Business Development

Why do agency owners fire their business development person?

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

Business development is the toughest job in advertising and no wonder it is the shortest. On average, a BD person lasts about 18 months. The challenge of marshaling all agency resources to a pitched frenzy in between the daily client demands is no easy task. The insane deadlines to turn around a pitch or RFP that should normally take months is high stress. While the average success rate is only 1 in 4, a real confidence killer.  Who would want to do such work? Better yet, if you found someone who does, why give up on them so easily?

I’ve been fired, reorganized out, earned too much commission, a casualty of market collapses and even the victim of the CEO’s mistress. In most cases, it’s very hard to understand except in the case of the CEO’s lust. If a small to mid-size agency, on average, loses three accounts or projects each year (that average is increasing as a result of the accelerated change across the industry) they have to gain three to stay merely even. If an agency wants to grow, they have to have a focused, aggressive effort in place to simply beat the odds. But so often, just as things get started, they fire their BD person.

I’ve had lots of conversation about this, and the reasons are pretty common.  First, the pool of good candidates is actually very small. Just ask the recruiters. The people who “say” they can or who have some “sales” experience is quite large. Finding a good fit for the unique nature of an agency BD person is really really tough.  Second, creating a good environment for a business development person to be successful is so often misunderstood, misinformed, or missed altogether. Finally, expectations are often not aligned with the realities of how agency new business happens. Think about any position within your agency and how any other staff would fare under these conditions – ill-equipped, unsupported and misaligned expectations. It is no wonder BD people don’t last

First, you have to find the right person.

There are abundant opinions about the best qualities of an ad agency business development person. A hunter? A farmer? A hunter- farmer? None of the above? What are the best qualities of a person who can successfully match a good client with a deserving agency like yours? It is someone who can strategically communicate what you do, can uncover the prospect’s real needs and then translate your services into the best solution, all while establishing trust and collegiality. To be successful that person has to know how clients think, how they think about agencies (not always good), what they think they need from an agency and how they evaluate such services in the context of their role in the corporate world. Above all, they must be iron-willed to preserver rejection, disappointment, and failure – in between the wins.

I’ve seen agency owners fall for someone who is good at making cold calls (something every agency owner hates), is great at starting a conversation with anybody and is effervescent at a meeting. Too seldom do they focus on whether that person has the right qualities to close business. I’ve also seen great account directors cast in the role and quickly become demoralized and dispirited. Talking to strangers and carrying a conversation are a good start but far short of the skills necessary to move from talk to action. The best BD people can develop a respectful relationship, build agency brand value and differentiation before a conversation is even had. A great BD person makes it look effortless – which is why so “accidental” BD people think they can do it.

Home security systems and used car warranties are best sold by cold calling. The most current statistics affirm this. Long term business building relationships require a much different approach that reflects the changing behaviors of the very people you seek to connect with and the trends of the empowered consumer. You are not in a commodity business. You aren’t selling hourly services. You are selling what your people, your strategy and your expertise can do to solve a market’s needs. Sadly too many agencies try to take shortcuts like grabbing phone numbers from gigantic databases of marketing executives that every other desperate agency subscribes to, too. Believe me. I know that feeding frenzy all to well.

Second, you have to provide the right support.

I am surprised by the number of agencies who say they want to but are not prepared to grow.  Agency new business is a team effort, and when you aren’t set up internally to handle the process or don’t have a process at all, you will not succeed. As an agency owner, you have to know when to get involved and when to step back. A good BD person will free up your time but also knows when to bring you into the mix to help develop a strategy or close a new client. The key is to have a well-defined process in place so that your time isn’t wasted on unqualified prospects or micromanaging every lead. Your BD person will know when to keep moving the prospect further down the funnel and when to call in the cavalry. When agencies look to cheat the process by generating volumes of leads, the time burden on the owner and all the resources in the agency becomes extreme, disruptive and puts your employees and current clients at great risk.

Many agencies say they want to grow and do a good job getting the effort rolling but fail in the follow through. Again, the agency is not committed to growing – no teamwork, no training, no optimization, no introspection. To be successful, the BD person must be an integral part of the agency, tied into the project management system, financial health and culture. He or she should be included in happy hour, agency retreats, team building efforts and production meetings. They must be aware how busy the agency is, and whether or not to ramp up or down the process. And they should share the new business activity with the whole agency, so everyone knows what projects are coming down the pike.

Third, you have to set the right expectations.

So often the expectations are wrong from the start. Agency owners want immediate impact. But it doesn’t happen overnight. The average client-agency relationship is three years. That is a long sales cycle. Sure, there are clients in the market right now looking for help. Finding them, warming them up and building trust that enables a new business win is a long process. My last cold caller hadn’t scored a win in 18 months. There is that magic number. The odds of catching someone with a need and willingness to talk from a chance interaction is greater than being hit by lightning. Success comes from the right person working a proper strategy so that when a need arises that marketer already knows you, knows what you offer and will be more likely open to the conversation.

