Blog Posts

What will your tomorrow look like?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Today’s close look by Drew McLellan of AMI

First — many of you let me know, after last week’s note, that apparently the locusts are on their way. I shouldn’t have been surprised!

Many of you also wrote that the piece resonated with you because you were struggling to even think about the agency, let alone buckle down and focus on the work you need to do. I think that’s where we’ve all been for the last couple of weeks.

And it’s no wonder. Here’s what 2020 has looked like so far (you may have to adjust dates based on your location in the world):

January – March 15th:
So busy we couldn’t see straight. Healthy profits and projections said 2020 could be a record year.

March 15th – March 31st: A cocktail mix of panic and paralysis as COVID-19 strikes, clients hit the pause button, and we have to figure out this WFH thing.

April 1st – April 25th: Starting to get our groove back. Gov’t relief funds in the bank and starting to have meaningful conversations with our clients and our team. Had our first decent night’s sleep in awhile, no matter if we lost no business or half our business. We are getting used to the discomfort of not knowing.

April 25th – May 25th: Hey — we’re going to be okay. Landed a new client or two, some clients slowly coming back, and our virtual happy hours are a highlight of the week. We’re beginning to think about going back to the office. And many of us have gotten a haircut!

May 26th – now: A new mix of emotions as we watch the protests, struggle with the raw reality of racism, and in many parts of the US, live under a curfew until the violence settles down.

Tomorrow: Will yours be red or green? Look at the pattern so far. Cooking with gas, then knocked to our knees, struggling to stand up, and then stand tall. Just to get knocked to our knees again.

The way you moved from the panic and paralysis season of COVID-19 is that you believed you had no choice. You just forced yourself to focus, to fight, to serve your clients, and to sell. You took care of your team when you thought your tank was empty and you made smart decisions along the way.

You decided there was no other acceptable path. Yes, it was like climbing a mountain in the dark. But it was the only way forward. And so you not only climbed the mountain — you scaled it and stood on the summit to catch your breath.

Today, someone on my Facebook feed asked the question “at what age is one too old to hide from the world in a blanket fort?” I totally get it. But we can’t afford to hide or wait. Nothing we are facing right now is a quick fix. Holding our breath and just waiting until it’s over isn’t an option. We have to be able to survive and thrive as we go through it.

You know this drill. If you wait for the perfect time to launch a business, fire a bad client, have a baby, or grow a mustache — you’ll never do any of them. You do them when you find the courage to do them, even though it’s never the perfect moment.

That’s what we have to do right now. We have to decide that despite everything our world is going through right now — it’s time to fight for our focus. It’s time to decide forward is the only path.

You’re at the base of the mountain. Are you just going to set-up camp and wait or are you going to step out into the dark and start climbing?

I wish I could make it easier. But what I can do is remind you that you are not climbing the mountain alone.

Your Agency Needs New Clients Now; What Are Your New Business Options?

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

The word on the agency street is that most want and need new clients now, not tomorrow. But how realistic is that? That expressed urgency has everything to do with orders to sequester-in-place issued for the COVID-19 fiasco and then the ensuing riots in protest of the killing of George Floyd. Just as some states were beginning to allow phased openings, the country-wide riots frightened many people who in-turn chose not to travel for work to city-center properties or to begin shopping in ernest. The result – a continuing drag on the prospect of renewed commerce and positive agency cash-flow.

After months of deep cash-flow reductions, many agencies, even those who managed to snare some of the government’s stimulus monies, were down to spending for absolute necessities, and that didn’t initially include spending for future business development. So what’s an agency to do? Some rather lucky shops may have been cultivating opportunities during the past months and now feel comfortable working to close that business. For them that’s great. But the majority found themselves stuck in limbo; choosing not to reach out to prospects and at that same time, prospects were also “hunkered down” and constrained their research and outreach faced with an uncertain future.

