When it comes to building strong relationships with clients, you must consider their unique worldviews to fully understand and meet their needs. In this piece I recently contributed to Entrepreneur.com, I discuss three steps you can take to forge a stronger alignment with your clients.
Every industry has its annual patterns, and the agency world is no exception. Luckily, trends from the second quarter of 2022 look promising. There are some challenges to be aware of, but many marketing agencies are sorting through a wealth of opportunities. In this piece I recently contributed to ModernMarketingToday.com, I discuss several reasons why the third and fourth quarters of the year will be golden despite the aforementioned hiccups.
When I left my last agency job to start my own shop, I was the perfect combination of ignorant and arrogant. I assumed that if my doofus of a boss could run an agency, I could too. I found out many years later that he ran it right into the ground. So perhaps, not the best yardstick. And I thought the hard part of agency life was the client facing stuff. I’d taken a few business classes as an undergrad, so how hard could it be? Ignorant and arrogant. When the shingle got hung, I learned very quickly how hard it could be. I was great at the client facing side but the back of the house stuff? Forget it. I didn’t understand what a P&L should look like or tell me I didn’t know how to price the work so we always made a profit I had no idea what financial metrics were unique to agencies and how they could help me run my agency better I was clueless when it came to how to hire objectively and for the long term I didn’t understand how I would influence the culture as an owner (I was awesome at influencing culture as an employee…wouldn’t it be the same?) I didn’t know how to use the tax laws to my advantage and for years — we paid through the nose because of my ignorance I had no idea I was supposed to use my agency as an ATM machine and build my wealth outside of the agency itself We did okay…some months and years better than others. And then I took a workshop. It was like I had been hit by a truck. Where had all [...]
I'm not that definitive about a specific book as a general rule, so you know this one is special. But if there’s anything I know about 2021 and beyond — the agencies and organizations who consistently deliver big and bold ideas that solve new problems are the ones who are going to win the day. We've always known this truth. If there’s one thing every agency has to be able to do, it’s innovate. We are paid to be creative thinkers on command. We have to be able to generate ideas on a regular basis that serves both the agency and our clients. But now -- in 2021? It's survival. Both for our agencies and the clients we serve. One of the biggest challenges in terms of being able to do this consistently is that it’s usually only the agency owner or a handful of leaders who can do this work. What if everyone in the agency had the skills and confidence to be an innovative thinker? We’re reinventing everything right now and what an amazing time to be front and center with ideas that will light the way. Carla Johnson’s brilliant book RE:Think Innovation will remind you that you were born with the ability to innovate but it got dampened along the way. Fortunately — Carla wrote this to show you how to awaken it in yourself and your entire team. This book will show you how to do it, how to teach it and how to sustain and scale it. The book launches today… and you can get all kind of goodies if you order today! To hear my podcast interview with Carla, go here. To register for the workshop Carla and I [...]
Creative provides the largest opportunity for marketers today. But with limitless creative decisions... How can you be sure you’re nailing every choice you make? The rules for digital marketing can sometimes feel too fast-paced. Our world is full of ever-changing targeting and privacy restrictions, especially due to the updates ushered in by iOS14 and Google’s phasing out of third party cookies. Investing in creativity is the ultimate way to serve your customers, no matter what changes we encounter in the future. Embracing creative thinkers and optimizing their work with machine learning is the ultimate way to ensure your customers’ campaigns provide the impact they need. How Can Marketers Keep Up? When trying to learn how to create the best content, we often research best practices. Facebook itself has a slew of best practices, tips, and creative standards to follow in order to get brands their biggest reach. Still though, both Facebook and consumers want creative diversity. Following best practices can take you places, but it won’t get you as far as one novel, well-executed idea. In a study of Pattern89’s 11 years of historic digital marketing data, we found that top performing creative goes stale after just 10.4 days. In practice though, creative life cycles are much longer, sometimes lasting months. The most feasible way to update all your creative in a timely manner is to tap into new technologies. For example, machine learning can make optimizations and predict what content adjustments will perform for your audiences and goals. Let’s take a look at how machine learning can offer the perfect support for creative teams. Understanding the Algorithm Obviously, the greatest creative accomplishments came from people. Only human minds-- such as William Shakespeare, Frida Khalo [...]
