Blog Posts

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.

Where do you lay your head? Consider embedding.

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

Every spring, I put together a list of trends that I think agency owners need to track. I present this content at the spring meetings of the AMI owner peer groups and then later in the summer/fall, I share the trends with my podcast audience (2019 parts one and two). I just finished the deck last week and presented it for the first time today. One of the trends that we talked about in 2019 that has really gathered steam is the idea of embedding an agency employee into the client’s work environment. Many agencies initially offered it to keep a client from taking work in-house but what they’ve discovered is that it’s an amazing biz dev strategy. Remember that 60-70% of your new business goal should come from existing clients and this is a smart way to trigger some of that growth. I don’t have one agency in my world that has an embedded employee that isn’t reporting client growth, new opportunities with other divisions within the company, and a strengthened relationship. It’s definitely a winning strategy for the agencies that have implemented it.

Now that I’ve had a year of studying it from afar, I have some thoughts on best practices around this growing trend. It is not without its pitfalls, if you make some wrong turns.

  • This is a premium product — having your AE on-site in their environment — so price it accordingly.
  • Think long and hard about who you choose to embed. It’s easy for them to begin to feel more like your client’s employee than the agency’s employee. You want someone who is very committed to your agency’s success.
  • Do not allow them to work onsite at the client’s office more than 3.5 days a week. You need them to spend time back at the agency, staying connected to the team and being reminded where they actually work.
  • Have a very well-written non-compete and non-solicitation clause in your contract with the client so they cannot “woo” your employee away.
  • Have a very well-written non-solicitation, no stealing clients clause in your contract with the employee so they can’t branch out on their own or offer themselves to another agency with the promise of delivering your client in the deal.

There is a lot of upside to this idea but be mindful of the risks and protect yourself accordingly. In 2018, I saw a handful of these arrangements. In 2019 — it went up significantly. I am seeing agencies of all sizes, in both the B2C and B2B space, offering this to clients. It’s not going away anytime soon so you should probably decide how you feel about it and if it might make sense for your shop!

A contribution from our friend Drew McLellan at AMI

 

If you could read your employees thought bubbles …

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

Do you remember the movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt?

You do watch any movie that takes place inside an advertising agency, don’t you? Anyway —the premise of the movie is that Mel Gibson is an arrogant, sexist ad guy who receives the “gift” of being able to hear what women are thinking all around him. As you might imagine, it was a shock to Mel’s ego to see himself through the eyes of the women in his life.

If you haven’t seen it — check it out. It’s definitely worth a Netflix night.

The movie popped into my head because I’ve had some interesting conversations with agency employees over the past few weeks and my conversation with Craig in this week’s podcast also touched on how our employees see the agency, and us as the agency leader. I wish you could hear their unedited thoughts because I think we unintentionally miss the mark sometimes because of our assumptions.

Like poor Mel — sometimes the listening was not easy to hear. But, given what we do for a living — we know how important perspective is and as you might imagine, the Mel at the end of the movie is a different guy than the Mel we met initially. I wonder if that would be true for you, too.

Here are some of the biggest refrains that are running through agency employees’ brains that I believe are worthy of your time and attention:

  • “I’m relieved that she got a new car. It means the agency is stable financially and I don’t have to worry about my job.”
  • “He has no idea how much harder it is to do my job when he doesn’t have time to talk to me.”
  • “Oh my God…we just decided A last week. Now he wants to do B? Why?”
  • “I’m worried about him. He looks tired and he works too much.”
  • “I know a lot of agencies are open book. I wonder why she doesn’t trust us enough to share the numbers?”
  • “It’s so hard to get my team to do (timesheets, follow the traffic system, etc.) when he disregards it. How do I answer them when they point out that it might not be that important if the agency owner isn’t doing it.”
  • “I don’t know how she does it. I admire her and all she’s accomplished. But those are big shoes to fill. Am I ready?”
  • “I’m going to just tread water on this thing he asked me to do. He never sticks to anything. If he asks again, I guess it means he’s serious this time.”
  • “I wish I could spend more time with him. I want to be as good as he is and learn from him.”
  • “It’s so frustrating that she doesn’t have her act together and then shoves her last-minute projects into the workflow. How do I explain that to the client whose work is now going to be late?
  • “Does he notice that I am working my tail off? That I am trying to step up and prove how committed I am to the agency?”
  • I would kill to have a consistent weekly meeting with her. I could keep things moving if I just had her attention on a regular basis.”
  • “The team is getting worried. We haven’t had a state of the agency meeting for a while and that usually means things are not going well.”
  • “We all care about this place and want to help. But other than just doing our jobs, we don’t know how.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Your team (unless you are the exception to the rule) feels a little out of the loop. While they are grateful that you work as hard as you do — it’s frustrating when they are never a consistent priority. They want more of you. More feedback. More informal teaching. More mentorship and more “Atta boys!” from you.