OK, time to get moving! Consider these options and sequence for deployment. Options are sorted by timing and costs. Not considered are items and inventory already owned by agency. Nor is talent or training of agency individuals.

Code: Timing A-Now B-3 months C-6 months D-9 months  Costs F-Free $-charge

  1. Agency Website content – AF
  2. Agency Telemarketing – AF
  3. Agency Email blasts – AF
  4. Match-Maker enrollments – AF$ i.e. AgencyFinder.com
  5. New Business Newspapers – Leads, espionage – A$ i.e. Ratti Report, Winmo
  6. Agency Website SEO & PPC – B$
  7. Agency Direct mail w/phone follow – B$
  8. Directory Listings – BF$ i.e. Clutch, AgencySpotter
  9. Outsourced (Third-Party) appointment setting – B$ i.e. RSW-US
  10. Agency Search consultant enrollments – CF i.e. See 4A’s
  11. Agency LinkedIn Programs – C$
  12. Agency Speaking engagements – CF
  13. Agency experiential events – C$

This rather long list illustrates the fact that agency business development is no part-time proposition nor is it for the faint-of-heart!  Have at it.

 

You Don’t Really Partner With Your Clients

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Partenerships

Many agencies like to boast on their websites and in their pitch decks that they “partner” with their clients. It’s bullshit of course. What they mean is they aspire to have their clients treat them like partners instead of vendors. I get it. It’s good to have a goal. But putting it on the website doesn’t make it true.

True business partnership has at its core shared financial risk. So if you really want to partner with your clients you must put skin in the game. Your incentives need to be aligned, with compensation rising and falling with the results you help to produce. In the absence of such shared risk, claims of partnership are simply a desire to earn a higher station with the client. Everyone knows this.

You Don’t Want to Partner With All Your Clients

When it does happen, a client/agency partnership can be a beautiful thing, but many times it shouldn’t happen at all. You don’t go into business with just anybody. You partner only with people you trust. On that basis alone (and there are many more to consider, as well) how many of your current clients would you really want to partner with?

And how about the clients you pitched to, lost, and who left you with a bad taste in your mouth? How many of them would you want as business partners? Were you even able to have a meaningful conversation with the people with whom you proposed to partner? Surely you don’t think procurement or middle management are your partners? They simply don’t have the authority to make such decisions. And on your side, neither do your own people. Decisions to enter into a business partnership are made at the highest levels of the organizations—at the ownership level of an independent marketing firm or any other entrepreneurial organization, and at the executive level of a client organization where ownership and management are separated.

A Normal Distribution of Client Types

In a healthy client roster you will have a mix of client types. On the left-hand tail you will have a small number of transactional price-buyers to whom you are effectively selling excess capacity, and once-good clients on their way out.

In the middle you will find the bulk of your clients, made mostly of value buyers who, though they might be price sensitive, understand they need to invest in your services to generate value in the marketplace.

And out on the right-hand tail you might possibly have a coveted partner. Maybe even three.

Once you get the hang of this performance pay thing, you may decide to be more selective about your clients with the goal of one day having all of your clients be partners. But that’s a path few firms will choose and fewer still will be able to master. Most will choose instead to spread the risk across many engagement types with the bulk of their engagements being in the low risk, low reward category.

The Rise of Performance Pay Lip Service

Every few years there’s a spike in clients’ use of the term “performance pay.” Well before I knew anything about the intricacies of value-based pricing, I knew that when a client brings up performance pay in the sale they usually have a narrow, one-sided idea of it—one in which the agency is penalized for poor performance without the ability to earn a sizeable reward in return for putting compensation at risk.

Such a one-sided deal usually comes from procurement or other professional buyers. While you can’t really blame someone for trying to minimize their downside without sharing in the upside, such a suggestion should immediately disqualify them from the category of potential future partner.

