prospective client is a candidate for an outcome-based compensation agreement, but some are. When you sense an opportunity to get paid for marketplace outcomes instead of agency inputs, seize it. You’ll learn from it and get better as you go.

4. Productization
Turn selected solutions into programs and products

As stated earlier, labor-based services on their own are not very scalable. But programs and products are. By packaging up selected services into programs and products, you enhance the perceived value of your offerings and create the potential for new ways to charge for what you do.

5. IP Ownership
Package your intellectual property in ways that can generate recurring revenues

Most firms have a wealth of valuable intellectual property scattered across their file servers. This can be “productized” and licensed to clients.  Look for opportunities to license existing IP (software code, analytics dashboards) instead of approaching every assignment as “work for hire” in which the client automatically owns the IP. Why should your clients buy everything you do for them when they can rent some of it for much less?

6. Unmet Needs
Move beyond widely available services to develop solutions for the unmet needs of clients

The profit problems at most firms can be correlated directly with a service offering that the business strategist Clayton Christensen calls “overdeveloped services.” Good luck charging a premium price for something clients perceive they can get down the street at half the price. Instead, turn your energies to the “underdeveloped services” designed to meet the unmet needs of the marketers you serve.

7. Experimentation
Adopt a “test and learn” approach to generating revenue streams

The most profitable agencies we have ever worked with have the attitude that every new assignment is an opportunity to craft a new compensation approach they’ve never used before — the equivalent of a pricing “test kitchen.” They expect varying levels of success, but that’s the point. They learn from their experiences and get better and better at developing more creative, more effective ways of capturing the value they create for their clients.

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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.

The Technology Sector’s Negative Influence on Creative Firms

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

Guest Author – Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching (He’s on a roll)

No, this isn’t a rant about how things were better before everything was digital. Rather, it’s an observation on how principals of creative firms have borrowed some of the wrong things from the cultures of technology businesses and startups, in particular.

First, The Good
The buzz of innovation and deal flow coming out of Silicon Valley and other technology startup hubs is infectious. There’s so much that’s good about it and, in recent years, creative firms have borrowed some good things from tech:

1. They’re more open to exploring alternative business models
2. Some firms are launching their own start-ups or spinning off some of their internal innovations into other businesses
3. Principals are lifting their eyes to the horizon, being more tuned in to what’s likely to happen next, well before it starts to happen
4. Firms are fostering culture as a means of recruiting and retaining good people
5. Some firms have their own labs or R&D divisions
6. All great stuff. But I also see problems created by the wholesale adoption of some practices and viewpoints from the tech startup world in the culture of creative firms. There are two in particular that I think have been the most damaging.

Then the Bad

1. A Tendency Toward Productizing
Look at a few websites of firms that do some form of technology marketing. Many are taking too many cues from the SaaS companies whose marketing automation products they’ve aligned their businesses to. Specifically, they’re productizing their services in a bid for scale without stopping to consider the myriad of other implications of such a strategy. I’m a fan of Hubspot–the company and the technology–but I can’t discuss this topic without pointing out that the ecosystem of Hubspot partners firms is an egregious example of unnecessarily productizing what should usually (not always) remain a customized service: marketing.

Hubspot has served their partners well by providing so many resources to them to help them build their businesses, but the price seems to be that Hubspot has attracted firms that really want the model of success to be told or handed to them rather than those willing to innovate their own way forward in the quasi-paranoid, quasi-isolated way that is typical of an entrepreneur.  Hubspot partners, and other firms like them who resell other software, package and price their services like software companies, not recognizing that theirs is a dramatically different type of business requiring different pricing and business models.

The trade-offs between these business types are many. You can watch my talk at Hubspot’s Inbound Conference last year where I discussed it at length.

2. A Focus on The Exit
Is there anything more ridiculous than someone you’ve just met asking you, “What’s your exit strategy?”

