Many agencies are struggling with what I have termed “stale employees.” These are seasoned pros who have probably been with your agency for a long time. They were incredibly talented and valuable back in the day, but their skills have not evolved as your agency and the marketplace have. Odds are, they’re someone who has stuck by you through thick and thin as your agency has gone through its ups and downs. Which is why you’re ignoring the issue. But the truth is — this employee is typically one of your more expensive salaries and they are contributing less and less. Not only is this team member costing you money but odds are, they’re going to cost you some of your most valuable employees too. American Express’s Open Forum asked me to dig into the issue and offer some solutions. If you’ve dealt with a stale employee — I’d love to hear how you resolved it.
Given that it's the Monday after a holiday weekend, I have one question for you ... Where were you? Most agency owners can barely squeak out a long holiday weekend, let alone a family vacation. And even when you get away, you aren’t really disconnected. There are lots of issues with this reality and the costs are significant. It’s tough on your relationships, you’re super stressed, and if something doesn’t change... your agency isn’t sellable. But other than that, it’s a great strategy. So what do you do about it? That’s what iMedia asked me to write about and my answer was — you embrace the 50-20-30 rule. In the article, I describe how I believe agency owners should be spending their time and how to actually own a business as opposed to just having a stressful job. Check it out and let me know what you think. Our September AE bootcamp is getting pretty full. If you want to send some of your crew — it would be good to get them registered soon. Click here to register.
Most agencies use the the accrual basis method of accounting because it aligns more closely with how our businesses actually run and gives the agency owner more realistic numbers and metrics, so their decisions are better informed throughout the year. In the cash method of accounting – the day a business gets a check or cash from the client, it recognizes the revenue. This works well in a retail world. I walk into the grocery store. I pick up milk and bread and give the cashier some money. At that point, they have actually earned that money. Our transaction is complete. But in our world – in many cases, when a client gives us money, we haven’t actually earned that money. If the client asked for the retainer or the media pre-payment back, we have to return the money because it’s not ours yet. We haven’t done the work. But in the accrual model of accounting, transactions are accounted for when the transaction occurs or is earned, regardless of when the cash is paid or received. (Note: most agencies convert to cash for tax purposes.) Let’s play this out. You send a client an invoice for $30,000 which is 50% of a project’s fee, after they sign the scope of work. They send you a check. Your bookkeeper should book that $30,000 as a liability. Again – if they ask for the money back the next day, you owe them the $30,000. If your bookkeeper books that as a sale or revenue (like they would in the cash method) it would tell a lie. It would say that you did $30,000 worth of work in that month and you can spend that money without risk [...]
If your advertising agency culture sits on either end of two extremes, you don’t need an engagement survey or a high-priced consultant to confirm your reality. You can feel the energy when things are amazing, and you can smell the stench when things are rotting away in your business. But what if things are somewhere in between? What if you’re unsure if things are heading in the right direction? Or what if you’re confident they’re really good, but you want a heads-up before you suddenly realize you’re whiffing six-day old cod? You might need that engagement survey, and you may need that consultant. In the meantime, here are three danger signs that will tell you if your advertising agency culture is in trouble: YOU’RE EXPERIENCING "MEGO" A journalist friend once had an editor who routinely rejected poorly written copy because it produced what he called MEGO – My Eyes Glaze Over. In other words, it was boring. Are your organization’s vision, mission, and values creating MEGO? When you read the statements to employees, do they say, “Yes! That describes us so well!”? Or do they roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, right. That’d be nice.”? It’s great to have statements that set the bar high, but most employees have a pretty sophisticated BS meter. If you acknowledge the gaps between where your advertising agency culture is and where you and others want to take it, most employees will help you make it happen. If you’re trying to prop up your culture with $10 words, however, you’ll lose respect and trust. YOU’RE BEGGING FOR RECRUITS When your culture is strong, healthy, and vibrant, your employees become your best recruiters. They sing the company’s praises every chance [...]
The tone and outcome of the sales conversation are set into motion by how well you uncovered your prospect's needs early on. It’s impossible to adequately sell if you don’t even have a clear understanding of what your prospect needed in the first place! While that sounds like a no-brainer, many sales pros rattle off their list of differentiators and wait for the prospect to be impressed instead of asking clear, concise questions and listening to their responses actively. There are two types of need you can uncover during these interactions: aspirational needs and frustration needs. Aspirational needs include things that the prospect wants and does not yet have. Frustration needs are born out of the pain points the prospect is experiencing with their current solution that they’re looking to solve. Uncovering your prospect's needs is simpler than you think Believe it or not, the four key questions that drive the uncovering the prospect's needs portion of the sale are pretty simple. The first three should be answered by the prospect and the last one, which may be the most overlooked, should be answered by none other than you! So, let’s dive into the four questions you must ask to uncover your prospect's needs. 1. What do they need? Straightforward, right? So many sales pros tell leads what they need instead of asking the lead what they think their needs are. If you believe in your product or service and if you know it like the back of your hand; it’s easy to assume that your prospect knows they need it. But you need to ask thoughtful questions to see where they are at. You don’t need to bury the question here; you can simply [...]
