Can You Keep A Secret? Nondisclosure Agreements in the Agency-Client Relationship

Creative agencies such as marketing firms, website developers, and advertising and design groups can often be reluctant to approach the issues of confidentiality and intellectual property rights ownership with prospective business clients. Those who set agency policies may feel that asking for a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is too off-putting during business development discussions – as if bringing up such matters might sully the burgeoning trust that is being established in the working relationship and create an uncomfortable tension. Others feel that such agreements aren’t actually enforceable (yes, they are), or that a prospective client will always refuse to sign them (some will sign, some won’t). While some of these concerns are well founded, there are good reasons why creative agencies should still pursue a nondisclosure agreement. Let’s take a look at three of those reasons, below. Three Reasons Your Agency Should Utilize a Nondisclosure Agreement First, a nondisclosure agreement sends the professional message that the Agency respects the confidentiality of all parties involved. Integrity always makes a company shine brighter, don’t you think? How can an NDA protect everyone? Simply make the confidentiality provisions mutual so that both the client and the Agency are protected. In this way, the Agency’s client feels valued and is also subconsciously reminded that he or she is working in a private relationship. Secondly, an NDA offers a convenient opportunity to address rights ownership issues in writing prior to a pitch, proposal, or a new business discussion. Many agencies worry about protecting their intellectual property during the new business process as well. A mutual nondisclosure agreement can include helpful language about the Agency’s rights to the concepts and work it discloses, prior to actual engagement by the client. Thirdly, a [...]

By |July 10th, 2018|

8 Lessons For Entrepreneurs (That I May Have Learned the Hard Way)

Happy Anniversary to me. Yep, eight years and two months ago  (May 1, 2010) I re-entered the world of entrepreneurship by starting Converse Digital with a mere two weeks notice, no money in the bank, no investors, no credit line, a wife, four kids, a big mortgage payment and lots of private school tuitions. I’ve learned a lot along the way and today I wanted to share some of those lessons for entrepreneurs with you. 1) You Need an Entrepreneurship Runway The common rule of thumb for starting a business is to have at least a few months income in your bank. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. I didn’t have the luxury so many of my fellow entrepreneurs have, where they don’t take a salary out of the company for months or years, instead reinvesting all profits to quickly grow the business. Nope, Converse Digital had to be cash flow positive from day one. But this lack of runway has been a blessing and a curse. It’s been a curse because I’ve never really had the chance to strategically grow the company. Sure, here and there we launch little initiatives like our Social Reconnaissance Products…or our CIBER product (that I don’t even have a full webpage live for yet – just a quick landing page), usually after they’ve been on the drawing board for months or more. But on the flip side, that lack of runway makes you scared. Every day you wake up expecting the other shoe to drop — for a client to fire you or cut their budget, or for that big project you were counting on to NOT come through, or my "favorite" — a client falls way behind [...]

By |July 3rd, 2018|

How to Scale Your Agency — Overcome the Wizard Complex

At UGURUS, a business school for digital agencies, my team and I spend thousands of hours a year consulting and coaching owners in groups or one on one. Our aim is simple: To help you achieve freedom in your business and life. One of the ways we do that is by helping digital agency owners work ON their business, not just IN them. “When you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.” -Michael E. Gerber, E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It For agency owners, achieving freedom usually means: Working fewer hours (less than sixty is a start) Making more money (getting paid a healthy salary) Sitting in fewer seats (helping you do better work) There’s a commonly-accepted fallacy out there that most entrepreneurs are working towards an early retirement and days filled with sitting on the beach drinking fruity cocktails. However, most entrepreneurs I meet love the work they do, and have no intention of retiring early. The standard definition of the term “exit” in entrepreneur-speak is to sell your business, but most agency owners I meet aren’t anywhere near this point. They haven’t built a company that is worth anything beyond themselves. They’re involved in every aspect of the business from generating leads, converting those leads into clients, and delivering the work. They’ve built themselves a job. A stressful. Demanding. Underpaying. J-O-B. For these owners, “exit” means being able [...]

