Business Development

Is Your Lead Gen Stalled? Do This One Thing

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

I want to share a recent insight about an easy way to break out of the lead generation rut.

In the Win Without Pitching program we spend a whole trimester on lead generation. Participants build a multi-tiered expert lead generation plan specific to their firm, and then in the trimester break they make a commitment to working that plan. When we reconvene for the next trimester they’ve developed some routine and are generating actual, live leads. These firms are in the groove – they’re turning lead generation activities into habits.

It’s pretty straightforward: craft a plan, work the plan long enough to make systematic lead generation a habit. It’s not rocket surgery. We help with the crafting of the plan but it’s up to the participants to work it.

As you might imagine, some work the plan and others do not. Some develop lead generation habits and some stick with their old habits of doing all kinds of things other than lead generation.

My recent insight is that the firms that break out of the rut and establish new, positive lead generation habits do one thing that we ask everyone to do. Those that do not do this one thing almost always remain stuck. It’s quite remarkable how the camps divide into the doers and the stallers based on this one thing.

The One Thing
I’m going to tell you what the one thing is and then I’m going to tell you why it works. My suggestion is, if you or your firm are currently in a lead generation rut, commit to doing this one thing now before you read what it is. Commit. NOW.

Ready? Read on…

The one thing we ask everyone to do and I’m asking you to do, is to publish on your website within the next 48 hours, the title, date and time of a webinar that you will deliver within the next 90 days.

That’s it. Think of a subject within your area of expertise, commit to the topic, commit to the date and put it on your website. From there you’ll have to add an abstract and a sign up form (you can do these later just be sure to do the first part with 48 hours.)

To be clear, the commitment is not to do a webinar within 90 days, it’s to make your commitment public within 48 hours. If you can do this one thing I promise you your lead generation fortunes will begin to change.

Why It Works
I’ll explain why this works to bust you out of your lead generation rut by first telling you why some people don’t do it, even when they’ve committed to it. They don’t do this one thing because they claim they’re not ready. Their excuse is they don’t have the content or the audience. And that’s exactly why this is so effective because content and audience don’t come first, commitment does. Commit to the event, publicly, by putting it on your website, and now you’ve put yourself in the position where you haveto develop the content and the audience. That will get you out of your rut.

Now you’ve got to make people show up so you’ll start thinking seriously about how to promote it. Your mailing list? Your social channels? Online ads? How are you going to get people to show up? You’ll wake up in the middle of the night worrying about this, therefore you’ll do something about it.

And then there’s the topic of what you’re going to say in this webinar. You’ve got 90 days to come up with content that makes you look like you know what you’re talking about on a subject on which you might only have superficial knowledge or a vague perspective. But 90 days is a long time. You can pull off a webinar on pretty much anything 90 days from now but if you don’t make the bet and put yourself in the position where you absolutely have to, you won’t do it, will you?

Commitment comes first. From that you will develop the audience and the content. Make the commitment. You have 48 hours. Come up with a title, a date and a time and let the world know what’s coming. Then add an abstract and a sign-up form. And then watch the magic begin. The magic is your own effort, effort that was previously missing because you did not have a real deadline. Now you do.

Congratulations, you’ve just put yourself into the doer camp. You’ve bet on your own future success and the outcome is positive. You’ve lent your shoulder to the lead generation flywheel and started it moving. Well done. Welcome to life outside of the rut.

Thanks to Blair Enns
Win Without Pitching
202 B Ave #454
Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0
+1.250.353.2951

A Mission With No Exit

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

by Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching

I’m a big user and raving fan of Evernote. I could never adequately explain to non-users why I like it so much. It’s software for taking notes. It works well. I don’t know – it just keeps getting better and I don’t remember what I did before it.

Earlier this year I was listening to a Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast featuring Evernote co-founder and CEO Phil Libin as the speaker when Libin said something that explained in an instant why the product was so good. He said for him, there was no exit – he was on a mission, the mission would never end and he would never sell. He was dedicating his professional life to Evernote. I understood then the impact of the owner being all in on his/her business. My reaction to Libin’s commitment to Evernote was to match it. In a moment, I decided that I too was all in on Evernote. I still marvel at how instant my pledge of allegiance was upon hearing that Libin himself was that committed.

There’s a large segment of the tech world that lauds the serial entrepreneur, but I’ll admit I’ve never understood it. These people are admired for how many companies they’ve spun up and exited but I never hear anybody taking stock of what happens to those businesses after they get acquired. For sure, some go on to be great businesses or important technologies in other great businesses and I don’t begrudge anyone their success or their right to sell what they’ve built. I can’t help but think however that most of these businesses just fade away after the founder leaves. I wonder how many of these exits end up being good for both the acquirer and the customer? I also wonder what those entrepreneurs could accomplish if they focused all their superpowers on just one endeavour?