True or false? Anyone involved in the advertising process can be held liable under most regulations and statutes that govern false advertising. Oh. so. true. The advertiser, the Agency, and anyone else involved who knowingly, or sometimes negligently, fails to follow the rules, is on the hook. In addition to traditional and digital advertising, when you think about the current state of influencer marketing, and the tangled web of risks around each brand and #ad campaign, it’s easier to visualize the vulnerability of agencies when it comes to implementing these tactics. False claims and advertising can lead to financial, legal, and brand loyalty and reputation issues. It can also completely disrupt your Agency’s relationship with a valued client. But what exactly are the rules around false advertising and where do they come into play? Understanding False Advertising False advertising involves the stating of untrue claims about the performance, reliability, functions and features of whatever product or service is being promoted. This not only applies to the way a product works, but also includes its origin and the way it is manufactured. It isn’t just outright lying in advertising that gets you in trouble with regulators, but also making claims or omissions that could mislead regulators, competitors or consumers. Actual False Claims: Stating information that is clearly false and incorrect. Misleading Claims: Messages that allude to or imply incorrect information that can mislead the buying audience. Unsubstantiated Claims: The presentation of information that can’t be verified, including that of competition. Four Ways Your Agency Can Get Into Trouble 1. No substantiation of claims Do not make any claims about the product or service that you or your client cannot verify. Sources such as product research, consumer [...]
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 [...]
Change—some thrive on it, while others resist it. Why is it that two individuals can look at the same thing and think totally different thoughts? Some see change as essential, while others fear the worst. "Half full" versus "half empty"—possibilities versus consequences. We have a few ideas on managing change in your business. Here’s our basic behavioral profile—we’re optimists; we enjoy interacting with others, have a high trust level, sometimes talk too much, are generally quick to accept meaningful change and at times too direct. We share these behaviors with about half of the population. Our natural tendencies are to quickly accept change. Keep in mind that over one-third the population is naturally reserved about accepting change and there’s an additional 14% who flatly resist change. (Figures based on DISC Behavior population norms.) While sometimes we control change, most of the time we are impacted by change and are expected by employers, clients, boards of directors or the government to accept change and support it. But if our natural tendencies are to be reserved or resistant, is it a fair expectation? Our answer, setting aside our personal tendencies, is “no.” Even for change “embracers” like ourselves, skepticism may set in if a change effort is poorly managed. For “change” to take place we need a large segment of the work force to accept, believe and support the change. Change needs to be accepted and ultimately viewed positively. If change isn’t accepted, it will become the kryptonite that brings an organization to its knees. The real questions are “Where?,” “Why?” and “How?” will an organization make critical changes. and "What are the implications if changes are not implemented?" Here is a change process designed to engage the [...]
To make it in business, we need three main things: A viable, valuable product or service that solves a real problem A way to sell and deliver it A defined group of people to sell it to But checking all three boxes will not do anything for your bank account. You must let people know every day that you have a business, that you love what you do and that you want to solve their problems. No agency survives without consistent marketing. So many of us delay sharing about our businesses because we don’t feel ready. We wait for the perfect pitch, platform or process to get started. We wait for our website to be built, or for our About Page to be perfect or for our new head shots to be ready for our fabulous business cards. We wait for the perfect newsletter template before sending an email to our list. Common barriers to consistent agency marketing Here are some common barriers that prevent people from consistent agency marketing that I just gathered from business owners on Facebook: I am too busy delivering services to clients to market my business I don’t know what to do in what order Marketing technology feels too complicated I don’t have my pitch nailed I don’t want to waste my time Boy, do I get it! No one wants to feel sloppy or unorganized. And I am not advocating that you are. Building a clear, effective brand story and agency marketing system takes planning, money and time. But given your current level of information, tools and resources, couldn’t you do something each day that would increase your chance to get ideal clients? Our starting point without a big [...]
There is a great dilemma many agency owners face time and time again: Do you hire an internal new business development person for your agency with solid sales experience (and a price tag to match), or an inexperienced individual that’s cheaper, but seems driven/teachable? The former example is certainly a potentially sound investment, although not always feasible, and the latter doesn’t traditionally have a great success rate unless an agency is willing to put real work behind their training and possesses the requisite patience to see the process through. That’s probably why the average new business director at an agency lasts about eighteen months. In my first example, you have likely experienced this in some form or another. That person with experience in one vertical and an abundant network of prospects within that vertical; or the other kind, that person with the fabled “ultimate agency new business Rolodex.” And sometimes, you run across someone with both deep experience in a vertical and an abundant network. These kinds of hires occur often and I don’t blame agencies for it. They can work but, in far too many instances, that new business director with the legendary prospecting network hire ends up flaming out. In fact, I recently spoke with an agency principal on this very topic, and she gave me permission to share her less than desirable experience with you. So, here goes. The Legendary Prospecting Network When my agency owner friend initially hired this new business development guru with the “legendary prospecting network,” the big draw was, of course, that huge network. There were assurances, apparently all in good faith, that success would result from that network. It sounded promising, but unfortunately, it was not in [...]