|We’re going to kick this off with some tough love: The world does not need another generalist firm.
The reason why running your agency still feels so hard is you have not successfully positioned your firm. And let me tell you, avoiding The Difficult Business Decision is the single biggest problem when it comes to business development.
Specializing is scary. It feels risky. You don’t want to scare off leads — lord knows, they’re hard enough to come by!
Think about that for a second.
You call yourself a “full-service agency” because it makes you feel like you’re covering all the bases. Look no further, Mr. Client! There’s nothing we can’t do for you.
But if your client list is bloated with too many clients, paying too little but demanding way too much and, keeping you from actually attracting the ideal clients you so dearly need — you have a positioning problem.
Maybe it’s time to rethink risk.
Like a list of competitors as long as your arm — and that’s just your local market.
That is risky.
In this scenario, you have little or no power so you capitulate and write the Big Damned Expensive Proposal (and miss eating dinner with your family, again).
Your power comes from being seen as meaningfully different in the eyes of your ideal client.
To choose a focus for a market is to choose power. You are choosing to be strong.
The truth is, successful positioning is what separates the good WWP firms from the great.
They didn’t get there by failing to decide.
They got there by boldly staking their claim and building deep expertise in the service of their ideal clients.
They didn’t let an expensive consultant do the picking for them.
They didn’t delegate it to a writer or make it a branding-by-committee exercise.
They did the hard work of reframing their business around their bold decision (we’ll get to that later) … but first, they decided … to decide.
“I’m going to do X discipline for Y market.”
Stay tuned: we’re going to share the framework for making that Big Business Decision and all the things that flow from it that have served other WWP firms just like yours so well in a few days.
And just in case you’re thinking:
“I get it. I do. But we’re a creative firm … I’ll be bored with any one thing I choose in about 3 months flat. Then what?”
That’s a topic for our next email.
It’s one of the BIGGEST misconceptions — that your creativity will shrivel up and die. I promise you, it’s the opposite.
I’ll show you what your new and powerful world will look like in my next email.
We’ll look for it and get it posted!
This post compliments of Shannyn Lee, Director of Coaching at Win Without Pitching
Guest Contributor – Drew McLellan of AMI
If there has ever been a year when our confidence has taken a knock to the chin, it’s this one. If you are like most agency owners, January and February gave every indication that 2020 was going to be a break-out year for you.
Many agencies reported the most robust January they’d had in a decade and were looking to exceed year-end goals. And then COVID hit. Many of us went two to three months, feeling it was inappropriate to sell at all, and when we did, it was a bit apologetically.
As if that was not enough, the combination of COVID, racial tensions, economic challenges, back to school maybes, and just feeling like we are still being restricted and contained at every turn has caused an underlying malaise in just about every human I know.
Muster Up the Courage – Given everything we’re all carrying on our shoulders right now, how in the world do we muster up the confidence to sell?
Marketing and sales are all about confidence. When you believe in what you’re selling, know it is the right answer for the prospect, and can see the benefits the prospect could enjoy – it’s much easier to approach a new opportunity and offer your assistance.
Focus on the facts – That’s where I think we can regain our confidence – by focusing on the fact that we have something valuable to offer and seeing sales as us offering assistance. Your marketing should be helpful and useful, which builds trust. Once the trust is seeded, sales is about continuing the trust-building while offering tailored solutions that are going to exceed expectations.
Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s Shark Tank, recently shared a letter that she wrote to the show’s producer Mark Burnett. It’s clear from the letter than she had received a “thanks, but no thanks” response to her audition and I’m sure Mark expected her to exit gracefully.
Instead, she sent him this letter, outlining very respectfully why this was not the right decision. Her arguments were not about her but how he was taking a more significant risk by not allowing her to come to LA for the final tryout, even though her rival for the position would be there as well.
She called Burnett’s rejection a lucky charm and then gave him point by point suggestions of how his final decision would be more reliable if he reconsidered her for a role on the show.
The entire letter exudes confidence. There’s nothing arrogant about it, but as she builds her case, you begin to understand what a formidable force she really is. She ends the letter acknowledging that it is his decision, but she’s already booked her flight and hopes he invites her to get on that plane.