By |June 26th, 2018|

The 5 Most Common Legal Mistakes in Agency New Business – and How to Fix Them

The agency new business process is, for most agencies, exciting and stressful at the same time. While your team is focused on the thrill of a potential “win,” and what that could mean for the agency’s fortunes, it’s probably equally under stress about meeting deadlines, putting forth your best efforts for the prospect, and keeping other clients happy too. Jody Sutter of Sutter Company and I recently addressed the challenges of new business and negotiations in a web clinic for agencies organized by Filament: “Don’t Leave Money on the Table – Negotiating Client Contracts From a Position of Strength.” While you’re navigating this process at warp speed, it’s easy to make an oversight or misstep that could cause bad legal consequences or financial loss for the agency. Don’t let this happen – be aware of the most common legal mistakes agencies make during their new business efforts, and how to fix (or avoid) them. 5 Legal Mistakes In Agency New Business and How to Fix Them Mistake #1: You don’t protect the Agency’s intellectual property during a pitch or discovery session, or in your proposal. Fix It: Sometimes it’s a valid business decision to allow the Client to own IP in pitch materials, spec creative or proposals – either because the Agency negotiated payment for it, or because it’s a required “ticket” to participate in the opportunity. But make it an intentional decision. Unless you’ve agreed with a prospective Client that it will own the Agency’s pre-engagement IP, use a Nondisclosure Agreement that protects the Agency’s ownership position. Absent that, at a minimum include IP ownership clauses in your proposal and pitch assets, and use copyright ownership notices on these materials and any spec creative [...]

By |June 12th, 2018|

How to Position Your Agency for Success

Every day across the globe, agencies are working hard to differentiate their clients and help drive their clients’ growth. These agencies use the art and science of positioning to help their clients stand out from competition in an important and authentic manner. Sadly, most of the agencies doing this fine work have not worked the same positioning magic for themselves, in spite of the fact that they compete with dozens—if not hundreds—of other agencies on a daily basis. There is an abundance of talented and effective agencies who have failed to differentiate themselves. As a result, they are missing out on the significant (and very profitable) growth opportunities triggered by a compelling brand position. So, how to position your agency for success? Let’s talk about it. The Challenges of Agency Growth As you no doubt know, there are numerous challenges when it comes to growing an agency today. These challenges include: • More competition • Greater complexity • Difficulty expressing the uniqueness of your agency • A more educated and informed buyer who does his/her agency research without your knowledge Most agencies face these challenges. There is, however, an opportunity to address these challenges by positioning your agency in a truly unique, compelling and differentiated fashion. In this paper we will share the learning we have regarding how to create such a differentiated position for any agency by leveraging best practices that we have learned from our 28 years of agency related consulting. The Great Agencies of Old Most agencies today face the challenge of how to effectively position their firm and how to present their agency in a compelling, client-centric manner. It was not always like this! The great agencies of old stood for [...]

By |June 5th, 2018|

Sharing Agency Performance Goals—It Changes Everything

If you’re operating your agency with the goal of achieving the performance metrics of 55/25/20 recommended by the AMI, it’s easy to see in any given month just how well the agency is performing. Those three numbers should be the basis to guide your decisions on everything from personnel to pencils. Setting goals is great, sharing agency performance goals though, that has the power to change everything. One of the most important questions agency owners should be asking themselves is a simple one: How many of your agency staffers understand or are even aware of those numbers and how they drive a healthy, sustainable enterprise? Is it just a few—perhaps your finance person and your number one key executive? That’s the most common answer, and it’s also a big mistake. As an owner, if you’re hesitant to educate everyone in the agency about the numbers, you’re literally managing with one hand tied behind your back. Here’s how sharing agency performance goals changes everything, empowers your team, and sets an exciting path for the future. Sharing Agency Performance Goals—Financial Transparency Fuels a Growth Mindset In coaching sessions I have with agency owners, one of the first things I want to uncover is the owner’s comfort level with financial transparency. If the owner is new to AMI, I’ll take them though the metric; 55 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) is the target for the agency’s fully loaded compensation, 25 percent utilized for overhead, and 20 percent profit. For those who already know the formula, I work to understand just how deep this foundational knowledge runs throughout the agency. As an agency owner for 30+ years, I get the hesitancy about “opening the kimono.” A common concern [...]