As I’ve previously written, my exit plan is death, and I think yours should be, too. I can be talked into seeing the merits of a technology company spinning up and then selling so that their own little technology becomes a small part of some larger technology that takes over the world and makes all the players rich. But in truth, I think most (certainly not all) of those sales and stories are vacuous nonsense. Regardless, in an independently-owned, knowledge-based business, having one eye on the exit is about the best way to neuter your business. Watching a creative firm principal ease into retirement while the firm slides into irrelevance has always been one of the most painful things to witness. But now the young owners have this disease too, except their exit is a short-term sale.

Again, maybe if yours is a technology company developing a real proprietary technology, a short-term sale is something to shoot for. But if you’re still in the service or expertise business then a sale is unlikely. Build a great firm that allows you to go deep into your client’s problems on a customized basis and reap the rewards of such a business along the way. Having one eye on the exit in this business is the wrong thing to do, no matter what your age.

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“As a next step, I’d like you to come back with some concepts on what this campaign might look like.”

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

Guest Author – Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching

The client was politely but firmly taking charge, proposing what he clearly saw as a logical next step. Even though he was still a prospect at this point and not a paying client, he seemed to be conditioned to believe that our firm doing work for free made sense for all. I didn’t see it that way. Matching both his politeness and assuredness, I replied without skipping a beat, “We never pitch.” It was a lie. We pitched all the time but I was getting tired of it. I’d seen this film before and I knew how it ended. I wanted to try to change the ending, even if I didn’t know what should come after my small act of defiance. What made this particular exchange interesting though was that my boss, the president of the firm, was seated next to me and he replied to the client at exactly the same moment I did. “That sounds good,” he said. Cue the awkward silence.

It’s so long ago now that I don’t recall what happened next. I think I remember the three of us exchanging glances, Mexican standoff-like, but I don’t remember what language my boss or I spun to extricate ourselves with minimal embarrassment before we retreated to work on the pitch. I do know the client never hired us. I don’t think he hired anybody. It was the classic example of an overeager salesperson (me) mistaking interest for intent, and then an agency CEO, who had flown in for a meeting that never should have been, wanting to salvage something from the trip. Neither do I remember the details of the conversation with my boss that followed. I vaguely recall there was no real friction between us. I think he appreciated my alternative approach but would have liked to have known in advance what the play was going to be. The problem was that I myself didn’t know. I just sensed another client who was about to put us to work, for free, and not hire us.

If we list the things that went wrong on this opportunity, we find: 

1.     The client had not yet formed any intent to solve his problem, therefore, in all likelihood, the meeting never should have happened. At the very least it was poorly qualified beforehand. Wasting your boss’s time and money by having him fly in for a poorly-qualified meeting is a major no-no. In all likelihood, he was probably coming to town anyway and asked me to line up some new business meetings. (Again, the details elude me.) Such a request is perfectly legitimate but also enough pressure to cause a salesperson to set up meetings that shouldn’t be. I don’t remember anything about the dialogue that led to the meeting, but I’ll bet it was me pushing for it and not the client. In such a context the dynamics become clear, with the client thinking, “these people really want my business. Of course, they’ll bring me some free ideas!”

2.     We let the client lead in the meeting and then we agreed to follow even though the place he was leading us to wasn’t in our best interest, or at least I didn’t see it as such.

3.     We, my boss and I, were not operating from the same playbook. I had contradicted him in front of the client. If I had told him in advance how I wanted to handle such a request, I think he would have agreed to play it my way. He was a great that way. But it wasn’t part of any predetermined plan of mine either.

All the errors seem silly to me now, but back then I just didn’t know. I was a new business person. It’s not like there was anything that resembled training for this role. You copied what was done by those around you and those that went before you, based on the stories and the decks. And you improvised.

In the many years since this incident I’ve seen that this lack of cohesion on business development topics is common–perhaps even the norm–even if most examples don’t manifest themselves in a subordinate putting his boss in an awkward position the way I did. Just today I heard from an executive at a medium-to-large independent firm frustrated at the firm’s leadership team’s inability to get on the same page. “We have rules we’ve agreed to about when we will pitch and when we won’t but we break those rules all the time, and we always lose.”

There are so many different challenges that can affect a firm’s new business success, but not having everyone agree on some basic policies and procedures has got to be one of the most common and most significant.

