Consider Setup’s newly released study reporting “nearly one-third of U.S. brands may be contemplating switching up their ad agency in the next six months, while more than nine in 10 say chemistry is the most important factor in forging a new agency partnership. Their study sought insight from more than 300 marketers across major brands and agencies.” Of equal interest, more than 25 years ago, Sanders Consulting Group conducted a similar study but exclusively of major brands. There too 30% of polled clients expressed a willingness to consider a new agency if approached.
So there’s good news and bad. Good news if your agency has capacity and the desire for new clients. That being the case, get moving. Refresh relationships with traditional and on-line search consultants. Clean and update your profile here at AgencyFinder. Where you have directory listings, clean up that content. Ramp up your pro-active efforts. Keep your ears open. However, there’s bad news if any of your existing clients decide they want a new agency and start looking around. To stem the tide, pay close attention to existing clients. Deliver “First-Class” service and support. Learn and become adept on what they need to stay ahead of their own business development curve.
Take note – literally one-in-three advertisers could be potential candidates for movement, either in or out. So make your agency visible. Wave your hands; make some noise. Spend some money and now is a good time to make that investment at Manager Plan – not later when other agencies have already done what you need to do.
In March, you shot into action. You were unstoppable because you had no choice. Either you were fighting to save your agency or you were so slammed you were struggling to get the work out of the door.
You chased clients. You soothed employees and came up with all kinds of crazy ways to support them. You approached your bankers with dogged tenacity to get financial support. You clung to every penny and squeezed a nickel’s worth of value out of each one. You were ON.
Drew points the way
As things stabilized, you scrambled to delight the clients old and new, dealt with medical surprises, and fought to cross the 2020 finish line in the black.
Your adrenaline kept you fueled for those ten months. You were relentless in your efforts and it paid off. But you drained the battery dry.
You shifted into a lower gear throughout the holiday season and then, as January arrived, instead of being refreshed, focused, and fired up — you were the total opposite. I’ll bet you thought you’d come out of the holidays raring to go, with boatloads of energy and focus. But instead, those adrenal glands that have been working all three shifts for ten months, appear to be on strike.
See if you recognize any of these symptoms:
Fatigue, particularly when you first wake up, with episodic crashes throughout the day
Poor stress response
Challenges with regulating your moods
Brain fog/difficulty focusing for any length of time
Cravings for salty and sweet foods
A reliance on caffeine and other stimulants
Apathy or struggles to rise to the occasion
Many of you have described it as struggling to find your “mojo”. Since you don’t have the luxury of taking a month off or cruising to a remote island, you’ve got to identify some techniques to replenish your adrenal glands so they can give you the boost you need when you need it.
I don’t even play a doctor on TV so I’m not going to prescribe specifics beyond saying that several medical sites suggest upping our intake of:
Vitamin B5, B10, and B12
They also suggest adding more water, more sleep, and avoiding too much sugar and caffeine. Nothing earth-shattering — but all good ingredients for replenishment. I think the most important recommendation is recognizing that you need to re-fuel.
The sprint is over. I’m not saying everything is rosy but the crisis has passed and you have survived it.
We’re now in the marathon stage of working our way through a recession and getting back into our groove. Now is the time to slow your pace a little, fuel your body, and re-boot your adrenal glands.
I’m sharing all of this with you because many of you have been pretty frustrated that you can’t just “snap out of it.” I want you to see that you’re not alone in experiencing this and it’s not just in your head.
Stop beating yourself up and go give your adrenal glands a spa day!
To be honest, I’m not. I’m inspired by how 2020 is wrapping up, but I’m not all that surprised. I’ve watched you since the pandemic struck, and you’ve been remarkable.
Here’s what I’ve been witness to since early 2020.
