Many agency owners and leaders ask me about the AMI networks so I thought I would explain them here in my weekly note to all of you. Very few people in your life truly understand the unique challenges and potential of running a small to mid-sized agency. If you’ve got a partner or two — you can kick ideas back and forth, but you’re all inside the same bottle. And just like we tell our clients — you can’t objectively see or describe the outside of the bottle from inside. This is why our agency owner peer networks are the cornerstone of AMI. By joining a network you get the best of both worlds. You get that outside perspective you really need but from someone who walks in your shoes every day. Each one has a mix of advertising agencies, PR firms, marketing shops, digital marketing, and design firms with the desire and drive to grow their business to the next level. Only one company from any specific geographic market or niche specialty is admitted to a network. This allows you to collaborate with people outside your bottle – to gain new perspectives and share ideas with other driven and passionate agency owners. The network is truly a safe and open harbor where valuable business connections and lifelong friendships develop. The networks meet in person twice a year (for 2 full days + dinner on the night before we start) and stay in touch throughout the year. They share resources, partner on business, seek counsel and enjoy each other’s support, and when needed, a kick in the pants. Your network becomes your advisory team, sounding board, and a group of great friends. At the in-person [...]
I totally get it. You’re busy putting out fires, delivering high-level strategy for your clients and trying to mentor and grow your team. Who has time for new business? This is one of those head versus heart things in agency ownership. You know you need to devote more time to new business but somehow something always pushes those best intentions aside. I’m here to tell you — you cannot afford to let your biz dev efforts ebb and flow. The only way it works is if you keep your foot on the pedal every day. MediaPost asked me to talk a little about this issue and how agency owners can overcome the lure of “I’ll do it tomorrow.” As always, I’d welcome your feedback. In January, we had one of the best live workshops we’ve ever had — and it was two days of talking about nothing but new business strategies with two agency search consultants who see agencies at their best and their worst. They were so generous with this knowledge and insights that everyone walked away raving about the content. In fact, it was so awesome that we’re doing it again next January. It’s going to sell out for sure — so if you want to do a deep dive on biz dev, check out the workshop and get your spot before they’re gone. However you fire yourself up and inspire yourself — let 2020 be the year that you finally embrace your role as Chief Prospect Hunter!
Prospects. Ever thought about dating them? Sounds odd I know but my podcast guest Robin Boehler has developed a matchmaking skill between clients and agencies that is bar none. Robin is the co-founder of Mercer Island Group, a boutique marketing and management consultancy. Their analogy of the review process as a form of dating really helps agencies examine how they present themselves to prospective clients and then Robin and her team help them tweak that to differentiate themselves so they stand out from the crowd. Most people want to date the stand out, not the wallflower. Come learn from Robin and I how to stand out by: Getting the agency-client relationship right from the very beginning Why truly differentiating your agency is so crucial The importance of doing your research on a prospect before ever speaking to them and how to do it well Why you should never start out a pitch talking about your agency (and when is the right time to do so) Why networking is the best way to get the opportunity to have quality conversations with prospects Robin’s sales prospecting methodology How to spark curiosity in communication to prospects Robin’s strategy for reaching out to connections that you haven’t spoken to in a while Why you shouldn’t hold back a really smart question just because you don’t want a competing agency to hear it Why each conversation you have with a prospect is the only one that matters Why you must show true interest in a prospect’s business and then learn from what the prospect tells you Robin Boehler is a co-founder of Mercer Island Group, a boutique Marketing and Management Consultancy, a pre-eminent agency search consultant to clients and growth [...]
I recently had an AMI agency ask me which 2016 content management conferences for agencies I would recommend they consider putting into the budget. First -- bravo to the agency for actually baking professional development into their budget. Most agencies underspend in this area and it costs them their best talent. A recent survey showed that agency employees consider being sent to a workshop, conference or other professional development opportunity as being equal to a 17% raise. Whether they are telling you or not -- your people want to keep getting better. You have a responsibility and frankly it's just smart business, to help them sharpen their saw. Do they have a responsibility too? You bet. I wouldn't send anyone to a conference or workshop if you don't see evidence of them also trying to learn on their own and them bringing that new knowledge into the agency as a teacher. You co-own the responsibility and the best employees are the ones who are hungry to learn and to teach their peers. And of course, whether they want to get better or not -- you NEED them to get better. You invest so much into your people and they are your primary source of revenue, so you'd better keep investing in them. In our world today -- even if you know everything today, you will be woefully behind in a blink if you don't keep adding to your knowledge base. So your folks need to keep improving. If not, you have to keep trading up and that gets very expensive. And it should go without saying but I'll say it anyway -- YOU my agency owner friend also need to keep sharpening your skills, knowledge and exposure [...]
