Business Development

You only have so many seats on the bus (great baseball story)

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

Courtesy of Drew McLellan at AMI

I’m a huge baseball fan and one of the more interesting aspects of the game for me is watching how teams manage their roster. They only have 32 spots, 20 position players, and 12 pitchers. They have to play over 160 games with that small set of players on the team. They can’t afford for any of them to be in a slump for too long. If a player isn’t helping the team, they don’t stay on the roster for long.

They have to win with the team they have, so they can’t really afford to tolerate a player who isn’t contributing in a significant way. They can’t just add more people to make up for someone’s deficiency, so they’re forced to deal with sub-par performances in short order.

Unfortunately, our agencies don’t have a player cap. Which means we often tolerate too many games where someone on the team isn’t holding up their end of the bargain and the team suffers a loss as a result. I am working with a couple agencies right now who are dealing with the toughest thing I think an agency owner can face — wrong people in the wrong seats. If you’re a small to mid-sized agency, you have no wiggle room when it comes to your team. Everyone has to be an A or at worst, a B-player if you are going to survive, let alone thrive.

In this instance, I am not talking about having to lay people off (which also sucks) but I’m talking about coming to the painful realization that you hired someone to do a job they are not capable of doing. Odds are you and the team have been working around this problem for quite some time.

I can hear you now….”but they are:”

Great for the culture
Very popular with the team
Have been super loyal for a long time
Big client XYZ is their good friend
My baby’s godmother

I have heard, seen and honestly, lived through it all. If we are ever together and sipping a cocktail, ask me about the time I had to fire an employee a couple years after giving the eulogy at his daughter’s funeral. I cried like a baby through the entire conversation — but it was probably at least a year overdue. I allowed my personal feelings to put my agency at risk. Which meant I was willing to sacrifice my other employees, client relationships, and ultimately the business because I didn’t have the courage to have the conversation I knew I needed to have.

If our employees could wave a magic wand, this is the one thing they would change about us — that we take forever to take action when an employee is not adding value at the level they should. They resent it and over time, they stop working so hard because they figure out that they can simply live up to the lowest standard we deem acceptable.

As you’ve been reading this, some of you have had an employee that keeps popping up in the back of your brain. You keep trying to push it aside…but you know I am talking to you.

In baseball, when a major league player no longer plays at the level the team needs (or maybe he never did) they don’t just cut him. They send him down to the minors to rehab. But there’s a clear conversation that goes with that move — “Here are the three things you need to improve by X date and here’s how we will measure that improvement. If you can’t accomplish that, we’re going to need to release you so we have room on the team for someone else.”

That’s the conversation most agency owners are not gifted at having. The “You need to level-up or move on” conversation. We may have it passive-aggressively — but few agency owners are consistently giving their team performance feedback that is clear and direct, with rewards and consequences. (If you have not read the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, it should be your next read) .

As you were reading this, if an employee did come to mind, make a commitment to yourself that you are going to resolve that conflict with the agency’s best interest in mind within the next 90 days.

Absolutely try to save them. But do not squander one of the few seats you have on the bus. If they can’t level up — help them move on. You owe it to the players that are earning their seat every day, your clients, and your agency.

Meyst contribution – this is SO TRUE for people in the new business development slot. It’s one of the few “measurable” jobs in an agcncy and it doesn’t take long to witness an ill-fit.

Where do you lay your head? Consider embedding.

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

Every spring, I put together a list of trends that I think agency owners need to track. I present this content at the spring meetings of the AMI owner peer groups and then later in the summer/fall, I share the trends with my podcast audience (2019 parts one and two). I just finished the deck last week and presented it for the first time today. One of the trends that we talked about in 2019 that has really gathered steam is the idea of embedding an agency employee into the client’s work environment. Many agencies initially offered it to keep a client from taking work in-house but what they’ve discovered is that it’s an amazing biz dev strategy. Remember that 60-70% of your new business goal should come from existing clients and this is a smart way to trigger some of that growth. I don’t have one agency in my world that has an embedded employee that isn’t reporting client growth, new opportunities with other divisions within the company, and a strengthened relationship. It’s definitely a winning strategy for the agencies that have implemented it.