While the letter may not be your style — I know you can find your own way to exude that level of confidence.
It’s about having faith in yourself and what you sell. It’s about truly understanding what your potential buyer is trying to accomplish, his/her situation, and being helpful to their efforts. And even when you get a “no”, remembering that it’s not really a “no”. You’ve planted a seed that you need to nurture. Sooner or later, it will grow to a “yes”.
How can you bake that confidence into your sales efforts for the rest of the year?
Sometimes Amused: As the owner of an agency search consulting service, I’m sometimes amused when an advertiser is surprised when every invited agency wasn’t interested in their opportunity. Maybe that harks back to the days when consultants were guilty of sending out 50+ RPF’s (i.e. – the infamous cattle call) and waiting for the chips to fall. Under today’s circumstances, you might expect agencies to pounce on everything new that comes their way. That’s clearly not the case, and never was, but for any company looking to engage new “marketing outsources”, it helps to know what attracts an agency. Here’s a thumbnail.
What agencies want to know: At the onset, agencies like to know why they were included. Was it their reputation, creative, awards, profile in a database or experience with the consultant. Agencies expect to be talking directly to the client. Gone are the days where the consultant served as a conduit between the two, screening and interpreting the message content. An impersonal RFP calling for pages of agency detail coupled with an admonishment not to contact anyone at the company is an immediate Red Flag. An agency wants to be speaking and dealing with the person who is managing the review, an individual with authority, well beyond the collection of candidate credentials. An initial due-diligence phone interview saves everyone time and money. It gives the agency a chance to ask and answer and the client to reciprocate. Here the parties evaluate “chemistry”, the magic elixir that will or will not cement the two in an extended relationship. Questions such as – Is this a project or an extended relationship? What’s the desired measurable outcome? Then budget, that elusive budget. An agency worth hiring needs to know what funds will be available to manage the assignment. Not precisely but order of magnitude. Don’t shadowbox there. Summarizing, that phone interview should have given the agency sufficient information to produce and send a package of preliminary agency materials with relevant experience, similar client challenges, creative strategies, client testimonials, agency capabilities and credentials.
There’s always fallout: There’s always an immediate fallout from initial invitations; then more will follow phone interviews. Upon receipt of agency materials, corporate colleagues are assigned to examine and evaluate what was received. Some agencies are eliminated (for any reason). Ideally there should be 6-8 firms that remain. Schedule those for on-site or Zoom visits. Then identify the 2-3 finalists. There’s clearly more to those visits and final presentations than I’ve described; the entire process is where a search consultant earns their stripes!
Editor’s Note: Your agency may already be a member of Drew McLellan’s Agency Management Group. Drew works extremely hard to help and guide his agencies. That’s particularly true now. His advice is good for all.
For most of us, we are approaching the six-month mark of the most challenging time of our professional lives. If we’re being honest with each other and ourselves, it is taking its toll. We have to listen to what’s happening in our hearts and give a lot of credence to the nudges that are subconsciously trying to keep us whole and healthy through this.
It doesn’t really matter if your agency has never been busier or you are scrambling to bring in enough new business to keep your team intact — none of us are getting through this unscathed. Everything is just more difficult. We’re not meant to be this isolated, and the cracks are showing. The burden of leading your team through this is a heavy one.
The coping mechanisms we deployed in March are starting to wear thin and everyone is feeling very frayed at the edges.
You may be experiencing it differently, but many of the agency owners I’ve talked to have felt themselves slipping into this odd mix of anger, frustration, and depression. We feel like we have to keep it contained because our team, our family, and our friends are counting on us to lead them through this.
And we will — but we have to lead ourselves through it as well.
The problem is, the pressure of that containment is going to win out if it hasn’t already. I know for me, I had to consciously find ways to release it before it exploded in a really ugly way. I had to take back what control I could and recognize that I do have choices that COVID has not taken away from me.
Every one of us is going to have a different pressure valve. And our own coping skills are whispering to us what they are. You have to listen with intention sometimes to hear the nudges — but they are there.