Questions To Ask About Performance Pay

Punitive, reward-deficient deals aside, I’m a big fan of performance pay as an occasional way to shape a compensation plan. Here are some questions to ask the next time you consider partnering with a client and putting compensation at risk:

  • Are you talking to executives in the organization—people charged with future value creation who have the authority to enter into partnerships?
  • Do you trust these individuals?
  • Do you trust the organization to live up to commitments made by these executives should they leave mid-engagement?
  • Does the organization have a culture of partnership and disclosure? Are you confident that finance, procurement or some other individual or department won’t attempt to manipulate the numbers or actively work against you to rob you of incentives properly earned?
  • Does the upside correlate with the downside? There’s no golden ratio here but every dollar put at risk should have the potential to earn multiples back.
  • How much compensation are you willing to put at risk? A good client will in certain situations recognize that it’s in their interest to reward you for outcomes even without putting compensation at risk, thus creating the incentives for you to stay involved even after the agreed-upon deliverables have been met. But per the point above, the more you give up the more you should receive when the target outcomes are achieved.
  • When the possible payout is measured against time, is someone in the client organization going to push back on compensation that might translate into an hourly rate in the high hundreds or even thousands?

And of course, you have to ask questions about your own role:

  • Are you confident in your ability to affect the outcomes?
  • Can you solve the attribution problem, with both parties agreeing that your input is material to hitting the outcomes, or are there simply too many other variables at play?
  • Can you afford to take a financial risk with this client at this time, or are you better off just trading time or deliverables for cash?

The Transformative Effects of True Partnership

Just like other forms of true partnership, when you get it right it’s truly win-win. It requires two trusting parties and a delicate balancing of the risk and reward—a balance that is not universal or templatable but rather takes into consideration many unique factors of each party.

In such a partnership, the client has an agency that is laser-focused on outcomes and is not padding time or rotely going through yet another templated deliverable. The agency should be operating at this place of adventure, with the excitement of oversized reward balanced by enough downside risk to keep their attention but without threatening their existence. When it all comes together it’s a beautiful thing.

As an industry, we need to let go of this need to claim partnership with our clients and embrace the fact that some of these relationships are purely transactional. At the same time, however, we should keep an eye open for those wonderful but rare opportunities for true partnership.

Guest Author – Blair Enns, CEO, Win Without Pitching

Is your agency stuck? Drew wants you to get moving!

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

Advice from Drew (McLellan of AMI Fame)

I’ve been talking to agency owners from every edge of the globe. I’m doing this to find out what’s going on in their part of the world and how the pandemic is impacting their agency. Throughout the course of these conversations, I often end up asking about what their plan is for the next 30-60-90 days. I don’t typically get a concrete answer. Or I get a very scattered answer of 153 different tactics. But the most dangerous response I get is when an agency owner tells me that they’re busy, making money, and they really should but they’re afraid to take the action they believe they should take.

The unknown of this pandemic has many agencies and their leaders frozen in place. So instead of hiring, expanding, pivoting or whatever they know they should do — they’re paralyzed. I don’t want to go all science-y on you but it takes more force to get an object at rest to move than it does to keep a moving object in motion. That inertia is harder to overcome than it is to change directions once you’re already in motion.

For many agencies, the financial aid that your government has provided has brought welcome relief. But I fear that it also brought you an excuse to hit the pause button. Under the guise of catching your breath, you’ve allowed the agency to slow down or maybe even stop moving. Take the moment that you need but do not let it stretch beyond a moment.

For the last several weeks I’ve been imploring you to put together 5 mini-plans to keep your agency pushing forward. Any one of those plans will force you to remove any inertia that is threatening to set-in. The combination of them will force you to keep moving. Once you’re in motion, you can shift directions as needed because you’ll already have momentum on your side.

In the next 30 days what is your agency doing to:

• Make sure you deliver every project on-time and on-budget so you don’t whittle away your profit margins?

• Get your team fired-up, better prepared/skilled, and focused on serving clients and delivering ROI every single day?

• Secure your current clients and help them grab marketshare while their competitors are stuck in place?

