Agency Search Tips

Facial Hair, is That a Consideration in Your Agency Search?

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

If you’re like me, you spend a chunk of time looking at agency websites. Many are now both beautiful, informative and compelling. I remember the early text-only centered column display sites. Today the format is clearly hi-fi wide-screen, many with short-form videos playing under superimposed copy and credits. But I’ve also noticed a resurgence of a look – the look of facial hair.

Miss Lilly Newfy

I suspect it’s happening everywhere, but in the agency world not too many years ago, men were close-shaved, wore double-breasted suits with padded shoulders, and sported equally close-cropped heads-of-hair. Facial hair and beards were for old men or homeless. I’m wasn’t surprised when today, as I scrolled the Team page of a 34-person agency, there they were – all ages with full beards, mustaches, goatees, bushy sideburns, and neatly trimmed Ryan Seacrest stubble. I was heading to the bottom when a woman appeared, and you guessed it, she was clean-shaven!

Today’s styles everywhere tend to be casual, so I’m also surprised by the tight, almost pinched look being sold as todays’ suits for men. What’s a gent with some paunch to do? How about cargo pants, a handsome belt and a great UNTUCKit band-collar wrinkle-resistant shirt.

Chemistry or get-along-ness always plays a deciding factor in the selection of a marketing partner, and “looks” is an important ingredient. Is it a factor in your search?

Note: If you happen to be searching for a new marketing partner, you’ll encounter hair at AgencyFinder, but only after you identify some of the best agencies in the world using digital fact-based and consultant-assisted identification. If you’d like, sign in here and start a free search: http://www.agencyfinder.com/advertisers/advertising-agency-search/

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Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Shows The Importance Of Data And Trust In Advertising

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

Editor’s Note: This era of digital data has fostered the concept of data scraping, or as Joshua comments, “Companies are offering agencies new data all the time but as industry players we are increasingly saying no because the way the data is obtained or used doesn’t sit well with our values and principles.” There’s a big difference between privately searching in a database for prospects that match your search requirements precisely,  versus publicly posting your opportunity only to experience a flood of prospects claiming to be a perfect fit. You can’t blame salesperson mentality, but the first process is precise; the second subject to question, audit and generally extra work. 

Today’s column is written by Joshua Lowcock, executive vice president and chief digital and innovation officer at UM Worldwide.

The advertising industry often talks about trust – trust between advertisers and their agencies, trust between advertisers and media owners. But very little is publicly said about the trust placed by the public in the advertising industry.

Individuals and the public at large have a right to demand and expect that advertisers, agencies, media and platform owners will treat them with respect. In digital, with the wealth of data available to marketers and the pressure to squeeze every last ounce of efficiency out of media dollars, there are always a myriad of companies offering new data sets.

Companies are offering agencies new data all the time but as industry players we are increasingly saying no because the way the data is obtained or used doesn’t sit well with our values and principles. As a result, these companies (often) quickly disappear. Data collected without clear permission or applied in inappropriate ways has no place in the advertising or media industry.

Data-driven marketing is an important part of our industry. If performed with transparency and respect for the trust the public places in us, it has the power to not only make our industry better but help advertising fund new content, services and tools that contribute value to society and the economy.

But if we betray the trust the public places in our industry and don’t treat the public with respect then we don’t deserve the right to use the public’s data. Zuckerberg acknowledged this in his post on Wednesday in response to the Cambridge Analytica situation: “This was a breach of trust between [Aleksandr] Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.”

Cambridge Analytica betrayed trust on many levels. Facebook was too trusting and was blindsided by how sophisticated the data industry has become. The lesson that can be learned for all of us is that data, like all things that can empower so much good, can be weaponized for bad. That’s why phrases like “computational propaganda” and “weaponized data” are entering the lexicon.

As an industry, we risk letting these negative terms become the brand for data-driven marketing unless we collectively stand up and say that Cambridge Analytica’s behavior is unacceptable and has no place in marketing and advertising. Cambridge Analytica does not represent the advertising industry. Its behavior and companies that behave similarly have no place in this industry.

What the coming weeks and months should remind us all is that, as an industry, we need to always ask the tough questions about data. Where and how is it collected? Has it been obtained appropriately and with permission? Is it compliant with privacy principles? Is it legal? And, just as importantly, is it ethically and morally right to use the data in an intended way?