If you’re trying to extricate your firm from a new business rut, a good place to start would be to get all the key players together (I mean ALL. Don’t let the chief transgressors skip this.) and agree on some basic new business rules, such as:

What do we require from the client before we will incur any expense?
What information do we need before we agree to a meeting?
Under what conditions will we respond to an RFP?
What is the smallest engagement it makes sense to take on?

Of course, agreeing on the rules and enforcing them are two different things. I suggest that once you lay out the rules, commit to a brief postmortem on each late stage opportunity (any opportunity that proceeds to a win or a loss) and, rule by rule, ask yourselves how you did. After a few such reviews, the patterns of transgressing and enabling will become clear. Then you need to decide what to do about  that . You can cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, commit to getting everybody on the same page by setting up the rules and reviewing every won or lost opportunity against them

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You’ve Landed a New One! Now 3 Principles of a Successful Client Onboarding Process

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

By Eric Taussig, Founder & CEO, Prialto

Making the client onboarding process successful is crucial for any service company.

When done well, your onboarding process is the mechanism through which your business development and/or sales team does an elegant handoff to your service delivery people. This instills confidence in your offering, and makes your new customer glad to have signed on with you.

Getting your client onboarding process right—especially when your service is offered remotely from a globally distributed team—is even more important and difficult.

Below, I outline three principles we’ve kept in mind while structuring our onboarding process, a process that we see as foundational to Prialto’s success.


3 PRINCIPLES OF A SUCCESSFUL CLIENT ONBOARDING PROCESS

1. Make the new customer glad to have signed on with you

Savvy buyers are always hesitant to sign on to a new service. They fear the inevitable productivity dip that takes place before a new service becomes additive.

Our new customers are particularly fearful. They worry that they will need to provide a lot of heavy personal management time to make our service work in light of our virtual assistants residing a world away in Asia and Latin America.

To overcome this, we work to awe the customer with the amount of management support we will provide on their behalf. We put their entire support team of virtual assistants and their manager on the onboarding call so that they hear from each person and understand how each of their roles will help make the service exceptionally “turnkey” such that the productivity dip common in adopting a new service will be minimal.

This addresses one of the greatest fears with which the customer comes to the new relationship. It puts them at ease and encourages them to follow our lead.

Instead of regretting that they’ve signed on, they rightly feel smart for having done so.

2. Create a detailed, personal and professional context around which to collaborate 

Contrary to conventional wisdom, studies show that when meetings begin with a bit of personal sharing they are more productive than meetings kept to “just business.” Sharing and honoring the personal context in which work is conducted creates the trust and respect that is foundational to work collaboration.

We begin each onboarding call by introducing each of the several key Prialto employees who comprise our new customers’ support team. By this time, we’ve already sent the new customer a detailed biography of his/her primary virtual administrative assistant. On the call, we outline each of the team members’ roles in helping the customer.

We then ask the new customer to introduce him/herself. While making the request, we invite the new customer to tell us about both the professional and personal aspects of his/her life.

When the new customer pauses, the Prialto team comments or asks follow-up questions to show that they understand the professional life being described, the personal world in which it takes place, and the connections between the two.

We follow these introductions with a series of preference questions. Many of these preferences might have been collected in advance of the call via a web form or survey. However, asking the questions on the call allow us to follow-up with personal insights and questions that further build trust, primarily my telling the new customer that “we’ve been here before.” We have worked with people like him/her, and we know how to successfully lead a busy professional through the productivity dip to the “sweet spot” in which the service we offer is creating lasting value.

These questions and introductions also help bridge the context gap between our customer operating in a high pressure North American business environment and the world in which our virtual assistants live in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

3. Begin taking steps to ensure continuity

Customers who sign on with a firm for a new service are often attracted by one particular partner, employee or executive. But the firm and the customer hope the service is not dependent on any one or two people.

Building continuity of service starts with the client onboarding call. That’s why the call should never be with just one person. It should always be with the broader support team.

