Business Development

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

 

 

Open the Damn Door! We’ve Got New Business for Your Firm!

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

Can you believe it! Clients who come to us for help conducting their agency review often share a horror story – their difficulty penetrating the protective agency shield managed by the “New Business Coordinator.” Before coming to AgencyFinder, they tried to conduct a search themselves. By whatever process they identified their initial candidates, when they reached out and made contact they tell us of the off-putting practice by people they thought would welcome a new client opportunity. That might surprise you too, but even we experience that with some of our registered agencies who presumably came to us looking for new clients. Go figure…

Part of what we do that they can’t is penetrate that “shield.” Back when we started and continuing today, we use three different technologies to make each invited agency well aware of each opportunity we have for them. How? We start with a brief e-mail to the primary and alternate new business contacts identifying the client, their budget and their URL. Then we let them know we’re about to send them a “Fax” that will contain the entire Request for Dialogue (RFD). And if they don’t have a fax anymore, we ask for the number of a machine nearby. Yes the Fax is a dated technology but it does give us a way to defeat the “heavy duty” e-mail filters that agency IT folks have installed. If you think each agency would always be open to new opportunities, I share that thought but have trouble coming to grips with e-mail filters that isolate them. Even when we fail to penetrate with the fax, our final outreach is one or a series of phone calls. When we connect we test to learn what they received – and at that point we can take steps to share all the details.

Fax machines seem to bring either vacation specials to Cancun, Jamaica or Hawaii, funding for cash-flow or expansion or AgencyFinder invitations! A Brother IntelliFAX High-Speed Laser Fax Machine is priced at $170 at Staples and can be installed to share on an existing phone line. Small price to pay to vector in new business. Some might say that better than that is @eFax. If an agency wants to learn about every incoming opportunity from any source, I encourage an agency to invest in some form of fax service. Check websites for the branded agencies and you’ll often see fax numbers. If they think it’s worth it, so should you.

Helpful Tips for Our Agency Friends!

Blair Enns at Win Without Pitching asks – Is This Fun?

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

A proper approach to selling should be energy positive. It should be sustainable. And it should be fun – even when you lose. And that, to me, is the test: how do you feel after you don’t win an opportunity? Are you depleted or are you charged by the interchange and the progress you’ve made? Are you left mourning the loss and regretting the expense or are you left thinking you’re one step closer to being hired by this client in the future? If the engagement was a disaster waiting to happen did you walk away calmly and take some joy in the carnage about to be caused to your less discerning, over-eager competitor, or did you ride it out right to the messy end, all the way hoping the warning signs weren’t real?

Early in my agency career, when I was young, stupid(er) and full of energy, I loved the buzz of the chase and the thrill of the pitch. At least I loved it for a short period of time. In truth it was emotionally and physically taxing but the occasional win bought back some of the spent energy and allowed me to keep going for awhile longer. In moments immediately following those wins I would probably even claim that I was energized by the process. String together a few losses however or fast forward a few years and it’s hard to deny that the late nights, spent psychic energy and emotional roller-coaster of the pitch is ultimately energy-depleting and difficult to sustain.

As I think about it today I draw parallels to gambling. We’ve all met someone who regularly plays cards, slots or maybe the lottery and claims to be winning. They are winning, on occasion, and it’s that occasional win that keeps them going back to bet again. We know intuitively however that in the big picture and over the long haul they are almost certainly not winning – the system is rigged toward the house and the longer someone plays the more likely their results will revert to the mean, which depending on the game and the house correlates to a loss of between 2% and 20% of everything they bet, over the long term. (Yes, a small number of people have figured out how to beat the system but we both know your crazy Aunt Betty is spending way more grocery money on lottery tickets than she’s letting on.) Some of these ‘winning’ gamblers are addicted, in denial and approaching catastrophic failure. But I digress.