The line between good and bad use of data is the moral, ethical and value compass of each and every individual working in this industry.

In the end, though, it all comes back to trust. We need to ensure that when the industry talks about trust and transparency, individual consumers are included and considered as important to the trust equation as agencies and advertisers. The more we include consumers in the trust equation, the better it will be for the industry.

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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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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

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/

An Open Letter to Marketers Considering an Ad Agency Review

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

Great advice for marketers and agencies – read both and take notes!

This just popped up in AdAge Thursday February 23rd and I have to say, it’s one of the best, most common sense approaches and executions of an agency review I’ve read in a long tome. It’s great fodder for client and agency alike and certainly highlights the time, energy, financial investment and necessary dedication it takes to participate in an agency review. Feel free to comment if you have something to share.

by Michael Fanuele – Before becoming a client, I spent more than a dozen years at ad agencies around the globe, working as a brand strategist, trying my best to help our clients crack opportunity wide-open. But honestly, most of my time was spent diving in deep on dozens of pitches. That’s one of the many secrets of ad agencies: their shoulders are generally pushing against the Sisyphean boulder of new business, doing everything to win bigger and braver clients. It’s thrilling, exhausting work.

And so I knew very well the massive commitment of time and treasure I was demanding of ad agencies when, as chief creative officer at General Mills, I called a review of our creative partnerships last year.

Although McCann and Saatchi & Saatchi had served our brands so well for so long (more than half a century in the case of the former), a shake-up seemed in order. The brutal stress of our business … (Continue Part One and Part Two below)

Part One: http://adage.com/article/viewpoint/open-letter-clients-ad-agency-review/308002/?utm_source=agency_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage&ttl=1488570692&utm_visit=102073

Part Two: http://adage.com/article/viewpoint/open-letter-clients-ad-agency-review-part-2/308050/

 

When Clients Ask for Financials

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

Today’s enlightenment was supplied by Blair Enns, CEO with Win Without Pitching

I recently spoke with an agency ownership team about an RFP they had received from a new prospect. One of the submission requirements was a copy of the firm’s financial statements.

How do you respond in such situations?

You would be well within your right to issue the most impolite of two-word responses to such a demand. Of course that’s not necessary, though. This is, after all, merely a game. Rather than stress you out, such a request should bring a smile to your face and an eager acceptance of the challenge. Let’s go over how to play the Show Us Your Money game.

Is This a Game Worth Playing?

Before we begin, prepare yourself for the fact that any selection process that begins with a request for financials might not go well. When the client opens this way then they’re likely a price buyer. If the relationship begins through procurement then whatever you’re being asked to bid on is seen as a commodity and you will have no power. It’s a price-driven decision all day long. Best to bow out.

If things have gone well in the sales cycle only for procurement to pop up at the last minute and demand financials, that’s actually good news. When procurement gets involved at this stage its almost certainly because they see this as final negotiations with the preferred firm – although they will never let on that this is the case. You’ve got more power than you realize in this situation but wielding it begins with the word “no”. Until you clearly say no, procurement is hearing yes. There’s rarely a need to get uppity or indignant. Remember the WWP key principle of kind ruthlessness: be ruthless in your behaviour – in this case getting right to the issue of why the client is asking and what a more appropriate answer might be – but be kind in your words. So a healthy amount of skepticism and direct professional questioning is called for.

Playing The Game

First, let us recall the Win Without Pitching Four Priorities of winning new business:

  1. Win Without Pitching, if possible. If you cannot then…
  2. Derail the pitch. If you cannot then…
  3. Gain the inside track. If you cannot then…
  4. Walk away.

Priorities two and three are about gaining concessions that affect the buying process thereby giving you an indication of how likely you are to win. You proceed with opportunities where you have proven that your odds of winning are good, ideally better than 1/n (with n being the number of firms under consideration). The assumption is someone has the inside track. If it’s not you, it’s someone else. This is the inverse of the saying about poker, that “If you can’t spot the sucker at the table, it’s you.”

Now, the step-by-step guide to our game. A lot of these steps are the same as those you would follow for any RFP response, with the specifics around financials added.

