Owning or leading an agency can feel like a never-ending high-stakes poker game. There’s always something to worry about. Too often, we’re so focused on what could go wrong that we don’t truly appreciate the things that go right. Of course, I’m not saying agency owners should stop looking at the numbers or worrying about new business, nor am I suggesting we don rose-colored glasses and ignore the hard realities of owning an agency. I’m merely challenging us to stop and appreciate the good, too. The steps I’ve taken to overcome the constant anxiety are simple but powerful. I challenge you to slow down and be grateful for how much fun you’re having. Acknowledge the wonderful wins that occur in the midst of the daily grind. Let’s not wait until our careers are over to notice the good stuff. The full article was originally published on Forbes.com
Every time you use a digital assistant, receive a recommendation from Amazon or use an app to find the fastest route, you’re using artificial intelligence. AI has changed our lives in countless ways, but I’ve noticed most agencies still struggle to harness its power to improve their business. In truth, AI is already a part of agency life — and its influence will only become more profound. According to a recent report, AI in marketing is predicted to be a $21 billion market by 2023. Clearly, this growth means agencies may want to get on board. They also may need to grapple with determining what data to collect, how to analyze it, which tasks to automate and how AI can help clients. In my agency, we typically use AI to analyze the content, context and outcomes of client calls. Our findings, ideally, lead to higher profitability and retention rates. If you feel behind when it comes to AI, don’t stress — there’s still plenty of time to integrate the tools to optimize your agency operations and strategy. With that said, choosing not to use AI may not be the best option. It doesn't seem to be a fad, and the future of your agency may depend on it. The full article was originally published on Forbes.com
Six actions you can take today to prospect and close business effectively in a chaotic economic climate without hurting your brand. This is not meant to be a cheesy, ‘glass-half-full’ platitude, but I think it’s an important question to ask genuinely: Is there a way in which this crisis could make your agency stronger? Recently at Sales Schema, an agency-specialized new business consultancy, we centered a live workshop, with around 70 agency owners, on the above question. We are not prophets, economists, or epidemiologists, but we’ve learned a lot in recent weeks, combined with many hard-won lessons from working with 50+ agencies, executing 7,000+ campaigns, and generating 3,000+ qualified brand meetings. Here are six actions your agency can take today to ensure you’re healthy and thriving in 90-180 days. 1.Deal in facts, not rumors. We are hearing a lot about spending freezes, furloughs, and firings. Sometimes the rumors are true, and the obvious cases are in-person-centric industries like restaurants, retail, and cruises. Just as often, we see agency owners making brash assumptions based on one or two data points, such as a single terse email response from a client or an ill-informed news article. For example, it’s easy to assume that interest in event marketing is fading, but we have a client in that space for whom we secured conversations with three ‘blue chip’ tech companies last week - after all, these brands are looking for leadership and ideas to move from in-person to digital, and they have more time than usual to talk to salespeople. In another case, a web services and staff-augmentation client of ours is landing renewals with clients because this crisis revealed them to be the best, fastest, cheapest option [...]
I was recently a guest on B2B Growth’s podcast discussing how to use the CARES Act to your agency’s benefit. I hope you take a few minutes to look at the overview of this podcast and listen to the full episode soon. I look forward to hearing what you think! Sweetfish Media — Paycheck Protection Program: What it Means for Your Business Let’s talk about the CARES Act—the federal government has approved a $2 trillion relief bill. One aspect of this bill is the Paycheck Protection Program. Through this, we do not have to let our employees go due to lack of income. By presenting simple documents showing your expenses, you can apply for a forgivable PPP loan. The loan is 2.5 times your monthly expenses (loaded salaries, utilities, rent, mortgage, etc.). That amount (times 2.5) will be deposited into your checking account. As long as you do not change your staffing in those 2 months, the loan is forgiven. Two trillion dollars sounds like a lot of money, but remember the money is scattered into several subcategories within the CARES Act. Talk to your CPA, call your banker, and apply as quickly as possible so you can get your share of money before it runs out. The goal is no debt; you have to try not to go into the red this season. Use the resources the federal government is providing to care for your business, your employees, and yourself. We want to be a resource to agencies as we all manage our way through this pandemic. We have resources available to you on our website here. This podcast was originally published on sweetfishmedia.com on April 2, 2020.
