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|

CMI releases new research looking at agencies and content marketing delivery

Content Marketing Institute just released a new study, asking agencies about what content marketing services they offer, where they are having success and where they’re still banging their head against a wall. The data is based on 197 respondents, with 71% being US based and 61% of the respondents being owners/partners. There were several takeaways of note in this research and some of it supports what I am seeing among the agencies we serve and some of it makes me scratch my head and wonder a little bit. The results certainly support the idea that content marketing is not new. I’d argue that we’ve always been in the content business, we’ve just changed up the packaging over the years and decades. No great surprise — agencies are reporting that clients of all sizes are seeking help with their content. This isn’t going to change any time soon — and that’s good news for all of us.    More surprising is that 73% of the agencies said they were extremely/very successful in achieving their client’s content marketing goals.  Given the challenges that I hear agency team members talk about every day (getting the content, getting approvals, getting clients to see the long tail play off content, appropriate pricing related to expectations, etc.) I question this number.  I’m sure it’s accurate from the research’s POV — I just wonder how those agencies are actually defining their client’s goals. I also wonder if our clients have the right goals.  How often have you heard a client express frustration because their content isn’t driving immediate sales? Have we helped them really think through a content strategy that is big and bold enough?  Or is it just a two blog [...]

By |June 21st, 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|

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|

5 Mistakes that cost agency owners money