Step 1: Pick Up the Phone

The first thing you do is call – even if the RFP says no phone calls. Don’t apologize, just ignore and call. Get to a real decision maker and not a gate-keeper or process manager if you can. If the opportunity has come to you through procurement and you can’t get to a decision maker then you’re either a filler candidate rounding out the roster, perhaps there as a source of pricing pressure on the others, or the entire engagement is seen by the client organization as a commodity. In either case you want to think deeply about the merits of proceeding.

Step 2: Why Us?

Once on the phone ask why you’ve been selected. You’re looking to see who referred you, if anyone, how they see you and ultimately, how much power you might have in the relationship. Like step one above, this is standard RFP response protocol. “Thanks for thinking of us. I’m curious why you did think of us?”

Step 3: Raise The First Objection

Now put the RFP objection on the table. “We don’t typically respond to RFPs.” You can say this in different ways but I strongly recommend you use these exact words. Now pause, if you have the stomach for it, and listen. Whatever you hear next will be invaluable in letting you know where you stand with this client.

Leaving the objection on the table, which subtly implies the smallest of openings through the word ‘typically,’ proceed. It might sound something like, “I did want to say hello and explore whether or not there’s a path forward here.”

Step 4: Now Raise the Financials Objection

Proceeding full steam ahead you are now putting on the table all of the items in the RFP about which you have questions or issues. “There are some things in here I’d like to talk about.”

Right to the financials. “You ask for financials. We’re a private company and there are no circumstances under which we would hand over financial statements, but tell me what you’re looking for and why? I’m certain there’s a way to get to you what you really need.” You’re saying no but also that this is not a barrier but a bump. Let’s get over it together.

Step 5: Identify and Address the Real Issue

Now you are two people having a real conversation. You have placed aside the direct request and are in search of the reasons behind it. Some are valid. Some are not. Let’s explore each.

Valid Reason #1

The client wants to know what percentage of your total income their account would represent. This is perfectly valid. You want to know this, too. You want your new clients to be in the green zone, representing between 10% and 25% of your total revenue.

0-4% red zone
5-9% amber zone
10-25% green zone
26-35% amber zone
36%+ red zone

Smaller than 10% would not meet your minimum level of engagement (MLOE) and larger than 35% would be dangerous. The research that ReCourses CEO David C. Baker has done across hundreds of firms shows that when a firm loses a client that represents 35% or more of its income there’s a greater than 50% chance the firm will go out of business.

So, this is valuable for both parties to know, therefore it’s appropriate for you to disclose your revenue and even the number of clients you have, and it’s equally appropriate for the client to disclose the budget. If the client will not take you at your word for your revenue then this isn’t going to be a good partnership, is it? Go ahead and say that, if necessary.

Valid Reason #2

The client might have legitimate concerns over your financial stability. In the example I gave at the top, the agency had over two decades of experience doing this type of work for Fortune 100 clients. If that’s not enough to assuage someone’s stated concern about stability then the concern is a lie and there’s something else the client is looking for.

Find other ways to prove stability. There are many, including references from clients or your bank. Financial statement disclosure should not be required. Some RFPs, especially those crafted by procurement, attempt to pass all risk onto you and that’s just not realistic. They know that – they’re not demanding, they’re negotiating! Don’t assume because it’s in the RFP it’s mandatory. “I have to ask… if you think we’re a fly-by-night operation that might not be around to see this project through then why did you send us the RFP?”

The Big Invalid Reason (Which The Client Will Deny)

The client wants to dictate your profitability. Ahhh, now we come to the real reason. The procurement department wants to control your profit, ideally having you work at or close to cost.

You might want to lean right into this one. “Your only concern regarding our profitability should be that any work we might do for you IS profitable. How profitable is our business and not yours. You just want us to be profitable. And you don’t have to worry because we price all of our work so that it’s profitable for us and for our clients.”

If your spider-sense tells you this a price buyer, lean right into that too. “I’m concerned with this focus on our financials that this decision is all about price and I’ll tell you right now that we’re not likely to be the lowest price.”

The two valid reasons are easily dealt with without having to share your financials. The invalid reason, if it is the reason, needs to be outed and addressed head on before you politely walk away and leave it to your competitors to do the stupid thing. Sometimes that is just as gratifying as a win.