Now that I’ve had a year of studying it from afar, I have some thoughts on best practices around this growing trend. It is not without its pitfalls, if you make some wrong turns.

  • This is a premium product — having your AE on-site in their environment — so price it accordingly.
  • Think long and hard about who you choose to embed. It’s easy for them to begin to feel more like your client’s employee than the agency’s employee. You want someone who is very committed to your agency’s success.
  • Do not allow them to work onsite at the client’s office more than 3.5 days a week. You need them to spend time back at the agency, staying connected to the team and being reminded where they actually work.
  • Have a very well-written non-compete and non-solicitation clause in your contract with the client so they cannot “woo” your employee away.
  • Have a very well-written non-solicitation, no stealing clients clause in your contract with the employee so they can’t branch out on their own or offer themselves to another agency with the promise of delivering your client in the deal.

There is a lot of upside to this idea but be mindful of the risks and protect yourself accordingly. In 2018, I saw a handful of these arrangements. In 2019 — it went up significantly. I am seeing agencies of all sizes, in both the B2C and B2B space, offering this to clients. It’s not going away anytime soon so you should probably decide how you feel about it and if it might make sense for your shop!

A contribution from our friend Drew McLellan at AMI

 

A consultant’s guide to pitching your agency

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

By 

It is fair to say that in the past two decades of being a consultant I have seen hundreds, if not a thousand or more agency credentials pitches, from presenting credentials to chemistry sessions to the full-blown agency pitch to win that multimillion-dollar account. I was also for many years on the agency side of the table pitching my work as a creative to clients and potential clients.

I know the hours of time and the money that goes into the agency credentials presentation and it is a cliche to say that I wish I knew then what I know now, which is why I am sharing this with you. Most agency credentials pitches fall flat and fail to hit the mark. The reason being that most fail at the very thing a credentials pitch should achieve – getting the client to trust you enough to consider giving you their business.

The first mistake many agencies make when pitching their agency is identifying the objective of the pitch. Why are you pitching? The circumstances may vary from a chance opportunity to meet a potential new client to the first meeting with the client at the start of a formal tender process. But no matter what the circumstances the purpose is for the client to give you their business. It is not about a forensic explanation of your business, or an opportunity to tell your detailed journey as a business. The purpose or objective is simply to get chosen.

So what are some of the mistakes agencies typically make when pitching credentials and what can you learn from them?

Not researching your audience

This does not mean stalking, but it does mean knowing your audience and what they are thinking, feeling and especially what they desire. After all, and contrary to conventional wisdom, a great pitch is not about you, it is about them. They are the ones you need to persuade. So get to know them by researching the organisation and individuals. Talk to the people that have either worked with them or for them. Use all the time available, even if it is five minutes, to get to know your audience.

Make sure that you answer the most important question

Most people are too focused and too busy explaining what it is they are pitching in microscopic detail as they think this is what the potential buyers are interested in. The fact is the most important question the buyers are asking themselves, sitting there, is what is in this for me – and I do not mean just financially. In fact that is often a secondary consideration after more emotional considerations like opportunities for success and fame and minimising risk and loss.

Prepare, prepare and prepare and then prepare again

Some people say rehearse, rehearse rehearse. But it is more important to know your material inside and out, back the front and upside down. Too often you can tell the agency has pulled the material together at the last minute and they fumble through the materials and presentation. Rather than having the most whiz-bang tech presentation it is much more effective to come across as confident, enthusiastic and in command of the pitch, the message, the audience and the outcome.

The secret of good pitching is timing

The opening few minutes of your pitch are everything so don’t waste time building to a reveal, get straight to the pitch. If you do not get them in the first minute the rest of the pitch is usually wasted. Likewise if you have an hour, then make the whole pitch in less than 30 minutes. If you have 30 minutes pitch in under 15 minutes. You want to engage the audience as quickly as possible and give them plenty of time to follow their curiosity. The reason is when the audiences is engaged with a genuine interest in what you are offering you are sliding into home base.