• Attract new clients who are hungry to take advantage of the opportunities that are found in every economic downturn?

And most important of all — what are you, the agency owner or leader, doing in the next 30 days to create a vision of your agency’s future that you can share with excitement and confidence so that your entire team can rally behind you?

Don’t let yourself get stuck. I’m not advocating you become reckless. But, I am advocating that you believe in yourself and the truth in front of you. For some of you that truth means you should be hiring right now. For others, it means you need to let someone go, regardless of your financial package. For yet others, it means becoming very focused and very motivated to go find the new clients who will appreciate and benefit from a partnership with you.

Get moving — you can adjust the plan as you go.

Why this is the Right Time to Hire a New Ad Agency, Digital Agency, PR firm and Others

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Agency Search Tips, Blog Posts

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.

Your Criteria
Consideration at a safe distanceThere’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?

Your Search
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.

Benevolent boot camp – Fit for the Times

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Reminiscing & Advice by Drew McLellan at AMI

When I was in high school, I took one of those aptitude tests to see what I should be when I grew up. It was really just an exercise of curiosity because I already knew I was going to be a psychologist (I’ll tell you how that went sideways over a drink sometime). When I got the test results back I was stunned to see that military officer was one of the top suggestions. If you know me at all, you know that would have been an unmitigated disaster. All I could envision was me apologizing to my troops for making them get up early!

As I think about the mini-plan I want you to focus on this week — your team plan — it reminds me of a bootcamp scenario. Our people are out of their natural work element, we’re asking them to work at odd hours with lots of obstacles, and they’re under a ton of pressure. They’re worried about how their performance will influence the ultimate outcome and what impact that will have on their lives. But, unlike a military bootcamp, our role needs to be a little different than a drill sergeant. We aren’t going to mold our team into soldiers and then send them on their way. This is OUR team — so we can absolutely hold them accountable but do so by creating a healthy, candid environment.

If you remember, the five mini-plans I want you to develop are:

  • Operational/financial plan (How will you get the work done on time and on budget? Then, determine the minimum acceptable profit margin for your agency and use agency math to manage your way to never dipping below it.)
  • Team plan (How will you keep them motivated, efficient, profitable, and striving to serve each other and your clients?)
  • Client plan (You need to proactively guide each client into a position of readiness so that when they can step back in — they’re ready and more prepared than their competitors.)
  • Prospect plan (What can you talk about that will be valuable? Base this on what your prospects are ready to hear at any given moment in time.)
  • Vision of the future plan (What parts of normal are worth rushing back to and what could/should be different?)

I believe that in a crisis people reveal their true selves to you. By now, you’ve been surprised and impressed by some of your team members and maybe a little disappointed by others. I know you’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But, even beyond that, you’ve been given some important insights into your team. As we slowly work our way out of crisis mode, do not lose track of those insights.

Now is not the time to ease up on holding everyone accountable. When every penny counts, we have to make sure we’re as efficient and effective as possible. A couple weeks ago my podcast guest, Adam Carroll, had some easy to follow tips for holding your team accountable with his HEAT framework.

Here are some of the ways the agencies that are really performing well are managing their team:

  • Daily Zoom huddles (Traffic meetings.)
  • Honoring their one-on-one meeting schedule.
  • Leave-no-man behind Zoom calls. (Personal check-ins to make sure each of your team members is doing okay personally.)
  • Weekly agency update with lots of transparency around money, job security, client activity, biz dev, etc.
  • Playtime (Virtual happy hours, word games, getting to know you questions, photo contests, Zoom background competitions, etc.)
  • Group and individual goal setting and sharing (We all do better with something to work toward.)
  • Investing in new learning and skills development (If your team is not fully deployed — this is a smart way to prep for our re-entry.)
  • Peer and supervisor recognition. This is such good medicine as we socially distance. If you don’t already have a peer recognition program in place, this might be the time to start one.
  • Review of company values. Re-teach everyone how they look in action.
  • Serve others together. Whether that’s a community project, everyone coming together to help a client through a sticky situation, or supporting a team member who is having a tough time, about to have a baby, etc.

