3 Signs Your Advertising Agency Culture Is Starting to Stink

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 [...]

By |October 30th, 2018|

4 Questions You MUST Ask To Uncover Your Prospect’s Needs

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 [...]

By |October 18th, 2018|

False Advertising: What Is It, and How Does Our Agency Avoid It?

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 [...]

By |October 11th, 2018|

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 [...]

By |October 2nd, 2018|

10 Steps For Managing Change In Your Business

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 [...]

By |September 25th, 2018|

Consistency Beats Perfection In Agency Marketing

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 [...]

By |September 20th, 2018|

Be Wary of the New Business Development Director With the Legendary Prospecting Network

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 [...]

By |August 21st, 2018|

Understanding Client Satisfaction: It Depends On Who’s Asking The Questions

How often have you recommended to a client that they conduct research among their own customers to gauge overall satisfaction and uncover what they value about the relationship to your client’s company or brand? You’re astute enough to know that armed with customer satisfaction data, you can more knowledgeably guide that client in everything from customer acquisition to integration of sales and marketing to customer retention. Now, how often have you thought about the need to understand the satisfaction of your agency’s clients? The fact is agencies tend to avoid client satisfaction surveys for two reasons: We’re either afraid to ask the big questions for fear we might hear something we don’t like, or we assume everything is good because they are still with us. Both ways of thinking can lead to missing an opportunity to fine-tune your relationship with your clients, or more importantly heading off an impending disaster. As an agency owner, you shouldn’t be involved in every detail of what’s happening between your clients and your agency. But, that doesn’t mean you should operate within a vacuum either. If you have an established “one-on-one” meeting process in place between you and your direct reports, and those direct reports have the same established with staff members they manage, then you should have a general awareness of what’s happening with clients. Your responsibility is to ensure that the management of client relationships is carried out in a manner consistent with the agency’s core values and service philosophy. There may be periods of time when that’s not happening, resulting in a slow erosion of confidence between the client and the agency. Simple ways to gauge client satisfaction That’s why it’s smart to periodically engage your [...]

By |August 14th, 2018|

The Specialist Agency: An Argument For and Against

Earlier this year I had the honor of serving as the morning keynote speaker for PRGN’s semi-annual member summit in Toronto. My topic was on the five indicators of new business success that I consistently see in the agencies I work with (and, likewise, the corresponding indicators of agencies that stay stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle). One of the indicators is a specialist mindset, as opposed to an “all things to all people” approach. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They tried this specialist agency strategy at his agency and it didn’t work. It had the opposite effect; they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that? (Gulp) Before I tell you how I responded, let me explain that I’m not a specialist agency hardliner. In fact, this time last year, I wrote about this. To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business. Pitching for new business is a big investment. The more specialized your pitch, the more efficient your investment. That’s because: Generalists seek out clients; specialists are more likely to be sought Generalists differentiate based on price; specialists can afford to charge a premium Generalists will always be tempted to reinvent themselves to suit the nature of the prospect; specialists find it easier to home in on a consistent message that’s effective for the right audience But I also don’t see it as a stark choice. In my piece, I referred to the proverb about the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes. This is a favorite to describe agencies that can’t seem to take their own advice when it [...]

By |August 7th, 2018|

3 Steps to Stop Inflicting Help On Your Agency Team

The aroma of vegetable soup wafted up the stairs to my office. Moments later, my wife called, “Dinner’s ready!” “Mmmmm … I love homemade soup,” I thought. Rushing down the stairs and past the pantry, I spied a tube of crackers, grabbed them, and headed for the dining room. My wife sat at the table, waiting for me, smiling. Her smile vanished as she saw the tube of crackers. “Oh, this isn’t good enough? I really tried to get everything you like. I even brought out the oyster crackers …” Confused, I looked at her. Then, I looked at the table. She had arranged a beautiful spread of crackers, sliced cheese, chips & dips, salsa, veggies and grilled sandwiches to go with our soup. And there I stood, tube of crackers in hand, inflicting help. Acting Without Asking Inflicting help occurs when the helper acts in a way they feel as helpful but the recipient does not. It often stems from the helper not asking if, how or when someone would like to be helped. Instead, the helper jumps in and acts without asking. “But, I was only trying to help!” I was trying to comfort her. “I didn’t know you had all this out. I smelled the soup, saw the crackers, and grabbed them to be helpful.” We quickly sorted things out and went on to have a great meal together. Looking back, it was an interesting interaction, and it holds some lessons for agency managers. Because too often, well-meaning agency owners or managers inflict help on their teams. And when we realize what we’ve done, we might exclaim, “But, I was only trying to help!” Step One — Stop and Look Inflicting help is almost [...]

By |July 31st, 2018|