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|

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 Get Paid When Clients Pull the Plug

It’s annoying and expensive when clients pull the plug on a project before you can recoup all of your upfront investment. And yet it happens all the time. So much of our work requires a huge investment on our part on the front end and when a client stalls or does a 360 and cancels the work — we often get left holding the bag. I wrote a blog post about this challenge and offered some language you can include in your contracts and/or scope of work documents that will help protect you from losing money in this situation. 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 8th, 2019|

Are you indispensable?

For many agency owners, the constant grind of winning new business but feeling like you’re treading water because it just replaces the revenue from lost business is grueling and disheartening. We all know that it’s tough to make money on a new client right off the bat. No matter how aggressively you price it, you end up investing a lot to get them onboard. The saving grace comes from consistency in your client roster and enjoying the profitability of a client who has been around for a year or more which can really offset the startup investment you make in new clients. Understanding and controlling client departures should be a critical element of your new business program. Part of that equation should be becoming as indispensable as possible. I explored that topic over at SmartBlog on Leadership and discussed ways you can create multiple relationships inside the organization so you aren’t as vulnerable if your day-to-day contact leaves. I hope it triggers some discussion inside your shop and even some modifications to your client retention plan.

By |March 4th, 2019|

Should I compare our agency to others?

How many times have you had a prospect say something like: You are a breath of fresh air compared to our current/old agency You actually understand our business Our other agency never asked us questions like this Wow - I actually know where our dollars are being spent with you It feels good, no make that amazing, when we know we are exceeding our clients' expectations, even if it is because they were with a lousy agency before us.  That makes it tempting to go out there and shout "we are not like the other guys! Come experience the difference! I totally get why you ask yourself "should I compare our agency to others?" I'm here to tell you, whatever you do, resist the urge. Think back to the 2018 mid-term election cycle and recall what I am guessing we all said or thought as we watched yet another political ad.  “Stop talking about how bad the other guy is and just tell me what you will do.” I get the temptation. But avoid it in your own messaging and marketing.  You talk about you.  Your philosophy of the work.  Your defined and tested process.  Your unique POV. Your depth of experience.  What is it like to work with you. Let them read between the lines and sense the difference. Where you can put some spotlight on the “we’re better than the other guys” is when you share other people’s words and reflections on you. Think: Google and FB reviews (which you should be actively seeking) Testimonials Client referrals The clients you offer to let prospects talk to You can create a cheat sheet of the above mentioned points of difference and ask them to [...]

By |November 18th, 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|

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 Most Important Principle of New Business Pitching

I learned the most important lesson about new business pitching from an unlikely source for a man in my business: record producer Jimmy Iovine. In 2013 I was a proud dad sitting in the audience at the University of Southern California’s commencement ceremony. The keynote speaker was famous music producer and co-founder of Beats headphones, Jimmy Iovine. He told an unforgettable story that I’ve applied to sales conversations ever since. As I remember it, Jimmy described his start as a sound engineer working on an early Bruce Springsteen album. After working on Born to Run with producer Jon Landau, he was asked to work on the follow up album, Darkness On the Edge of Town. He was tasked to find the right drum beat for a song, and it wasn’t an easy job. After spending six weeks working around the clock trying to get the sound that Bruce had in his head actualized with instruments, Jimmy became frustrated. Bruce wanted a specific sound that he had trouble describing, and Jimmy was failing time after time at delivering what the Boss was looking for. No matter what they tried, it wasn’t working. Bruce kept rejecting the work, which left Jimmy feeling disrespected and on the verge of quitting. When All Seemed Lost, A Pivotal Moment It was then that a pivotal moment took place: Bruce’s manager looked Jimmy straight in the eye and said something to the effect of, “you go back there and say to Bruce ‘I’m here to support you. This is not about me. It’s about the album.’ You will have a friend for the rest of your life.” Jimmy swallowed his pride and did just that. In the end, Jimmy never nailed [...]

By |July 24th, 2018|

Clients Long for Brave Agencies: 3 Fears to Conquer

Launching an agency means challenges are bound to arise, and these challenges often revolve around money and perspective. When the two collide, that’s when most brave agencies stumble a bit. As soon as the words “revenue” and “loss” appear in the same sentence, many brave agencies understandably freeze with fear. It’s easy to lose objectivity and the ability to stay focused on the big picture. That often leads to an agency scrambling to take on new clients, regardless of their suitability. This “any port in a storm” mentality can really jeopardize an agency’s ability to create stability and profitability. It also leads to brave agencies being less willing to stand their ground and advocate for what they know is the best solution for their clients. It’s easy to capitulate when you’re worried about making payroll. But when clients search for brave agencies, they’re looking for that outside perspective. They don’t need a “yes” man; they need objectivity and an outside viewpoint they can’t find internally. This difference in opinion won’t always have you seeing eye to eye, but that’s usually what sparks the big idea—that collaborative, 360-degree viewpoint. If you’re challenging one another, ideas get better. And it’s the co-creation of those ideas where trust is earned. The bottom line: Your agency must have the confidence—or dare I say, the bravery—to find your voice and speak up. That’s the value you bring to your clients, which in turn is what creates value for you as a business. How you go about finding your voice and solidifying those bonds with clients is entirely up to you, but it often starts with mustering the courage to do the following: 1. Hold Strong Opinions To be treated as [...]

By |June 27th, 2018|

How should an agency owner spend their time?