Don’t fire your BD person.

As the agency owner, you are always going to be the chief growth officer and you should be spending a reasonable portion of your time making sure your agency is on track. Hiring a good BD person can be a force-multiplier by channeling your vision, working a consistent pipeline and developing relationships that result in more new clients coming over time – but only if you make sure you are committed to long-term growth.  Of course, there are always going to be legitimate reasons to fire new biz people. Too often agency owners do so for the wrong reasons, and that is costing them success.

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Guest Author – the Famous John Heenan #LetsGrow!

WHO WILL BE THE ADULT IN THE ROOM?

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

I recently heard two pitching/procurement stories in two days, each from a different agency president in a different market, and each with a different outcome.

In the first story, the president of a large ad agency (I’ll call him agency president #1) told me about a significant, highly coveted pitch his firm had “nailed.” After it appeared they were the ordained firm they then had to meet with procurement. Procurement delivered the bad news. “If you want the business you’ll have to accept that we’re not paying you for any work you’ve done to date.” (The agency had already done rounds of revisions and had understood they would be paid if they won.) The agency was then told the fees on offer were one third of what they had proposed. But it got worse. “There’s no negotiating,” the procurement person explained while showing the agency president what he said were the lower fees proposed by their competitors. “You can take it or leave it.”

“Of course, we had to take it,” he explained to me.

The next day I met with another agency president (let’s call him #2)–this time of a smaller but still substantial performance marketing firm who didn’t have too much experience in dealing with procurement. He told me about his first time. His agency was convinced by a sizeable client to do a small digital pilot project on spec with the lure of winning a $500,000 annual retainer. Their pilot performed well and they were awarded the business. Then they too were told they had to meet with procurement who said, “We’re not paying you $500k. The fees on offer are $300k. Take it or leave it.” Indignant, agency president #2 walked away. A few days later the client came back and gave them the business on the original terms–a $500k annual retainer. That was two years ago, president #2 told me, and the account has grown significantly since. “They pay us fairly and they hold us to really high standards,” he said. “It’s how we like it.”

I told him the contrasting story I had heard the day before and I remarked that if he had caved on that first experience instead of walking away he would have begun to hardwire the belief that “Of course, we had to take it.”

Do You Really Have to Take It?

Why do agencies get themselves into these situations where they feel they have to take work on onerous terms, where they have to put up with procurement’s powerplay moves and where they have no power to affect price? I’ll explain below a few of the things president #1 could have done differently before, during and after the selection process to ensure a better outcome, but let’s go back to agency president #2 who walked away, only to get the account on the originally agreed upon terms. I remarked to him that if it were me in that moment I would have wanted to know which of the two people on the client side had lied to me. Was it the marketing exec who said the budget was $500k, or the procurement person who said it was $300K? (Of course it was procurement. Procurement is one of the only professions where it is universally taught that it’s okay to lie.) But I would have asked each individual to their face, “Which one of you lied to me?”

These are the direct conversations we need to be having. Why does this behaviour get a free pass? Would you accept such behaviour from your team members, partners, vendors or children? Why is it okay to accept such lies and strong-arm tactics from a client–someone you’re proposing to “partner” with? Is that how partners treat each other?

It Happens to Me, Too

I spend a lot of time delivering workshops on these principles to agency owners and executives. After one such event, the finance department of the organizing body ignored their contractually-agreed obligation to pay the final instalment of my workshop fee. On enquiry, we were told, “We have a payment run on [11 days away] – I will include the invoice as a proposal for payment.”

So, a well-intentioned organization that wants its members to change how they sell has its own embedded bias against any other organization selling them anything. The goodwill between the buyer and seller gets eroded by established procurement processes that seek to optimize financial efficiency.

A tenet of systems thinking is any attempt to optimize a subsystem will have a sub-optimizing effect on the greater system. A finance department allowed to operate with too much independence will see pushing average supplier terms from 45 days to 60 days as a victory. A procurement department that cuts its marketing company’s fees by 40% thinks they’ve won. Both of these “wins” have a negative effect on the quality of what it is they are buying and the relationship between the two organizations, but these departments are rarely held accountable for the costly impairment to the greater system–the client company.

You’ve Been Chosen

When such practices are employed, somebody has to be the adult in the room. Somebody has to call people out on poor behaviour or deleterious practices–even if those practices are codified in policy. Ideally, that someone is the client, but don’t hold your breath, it’s almost always going to have to be you.

If you want financial success then you are going to have to accept that these conversations are almost always going to fall to you, and you have a responsibility—to everyone on both sides of the table—to do the right thing and speak up when nobody else will. The alternative is you resign yourself to a low-margin career of “having to take it.”

