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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

 

Breaking News – Baidu and Alibaba Best Yahoo and Twitter for Digital Ad Revenue Yahoo, Microsoft Continue to Cede Share, According to EMarketer Estimates

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog Posts

This caught my eye this morning because it wasn’t long ago (specifically September this year 2014) that we managed the Baidu search for a PR firm in London. The name Baidu wasn’t well known here in the States or even in London for that matter, but they have every intention of becoming a dominant player. Apparently it’s working. It’s also testimony to the vastness yet the precision of Internet search when you consider Baidu found AgencyFinder!

Here’s their on-line press from today:

Here was our announcement in the Search Announcements section:

Client: Baidu Location: Sunnyvale, CA & Shenzhen, China Budget: $TBA for public relations Client-Category: DOT.com, computer software, mobile apps Awarded to: Waggener Edstrom Communications, London

Contenders: eclat Marketing, London; Sagon-Phior/Turnkey, Los Angeles/London; Touchdown, London

Three Remarkable Alternatives to Spec Creative for Agencies in Final Presentations

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog Posts

Here at AgencyFinder, we advise advertisers not to request or encourage “spec creative” in their final presentations. Yet one ad agency’s “spec creative” is another ad agency’s “demonstration.” But in general, spec creative to most means a sample ad or ad campaign that purports to represent an agency’s best thoughts for delivering “positive needle-movement” for the client conducting an advertising agency search and review.

In the next breath, there seems to be agreement that a client deserves to see, in one way, shape or form, that an agency “get’s it!” by demonstrating they will be able to deliver those positive results if hired and compensated to do so.

Here are some alternatives we suggest:

1. The Backward Glance – have the client reflect back (1-2 years) to a specific situation that occurred (marketing challenge) where they have evidence of actual results. In the Presentation Brief, outline that situation in it’s entirety, then assign contending agencies the task of presenting specific solutions, including “spec creative” if they wish. Then compare and contrast those proposals to what actually did happen.

2. The Dissimilar Business – have the client create a brief for a fictitious business situation (but familiar to the client) clearly removed and distant from the client’s actual business. Let the contenders propose to this make-believe situation (with spec if they desire) but doing it this way, the client can witness the problem-solving skills of each agency without triggering agency concern that this creative might be “stolen” without compensation!

3. The Complete Surprise – client gives contending agency folks (no advance notice other than the fact they can bring as many and whoever they wish) a “surprise” on-site assignment and 1 hour (with client present and witnessing) to prepare; then 30 minutes to present. No tools other than flip charts and markers.

In numbers 1 & 2 above, and with advance notice, each agency is asked to prepare a “Presentation Invoice” with details to show time, rates and totals for the presentation as if the agency were already on-board. That gets presented following the formal presentation.

This topic is considerably more involved than this short discussion allows, but if you’d like to chat or help us expand on this, give me a call or drop me an email.

– See more at: http://www.agencyfinder.com/2014/10/three-remarkable-alternatives-to-spec-creative-for-agencies-in-final-presentations/#sthash.ZRrqI1PK.dpuf

The World’s Most Famous New Business Cure for an Ailing Agency of PR Firm

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog Posts

Allow me to modestly declare that I hold a field-accredited PhD in business development and cut my teeth in agency new business from 1990 – 1994 working from Richmond, Virginia but teaching agencies and pr firms throughout the US.

Much after-the-fact and years later, I learned that we were plugging away in the midst of a recessionary period ourselves, but since the media had not yet pronounced it so, we were essentially oblivious to the fact. I do know (and we taught it as well) that you had to make your own new business, and that was true then and it’s still true now.

We practiced what we preached – we armed ourselves with computers, a database of agency prospects (eventually about 7,000), contact management software (ACT), “send-me-something” mailers, a headset and a whoopee cushion.

Then we started dialing for dollars … Nothing scripted, but I can assure you, the first few sentences were ingrained after a few calls. We were looking for agencies that needed new clients, wanted new clients, were prepared to work to earn new clients, and were willing (even in those times) to investment-spend in themselves.

Some calls were painful. And some agency receptionists were their own worst enemies. Then again, some were absolute delights. Funny, but we could never predict who was coming next, but I can say that if we stopped because we were told no, or someone hung up on us, that was it for the day! So we learned to press on.