Just as hitting the occasional jackpot at the slots almost never equates to building wealth, the energy gained from winning a pitch only briefly masks the truth that over time a pitch-based approach to new business is expensive by any measure, including joy.

Selling should be fun – it can be fun – and I mean over the long haul, not in fits and starts that coincide with your occasional wins. If it’s not fun you’re not doing it right, and if you’re not doing it right, you’re not likely to last.

How to Do It Right
Here are three pieces of advice to help keep selling fun, and therefore sustainable, the next time you engage with a prospective client.

1. Remember: It’s a Game
As I’ve said many times, business development is but a game and the game goes by the name The Polite Battle for Control. The name describes the easy, polite jostling that you undertake at the very beginning of the interaction and as long as necessary afterward to claim the high ground in the relationship – the point at which you go from being seen as a vendor to being seen as a professional practitioner. (The moment you achieve this high ground is known as The Flip, which I wrote about last week.)

Games are meant to be fun. The Polite Battle for Control is fun because your game is trying to get the client to change the rules to their game. By affecting the buying process thusly you dramatically increase your odds of winning. If you can impact the process then you proceed; if you cannot you politely walk away in search of another game where you can get the rules changed. Walking away in this manner should enhance your desirability or at least mystery and preserve or even improve future opportunities with that client.

2. FOM
Focus On the Mission. Your mission, in each and every sales interaction, is to position yourself and your firm as the expert practitioner. You don’t sacrifice your mission for anything, ever. Not money. Not glory. Nothing.

While your objective in these interactions is usually to determine if there’s a fit suitable enough to move forward, it’s never achieved at the sacrifice of your mission.

A very successful agency principal once told me a story of her dream client that she had long coveted but had never closed. One day she got a call from them. “I’m calling from the marketing commodity purchasing department,” said the voice on the phone. Seeing the writing on the wall, the agency principal sighed, said, “Well then you’re calling the wrong firm,” said a polite goodbye and hung up.

Her focus was on the long view – being sure her firm, if hired, was able to bring their expertise to bear to create meaningful value for the client. She couldn’t possibly do this by beginning a relationship with her dream client by going in though the commodity purchasing door.

Let your mission guide you and you will be better off in the long run. Focusing on the mission gives you more freedom to play the game.

3. Don’t Over Invest
More than anything else, the energy drain you experience when losing a deal is born in your over-allocation of resources of all types. A pitch-based approach to selling is built around such over allocation, even when no spec creative is being presented. Doing unpaid research on the client’s situation, building decks, travelling to meetings, presenting, thinking too far ahead to how transformative the client would be for your firm – these are some of the ways we over invest in the sale, communicate to the client our lowly position of vendor, and set ourselves up for a crash.

All these forms of over investment can feel energizing and dangerously addictive in the moment and so the temptation to rationalize them as necessary is significant, but it only takes a few successive losses for us to see the waste they represent.

Playing the game begins with saying no to such investments (which are not investments at all but speculations) and offering alternative paths forward. The act of gaining such a concession is the act of improving your odds of winning. It is the beginning of The Flip.

In the end the games you end up playing are the ones where you are able to change the rules, where you value your mission over any tactical objective and where you don’t over invest in the deal. Use those criteria and you’ll win more opportunities and still have fun on the few you don’t win.

New Toys Equals a New Type of Fun
A few days before my oldest son’s tenth birthday we found him in tears. He was dreading turning ten, he finally said through the sobs, because he believed that getting older meant leaving toys behind. I smiled and agreed that as he aged his toys would change but I also promised him that the toys just got better and better. (He didn’t believe me then, but now, ten years later, I’m sure he wouldn’t trade his bikes, skis and electronics for his old Lego.)

When you’re young and trading on personality or your ability to command a room, the pitch can be a lot of fun, but the price you pay for each one catches up to you in the end. The good news is there are other ways to have fun – there are other toys. They are a whole lot more sustainable and even more fun than the pitch.