Present the benefits and not the features

This is an old copywriting technique and yet it is surprising how often agencies forget it. Don’t go into the details, but rather spend the time selling the big benefits to the advertiser and the business. This is not a rational decision. It is like all human decisions – an instinctual or emotional one that is then justified rationally. Certainly, know your numbers in detail, but don’t get caught up in an analysis of these details in the pitch because no one makes decision-based on the details alone. Make sure all of those details are in the documentation you will leave behind or send through after you have to go agreement to proceed.

Case studies are proof points

Too many agency pitch teams spend the first half telling you how good the agency is and then boring you with case studies for clients and categories that are unrelated to the buyer’s needs. Use case studies to prove your benefits. If you are great at working collaboratively don’t just say it, prove it by sharing a case study as an example of how well you collaborate. The only thing more compelling than saying how good you are is proving how good you are, with a great case study/story/ example. And the only thing more compelling than that is your client telling them for you. But more on testimonials another time.

Of course, if you want to refine your credentials pitch, test it out on people who know. I am sure you know a few.

Darren Woolley is founder and global chief executive of TrinityP3.

The Drum and an industry leader will deconstruct the pitch process and lay out the good and the bad at the upcoming Agency Acceleration Day APAC.

Professional Buyers vs. Amateur Sellers: An Unfair Fight

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

Have you ever read a book about pricing? For most professionals, the answer is decidedly no. The people who buy your services, however, have completed entire courses of study around pricing, purchasing, and strategic sourcing.

The procurement professionals you deal with have college degrees in purchasing and have read shelves of books about professional buying. They participate in pricing workshops, listen to supply chain webinars, belong to procurement associations like the American Purchasing Society and Institute for Supply Management and attend events like SCOPE Procurement Summit and ProcureCon.

Many procurement specialists are certified in their profession and complete annual requirements for continuing professional education. Their business cards include initials like CPP (Certified Purchasing Professional), CPPM (Certified Professional Purchasing Manager), or CPPC (Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant).

Well-trained and well-armed

The essential point is, when procurement managers walk into a pricing negotiation, they’re very well-armed. On our side of the table is an executive trained in client service, often accompanied by someone from finance. But a background in marketing and accounting is hardly the same thing as deep expertise price negotiation strategies. As my friends Gerry Preece and Russel Wohlwerth observe in Buying Less for Less:

”Procurement professionals have an entire set of specialized skills. They know how to prepare for a negotiation and how to open the negotiation … They know how to make a concession and how to demand one from the other side. They know when to walk away and how to do it. They know how to answer objections and how to argue for the outcomes they want. They know how to close the negotiation, how to lock it down, and how to hold the other guy accountable.”

Pitting these professional buyers against amateur sellers creates a serious mismatch. Agency executives aren’t amateurs in their craft (the best are creative geniuses), but they are unskilled in the art of crafting progressive pricing strategies and presenting them effectively to professional buyers. Mostly they walk into remuneration discussions armed with a spreadsheet that identifies and classifies their costs. That can hardly be called professional pricing.

An unfair fight

Which brings us back to the problem that no one in your firm has ever read a book on pricing. Nor have they listened to a podcast on purchasing strategies, participated in a webinar on modern pricing methods, or followed a pricing expert on LinkedIn or Twitter. This despite the fact that effective pricing has a bigger impact on the financial success of your firm than any amount of cost-cutting or operational improvements. Books like The 1% Windfall demonstrate conclusively that better pricing is the most powerful way to fix the below-average margins in your firm.

To make this unfair fight even worse, agency professionals put themselves in the submissive position of defending their costs instead of selling their value. Instead of playing to win, they are playing not to lose.

Making pricing (not costing) a core competency

Compared to the client companies they represent, agencies are now part of a low-margin industry that is becoming more dependent on volume than on expertise. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The firms that understand they are in the business of selling solutions to business problems, not filling production orders, have devoted the brainpower and firepower to making pricing (not costing) a core competency. They have invested in professional development to make their people better pricing strategists and negotiators. And they have institutionalized pricing as a discipline that is separate from the finance function.

In the most progressive firms, the finance group is responsible for estimating and tracking your costs, but a separate group is responsible for pricing. They have a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) but also a CPO (Chief Pricing Officer).