Wrapping Up

In summary, never share your financials. That’s like going into a fencing match in which your opponent decides he’s going to try something outrageous and ask you to hand over your foil – and then you do! Never give procurement the upper hand this way. Yes they sometimes ask but they’re laughing their asses off when you comply.

Look for the reason behind the request and if it’s a valid reason find another way to get them the assurances that any reasonable person would require. If they want to dictate margin to you, tell them to get stuffed. But do it kindly. This is, after all, but a game. Win or lose this should be fun.

Footnote: In any AgencyFinder review, you will know why and how you were selected. But as Blair points out, other parties including Procurement can join in after invitations go out. You can also ask me if you think some questions are out of line!

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The agency game: Six tips for choosing an agency (client advice)

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

Just saw an interesting article at HIGHTAIL, a file sharing and thensome site. The author Scott Moe did a nice job working through 6 tips a client could use to evaluate agency candidates. I periodically see articles along these lines, but in most cases I spot a serious omission. And I commented accordingly (there and here).

Good article. These Six Tips cover important ground and if you’ve got a handful to start with, any comparative process should lead to your winner. I’ve always argued choosing the ideal agency is relatively easy once you’ve identified your qualified candidates. The real problem is finding those qualified candidates! Last I checked there were some 30,000 firms in the US that call themselves ad agencies or some such (integrated marketing communication firms, digital agencies, PR firms). That’s just for starters. So for those who speak of starting with 3-5 firms, I always wonder because they don’t say – how do you identify those?

Some suggest asking colleagues, asking media reps, or Googling for agencies with specific characteristics in your area. Some “directory” websites offer “alpha-ranked” agencies. But visit their websites and you discover “Contact Us” often fails to reveal their location, nor how many people actually work there. The data elements you want to use to winnow your list don’t exist. That was our discovery almost 20 years ago when we were teaching agency business development and little has changed. That absence of necessary data led us to develop an agency profile and search process that draws upon more than 500 agency profile data fields. And for years, we’ve been helping clients identify their handful to invite and have done so for thousands. See for yourself.

The Digital Love Affair is Over – PepsiCo Exec Has Tough Words for Agencies

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

Brad Jakeman Suggests Shops Have Not Kept Pace With Change

We didn’t grab all the content of today’s AdAge article (10/16/2015), but we did include enough to share the comments. As I’ve remarked over the years and as Brad says – stop already! Ad agency models are breaking. Pre-roll ads are useless. Measurement models are outdated. The ad industry lacks diversity. And the phrase digital marketing should be dumped.

Those statements were among the declarations made Wednesday by PepsiCo exec Brad Jakeman in a fiery, truth-telling presentation at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando, Fla. Mr. Jakeman — who is president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group — went so far as to suggest that even the phrase “advertising” should go by the wayside. He did so before 2,700 marketing and agency professionals at an event put on by an association that has the word advertising in its name. “Can we stop using the term advertising, which is based on this model of polluting [content],” he said. Mr. Jakeman also ripped the industry’s lack of diversity. “I am sick and tired as a client of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women,” he said. “Innovation and disruption does not come from homogeneous groups of people.”

Harley-Davidson Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer — who delivered a late morning presentation — responded to a question about agencies by pointing out that the motorcycle marketer works with a lot of shops and takes a “boutique” approach. “We have not had a lead agency in about five years,” he said. “Clients must take more responsibility for creativity. It’s not the kind of thing that you should offshore.”

Mr. Jakeman called digital marketing the “most ridiculous term I’ve ever heard.” He added: “There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.” He urged marketers to create digital cultures, not digital departments. “We ‘ghettoize’ digital as though it’s the life raft tethered to the big ocean liner. And we have to move on from that.”

So he turned to the example set by Caitlyn Jenner, praising the way she “managed her transition … figuratively and literally as a brand.” The process — from the Diane Sawyer interview to the Vanity Fair cover — was thought-provoking, authentic and profound, he said. “This was something that the world was talking about, and the world has continued to talk about.” Then he posed a question to his fellow marketers: “Have we done anything with our brands that is in any way as remarkable as the way Caitlin Jenner, and that phenomenon, has been managed?”

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