How are you controlling scope creep?

One of the biggest threats to your agency’s profitability and long-term existence is giving away the farm by over servicing clients, bad estimates, not issuing change orders and allowing clients to change the rules mid-game without any penalty or cost. Don’t get me wrong - I think it’s okay and smart to over-service certain clients on certain projects. I’m not suggesting you put military order into your agency. But conservatively — I believe most agencies can put another 10% to their bottom line if they rein in scope creep. The good news is — it’s easier to fix than you might think. I explored how scope creep happens and how agencies can contain it in a recent article for Hubspot.  Take a look and see if you can find a strategy or two that you can implement in your shop to help you slow down the bleed. The article contains several concepts that I teach in the Advanced AE bootcamp as well. Your account executives should be managing their clients’ budgets and profitability. That means they need two things — the financial data to know how they’re doing AND the tools/knowledge of how to manage both the clients and your internal team so that they aren’t writing time and money off every job. Our next Advanced AE bootcamp is in September (September 9 & 10 in Chicago) and you can register your AEs here.

By |July 8th, 2019|

The fine line between value add and over servicing

One of the best compliments my agency ever received came from a client who said he never felt like we had our hand in his pocket. We were putting his interests ahead of our own. And while that’s a great way to build trust, it’s not sustainable. They always want a little more. Sure, it indicated we were satisfying our client, but if clients are satisfied with your work, you may be in trouble. Clients don’t want to be “satisfied” with their marketing agencies. They want to be wowed. And that means they want to be over-serviced. That’s a very fine line we walk. There’s a danger there. Offer too much, and you could be hurting your agency’s future. I explored that very thin line in an article for Spin Sucks (Gina Dietrich’s excellent site) and identified some ways you can dance on the line without crossing over to the dark side of actually giving away your work. I’d welcome your input into this challenge that every agency faces. Now that we've passed the halfway mark for the year, I know you’ve got a ton of items on your To Do list before year-end. But I also know you can get worn out from grinding it out 24/7. Be sure you take some time for yourself. Replenish your energy by sharing the Fourth of July holidays with those you love. Invest in those relationships that have nothing to do with your shop or the pile of work on your desk. The work will be there when you get back from some R&R.  

By |July 1st, 2019|

What’s your exit strategy?

I’m working with an agency owner to think through his exit strategy. He’s 52 years old and doesn’t want to retire for at least 15 years. You may think he’s crazy to be planning that far out but the crazy ones are actually the ones who wait too long. Because he’s ahead of the curve, he has the luxury of exploring all the options and laying the groundwork to keep those options open as his agency evolves and grows. I’ve seen so many agency owners who get close to their retirement age only to discover that they haven’t set up their business to be able to deliver what they would ideally like. The owner I’m working with now wants to sell his agency to an employee or group of employees. But there’s no one in his shop today that would be an ideal buyer. So we have to recruit/hire and train his eventual buyer. That doesn’t happen in a year or two. It’s definitely a long term strategy but because he’s starting so young, there’s no reason we can’t make it happen. We started our work by asking/answering some key questions. You might run yourself through these to see how many of them you can definitively answer. Do you want to sell the agency or is it your intention to use the agency as an ATM machine making as much money as possible each year, and grow your wealth outside the business? Do you want to completely exit the agency and be 100% retired (or doing something else)? If you want to retain some ownership — what would your involvement look like once you take on other owners? Do you want to build your agency [...]

By |June 24th, 2019|

How are you investing your time?

I had a great conversation (podcast) with Andrew Dymski, the host of Inbound Agency Journey about how and where agency owners should be investing their time. We talked a little inbound but the lion’s share of the conversation would be relevant for any agency owner. Take a listen here. In the podcast, I talk about how a primary focus for any agency owner should be new business. In fact, about 50% of your time and attention should be devoted to it. How are you doing on that? To make that happen, you need to get out of the weeds of daily client work. You also need a plan of attack. Take a look at our online business course - AMI’s Agency New Business Blueprint. It just might be what you need to help you get out of the weeds. Like all AMI work, if you don’t like it, we’ll give you the money back. Check out the content here and hurry up before 2020 budgets and plans are created and you’re not part of the mix.

By |May 20th, 2019|

Stop talking about yourself

I spend a lot of time in various agency conference rooms, critiquing their new business pitches. The invitation to do that usually comes after a streak of “we loved you, buts” or worse — not even making it to the final face to face meeting stage. The truth is — you are pitching your agency every day, whether it’s a formal review where you put on a suit and stand up in front of a committee or you’re sitting across the table from a prospect talking over coffee. Whatever the circumstance — the biggest (and most common) mistake agencies make is that we’re so enamored with our fill in the blank (proprietary process, programmatic prowess, award-winning creative, etc.) that we forget that is not what the prospect needs. They need results. They need proof that their marketing dollars are working. They need leads and sales. Go grab your last three proposals/pitches (word docs, PPT — whatever the format) and give yourself a score. How often do you talk about your agency (our work, our results, our team, our process, etc.) versus the tangible results that the prospect can reasonably expect if they hire you? If you’re honest and your proposals look like most — you are not going to get a passing grade.

By |April 29th, 2019|

Agency owners need to embrace the 50-20-30 rule

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.

By |April 22nd, 2019|

Stalled Projects = Shrinking Profits

You know the drill. Client or prospect calls. They have an urgent need and you drop everything to figure out how to help them. About a third of the way in — when you need something (copy, assets, information, etc.) from them, suddenly there’s a grinding halt and you wait. And wait. It’s part of agency life. Unfortunately, so is that sucking sound you hear as the profits get drained from the project because of the delay. The longer you tread water, the more the work costs you and it’s difficult to recoup the expense of trying to cajole your client into giving you what you need. The delays aren’t always on the client. Sometimes an outside force creates the lag time. But either way — your agency ends up holding the bag. You can greatly reduce that drain on your profitability if you anticipate it up front and build a contingency into your scope documents/contracts. In another blog post, I shared some language you can use to protect yourself from these delays.  Feel free to use it verbatim or modify it to fit your agency’s voice. But don’t leave yourself more exposed than you need to be. 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.

By |April 15th, 2019|

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|

How to Multiply Agency Success With the Magic of Opportunity Stacking

There are so many things to do when marketing your business — how in the world do you get the most bang for your buck? I have already discussed how consistent action beats perfect action. But there is another principle that is essential to getting the most out of every single business development opportunity, which I call “stacking.” Stacking is the deliberate process of looking for ways that a singular marketing activity can be leveraged by “stacking” other opportunities for reach, exposure or impact on top of it. For example, if you are going to take the time to do a live talk about your core area of expertise at a local setting, why not stack getting photos and a video of the event on top of it? Why not live stream the talk for your non-local prospects? Why not arrange to meet a strategic attendee for coffee or dinner after the event? When you look for all the possible ways to maximize a marketing activity in your business, you will have a much better return on your investment of time, energy and resources. A stacking example Recently, Susan Baier, Chris Lee and I completed Crack the Challenge Code, a small business survey that looked at the attitudes small business owners have toward obstacles. This research is essential to do a better job in our respective businesses, since most of what our clients struggle with is not what to do (we all know we should market more consistently, write great content, build our product funnels, etc), but few know how to do it (we get in our own way by becoming overwhelmed, feeling imposter syndrome, sticking our heads in the sand, etc). Putting together and [...]

By |October 25th, 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|

How should an agency owner spend their time?