The trailblazing benefit agency owners need to know about

Remember the “good old days” right after the recession when incredibly talented employees were easy to find, quick to hire and grateful to have a steady paycheck? The upside to that story is that in 2020 the economy is stronger, the job market is much more stable and everyone is making more money. The downside is — the days of just having a job being enough are over. Today, agencies are in a battle to recruit and retain talent and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Some agencies have adopted a blended staffing strategy (a mix of employees and a consistent contract labor pool) to combat this challenge. Other agencies are investing heavily in professional development and growth opportunities for their team (The #1 reason why an agency employee chooses to take a job/stay at an agency according to our 2016 research) to keep their top talent. But there’s a new benefit that is emerging as a deal clincher. Many of our employees (at every age) are strapped with student loans so a Student Loan Reimbursement perk is music to their ears and bank accounts. I wrote a story about this for Forbes, including some best practices for getting the most out of offering the benefit. I’m curious — if you’ve cracked the recruiting and retention code — what do you believe makes the difference? This was originally published in the AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |March 9th, 2020|

What if you got paid to be a thought leader?

We’re all blogging, writing newsletters, trying to speak at conferences, etc. We’ve got content coming out of our ears but content does not equal thought leadership. If you and 1,000 other agencies all blogged about the new Pantone color of the year — that’s content, not thought leadership. No one is going to pay you to create that. But genuine thought leadership that makes me better at my job? Now that you can get paid for! Think about how much more motivated you and your team would be if your content actually made you money and helped your clients as well. Check out an article I wrote about thought leadership and the fine line we walk to get it right.  As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. This was originally published in the AMI weekly newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |February 24th, 2020|

Does diversity matter?

My intention with a short email isn’t to talk about the bigger, cultural issues our world is facing around diversity but I think we can all agree it’s a topic that we need to keep front and center. That’s true in our agencies as well. Our clients are starting to demand it. It will have influence over our ability to hire and retain talent and it changes the caliber of our work. In fact, 42% of marketers feel the brands they work for don’t accurately reflect the racial diversity of our society. It’s a big deal and we need to pay attention to the challenge. Forbes asked me to write about how this is impacting agencies, our clients and our industry. I also offered up some tactics for thinking about and broadening the diversity in your own shop. I hope you’ll check it out and find it of value. We will be talking about best practices and new tactics for hiring the right team member in our upcoming workshop, Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity!) coming up in March. It’s two days of how to operate your agency for maximum profit using the right structure, operating systems, and staffing to make it all possible. Hope to see you there! This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.

By |January 6th, 2020|

Are you leveraging your hiring advantage?

Most agencies today are struggling to recruit and retain good talent. If that’s you, you’re not alone. Our industry is experiencing a 30% turnover on average. If you’re not seeing that issue in your shop, my guess is that you have discovered the secret that every agency has but few truly leverage. Culture. Yes, you have to pay them a fair wage (check your salaries against our 2019 salary survey if you’re not sure) and offer decent benefits. But we all know those are just table stakes. Agencies are in a very unique position to create “brag-worthy benefits” that will help you attract and keep strong team members. I recently wrote an article for MediaPost that outlined some of the most important elements of culture.  As always, I’d love your thoughts. But it’s not just about the list of perks and opportunities. It’s also your agency’s spirit. When I walk in the door, is it like a tomb with everyone whispering or not talking at all? Does spontaneous fun break out at least once a week? Do you give your team permission to generate that fun and demonstrate your support by participating? Create a culture that has your employees sharing it on social media and over the dinner table. That sense of belonging and energy is very hard to walk away from and very attractive when someone is looking for a place to call home.