It’s important to note that someone on your team should always document all preferences and key information shared on the call. And whenever possible, the call should be recorded (if that’s okay with the new customer).

THE ONBOARDING BRIDGE

Services are difficult to sell because of all the trust building required between provider and buyer. The provider must convince the buyer that the productivity dip will be minimal, and the buyer must convince the provider that s/he will be a customer capable of riding out the productivity dip.

A good client onboarding process will:

  • Help the new customer slow down in a time-efficient way in order to get started
  • Help overcome the business and social context gap between the service provider and service buyer
  • Begin the process of ensuring continuity of service for both the firm and the customer

By proactively addressing each of these bulleted needs, the onboarding process becomes an elegant handoff from sales to service that positivity defines your brand.

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Five Rules for Pursuing Project Work – Applies to Agencies of All Size

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

Some firms don’t take project work at all, while for others project revenue vastly outstrips the income from their few ongoing clients. What’s the proper role of project work in your firm, and what’s the proper approach to pursuing or vetting it? In this article I lay out some specific guidelines on projects as a part of your overall client mix, and the rules of pursuing and accepting project work.

My own experience has been that the most profitable firms are the ones with what I would call ‘tighter’ client bases – fewer, more loyal clients who entrust their firm with a large percentage of their budgets, rather than breaking it up among many firms. Although I haven’t formally quantified this, it has been my experience that firms with higher volume of project work are busier but less profitable than their more AOR-focused counterparts. While I’m a firm believer in the idea of ‘fewer clients, more money,’ I recognize that for many firms project work is helpful at plugging capacity gaps. What follows are five rules on pursuing and accepting project work, and some final guidance on the mix of projects to longer term engagements.

Rule #1: Don’t Chase It

It may be okay (or even highly lucrative) to take project work, but, with few exceptions, most established firms shouldn’t be pursuing it. Your business development goals should be focused on replacing your outgoing clients with even better, more lucrative incoming clients, while striving to keep the ongoing client base at somewhere between eight and twelve clients. Through regular business development activities, and just by answering the phone, project work will come at you. Short of finding enough project work, your bigger challenge is probably saying no to the bad stuff, so don’t focus business development resources on an outreach program that targets project work. Project-based opportunities are a natural by-product of targeting larger ongoing engagements, but with rare exceptions, you should not be devoting business development outreach attention or resources to it.

Rule #2: Don’t Offer Incentives for It

Your business development incentives should be focused on rewarding personnel for managing the churn of on-going clients, and should not reward for project work. Discretionary bonuses for project work, at the end of the year, are okay, but keep the focus, and the incentives, on the larger ongoing clients.

Rule #3: Object to It

When a prospect inquires about project work, the first thing you want to do is remind him that you are not in the project business. “We’re not in the brochure business. We’re in the business of creating total brand experiences.” (As a broad hypothetical example.) “We often do brochures as part of that, but if someone’s just looking for a brochure we usually refer them elsewhere. Let me ask you, is your brochure part of a larger undertaking?”

If your efforts to uncover a more comprehensive need come up empty (“No, we just need a brochure,”) you still have the option to take the work. “Before I say no, let me ask you a few questions…”

If your questions into the project reveal it to be a potentially lucrative one, and you happen to have the capacity then perhaps this is a project worth considering. Either way, by leading with your objection (“We’re not in the brochure business”) you should have positioned yourself well if the project is indeed a desirable one. It’s now the prospect’s turn to talk you into waiving your no-project policy and taking this on. Remember that you reserve the right to retract every ‘no’ or every objection or obstacle that you place in front of the prospect. Creating these objections allows you to gauge whether or not he recognizes and values your expertise. As you begin your retreat from the opportunity does he follow, or does he let you walk away?

Rule #4: Don’t Compete for It

You’ve established with the prospect that you are not in the project business. You’ve questioned him further about the assignment and found that it is indeed well suited to your firm and could be quite lucrative. If the capacity to do the assignment is there then this might be a project worth taking. Before you remove the obstacle (“We don’t do projects”) make sure that every other potential obstacle to doing business is identified and addressed.