We got paid within 60 minutes of me calling out bad behaviour. Agency president #2 got his originally-agreed upon terms by walking away. Let’s explore what agency president #1 could have done instead of just taking it.

Alternatives to “Taking It”

There are many things agency president #1 and his team could have done differently. Setting aside some of the more strident Win Without Pitching approaches that would see the firm trying to fully derail the pitch, they could have:

Pre Pitch

  • Asked the client to clarify the role of procurement before they agreed to the pitch. And if they were at all concerned about procurement’s role or tactics they could have asked for a meeting before agreeing to participate.
  • Asked marketing or senior leaders from outside of procurement to sit in on that meeting.
  • Established a minimum fee level in advance.
  • Asked the client to state the budget rather than just guess.

Mid Pitch

  • Stopped at the moment in the pitch where they knew they had nailed it and negotiated terms for continuing.

Post Pitch

  • Employed an outside expert negotiator to deal with procurement.
  • Viewed procurement’s take-it-or-leave it move as the bluff it likely was and negotiate alternatives, or
  • Walked away, like agency president #2

None of the above are Win Without Pitching judo moves that require any sort of skilled practice to pull off, they’re just common sense approaches available to anyone who is ready to accept the responsibility of being the adult in the room. You can do this.

PS: A Final Word on President #1’s Difficult Position

Agency president #2 found it easy to walk away from a bad deal because he is the majority owner of the firm and an entrepreneur who has a strong sense of being able to control his and his firm’s future. Agency president #1 is in a different boat. He has to report to global, who reports to the holding company, whose CEO reports to shareholders. And these shareholders are increasingly unhappy. In such an environment the pressure not to lose is immense.

For agency president #1 to push back, the battle he would have to fight with the client is nothing compared to the internal battle he would have to wage. In a multi-layered firm like his, for every brave soul willing to push back and have the adult conversation, there are many more who would prefer not to rock the boat, even if it’s exactly what’s required to save the boat from sinking.

I guess my question is, who are you? Are you the progressive force for change in your agency, having the adult conversations and leading your entire team by your example, or are you the one signalling to others that “we just have to take it”?

Another Great Piece by Visiting Author Blain Enns, CEO Win Without Pitching

They’re Stealing Your New Business Leads!

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

That’s right, and stealing leads from right from under your nose. Some suggest with your permission.

And who’s doing that? It’s the fine IT folks at your place and everywhere. In their blind enthusiasm to keep your agency or company safe from spam and phishing, they built an almost impenetrable wall (there’s that word) around your organization and it works there! That’s fine for most. But for those engaged in new business, business development or lead capture, they’re stealing your leads and sending them to trash.

Working as the agency search consult we are, for years we sent agency invitations starting with an email alert, then a full invite via fax and finally a follow-up phone call or message. Still ringing in our ears are agencies declaring – “Nobody uses faxes anymore; please use email.” We started doing so this year, and it’s been a disaster. Agency silence in ignorance is deafening. Follow-up calls go to voicemail – often ignored. After repeated back & fourths, the invite with attachment is found – deep within trash folders. One of our buried emails just surfaced at an agency with subject line modified to read ‘Possible Junk – Business Opportunity w/Quick Decision Required.” Thanks IT for keeping us safe and costing us all the business we seek!

Is there a lesson to be learned? Absolutely! Every day at the end of the day, be sure to look and work your way through your Junk folder. Make it a habit to scroll through all that’s there. If you don’t already, you’ll soon get in the habit of spotting good news from bad. While you’re there, move anything worth further examination to your Inbox. It will post back in date sequence, so when you open for tomorrow, go back at least a day to find those you moved up.

The message here? Don’t lose valuable leads just because your IT folks have built a wall that works!

 

Four Ways Brand Marketers and Agencies Can Thrive in 2019, According to LO:LA’s Nick Platt

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

Move over ‘disruptive,’ ‘innovative,’ and ‘smart content.’ For the more culturally savvy, even the word ‘bespoke’ can shuffle to the sidelines for the moment. Right at this very moment, the landscape isn’t just shifting, it’s in a bit of a freefall . . .

The US government is currently shutdown with no apparent end in sight. Markets have suffered the worst December since 1931 (that’s The Great Depression, a pretty bleak moment in economic history). And a lightning speed, relentless news cycle seems to lie in wait for major (and minor) brand fails.

For brands and marketers to simply ‘pivot’ just won’t cut it. In 2019, ‘nimble’ is the new black.

To use Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word, ‘nimble’ is defined by “quick and light in motion, agile” and “marked by quick, alert, clever conception” and “responsive, sensitive.”

So, to be clear, we’re not just talking about being cheaper and faster with a consideration of spend. We’re talking about adapting a new process to meet the challenges of a new year.