Entrepreneurs have more vision and guts than any CEO-for-hire could possibly have. They have too – they’re always betting everything. (Just ask their spouses.) When you take that vision and courage out of a business, what’s left? Optimization and the pursuit of efficiencies.

I’ve been thinking of my own experience as a user of a new technology (that I won’t name) which I discovered a couple of years back, shortly after it launched. It was pretty cool, so I signed on and started using it. There were a few bugs but the founder/CEO was fixing them fast. He was clearly committed to the vision of the company. I knew this because I would get emails from him asking me questions about how I was using the platform. I would send him suggestions and he appeared to take them seriously – his replies would often come in the middle of the night. I started reading his blog. When he announced the sale of the company I was happy for him, but it wasn’t long before things started to feel different about the product. I lost interest in the founder’s blog and the company he founded. He’s on to the next thing and so am I.

Maybe some people have strengths that make the serial entrepreneur thing work for them, but it’s not me. I decided I was going to follow Libin’s path: I’m never selling. Everything I want to do in business I’m going to do through this one. Everything I want to do in life, this business will have to enable.

The False Promise of Retirement
If the idea of never selling strikes you as a big commitment, consider that I added it to an even bigger one I had made earlier last year when I decided I was never going to retire.

I now see the idea of retirement, in this age of the knowledge worker, as destructive. It causes us to put up with less than ideal circumstances today as we wait for our reward in the end, except the idealized reward of the retired life isn’t really what most of us want. We’re not coal miners retiring from physically punishing careers, after all. We have the luxury of working with our brains and enjoying it. Plus, as entrepreneurs, we have the ability to shape our reality to whatever we want it to be. The only thing in my way is me.

I think many business owners forget how much power they have to shape their reality. They start out pursuing freedom and then get trapped in a role they didn’t anticipate in a business that just kind of turned into what it is today, instead of steadily marching toward a vision of increased freedom and control.

We all want purpose in our lives. We want to keep making an impact, to reap the rewards of that impact now rather than deferring them, and to live life today doing things we love and are good at. We retire when we aren’t getting these things in our working life. Well, they’re not there in retirement either.

Go ahead and try it on – the idea that you will never retire but you will start retiring immediately from the things you shouldn’t be doing, the things you don’t really want to do. (Another idea stolen from Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan.) It will change everything. You will be reborn. You will also rethink your tax planning.

It’s remarkably liberating for me to know that there is no retirement and no sale. I know that I have to get this right. I need to always strive to make an impact, always reap the rewards as they come and live life at the same time; to keep focused on the mission of changing the way creative services are bought and sold the world over while knowing the tools and methods will constantly evolve, knowing my own ideas and role have to change with time, but never, ever altering in the mission.

The Price of Eyeing the Exit
When I look at creative firms that are stuck, it’s almost always because the principal has quit making big bets. He or she has gotten complacent instead of making bets on future success. What’s almost universally true about these firms is the principal has one eye on the exit. He or she is neglecting the difficult decisions, shying away from the big bets in the hope that the forces of change can be staved off until retirement.

If there’s one thing I wish I could do for these people it would be to wave my magic wand and make their business a life sentence. I know then they would get it right. They would face the difficult decisions about their businesses, their roles inside and their lives outside of them, and it would be the best thing that ever happened to them.

Your Bonfire on the Beach Awaits
Like Cortez arriving on the shores of South America, I’ve burned the ships behind me, cutting off any escape route. I’m doing this Win Without Pitching thing until I die, so I have to get it right and therefore I will.

There are so many things to get right and so many skills that I don’t personally posses, so I have to increase the pace of my learning, I have to develop skills I’ve never had or really needed before, I have to rely on others (making culture and teamwork infinitely more important than I ever thought they could be), I have say no to the things I should no longer be doing, I have to keep bringing vision and guts – to keep betting everything on what I see and believe – and I have to live life now. I’ve put myself in a position where I have to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do.

I can’t burn your ships for you, but if I could, I would. I would burn them to the waterline, drag what’s left up on shore, burn that too, roast weenies on the embers and toast to your glorious future with scotch whiskey from a chipped enamel cup. I would do it and you would thank me because we both know that bonfire on the beach would be the best thing that ever happened to you.

How great could you, your firm and your life be if you closed the exits and went all in on your business? Who would bet against you? Not me. I’d be all in on you, too.

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Well done Blair; this got me thinking!