I watch the agency owners who truly are the exception to the rule and their agencies are on a growth path. They are experiencing less turnover and their client retention is higher. If I can sum up what they’re doing, it’s this set of behaviors and beliefs:

  • They see their agency as a teaching tool and use performance metrics, pitch results, and every other aspect of their agency’s life as lessons to be shared with the team.
  • They overshare (meaning they repeat themselves) because they know everyone is not going to retain it the first time.
  • They celebrate victories — big and small. They remind everyone why their work matters and why the team is so good.
  • They are very open about the agency’s performance, money situation and their own hopes, fears, worries, and joys.
  • They are present. Sometimes half the battle is won simply by being there.
  • They say thank you. Often —and in person.
  • They invest in the relationships and the people. They hang out, enjoy a bagel in the break area with the team, and participate in company outings.
  • They don’t sugarcoat or dodge the tough conversations.

Every one of you is capable of all of the above. I just think you are running so fast and have so much on your mind that you forget to slow down and connect with your team. I know you want to be an amazing leader. I know you want to inspire confidence and trust. I know you want to build a team that will follow you into battle and do you proud.

Make it a priority. Schedule the time on your calendar. See those thought bubbles over their heads and anticipate what they might be concerned about and proactively deal with those worries.

You’ve got this. I know you do.

Another great contribution by Drew McLellan, CEO AMI (Agency Management Institute)

A consultant’s guide to pitching your agency

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

By 

It is fair to say that in the past two decades of being a consultant I have seen hundreds, if not a thousand or more agency credentials pitches, from presenting credentials to chemistry sessions to the full-blown agency pitch to win that multimillion-dollar account. I was also for many years on the agency side of the table pitching my work as a creative to clients and potential clients.

I know the hours of time and the money that goes into the agency credentials presentation and it is a cliche to say that I wish I knew then what I know now, which is why I am sharing this with you. Most agency credentials pitches fall flat and fail to hit the mark. The reason being that most fail at the very thing a credentials pitch should achieve – getting the client to trust you enough to consider giving you their business.

The first mistake many agencies make when pitching their agency is identifying the objective of the pitch. Why are you pitching? The circumstances may vary from a chance opportunity to meet a potential new client to the first meeting with the client at the start of a formal tender process. But no matter what the circumstances the purpose is for the client to give you their business. It is not about a forensic explanation of your business, or an opportunity to tell your detailed journey as a business. The purpose or objective is simply to get chosen.

So what are some of the mistakes agencies typically make when pitching credentials and what can you learn from them?

Not researching your audience

This does not mean stalking, but it does mean knowing your audience and what they are thinking, feeling and especially what they desire. After all, and contrary to conventional wisdom, a great pitch is not about you, it is about them. They are the ones you need to persuade. So get to know them by researching the organisation and individuals. Talk to the people that have either worked with them or for them. Use all the time available, even if it is five minutes, to get to know your audience.

Make sure that you answer the most important question

Most people are too focused and too busy explaining what it is they are pitching in microscopic detail as they think this is what the potential buyers are interested in. The fact is the most important question the buyers are asking themselves, sitting there, is what is in this for me – and I do not mean just financially. In fact that is often a secondary consideration after more emotional considerations like opportunities for success and fame and minimising risk and loss.

Prepare, prepare and prepare and then prepare again

Some people say rehearse, rehearse rehearse. But it is more important to know your material inside and out, back the front and upside down. Too often you can tell the agency has pulled the material together at the last minute and they fumble through the materials and presentation. Rather than having the most whiz-bang tech presentation it is much more effective to come across as confident, enthusiastic and in command of the pitch, the message, the audience and the outcome.

The secret of good pitching is timing

The opening few minutes of your pitch are everything so don’t waste time building to a reveal, get straight to the pitch. If you do not get them in the first minute the rest of the pitch is usually wasted. Likewise if you have an hour, then make the whole pitch in less than 30 minutes. If you have 30 minutes pitch in under 15 minutes. You want to engage the audience as quickly as possible and give them plenty of time to follow their curiosity. The reason is when the audiences is engaged with a genuine interest in what you are offering you are sliding into home base.