Here are four ways that brand marketers and agencies alike can be nimble and thrive in 2019:

1.    Be intelligently fast

With attention spans and news cycles being what they are (re: incredibly short), knee jerk reactions that sacrifice smart thinking for speed can get brands and their agencies  in trouble. Fully consider potential outcomes, both positive and negative, before going to market. Establish checks and balances that must be met, and give your team or agency enough time to do it right.

2.     Tighten up your team

The old model for brands and agencies saw layers upon layers of team members collaborating on a single project. And while I’m all for being a team player, keep your team tight. A smaller team is more streamlined, which means less room for miscommunication, mistakes and mayhem. It also helps with being intelligently fast, too!

3.     Read. Watch. Listen. Repeat.

Here’s where the “responsive” and “sensitive” definition of ‘nimble’ comes in. Depending on who your brand or campaign speaks to – are you reading what they read? Watching what they watch? Listening to the music/podcasts/audiobooks they are? If not,  someone on your (tight) team can be charged with being the eyes and ears on the ground. Getting into the mind of your consumer has always been standard practice, but in a landscape that is increasingly multicultural across race, religion, sexuality and how people identify – it’s never been more important. And once you’ve read, watched, and listened? Do it again.

4.     Admit defeat, but don’t stay defeated

In all of this nimbleness and moving quickly, mistakes will be made. When that happens (and it will, trust me), own up to them in an authentic way. The brands that listen to their consumers when they’ve messed up, honestly admit their mistakes and learn from them are the ones consumers respect. Which leads me to . .

5.     Evolve

Everyone remembers that iconic scene from ‘The Matrix’ when Neo finally becomes the man and hero he was destined to be. He simply took what he already knew and improved upon it. He didn’t try the same thing over and over hoping for different outcomes. I’m challenging brands and agencies to do the same. Take what you know, all the Big Data and research and A/B testing and focus groups and previous wins and fails and evolve. (And if Keanu Reeves dodging Agent Smith’s bullets in a black trench and a crazy backbend isn’t the definition of nimble, I don’t know what is.)

Nick Platt is the CEO and chief creative officer of LO:LA (London: Los Angeles).

I Don’t Do Business Development …

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

Proudly contributed by John Heenan | agency growth consultant

Last week I talked to a young, aggressive agency owner who wanted to grow fast and thought the best way was to create a conceptual campaign to take around to marketers in hopes of selling it to someone. The owner didn’t want to spend time away from current clients to work on cultivating new relationships and new business. She believed that a hired gun could go selling for her. The owner was only interested in clients who could sign in 30 – 90 days and did not want to bother with long-term relationship building. Who wouldn’t?

In the same week, I spoke with a seasoned agency owner with years of experience working at and owning agencies. He talked about how bad things had gotten for his agency with no pipeline, no leads, and more clients fading away. He devised a ready-made offering to generate sales in the shortest amount of time guaranteed. He was looking for someone who could hit the road and sell his package to brands desperate to end the year with a bump. Who wouldn’t want that? NoThanks

Both of these examples have the same thing in common. Neither wants to do business development, the hard work necessary to compete and win and grow and stay in the ad business. Each believes they can do something different, create something out of thin air, come up with an idea no one else has had before that will be appealing and successful for everyone. And, their idea is so good it only needs a salesperson to take it to hungry marketers. The young owner felt she could sign 3 – 4 new clients per month while the experienced owner would be happy to find just one. I politely declined both.

It’s not that I don’t like helping agencies be successful. There is no greater feeling than to win new business and new clients for agency owners. Regardless of one’s level of enthusiasm or commitment, there are some fundamental truths to selling any product, service, or relationship, and their ideas were not. It’s not that I don’t believe in innovation. Innovation is the lifeblood of every industry. These weren’t innovative ideas but rather as old as snake oil. While there may be marketers who still fall for it, not me.

These two examples are not unique by any means. They are emblematic of an all too common dilemma among agencies. It’s the ‘I don’t need to do business development’ syndrome. Whether they think their work will bring new clients, or their notoriety will keep the phone ringing, or their network will keep them busy, when the leads dry up, and clients go elsewhere, the reality comes and panic sets in. It may be one or many years before the crisis, but every business that doesn’t have sales and marketing as an integral part of their operation is doomed to failure. The puzzling thing is why so many agencies think they are different.

There are a few agencies who have had pretty good runs without any formal business development. A very few. Unfortunately, other agencies see that as proof for them. They have no idea what the underlying factors are for the success, or they believe they also embody those same factors. Whatever the case, the chances of succeeding are almost zero whereas the possibility for success through business development is, on average 25%. While it is true that the cost and time necessary for a healthy new business effort is much more than doing nothing, doing nothing will eventually result in nothing.

