Business Development

The Disappearing “Agency of Record” & Why …

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

This arrived today by e-mail from my friend Tim Williams who leads Ignition Consulting Group, an oft invited and well-respected presenter of “agency truths.”  I promptly called Tim to talk about the fact that he and I have come to the same conclusion about the same time.  His story is here; ours will unfold in the next two months.  Stay tuned …

Tim Williams writes:

Are you “Agency of Record” for most of your clients?  Some of your clients?  Any of your clients?  You might have answered this question differently a few years ago, but today the vast majority of agencies today provide just a few types of service for their clients.  They may have a “full service” offering but they don’t have the “full service” clients to match.
 
To prove this, prepare a simple spreadsheet with your main service offerings listed across the top. Now list your major clients down the left-hand side of the sheet.  For each client, indicate which of your services they use.  If you’re like most agencies, you’ll quickly see that not a single client retains you for true full service.  Instead, they hire you for a select group of capabilities, and work with other agencies for other services.

Time to match our business model with reality

This current state of affairs presents a real problem that most agencies aren’t willing to address; that they are structured and staffed for a business model (full-service agency of record) that began disappearing several decades ago. The only marketers looking for an AOR are small companies who have neither the budget nor the sophistication to assign and allocate marketing duties to multiple agencies. 
 
Among the larger marketers – the brands that most agencies covet – the predominant approach for working with agencies is the “Best of Breed Model” with the marketer acting integrator, surrounded by a federation of agencies who specialize in various components of the marketing mix: advertising creative, media, digital, social, experiential, CRM, etc.
 
So when your website and new business materials describe your agency as a “full-service, integrated marketing communications firm with a wide variety of services” you’re actually trying to sell something that the best and brightest target prospects aren’t really buying.  Again, this comes down to the type of client you want.  If you desire to work for your local bank, hospital, or car dealership, these types of organizations might in fact want “full service.”  But if you aspire to work with national brands, a full-service strategy won’t get you there.

Wanted: best in class

Time and again, the stellar marketers in North America indicate that their top criterion when selecting an agency partner is “the desire to focus on best-in-class specialists.”  They don’t expect any agency to be excellent in everything, and they find it curious if not a infuriating that agencies are not willing to name what they stand for.  Agency websites use such nebulous language that prospective clients are genuinely confused about what they agency actually does.  Or more importantly, what they don’t do. 
 
“Wide range of expertise” is a mutually-exclusive term that deserves to join the ranks of “airline food” or “military intelligence.”  By definition, you can’t have expertise in a wide variety of areas.  And while you’re busy selling “wide,” what clients want to hire is “deep.”  Isn’t time to start selling what your clients and prospects are really buying?

A Cost You Can Cut: Agency New Business

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

Back on February 2nd, Tim Williams,  Marketing author, consultant to agencies and other professional firms, student of “next practices” posted his article suggesting (most believed) that an agency could easily cut the cost of new business. There was a lively exchange of thoughts but there also seemed to be two trains of thought. Hense my post today (February 14th)

I read two topics here – the outreach and focus issue (I agree) and the actual out-of-pocket expenses. So is the agency investment in new business a larger percent of gross sales than that of most companies? I don’t have the statistics; does anyone? Who says it’s expensive? Are we talking about full-time personnel expenses? The prepatory prospecting phases or the pitches? Who says pitches have to be elaborate and costly?

I find agencies often misunderstand what they perceive as the client’s request for spec creative. If it’s specifically requested in the RFP or RFD (Request for Dialogue – our term), then maybe not. But I can’t fault any client for asking for a way both to distinguish one from another or to learn if a candidate was: listening; reading; researching … And I expect an agency to be willing to demonstrate that.

Visiting a website; looking at creative samples and even reading case studies is not sufficient. By example, some of the best agency work shown was often a collaboration between agency and client. Maybe the client volunteered the concept, the headline, much of the copy. The agency did a grand job of execution. If the searching client has no creative skills, then it may be difficult to duplicate that kind of success with that agency.

I expect an agency candidate to be willing and able to “talk” about some concepts, some campaign “themes”, some “what-if’s” to demonstrate they – GOT IT; and were willing to present some value-added to the conversation. In my mind, that’s not spec creative, and if an agency is not willing to do so, they shouldn’t be surprised if they are left at the wayside.

 

Has the definition and role of an “ad agency” changed? A LinkedIn Exchange …

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

Larry Peterson, Director of Client Engagement for JLA Advertising, Atlanta posted the question above on LinkedIn. There was substantial chatter back and forth. Contributors argued the development of new categories, new services, new “descriptions” and questioned whether ad agency was still relevant. The postings continued and I jumped back in after Larry posted this:

I  see where Chuck and Grant are coming from. But, is “Marketing Agency” too broad of a term? We were a creative and code group. Now we are getting asked to recommend Saas solutions to track and measure campaign traction even down to delivering Lead and Demand Gen to a CRM. Based on all the great input here: I think the question might be: Will the ad or marketing firm model be split between digitally accountable functional/tactical firms vs brand development/management firms vs PR and Social firms.