By |May 29th, 2018|

The Principle of Dual Minds—the Secret to Business Success

I’m really enjoying billionaire investor Ray Dalio’s book, Principles. Dalio writes very candidly about his journey in life and work, and the principles he has developed that guide him. Chapter 3 in Part II of the book is titled ‘Be Radically Open-Minded.’ Though the title suggests our need to be humble enough to listen, it is also about the value of allowing other people in your life to help you overcome the barriers (e.g. your ego and blind spots) that are standing in the way of what you want, challenge your thinking through thoughtful disagreement, and of listening to ‘believable’ people (his term). The Principle of Dual Minds Dalio also discusses the importance of having people in your life who will thoughtfully disagree with you. This idea resonated with me so deeply that I decided to give it a name: the principle of dual minds. Put into consistent practice, the principle of dual minds can be a powerful tool to amp up the success of your personal and business ventures. In fact, this principle of dual minds trumps most people’s ability to operate on their own. This chapter spoke to me about the value of partners in business, whether legal or operational. However, Dalio isn’t just talking about any legal partner—he is talking about a partner that you are humble enough to listen to and who is courageous enough to disagree with you—you guessed it, that’s “the principle of dual minds.” But it’s not always easy to accomplish. Truly, it takes work and practice to get to a place where you can argue well with your partner and reach a conclusion that two limited people could not have reached on their own. Dalio points out [...]

By |May 22nd, 2018|

Niches Get You Riches: What Your Agency Marketing Strategy is Missing

There’s that word: niche. And you’re likely thinking: “One more consultant is telling me to eat my vegetables.” If you are an agency owner and have thus far resisted niching as part of your agency marketing strategy, think you don’t need it, or are tired of the topic, perhaps I can change your mind. Niching is perhaps the best form of marketing strategy that can help get your agency where you want it to be. Niching has helped me generate over $10,000,000 as an entrepreneur. It’s the same idea I’ve taught to over a thousand graduates of my agency accelerator. In one case, an agency owner attracted over 2,000 leads for her business in just a single year leveraging this strategy. My goal is to help our clients make their agencies more successful, work less, make more money, and create predictable business models so that their agencies are assets that could potentially be sold at some point in time. When Drew asked me to share my insights with his community at AMI, I was excited to be a part of what he’s created, and I hope that some of what I have to share proves beneficial to you. Hope Marketing Isn’t Good Enough Referrals and word of mouth are the number one strategy digital agency owners use to grow their businesses. I call this, “Hope marketing” and it really isn’t a strategy at all. It’s called: Not doing anything. Hope marketing is the reason so many digital agencies struggle with predictability and scale in their business. And it might be why you can’t get out of the marketing and sales seats. When I tell owners that word of mouth is "doing nothing," the response I [...]

By |May 9th, 2018|

How to do a content marketing audit in 8-steps (plus, best practices for fixing your content)

It’s the 80/20 rule of content marketing: 80% of results come from 20% of content. This is true for every website and for every content marketing audit I’ve ever done. A handful of articles pull in the largest percentage of traffic and conversions. Just look at your own data. A report of your top posts by traffic probably looks something like this. A few posts bring in a lot of traffic, while most articles drive little or no traffic.   If you calculate the conversion rate for each piece of content, you’ll see a similar curve. A few articles convert visitors at a high rate, while most articles convert few or no visitors.   A Content Audit for Finding the Top Performers If it’s true that 20% of articles create 80% of the results, then why aren’t we focused more on these performers? The problem is that we usually don’t know which articles are the real heroes. To find out, we need to do an audit. Here’s our content audit checklist. Use the links below to skip to the sections you want. ✪ Advanced Readers: Skip down to section seven for the deeper analysis. FINDING TRAFFIC CHAMPIONS 1. SEO: Content that attracts visitors from search 2. SEO: Content with declining search traffic 3. SEO: Content that has search ranking potential 4. Email: Campaigns that attract visitors 5. Email: Measuring the engagement of visitors from email campaigns 6. Social: Content that gets the shared the most FINDING CONVERSION CHAMPIONS 7. Content that converts visitors into leads at the greatest rate ACTIONS 8. What to do now that you know the strengths and weaknesses of each piece of content. This is a step-by-step guide for auditing content marketing [...]

By |April 17th, 2018|