Neither of these two examples had any business development efforts ongoing. The former had leveraged industry relationships to grow her new agency, and those had all dried up. The later had stopped all business development when the agency got overwhelmed with low paying client needs. Both had come to the desperate reality that they had to do something, or they couldn’t make payroll, couldn’t pay rent, and wouldn’t dip into savings anymore.

These are cautionary tales for every agency. Don’t neglect your business development responsibilities. Doing so is no different than ignoring your best client. Initially you can avoid any repercussion, but eventually, that client will go elsewhere, probably to an agency that has a business development program running. Also, then there is the absolute heartbreaker when a recently discovered prospect replies if only they knew about you six months ago when they picked a new agency.

The only solution is to have a business development program – that is well-defined, integrated into the operations of the agency, is regularly monitored, delegated across functions, and reviewed every six months. Keep in mind that the waves in the marketplace will buffet your efforts both positively and negatively. Don’t expect consistent results. Be patient. As long as you have a steady drumbeat of common-sense tactics and an ever-refreshed prospect list, you will have both short and long-term opportunities to keep your agency growing. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen over time so get started now.

I want to help you get your business development program started or restarted. Click on Schedule a Call and let’s talk about what has been working well and what has not and how to fix it. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!

Meet My Friend Mr. Bill Crandall

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

Bill Crandall, Founding Partner & Chief Marketing Officer, Steadman Crandall Business Development LLC

With over 35 years of brand marketing, agency, and new business development experience, Bill founded SCBD in 2014 as a new alternative resource for relatively smaller agencies and companies looking to grow and level the playing field against their larger, better financed competitors.

One thing, among many, that separates SCBD and Bill from most of other new business development consulting competitors is a rare combination of both client and agency experience.

In the course of Bill’s highly diversified marketing and agency account management career, he has worked for agencies such as Ted Bates Worldwide, IPG’s SSC&B:Lintas and Campbell-Ewald Worldwide, Scali McCabe Sloves, Earle Palmer Brown, and Della Femina.  Client brands have included Bubblicious and Trident gums, Bayer Aspirin, Friskies and Purina pet foods, Mennen personal care, Nabisco, Perdue Farms, Castrol motor oil, JVC consumer electronics, Sheraton and Marriott hotels, Jordache and Bill Blass fashion, apparel & accessories, U.S. Navy Recruiting, and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), et al.

Since moving 100% into the new business development space about 15 years ago, Bill has brought his agency employers and new business consulting clients into some very big client rooms:  MasterCard, Estee Lauder, AOL, Time-Warner, SONY Music, BMG Entertainment, Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Dole Foods, Kellogg, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive, Pillsbury, Sara Lee, ConAgra, Clorox, Frito-Lay, Heinz, Quaker Oats, Café Metro and Fresh&Co fast-casual restaurants, and most recently, Steve Madden footwear & accessories.  The list goes on.

Bill received his BBA in Marketing, on academic scholarship and with honors, from Hofstra University and completed his MBA degree program at Hofstra’s Zarb School of Business.  Post-graduate Executive Program studies in global branding and finance were completed at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Bill was elected to the Hofstra University Zarb School of Business Advisory Board, Marketing & International Business, in 2014.

Inquire and contact at: www.steadmancrandallnyc.com

Responding to Requests for Proposals – Heavy-Duty Advice

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

Building an agency one request for proposal (RFP) at a time is a painful and potentially humiliating way to grow a business. And while winning without pitching means not playing the RFP game, there’s more subtlety to the approach than simply saying no and feeling good about yourself all the way to bankruptcy. In this long-overdue issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter I address the specific steps to take in dealing with requests for proposals.

The Four Priorities of Securing New Business

Before I address the specifics of RFP responses, let’s recap the four priorities of how you want to go about getting new business.

1. Win Without Pitching

Through a proactive selling strategy, you ultimately strive to secure new engagements before they get to competitive situations, before you are asked to part with your thinking without appropriate compensation.

2. Derail the Pitch

When you cannot win without pitching and the prospect lets you know that he is talking to other firms and has a defined selection process in place, your objective is to derail the pitch: to get the prospect to put aside his process and take a series of small steps with you.

3. Get the Inside Track

When you cannot derail the pitch, your objective is to gain the inside track – to gain concessions in the selection process that would see your firm being treated differently than the others. Someone almost always has the inside track. If it’s not your firm, it’s another and the odds are against you.

4. Pitch or Walk

You will secure new business through one of the means above only if the prospect recognizes and values your expertise. If he does not, then it’s decision time. Do you preserve your integrity and future business opportunities by walking away, or do you get out the dogs, ponies and dancing girls and play the pitch game, against the long odds? If you do decide to walk (as I recommend) it’s important that you do so properly in order to preserve future opportunities.

Step One: Why Us?