Even if you don’t formalize the pricing function to this extent, every firm can implement the concept of a “Value Council,” a small interdisciplinary group of senior executives responsible for transforming pricing and remuneration strategies. Some of the primary responsibilities of the Value Council include:

  • Meeting the tactics of predictable professional buyers with the considered practices of professional sellers. Employing the principles of pricing psychology when dealing with client buyers, including always offering options. Keeping client buyers focused on value instead of cost, thereby negotiating something both parties want to maximize
  •  Moving all stakeholders — internal and external — away from inputs (hours, FTEs) toward outputs (deliverables, work product) and outcomes (client results).  Helping all parties understand that the inventory of a professional firm is not time but rather intellectual capital.
  • Overseeing all pricing and compensation agreements for major client assignments. Presenting pricing proposals to both current and prospective clients. Proactively proposing contract terms that protect the pricing integrity and IP rights of the firm
  • Preparing responses to questions about pricing in RFPs and developing pricing proposals for new business opportunities. Wherever possible, disrupting the buying process by challenging the client’s focus on cost and showing why it’s in their best interest to buy outputs and outcomes instead of inputs.

It’s time to level the playing field when it comes to dealing with professional buyers. Just step up to the plate, and you’ll get better and better with practice.

 

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. 

Advertising Agency Recession Freakout!

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

A Peter Levitan production …

Advertising Agency Prosperity During A Recession – Fuhgedaboudit

Is your advertising agency ready for the next recession? Have you been thinking that the current sweet economy that has helped the small and medium-sized advertising agency market to prosper in the past couple of years was going to last forever?

Well, the time has come to fuhgedaboudit.

Early last week a smart agency client of mine asked me about the current volatility of the stock market that is driven by increasingly inept and ill-timed trade war announcements. He mentioned that his clients are getting skittish because they do not have a clear view of the future. Uncertantude is not a harbinger of growth in client marketing, advertising spending and therefore agency security.

Yesterday the stock market dropped 3% on thinking that a global recession is coming. Does this make you feel secure? Even if the market continues its up and down ride, clients will be spooked for awhile.

The Advertising Agency and Recessions

Recessions breed fear and loathing within client ranks. I know this having gone through some major recessions where worried clients lower budgets, stop programs and begin to fire and change agencies. You do not need to hear my personal history. But you should remember the ‘great recession’ of December 2007 through June 2009. The USA GDP dropped by 5.1%.

To be direct, that recession fucked the advertising industry and I am not sure that the industry, as in what it can charge clients, has ever recovered. I won’t go into detail about the recession. But, if you need a memory nudge, watch these two movies again: The Big Short and The Queen Of Versaille.

What Can You Do? Think Business Development Baby.

You know what happens to client spending and loyalty during an advertising recession. What can you do about it other the tried and mostly failed attempts of trying to convince clients that recessions are exactly the time to increase advertising branding and spending.

Well, you should now up your agency to prospect B2B marketing and spending. Get that account-based marketing program off the shelf. That means it is time to market your agency because:

  • One or more of your best clients will exit through the back door.
  • You’ve been too complacent. When business is good, advertising agencies think the good time will roll on. Not.
  • Sorry, referrals will not sustain any agency growth during a recession.
  • Good news, your competitive advertising, digital and PR agencies have been somnolent as well. They’ve given you a big marketing gap to fill.
  • “Consultants” like Accenture are smarter than agencies when it comes to managing recessions. They will eat up some business.

The recession is coming. Tomorrow? Next year? Who knows. But, I do know it is coming. (EditorIt’s also time to be sure you have a profile here at AgencyFinder – cheap insurance when you will need it!)

It is time to up your advertising agency marketing game. By the way, this is not my first rodeo. Here is an older blog post on recessions.

My recession marketing reading list. Go forth.

My Recession Reading List…

Seven Mission-Critical Hacks for Successful New Business Partnering

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

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

Don’t let them steal

Hack 1: As a new business tool, the telephone is failing. Time was, when a courageous young man (in difference to women, back then it was men) saw his desk phone as his connection to agency prospects. Following a regimen that consisted of preparing compelling print collateral meant to be mailed to a prospect list of 500 carefully chosen prospects, then mailing them on a consistent schedule and then, with courage and commitment, that young man would follow by phone and ask – “Did you get the rubber chicken I sent?” (Yes, in those days he actually got through) Didn’t matter if he mentioned Rubber Chicken or industry study, the whole idea was to strike up a conversation that could lead to a relationship. And “yes Virginia” (see Wikipedia), agency success does depend on relationships.

