How to Use Voice Controlled Devices to Drive New Business Development

Voice controlled devices (VCDs) like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri are exploding in the marketplace. There is no sign that the trend toward voice search and assistance is slowing down, and I’m here to assert that this trend can be advantageous to agency business development. As a matter of fact, I believe strongly that voice represents that next opportunity, that next patch of fertile ground where you can plant your flag. The opportunity for business development with voice controlled devices is big—huge even. Let’s do a quick dive into the data on VCD usage and where it’s headed. Then I will share what I consider the four top new business development strategies around voice. These are great to use in building your own business, and also strategies you can easily employ with clients. Voice is Getting Louder The market for VCDs is exploding. Echo and Echo dot were the best selling items last year for Amazon, which makes them the biggest seller on the biggest online retail platform. That’s big. In addition, once purchased, these items are frequently used. Google did a study that found 72 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker or a smart speaker report that the devices are a regular part of their daily routine. Voice Controlled Devices are Doing More Last I checked, the Alexa Library is 30,000 skills, so 30,000 pieces of software that you can install into your Echo and then ask Alexa to do certain things for you. Google Home's library is less than 1,000. So in the assistance space, Alexa wins. But obviously, just like everywhere else, Google dominates voice search. Even more to the point, voice is on its way to becoming the default [...]

By |November 1st, 2018|

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|

Are You Rewarding Agency Employees the Right Way?

Pause for a few seconds and make a mental note of the five-to-ten most recent examples of how you are rewarding agency employees within your organization. In other words, who got a raise, a bonus, a promotion, an award or some other form of recognition for a job well done? In many organizations, perhaps even most, those honors go to people who achieved some tangible, measurable result. They hit their sales goals, signed a new client, or found some way to save the organization a few buckets of money. That’s all good, but it might not always connect in a positive way back to the organization’s stated values. When rewarding agency employees doesn't factor in the means that lead to the ends, they actually can become culture killers rather than culture builders. Tae Hea Hahm, the managing director of the venture capital firm Storm Ventures, once pointed out that “real culture” is defined by “compensation, promotions and terminations. Basically, people seeing who succeeds and fails in the company defines culture. The people who succeed become role models for what is valued in the organization, and that defines culture.” Performance is vital to success and growth, but values are foundational to organizational health. So, the challenge for Extreme Leaders is to increase the real value of things that are critical but hard to measure. Here are a few tips for doing that: ALIGN ON YOUR VALUES People often define their values based on their personal experiences and expectations. Your definition sustainability, for instance, might not be the same as someone else’s definition. So, it’s not enough to publish a list of things that are important to your leadership and your culture. Go a step further and [...]

By |October 16th, 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|

9 Steps to Picking a Niche for Your Digital Agency

As a digital agency owner, you probably tell your clients all the time that they need to refine and focus in on their service or product offerings. But have you applied the same logic to your own digital agency? Finding a niche for your digital agency allows you to connect with your prospects and deliver a unique selling proposition that speaks directly to them. To make this connection with a prospect on the first impression though you must have clear and targeted messaging. If you’re trying to tell ten different stories and appeal to ten different audiences, then you’ll lose them all. This is why you’ve never seen an Asian-Italian-Greek-Burger-Smoothie fusion restaurant. Sounds silly when you think of it like that. So why then are you and your digital agency trying to help so many people, in so many different industries, by providing so many different services? Instead of focusing in on on being really good at one thing and developing a killer value proposition along the way, you’re spreading yourself too thin. Find a niche for your digital agency now. Every day you waste, the competition is getting more focused, more precise, and more skilled at the niche you could be in. However, it’s important to pick the right niche, one that provides enough opportunity for new business without being oversaturated. You need to be able to carve out a unique section for your agency and there needs to be a demand for it. Follow the nine steps below to find your digital agency’s perfect niche and start growing your agency today. 1. Find a niche that is digitally friendly Is the industry digitally friendly? A lot of industries have done as little as [...]

