A number of years ago during my attendance at the InfoCommerce Conference in Philadelphia, I was talking with some big-time publishers. We were engaged in SEO-options conversations and they asked about our service. When I explained the size and scope of our registered agency database, they volunteered that the contacts and data were prime fodder for SEO search.
I wasn’t convinced, since access to and the identity of agencies in that database was clearly confidential and proprietary stuff. We aren’t an advertising agency directory but an advertising agency search service and our mission is the coupling of great clients and agencies; not to allow the unfamiliar free browsing access to those registered agencies.
When I returned home I met with our Webmaster to explore ways to provide database content but not breach the confidentiality of our advertising agency directory or the agencies themselves. We hit upon an ingenious way to do that and built website links for just that purpose (we thought). What we did accomplish was putting all the agency data (short of that which identified them) outside the firewall. It turned out a visitor could drill down to their heart’s content, but as an SEO solution, it came up short.
We’ve been patiently waiting for something to break on this piece. Why you ask? Because earlier this year, the great folks at the Nonhuman Rights Project came to us to help them find an agency to promote their “cause” when the time came.
Their RFD (Request for Dialogue) described their mission as follows:
Mission: To change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere things, which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to persons, who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty. We will be asking a common law judge to recognize a specific animal (most likely a chimpanzee or elephant, for whom there is clear scientific evidence of high cognitive abilities and self-awareness, and who is demonstrably suffering from being held in abysmal conditions) to recognize this plaintiff as a legal person with the capacity for the right to bodily liberty. Whatever the outcome, we expect the case to be appealed to a state high court, where the key ruling will be made. We will then proceed to file a growing number of similar suits in other states on behalf of other animals who fit our profile.
Glenn Sagon and his team at Sagon/Phior in Los Angeles won that business. Glenn has been our contact for years and does a great job for anything he elects to pursue. Here’s the breaking news in today’s December 2nd New York Times.
What in Hell were they thinking! I’m not talking about the fine folks at Estee Lauder; I’m talking about presumably one or two within a handful of our industry’s finest agencies unable to keep a secret. So unconcerned for that matter, that by breaking confidentiality, that action stands to “disrupt” Estee Lauder’s existing relationships during the critical fourth quarter retail season this year,” the company said in the brief. What pray tell would prompt any agency employee to run to the press and break the client’s trust? And having done so, should it all end at that?
Interesting as well, even though this story got significant publicity, first in the Ad-Age agency news of September 26th; then in the 4A’s Smart Brief the following day, other than what we posted, not a single soul posted a comment. Is this such a hot potato that no one wants to touch it? There’s a right way and a wrong way to conduct and participate in an agency review. I’m proud to say we’ve never drifted from the proper path …
In the relatively new LinkedIn group New Busines Hunters, I’m seeing some of the more serious, experienced and talented folks start bobbing to the surface with stories, comments and critiques. That’s a good thing. I tend to see this as for Marketing Firms (i.e – ad agencies, pr firms, digital, experiential, and that long rattles-on list) although anyone is welcome.
Mike Lee, Managing Director at Headway Business Development in the UK started this one off – Thanks Mike! Navigate there to see his original comments, then mine along with others. http://www.linkedin.com/myGroups?trk=nav_responsive_sub_nav_groups Neil Fawcett, managing partner at Critical Mass Communications Limited posted this today – “Great story Sean….you did it with personality…see?…you contacted a ‘future client …”
Here’s a big chunk of my take on the topic …
I knew I sensed Sean’s innate new business talent; to your point Neil, nothing succeeds unless and until you fine-tune your craft! Cold calling is not the art of making “cold calls” but having the experience, knowledge, training, self-management, charm, wit and personality to positively engage by phone with what began as a stranger and matures into a qualified prospect …
More than a few years ago when I was publishing Richmond LifeStyle Magazine, my mentor and I held serious discussions about launching a college to offer a 2-year curriculum in “professional agency sales.” Even had scouted the campus location! We got distracted but the absolute need still exists. Here and in every market.
At Richmond’s VCU Brandcenter, unless I missed it just now, there isn’t a single course devoted to “Agency New Business” – suggesting that the age-old theory that your agency’s “creative” will get you found is still how new business happens … Under what rock shall we look to find tomorrow’s agency sales people?
That was the headline at an AdAge Small Agency Diaryarticle. Tom Martin, founder of Converse Digital wrote to encourage agencies to recognize that clients are resorting to search strategies of their own to find new marketing partners. I found this paragraph particularly telling – “This is the point at which many agencies now find themselves — though often they seem to be in denial. They moan and groan about the cost of participating in RFP-based new-business pitches, but aren’t positioning themselves to adapt to clients’ changing expectations, so they can compete for the new business.”
Tom continues to point out clients are searching for answers to their marketing problems; sounds so simple and straightforward, yet so many struggle to make “new business” complicated. He concludes by suggesting – “So if you’re truly tired of the RFP rat race, do something about it. Go find out what you spent last year on pitches and dedicate 25% of that to taking the steps above. Dedicate yourself to giving the system a year to generate results. I promise you, you won’t regret it.”