When an RFP comes in for work that is well suited to your expertise, your first response is to pick up the phone and ask, why us? In doing so you are endeavoring to determine if the prospect recognizes and values your expertise. What you want to hear is, “You come highly recommended by ____”, or “We love the work you did for ______.” What you do not want to hear is, “We Googled ‘ad agency’” or “We sent this RFP to every firm we know.” Be selective and strive to be seen to be selective.

Step Two: Say No

After digging deep to determine whether or not the prospect recognizes and values your expertise you then deliver the first objection: “I need to let you know that we don’t typically respond to RFPs.” Any objection you raise can always be removed by you at a later date. Here you are trying to gauge the flexibility in process the prospect might afford you; their willingness to let you derail the pitch or offer you the inside track. Continue with, “But, before I say no, let me you ask you a few questions.” These would be your questions around explicit need, and the fit between the prospect’s need and your expertise. What are they looking for in an agency? Do they see that expertise in your firm? Poor fits might be put off by this reversal of the qualification process (you trying to determine if they qualify), but good fits and good clients will appreciate your selectivity.

Step Three: Substitute Appropriate Next Steps

Here’s where you ignore what has been asked of you in writing and suggest a next step that is in line with what is almost always your stated objective: to determine if there is a fit between the prospect’s need and your expertise suitable enough to take a next step together.

“Why don’t we come and see you and your team” (if they’re local – use the web if they are not) “and in 45 minutes or so we can determine if there’s a suitable enough fit to pursue this.” If they’re sticking to their process and denying you your suggested next step, then you will not be able to derail and it’s unlikely you will gain the inside track. Then it’s time to walk – step seven below. Note that the appropriate next step is not always a meeting. It might be a needs assessment, or more information in other forms.

Step Four: Use Case Studies

If you do get the meeting you begin with stating your objective: to determine if there is a fit between the prospect’s need and your expertise suitable enough to take a next step together. Now walk through your case studies of how you’ve helped companies like theirs solve challenges like their own. I have written extensively on the crafting of these process-framed case studies that demonstrate a defined way of working and allow you to stay on the right side of the line that separates talking about how you would solve the prospect’s problem from actually solving their problem. Use them here.

Step Five: Suggest Another Way

After reviewing your cases studies that should prove that you actually use the process you talk about on your website and in your brochure, you then check to see if the prospect still sees a fit. Can they see themselves benefiting from the consistent outcomes your demonstrated methodology implies? If so, suggest a phased engagement as an alternative next step.

Instead of committing the entire budget to your firm at this time, a phased engagement (usually a diagnostic in some form that let’s you get to the heart of the opportunity and prescribe a strategy, plan and budget). The phased engagement allows the prospect to take a small first step with you to try on the fit. Add in an opt-out clause (“At the end of the first phase, if you think you’ve made a mistake in engaging us we can part company and you can go back to your RFP”) and a money-back guarantee, and your proposition is a compelling one. When yours is the right firm for the job, this approach is a viable alternative to the client’s selection process in which a number of firms are asked to take on risk instead of just one.

If the prospect does not see the value in your offer then it’s time to walk. You’re not likely to win the business anyway. If they like what they see but are sticking to the process and want your written proposal, now’s the time to reassert that you are not in the proposal writing business. The relevant, detailed case study that you’ve just shown them, is your proposal. “We propose to do this (case study) for you.” Remember, the proposal is the words that come out of your mouth. The document is the contract that is produced only once the proposal is agreed upon in principle.

Step Six: Seek Concessions

If the prospect is demonstrating that they recognize and value your expertise, that they really think yours is the right firm for the job, but for reasons of policy or politics they need to go through the RFP process, then it’s time to see if they will walk their talk and show you the inside track by allowing you concessions to the RFP process. It’s negotiating time. Concessions can be made on costs (will they pay your travel costs or pay you fairly for work they’re asking of you?), on what you will submit as an RFP response (case studies versus free thinking) or a host of other areas. If the prospect is willing to treat you differently then it may make sense to proceed on the newly negotiated terms.

Step Seven: Walk… For Now

No concessions, no inside track, means it’s time to walk, but with a polite professionalism that will preserve any future opportunities. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a fit here. Why don’t you go ahead with your RFP process and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, feel free to give us a call. We’d be happy to have another conversation with you at that point.”

People want what they cannot have. Walk away in this manner and see if the phone rings after the usually flawed RFP process runs its course. Occasionally the prospect will call back, and when they do you will be in the driver’s seat. If they do not, then call them in a month or two and ask how they made out. If the prospect hired an agency and is perfectly happy with that firm then congratulate them, wish them luck, and tell them you’ll check in with them down the road to see if you can be of assistance in another manner, on another day. There is always another day and if you’ve handled the departure properly you will be better positioned for that day.