Integration is a Way of Working, Not a Service Offering

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

My friend Tim Williams @ Ignition Consulting Group posted this today. Worth reading and assimilating as you consider describing your firm to prospects.

“If every agency on the planet is a “full-service, integrated marketing communications firm” (like they say they are), why do clients chronically complain about the lack of integration from their agencies?

Unfortunately, just because agencies have a long list of disciplines doesn’t mean they have the discipline to make them all work together. It’s more likely they have sewn together a Frankenstein that is less, not more, than the sum of its parts.

Lee Clow of TBWA/Chiat/Day once raised a very thought-provoking question. He wondered, if agencies agree that the consumer decision-making process is complex and emotional, why is the process we use to develop our messages to consumers so structured and rational?

In other words, crafting a message that will speak meaningfully to that complex animal we call a consumer isn’t just a matter of going through the sequence that begins with opening a job and ends with emailing a PDF to the client. Yet, sadly enough, that’s how it works a lot of the time in a lot of agencies.

The process we use to develop marketing solutions needs to be much, much more interactive between internal groups in the firm. For one thing, this means replacing “meetings” with a more productive way of working together – like the daily “scrums” (brief, stand-up sessions) used by organizations that follow agile methodologies.

It also means finding a way to get everyone excited about contributing. Interaction is as important in agencies as it is in sports. Can you imagine a football game in which the game begins with a briefing by the coach, but then the team never huddles one single time during the entire game? The quarterback does his best, the receivers do their best, the front line does their best, but they never stop to huddle, talk about the game, and make changes to the game plan.

That’s what we agencies do all the time, day after day. We have a creative brief, but no briefing. Concepts, but no concept review sessions. We don’t stop often enough to huddle.

One more team member

Has this ever happened at your firm? After weeks of late nights and Chinese take-out, the creative team is finally ready to present their recommendations for the new campaign. Their enthusiasm turns to disappointment when the client approves the weakest idea of the bunch instead of the strongest. Should they have presented with more conviction? Defended with more courage?

Very often, the best ideas are lost because the client was involved only at the end of the process – not the beginning. Clients aren’t given an opportunity to feel ownership in an idea. Instead, they are kept at a safe distance from the rogue creative minds of the agency. They are barred from seeing the rough ideas pinned up in the agency’s inner sanctum, and instead are shown highly polished concepts in the sterile environment of a conference room. They have no idea how the agency got from point A to point B, and they have little appreciation for all the ideas that were considered but discarded.

Why? Because they weren’t there. They weren’t involved. They weren’t asked for their opinion, their perspective, or their feedback until the whole process was over. Is it any wonder that clients feel a lack of partnership with their agencies?

Many agencies also keep the client at an unnecessary distance through an unhealthy dependence on the client service team to get work and recommendations presented and approved. As long as the account manager is the sole ambassador of the agency – shuttling work back and forth – other members of the team will have little empathy for what the client wants to do differently and why.

Remember that true integration includes one other important team member: the client.

Integration is something you do, not something you sell

Let’s also define what integration is not. Being integrated doesn’t mean that your agency offers every agency service imaginable. Not only is this unbelievable (from a client perspective), it’s also quite impossible.

Agencies become famous by focusing on what they do best.  My friend, the talented creative coach Tom Monahan, calls this “playing within your game.” Tom observes that “Some of the best athletes in the world are great because they play within their game. Some of the best singers and musicians are great because they don’t try to do things they can’t do.”

Bartle Bogle Hegarty co-founder Sir John Hegarty says BBH owes a lot of its success to sticking to what it does best. “The trouble with agencies,” says Hegarty, “is they don’t limit themselves to what they’re good at.”

In the end, integration is more about how you work than anything else. It’s no coincidence that the A-list agencies are characterized much more by their ability to effectively integrate internally than by their ability to offer “everything” as a service. In fact, most of them don’t.”
_____________________________________

Tim Williams leads Ignition Consulting Group, a consultancy devoted to helping agencies and other professional services firms create and capture more value.