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

Hack 2: Agency websites; let me digress – I could write a book. Admittedly they’re getting much better, but by example, when their agency prepared the “walk-about” home page video, they apparently missed their agency’s young couple in deep embrace in the back corner. Maybe it’s rehearsal for a client video; I would have cut it! Let’s move on to About Us. Do Not, I shout, write no-interest paragraphs about starting in your basement or how your un-named team has vast experience covering 89 years. And don’t fail to identify at least one person who works there, and that leads me to The Team tab.

Hack 3: Chemistry Wins New Business; Not Creative!  That’s what the Guru of Growth taught for years and its truer now than ever. That’s why your Team tab can make or break your firm with the visitor. Here’s where you can let the prospect see the people behind the curtain. The smiling faces and interesting beards (men only please); the interesting location and hobby shots. If you’re all “suits” as they say and pictured in suit and tie, that sends a nice business impression; yet if the prospect company is led by millennials, that buttoned-up look may cost you. On the other hand, if you’re a young agency with Millennial management, that might off-put some dinosaurs. You can’t win them all but this level of openness and honesty may prompt that desired prospect call regardless.

Hack 4: Staff Characteurs?  So your Director of Business Development is a Pit Bull? Cute sketch. Good inside joke but not appreciated by the prospects you chase that are dog lovers. What about those multi-frame serious-to-goofy shots? Some are really funny and clever. But their value is offset when others fall flat. Has anyone thought of blank squares with titles for everyone? Group shots show your camaraderie but when you don’t or can’t identify them, it loses value. (I often enjoy trying to identify the CEO in a group shot; only to be surprised by who really is). On posted CV’s, use caution. Some folks have such intimidating credentials that it’s possible some prospects could be reluctant to engage!

Hack 5: Back to the telephone. One quick thought just came to mind. If you want to make a call to a new prospect (as in one that is not yet a great friend) DO NOT CALL FROM YOUR CELLPHONE! Cellphone quality is erratic, inconsistent and picks up ambient sounds. Do not expect a first-time prospect to be patient with all that. Call from a land-line in your quiet office.

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

Hack 6: Now let’s talk about the Operator option.  It’s a joke!  You might get an announcement that the call is being transferred to the Operator (please wait), the eventual answer says “Hi, this is Janice. I’m away from my phone at the moment; please leave your name and message and I will call your shortly!” What is that job other than answering the phone? Such incompetent BS! I’ve even had the “being transferred” message just repeat and repeat; never offering a chance to leave your message!

Hack 7: Finally there’s the “I don’t care” mentality. I’ve had situations where, no matter how I tried or what tricks I employed, I COULD NOT raise a living soul at the agency. One such time I was calling an agency with world-wide offices. I couldn’t raise anyone or the Operator in their New York office, so I called Chicago, thinking if it was a weather issue they would know. I failed to raise a soul in Chicago so I called San Fran. Finally found someone but that party had no idea what was happening in Chicago or New York, and didn’t seem to be concerned or looking to report that which might be broken. Talk about dinosaurs.

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

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Where have all the prospects gone?

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

Guest Contributor – John Heenan, ad agency growth consultant, speaker, raconteur

The economy is up. Businesses are expanding. Marketing spending is on the rise. If you do not see an increasing number of leads, it may be time to pivot toward the sectors that are driving the economic boom. Not every industry is feeling confident yet. But many are. You should think about how your agency, given its experience and capabilities, can get in on the action of a booming economy today before the spoils are all divided. All the prospects aren’t gone. They’ve just shifted with the economy, at least until the robots take over. Ever wonder how you’ll pitch a robot? That’s a topic for another post.

Let’s face it. There is a bit of trepidation in the market right now, a feeling that stems from the tough years behind us. Perhaps a political bias. Skepticism whether this current economic growth is sustainable; things are going to crash sooner or later, maybe sooner, so I better remain cautious. A recent roundtable of top-tier company CMOs echoed this cautious sentiment. Every day you read some economic pundit warn of an imminent collapse. Your prospects read the same news and aren’t sure whether to spend or hold. But not everyone.