Chuck replied: Larry, I suggest the definition (i.e. – marketing agency) has more to do with how the firm does new business than anything else. If the firm has a strong, definitive “outreach” program using e-mail, direct mail, speech-making, active social media involvement and telephone calls to selected prospects, then message content can include whatever story and/or description the firm chooses. Without such an ongoing, assertive new business effort (which by the way, the majority of marketing firms do not have), then the firm needs inbound sources. That means far more than website keywords or page titles. Those firms need some service like AgencyFinder that employs high visibility and outreach to hook clients of all kind and size; then vector them in to appropriate database candidates that can call themselves whatever they like, finding them based on intended budget, vertical market experience, services offered, size, capitalized billings, location, etc.
 
As I suggested in an earlier post, who is going to take on the challenge and cost to educate clients to whatever new name or description we all favor? In all my years advocating, teaching and delivering various new business techniques to “agencies”, I have learned that most agency personnel are “artists” at heart and aren’t happy with the rejection that is part and parcel of the selling process. To my assertion – call yourself whatever you like, but choose your new business process carefully!

Now I ask you (Dear Reader), How do you see it?

You Can’t Get New Business if Prospective Clients Can’t Find You

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

That was the headline at an AdAge Small Agency Diary article. Tom Martin, founder of Converse Digital wrote to encourage agencies to recognize that clients are resorting to search strategies of their own to find new marketing partners. I found this paragraph particularly telling – “This is the point at which many agencies now find themselves — though often they seem to be in denial. They moan and groan about the cost of participating in RFP-based new-business pitches, but aren’t positioning themselves to adapt to clients’ changing expectations, so they can compete for the new business.”

Tom continues to point out clients are searching for answers to their marketing problems; sounds so simple and straightforward, yet so many struggle to make “new business” complicated. He concludes by suggesting – “So if you’re truly tired of the RFP rat race, do something about it. Go find out what you spent last year on pitches and dedicate 25% of that to taking the steps above. Dedicate yourself to giving the system a year to generate results. I promise you, you won’t regret it.”

I couldn’t resist, I had to contribute. I posted:  Tom makes great suggestions for agencies seeking new business opportunities. For those who follow his advice, simultaneously drop the “iron curtain” screen on incoming e-mails from those not yet on your white list. Many legitimate client inquiries and even invitations get blocked and bounced by your filters. Instead, designate a specific e-mail for inquiries (not ), make that easy to find on your website, and only give one or two trusted, virus-aware individuals access to open those.

Next suggestion … with all the competition for SEO awareness, an individual agency will be hard-pressed to successfully compete for visibility in the sea of relevant search terms.  How many agencies in North America? Try 30,000. One benchmark for years has been the 15,000 count at www.Redbooks.com Regardless, there are too many fish in that pond to hope to be found all alone.

But don’t abandon your plan to optimize – register with some of the successful client/agency match-makers who make being found their stock-in-trade. They compete for relevant keywords and tend to be found before an individual agency. Those with time-tested search algorithms and deep agency databases can and do deliver the precision Tom describes. That’s what we’ve been doing at www.agencyfinder.com for 17 years.

Tracking software analytical tools are great, but they often provide more information than you can effectively absorb, and short of conducting “auto-responder marketing” to every likely individual at companies that visit, they all lack the ability to provide the visitor’s e-mail and/or name. But I’ll be first in line when that happens and is legal.

Chuck Meyst
Chairman & CEO
AgencyFinder.com

No E-Auctions or Reverse Auctions at AGENCYFINDER.COM

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

Back in early 2000, my now-deceased partner came to me all excited. His was a website-building company and their newest client wanted to run an “art” auction on line. Dick came to me back then, all smiles but without the benefit of advertising industry experience. He outlined this “really neat auction model” where we’d post the client specs and give our registered agencies the chance to bid on the business, where low bidder was meant to be the winner. That would have made us the first search consultant to use a Reverse E-Auction model, but after I took time, patience and purpose to explain you don’t EVER bid on creativity, Dick and I put that plan in the trash.

My suggestion for dealing with the “Auction” model? Either refuse to participate, or win the business and then give the client what they paid for.

Social Networking Milestone – Facebook’s Timeline

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

Just in time for the holidays; a time of family, friends and old acquaintances. The warmth of a friendly fire, chestnuts roasting there and all that …  In keeping with that theme and thought, the radio announcement I heard in the car earlier this week declared that Facebook’s new Timeline offers “a richer experience meeting people on-line than meeting them face-to-face!”

From your new business perspective then, why bother! What a corruption of human intercourse … Gads!

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