For some of you, it may be about being with people who fill you up and finding a safe way to do that. For others, it may be getting away from technology and truly unplugging for a few days by a lake or a cabin in the woods. For yet others, it may be forcing yourself to take a few days off and indulging in whatever hobby brings you joy. I believe for most of us, it’s going to require something significant to help you keep your equilibrium.
I know you’ve been coping through this thing in lots of little ways. I’m not talking about another zoom cocktail hour or FaceTime with a friend. All these options are good — but it feels like the pressure is winning out for many. It’s time to truly take a break of some kind to release that pressure valve.
Listen for it. Find it. Give it to yourself. This isn’t about being selfish. It’s about making sure you don’t run empty.
Right after my mom passed away, several wise friends who had endured a significant loss of their own counseled me not to make any big decisions for at least six months, because grief brain was real. It’s a physical reaction that can release high levels of stress hormones in the body leading to confusion, fuzzy thinking, disrupted sleep, and depression. Sound familiar?
Looking back at that time, I recognize how grateful I am that they offered that advice and I was smart enough to take it.
I think we’re all suffering from grief brain right now. We are grieving the killer year our agencies were on track to have. We’re grieving the normalcy of a collaborative work environment without social distancing and wiping everything down. We’re grieving clients who have paused or left. And each of us is grieving our personal losses on top of the work ones.
It’s easy to rush to an extreme decision when you’re in the grips of grief brain. It feels good to take back the control. It makes sense in the moment to make a radical change in your business based on what you know about today. But, for the long-term health of your agency — please proceed with caution.
There’s a significant difference between the reality we’re in, versus suffering the loss of a loved one. One is a new and permanent reality. This is not. We are not all going to be wearing masks forever. We are not going to be wiping down every surface forever or feeling anxious when a stranger bursts our six-foot bubble.
I have no idea when we’ll be past COVID, but we will get past it. This moment in time is not our new normal.
If you’re heading towards a huge decision — find people to think it through with you. Ask them to play devil’s advocate. Force yourself to explain in as if it were 2023. Does it still make sense?
It might be the right call. Or it may be the right call for the rest of 2020 but a terrible decision for 2021. A rash decision in 2020 could unravel what you’ve spent decades building. Just go slow and double-check your thinking.
Don’t let grief brain play its tricks on you.
Great thoughts from Drew McLellan @ AMI
In last week’s notes, I talked about all of the ways agencies are using this strange moment in time as the impetus to create something new or give something old a fresh twist. The ingenuity that you are demonstrating is just one of the reasons why I think your agency is about to bloom in some very cool new ways.
|I think we are entering the age of the small to mid-sized agency. Here’s why I think you are poised for explosive growth and new opportunity:
And that, my friends, is you. Just like people want to shop local, clients want relationships that feel a little deeper, a little more valued, and want to partner with someone that they believe truly has their back.
So often I see you trying to disguise your size by not proudly owning it. Now it is time for you to shout that you are the perfect size to play a major role in your client’s success.
Keep demonstrating your innovative spirit. Celebrate the relationships you have with clients. Promote that you are ready to re-define the rules and get out there and win some new business!
This is your time!
Words of Wisdom from our friend Drew McLellan @ AMI
Stay with me, this might explain and offer a fix. Here at AgencyFinder.com we use our own mail server for Flash Reports and group email intended for our registered agency contacts. We don’t use services like MailChimp or ConstantContact because we don’t want their Opt Out feature to remove a critical agency contact. Even in our emails, an incorrect Opt Out request can end up taking the agency off-line. Read our Opt Out instructions below for details.
For years our incoming mail came in through Earthlink. They proved to have an aggressive filter that seldom grabbed anything we needed to see. Your agency should want to see all non-malicious email that arrives so you can pick and choose. After all, we’re both wanting to engage anyone looking to hire an agency. In our case, we’re also on the lookout for agencies wanting to enroll for new business.