The Power of Precision Guessing — Or Why There’s No Algorithm for Great Advertising

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

Written by Bob Hoffman and posted to Agency Post

We know that consumer behavior is often irrational. That’s why there are large market share differences among products that are essentially the same.

We also know that consumers tend to be pragmatic and don’t like to throw their money around on crap. That’s why so many new products fail.

So how do we reconcile these two seeming contradictions? How can consumers be both strangely emotional yet essentially pragmatic? We can’t explain it. That’s what makes advertising so interesting. It’s like physics. There are two equally reliable, yet contradictory ways to explain the physical behavior of matter.
General relativity describes the world one way. Quantum physics describes it another. They are completely different, and often contradictory theories. And yet each is equally capable of explaining and predicting the behavior of matter — general relativity on a large scale and quantum physics on a small scale.

We face a similar (and far less important) enigma in advertising. If you ask an advertising expert “what makes a great campaign,” he/she will provide you with a list of adjectives — beautiful, persuasive, funny, entertaining, convincing … but the truth is, nobody really knows what makes a great ad campaign.

I can show you a hundred campaigns that were all of those things and failed, and you can show me a hundred that were none of them and succeeded.

The thing that drives ad people crazy, and makes advertising such a fascinating endeavor, is that there is no algorithm for great advertising. No one has been able to define the proper proportions of the emotional and the practical, the nonlinear and the utilitarian, the entertaining and the convincing.

And that leads us to the point of this piece. The present obsession with media delivery systems may help our media people locate a certain type of person more easily, but is never going to provide the spark of brilliance on how to motivate this person.

Understanding motivation still comes from the brains of talented people who somehow know what the right combination of ingredients is to motivate a certain type of person in a certain category.

They don’t know how they know it, and sometimes they don’t even know that they know it. But they do.

That’s why there are a few people who consistently create wonderful, successful advertising and others who create consistently mediocre advertising.

It’s a gift that some creative people have for precision guessing. That’s all it is, but it is the amazing gift that separates real advertising talent from the rest of us.

This article is an excerpt from Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. It is published with permission from Type A Group.

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AgencyFinder comment: AgencyFinder agency profiles are populated with more than 500 data fields, yet that’s not enough nor will any number at any website ever suffice to pair agencies with an advertiser without the intervention and contribution of “humans.” That’s also why great advertising will never be produced or evaluated formuliacally. Bob and I are in complete agreement. That’s Bob Hoffman, The Most Provocative Man in Advertising at Type A Group, Oakland, CA

Should You Publish Your Advertising Agency Pricing on Your Website?

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

Today’s article is contributed by Blair Enns, Principal at Win Without Pitching

We’ve gone from an era where creative firms never published their pricing to one where, while it’s not yet common, there’s a bit of a trend toward it among certain types of firms.

There are right and wrong motivations for disclosing your pricing on your website and right and wrong methods of doing so. Let’s explore them.

First, let’s examine the idea of why a creative firm would consider publishing its pricing on its website. Let’s start with what I hope is the obvious wrong motivation.

Wrong Motivation: Demonstrating Affordability

A firm that publishes low prices is essentially competing on price and sending negative messages to the marketplace about quality, confidence and sophistication. Selling on low price can be a viable strategy for fully-productized businesses that have a production advantage or an economy of scale that lets them sell more cheaply than their competition. These businesses don’t mind dragging prices down and squeezing out less-efficient competitors as a means of gaining marketshare.

You’re not in such a business and therefore not employing such tactics. (If you are then you’re destined to always run your business from your parents’ basement.)

Right Motivation: Demonstrating Exclusivity

The opposite approach of publishing higher-than-market prices as a form of positioning is a more valid one. Pricing is positioning. Let’s be clear, however: where Logos-R-Us might price logos at $499, a firm trying to position itself as upscale isn’t going to price logos at $50,000. They’re going to speak in more general terms about the size of budgets they work with. More on that in a minute.

Right Motivation: Advance Client Qualification

Some firms do a great job of inbound lead generation but end up attracting a high volume of price buyers or other budget-challenged prospects. In such firms it can make sense to publish pricing guidance as a means of keeping the gnats at bay. Putting pricing guidance on your contact form is a good way to help vet such clients and ensure that anyone who does reach out has at least some idea of how much it will cost to work with you.

Now let’s look at the right and wrong methods of publicly disclosing your pricing.

Right Method: Minimums

I’m a fan of using a minimum level of engagement (MLOE) in the sales conversation. It can make sense to publish such minimums.

“Our minimum level of engagement is $100,000 in fees over the course of 12 months.”

Or the more subtle, “Projects typically start at $25,000.”