We conducted some research back then, and learned that at any given time, about 35% of the client (as in “advertiser” universe) was willing to talk to a new agency about a possible relationship. We assumed those figures applied to agencies as well (as clients), so we knew to press on. We also operated on the ten percent premise; that being that one out of ten in the database would find our offers interesting. So here’s the world’s best, most famous new business “cure” and probably no secret to you; you just wanted to be reminded. Do some mailing (E or other-wise), pick up the phone and call prospects. Many will say no, but if you do the numbers, somewhere between one and three may say yes. Remember, if you’ve had nine “No’s”, your next one is a Yes! Press On! Take control in this economy when and where you can!

– See more at: http://www.agencyfinder.com/2014/10/the-worlds-most-famous-new-business-cure-for-an-ailing-agency-of-pr-firm/#sthash.xYcVlWpr.dpuf

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!

Finding London PR Needle-in-a-Haystack from San Francisco & Richmond, VA

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

We’re always a bit more than ordinarily motivated when we can manage an International search. The good folks at Baidu came to us in late May this year looking for help – not in the US but in the UK. Baidu is China’s 1 search engine, answering more than 5 billion queries each day. Baidu’s international products are already in use by more than 120 million people outside of China, but brand recognition is relatively low. They came to AgencyFinder looking for a PR firm in London that could help to both establish their brand and drive downloads of their free products. Speaking of International, Baidu’s Director of International Marketing is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California on their Silicon Valley campus. Read about their plans here.

Baidu has developed a number of mobile (Android) and desktop (PC) applications available to the wide world. These consist predominantly of utility applications that have broad audiences. Currently, these products include: DU Battery Saver (Android) DU Speed Booster (Android) Baidu Browser (Android) Baidu PC Faster (PC) Baidu Antivirus (PC) Baidu Spark Browser (PC)

AgencyFinder had established “boots on the ground” in England beginning in 2008 using an in-place agent to represent our services. They aggressively enrolled some of England’s finest advertising and public relations firms for whom we’ve been able to secure new clients.

We started the Baidu search from Richmond, Virginia with 15 candidates but quickly narrowed that to 7. Because of distance and time zones, Baidu conducted initial telephone interviews and examined agency decks. They identified their semi-finalists and planned site visits – to tour agency offices and meet the staff. They identified four – eclat Marketing, Lightwater; Waggener Edstrom Communications, London, Sagon-Phior/Turnkey, Los Angeles/London; and Touchdown, London. Site visits began on a Wednesday and concluded Thursday. While still in London, the client made their decision and announced that same Friday. In a most efficient manner, the business was awarded to a lucky and pleased Waggener Edstrom.

The New NRA TV Spots – Impactful!

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

My wife and I sat quietly as the first of these new spots unfolded on our large-screen HDTV. First the talent against a black background; talking quietly at first in a way that drew us in. What was the subject? What was this about? Then great live images of diverse scenes and finally, the fact that this talent was speaking about and for the 5 Million members of the National Rifle Association. Very impressive.

We’ve seen a few spots so far; not sure how many have been produced. I looked into our database to find the agency of record but wasn’t successful. Anyone know who is doing these? Agree or disagree?

SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 ANNIVERSARY

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

As I did on September 11, 2001, this morning I sat on our living room couch in Richmond, Virginia and watched the news. What I saw today was a replay of inappropriately labeled “highlights” from the attack on the Twin Towers in New York back then. My emotions of that day returned; I was sickened seeing those that chose jumping to fire. I teared for people running from death. I struggled to understand – who, why, for what?

Back in 2001 I was scheduled to fly to Cleveland for an industry conference. As the tragedy began to unfold on the screen before me, under the circumstances I thought of the foolishness to travel by air today. But I had committed to the trip. Staying seated for as long as I could without jeopardizing my travel plans, I finally rose and kissed my wife goodbye.

I’d been carrying around an unsigned and unwitnessed “last will and testament” in my car and decided now was the time and occasion to do something about it. On the way to the airport, I pulled off to get to one of our bank branches. Quickly in, sign and witness and I was on my way. On the Interstate and heading to the airport, the radio news was interrupted by the announcement that the Government had mandated ALL aircraft to land and none were to take flight. Thank God, my problem was solved …

And it seems today, September 11, 2014 passed without incident.

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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