Posts Tagged ‘B2B Marketing’

Drew says – “This is your time!” (Specifically directed at small to mid-sized agencies)

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

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

Does Your Marketing Feel Like This These Days? As an Advertiser or As an Agency?

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

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
There’s the temptation to search for an agency “type.” As in digital, experiential, direct, integrated, public relations and so on. Don’t start with type. Start with experience. Does this agency have relevant experience in your industry, do they understand the nuances and personalities of the people you are targeting? Do they have the right type of talent, experience and background that brings fresh thinking? are they equipped to work remotely with your company and team to turn projects around on budget and deadline? Are they willing to share meaningful insights that can help accelerate the growth of your brand?  Are they the right size, fit, responsive and willing to do what it takes to ensure the seamless execution and implementation of any marketing challenging?

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.

Is It Time To Address The Elephant In The Room?

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

How about it; do you find the pre-COVID commercials showing life as it was a sometimes irritating, annoying reminder we can’t live that way today? Spots showing large gatherings at backyard barbeques; youngsters sitting close on the beach for a beer and bonfire, we’re not there yet. Some brands do show masks and distancing, even voicing the need to take it slow. But most have not.

Understandably no brand wants to bear the messaging burden alone, so how about… would it make sense for the 4A’s, ANA, and the many other agency associations to come together to create PSA’s to address the situation? With positive, upbeat messaging guiding people to a clear path. There’s been nothing like that yet. Corporate and agency cash reserves and personal savings only go so far. Everyone has a stake in that game and it needs to be played. You can play your part beginning here.

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

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.

The Five Objections

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

by Blair Enns @   (Chuck says – from time to time I want to share what other business development pros have to say)

I spent the early part of my consulting practice advising you on using classic selling techniques to help overcome objections raised by the prospect in the buy-sell cycle. Over time it became clear that rather than trying to overcome these objections, you should be raising them for the prospect to overcome. I wrote about this idea of racing to object in the August, 2006 issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter, titled Creating Objections. This month I go deeper into this subject by exploring the five most common objections that you should arm yourself with, for use early in the buying cycle as a means of quickly shifting the power from buyer to seller.

Anytime you sense there might not be a perfect fit between the offering or ability of your firm and the needs and means of the prospect, you want to raise the objection before the prospect does. As I’ve written in this space previously, the dynamics of objections are such that if the prospect raises them, it is incumbent on you to deal with them, but the opposite is equally true. You will demonstrate an expert’s selectivity if you raise the concern first. If the objection is significant to the point that the prospect would be better served by another firm then you are not going to disguise this over a long sales cycle, so it is in the interest of both parties to deal with this early, before extensive resources are wasted. If the objection is less onerous, or if the prospect sees a route around it, he will help you deal with the objection, provided you give him the opportunity.

While it is in your interest to address any objection that you sense, there are five main objections that you should be prepared to drop on the prospect at any time. Let’s explore them, the language around them and some situations when you might employ them.

Objection #1: Money
Money, or price, being the most common objection, is the first one you should be prepared to raise. Some prospects simply will not be able to afford you. Some will come to you with engagements too small worth considering. And others simply need to know that there is a minimum price of entry to get onto your client roster. Be sure to raise this objection as soon as you sense it. Contrary to what some believe, it is never too early to talk money in a business setting.

The Language

An annual minimum level of engagement is a good place to broach the subject of money. (I addressed the math that allows you to arrive at your firm’s minimum in the January, 2008 issue, Business Development Planning.) Raise the issue of your minimum as soon as need or opportunity is identified. In its simplest form the objection sounds like, ‘Before we go too far I should tell you that we have a minimum level of engagement of $xxx in fees.’

You can follow up with, ‘Does the engagement we are discussing meet this minimum?’ Or, just silence. Silence is a powerful conversational tool. Like nature, the average person abhors a vacuum and will attempt to fill it. If you can resist filling the pregnant pause, the prospect will fill it for you, often by overcoming the objection or by beginning to close the gap between positions that the objection represents.

You might hear, ‘Yes, we’re prepared to spend that much.’ Or conversely, the prospect might respond with, ‘Oh – we can only afford a fraction of that amount.’ In either case the next steps are obvious; one is a sign to proceed and the other a sign to send the prospect on his way.

Between these extremes lies interesting middle ground where the prospect might consider adding more work to the engagement to meet your minimum. You will also uncover situations where the budget does not meet your stated minimum but might be healthy enough to merit consideration, given your capacity and ability to command a good profit margin on the engagement. In this last example be sure to keep the objection in place while you resume conducting your due diligence. If you do remove the objection, make sure it is the last thing you do before you close.

Objection #2: Project Work
In last month’s issue I discussed the idea that you should not be pursuing project work. When it does come to you, begin by raising the objection that you are not in the project business, then see what happens from there. By project, I mean short-term tactical engagements of any kind. Substitute brochure, website, or whatever tactical piece being discussed for the word project.

The Language

If a prospect calls to discuss a brochure assignment then you would respond accordingly: ‘We’re not in the brochure business.’

Then follow-up your objection with your reassurance statement – a description of the business you are in. In our brochure example you might proceed with, ‘We’re in the business of developing entire visual branding platforms.’ Then further explain, ‘We often do brochures and other sales collateral as part of that larger engagement, but if you are just looking for a brochure, ours is probably not the firm for you.’

Now the power begins to shift as you raise the initial objection, stopping the prospect at the gate. Continue by probing for a higher value, higher margin opportunity that will determine if you let the prospect through the gate or turn them back.

‘Before I say no let me ask, is this brochure part of a larger initiative?’