By |September 18th, 2018|

Agency Owner/leader questions from the mail bag

From our question bag (okay -- from my inbox but you get the reference!).  I've cleaned it up a little to protect the privacy of the agency asking the question. Q: I am trying to understand what makes up the COGS number in order to calculate our AGI. We are a public relations agency. From listening to your webinar on Financial Matters, my takeaway is the one of the items to include in COGS is the cost of freelance contractors. I'm assuming there are other costs like annual subscriptions to services which are used in doing our work for clients should also be included. A: Anything you use or pay to create in service of clients (freelancers, online tools, reference books, printing, photographers, postage, shipping, media placement, mileage to client meetings, influencer fees, etc.) are all COGS.  They are COGS whether you bill the client for them or not.   A way to test this is ask yourself this question.  If we didn't have client XYZ, would we still incur this cost.  If the answer is no -- then it is a COG. The things that should not be included in COGS are agency expenses (w2 people, benefits for those people, auto allowances, lawyer and accountant fees, rent, supplies, professional development, travel (unless it is client related) Q: We also want to look at account level profitability. To calculate the cost per employee, I am including salary/wages, insurance and 401(k) benefits, cost of PTO/company holidays. My research into what percentage to use for overhead markup resulted in a wide range of figures - 80% on the high end; 50% on the low end. Do you have a recommended overhead percentage? A: Well, as you know, this [...]

By |September 4th, 2018|

The Secret Way to Grow Your Agency Fast

I don’t run an agency, but I do work with agencies to develop a sales process custom-suited for generating repeatable new business opportunities. In the next 5 minutes you spend reading this post, I’m going to share the exact method you could start experimenting with to double the productivity of your agency’s outbound business development. In short, I’m going to share the secret way to grow your agency fast. Really Fast. Fair warning – I am going to talk about the two tools I’ve founded (SellHack and Replify) throughout this article. There are certainly other tools out there that do the same type of work and I’ve mentioned a few throughout the piece. Even if you choose to do all of this manually, it will still work. It’s just a matter of how much time versus money do you want to spend. How to Grow Your Agency Really Fast Step 1 in the process of how to grow your agency really fast relies very much on the word “experiment.” This is a word carefully chosen to describe the mindset your business development team must embrace when hunting for new clients. Some of you are reading this thinking, “Yeah, but most of my business comes from referrals.” Okay, great. Keep asking for referrals. But if you’re serious about how to grow your agency really fast, forget referrals and do what I suggest. Consider a New Channel for Developing Leads Moving away from relying solely on referrals is smart business. So I’m suggesting you consider a new channel for developing leads: An outbound channel. More specifically, I’m talking about automating your prospect list-building, sending cold emails and follow-ups. You can do this manually or you can use [...]

By |September 4th, 2018|

How Agencies Can Execute on Strategic Selling

“I hate selling.” I hear that so often from agency owners and agency leaders. I especially hear it from junior agency staffers. I think the key to solving this problem is moving away from “I hate selling” and moving toward “I love helping others succeed.” My years of agency experience have taught me that the most successful agencies have a specific mindset. They have embraced the art of being the very best at understanding their clients and have a deep desire to make their lives easier and better. The agency business is a relationship business; it’s about putting the needs of your client front and center. Your success is based on their success. Their good days are your good days; and conversely, their bad days are your bad days. So, if agency success is about building great relationships, I would pose to you that for agencies, executing on strategic selling is very much like dating. If that’s the case, then imagine thinking of the prospect the same way you think about a prospective date - that person you’ve wanted to date for oh, so long. As you get ready to make the ask… what’s first? The answer: the first thing is understanding the prospect. Strategic Selling Requires Understanding the Prospect First and foremost, remember that you must think about this from their viewpoint – the viewpoint of the prospect. What’s on her mind and how has the landscape changed since the last time she looked for agency services? Budget and headcount pressures are enormous in most companies today There are heightened expectations that marketing supports sales – it’s no longer enough to simply produce great creative Sales and revenue are typically the top marketing success [...]

By |August 28th, 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|

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|