By |November 4th, 2019|

How we create AMI’s weekly videos

Hey there — folks have been asking me what tools I use to create our weekly videos, so I thought I would spell it out for you. Here’s the equipment I use. My criteria for anything I am using is that it has to be durable, reasonable small, and lightweight because every week, I am throwing it all into my suitcase and taking it on the road (except for my phone!) And I did not want to spend an arm and a leg. I'm sure you could go higher quality, but this works for me. Camera: My iPhone X Microphone: Shure MV88 iOS digital stereo condenser microphone (plugs into my phone) $149 App for the filming: Shureplus MOTIV video (get in app store) Tripod: Fotopro Phone Travel Tripod $23 (I needed two -- one for the camera & one for light) Lights: Rotolight NEO on-camera LED light $149 15 foot extension cord: Amazon recommended $7 I use an app on my iPhone (Shureplus MOTIV Video -- tied to the microphone) to record the video. For a long time, I was relying on natural light but some of the videos were just too dark so I decided to invest in a light (hence the 2nd tripod and extension cord) box which is about 4 inches square and about an inch and a half thick, so easy to pack. I don't use any sort of teleprompter. Honestly, I don't script these out. I have an idea of the main point I want to make and I just shoot from the hip. Usually, I shoot it a couple times before I'm happy with the flow of the message, but I am rarely shooting for more than 10 minutes. [...]

By |August 23rd, 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|

Is podcasting the new business tactic for you?

I had a great conversation (podcast) with Stephen Woessner, the host of Onward Nation about the value of podcasting, how my podcast Build A Better Agency has served my business and why I think it’s a strategy worth considering for any agency owner who is trying to establish a sustainable new business effort. Take a listen here. In the podcast, I talk about how podcasting creates a position of thought leadership and gives you a chance to connect with your prospects in ways you haven’t even imagined. It’s also killer for content creation. If it’s crossed your mind, the episode might be worth a listen. FYI — The AE bootcamp that we’re doing on September 24/25th won’t be offered again until 2020. So if you’d like your newer (5 years experience or less) AEs to actually understand their role in helping the agency and their clients make money and learn how to make that happen consistently — sign them up before we fill up! Register them today here!

By |May 27th, 2019|

The Specialist Agency: An Argument For and Against

Earlier this year I had the honor of serving as the morning keynote speaker for PRGN’s semi-annual member summit in Toronto. My topic was on the five indicators of new business success that I consistently see in the agencies I work with (and, likewise, the corresponding indicators of agencies that stay stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle). One of the indicators is a specialist mindset, as opposed to an “all things to all people” approach. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They tried this specialist agency strategy at his agency and it didn’t work. It had the opposite effect; they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that? (Gulp) Before I tell you how I responded, let me explain that I’m not a specialist agency hardliner. In fact, this time last year, I wrote about this. To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business. Pitching for new business is a big investment. The more specialized your pitch, the more efficient your investment. That’s because: Generalists seek out clients; specialists are more likely to be sought Generalists differentiate based on price; specialists can afford to charge a premium Generalists will always be tempted to reinvent themselves to suit the nature of the prospect; specialists find it easier to home in on a consistent message that’s effective for the right audience But I also don’t see it as a stark choice. In my piece, I referred to the proverb about the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes. This is a favorite to describe agencies that can’t seem to take their own advice when it [...]

By |August 7th, 2018|

Your clients are still struggling with ROI from existing customers

Despite a mandate to drive growth, chief marketers are still stuck in a decade-long rut that has yet to see them fully optimize the lifetime value of existing customers. In 2008, when asked if brands were fully realizing the revenue potential of customers, 76 percent said no. Ten years later, 77 percent of respondents to the same question in a new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council audit still say no, and 10 percent say they are not even sure. This is why you and your AEs need to understand the math of a lifetime customer.  We talk about/teach this is all of our AE bootcamps (live and on-demand) and I'm always surprised at how few of the attendees have been exposed to the idea of calculating, monitoring and monetizing the lifetime value of a customer. This failure to capitalize on customer revenue potential does not come as a surprise as the majority of marketers are missing an opportunity to leverage opt-in, triggered communications, including transactional email, to further relationships with customers. According to the latest study by the CMO Council and communication management platform Sendwithus, just 36 percent of respondents are leveraging transactional emails as an opportunity to further the value of relationships. While 30 percent believe they are engaging through triggered emails, it is only to reaffirm or acknowledge a past transaction, not to intentionally develop a more meaningful customer relationship. This occurs despite 94 percent of respondents’ belief that delivery of personalized communications across all customer touchpoints is critical to achieving profitable customer experiences. The new report, titled “Gaining Traction With Every Digital Interaction,” reveals that collaboration around the channels of choice for the customer is critical to turning an automated touchpoint into a [...]

By |May 15th, 2018|

How to Find Top-Level Freelancers to Help You Grow Your Business with Nathan Hirsch

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 [...]

By |February 8th, 2018|