You don’t want to say, “Okay, we’ll do it,” only to hear, “Great – we’ll get back to you after we talk to three other firms,” or, “Good, I’ll send you the RFP.”

You might say, “If we did decide to waive our no-project rule and take this on, what would need to happen before we agreed to get started?” If you hear, “We would need to meet with the other firms and decide on one,” or “I need to get approval from my boss,” then your job is to direct the prospect to go do what he has to do, then come back to you for a decision on whether you will waive your no-project policy afterward. If the prospect tries to put you to work (responding to an RFP as an example) then politely send him on his way. You want to get to the point where the prospect says, “We’ve ruled out other firms – we’d prefer to work with you, and I have approval to hire you right now if you’ll accept the assignment.” Then and only then do you agree to remove the objection – your no-project policy, and take the assignment.

Rule #5: Don’t Take Tactical Work That Would Neuter Strategic Opportunity

You’ll often encounter a prospect who dangles a project in front of you as an opportunity to ‘test the fit’ before they commit to you. While it is perfectly appropriate for you to agree to take a small first step with a client in order to assess the fit for a larger engagement, a first step should be just that – a first step and not a sample twenty-fifth step. By this I mean start at the beginning, which is almost always your diagnosis of the problem, or your validation of the client’s own diagnoses. To jump right to project work that is based on a bunch of assumptions may offer insight to the client on what it would be like to work with your firm on a daily basis, but it will offer no insight into your more valuable (and lucrative) strategic problem solving skills. Further, you’ll have to do some form of strategic work (diagnose and prescribe) to be able to deliver a tactical solution, but you’ll do it without the client’s full involvement, without fully applying your methods, and without appropriate compensation.

In short, don’t agree to a tactical ‘test’ that will only position you as a tactician and impair your ability to get paid for the strategic engagements. You’re better to suggest a phased engagement that has the two parties begin at the beginning, with your diagnostic and strategic development processes. Offer an opt-out point somewhere between strategy and creative platform at which the client can walk away if they don’t like the fit, or the work you’ve produced. You can further sweeten the pot by adding a money-back guarantee for the first phase. Together, these steps allow you to begin at the beginning, charge fairly for your strategic work, and allow the client a test period and an escape clause with no financial risk.

Summing Up

It should be clear now that I am not advising you to decline all project work. Focus on the larger on-going assignments. Don’t offer incentives beyond discretionary year-end ones for project work. When the subject is broached, lead with the objection that you’re not in the project business, then search for a larger underlying opportunity. If the project seems like one you should take, make sure you get every other potential objection dealt with before you agree to take it. And finally, never put the cart before the horse and agree to take a tactical project as a test of a more strategic or total engagement.

A Healthy Project Mix

What should your revenue mix be – project-to-AOR? If your total project work represents more than 25%-30% of your revenue, I suspect you might be doing too much of it and impairing your ability to more lucratively position your firm as an expert advisor seeking more complete, longer term engagements.

Tips to Help Your Agency Manage Client Expectations

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

by Jordyn Walters

The best client-agency relationships are built on trust and mutual understanding. When you take steps to manage client expectations from the get-go, you will maintain that strong relationship through the ups and downs that are bound to happen when marketing firms and clients team up. We are all human, after all.

Think back to the last client you brought onboard. More than likely you spent ample time preparing to win them over. This includes meetings, presentations, potential brand renderings, timelines, strategies, and budgets. You were living and breathing that client. And sure, when the good times are rolling, it’s a snap to keep the client relationship healthy and satisfied. But what about when that roll hits a speed bump? It takes experience and attentiveness to keep the trust going so you can maintain the client’s relationship and their expectations. Utilize the following tips to improve communication and manage the client:

1.       Stick to the agreed upon strategy.
The agency and client should always be on the same page. You are grabbing a one-way ticket to an uncomfortable conversation with your client when they are expecting one thing and you are expecting another. Everything that you do for them should be defined ahead of time so there is no confusion when the numbers start rolling in. For example, if the client has a different expectation of a certain goal than the agency does, it is only a matter of time before there’s a collision and the relationship gets a kink. Choose a strategy with the client and create a document that outlines everything. If you do this, you are less likely to receive pushback down the road.