If you remember from the January, 2008 issue (Business Development Planning) in which I discussed your business development goals for the year, you do not build a lucrative practice by adding many small projects, but by carefully managing a small stable of high quality clients who engage you at a more strategic level. If the opportunity at hand is nothing more than a small project that would position you as the small project firm, then demonstrate an expert’s selectivity by sending the prospect packing, thereby preserving your positioning as an expert firm and preserving any future business opportunity.

Objection #3: Request for Proposal
The formal document called a Request for Proposal (RFP) is a sure sign of a bureaucratic selection process designed to bring the illusion of objectivity and transparency to the process. Be prepared at all times to whack this one down as soon as you get a hint of it. The language is straight-forward.

The Language

‘We don’t typically respond to RFPs.’

Alternatives include a stronger, ‘It’s our policy that we do not respond to RFPs,’ or the more fluid and playful, ‘We’re not in the proposal-writing business.’

With every objection you raise, you reserve the right to remove it. You are simply reversing the typical dynamics in the buy-sell cycle, asking the prospect if he will address the objections for you. His willingness to bend is an indication of the extent to which he recognizes and values your expertise, and an indication of the control he will give you in the buy-sell cycle. From time to time it may make sense to remove these objections (again, only right before you close) but you keep them in place as long as possible as a means of getting and leveraging power.

Again, in this example you can follow-up your objection with silence, or you can proceed right to, ‘Before I say no, let me ask you a few questions.’ If the prospect is willing to dismiss you at the first sign of the objection, then that is an indication that he sees many alternatives to hiring your firm. You therefore you have no power in the buy-sell cycle, which means no power once engaged. With few exceptions, this is not an opportunity worth pursuing.

Objection #4: Free Thinking
Free thinking, whether in the form of a formal speculative creative pitch or just uncompensated strategic guidance offered in the buy-sell cycle, is a danger zone that you want to avoid. Any client worth having will respect the fact that you do not give your highest value product away for free. As soon as you get a sniff of a request to part with free ideas or advice, draw the line by raising the objection in strongest possible terms.

The Language

‘It’s our policy that we do not begin to part with our thinking before we are engaged.’

As I’ve written previously, prefacing your objection with the words ‘It’s our policy,’ goes a long way to melting resistance. Other means of saying this include, ‘We don’t begin to solve our clients’ problems before we are engaged.’

There is a line that separates proving your ability to solve the prospect’s problem from actually beginning to solve it. When the prospect invites you to step over the line, simply point out the fact that the line is there. ‘I understand why you would ask us to come to you with some ideas – you’re simply looking for assurances that ours is the right firm for the job. But we would have to send you a contract and an invoice before we began working on the engagement. Keep your money for now, and let’s explore other ways we might determine if this is a good fit.’

In my own practice every once in a while I will cross the line and offer insight into the prospect’s situation – usually a form of diagnosing challenges rather than prescribing solutions, but before I do I will point out: A) the line exists, B) I’m going to step over it, breaking one of my own rules, and then C) watch me quickly retreat back over the line once I’ve made my point (and demonstrated my expertise.) It’s a playful approach that demonstrates a willingness on the part of the seller to work with the buyer while generating an understanding of exactly where the line is. Once you describe the line, the prospect will usually not ask you to cross it again.

Objection #5: Fit
The objection of poor fit is a broad one that can cover many situations. You would use it after diligently qualifying the prospect and determining that they cannot afford you. You would use it when the prospect’s needs are clearly outside of your area of expertise. You would also raise the fit objection with an unsophisticated prospect who doesn’t seem to recognize and value your expertise.

Determining a fit is almost always your objective in each and every business development interaction, and this objective should usually be stated aloud: ‘Our objective is to see if there’s a suitable enough fit between your need and our area of expertise to merit taking a next step together.’ Positioning yourself as an expert requires the demonstration of selectivity that a meaningful exploration of fit implies. If you suspect there is not a fit, say so and see how the prospect responds.

The Language

‘I don’t think there’s a fit here,’ is the straight-forward approach. Also try, ‘I think you might be better served by another firm.’ Feel free to suggest some options, pointing out where your firm differs from those you are suggesting.

In situations where a highly-coveted prospect begins discussing an enviable, lucrative engagement that is outside of your area of expertise – something you’ve never done before – then you should raise the objection. ‘While you’re talking about something that we would be excited to work on, you need to know that we’ve never undertaken this exact type of engagement before.’ If this is going to be an issue, then have it be an issue early and not late. Objections are your friends when you raise them early, and they are your enemies when the prospect raises them late. You build credibility by raising the objection and allowing the prospect to tell you how meaningful it is. If he sees your expertise as closely translating to the assignment at hand he may reply with, ‘Is there any way you could bring in some outside expertise to help you?’ Or, ‘I’m not worried. Based on your related experience I think you could do this.’

Your response might be, ‘Absolutely – we’re not worried about our ability to do this, but I wanted to be upfront with you about our experience.’ You are better off raising the objection for the prospect to address then you are pretending it does not exist and trying to close with the elephant in the room that nobody is discussing.

Summing Up
Expert firms drive the engagement. Order-taker firms let the client drive. If you want to drive like an expert once engaged then you need to begin to take control in the buy-sell cycle, before you are engaged. Taking control begins with raising objections to the common concerns outlined above. Look for the signs that the concern exists then raise the objection as soon as possible. From there, sit back and enjoy the awkward silence while you watch to see if the prospect overcomes the objection, or if he smacks into it and runs away.

To badly mangle an old adage, if you want the engagement bad enough, whack it hard. If it comes back, it’s yours (and you will be properly positioned as the expert); if it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.


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