Six months ago, we experienced a change. Email from my ISP Webmaster wasn’t getting through to me. When he asked why I hadn’t been answering, I went looking. Not in my computer’s Outlook Junk folder, but I did find his messages in the early upstream Earthlink web-mail folder. To make a very long story short, EarthLink had hired a new aggressive third-party service to screen and filter their incoming mail. And I was told in no uncertain terms that they couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything on our behalf. My Webmaster tells me all the carriers have tightened up considerably in response to bogus COVID-related traffic. And all that takes place well prior to whatever filters you have set locally, including your White Lists. So for incoming mail we switched to Gmail with good results.
But there’s more. In our recent group emails, we’re seeing evidence of increased blocking by Outlook. Bounced email example: “Outlook blocked access to the following potentially unsafe attachment.” All I did was use a semi-colon in the subject line. If you knew all this already, great. If not, hope it helped!
Note Example: To remove only yourself from AgencyFinder, Opt Out here. To remove your agency from any future invitations, you must be a C-Level Officer. Type REMOVE in the subject line and reply.
Why this is the Right Time to Hire a New or Replacement Ad Agency and Others
Is your current agency or in-house group providing creative and tactical ideas for developing relevant online content during these COVID-19 and country-wide rioting disruptions in business? Are they thinking about how to use this time to help you creatively drive engagement, traffic or calls to your business? If your business has lost internal marketing support is your agency stepping up to fill in those gaps? Regardless of the challenges we all face, there are ways to continue to market and promote a brand. Finding the right PR, digital or marketing agency can transform these challenges into opportunities.
COVID-19 has given us time to think. If you have anything to do with marketing, this disruption is likely causing a lot of indecision. Hiring a marketing, digital or PR partner is about identifying the right agency and talent that understands your industry and how to mitigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. They must have a firm understanding of what it takes to continue building brand awareness and sales. If you have an agency or in-house department that is not pulling their weight, use this time wisely to consider searching for a new partner.
There’s the temptation to search for an agency “type.” As in digital, experiential, direct, integrated, public relations and so on. Don’t start with type. Start with experience. Does this agency have relevant experience in your industry, do they understand the nuances and personalities of the people you are targeting? Do they have the right type of talent, experience and background that brings fresh thinking? are they equipped to work remotely with your company and team to turn projects around on budget and deadline? Are they willing to share meaningful insights that can help accelerate the growth of your brand? Are they the right size, fit, responsive and willing to do what it takes to ensure the seamless execution and implementation of any marketing challenging?
In the final analysis, many options exist for identifying a new marketing partner. Many of which are impersonal and lack the insights, details and information necessary to make a good decision. For over 20 years we’ve been connecting marketers and advertisers with agencies and agencies with new clients. We provide an elegantly, curated, powerful, complimentary and efficient, platform to identify and evaluate agencies. The combination of an on-board search engine and extensive agency-produced profiles allows for identifying and targeting the most appropriate candidates.
So is it the right time to find a new marketing partner? See for yourself. There may be the perfect agency just waiting to help through these uncertain times. And the recent turn of events that lead to rioting has added another unheard of challenge. You have nothing to lose and you may be surprised at what you’ll find.
How about it; do you find the pre-COVID commercials showing life as it was a sometimes irritating, annoying reminder we can’t live that way today? Spots showing large gatherings at backyard barbeques; youngsters sitting close on the beach for a beer and bonfire, we’re not there yet. Some brands do show masks and distancing, even voicing the need to take it slow. But most have not.
Understandably no brand wants to bear the messaging burden alone, so how about… would it make sense for the 4A’s, ANA, and the many other agency associations to come together to create PSA’s to address the situation? With positive, upbeat messaging guiding people to a clear path. There’s been nothing like that yet. Corporate and agency cash reserves and personal savings only go so far. Everyone has a stake in that game and it needs to be played. You can play your part beginning here.
Use our dashboard tools and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover how quickly you can scope out the critical baseline needs for your new agency. Menu items guide you forward and the counter shows “how many.”
Our thousands of enrolled agencies constructed and compiled (not curated) the content of their individual profiles. These advertising, digital, integrated, public relations and experiential firms chose to describe themselves selecting from an array of 500+ data fields representing:
a. category experience
b. services offered
e. years in business
f. capitalized billings
g. and much more.
Advertisers and search consultants are entitled to complimentary services. Try it now for yourself.