2.       Don’t just have a client-agency relationship. Have a true relationship.
Not only is it more pleasant to meet and work with a client, but it makes the relationship that much stronger and understanding when you know the client on a personal level. Take the time to have interest in their lives, whether it’s their family life, their favorite places to eat in the area, or what makes them get up in the morning. Having a relationship built on more than business builds a foundation that allows for more accurate strategies and exceeded goals.

3.       Stay in control.
Remember, the client came to you for help. You should be steering the ship from day one. You’re the expert. Whenever a client feels like they need to keep tabs on their agency you are in danger of losing that trust and more importantly the respect for your expertise. Stay true to the strategy outline, be transparent, and absolutely communicate. Some clients may be more difficult to guide than others, but it is important to remember that you are the leader and the expert. Show your confidence and it will transfer to the client.

4.       Provide monthly reports of progress and success.

Oftentimes the client benefits more from seeing the big picture when they get tangible updates. As long as you are doing your job and the reports show movement every month, the client will appreciate having something tangible. Providing monthly summaries reminds the client of your value and the fruits of that labor. Even with constant communication, the lack of monthly reporting can mean the big picture gets lost in the shuffle. Before you know it, you’ll have angry client’s asking where that movement is. Still stay in contact regularly, but remember there is a great benefit to sending monthly analytics.

Do you have any tips for managing client expectations? Leave them in the comments below!

Four Steps To Lead Generation Success

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

by Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” John Wanamaker

Amen, brother John. Amen. When it comes to the various ways a creative firm might generate leads at the top of their funnel, I’ll admit that for too long I’ve been guilty of saying “Do all these things… some of them are bound to work.”

Blogging. Speaking. Webinars. Outbound calling and emailing. Networking. The more you can do, the more leads you’re likely to generate. It’s hard to argue with the general principle but it’s reasonable to expect that someone like me who has seen the insides of hundreds of firms should have some theories for what works and what does not. I do now, but I’ll admit that it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to tease out some of the patterns of effective lead generation.

Below are some principles for reducing the lead generation waste. Before I share them, allow me to reiterate my usual caveat about positioning: good marketing for something that has many substitutes isn’t good marketing at all. Marketing begins with assessing what is missing in the market and then matching a solution to that unmet need. If you don’t have something that is meaningfully different to some market segment then lead generation will always be difficult.

With that out of the way, here are four steps to building a simpler, more powerful and less wasteful lead generation program.

1. Bet On One Thing
If you had to bet all your chips on just one lead generation vehicle, on which would you bet? Put another way, if you were only allowed to undertake one activity or form of lead generation for years to come, which one would you choose? Few reply that they would smile-and-dial although that is what many have done for years. Most pick something that would drive inbound leads, like a blog, speaking, writing a book (or books). Some might launch a YouTube channel. Some a podcast. What One Thing would you do?

When I think of the firms that drive numerous inbound leads they all have one very clear thing they do. Their lead generation efforts are as focused as their positioning. They’ve resisted diluting their efforts across numerous channels, avoiding Warren Buffet’s admonishment that “Diversification is for people who don’t know what they are doing.”

To Buffet’s quote I will add my favourite from Peter Drucker. “In business, all profit comes from risk.” The rewards you seek (high-quality inbound leads) are more likely to come to you if you take some risk and bet on One Thing. Risk mitigation is at the root of lead generation inefficiencies. Focus more, take more risk, and do less.

Your One Thing should constitute between 60% and 80% of your lead generation resources of time and money.

2. Now Pair It With a Complementary Thing
Marshall McLuhan noted that media tend to travel in pairs. Newspapers deliver type. Television, video. The Internet can deliver type, video or audio. The same principle applies to your lead generation One Thing, albeit more loosely, like a complementary pairing of wine and food. If you choose to write books, as an example, it will pair nicely with speaking, or blogging. Perhaps the blog becomes the vehicle through which you write the book. Or the speeches are the now-easy-to-obtain platform that get you face to face with your prospects after the book is written.