Right Method: Ranges or Examples

I think ranges and examples are the best ways of publishing pricing guidance, saving the more rigid MLOE for the sales conversation where you can imbue some flexibility and use it as a negotiating lever. Ranges and examples provide guidance but still leave the door open to opportunities just below the minimum level.

“A typical project ranges from $100k – $300k and our clients typically spend between $500k and $2m over the course of a year.”

Wrong Method: Package or Tiered Pricing

Increasingly, I’m seeing creative firms, and digital firms in particular, publishing tiers of services with pricing attached. This is a trend borrowed from Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, many of whom are sophisticated pricers. On Salesforce.com’s pricing page for example, I count seven obvious pricing principles, nudges or other tactics designed to leverage the mental shortcuts buyers use, sometimes irrationally, in their decision making.

Many of these pricing principles can be applied in a creative business, including the use of options and bundles.

There are important differences between SaaS companies and creative firms however and therefore implications on pricing strategies. Most SaaS companies are selling products in large scale which means they’re effectively pricing the product and not the client. (More correctly, they’re using sophisticated segmentation strategies on large markets to group clients and price the segments, but compared to your business where you should be pricing each individual client, they are effectively pricing the product.)

Price the Client

In your firm you want to price the client and not the service. That means taking full advantage of price discrimination (a good thing, in spite of its name) and the subjectivity of value which I’ll sum up thusly: a service you perform for one client can be significantly more meaningful and valuable to another client, therefore you should charge less to the first client and more to the second.

When you publish package pricing you remove your ability to practice price discrimination and you force yourself to make significant judgments on the value you propose to create for your clients before you even have a conversation with them.

It is a good idea to think and price in tiers, bundles and options – just make sure that each is constructed for the client, in the sale, and not an off-the-shelf package with a predetermined price.

In summary, it can make sense to publish some pricing guidance on your website to help you with positioning and to prequalify prospects, just avoid specific prices for specific services, and if you do employ the pricing tactics of tiers, bundles and options (as you should), don’t make the mistake of assembling, pricing or publishing them before any conversation with the client.

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Oh No – It’s the dreaded “S” Word! (Sales)

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

Buck up Fellas (those doing anything for your agency on new business), it’s about time you heard the truth. If it’s your job to connect with new prospects, then pick up the phone when you’re told and stop hiding behind your keyboard! Stop staring at your call sheet and dial! Sales (the “S” word), as in the pleasant, professional art and science of commiserating with a prospect so as to share your “brand ambassador” story is NOT of itself a natural talent but a learned and practiced “skillset.” For starters, if you know a successful “New Business Pro”, seek permission to listen in, to witness, to bask in the majesty of one from whose lips the perfect, persuasive and yes “beautiful” sequence of words flow gently to the prospect. Not some slathering set of syllables from the lips of a “hot shoe” carney that offend upon impact, but the sweet, gentle flakes of new business persuasion.

Yes boys and girls, sales is an accomplished skill set worthy of respect and adoration.

Now that’s not to say some people don’t have an “inclination” towards sales. But even those naturals benefit from formal training. I urge and encourage anyone who wants to succeed at new business development to get formal generic “sales” training. My first exposure was with Dale Carnegie. (Not the man but the course) That or many others are available. If you’re the firm’s decision-maker, sign yourself up. If you have an employee in that new business role, enroll them. If you are that employee, ask your supervisor to get you enrolled. And don’t short-sheet their training. After that there are more than a few specific “agency” new business trainers. My favorite is Sanders Consulting. But in any of these, get the basic sales training first. And for any of you already in those roles, one thing you can do for immediate improvement is “role play.” You and an experienced colleague get on two telephones and start role-playing. Try various scenarios and work them!

My advocacy here is simply that “sales” ladies and gentlemen is a taught and learned skill set. We’ve also posted some relevant new business tips. So get cracking!

Let me know how it goes …

12 Dumb Questions Smart New Biz Pros Ask

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

Let’s be real. Most salespeople are super annoying. They view their prospects as numbers in their sales funnel, not as people. They believe earning your business is a chess match and a signed contract means they “won the game.”

However, B2B buyers and B2C consumers generally do not know how to purchase anything that falls outside their area of expertise. Think about it. Do you really know how to buy a TV? Do you know what precise technical questions to ask? You’d probably like some help, right?

But ironically, when the salesperson at the electronic store asks if she can help, what do you typically respond with? “No, I am just browsing.”

The cat and mouse game buyers and salespeople play has created an environment of leverage and one upmanship versus understanding. And this hostile relationship often stems from the questions salespeople ask their prospects. Below are 12 common questions sales professionals ask prospects and why they should stop — or at least, rephrase.