Should Agencies Be Called Agencies?

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

Our business colleague Mike Carlton struck a nerve with his piece today. It’s so important and such a critical element in the process of conducting an “agency search” that it deserves exposure here. Read to the end – there you will find my comments and suggestion as a result of performing thousands of agency searches for clients (advertisers) over 18 years …

Mike begins … What’s In a Name?

Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet proclaimed; “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Not so long ago the American Association of Advertising Agencies announced that henceforth it would be officially called by its long-standing acronym, the “4As.”

In a stroke, the venerable industry association, which since 1917 has ably represented the interests of advertising agencies, was removing the words “advertising agencies” from its name.

Is this rebranding just an effort to simplify its handle? Or is it a reflection of more profound underlying changes in the marketplace?

Has the name “advertising agency” lost its relevance? And if so, by what name should they be called?

Definitions

My 40 year old desk dictionary has this definition:

“An advertising agency is a business that creates and issues advertising for its clients.”

That’s it. Pretty simple. And probably quite appropriate for its time.

Today, Wikipedia has an expanded definition:

“An advertising agency is a service business dedicated to creating, planning and handling advertising (and sometimes other forms of promotion) for its clients. An agency can also handle overall marketing and branding strategies and sales promotion.”

And then, continuing under the heading of Advertising Agencies, Wikipedia goes on for ten more pages defining; Full-Service Agencies, Creative Agencies, Specialist Advertising Agencies, Interactive Agencies, Search Engine Agencies, Social Media Agencies and a bunch of more kinds of agencies.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, they keep Public Relations Firms, Direct Marketing Firms, Branding Agencies, Design Firms each under their own separate headings. Not connected at all to the Advertising Agency heading.

And what’s more, Wikipedia does not have separate listings at all for Market Communications Firms, Media Buying Agencies, Digital Advertising Agencies, Creative Collaboratives, Integrated Advertising Agencies, Idea Factories or Marketing Architecture Firms.

Obviously, agencies have a big category mess on their hands. No, maybe it is more like a category train wreck. What was quite clear and simple a few decades ago has fragmented in to a whole bunch of disparate and often overlapping pieces.

No wonder there is confusion. The words “advertising agency” once represented a precise category. But it sure doesn’t look that way today.

The Difference between DO and HOW

That raises the age-old question; Are we best known by what we DO (what we accomplish) or by HOW we do it? (the tools used)

The answer to this question is important because there is a strong common thread among all of the above businesses in what they DO (what they accomplish).

But there is great difference in HOW they do it (the tools used).

The Common Thread

All of these firms (and their categories and sub-categories) exist for just one reason; To influence the behaviors of consumers (B to B as well) for the benefit of the client marketer, the consumer herself and society as a whole. That’s it.

When you scratch through it all, every one of these businesses is fundamentally in the behavior modification business. That’s the only reason why marketers pay for their services.

So ultimately, all are in the same big category. It just doesn’t have a generally accepted name.

Advertising Agency Etymology

That leads to the questions; How did the name advertising agency come to be? And how has its meaning evolved?

Let’s start with the word “agent.” From a legal point of view an agent is:

“One who is authorized to act on behalf of another (called the principal) to create a legal relationship with a third party.”

An agency is, of course, a business organization which performs on a generally larger and more complex scale the practical and legal functions of an agent.

So, where did agencies come from?

The first advertising agencies started about 150 years ago. They began as sellers of advertising space for newspapers (and a few early magazines) – really the only commercial media available at that time. And newspapers paid agencies a commission for selling that space and assuming advertiser credit risk.

They were in fact and in deed sales agents of newspaper advertising, thus being known descriptively and accurately as “advertising agencies.”

Creating the Ads

But there was a problem. Newspapers didn’t want the responsibility of creating the advertisements that were to fill the space the agencies sold. So, agencies moved into that void and not only sold the space and guaranteed the credit, they also created the ads that would fill the space.