Guest Author and Expert – Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching

How Stressed Are You? Drew McLellan of AMI Will Help You Analyze

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

We manage our people, we manage client expectations and we manage our finances. And then there’s email management, biz dev management and a host of other things that are under our watch. But all of that focus on making sure that everything is running like clockwork can also jack up our stress. That stress shows up in a lot of little ways:

  • We are short tempered with our team, family and friends
  • We feel like we can never let up or wind down
  • We miss deadlines (internal or external)
  • We fall behind, putting incredible pressure on our teams to cover our rear ends
  • We are distracted when we’re with our family and friends
  • We feel our jaw clenching, our head pounding or our back knotting up

Our “normal” work day is to run around and put out fires all day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have ever had a work day that played out exactly how I thought it was going to when I woke up that morning. We have chosen to live in chaos. And sometimes, we even like it. But like it or not — it’s our reality.

And that’s before you add in our personal life and the challenges that sometimes come from that side of the equation.

The truth is — we can’t escape stress. They say, in moderate doses, it’s actually good for us. But left unchecked, it can diminish our effectiveness and we bring a less than ideal version of ourselves to work and home. And we all know — there are some serious physical/health consequences to boot.

To survive that reality, we need coping mechanisms. Yes, I know for many of you, it’s that first glass of wine in the evening! But I’m going to suggest that for most of us it needs to be something bigger. Something scheduled. Something that releases the tension and rejuvenates you to boot.

Here’s the kicker — you have to put it on your calendar. Whether you do it (whatever your “it” is) before or after hours, on the weekend or during the work week — if it isn’t on your calendar, it is not going to happen.

I think most of us suck at this. We know what we should do or stop doing. But we don’t. We think things will slow down, get better, more organized or whatever. But the truth is — that’s not how it works.

Please pull your calendar out right now and schedule your stress relief. For this week. The rest of the year. And into 2019. I want you to be around, to be productive, happy and to be capable of bringing the best version of you to your team, clients, partners, family and friends.

Thanks Drew!

 

Seven Reasons Why/How Ad Agencies Lose Business

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

The late, great David McCall used to say that the day an agency gets an account they are a day closer to losing it.  A bit cynical, but very true.  As a recruiter, I have asked many advertising agency executives why they lost an account and many client executives why they pulled their business from their agencies.  Here are my observations from the many answers I have received.

1)    Change in client key personnel

No surprise here.  As they say, “The new broom sweeps clean”.  Many a CMO, CEO has fired their agency and hired a new one in order to work with someone they previously knew or a friend who they trust.  Many simply hire a new agency to insure loyalty to them.  It happens frequently and often without warning, but this happening should be at least anticipated by any ad agency if a new senior person joins their client.

2)    Clients who become tired of their advertising

Clients often become tired of their own advertising long before the consumer does; after all, how often can a company show the same commercial to their sales force? All agencies should anticipate this problem and should be constantly working on ways to refresh a current campaign in order to keep the client enthusiastic.

3)    Agencies do not listen to their clients

I have had dozens of client advertising and marketing executives tell me that their agencies just don’t listen.  Sometimes what the clients want is significant and, ironically, sometimes it is merely the feeling that the agency is not paying attention to their needs.  I had a client tell me that he had been asking his agency to prepare an FSI (Free Standing Insert) coupon ad for both print and digital and his agency simply ignored him.  He hired a new agency to do that and it opened the door for the existing agency to lose the account.

4)    Agencies become arrogant about their own work

Apropos of two and three above, sometimes the work does wear out.  Many agencies have insisted on not changing the campaign when a new solution is long overdue.  This is very common, especially with long-running campaigns.

5)    Agencies don’t insert themselves into their client organizations

A common complaint is that clients don’t see their agencies except for major presentations.  One client told me that he had actually not seen his agency management in two years (although he had seen his account team). Agency management needs to see its clients, no matter how small, on a frequent basis.  Another client told me that his account team never came to see him on a one-on-one basis.  They only came to see him en masse or for major presentations.  Many have told me that they do not hear from their account teams with regularity.  Account people need to talk to their client counterparts every day, even it is just to say hello and ask if there is anything they can or should be doing.

6)    Agencies that have not learned their client’s business

I have heard about agencies presenting work that is rejected because it is not consistent with the client’s objectives or which is inconsistent with the client’s business situation or issues.  In many cases, the client has not communicated its problems or objectives to the agency, but it is up to the agency as a service supplier to learn its clients’ business, even at the risk of being pushy.

Agencies need to have a constant presence at their clients in order to know and understand their account(s).  They must take the time to learn their clients’ business.  And agencies cannot use the excuse that the procurement people won’t allow frequent visits.

7)    Agency Merger and Acquisitions

Never been sure what actually happens, but from observation, accounts seem to leave agencies once they have been purchased or merged.  Change in management and procedures certainly has a lot to do with it.  All too often, senior account and creative people get moved, rotated or terminated which angers clients because it upsets the status quo.  I have never figured out why one agency buys or merges with another and then completely decimates the culture – causing the very clients they purchased to leave.