You and your team reacted quickly when the lockdown hit
You made sure your team had everything they needed at home — extra monitors, better chairs, etc
You reached out to your clients with a very genuine desire to help and stayed by their side as they navigated the craziness of COVID
You started working double shifts to help clients, counsel your team, and face the financial truths
You made the difficult decision to crunch the numbers and watch them every week so you wouldn’t be caught off-guard
You started beating the streets — reaching out to former clients, the prospects in your pipeline, and anyone who responded to your outbound efforts
You chased down the PPP funds so you could ride out the storm
You created new offerings that would help your clients climb out of COVID’s grips
You found new ways to do old marketing tactics that worked in this weird moment in time
You made some difficult decisions and faced some hard goodbyes that broke your heart but protected your shop
You buckled down and created some truly helpful content that served your audience and attracted new people into your community
You hosted zoom cocktail hours, trivia contests, and karaoke debacles to keep up your team’s spirits
You landed some new clients and figured out how to onboard them even though you’d never met them
You kept up the crazy hours, working nights and weekends to keep everything running and your team calm
You guided your team back to the office in a safe and sane way (or this may still be on your to-do list for 2021) and reveled in the energy, collaboration, and joy of being back together
You brainstormed with clients to help them see the opportunities within the crisis and maximize them
You celebrated every win (big or small) with your team, and you’ve shouldered every loss in private, trying to keep everyone’s spirits up
You have clawed, crawled, and kicked your way back to profits, and now you are not only surviving in 2020, but you are thriving in it. For 90% of you, that means financially thriving. But even if you’re still working your way back money-wise, you’re thriving in other ways.
You have set yourself up for an amazing 2021
No wonder you’re tired, and no wonder I’m not surprised. You’ve been amazing.
Have you done it all perfectly? Probably not. But have you done it all with a full heart and the best of intentions? Have you run yourself ragged to take care of your clients, your team, and your family as 2020 is wrapping up?
The answer to all of those is a resounding yes. So you shouldn’t be surprised. You are right where you deserve to be because you earned it. With every late night and moment of worry. I hope you’re proud of yourself and what you’ve done. If you’ll permit me to say so, I’m incredibly impressed and proud of you.
What did you think of the rubber chicken? Today’s business development pros strongly suggest you avoid the cold call. Maybe that time is gone but maybe it’s time to bring it back. Folks are abandoning email like files on dead meat; the experts now advocate we annoy people in a new way. Let’s fill up their text message folders. People have considered text messages personal and sacred. But they do see business intrusion coming and they aren’t happy. But there’s good news for those working in the B2B world. Your intended recipients expect to be approached, one way or other. Enter direct mail and the call.
Your targeted B2B phone call will hit the target. It will always take more than one attempt, but your target finally answers. “Bernard Epson here”, and you say “Bernard, what did you think of the rubber chicken?” Rubber chicken you say! Yes you sent Bernard (or his female equivalent) a bright yellow rubber chicken. And he’s been waiting for your call. This call format is not for the faint of heart. It takes someone who can strike up a conversation and keep it going. The chicken (or anything else) is your conversation starter. What happens next is up to you but if you’re good, you had a warm conversation and an open door to call again.
The US agency sector will lay off about 52,000 jobs over the next two years as media spend declines 23%, Forrester predicts. Agencies are projected to cut 35,167 jobs in 2020 and 16,578 in 2021.
The global picture is even starker, with the big six agency holding companies poised to eliminate an additional 49,695 global positions by 2021.
“It’s a dismal forecast,” said Jay Pattisall, analyst at Forrester and author of the report. “Layoffs are inevitable and already underway.”
To date, all of the major holding companies have announced layoffs, furloughs and voluntary pay cuts. This activity will only continue as large swaths of the economy remain shut down and categories such as travel and retail are dark.
“This set of circumstances is unprecedented,” Pattisall said. “The contraction of spending is across the board, and agencies as a service provider take the biggest hit.”
Advertising agencies, which have struggled to adopt technology and are experiencing a long-term financial decline, will be the hardest hit by layoffs.
Advertising agencies already account for more than 50% of layoffs across the sector, and they are currently laying off 15% of staff on average, compared to 7% at digital and media agencies. Digital and media agencies offer more relevant services to clients looking to embrace digital transformation and communications.
“Economically, [advertising agencies] have been the most challenged in the United States,” Pattisall said. “Advertising has become a more programmatic and data-driven offering, and [advertising] agencies have been slower on the uptake of that technology.”
As agencies shed jobs, some will inevitably close, especially those that skew toward pressured categories or traditional services. Smaller agencies are more likely to close than larger ones with more resources or cash in the bank, but public companies are held to greater scrutiny for cost-cutting and creating shareholder value.
“The impact should be pretty even across the two,” Pattisall said. “But it’s likely that you see publicly owned companies taking action earlier because of the economic pressures.”
As agencies are forced to reduce headcount, there’s “tremendous opportunity” to reshape their talent pool, Pattisall said. Agencies that embrace automation and hire talent with multidisciplinary expertise, as opposed to channel-specific knowledge, are better positioned.
