About Steve Boehler

Steve Boehler, founder and partner at Mercer Island Group, has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Sprint, Nintendo, Abbott Laboratories and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles and Jif.

10 Things You Can Do As COVID-19 Peaks

By Robin Boehler & Steve Boehler Founding Partners Mercer Island Group  As Covid-19 begins peaking across the country, what do you and your agency do now? You’ve applied for your PPP loan, reassessed your business plan, and everyone is working from home. There’s been a lot of client handholding and adjustments to media plans and scopes of work.  It’s time now to turn the page and begin Chapter 2: Planning for Recovery. To help get started, we’ve come up with 10 starter ideas that you and your agency can run with or adapt to meet your needs and the evolving needs of your clients. Help Your Clients Recover 1. Love the One You’re With Your current clients are the heart of your business. They are the best source of stability and future revenue. Show them how much you love them. Make it easy to repurpose scopes of work, timelines, maybe even deferred payment. Be flexible and, above all, be gracious.  2. Find New Ways to Add Value Your clients face new unpredictable business challenges for which there was no way they could have adequately prepared. There’s a good chance your current scope of work does not reflect the realities of their new business challenges. Time to engage in conversations with your clients to be sure you understand their most pressing needs so you can do what you do best – provide solutions that address their needs. 3. Offer Quick & Cost-Effective Ideas For many of your clients, their business models and marketing approaches have been disrupted. Despite this, they still need to engage with their target audience.  Ideate and provide free ideas that help them do this. We are big fans of paying it forward. [...]

We’re All In This Together: How Agencies Can Help Their Clients Weather Covid-19

By: Steve Boehler & Matt Driscoll of Mercer Island Group “Every brand is now in the business of public service.” - Ed Cotton, Creative Strategist Many companies are adapting their products, services and communications to be helpful to their communities as we await sunnier days ahead.  Some manufacturers have retooled to produce medical supplies, restaurants are offering free meals and delivery service, and banks are deferring loan payments. Agencies are getting into the act by sharing helpful content and advice with their clients and the broader community. These are thoughtful, appropriate responses to the Covid-19 crisis.  At Mercer Island Group, our belief is straightforward: if brands and agencies want to live the notion of "we're all in this together", they should provide service that is helpful. Clients face difficult decisions and unique business needs right now. To be helpful, agencies should help clients and communities with their business needs in a manner that is thoughtful and considerate of their emotional needs.  We have collected some good examples of agencies doing just that – helping their clients and communities with important business needs. These firms are providing help in a sensitive and respectful manner that is considerate of their audiences’ emotional needs. You will find examples of content that agencies have been sharing with their clients and the broader marketing community below. Feel free to use this advice yourselves, and with your clients as you see fit. We also suggest that you create your own advice and share it with your clients, communities and other agencies.  360i – The Only Constant Is Change 360i has assembled a guide for clients, helping ground their clients with facts regarding Covid-19’s impact. They reviewed a ton of data and [...]

10 Tips for Planning Your 2018 and 2019 Agency New Business Activities

A finely tuned agency new business plan requires preparation and planning. Here are ten tips for planning a better, more successful agency new business effort: 1. Distinctly position your agency Some agencies try to be everything to everyone, or so their positioning would have us believe. As a service provider, that’s an understandable position to take, but it dilutes your offering when a prospective client comes along with specific needs (which is, really, all of them). The ability of an agency to differentiate itself begins with a compelling agency positioning. You don’t have to be so hyper-specialized as to become irrelevant for most AOR searches, but small tweaks in the way you talk about your agency can make a big difference in how you’re perceived. A great historic example was Kaplan Thaler Group’s “We make unknown brands famous. Make famous brands icons. And create ideas that become part of our culture.” Start with a philosophy that’s true to your work and style, and infuse that into everything else: work processes, interaction processes, and ultimately a positioning statement. 2. Focus on business issues This one is so obvious, yet so often forgotten in the rush to talk up your agency. Business issues should be an undercurrent to, if not the outright focus of, any conversation with a prospective client. Even if the client’s not willing to share all issues outright, there are ways to make the conversation more about them than you, and better yet, to show how you’re the solution they need. The successful matchup of client needs and agency offerings begins with an agency’s ability to draw explicit connections between the two. 3. Highlight service The importance of outstanding service delivery can’t be overlooked. [...]