COVID-19 is calling on us to be the best version of a leader we can be. You absolutely need to be kind and understanding but at an equal level, you also need to hold each employee to a very high standard. Think of yourself as a benevolent drill sergeant and do all you can to not only get good work from your team today but even more importantly — prepare and assess them for the future version of your agency.

Are they the people you want to go into battle with? If so, do everything you can to guarantee their success.

Give yourself room to grieve – COVID-19 Pandemic

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

Penned today by Drew McLellan of AMI

We are living through what feels like a surreal moment in time. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I have to stop and think “Is this real? Am I really on house arrest, wearing a mask to the grocery store, and feeling offended when someone stands within three feet of me?”

It happened to me today. The weather has finally warmed up and I was in the backyard, trying to exhaust the puppy so I could get some work done. I took in a deep breath of fresh air, laughed at the puppy pouncing on the ball I’d thrown, and thought, “today is a good day.” It felt perfectly normal.

And then I remembered. It’s like my mind knew I needed the break and so, for a moment or two, it gave it to me.

Yesterday (Tuesday the 7th) was the first day since COVID-19 really hit the US that I was not on the run from 7 am – midnight, or later. Like all of you I’ve been busy, I haven’t had time to react to the crisis and what it’s doing to our world, our industry, our agencies, and our families. Many of you had to scramble to get your team set-up to work from home and then you were dealing with the client pauses and cancellations and from there, you went right into applying for financial aid in whatever country you’re from.

We’ve been so busy trying to keep our head above water, we haven’t had a moment to step back and process what is going on. But I expect that for many of you — that pause will come this week or next. And in that pause you may experience a flood of emotions that you’ve successfully kept at bay up until this point.

Over the last few days, my communications (calls, texts, emails, carrier pigeons, etc.) with agency owners have shifted. You’ve gone from being shell-shocked and very focused on your next task to being angry, frustrated, or sad as you face potential layoffs, financial goals that aren’t going to happen, and all of the unknowns ahead of us.

As I thought about what I wanted to say to you today, my first instinct was to dive right into what we need to do next. More tasks and action. That’s partially my type “A” personality. It’s probably tied to my enneagram type (the helper) and it’s what I know you look for from me in this newsletter. But, as I stood in my backyard and had to ask myself if this was truly happening, I decided that we all need to just stop for a minute and acknowledge what we’ve lost. We have to make room for the grief.

Grief is a funny thing. We can run from it for a time but sooner or later, it catches up to us. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. You don’t have to wallow in it but you do need to acknowledge it. Otherwise, it just keeps getting in the way and you can’t get past it.

It feels like this week, or maybe next, is when we’ll all start the next chapter of this crisis. The initial burst of panic and activity has passed. We’re functional and we’re serving clients. Even though none of it is normal, we’re settling into it and now we need to figure out how to endure the virus as it runs its course through our countries and our agencies. Our job is to survive it.

There’s a moment before that next chapter starts when we can stop and just feel. Just vent. Just grieve. And then, we can get back to it. I’d like to suggest that you watch for a momentary calm in between strikes of lightning where you can simply stop and mourn what you’ve lost so that you can keep fighting for everything else.

I promise next week we’ll talk about what we need to do next.

10 Least Useful Trends in Agency Websites

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Agency Search Tips, Blog Posts

Tim Williams pulled together many thoughts and comments I’ve made over the years regarding agency websites, but this is perfect. Please pay attention and follow his excellent lead!

Do you know what percentage of serious new business prospects visit your website? 100%. They all do. Because all prospective buyers of your services want to know what exactly what it is you’re selling. And although different marketers might want to know different things about your firm, they’re all ultimately looking to find one thing: expertise.