I couldn’t resist, I had to contribute. I posted: Tom makes great suggestions for agencies seeking new business opportunities. For those who follow his advice, simultaneously drop the “iron curtain” screen on incoming e-mails from those not yet on your white list. Many legitimate client inquiries and even invitations get blocked and bounced by your filters. Instead, designate a specific e-mail for inquiries (not ), make that easy to find on your website, and only give one or two trusted, virus-aware individuals access to open those.
Next suggestion … with all the competition for SEO awareness, an individual agency will be hard-pressed to successfully compete for visibility in the sea of relevant search terms. How many agencies in North America? Try 30,000. One benchmark for years has been the 15,000 count at www.Redbooks.com Regardless, there are too many fish in that pond to hope to be found all alone.
But don’t abandon your plan to optimize – register with some of the successful client/agency match-makers who make being found their stock-in-trade. They compete for relevant keywords and tend to be found before an individual agency. Those with time-tested search algorithms and deep agency databases can and do deliver the precision Tom describes. That’s what we’ve been doing at www.agencyfinder.com for 17 years.
Tracking software analytical tools are great, but they often provide more information than you can effectively absorb, and short of conducting “auto-responder marketing” to every likely individual at companies that visit, they all lack the ability to provide the visitor’s e-mail and/or name. But I’ll be first in line when that happens and is legal.
Back in early 2000, my now-deceased partner came to me all excited. His was a website-building company and their newest client wanted to run an “art” auction on line. Dick came to me back then, all smiles but without the benefit of advertising industry experience. He outlined this “really neat auction model” where we’d post the client specs and give our registered agencies the chance to bid on the business, where low bidder was meant to be the winner. That would have made us the first search consultant to use a Reverse E-Auction model, but after I took time, patience and purpose to explain you don’t EVER bid on creativity, Dick and I put that plan in the trash.
My suggestion for dealing with the “Auction” model? Either refuse to participate, or win the business and then give the client what they paid for.
The first week in September, AdAge ran a clever angle on the agency search process model, designed to give each agency the enviable opportunity to prostitute itself when there’s excess capacity to sell or a lull in new business activity. I sense this will ba an overnight sensation. More details here (you may need to be a subscriber)
Here’s how I see it. Let’s call this new consultant CarFinder. Following his advocacy, rather than “level the playing field” and ask what you want in a car, and rather than learning about your family, your work, your education, your income, your favorite recreations and lifestyle, he’ll present what he thinks you might like. Consider his potpourri of metal and rubber. A Rolls-Royce convertible, a Volkswagen, a Hyundai, a Shelby Mustang, a Fiat, a McLaren and a Harley Electra Glide to mix it up. He’ll take you into his CarFinder Search Suite (twin 58″ flatscreen monitors) where each dealer gets a chance to play his “E-Auction Dollar-for-HorsePower Game” – a Skype-enabled low-bidder-wins scenario! Imagine the tension, excitement, the electricity and ups and downs as Rolls and Beetle each slowly lower their price to $18,500. OMG, you want the Shelby price to come down … Why won’t Ford ever haggle!
Do you have an idea for a Search Consultant model? Please share …
There’s apparently little agreement on the role or place of the hired and compensated pricey search consultant in a client’s agency review. And last week (May 1st) as reported in AdAge, “agency search consultants admitted that the process of agency reviews has gotten “totally out of control” during a session at the Mirren New Business Conference in New York. Speaking on a panel called “Why You Are — And Are Not — On Our Radar,” Russel Wohlwerth stressed that the agency search process hasn’t worked efficiently in many years, and is only getting more and more unwieldy. While many in the industry say the (hired and paid) search consultants still manage about 30% overall pitches, Mr. Wohlwerth contended that number is smaller.” I contend that no-cost services like AgencyFinder; sponsored by their member-agencies, have ever-so-slowly drawn business away.
“Another focus for consultants is reconciling the transparency issue. Marketers’ reluctance to disclose the firms involved in a pitch could be harmful to a small agency’s business when that agency is trying to decide whether it’s worth investing in a pitch against a large shop, explained one agency executive during the Q&A session. Panelists agreed that clients should publicize that information.” I noticed there was no mention whether that was something the consultants should do themselves …
“Finally, the consultants advised that in order to get on consultants’ radar, they should provide quarterly updates about their agency, should be active in the blogosphere and on social media, and consider positioning themselves as leaders in specific categories.” I don’t know why they beat this topic to death! The consultants in question and attendance at this seminar were the big boys and girls; those whose fees often exceed the budget of many much smaller clients. Why mislead smaller agencies – you don’t get on their radar by sending stuff; you get on their radar when your capitalized billings are in the stratosphere of multi-millions.
A client with a $40MM budget and able to afford these pricey match-makers, isn’t looking to hire an agency capitalized at much less than $80MM!
Just in time for the holidays; a time of family, friends and old acquaintances. The warmth of a friendly fire, chestnuts roasting there and all that … In keeping with that theme and thought, the radio announcement I heard in the car earlier this week declared that Facebook’s new Timeline offers “a richer experience meeting people on-line than meeting them face-to-face!”
From your new business perspective then, why bother! What a corruption of human intercourse … Gads!