1) What is your budget? / What would you like to spend?

Buyers often rationalize lying to salespeople about their budget because they feel it is the necessary first step in a negotiation. And why do you need to know about budget up front anyway? If the buyer has purchased what you are selling in the past, they will have money to spend. If they have not — how will they know what price is right?

Instead of demanding a budget right off the bat, strive to understand the prospect’s process for buying and their spend tolerance. Simply asking about their buying process for your type of product or service will get you a lot better information than asking specifically about budget.

2) Is price or quality more important?

Shame on you for asking this question. If you beat the competition solely on price, just come out and say it. However if you are not the low cost provider, you need to build value. Your prospects will naturally associate a given amount of value with “what the product is supposed to cost” so a good salesperson will try to understand that perspective and discuss price from there.

3) Are you the decision maker?

This is a bad question because it’s unclear. Are you asking if they’re the decision maker for which vendors move on to the next step in the buying process? Or are you asking if they can they sign off on the proposal? This puts the prospect in an ego predicament. No one wants to feel as if they are just the informer.

Instead, ask the question “Who is involved in this process?” Even the CEO gets input from others (or at least he or she should). This should reveal all relevant influencers, stakeholders, and the ultimate decision maker.

Salespeople need to identify the decision makers so they can work with these stakeholders throughout the buying process. Too often we leave it to others to sell our products and services to executives because we failed to appropriately engage them.

4) What is your pain?

You won’t get the answer simply by asking. Most salespeople stop probing for pain once they hear an indicator such as, “If this doesn’t go well, I will get fired.” However, pain is rooted in emotion. In this example, the pain isn’t the potential of getting fired — it’s the emotion associated with getting fired.

Everything we buy is bought emotionally, so unless you know the pain, how can you truly help? Seek to understand the prospect’s underlying emotional need for change.

5) How good are your products and services?

This is a legitimate sales question to ask if your product or service promises to improve the prospect’s business results. However, if you pose it in this way, prepare yourself for a biased answer.

How can you get an honest response? Ask questions around how the business is doing from a third-party perspective, or versus the competition. For instance:

When you lose, why do you lose?
What do your customers say about your products and services?
What percentage of your business is referrals?

6) How strategic are you?

Ego will not allow your prospect to say “not at all” (even if that’s the truth). On the other hand, if they do show vulnerability, they will likely blame the company or others for it (which shows they are not truly strategic).

Instead of asking this question at all, simply listen to your prospects’ answers to other queries. I guarantee you will discover if they are strategic or not.

7) Would you like a proposal or quote?

When you ask this question, you will likely get blown off one of two ways. You will be either be told “I am happy with my current vendor” or “I don’t want to waste your time.”

Another possibility is that the prospect will gladly take your proposal … and use it to price check their current vendor. Your proposal then functions as intel for your competition. Finally, the prospect could request your proposal simply to get you out of their hair.

A proposal should simply be a summary of expectations both parties have already agreed upon. It should only be sent once you have agreed on scope, pricing, timing, etc., and serves as documentation for the work being completed. It does not sell anything in and of itself.

8) Can I show you our capabilities? / Would you like a presentation?

Show and tell is for your nine-year-old. If you are presenting, you are not selling. You are bragging. Don’t brag.

9) Is this a good time to chat?

Do you think your prospects sit in their offices hoping a salesperson calls? There is never time, but people can make time if they want to. This question gives your prospect an easy out. A better way to ask this question is, “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

10) What level of service are you willing to pay for?

This question implies that your relationship is only about money, and that’s just not true. Sales is about balancing what the prospect needs with what they want. Your questions should inform you about the prospect’s business so you can discuss appropriate solutions.

Build value, not budgets. If your business offers multiple service levels, ask the relevant questions in order to make a recommendation.

11) What can I do? / What will it take to earn your business?

This sets you up for failure because you are now just an order taker. The prospect tells you in this moment what it will take to get a signed contract … and they will continue to tell you what you have to do for the rest of the relationship. This isn’t exactly the partnership you touted when trying to earn the business. This question also implies that you will take on anyone and are willing to be insincere to close a deal.

Get to know the prospect’s business, their pains, and how you can help. If it makes sense to work together, it will happen. If not, move on.

12) Who was the best salesperson who ever called on you?

Who cares? Are you going to be inauthentic and act like someone else to try to earn the business? Would you ask your spouse who was the best person they ever dated? Forgo this question in lieu of more valuable and revealing queries.