Marketers are interested in your firm because you have expertise they can’t duplicate in house. And while agency websites have generally migrated toward simpler design, easier navigation, and more mobile-friendly templates, here is Ignition’s list of 10 recent trends in agency sites that are likely to work against you in new business.

1. Mysterious business model

This is by far the most counterproductive feature of agency websites because most firms are so desperate to appeal to everyone that they describe their firms in ways that end up appealing to no one. The “about us” section avoids putting a stake in the ground and instead uses such wide-ranging language that clients have an infernally difficult time knowing if this is the type of help they’re looking for or not.

Today’s marketers are not looking for an agency that can do everything (which they know doesn’t exist) and instead are actively on the hunt for what they call “best in class” competencies or market expertise. If you fail to say what (competencies) or who (markets) you know best, you’re passing up opportunities with the type of sophisticated clients you say you most want on your roster.

2. Perplexing people section

It usually surprises agencies to hear that research shows the most-often visited section on an agency website is “our people.” Unfortunately, in an apparent move to democratize the agency and make everyone look equally important, it’s now fashionable for agencies to put up a photo of literally every employee, right down to the receptionist. Then, in addition to this type of photographic overkill, agencies make it difficult for website visitors to find the leadership of the agency because they are scattered throughout a very long web page, often with no titles shown. If and when the prospect does find the key people they’re looking for, the bios are often reduced to 200-word descriptions that focus more on hobbies and personal interests than professional expertise.

3. Simplicity taken too far

Many agencies have fallen victim to what Einstein warned about when he said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not too simple.” Far too many agency sites are simple to the point of too simple — long on style and short on substance.

Hiring an agency isn’t like buying a software subscription, where a scroll-down series of icons with captions can make the sale. You’re selling custom problem-solving. The purchase risk in hiring an agency is exponentially higher than most online products and services.

4. Selling drills instead of holes

Harvard’s Ted Levitt famously taught his marketing students that no one ever buys a three-quarter-inch drill; they buy the expectation of a three-quarter-inch hole. The buyer seeks an end, and the drill is only the means. Professional service firms like agencies are in the bad habit of selling drills instead of holes — inputs instead of outcomes — which turn into commoditized bullet-point lists labeled “our services.”

As marketing experts, agency professionals should know that buyers are looking for solutions (benefits), not services (features). Putting up a laundry list of capabilities is a lazy and ineffective way to demonstrate your expertise. The best agency websites describe solution sets, which are supported by specific competencies. Citing capabilities by themselves is like listing the chemical ingredients on the front label of a Tide bottle instead of promising clean, fresh-smelling clothes.

5. Actualities in place of stories

Eavesdrop on random client-agency meetings and you’re likely to hear the agency extol the virtues of “storytelling.” Agency creatives preach the idea that brands can benefit from the same dynamism baked into the world’s best novels, movies, and TV shows. Then on their own websites agencies resort to showcasing the same dull facts and figures most clients don’t care about in the first place: founding date, growth rate, number of employees, awards won, honors achieved, ad infinitum. This hardly constitutes a story but is rather more like a submission to Dun & Bradstreet.

What’s the story of your agency? How did it come into existence and why? What difference are you trying to make in the world? The best examples of agency stories are not only verbal but also visual. The same goes for the dreaded “case history.” Much better to tell a “case story,” complete with characters, a plot, conflict, and resolution.

6. Failing to demonstrate fit

“Is this the agency partner we need right now, for this particular brand, to solve this particular problem?”

That’s the question marketers have in mind when they’re surfing through the pages of your website. The ever-insightful Clayton Christensen argues that we as buyers “hire” products and services to perform a job for us, which he says applies to everything from milkshakes to consulting firms. Your task, as the seller, is to show the buyer what jobs you’re best suited to perform. If your website is so nebulous that anybody could be a fit, then no one will identify as a fit. An excellent example of this principle in action is the agency Quarry in Ontario, Canada, who actually uses the word “Fit” in their navigation bar.

