1. There’s a Time & Place for HTML
2. Agency New Business Pros say the Darndest Things
3. Three Remarkable Alternatives to Spec Creative
4. When your Website and AgencyFinder Profile Disagree
5. AutoZone Demands Pitch Ownership; Agencies Object
THERE’S A TIME & PLACE FOR HTML
Do you get the impression most emails (save for those between friends and colleagues) are rendered in HTML?
If that’s the case, then regardless whether it’s a newsletter, a white paper, a membership alert, or the ad that
it really is, they all look alike and they all look like ads. For your business emails, if you migrated from
plain text to HTML text and then to full HTML with graphics and visuals, you were probably proud of yourself.
But I’ll bet you also discovered it took considerably more time and effort to produce them that way. I won’t
labor the point.
I think there’s an argument and a place for that earlier plain text format – so in the interest of sharing pithy
new business topics you can use to win new clients, that’s the case with today’s Flash Report newsletter.
We’re doing this in a simple, straightforward format to get you the facts fast! Your thoughts?
AGENCY NEW BUSINESS PROS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS …
With each new agency review, we’re destined to hear: “We don’t pay for leads; We don’t do spec creative;
How many agencies have been invited? How much of the budget is for agency fees? How many invitations can
we anticipate in the next 12 months? I don’t mind paying if we win and when we get paid; The majority of our
business comes from referrals; This isn’t a good fit (someone before me created our profile); Is this contact
the decision-maker? Is this client serious or is this just an exercise? There are better agency candidates
right in their backyard; We have yet to win one of these; Do you realize if we were to compete for this,
we’d end up spending $75,000 or more!”
As you might imagine, we’ve heard all these and then some. When someone is inquisitive and wants to know,
we’ll invest whatever time it takes to explain. All I ask is the opportunity to engage in a discussion that
weighs ALL the alternatives. Since we’re not a flat-file database or o-it-yourself-yellow-pages, we devote as
much energy assisting our searching clients as traditional search consultants do. But once we’ve helped the
client identify well-qualified agency candidates; once we reach out to our registered agencies using our
proprietary documents and introductory invitations, that’s where we differ from conventional search consultants.
We insist and want you talking directly to the client; you don’t need to talk to or though us. We’re not a filter
nor are we an arbitrator. Clients do keep us posted on progress; they tell us who called, who sent relevant
samples and agency materials, who they visited and who did and said what. That’s when we hear (here’s an
actual client comment) – “Unfortunately they didn’t submit the RFP on time. And when they visited in person
we could tell they weren’t familiar with our products, services or target market.”
I’m proud when we can invite and introduce a “fat double-handful” of our registered agencies to talk with and
compete for the business of that client that selected us to help them manage their review. Having done this
since 1997, and with that number of search engagements fast approaching 10,000, I know invited agencies
generally have little idea how much has gone on between us and that client since they registered and outlined
their agency “wish-list.” I’m not suggesting a “pity-party,” but it is worth knowing that we’ve had numerous
telephone discussions; that they’ve let their hair down to tell us precisely how it is, and we’ve supplied them
with search process suggestions, evaluation tools and guidelines for alternative final presentation concepts.
So when you’re in the thick of one of our client reviews, I invite you to talk to us straight, share your
concerns and tell me what you need to make an affirmative decision to contend. After all, we’re all
walking in similar “new business” moccasins!
THREE REMARKABLE ALTERNATIVES TO SPEC CREATIVE
We advise all clients not to request or encourage “spec creative.” Yet one agency’s “spec creative” is another
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
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. Outline that situation in it’s entirety, then
assign contenders 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 Model – have the client create a brief for a fictitious business situation (but
familiar to those at 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 Surprise Model – 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, with advance notice, 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.
WHEN YOUR WEBSITE AND AGENCYFINDER PROFILE DISAGREE
On September 29, 2009 we sent you email entitled “Prospects complained about your website.” It began … “I had
to write; too many prospects are complaining about agency websites. After you surface as a qualified candidate in
one of our client searches (meaning your agency has the vertical market experience, services, markets, size and
location they want), they get to see your public AgencyFinder profile. There, they can click on a link to your
website where they expect to find an enhanced and certainly colorful presentation of the data and essays they
found in our data files. But more often than not, they don’t!”
Since that time, more than a few of you took my suggestions to heart to be certain your website reflects your profile, but many have not. Ironically, on September 29th this year, the US headquarters of a UK research firm registered with us to find a pr firm to manage their $100K – $250K budget (fees and production). From their registration on the 29th through October 14th, we went back and forth, compiled and created a spreadsheet of 32 candidates from which the client was intending to identify 10 – 12 to invite.
Here’s what that client wrote me on Oct 14th: “Chuck, I just went through the entire listing of websites on your provided list and scanned them. I couldn’t find a single one stating they had an interest/presence in the Research vertical save for one, and that experience wasn’t at all relevant. I also reviewed all the listed clients since some don’t specify experience by sector. I also couldn’t find a single research client among any agency’s client listings. And most don’t seem to have a global focus. As of right now I couldn’t pick more than 2-3 I’d actually want to invite. (Those 2-3 at least seem to be globally focused with relevant B2B technology experience).”
She continued, “I’m sorry to say this as I know you’ve worked hard for me, and you’ve done a great job advising,
but it appears your pool of candidates are not right for me as they don’t actually have experience in my
industry. They shouldn’t have ticked the box.”
You know as we do that among those 32 were more than a few that met her specs, but it was not meant to be!
Please note – your website is a winner when it reflects what they saw in your profile.
AUTOZONE DEMANDS PITCH OWNERSHIP; AGENCIES OBJECT
On October 31st, in an article featuring the latest AutoZone review, ADWEEK reported that client demand for pitch
creative ownership is becoming more common, and pointed to recent examples. In one, agencies were being offered $30,000; in another they were offered more than $300,000. The feature article and subsequent reader comments might lead a reader to conclude:
Agencies take issue when more than a handful of agencies are invited as candidates …
Agencies take issue when asked to produce spec creative during a review …
Agencies take issue with the amount they’re paid for spec creative …
Agencies take issue when they’re not paid for spec creative …
Agencies take issue when there’s a consultant involved …
Agencies take issue with review procedures …
What’s frustrating are the criticisms but lack of any cohesive suggestion as to precisely how an agency review
should be run, and in so doing, be fair to all.
I suggest the missing element is that precise event, episode, exercise, interaction, intercourse, dialogue,
demonstration, presentation where the client is shown and acknowledges that the agency “Get’s It!;
Can Do It!; Will Do It!; Will make it Happen!”
What we need is a committee made up of agencies, clients and consultants to work that one out …