The key though is to decide on the One Thing and then pick the second Complementary Thing that helps you achieve or leverage the One Thing. If you misuse the idea of a Complementary Thing to hedge your bet on the One Thing then you will just create more work for yourself and dilute your impact. It really is One Thing aided by a truly Complementary Thing. Once you get traction with your One Thing, numerous Complementary Things will present themselves to you and many will be easy to pull off. You are free to pursue them or to remain focused on your One and Complementary Things.

3. Strive To Own The Channel
When choosing your One Thing choose something that you can own or dominate. I know firms that have founded conferences, networks, radio shows and other lead gen channels in which they had such a massive presence that it just would not make sense for competitors to try to replicate or follow. To choose blogging in a field where everyone is blogging and a competitor is already dominant might not be the wisest decision. Seth Godin blogs and writes books. He decided against other social media because, in his words “I couldn’t be the best in the world at it.”

Another book on branding? Probably not ownable. If someone has already written the definitive book on your area of expertise perhaps you should look for another channel. If the space is crowded with books but none that truly stand out then sure, got for it, but you really have to have something new and meaningful to say.

One more smart, but not belief-rattling, blog on healthcare marketing? That field is crowded. A YouTube channel or virtual conference, however? Those might be easier to dominate.

There’s a nuance here that I won’t be able to fully explore in this brief post and it centres around the idea of perspective. Perspective–an over-arching point of view on the firm’s area of focus–is the final differentiator that separates a well-positioned firm from its few remaining direct competitors. If your perspective is strong enough (contrarian but still accessible) then you don’t have to seek to dominate a marketing channel in your market, you simply need to dominate that point of view within it.

With a strong contrarian perspective it may make sense to launch an assault on a larger competitor’s dominant channel with the goal not to replace them but to carve out a devoted niche and achieve “leading alternative” status.

4. Consider Leveraging Your Discipline
It’s interesting to note that advertising agencies almost never advertise, direct marketing firms almost never build formal direct-based lead gen programs for themselves, experiential marketing firms rarely create their own experiences to drive leads and while most public relations firms claim to get business through word of mouth, few employ a formal plan for themselves like the ones they might sell to a client. Only social media firms seem to embrace the discipline they trade in to drive their own leads.

In the Win Without Pitching program we have a full term dedicated to Closing With Case Studies–an approach that uses carefully built IP-based case studies to derail pitches and eliminate unpaid proposal writing. Using “process-framed case studies” to close this way is powerful, but it is even more powerful when you use your own firm as one of your case studies.

Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes for a minute: from whom would rather buy discipline X?

A) Someone who does not use it
B) Someone who uses it
C) Someone who uses it and can use their own firm as a case study for how they use it and why you should use it too?

Someone in category A will lose out to someone in category B most of the time, and will lose to someone in category C almost all of the time.

In summary, bet on One Thing. Then add a Complementary Thing. Strive to own the One Thing channel you select, and if you cannot own the channel strive for the leading alternative in the channel by owning a provocative point of view, one that’s contrary to that of the leader’s. Finally, if at all possible, make that One Thing the discipline that you sell or most often trade in. The combination will focus your efforts, reduce waste and make you far more compelling to your target market.

P.S. – Chuck writes “I have to admit; I was hoping Blair would be even more specific!”

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Meet 34 Advertising Agency Search Consultants

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

By Peter Levitan

There are 34 advertising agency search consultants listed below. There are surely many more when you add in local and part time consultants.

Savvy search consultants generally act as personal shoppers for larger advertisers trying to locate the perfect agency out of hundreds, even thousands, of specific agency options. It is estimated that about 10% to 15% of all searches use the services of a consultant (I am thinking about dollar volume not total agency searches.) I suspect that the number of consultant led pitches is well over 50% for clients that have large budgets, complicated accounts (think global ala Microsoft’s recent search) and now, highly specialized agency requirements.

SHOULD YOUR AGENCY CONTACT SEARCH CONSULTANTS?

Should your agency contact the search consultants on this list? Yes and no.