A simple business proposition.

But developing the advertising strategy, the layout design, the copy and then producing the ad itself moved the agencies a lot closer to the marketer. And soon, in an unusual twist on agency practice, they became positioned as the agent of the marketer rather than the agent of the newspaper.

So, the marketer became the principal (the client) and the agency owed its primary allegiance to that marketer client, even though the agency continued to be paid a commission from the newspaper. Thus these young service businesses became advertising agencies for their clients.

The words “advertising agency” continued to be perfectly descriptive. And perfectly comprehensive.

But Things Change

As time went by, in their special relationship with clients, advertising agencies began doing things for those clients in addition to just media advertising. They created brochures and bought printing. They undertook sales promotion activities. Originated designs, illustrations and logos. Sometimes they performed public relations services, too.

In some of these services they acted as legal agents, like when they were buying media, printing, etc. for their clients.

But sometimes they acted as advisors or consultants, for which they were paid a fee for the services they performed.

And sometimes they just acted as vendors when they sold the client something for a fixed, all inclusive, price.

What had started out as a simple business model became increasingly fuzzy.

Fast-Forward to Today

Ways to reach and influence the consumer have grown exponentially. The advent of the internet and the wide range of new media employed have further complicated things.

While the literal, traditional, meaning of the words “advertising agency” apply for some of the services provided, in lots of instances the work is not advertising and the relationship with the client is not that of an agent.

And to confuse matters even more, a host of other kinds of firms have sprung up (many of which are owned or financed by agencies or agency holding companies) which don’t call themselves advertising agencies but provide related services designed to influence the marketer’s consumers. And in some cases, these new players create and place advertising itself.

And in doing so are actually acting as legal agents of the client principal.

Wow! The waters have indeed become muddy.

Umbrella Category

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an umbrella category with a simple, descriptive name that all of the various businesses serving marketers could be under? One that embraced advertising agencies, PR firms, emarketing companies, design studios, and digital firms, analytics specialists, etc, etc. Wouldn’t that make it easier for marketers and the service providing firms themselves?

It sure would. But it is not likely to happen.

And as Dusty Springfield’s song goes, “Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’ will not get you there.” There has to be another way.

In The Eyes of the Beholder

But wait. Language is a living thing. And meanings are constantly changing. Evolving meanings come from the marketplace, not from learned authorities. And the power of the folks in the marketplace to shape those meanings is gaining strength every day.

After all, isn’t that what social media is all about, anyway?

So in light of this, what meaning do most marketers today ascribe to the name advertising agencies? And what might their understanding of that meaning be in the future?

Nothing is For Sure

Of course the problem with market driven meanings is that there is no specific, 100% agreement. Each person holds a slightly different view. Kind of like a continuum in which opinions at the extremes may be dramatically different but there usually are big, statistically significant, clusters scattered along that continuum. And while those clusters are usually slowly moving and constantly reforming they do provide some insight to current meanings.

So let’s explore the meanings of the words advertising agencies, as well as PR firms, digital and social marketing firms, etc., within the context of a big continuum populated by the opinions of marketing executives.

Now, it would be great if there was a reliable study to answer that question. One that is widely accepted showing where executives in this continuum stand on the meaning of the words advertising agency. But there isn’t.

So we don’t have a respected authority to look to for a definitive, statistically accurate picture of how that continuum looks today. Nor the precise shape, location or movement of the various clusters.

But there are some helpful tangential studies and, of course, lots of anecdotal evidence. Based on those sources here are some thoughts.

Beliefs

There is likely to be little argument to the belief that the majority of marketing executives view advertising agencies as providing many more services than just advertising. Most are not stuck in that narrow, literal view. They have a much broader perspective than that.

And that very few actually think much about the legal implications of the word agency. They view advertising agencies as providers of an increasingly broad range of helpful services. And not infrequently they use that dreaded word “vendor” when categorizing advertising agencies.