Present the benefits and not the features

This is an old copywriting technique and yet it is surprising how often agencies forget it. Don’t go into the details, but rather spend the time selling the big benefits to the advertiser and the business. This is not a rational decision. It is like all human decisions – an instinctual or emotional one that is then justified rationally. Certainly, know your numbers in detail, but don’t get caught up in an analysis of these details in the pitch because no one makes decision-based on the details alone. Make sure all of those details are in the documentation you will leave behind or send through after you have to go agreement to proceed.

Case studies are proof points

Too many agency pitch teams spend the first half telling you how good the agency is and then boring you with case studies for clients and categories that are unrelated to the buyer’s needs. Use case studies to prove your benefits. If you are great at working collaboratively don’t just say it, prove it by sharing a case study as an example of how well you collaborate. The only thing more compelling than saying how good you are is proving how good you are, with a great case study/story/ example. And the only thing more compelling than that is your client telling them for you. But more on testimonials another time.

Of course, if you want to refine your credentials pitch, test it out on people who know. I am sure you know a few.

Darren Woolley is founder and global chief executive of TrinityP3.

The Drum and an industry leader will deconstruct the pitch process and lay out the good and the bad at the upcoming Agency Acceleration Day APAC.

A final message from T. Boone Pickens shared before his passing on September 11, 2019

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

The following message from T. Boone Pickens was written prior to his passing on September 11, 2019.
Mr. Pickens’ website and social media accounts are now being maintained by T. Boone Pickens Foundation team members.

“If you are reading this, I have passed on from this world — not as big a deal for you as it was for me.

In my final months, I came to the sad reality that my life really did have a fourth quarter and the clock really would run out on me. I took the time to convey some thoughts that reflect back on my rich and full life.

I was able to amass 1.9 million Linkedin followers. On Twitter, more than 145,000 (thanks, Drake). This is my goodbye to each of you.

One question I was asked time and again: What is it that you will leave behind?

That’s at the heart of one of my favorite poems, “Indispensable Man,” which Saxon White Kessinger wrote in 1959. Here are a few stanzas that get to the heart of the matter:

Sometime when you feel that your going

Would leave an unfillable hole,

Just follow these simple instructions

And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,

Put your hand in it up to the wrist,

Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining

Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,

You may stir up the water galore,

But stop and you’ll find that in no time

It looks quite the same as before.

You be the judge of how long the bucket remembers me.

I’ve long recognized the power of effective communication. That’s why in my later years I began to reflect on the many life lessons I learned along the way, and shared them with all who would listen.

Fortunately, I found the young have a thirst for this message. Many times over the years, I was fortunate enough to speak at student commencement ceremonies, and that gave me the chance to look out into a sea of the future and share some of these thoughts with young minds. My favorite of these speeches included my grandchildren in the audience.

What I would tell them was this Depression-era baby from tiny Holdenville, Oklahoma — that wide expanse where the pavement ends, the West begins, and the Rock Island crosses the Frisco — lived a pretty good life.

In those speeches, I’d always offer these future leaders a deal: I would trade them my wealth and success, my 68,000-acre ranch and private jet, in exchange for their seat in the audience. That way, I told them, I’d get the opportunity to start over, experience every opportunity America has to offer.

It’s your shot now.

If I had to single out one piece of advice that’s guided me through life, most likely it would be from my grandmother, Nellie Molonson. She always made a point of making sure I understood that on the road to success, there’s no point in blaming others when you fail.

Here’s how she put it:

“Sonny, I don’t care who you are. Some day you’re going to have to sit on your own bottom.”

After more than half a century in the energy business, her advice has proven itself to be spot-on time and time again. My failures? I never have any doubt whom they can be traced back to. My successes? Most likely the same guy.

Never forget where you come from. I was fortunate to receive the right kind of direction, leadership, and work ethic  — first in Holdenville, then as a teen in Amarillo, Texas, and continuing in college at what became Oklahoma State University. I honored the values my family instilled in me, and was honored many times over by the success they allowed me to achieve.

I also long practiced what my mother preached to me throughout her life — be generous. Those values came into play throughout my career, but especially so as my philanthropic giving exceeded my substantial net worth in recent years.