Guest Author Paul Gumbinner, President of The Gumbinner Company, executive recruiters for advertising.

Rebuilding Your Business Model

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

As the old axiom goes, all you need to start an agency is a desk and a phone. In the 21st century version, the desk might be replaced by a laptop computer, but the perceived simplicity of professional service firms is based on the fact that we are essentially knowledge businesses. We don’t have manufacturing facilities, product inventory, warehouses, or distribution centers. Just the same, professional firms are built on top of a set of capabilities and practices that constitute a business model.

The problem is that most leaders have never stopped to consciously identify, examine and modernize the interlocking pieces of their business model framework. In truth, precious few leaders of professional firms could even map the elements of their business model on a piece of paper. So when we see headlines about “The death of the agency business model,” the issue is more a matter of benign neglect than mismanagement.

A triangle of value

Even among business school types, “business model” is an amorphous term habitually referenced in books and articles, but scarcely defined in a way that allows for productive discussions about how to optimize the business strategy of the firm. Over the years, my colleagues and I have worked to develop a useful framework to describe the key elements of a professional firm’s business model, which has resulted in what is essentially a triangle of value. Each side of the triangle represents one of the three key reasons a professional firm exists:

  1. To create value
  2. To deliver value
  3. To capture value

Creating value is the foundation of your firm’s success, and it rests on a clear definition and understanding of the specific client challenges your firm is best prepared to address. Most firms approach this question precisely backwards, showcasing the obligatory bullet point list of services as the standard bearer of their business strategy. But the capabilities you offer must emanate from the types of business problems you solve for your clients. Clayton Christensen frames this in context of Jobs to Be Done Theory; the idea that clients hire a specific service to solve a specific problem.

The essence of this leg of the model is to clearly define and articulate “What are the problems we solve for our clients?” The most powerful way to do this is to state these problems from the client’s point of view, in first-person language.

Equally important is a clear articulation of the markets you serve. The answer can’t be “everyone with money,” as some firms regrettably define their target market. Peter Drucker famously observed that marketing starts with the question “Who is your customer?” and this question applies just as much to professional firms as to the clients they serve. Your target market doesn’t have to be a type of industry category; it can be a type of audience or even a type of brand.

Delivering value is the second piece of your business model. This means developing and supporting an effective engagement model, which is comprised of your operating model and your production system. Most agencies get high marks from client organizations when it comes to responsiveness; meeting deadlines, reply client requests, and fulfilling scopes of work. In other words, we’re seen as very responsive. (Unfortunately, client ratings for agencies being proactive are dismally low.)

When it comes to the operating model, the central issue agencies must address is differentiating between short-, mid-, and long-tail offerings. These solution sets vary widely in perceived value to clients, and must be delivered in very different ways by agencies. Short-tail offerings are the agency’s unique blockbuster competencies; uncommon services and programs that provide high-value solutions to client problems. Mid-tail offerings are capabilities that are routinely applied in most engagements. And long-tail offerings are the widely available executional services and activities that are seen as standardized (and therefore commoditized) by most clients. These three classes of offerings must be developed, delivered and priced in very divergent ways. The mistake most firms make is bundling all three service classes under the banner of the dreaded “blended rate,” the absolute worst way to address the continually-evolving disintermediation of agency services.

Capturing value is the part of the business model where professional firms struggle the most. The root of the problem is trying to package up the value of knowledge work in a unit of time; a hugely suboptimal way to get paid for the expertise and intellectual capital that resides in your firm.

Effectively capturing value is dependent on having an actual revenue model (billing for your costs is not a revenue model, it’s just a reflection of your cost structure). Professional firms with actual revenue models have replaced their rate card with a “pricing stack, a variety of ways to capture value in ways that align with the principles and practices of modern pricing. These include such approaches as dynamic pricing, two-part pricing, royalties, licensing IP and more. At the very least, it means pricing based on the perceived value of the outputs or outcomes, not the cost of the inputs.

To fully capture the value you create also requires commercial alignment; uniting the entire organization behind a shared vision of what you really sell and how you should get paid for it.

Not planning, but choosing

Especially if your firm has been in business a decade or more, it’s very likely that you’ve arrived at your current business model more by default than by design. You are living with an emergent strategy rather than a deliberate strategy. If this describes the current state of affairs at your firm, you have the opportunity (if not the obligation) to deliberately design your business model.

Your remix is not necessarily to make plans, but to make choices. Business planning is about taking steps and deciding what to include. Business strategy is about making choices and deciding what to leave out. As you examine each element of your business model, the job is to not to figure out how you can be better, but how you can be different. As design thinker John Koklo recently observed, “Leading companies say No much more than they say Yes. Rather than chase the market with follow-on features, they lead the market with constrained focus.

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

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