However, as a Forrester study points out, many senior executives consider advertising agencies excellent at creating and placing advertising but not as strong as they should be in big data digital and other forms of new media.

These important influences apparently believe that advertising agencies as a group have not embraced non-traditional ways of influencing customer behavior as quickly or effectively as they would like. And this has opened their consideration to providers outside the traditional advertising agency category.

Obviously, each agency is different. And the speed and effectiveness with which each has embraced new tools and techniques is different.

But the overall view that Forrester reflects matches lots of anecdotal evidence. Thus, the advertising agency category is frequently painted with this broad brush.

The Agency Conundrum

In addition, some agencies are caught in a trap. A trap largely of their own making. Much of their income comes from hourly charges for creating and producing advertising. And many have become addicted to the revenue that work generates.

At the same time many are not adequately paid for their strategic contributions to client success. Nor have they figured out how to effectively monetize the use of new tools and techniques, particularly in the digital and social world.

This is a tough spot to get out of. But not an impossible one.

A vanguard of progressive advertising agencies are demonstrating powerful chops in digital, social media and promotional PR. And in doing so are effectively and efficiently changing the behavior of their clients’ consumers and being fairly rewarded in the process.

And at the same time expanding the definition of the words advertising agency. At least as that category relates to their specific agency.

The Flip Side

Concurrent with the expansion of services from the advertising agency side, many PR firms, digital and interactive organizations (and other new media service providers) are expanding into the arena that was once the sole province of advertising agencies.

In fact, only a few years ago it was common for new media firms to be primarily technologically driven. While today, it is increasingly likely for them to be much more concerned with the psychological implications of how the user interacts with their technology.

A very significant and very unifying shift.

We Are One

Remember, regardless of what a firm in this broad continuum is called, we are on one unified mission. To change consumer behavior for the benefit of our client, the individual consumer and society as a whole. Often using different tools, but with the same outcome in mind.

We have more in common than that which separates us. And in that truth lies the way forward.

There is no prescribed solution to this category name issue. Nor will there be. Nor should there be.

The language and the business models will be defined by the marketplace. Success in that marketplace will determine the definitions that grow. As well as those that decline.

So, the meaning of the words “advertising agency” may continue to expand. Or it may change. Or just drift away. Same is true for the words “PR firm,” ‘digital agency,” etc., etc.

And, an umbrella category may never materialize. But that’s OK.

Whatever Works!

Every firm in this broad category, whether it began as an advertising agency, or a PR firm, or a digital shop, or a sales promotion business, etc. will be judged not by its category but by how well it accomplishes the objective of influencing consumer behaviors for its clients. The value it brings those clients.

What it chooses to call itself is less important than what it accomplishes. And the perceived value that marketing executives attribute to that firm.

When you think of it in this light it is a much simpler, and less parochial, way of moving forward. And it is certainly in keeping with respecting definitions determined in the free marketplace.

The Wisdom of Juliet

She reminded us that the essence of the rose is that it pleases our sense of smell. That’s what is important. How it does that or what it is called is unimportant. It works the same for your business, too.

##########

Now let me jump back in. I can’t begin to count how many times our “agencies” have asked us what they should call themselves. Surely there are some agencies that have adopted what they thought were clever names, seeking to differentiate themselves from the lot. Names like Flower Garden, Mighty Mechanics, Brain Teasers. I contend and have so all along that like Mike suggests, they are what they are perceived to be. When advertisers (searchers) come to us, they aren’t looking for an ad agency, an integrated marketing communications firm, a social media firm, a pr firm or a Yellow Submarine. They’re looking for a marketing partner who can help manage their marketing and improve their business. Seldom do they come with a preconceived idea how that should be accomplished, although many do know of the various services and media iterations.

We have chosen to blend them into one category – we call them ‘Marketing Firms.’ We try to use that language in our press releases and in general conversation and copy. With newly-registeted clients, we go for the jugular; we ask what services they think they might require, but most importantly, what do they want the “agency” to accomplish for them? That’s how we see it; how about you?