Consumers aren’t fooled. They are spending on both B2B and B2C. Personal income has been increasing for months as wages and salaries continue to rise. Business is benefiting as well. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and has been steadily increasing month after month. U.S. manufacturing is forecast to rise even faster than the general economy. The MAPI Foundation predicts production will grow by 3.9% in 2019. Despite some naysayers, the circumstances that drive marketing budgets are booming.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to take a serious look at your new business strategy. The data confirms that markets are growing, ad budgets are increasing, and companies are spending. There are three things you should do right now to take advantage of this new economy. Pivoting does have its challenges like a lack of specific experience. When considering a new vertical without direct experience, look at work you’ve done in peripheral categories, for the same kind of audience, and for the same kinds of challenges using as similar a category or product as you can. Snack cakes might be a stretch for the real estate category unless its millennial Moms as first-time home buyers that you can relate to family snacks.

Focus on the right markets

Not everyone feels this way. While some sectors are booming, others are still struggling. According to Investopedia, the five key industries that are driving the economy are Healthcare, Technology, Construction, Retail, and Non-durable Manufacturing. According to The Motley Fool, Beverages, Mining, Civil Engineering, DTC, E-commerce, Real Estate, are others. Each of these has enormous ecosystems supporting them which are growing as well. I’m sure you can find others with a little research. Like any marketplace, even in the best of times, some are doing well and others not so much. If your agency isn’t aiming your business development efforts on these sectors, you may be missing out.

Focus on the right prospects

In any industry, you have the leaders and the challengers. In this economy, the leaders are likely to be more cautious while the challengers are focused on exploiting the growth. Look at industry reports to find those who are aggressive, who are challenging the leaders, announcing new plans, or reporting industry-beating forecasts. These companies likely have agency resources but are always looking for better solutions and better results. Focus your business development on the companies where you can demonstrate experience and knowledge of their business, their customers, and their challenges. You can be confident they are spending and on the lookout for new ideas and innovative ways to gain share and customers while their market grows.

Communicate the right message

Is your message about services and capabilities? Your prospects are trying to capture more significant share as their competitors remain cautious. They are looking for solutions, not capabilities, results, not processes, new ideas, and old ideas that drive results fast to take advantage of their agility and initiative. Messages about growth, customer acquisition, beating competitors, and novel ways to gain share are more appealing. Innovation, new ideas, unexpected tactics, better positioning, are the solutions aggressive challengers are seeking. If you can get their attention to things that will help them grow, your services and capabilities will be a foregone conclusion.

While you pivot, don’t abandon your core markets. It is likely that all markets will become more aggressive as the economic boom continues. Stay vigilant. Look for news and other indicators that may signal new spending and strategy shifts from those companies. As an expert in those core categories, you and the agency should brainstorm on new ideas and approaches that will capture the attention of those companies that wake up to the new potential.

Happy Hunting!

I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share your new business advice, successes, and failures.#LetsGrow!

Should agencies abandon SEO for themselves?

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

Back on May 14th Peter Levitan stated: “Google is going to screw your ad agency. Or better said, they are going to mess with your organic listing. Which means, that your ad agency will be harder to find. And, therefore screwed. Many of the ad, digital, etc. agencies I talk with tell me that their SEO is not delivering the power that it once did.” And he went on in case you didn’t see it. That raised the question – with more than 40,000 “agencies” (some even suggest more than 100,000) they’re all building and tweaking their SEO to try to make themselves stand out in a considereable sea of sameness. At this point and under the Google umbrella, the only real distinction one-to-another can be location, even down to street number. I don’t write code but believe that Google’s cataloging of agency particulars is not yet deep enough to discriminate what clients would wish, since agency websites are themselves lacking in more than cursory attribute content. That makes Google just a giant Yellow Pages. We had that years ago.

Add curated alpha sort agency directories to the mix and this conglomeration is now forcing things back in the direction from whence we came. Back apparently to what Dave Currie with The List refers to as “proactive prospecting apps like Winmo.” Take a tour of the roster of agency search consultants as I did and you’ll note many are no longer in business. Scarcity and dilution takes its toll.

