The year 2020 was an arduous journey for agencies, so I know that you feel completely overwhelmed. Now isn't the time for more to-do list tasks - it's time for some acknowledgment. In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost.com I discuss reflecting back on 2020 to realize your accomplishments, take a rejuvenating break, and when you're ready how you can prepare to start 2021 off strong.
I’m betting you have said on more than one occasion, “isn’t it funny, given what we do for a living, that we aren’t better communicators?” And you’re right it is funny in an ironic, funny way. But definitely not in a laugh all the way to the bank sort of way. In my work with agency owners and leadership teams, there is almost always a broken line of communication. It can come in many shapes and sizes. It can be a situation where Bob said something 10 years ago and Babette is still clinging to it like it’s gospel even though Bob has long since changed his thinking on the issue. Or Babette made a big announcement at a state of the agency meeting three months ago and is surprised that no one accurately remembers the details. Or Bob made a statement and no one asked any clarifying questions so all kinds of assumptions were made and held for way too long. You know, from your work with clients, that this is not an issue that in unique to agencies. It’s a challenge in every organization. But in small to mid-sized agencies, it can be a killer. It can cause people to shut down, quit, or make a mistake that costs you serious money. How do we solve it? We don’t shortcut the messaging — we may have been thinking about some aspect of the business for awhile, but our team has not had the benefit of walking that path with us. We need to give them the back story and all of the supporting information so they can fully understand the core idea. We can model asking clarifying questions — you know that it [...]
Start by embracing the fact that agency life isn’t static. Marketing isn’t like math, where two plus two always equals four. The factors that lead to success are always changing. General business practices might not apply, and competitors won’t share their secrets with you. In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com I discuss why you have to take the time to educate yourself and invest in the research and planning necessary to make your agency a success and the five steps you should follow.
Employees want to feel appreciated and like they belong -- show your employees that you care about them and that you're invested in their development. In this article I recently published to Entrepreneur.com, I discuss how to show your top performers that they are at the top of your list and why you should invest in the employees who make up the foundations of your team.
We manage our people, we manage client expectations and we manage our finances. And then there’s email management, biz dev management and a host of other things that are under our watch. But all of that focus on making sure that everything is running like clockwork can also jack up our stress. That stress shows up in a lot of little ways: We are short tempered with our team, family and friends We feel like we can never let up or wind down We miss deadlines (internal or external) We fall behind, putting incredible pressure on our teams to cover our rear ends We are distracted when we’re with our family and friends We feel our jaw clenching, our head pounding, or our back knotting up Our “normal” work day is to run around and put out fires all day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have ever had a work day that played out exactly how I thought it was going to when I woke up that morning. We have chosen to live in chaos. And sometimes, we even like it. But like it or not — it’s our reality. And that’s before you add in our personal life and the challenges that sometimes come from that side of the equation. The truth is — we can’t escape stress. They say, in moderate doses, it’s actually good for us. But left unchecked, it can diminish our effectiveness and we bring a less than ideal version of ourselves to work and home. And we all know — there are some serious physical/health consequences to boot. To survive that reality, we need coping mechanisms. Yes, I [...]
"The first step to adequately serving your clients during an economic downturn is understanding who they are and how they will handle uncertainty. Do you know which categories your clients fit in?" In this piece I recently contributed to Business 2 Community I discuss how your clients might respond to the coronavirus pandemic and how to tailor your work to reflect an understanding of their perspectives and needs and three key ways to connect with each type of client.
At the beginning of most of my engagements, I start by sending the client team a questionnaire that helps me establish a baseline understanding of how the agency approaches business development—strengths, weaknesses, skills, and areas of resistance. In it, I ask them to describe their ideal client. Here’s a sampling of what I hear more often than not: “Open-minded, seek out expert advice, and take it, challenge us with problems they can’t solve, value our time and expertise.” “Really smart, and motivated to get things done.” “Collaborators who recognize the importance of strategic planning and thoughtful execution.” “They provide us with direct access to key decision-makers. They’re collaborative, value our opinions and input, and have a healthy balance of practical and aspirational thinking for their brand.” “They’re ‘brand collaborators’—marketing-led companies looking for a long-term, transparent partner to challenge the status quo and collaborate on integrated solutions.” “They trust us, respect us, and like spending time with us. Discussion is always thoughtful, relaxed, and challenging. It never feels like we’re not on the same team even when we disagree.” “They are appreciative of the work we do and pleasant to work with.” These are pretty idyllic descriptions. And not necessarily unrealistic. Every agency deserves to work with clients like these. The problem is, these descriptions are limited in their ability to help you find ideal clients. I began to consider why agencies default to describing ideal clients in this way. What I realized is agencies tend to frame the question as "who are we best served by?" when the question I’m really asking is “whom do you serve best?” Understanding the distinction between the two has big implications for the effectiveness of your new business outreach. Who is [...]
"By prioritizing your people and striking a balance between strong core operations and flexibility, you can set your team up for success, no matter what the new year brings." In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com I discuss how to create your business plan for 2021 amid uncertainty.
Agency people are lifelong learners. If you aren’t — odds are you will be “counseled” out of your role if you don’t own the joint and pushed out of the day to day, if you do. We can’t afford to stop learning in our world. It’s simply changing too quickly and to keep up, we have to make learning a priority. What I love the most about AMI is that in everything we do — you are learning from people who are actively involved in agency life. I’ve owned my shop for 25+ years and am still active there. Craig (who runs our Key Executive networks and the Virtual networks) also still has an agency and has been an owner for 27+ years. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The best aspect of AMI is that owners who attend our workshops, network meetings, webinars, etc. — are all both students and teachers. I love how owners are so quick to offer to share resources, forms, best practices, and connections with other owners. That spirit is the best of AMI and of our profession. If you don’t have a posse of other agency owners/leaders — I implore you to find one. If AMI works for you, great. If not, seek it somewhere else. But do not fight the fight alone. Looking for some places to learn from other agency owners/leaders? Build and Nurture your Agency's Sales Funnel— January 21/22 in Orlando on WDW property Running Your Agency for growth, profit & a little sanity — April 6/7 in Chicago Advanced AE Bootcamp –August 17/18 in Chicago AE Bootcamp — September 14/15 in Chicago Money Matters for Agency Owners — Dates TBD We’d love to help [...]
As an agency owner that serves the travel, tourism and hospitality industry exclusively, I have been tracking the data on when face-to-face group meetings and conventions will return. My clients depend on it! The good news is face-to-face events will return. The better news is innovation is happening at a rapid pace in the meetings industry and you will see many virtual features that have become popular during the shutdowns stick around as new hybrid formats are created. If you or your clients have been resisting the investment in virtual events, now is the time to get serious about adding them into your marketing mix. Here are some data points that we have been tracking that tell us this makes good business sense. First, the sentiment of the American Traveler is telling us it will be a slow rebuild for face-to-face events to be at the level they were pre-pandemic. A few highlights from Destinations Analysts Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Report from December 15, 2020: 74% of American Travelers say they will not attend an in-person group meeting or convention until the Coronavirus situation is resolved. Only 24% of American Travelers say they have plans for in-person group meetings and conventions in 2021 53% of American Travelers say they will not feel comfortable going to an in-person group meeting or convention until sometime after September 2021 If you or your clients are counting on adding events back into the mix in 2021, be prepared for fewer event options and lower attendance. Many projections are targeting 2024 and 2025 for a full return, if live events and meetings are an important part of your marketing mix waiting four years is likely not the best option. Benefits [...]