Sincerely,

Chuck Meyst, Chairman & CEO

AgencyFinder.com

 

Agency New Business Secrets Every Rainmaker Should Know (or share) …

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

Every agency has them; every agency new business consultant has them; virtually anyone who’s taken a crack at agency new business development will claim to have some. There aren’t many real secrets, but there are some simple tips worth noting and worth doing.

In the “outreach” category, you need a computer, telephone with headset, and contact management software (ACT, SalesForce, etc.) That platform will give you a place to create prospect and client databases, plus it allows you to “auto-dial” anyone in the database and record your discussion notes “on-the-fly.” It’s absolutely THE most efficient way to manage business relationships. Anything less is cheating yourself and your agency.

In the prospect “first meeting” category, if you were never in the audience for our presentation, you need to experience “The Agency Tour as a New Business Tool.” That presentation by our sister-company Sales Marketing Institute, Ltd. was being made to select agency gatherings back when AgencyFinder was born and still is. Telephone me and I’ll walk you through it.

In all your dealings with a prospect – know your agency, know your people, know what your agency has done and for whom, know what your agency can do and how, be punctual, be honest, be forthright, be sincerely enthusiastic, be inspirational. Don’t be “all that”, don’t be a bore, don’t hog the floor, don’t steal thunder from others.

Ask until you understand; then ask again. Restate what the prospect said, and look for confirmation. Don’t offer solutions until you’ve heard the problem. Don’t speculate (in their business category), but do speculate using fictitious examples to demonstrate how you think and how your agency does do things.

Be careful what you say about anyone to anyone. Assume that any two people of the opposite sex that work together are much closer than it appears. Deal or no deal!

Marketing, advertising and public relations are passionate processes. Find and pick passionate marketing partners; then have fun!

Five Simple Truths for Improving Advertising Agency & PR Firm New Business

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

Yesterday Adweek posted an article discussing the most dangerous job at an ad agency and “new business” won! I added my two-cents and exhanges were brisk. I did some research and found I wrote this back in March 2013. In agency new business, the old is always new again …

Folks are creative by nature, but not universally comfortable with prospecting for new business by reaching out to strangers”, explains AgencyFinder’s CEO Chuck Meyst.   

Battling a challenging economy and an ever-changing media landscape, advertising agencies and public relations firms still face an uphill battle for new business in 2013.

But that’s no reason to despair.

Looking back, there have always been two distinct philosophies and approaches to agency and PR firm business development; pro-active outreach (chase) and inbound marketing (be found).

In pro-active outreach, someone at the agency or an outside contractor has to initiate contact with a prospect by mail, e-mail or phone – often called cold calling.  Meyst remarks “With tongue-in-cheek, some suggest that, without permission, this is tantamount to stalking and that’s against the law!”

The opposite approach (i.e. inbound marketing), requires inquiries triggered by social media, speaking engagements, referrals, website traffic and industry “finder” services.

Meyst summarizes: “Agencies use more new business programs than you can count, but the successful ones follow some fundamental rules that make them effective:”

1. Make someone responsible. New business is NOT everybody’s business at the agency. Hire someone or pick someone and make their employment dependent on some form of measurable success. In most cases, that will be meaningful, face-to-face meetings with pre-qualified prospects. But not “landed” business – too many others at the agency can affect that, one way or other.

2. New business is NOT a natural talent.  See to it that your new business pro gets professional sales training from professionals. A webinar here or there does not qualify. Like CLE credits, new business training should continue.

3. Relax your spam filters! Any IT Director can keep e-mails out. The whole idea is to let prospects (including Certified Search Consultants) find you and make their inquiry.

4. Let your website tell your story.  Prospects want to know what you’ve done (show them category experience), services you offer, where located, who and how many work there and who runs the place (pics and bios). Until they “friend you” they won’t care much about your blog. And please – don’t make that your home page!