Agency owners are really good at a lot of things. Unfortunately, mentoring employees for growth is often not one of them. I get it -- you want self starters. You don't have time to micromanage people. You want someone who can think/behave like an owner. You know how you get employees like that? You create them. You hire smart people and then you teach them how to drive your agency's growth, your client's confidence and your AGI. None of that happens by accident. It's why you should be spending 20% of your time actively mentoring your team. So what does that look like? Everyone on your staff should have a weekly (yes weekly) one on one meeting with their supervisor. So as an agency owner -- you'd meet with your direct reports weekly. Here's what mentoring employees should look like: The employee owns the meeting. They schedule it and re-schedule it if necessary. If you're traveling -- do it by phone or Skype. The employee is expected to come to the meeting prepared. Use a form that outlines how the conversation should go -- and they should have it completed in advance and bring you a copy and one for themselves. (Email me if you want to see a sample) The meeting is 20-30 minutes long and focuses on quarterly goals and big picture progress -- not a traffic meeting. This is their opportunity to pick your brain, run ideas past you, and get your feedback. It's your opportunity to coach, ask tough questions and encourage them. This aligned beautifully with the EOS process or any system where you as an agency, department or individual are working on quarterly goals. This is your chance to hold [...]
Account executive training? In most agencies, an AE's first day consists of: A "fill out all the paperwork" meeting with your HR/accounting person A quick tour of the office, introducing the new account executive to the team as you walk through A lecture about protecting passwords from your IT staffer And a reminder that their first client meeting is at 10:30 am. That morning. No worries -- you'll train them later, right? Unfortunately, many an agency has incredible intentions of starting a training program for their account executives but usually client work trumps training and it doesn't happen. One of the reasons it doesn't happen is because usually the agency owner is the one who is supposed to develop the training. Enough said. But let's say you really are serious about developing an internal account executive training program. What does it need to include? Understanding the big picture: Why does a client hire an agency? What does an agency owner look for in an account executive How does an agency work and make money Agency accounting (AGI, etc.) How does an account executive influence AGI for better or worse Getting the work done: Work flow/process inside agencies Serving as the client advocate inside the agency and the agency advocate with the client Helping clients be a better client Helping the agency become invaluable to the client The money pits and how to avoid them The business of business: How businesses make money Business metrics/KPIs The different levels within a company and what each of them can do for/with the agency Identifying business problems and delivering solutions Agency profitability: Pricing for profit – don’t leave money on the table Managing and controlling changes and the black hole they create in [...]
If you're wondering what an effective advertising agency account executive does all day in a successful agency management system -- you've come to the right place. At AMI, we've trained hundreds of account execs, helping them understand their role with their clients and within the agency. To be able to perform the myriad of account executive tasks, a person must have proven or quickly demonstrable analytical, organizing, leadership, interpersonal, and oral and written communications skills, plus a solid understanding of marketing and advertising. Oh yeah...and your account executives need to understand how businesses work and make money. This is certainly no job for the average beginner, or for some lightweight, glib glad-hander who thinks that he or she can con his/her way through your world on a smile, a shoeshine, a few buzzwords, and a dazzling first impression. A good account executive is hard to find but a huge benefit to your clients and your agency. Here's a quick overview of what I think an Account Executive should do all day in an agency management system: Big picture for their clients Understand their clients' business goals and help them get there Prepare an annual marketing plan for each client, and individual campaign plans as needed throughout the year (with SMART goals) Manage and strengthen (not merely maintain) client relationships Propose, sell to the client, and oversee market, media, and other research studies as required Continuously offer unsolicited ideas to increase the effectiveness of the client’s company and marketing activities Big picture for the agency Understand how the agency makes money and contribute to the agency's profitability through good management Be an advocate for the agency whenever they're out in public Identify and cultivate for new business [...]
At Agency Management Roundtable (AMR) we've been preaching this for years. Agencies need to get out of the "making stuff" business and get into the business problem solving business. Agencies need to behave like consultancies. We need to shift from doing to thinking. Our clients expect us to help them hit their goals and dodge their challenges. We don't do that by just making a brochure or video. We do it by sitting at the strategy table with them and digging into their business, asking smarter questions and helping them think bigger, better and faster. Business consultant Amber Naslund wrote an insightful blog post that outlines how to build a strong consulting practice. Interestingly -- she could have been writing about how to build a successful agency in the 21st century. Her points about not billing by the hour, value pricing, asking better questions etc. are right out of the AMR handbook! Read her post and heed her words. Whether she knows it or not my agency owner friends -- she is talking to you.