A good sales professional has virtually no cap on earning potential, but it takes more than practice to attain mastery. Top salespeople continuously develop and refine sales skills through learning — with the help of a coach, trainer, manager, or on their own. Don’t you think asking great questions is one of those critical skills?

Contribution by Jeremy King. Jeremy is part of the leadership team at Element Three, an Indianapolis-based agency that was one of the first HubSpot Platinum Partners.

When Clients call for Spec Work, is it Evil?

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

Contributed by Chuck Meyst, Chairman & CEO AgencyFinder.com

To hear some agency principals talk, they think so.

And frankly we shouldn’t blame them. We’re talking about a component of the process known as the agency review. The idea is to invite and examine a sufficient number of candidate agencies and winnow the group down to 2-3 finalists. Those finalists will make “final presentations” and it’s there that spec creative rears its ugly head! The requirement calling for “spec creative” is an element of the infamous RFP and is like doubling down on evil. Let’s start with that RFP or Request for Proposal. As first client contact with randomly selected agencies, the invitation often begins like a warrant. Often the RFP “document” is the result of the client searching the Internet and grabbing a “template.” Without giving any real consideration to what they need in the way of an agency, and how they will  find agencies that fit those criteria, they begin their convoluted search. Searching using Google at best is worst. Agency websites range from single-page scroll-down templates themselves, to “kitchy” and “we’re different and we’re unique arguments and displays”. Good luck finding an agency website that reveals their employee count and even more bizarre, won’t provide their physical location or contact phone. Yet we should think that any agency bothering to have a website is looking for new clients, right?

Not all RFP’s are pervasive, but most tend to ask for more than necessary to begin exploring the possibility of a working relationship. Many include Gestapo admonitions like “If you communicate with any employee of our company, you will be removed from the review!” Or “Send 4 copies only. More than 4 will call for disqualification.” A silly and egregious way to begin what is meant to become a partnership. And be reminded, the client has to sell themselves to each agency as much as the reverse is true!

Each agency tells their story. In the best reviews, this can be done while the client is visiting the semi-finalists. That’s where an agency tour, the presentation of case histories, and the examination of past work takes place. Some clients think and are inclined to identify their winner after seeing agency work. Each agency understandably presents their best work but the devil is in the details. Does the agency admit that their client suggested the layout, headline, shot angle and copy? And does the client even think to inquire? Past work is only one element of the consideration set.

Now to final presentations. As the search consultant we are, we believe prospects who ask for spec work are looking to establish two things. 1. Does the agency understand their business (has your team been listening?) 2. Therefore can you produce something that demonstrates that? I agree with everyone that says it’s expensive; I agree it’s almost impossible to debrief a prospect sufficiently to respond with any degree of precision.

So what to do? We suggest to all clients they should identify a business they know fairly well (but completely different than theirs) and ask for a spec presentation based on that business. There’s more to it than that, but you get the point? Do the same for all players. In this way, the client will be able to witness the agency’s approach and process but both parties are one-step removed. And to the delight of any agency, the creative can’t be used by the client.

The new standard for “spec creative!”

Is There an Industrial Pitch Complex?

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

by Blair Enns

As someone who’s received so much joy from others’ conspiracy theories, I feel like I deserve the chance to float my own, at least once. So here it is. Read on, but only if you’re prepared to have your world shattered.

On January 17th, 1961, outgoing US president Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation in which he warned Americans of the dangers of their country’s burgeoning military-industrial complex – the enmeshed and at times indistinguishable interests of government, politics and corporate greed that were creating the conditions in the country where war was seen by too many to be beneficial, desirable and therefore inevitable.

While Eisenhower didn’t invent the term “military-industrial complex​,”​​ ​he popularized it, and 55 years later we all understand its essence​:​ that some things – ideas, interests or movements – can get so big they seem to steamroller to inevitability, even when it’s not in the interests of the greater good. They take on a life of their own and can never be dismantled because forces too strong and too many are made stronger by the entity and will resist all attempts to unplug it or even slim it down.

That’s not my conspiracy. I think we can all agree that the military-industrial complex is a thing.

No, my conspiracy is that in the creative professions there exists the equivalent: an industrial pitch complex (working title only, tweet me your suggestions) in which numerous dark forces within the creative professions are conspiring to keep the pitch in place for their own nefarious, self-serving reasons. They will stop at nothing to keep the pitch alive. Nothing.

Come with me now as I pull the thread that unravels the whole thing…

Who’s Involved in Our Conspiracy?
Well, everyone of course, but I’m pretty sure conspiracy theory affords the same protection against libel as does parody or true statement. (I’ll admit I’m too lazy to confirm that with a simple Google search.) So let’s name names, shall we?