Content creation is hard. It’s a vital part of modern marketing, it feeds SEO, and nearly every customer I talk to—SMB, digital agency, publisher, you name it, they all struggle. For digital agencies especially, multiply “this is hard” by a list of demanding clients and flakey freelancers, and you’ve got a recipe for something not delicious. My company, Verblio, creates content for 500 agencies every month. As a result, I talk to a lot of digital agencies and I hear the same complaints over and over: good writers are hard to find. Quality content is expensive and difficult to produce. Did you know that only 25% of digital agencies consider their content programs “successful?” We surveyed 115 agencies and compiled the results and takeaways in Verblio’s 2020 Digital Agency Survey. The 5 biggest content trends should not surprise you—most savvy agencies are doing this stuff. What may surprise you is how hard it is to execute these strategies at scale and to price for success. Trend #1: Content is getting longer The data says: 57 percent of agencies are producing longer content than they were two years ago. Longer content = better results. 29% of agencies said their content length hasn’t changed in 2 years Only 14% of respondents said their content is getting shorter. 43% of agencies said their average blog post today is longer than 1,000 words For any agency steeped in SEO, those numbers are no surprise. The average length of a top-ten Google search result has now topped 2,000 words. Search engines prioritize in-depth pieces that provide significant value to audiences, especially when they also happen to naturally cover related keywords and phrases. Agencies looking to provide tangible SEO value to [...]
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 [...]
A couple of years ago, when we were able to be out and about and travel the world, I went on a photo safari vacation to South Africa with my daughter. We spent the better part of a week in the bush, coming face to face with prides of lions, serene giraffe, wild dogs right after a kill, and even some mating leopards! I was fascinated to watch how our rangers and trackers scanned the dirt for tracks, examined the foliage to look for breaks, and even tested the temperature of dung to determine what animals were nearby and how long ago they had come through. The clues were so subtle that it was amazing when they spotted them. But the rewards that came from that attention to minute detail was the difference between an incredible game drive (or survival in different circumstances) and just a lovely drive in the woods. It made me think about our own business and all of the subtle clues that our clients, prospects, and employees give off. I wonder how many of them we blindly walk by, about to enter into a danger zone we’re not expecting? I think most agency owners are very astute at picking up the signs — unless we’re moving too quickly and are too distracted to be present. Which is pretty much every day. So what are we missing? One of the traits of the tracker and ranger that took me some time to get used to was the speed at which they worked. Slowly. Sometimes painstakingly slowly. As a Type A kind of guy, I was pretty antsy in the beginning. But then I began to understand the method to their madness and [...]
Let’s be honest — sometimes the biz dev process can leave us feeling like we’ve somehow compromised ourselves to get a seat at the table. Hopefully, we don’t make compromises that actually left us feeling dirty but even with a sweet spot prospect, we can certainly feel like we’ve twisted ourselves into a pretzel or performed like a dancing poodle rather than being respected for how we can elevate the prospect’s business. I think it’s easy to forget that clients actually want their agency to have a point of view and an opinion about the work and the direction the client should pursue. We’re so busy trying to be invited to the dance that it’s easy to lose a little bit of ourselves. I wrote an article for Marketo about this idea that clients actually long for brave agencies and it’s our responsibility to walk with some swagger and confidence to the negotiating table, rather than acting like we’re grateful for the handout. When I look at the agencies who are knocking it out of the park from a biz dev point of view, they all have one thing in common — the courage to speak their mind. I’d love to hear your take on this topic and on the article. This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
You have probably said or at least heard the agency-centric expression “new business cures all ills,” and it’s pretty accurate. Will it fix fundamental problems at your agency? Unfortunately, no. Those are still on you to solve. But it does fix a lot of cash flow challenges, too much time on our hands bickering, and morale issues. I believe that agency owners need to invest a significant amount of their time and attention to biz dev and yet, when I get into most shops, to say the effort is haphazard is an understatement. Most of you have a reactive new business program, which means you respond to what walks in the door through referrals, RFPs, etc. One of the areas where I see the least amount of prep is in that initial conversation. You go to all of that effort to get the meeting. I want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity. I wrote an article for Spin Sucks about seven steps you can take to improve that first impression, whether it’s a coffee meeting or a full RFP presentation. My guess is that some of them will just be a reminder but hopefully a few will inspire you and your team to tweak what isn’t working. Making some minor tweaks in how you show up may be all it takes to move you from being the agency that hears “we really liked you but we went a different direction” to “We can’t wait to work with you!” This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.