7. Selling out of context

Agencies are notorious for “portfolios in space” — examples of work with no connection to the business problems they were designed to solve. The worst example of this is the online portfolio that is broken down by medium — television, print, digital, outdoor — as if the client is shopping for a “television agency.” This is inside out thinking at its very best (or worst). If you have an impressive collection of work, it will be even more impressive if you give it some context other than the marketing channel in which it appeared. This would be like an architect showing work classified by building materials rather than by type of environment.

8. Overvaluing the fun factor

Do clients want to work with an agency that’s amusing and entertaining? No doubt they would prefer a team with a sense of humor over one that takes itself too seriously. But prospective clients aren’t Googling for “fun agencies.” Rather, they pretty much assume most agencies have a healthy fun factor (at least compared to the corporations where most clients work). For that reason, a fun culture is not differentiating. In fact, “We’re fun” has for some time been included on Ignition’s official top ten list of undifferentiating things agencies say about themselves. Should your site be lighthearted, engaging, and maybe even slightly witty? Sure, you’re an agency after all. Just don’t devote all of your digital real estate to trying to out-fun the other guys. If this were plotted on your website brief, it would be under “tone and manner,” not “reasons to believe.”

9. Uncommitted content strategy

Do your blog posts, white papers, or other artifacts of thought leadership on your website add up to strategic integrity? Or do these articles ramble into so many different areas that prospects have a hard time knowing how to think about you? A focused, consistent content strategy is undoubtedly something your firm recommends to its clients. This is just a matter of taking your own advice.

10. Pleasing instead of polarizing

Quick, name the world’s strongest brands. Most of them have not only ardent supporters, but virulent detractors. People who love them, and people who hate them. This is actually one of the key characteristics of a successful brand, and what’s true for consumer brands is just as true for professional service brands. When we strive to present ourselves as universally lovable and acceptable, we miss the opportunity to make ourselves strongly appealing to a select group of prospects. The best agencies — and their websites — are willing to advance points of view that are provocative. Agency professionals are famously thin-skinned, so the idea that some audiences might actually disagree with them goes against their nature. But it’s better to be loved and rejected by some than ignored by everyone. That’s the very essence of a strong brand.

All this said, there are many agencies that have an outstanding online presence. They tend to be the ones who apply to their own firms the same advice they give to their clients. Want a remarkable website? Just practice what you preach.

Propulsion is written by Tim Williams of Ignition Consulting Group, a global consultancy devoted to helping agencies and other professional firms create and capture more value. 

Not The Time For An Advertising Agency Search!

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Agency Search Tips, Blog Posts

Why in the world would you embark on an agency search at a time like this when you’re busy keeping 6 feet distant and washing your hands? We’ve all been holding our breath, waiting for this Corona virus to pass. We’ve been asked to wait, to shelter-in-place to see if we could slow the transmission and contagion of this “silent killer.” And for the majority, we’re all working from home or an empty office.

As they say, these are trying times. Opinions will vary, but we’ve had a chance to witness how our agencies hold up under great duress.  We’ve been the receptor of their plans for now and when the silent killer is gone. President Trump postulates the economy will vault back, maybe even better than it was. Under the circumstance, what advice has your agency, be it advertising, digital or public relations offered in the way of suggested strategy and action for that time?

If your agency came forth with definitive suggestions, with actions to stay the course, great! However, if their inaction or failure to lead is the straw that broke the camel’s back (a pre-Corona expression), you may have decided it’s time for a replacement agency.

You’re right, this isn’t the time for extensive travel, and high-touch, kum ba yah gatherings and presentations. But it’s the perfect time to begin identifying your agency candidates. So begin by identifying those in your organization who should play a role in the process. Solicit their thoughts for attributes, characteristics, personalities and then compile that information. Specifically, what category experience should they have? In your vertical or aligned others? What about services, location, size, years in business or memberships? And in case you haven’t encountered it or given it pause, what about conflicting accounts?