Clients
There are some great clients out there and then there are those like the ones featured on AMC’s show, The Pitch.

My over-riding thought when watching The Pitch was not what you might think – it was about the clients, not the agencies. I kept thinking, “If I was the CEO of this client company I would fire that CMO.”

Too many clients are caught up in the pageantry of the pitch, luxuriating in the control they wield and sycophantic frenzy they create. For them the pitch must persist. It is their greatest source of power and puppetry.

Procurement People
They’re in on it, but they’re pawns really. They can’t help it. Buying creative services isn’t what they signed up for so they find themselves applying widget purchasing processes to the acquisition of ideas and advice. They are orderly-accountant-types, happy to be at the freaky people table where they propose to bring some rigour and order, if only they knew how.

Over the last few years some procurement people have become pretty good at it, doing less damage, but the best line on the topic goes to pricing guru Reed Holden who says, “Eighty percent of procurement professionals give the other twenty percent a bad name.”

In truth, if procurement people were at the centre of our conspiracy we would be dealing with something far worse than the pitch. Let’s be grateful they’re just willing bit players.

Search Consultants
You would be forgiven for thinking, “Wait – weren’t search consultants replaced by Google years ago?” They weren’t, for the reason that a search consultant’s role has never been to search, but to vet.

You can make a whole lot more money vetting firms for busy clients if you can make the process bigger, longer and more expensive than it needs to be, all under the guise of “searching.”

Search consultants are not only in on the conspiracy, they’re the smoking man​,​ the men in black, the illuminati. They meet in high-security estates in the Hamptons on nights of the full moon where they perform their secret rituals involving bound clients and agency principals clothed only in hoods, blindly groping each other for the pleasure of their master lords who prod them on chanting Lorem Ipsum while sipping Hemingway Daiquiris.

Seriously.

The pitch will never die as long as search consultants are among us. (note: excluding Chuck Meyst and his AgencyFinder.com)

Your Competitors
Do you ever go to the local ad club and hear someone say, maybe a little too loudly, “Everybody knows you can’t win without pitching so don’t even try”?​ That’s what they want you to believe. The reality is that most of your competitors are Alien Subterranean Lizard People who are trying to control you through their thought rays. You know what I’m talking about.

Conferences
New business conferences have become the forum where those complicit in the industrial​ ​pitch complex meet in plain sight. Agencies come in hordes, paying to hear clients tell them how to pitch them better, hoping to rub up against them in the dark hallways in the breathy, stolen moments between shows. Search consultants too get on stage and move their lips. And the police just let this happen.

Lizard People. All of them.

Of Course The Media’s In On It!
How interesting would Ad Age be if there were no pitching in this business? About half.

There was a time in my own agency career where my entire lead generation plan consisted of reading the Accounts Under Review section of Canada’sMarketing Magazine and then scurrying like a lemming to throw my firm’s hat into the ring. (That’s why we still have search consultants – to keep the hordes at bay. It really isn’t their fault. Turns out its mine and the media’s. Mostly the media’s.)

Then there is television’s The Pitch and Mad Men. One is a fictionalized drama of the advertising business and the other is a comedy, both designed to perpetuate the pitch.

Trade Associations
I’m looking at you, 4As.

You know. I know. You know I know.

The Evil Lurking Within
Okay, we agree that when it comes to people in the profession outside of your walls, they’re ALL in on it. You and I both know however that, just like 9/11, there may be outside co-conspirators but this is really an inside job.Your people are in on it.

How do we know? In a word: motive.

If the pitch weren’t here how would they account for all that non-billable time on their timesheet?

How would they justify those $400 lunches at Smith & Wollensky? (Would Smith & Wollensky even exist?)

Without the pitch, selling would really only require one or two people, but look around you – how many people on your team have attached themselves to new business, racking up untold hours writing proposals, brainstorming free ideas, finding reasons why they need to be in the room? When did this happen? How did it all get so big and expensive?

The industrial pitch complex has become a giant slithering mass of entangled self-interests the size of a small planet, with a gravity all its own, sucking into it people, money and time. It grows and throbs, adding layers, pulling in even the honest and the pure. Meanwhile, deep down in its very core, calling all the shots, unbeknownst to even those under their power, lurk…

The Lizard People.

You’re welcome. For speaking The Truth. Somebody has to.

What you do now is up to you.

Our Registered Agency Claims Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing Arguments Are BS!

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

By Brian Bennett, president

Inbound marketing is a tremendous advancement in our trade. It is a brilliant culmination of new, integrated technologies and methodologies. The analytical capabilities and accountability it provides are a great leap forward. Soon, inbound marketing will be a cornerstone in our industry.