For most of my adult life, I’ve believed that I was put on Earth to make money and be generous with it. I’ve never been a fan of inherited wealth. My family is taken care of, but I was far down this philanthropic road when, in 2010, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates asked me to take their Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. I agreed immediately.

I liked knowing that I helped a lot of people. I received letters every day thanking me for what I did, the change I fostered in other people’s lives. Those people should know that I appreciated their letters.

My wealth was built through some key principles, including:

A good work ethic is critical.

Don’t think competition is bad, but play by the rules. I loved to compete and win. I never wanted the other guy to do badly; I just wanted to do a little better than he did.

Learn to analyze well. Assess the risks and the prospective rewards, and keep it simple.

Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader: Avoid the “Ready-aim-aim-aim-aim” syndrome. You have to be willing to fire.

Learn from mistakes. That’s not just a cliché. I sure made my share. Remember the doors that smashed your fingers the first time and be more careful the next trip through.

Be humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree, the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey.

Don’t look to government to solve problems — the strength of this country is in its people.

Stay fit. You don’t want to get old and feel bad. You’ll also get a lot more accomplished and feel better about yourself if you stay fit. I didn’t make it to 91 by neglecting my health.

Embrace change. Although older people are generally threatened by change, young people loved me because I embraced change rather than running from it. Change creates opportunity.

Have faith, both in spiritual matters and in humanity, and in yourself. That faith will see you through the dark times we all navigate.

Over the years, my staff got used to hearing me in a meeting or on the phone asking, “Whaddya got?” That’s probably what my Maker is asking me about now.

Here’s my best answer.

I left an undying love for America, and the hope it presents for all. I left a passion for entrepreneurship, and the promise it sustains. I left the belief that future generations can and will do better than my own.

Thank you. It’s time we all move on.”

Does Your Agency Really Need Its Website?

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

Silly question you might say, but what’s your website for anyway?

Before You Had Your Website:

Before you had a website, you should have had an agency brochure. Something you kept in inventory for those times when a prospect conversation ended with “can you send me something?” Off went the brochure with an accompanying cover letter. That conversation and package was normally sent by the person charged with agency business development and followed a meaningful telephone conversation. The cover letter was written accordingly.

A good “agency business development person” (ABD) would make a follow-up call to confirm package receipt and continue with a probative conversation. Using what was learned during that call, the ABD now sent a very carefully considered and grouped collection of materials designed to emphasize and confirm the agency’s suitability and candidacy for handling the client’s business.

This process was carefully tailored to each client and each client’s interest; when speaking with a B2B client, there was generally no “show and tell” of fashion-related experience. Conversely fashion prospects were not burdened with industrial examples. Thinking back, didn’t this all make sense?

What’s Your Website Today?

What’s your website today? A pithy mini tome declaring purpose and intent; a collection of everything you do and have done; an introduction to smiling team leaders with photos and bios, text hopefully appealing to all visitors, samples of current work in all categories, a listing of current but seldom past clients, concluding with a “Contact Us” page. Not necessarily in that order, but available for viewing.

Many variables determine why an agency is selected by a client, but all will agree that “chemistry” or likeability plays a deciding factor in the final selection. Knowing that, good agency people also know that “chemistry” plays a factor from the very beginning. Meaning – “You never get a second change to make a first impression” and undeniably the ABD can make or break your chance for success from the get-go.

If that’s the case, why not give your ABD star billing on the Contact Us Page? A handsome photo, and brief but credentialed bio, and multiple contact options. And while you’re at it, if your ABD is engaged in multiple forms of proactive outreach, rather than pointing to your website in those materials as your competitors do, suggest they engage in an initial telephone conversation; then respond with a “custom digital agency brochure” tailored to that discussion.

How About A New Website?

As to your website? How about other alternate versions – just a powerful page or two featuring a vertical market, then declaring your understanding of the importance of relationships and of one-to-one conversation. Agency-to-client and client-to customer.  Let them know your initial conversation will lead to a uniquely-selected collection of samples and examples specific to their interest and needs. Not like other “we-do-it-all” agency websites.  Incorporate AI to let them schedule a day and time for their call and conversation. Confirm by email plus a real honest-to-goodness agency business card via USPS.

Oh BTW – agency websites are used to recruit new hires too. But rather than burdening someone on staff who often has limited HR experience, why not engage an employee search consultant to narrow the field and present only qualified candidates? (as they’ve done for years)

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