Realistically – how can 40,000 agencies, even half that number differentiate themselves one from another? Maybe it makes sense to resort back to techniques and programs en vogue before the Internet. Food for thought – invent something new (Yes Virginia, we know about LinkedIn).

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5 Easy Agency Hacks for Business Development

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

Long gone are the days when agency business development was just the combination of a prospect database, an automated direct mail program and a tenacious new business “Hawk.” Ask most anyone today charged with reeling in client prospects how they do it and they speak to the vast array of present options. All said, all things work or nothing seems to work from within the choices now on the table. 

Consider the obvious.  Your agency has a website with as much SEO as your IT staffers swear they know. By hook, crook or accident your site is getting traffic. Do you know what kind and by whom? Three services that can help answer that question are www.kickfire.com, www.clickback.com and www.leadforensics.com.  But they all suffer the same drawback – they can’t identify precisely who the visitor was because that’s against the “rules.” However, those programs do have value. Those prospect visits are gold in the making. Let me introduce 5 easy agency hacks for new business development that spring from those visits.

  1. Contact Us Tab

An unofficial and unscientific survey suggests that more than 50% of agency websites fail to identify where they are – as in city, street, State, then zip, phone, fax and email. The ruinous but narrow minority resort to fill-in-the-blanks forms – “tell us visitor who you are, where you are, and then adding insult to injury, tell us what you want!” Client visitors know the Worldwide Internet is “worldwide” and most know where they want their new agency to be. If you were selling an “item” maybe China is acceptable, but as a service, they want close if not closer. Golden rule – show them where you are and how to get in touch in proud glorious detail.

  1. Team Tab

Along with location, clients want to know who they will work with. Agency veterans admit when all else is essentially equal, chemistry wins! Sanders Consulting Group and Stuart Sanders the “Guru of Growth,” for years taught hundreds of agency business leaders that “Chemistry not Creative Wins new Business! Translation – chemistry is likeability and most people are pretty good making judgment once they get face-to-face. Clear the path for a face-to-face visit with photos, even caricatures can do the trick. Include an interesting but short non-cv story to embellish the visual.

  1. Incoming Calls

There ought to be a law with penalties for any agency that uses a robot service to answer the phone. Back to chemistry – people like people but not all people, so in this instance, whoever answers the phone needs to be pleasant, mature, intelligent and quite familiar with who works at the agency. The automated directory is a bust. Frequently it fails to find long-time employee. There are times when one can’t type fast enough and the line gets dropped. If you insist on the robot attendant, change the sequent the caller hears. Begin with “If you’d like to speak with us about handing your account dial #1.”  No first-time caller knows your extensions.

Designate who should answer an incoming call. Just because one is ringing, not just anyone should answer. Transgressions are moderately acceptable if the caller is selling something, is a wrong number, or wants your services for free. But if it’s anyone who could legitimately hire your agency or pass their experience to someone who could, those calls are gold. Even a crank call deserves proper handling. Forward that call to your best defender; just to be certain it isn’t simply an unusual inquiry in disguise! BTW, test your own system from time to time by calling (you or a trusted business associate) from an outside line. Test to see how and who handles the call.

Finally, if the call or prospect has any potential value, return that call without fail immediately or no later than within 24 hours.

  1. Your Client List

Your posted client list serves many purposes. First, it probably shows your current clients. A prospective client can run a quick conflict check to clear you. That list also shows the categories of business you’re handling as well as their calibers. If that’s the extent of your posts, then the value of legacy clients is lost. Those deserve a listing as well. You can never tell or predict what a prospect is looking for or will use to judge you. If you get an AgencyFinder invitation, your legacy experience may be the reason for your invite. Be sure they can find that.

  1. Client Logos

Make logos large enough to read. If the general public wouldn’t recognize the logo or name, a hot link to that site is a good idea. Same is true for all of them. The same rule applies here – show current AND legacy clients. Some agencies group clients by type or vertical market. The choice is yours.

These 5 hacks can be addressed immediately, no waiting required. Install and active to grease the skids in your direction! Happy New Business.

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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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