“Ultimately, it will be less specialization and more of a multiskilled workforce that includes new systems and tools,” he said.
Agencies must also accept technology and automation as a fundamental part of their workflow. While digital and media agencies have been adopting automation, machine learning and AI for years, advertising agencies need to catch up.
Creative agencies, traditionally resistant to technology, have an opportunity to use automation to surface insights that inspire ideas, help teams collaborate and scale production. And media agencies can lean even further into AI and machine learning to inform audience segmentation, channel selection, budget allocation and measurement.
“I see all agency capabilities being assisted by automaton to one degree or another, from finance to HR, all the way through to strategy, creative and production,” Pattisall said.
Cuts to the agency workforce could inspire CMOs to bring more work in house, either to cut costs in the short term or as a result of agency talent drain. There will be more opportunities for brands to hire in-house talent or freelancers who have been laid off from agencies.
But eventually, companies will have to decide whether a long-term investment in an in-house team is worthwhile. And if it’s not, marketers have to play a role in reshaping agency structures and compensation models so they can survive in a new reality.
“CMOs that cut these corners may find themselves continuing to suffer from the impact of the shortening tenure inside the C-suite,” Pattisall said.
How in the world can you expect to stand out; how will anyone find you? If you’re an ad agency or any of its derivatives, you’ve been told for years there are 29,999 more agencies in the US competing with you, wanting to be found. So what’s the secret for breaking through the clutter to connect with ideal clients?
Follow this… Not too many years ago in the mid-nineties, most agencies were content to prospect within a limited-mile radius of their office. Biz Dev consisted of direct mail, modest early-stage email and telephone outreach. And most competitors were also within that radius, but certainly nothing like 30,000! From the client’s perspective, other than Yellow Pages and Redbook, there was a crying need for a place or service they could use to search and find perfect-fit agency candidates. In 1997, to answer that need we introduced AgencyFinder.com, one place clients could visit to find and explore a database of extensive agency data contributed by our many good-friend agencies themselves. Substantial Internet traffic found us and for quite some time the “world was our oyster.”
We delivered no-cost algorithm agency search coupled with HI (human intelligence) consultant-assisted guidance. That was good for the industry because agency websites were themselves at an infant stage. Maybe you don’t remember, but agency websites were often wanting! Then after quite a spell, AgencyFinder copycat directories began to surface. Disappointingly directories embraced the “Google Model” – the more an agency paid the more prominent their display. Not really fair to agency or client. Close but “no cigar” in what they delivered, but they chipped away at our traffic anyway. And agencies were beginning to learn. SEO and SEM; keywords, social media – all to vector searching clients directly to their websites. And that’s where things are today. Slowly but without mercy, those 30,000 agencies each introduced websites all decked out in their best SEO, shouting “I’m here!” But what is here? Is it equivalent to searching a database of 4,500 prominent agencies committed to new business who drew upon more than 500 data fields, 7 essays, case histories and website access to factually and visibly define their firms, or is it the relatively shallow agency website data Google will use to find candidates? For local search Goggle is powerful, but most clients are well beyond locations as their primary stipulant.
So what to do… well, what goes around comes around. Direct mail is again shouting “look at me!” Agencies advise clients to target; so agencies should target as well. Email these days is destined to the giant junk mail folder in the Cloud. Clever DM can be a pleasant and compelling surprise. That coupled with professional telephone outreach to ask – “what did you think of what I sent?” can begin a meaningful business relationship. But don’t forget to check out or overlook AgencyFinder.com and those few like us that still offer the precision and free service that’s always been our forte’. If you’re an agency needing targeted client introductions Enroll Now. If you’re a client needing “perfect-fit” agencies, Search Now!
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.
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.
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:
Clients need scrappy marketing tactics and strategies that can be tested, tweaked, and re-deployed without months of navel-gazing.
Clients want an agency that isn’t stuck in a single strategy set or offers every client the same solution.
Clients want to be and feel important to their agency — they don’t want to be the small fish in the big pond.
Clients want access to senior-level people who have expertise in their industry, with their audience, or solving their particular problem.
Clients are demanding transparency and efficiency with their budgets (so fewer layers and admin costs).
Clients want an agency partner that runs a lean, mean shop so they are not paying for excess overhead or frills.
Clients need an agency that is willing to get their hands dirty and really learn about the client’s business and customers.
Clients are hungry for an agency that is willing to learn something new, take a risk, and fight a little harder to help the client’s cash register ring.
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.