I believe agencies need to shift their own (and their clients’) content creation from a cost to a money-making machine. Every agency I know is creating content but few are monetizing it. Honestly — that’s mostly because the content created is generic and lousy (did you write a post about the new Pantone color — if so, I am talking to you!) and any agency could swap out our logo and insert theirs. But... I digress. Agencies need to come to understand that they absolutely have to get serious about their content and in fact — need to be producing what I call cornerstone content. Think meaty, informative content that defines your agency’s point of view and unique way of working. That’s typically: A book the owner authors A podcast A video series A very provocative/prolific blog Primary research you commission/design It needs to be significant enough that it can be sliced and diced throughout the year into bits of micro-content for your agency. Done well, it can absolutely be a game-changer for your agency. Hubspot asked me to write about my experience launching the podcast and how it impacted AMI. You can check it out here. Hopefully, it will light a fire under you to make THIS the year you stop writing generic blog posts and start getting serious about investing in content that can drive money to your door. This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
When you’ve worked in your own agency for 20+ years, it’s hard to fathom doing something different. And yet, we all have that vague (or not so vague) impression that we’re working and planning for something. Some talk about retiring in the traditional sense. Other agency owners talk about the next chapter — be it teaching, writing a book or going on the speaking tour. Others have aspirations that are a complete 180-degree shift from where they are today. Wineries, B&Bs, and other dreams loom large among my agency owner clients. I’m currently working with several owners who are in the process of thinking through/planning for that transition. Most of them are in their 50s. No — they don’t want out any time soon. But they realize that this is not the sort of thing that should be left to the last minute. I’ve never had an agency owner say, “Gee, I want to sell my agency” and voila in 12 months, they were sipping a Mai Tai on a beach with their buy out money. Ideally, you’d give yourself about a ten-year ramp to go from initial thoughts to closing the deal. And by the way, closing the deal for many of you will simply be to pick a retirement date and lock the door behind you. That requires it’s own plan so don’t think you’re off the planning hook. Other than waiting too long to get started, the biggest mistake I see agency owners make is that they don’t know what that next chapter is going to be. It’s pretty tough to get excited about walking away from your baby if you don’t have something new and exciting to look forward to exploring. [...]
We're getting ready to head into a long holiday weekend. Are you planning on unplugging? Really unplugging? I'm talking about focusing on recharging your battery, investing in your family and friends, and most importantly — doing something that makes you feel like a priority. Don’t worry — I am not giving up AMI and going into the Oprah business. I swear — this is very relevant to my day job. In fact, it may be one of the most important best practices that I preach. Agency owner/leader burn out is one of the biggest threats to the health of your agency. You have to understand your role in the agency. You are the epicenter. Your energy, your focus, and your contributions are what set the course. When you let yourself get too weary, too burdened or too overwhelmed — everyone feels it. They may not be able to articulate what they sense, but it absolutely changes the dynamics in your shop. I just had this conversation with two of our coaching clients — I believe your #1 obligation as an agency leader is to make sure you stay replenished, refreshed and that your head/heart is in a very good place. That does not happen by accident. Is protecting your state of mind a conscious part of your week? None of these things will happen if you don't commit to them, which means putting them on your calendar and paying for them in advance. We all know what happens to an open hour on your calendar. Here are some suggestions: Weekly: (3 measly hours) Take 15 minutes to write in a gratitude journal every day. You'll be stunned at how powerful this is Take an exercise [...]
I don’t know a single agency owner who does not lament over the lack of time. Every one of us faces a daunting To-Do list and there are very few days when you push away from the desk and think “Wow, I covered it all today.” I am not going to promise you a magical solution to wiping out your To-Do list. But I can help you put a serious dent into it. The only way I’ve discovered to be uber-productive is to be ruthless with your mornings. For the last few months, I’ve been conducting an experiment. On the days where I carved out 2-3 hours of uninterrupted work time in the morning, I crushed my list. On the days that I started with calls, meetings, or checking my email — I got significantly less done. Every night, I write down the three biggest things I need to accomplish the next day. I would get up and be working by 7 am and work for 2-3 hours without checking email, voicemail or picking up the phone/texts, etc. On my power mornings (as I’ve come to refer to them) I could usually get at least two of the three accomplished. I have a lot of all-day meetings so on those days, I might only get an hour in. But I’d try to knock out at least one of my must-dos before the meeting started. Now that I know the value of these morning sprints, I am marking off my calendar to protect that time as many days a week as I can. It’s a work in progress but the more I do it, the better my outcomes. The trick is the solitude. No team, no [...]
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 [...]
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.