The New Business Development Strategy: Turn Your Efforts Upside Down

Agencies everywhere are finding new business development to be a greater and greater challenge. And, unfortunately, the business development strategies of most agencies are destined for failure. 1.  Unattainable growth rates are often needed to achieve agency growth objectives 2.  The investment required and the low odds of winning pitches is debilitating 3.  The stress on organic growth is intense and rarely achieved 4.  Too much reliance is placed on a small group of senior “sellers” 5.  Difficulty “standing out” in pitches leads to expensive, wasteful theatrics 6.  Cold calling experiences are generally unsuccessful and de-motivating If you experience some of these challenges, your team is not alone! Most agencies face these challenges – hence an opportunity exists to re-invent the industry’s new business development strategies. The Problems with Agency New Business Development Strategies Today Most agencies approach new business development in a three step fashion that is fundamentally flawed: 1) Competitive Pitches and Reviews These are by far the biggest area of focus for most larger agencies. Reviews get most of the business development resources – in people, focus and money. Reviews, however, can be a fools’ paradise: you must make it through the questionnaire stage against a dozen other agencies just to be a finalist (1 in 12 odds) – and then, upon becoming a finalist, the odds are generally only 1 in 4 that you will win. If you do the math, there is a 2% chance of being awarded the business at the time you receive the questionnaire. There must be a better strategy! And yet, while this is such a bitter place to invest – because many of the largest accounts are awarded through a review – it is easy [...]

The Most Important Principle of New Business Pitching

I learned the most important lesson about new business pitching from an unlikely source for a man in my business: record producer Jimmy Iovine. In 2013 I was a proud dad sitting in the audience at the University of Southern California’s commencement ceremony. The keynote speaker was famous music producer and co-founder of Beats headphones, Jimmy Iovine. He told an unforgettable story that I’ve applied to sales conversations ever since. As I remember it, Jimmy described his start as a sound engineer working on an early Bruce Springsteen album. After working on Born to Run with producer Jon Landau, he was asked to work on the follow up album, Darkness On the Edge of Town. He was tasked to find the right drum beat for a song, and it wasn’t an easy job. After spending six weeks working around the clock trying to get the sound that Bruce had in his head actualized with instruments, Jimmy became frustrated. Bruce wanted a specific sound that he had trouble describing, and Jimmy was failing time after time at delivering what the Boss was looking for. No matter what they tried, it wasn’t working. Bruce kept rejecting the work, which left Jimmy feeling disrespected and on the verge of quitting. When All Seemed Lost, A Pivotal Moment It was then that a pivotal moment took place: Bruce’s manager looked Jimmy straight in the eye and said something to the effect of, “you go back there and say to Bruce ‘I’m here to support you. This is not about me. It’s about the album.’ You will have a friend for the rest of your life.” Jimmy swallowed his pride and did just that. In the end, Jimmy never nailed [...]

How to Position Your Agency for Success

Every day across the globe, agencies are working hard to differentiate their clients and help drive their clients’ growth. These agencies use the art and science of positioning to help their clients stand out from competition in an important and authentic manner. Sadly, most of the agencies doing this fine work have not worked the same positioning magic for themselves, in spite of the fact that they compete with dozens—if not hundreds—of other agencies on a daily basis. There is an abundance of talented and effective agencies who have failed to differentiate themselves. As a result, they are missing out on the significant (and very profitable) growth opportunities triggered by a compelling brand position. So, how to position your agency for success? Let’s talk about it. The Challenges of Agency Growth As you no doubt know, there are numerous challenges when it comes to growing an agency today. These challenges include: • More competition • Greater complexity • Difficulty expressing the uniqueness of your agency • A more educated and informed buyer who does his/her agency research without your knowledge Most agencies face these challenges. There is, however, an opportunity to address these challenges by positioning your agency in a truly unique, compelling and differentiated fashion. In this paper we will share the learning we have regarding how to create such a differentiated position for any agency by leveraging best practices that we have learned from our 28 years of agency related consulting. The Great Agencies of Old Most agencies today face the challenge of how to effectively position their firm and how to present their agency in a compelling, client-centric manner. It was not always like this! The great agencies of old stood for [...]

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