5. Chase or Be Found. For those who chase, consider the universe. In categories where they advertise, you’ll find more than 11 million companies. But screen for annual sales over $1M and that count drops to 700,000. If these are your prospects, you need to know what kind of clients and type of business you handle best. Know where you can find them and how your approach will resonate.

As important as selection criterion is for any business you’re chasing, it’s even more important for those clients who are actively seeking a new advertising agency or PR firm to define what they seek.

Hoover’s database identifies 48,500 marketing service agencies (SIC 7311 & SIC 8743) in the USA today. Break it down to those firms with 6 or more employees and the count drops to 8,600. At 25 employees, the count drops to 2000!  A surprisingly small and suspect universe.

 

Real Bad News for Agency New Business Pros

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

Today’s Adweek broke a story by Maureen O’Leary that portends bad new for agency new business pros. Various recent industry surveys revealed the half-life of someone working at agency new business is measured in months, not years. The article prompted me to check Who’s Who at Campbell-Ewald in Detroit; just when I was getting to know Barbara Yolles, she’s gone! Many of our contacts there have retired or moved on. Maureen makes the point that “new business” is a risky business. So I countered with my position based on our experience here at AgencyFinder coupled with my new business consulting at Sales Marketing Institute and Sanders Consulting. I said …

Face it, new business is not a job for an agency person. Let’s stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Most agency people are not fit for a new business because they’re creatives by nature and creatives flinch when their work is criticized. Imagine the internalizations when a prospect tells them to “get lost!” At VCU’s Ad Center here in Richmond, Virginia, unless things have changed, there isn’t a single course or a single semester that even introduces the critical topic “How an agency gets new business.” As in, how do we pay our bills and pay our employees. New business doesn’t “fit” an agency-trained individual and never will.

New business is a “sales job” and I’ve yet to visit an agency to see a door or department banner proclaiming “Sales Department; Sales Manager.” They prefer “Manager of Organic Growth!” Matter of fact, most agency folks cringe at the word sales yet the majority of what an agency produces is funneled into and out into the world through a sales rep (media rep) for the media of choice.

Agencies need to hire “sales people” with the assistance of qualified headhunters like Paul Gumbinner. They must bring “process” to the agency (most don’t have one to offer). The agency needs to hire a new business consultant (ask me, I can make some recommendations) to teach proactive outreach. And the agency needs to invest in what they’re told. Like the need for a developed prospect database, a computerized Contact Management software package along with an assortments of flat and dimensional mailers and conversation pieces. Finally they need an incoming opportunity source, lead generator or agency-side search consultant (as in – us) to vector in real time-sensitive opportunities.

Maybe then they will see the results they seek … I’ve volunteered it before – anyone want to join me in building a Sales university?

Thoughts from Chuck Meyst, Chairman & CEO at AgencyFinder

In a reply to a subsequent post by “Lucy” I wrote:

Lucy,

The entirety of agency new business needs more than a forum and I wasn’t suggesting “agency new business” shouldn’t include and embrace other non-sales-types at the agency. Nor do I see the first-line new business person as a “closer” or someone who does it all alone. Once the prospect’s door has been opened, then a pair (new business person + senior account person “well-versed in all there is to know about the agency and how to interview”) visit the prospect for a face-to-face sit-down.

Not enough space here to address all that is covered then, but a suggested next-step is a client visit to the agency. The “agency-tour-as-new-business-tool” was one of my lectures prior to AgencyFinder and is now an integral element in our agency search process. Walk the floor together, interview department heads where they work, let them “show & tell” and let the prospect see things lying around you wouldn’t have thought to show them. Many times those visuals helped close the business.

I could go on, but as many have already said, certainly it’s a team effort and everyone on the team needs to be trained, rehearsed and ready to integrate with the whole. If it was easy, every agency would be doing it!

 

 

 

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