The work-life balance is dead in 2018: it’s time to work towards work-life blend. When I was a kid, my “work dad” would come home from the bank in his three-piece suit and he’d go upstairs and my “home dad” would come downstairs in jeans, looking for his martini and the download of our day while my mom cooked dinner. Sounds very Leave it to Beaver, doesn’t it? It really was. My dad didn’t have a computer or a cell phone. I can remember the only time the office called him at home – the bank building was on fire. But other than that – there was complete separation of work and home life. We do not have that luxury. We carry our laptops home and even when we don’t, that pocket-sized computer means we can work 24/7. At best, we can strive for work-life blend. Our personal lives will seep into the work day and our work will seep into our personal time. But for many agency owners, what that translates to is that you are always on and always working. That’s not only unhealthy for you but it’s unhealthy for your business. You can’t grow your agency if you have to do everything that’s mission critical. Everyday I talk to agency owners who bemoan the fact that they can’t get everything done because they are too entrenched in working in the business, which means they do not have the time they need to work on the business. If you hear yourself saying (or thinking) “I am the only one who can do XYZ” then you know your agency is broken. Whether you’ve hired super junior people and then not invested in them [...]
I don’t know about you, but I never feel quite caught up and haven’t learned how to catch up on work in full in a long time. Thanks to my high tech Post It Note strategy (every night I list the 3 things, and no more, I must get done the next day and put it on my laptop), I get the most critical things done but there’s always more to do. What saves my bacon every day is that I have a superb leadership team around me and they have systems and processes that allow them to work miracles and keep me on the straight and narrow. Like most agency owners, I have a short attention span and it’s easy for me to get distracted. Our systems pull me back to center. Many agencies struggle with implementing process and systems. In the beginning, the system is tribal – everyone walks around, carrying the important data of the agency in their brains. By the time you get to eight or ten people, that system falls apart. As agencies grow and change, they often rely on the old system for too long. Usually something big has to fall through the cracks to convince everyone that it’s time for the next evolution of how you get your work done. Every business is made up of processes and systems, whether you have them documented or not. If your systems for teaching others how to catch up on work are informal or tribal, then odds are you and your team aren’t being as efficient or effective as you could be. You are literally trying to shove more work into a system that is simply too small. That’s where my [...]
One of the most common challenges agencies of all sizes are facing right now is finding the right people to add to the team, especially as it relates to learning how to find freelancers who are capable of doing the great work that agencies require. Client budgets and programs are growing, agency new business is getting a little easier and so everything should be rosy. But when you don’t have the right team to get the work done – it’s frustrating and frightening. Ten to fifteen years ago, the prevailing attitude was that agencies needed everyone under one roof. After all, the work is so collaborative. But when the recession hit and people had to reduce fixed expenses to survive, many agencies who swore they would never try to manage a network of freelancers or hire someone virtual crossed over and did just that. Not only did they survive it – but it opened up many opportunities to serve clients in new ways. Fast forward to today – whether you are in a big market with lots of talent (and lots of competitors for that talent) or in a smaller market that just doesn’t have enough qualified bodies – finding and keeping the right team is a serious struggle. Most AMI agencies have a pretty robust freelance pool and are versed in knowing how to find freelancers. 75% have some sort of flex hours where people either come in early/leave early, come in late/leave late or have some sort of non-traditional work week, be it fewer than five days a week or a full work week but they work from home one or more days. In terms of remote employees, I would say that [...]
If you’ve been in the business for more than a decade – you’ve done a fair amount of outdoor advertising at some point in your career. But, when we say outdoor advertising, most of us think billboards. We’re very right but we are also very wrong. Today, that’s just a sliver of what outdoor (now called out of home) advertising can deliver for clients. Out of home advertising includes wallscapes, and visual messaging on commuter rails, subway, taxi tops, airport advertising, cinema ads, sporting arenas, grocery store ads, fitness clubs, and the list goes on and on. But out of home goes far beyond any sort of sign. Think of on site activation, boots on the ground people doing sampling and so much more. My guest Betsy McLarney, the President of EMC Outdoor, has had a bird’s eye view of the different changes in outdoor advertising over the years. Betsy is on the podcast to share with us some unique ways out of home advertising can be used to help us deliver our client’s core message. Join Betsy and I as we think of bigger and broader uses of out of home advertising by learning about: Out of Home (OOH) media: what is it? What are some advantages of out of home advertising? How digital outdoor advertising really makes the experience come alive for consumers Using OOH to hit consumers with messages on multiple touch points throughout their day It’s not just for B2C: how B2B can utilize OOH to enhance their campaigns Using street teams effectively to get your message out to live people Why OOH isn’t just for national brands and can be used effectively for even local campaigns Matching the budget to [...]