Here is the drill. Most of these consultants work for larger clients and they have hundreds of agencies to keep track of. They get lots of incoming from agencies every day — see the interviews below. Based on my 28 years of conversations with search consultants, I can tell you that most of the incoming agency information gets ignored even in a fast paced world where consultants need to keep abreast of the agency universe. Why? Agencies get ignored because most agencies do not really have a realistic reason to get on the consultant’s radar.

Realistic? Consultants are primarily interested in a core set of agency attributes. Obviously, they are looking for agencies that match their current searches. However, in general, any new agency (new to market or new to them) needs to have some distinctive attribute to get a consultant’s attention. That means having a good reason for these busy consultants to pay attention to you. What might that mean?

Here are some examples of what I would get my attention if I were a consultant:

Are you seriously creative (like really creative and can prove it?)
Have you been discovered by the trade press?
Can your agency handle really large, complex accounts?
Do you have international offices?
Did your team just leave a hot agency where you’all did famous work?
Do you have media planning and buying expertise?
Do you have demonstrable digital expertise? You can’t just say we do social media. Did you crack mobile advertising?
Do you have deep experience in an important client category?
Are you known for your strategic chops?
Is your name as ignore-free as Barton F. Graf 9000?
Get the picture?

The bottom line is that you need to think about what agency attributes will be of value to the consultant. Do you have some special sauce that a consultant needs to know about for their business and clients? Before you make any contact, please take the time to understand what search consultants look for.

For the full list, follow this link:

Note: All if not the majority of these consultants are hired by the client and paid by the client. They should never solicit agency payment to participate in a review nor should they charge for being in their database (if they have one). Payment from both sides is “double-dipping” and unethical. In order to afford these consultant fees, the client needs to be dealing with a significant budget and at that, will be looking for agencies with capitalized billings some 3 to 4 times that budget. In most cases, smaller agencies are wasting their time hoping for consideration.

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The agency finder Process. A New Writer writes …

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

If you are part of an advertising agency looking to sign up with an agency finder service, there are certain steps that you can take to help get in the client line. A new business development program is not the only option to finding new clients, and it is also not the only way to find new clients. Many reputable advertising agencies have partnered with agency finders to help make contact with clients that are the perfect fit.

An agency finder works similar to other finders or hunters you may have heard of or experienced before. Apartment finders and head-hunters are similar businesses that work in a matchmaker way. As certainly are eHarmony.com and Match.com. Even the best, most experienced high quality agencies are subject to slow failure without clients and need to sustain their business. Therefore, it is important that agencies have a shoulder to lean on that helps their business flow and stay stable.

There are steps that need to be taken for an agency to become a part of an agency finder. To be the best prepared for such an occurrence, the process typically starts with filling out a profile. The agency will create a standard or lengthy profile; the best have more than 500 fields. While this may seem time consuming, it is simple and a small price to pay to get your agency’s name out there. Example database fields that you’d fill out for your profile include industry and market experience, billing options, agency services, location and the area you serve, employee census, and media experience.

When a client searches for their new agency, they normally select from sample fields to find their perfect match. This is why it is important that all fields of the profile be filled out accurately. After this, an agency finder and the client will discuss optional agencies together, and look through your agency’s case studies and other submitted profile essays that include strengths, philosophies, and creative approaches.

Whenever the time comes for the client to choose, an agency finder will contact the chosen marketing agency and inform them that they are invited to reach out and hold their telephone interview with the client. Registered agencies will then need to become “fee-paid” (if not already) where those fees are annual or initial. They will vary based on the client budget. Considering there will be ample business and income gained from agency finder introductions, agencies should rest easy that their investments are not wasted.

Remember, an agency should never feel obligated to work with a client and a client should never feel obligated to work with an agency. Declining an offer is entirely up to each party. Do be considerate in the time you take to decide however. More than likely there is another marketing agency or public relations firm waiting on your answer to learn if they have now made the cut.

Guest author – Jordyn Walters

Check out what makes AgencyFinder so different:
http://www.agencyfinder.com/about/what-is-agencyfinder/

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