Now take your finished list and go looking. Google is too imprecise so don’t be tempted unless you’re prepared to do tons of work. Better to go to those that have already done the heavy lifting. At your command you have “directories” and “database services.” With directories, think “Yellow Pages.” Data ordered primarily by alpha and location. You navigate as you see fit. Database services utilize on-board search engines that you use to specify, then discover who in their database satisfies your criteria. Some will even handle the challenging task of preparing and sending invitations. A few popular directories include Agency Spotter, Ad Forum and Clutch. Agency Match and our AgencyFinder are databases and somewhat lonely in that regard.

Final point being – now is the perfect time to begin your agency search if that’s what you believe is needed.

 

You only have so many seats on the bus (great baseball story)

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

Courtesy of Drew McLellan at AMI

I’m a huge baseball fan and one of the more interesting aspects of the game for me is watching how teams manage their roster. They only have 32 spots, 20 position players, and 12 pitchers. They have to play over 160 games with that small set of players on the team. They can’t afford for any of them to be in a slump for too long. If a player isn’t helping the team, they don’t stay on the roster for long.

They have to win with the team they have, so they can’t really afford to tolerate a player who isn’t contributing in a significant way. They can’t just add more people to make up for someone’s deficiency, so they’re forced to deal with sub-par performances in short order.

Unfortunately, our agencies don’t have a player cap. Which means we often tolerate too many games where someone on the team isn’t holding up their end of the bargain and the team suffers a loss as a result. I am working with a couple agencies right now who are dealing with the toughest thing I think an agency owner can face — wrong people in the wrong seats. If you’re a small to mid-sized agency, you have no wiggle room when it comes to your team. Everyone has to be an A or at worst, a B-player if you are going to survive, let alone thrive.

In this instance, I am not talking about having to lay people off (which also sucks) but I’m talking about coming to the painful realization that you hired someone to do a job they are not capable of doing. Odds are you and the team have been working around this problem for quite some time.

I can hear you now….”but they are:”

Great for the culture
Very popular with the team
Have been super loyal for a long time
Big client XYZ is their good friend
My baby’s godmother

I have heard, seen and honestly, lived through it all. If we are ever together and sipping a cocktail, ask me about the time I had to fire an employee a couple years after giving the eulogy at his daughter’s funeral. I cried like a baby through the entire conversation — but it was probably at least a year overdue. I allowed my personal feelings to put my agency at risk. Which meant I was willing to sacrifice my other employees, client relationships, and ultimately the business because I didn’t have the courage to have the conversation I knew I needed to have.

If our employees could wave a magic wand, this is the one thing they would change about us — that we take forever to take action when an employee is not adding value at the level they should. They resent it and over time, they stop working so hard because they figure out that they can simply live up to the lowest standard we deem acceptable.

As you’ve been reading this, some of you have had an employee that keeps popping up in the back of your brain. You keep trying to push it aside…but you know I am talking to you.

In baseball, when a major league player no longer plays at the level the team needs (or maybe he never did) they don’t just cut him. They send him down to the minors to rehab. But there’s a clear conversation that goes with that move — “Here are the three things you need to improve by X date and here’s how we will measure that improvement. If you can’t accomplish that, we’re going to need to release you so we have room on the team for someone else.”

That’s the conversation most agency owners are not gifted at having. The “You need to level-up or move on” conversation. We may have it passive-aggressively — but few agency owners are consistently giving their team performance feedback that is clear and direct, with rewards and consequences. (If you have not read the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, it should be your next read) .

As you were reading this, if an employee did come to mind, make a commitment to yourself that you are going to resolve that conflict with the agency’s best interest in mind within the next 90 days.

Absolutely try to save them. But do not squander one of the few seats you have on the bus. If they can’t level up — help them move on. You owe it to the players that are earning their seat every day, your clients, and your agency.

Meyst contribution – this is SO TRUE for people in the new business development slot. It’s one of the few “measurable” jobs in an agcncy and it doesn’t take long to witness an ill-fit.

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