Unfortunately, many of the pioneers of this breakthrough have gotten too wrapped up in their own efforts to market and differentiate this new discipline and are actually hindering its development with their myopic claims. To them, I say, hear this:

You don’t need to bash outbound marketing to promote the advantages of inbound. 

The development of inbound marketing will not render outbound obsolete or replace it entirely.

Practitioners of outbound marketing are not, by definition, ignorant.

It would be irresponsible to recommend inbound marketing as the appropriate strategy for all marketing objectives. Inbound marketing must be integrated into marketing plans; it should not dominate them. Many outbound techniques such as pay-per-click, event marketing, public relations and advertising are absolutely essential to the success and development of inbound efforts, and to preach to the contrary would be disingenuous on the part of any truly enlightened and capable marketer.

To say that inbound marketing makes outbound obsolete is akin to saying:

Velcro shoes will replace laced shoes
Four-wheel-drive vehicles will replace two-wheel-drive vehicles
Aspartame will replace sugar
Smartphones will replace laptops
Traditional agencies are dead and will be replaced by digital agencies

Remember that last one? Go back about six years and read the headlines in marketing trade journals and you’ll find that this was the buzz. Some digital shops were flush with success and quite certain that they would dominate the industry. Instead, the established marketing community adopted and absorbed digital disciplines when they became established and credible. Those true marketers then integrated that discipline into greater holistic solutions.

Today, inbound marketing is dominated by those who have mastery of the software and core activities that make up the craft. They tend to focus primarily on tactics, but there are many sophisticated techniques that must be applied outside of these core tactics. My advice and request for my soul mates – those early adopters of inbound marketing – is not to degrade the discipline by pitching it as a replacement to outbound but rather understanding that it should be integrated with outbound marketing efforts as part of a company’s holistic marketing plan. Inbound marketing is worthy of great respect on its own merit – don’t try so hard!

“STIR Advertising and Integrated Messaging in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, blends the disciplines of a creative advertising agency with a fully functional digital marketing agency. Find out more about STIR atwww.stirstuff.com.

The Confused and Insane World of Advertising Agency RFP’s! Or Lord Love a Duck!

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

Every agency wants an easy way to find new clients. And apparently clients think agencies are just waiting for them to post a juicy RFP (as in Request for Proposal). If you don’t share that opinion, try Googling “Advertising RFP’s”. You’ll find hundreds if not thousands of RFP’s of every kind for every industry and for every budget. However, look closely and in many cases, you’ll find the budget mysteriously missing. That’s because on close inspection, there is no committed budget, there is no structured outline for the assignment, and the client (often lead by someone in the Procurement department) expects your agency to conduct both the research and analysis to identify the necessary budget.  In the end (if you ever get there), you’ll be lucky to discover the client has or is willing to spend what you’ve identified. And if you’re willing to wade your way through their obligatory legalese and agree to their terms (they own everything, you own nothing and you’ll get paid when), then maybe the RFP route is for you.

Now to the real point of all this … There is no precision or particular logic to the RFP postings themselves or the agency audience that will see them. Many of the posted RFP’s are accompanied by historically littered “rules & regulations” copied from those that preceded them, and they reek of mandated conformity. In particular, they include the admonition that any attempt to contact anyone at the company (imagine that – talk with someone at the client) will result in removal from consideration. In general and given any choice, agencies avoid these RFP’s like the plague! So what happens? Most who posted the RFP’s experience a modest or otherwise minimal response, and the picken’s are slim. They find themselves selecting not the best from a group of great candidates, but the best from a lot in which there may be no “best.” In some cases, the incumbent retains the account because no other agency was prepared or willing to penetrate the shield. And everyone loses.

You might think a Master RFP site is the answer. I say politely you are  crazy – the RFP is NOT THE ROUTE TO GO! I started this piece as an “expose” on the ridiculous state of the RFP situation without anticipating where I’d end up. I honestly had no self-interest in mind but I’m now heading to the conclusion that the best solution would be a SUPER AGENCYFINDER – an agency search and matchmaking service that represents all the marketing firms in the US and then that fact is made known to every client that might ever need an agency. This process turns the RFP around and enables clients by giving them the power and precision to find and evaluate firms that fit their needs – for experience, services, location, size and more.  That’s a gigantic undertaking beyond our current capacity (staff, facilities, capital) but it’s an idea that demands to be built. We’ll need some partners with genius, brilliance and deep pockets.  If you’d like to be involved, let me hear from you. Even your thoughts are welcome.

Write me: chuck@agencyfinder.com

 

 

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