I was recently a guest on B2B Growth’s podcast discussing how agencies can still prosper during COVID-19. I hope you take a few minutes to look at the overview of this podcast and listen to the full episode soon. I look forward to hearing what you think! Sweetfish Media — Surviving COVID-19 Working from home is changing how our industry functions every day. I have seen agencies gain more clients or working time as a result of COVID-19, but I have also talked to agency owners who have lost close to half of their clients because their specific market is no longer needed during this pandemic. There are also some agencies that fit right in the middle, who have not seen any loss or gain. In all of these scenarios, working from home during a pandemic is altering how our industry functions and who is coming out for the better. Right now, each agency is like a ship that is getting pummeled in a storm. For some of us, it’s the roughest storm you have sailed through; others have been through worse. Our goal is to make it to calm waters alive. To do that, we must remain calm, confident, and compassionate while surrounded by chaos. Unfortunately, we will have to make sacrifices in one way or another. Some clients will leave, and some employees might be unsatisfied with their amount of work right now. Remember that we are all going through challenges right now, and we must show up as strong leaders. Let’s focus on metrics, specifically your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Fifty-five percent of that goes to loaded payroll, 25% is spent on overhead, and the last 20% should be profit. For those [...]
The COVID-19 crisis has literally turned our world upside down. This virus, like nothing before it, has managed to disrupt economies and ruin entire corporations while leaving tens of millions of people without jobs. However, companies were "constrained" to become more client-savvy and improve their communication on social platforms. From a social-media point of view, this crisis has brought a whole new level of communication changes. The way businesses are able to communicate with their partners and clients is key if they want to get through this period unscathed. The problem is that, for most businesses out there, their communication during the crisis tends to suffer quite a lot. Most businesses choose to respond negatively to impossible situations. This in turn escalates and makes them lose precious capital, both in the form of partners and fans. However, there are certainly many companies that have managed to take advantage of this crisis and improve their communication with their fans. In order to shed some light on this subject, the marketing specialists from Socialinsider have put together a complex study that shows how brands are actually managing their communication during difficult periods such as this one. This study looks in-depth at how brands communicated at the beginning of the pandemic and how their shift changed as the pandemic has started to negatively impact the Western Society. While each industry is slightly different, with some industries being completely shut down and others booming, there is a common thread across all industries, which is the need for proper crisis management. Well-worded posts, responsible communication, transparency, and a good dosage of positivism are essential for any company that really wants to thrive during COVID-19. In order to create this extensive [...]
By Robin Boehler & Steve Boehler Founding Partners Mercer Island Group As Covid-19 begins peaking across the country, what do you and your agency do now? You’ve applied for your PPP loan, reassessed your business plan, and everyone is working from home. There’s been a lot of client handholding and adjustments to media plans and scopes of work. It’s time now to turn the page and begin Chapter 2: Planning for Recovery. To help get started, we’ve come up with 10 starter ideas that you and your agency can run with or adapt to meet your needs and the evolving needs of your clients. Help Your Clients Recover 1. Love the One You’re With Your current clients are the heart of your business. They are the best source of stability and future revenue. Show them how much you love them. Make it easy to repurpose scopes of work, timelines, maybe even deferred payment. Be flexible and, above all, be gracious. 2. Find New Ways to Add Value Your clients face new unpredictable business challenges for which there was no way they could have adequately prepared. There’s a good chance your current scope of work does not reflect the realities of their new business challenges. Time to engage in conversations with your clients to be sure you understand their most pressing needs so you can do what you do best – provide solutions that address their needs. 3. Offer Quick & Cost-Effective Ideas For many of your clients, their business models and marketing approaches have been disrupted. Despite this, they still need to engage with their target audience. Ideate and provide free ideas that help them do this. We are big fans of paying it forward. [...]
Agency owners constantly ask me why they are always busy but are not making more money. The answer?—we write off too much time and overservice our clients to the death of our agencies. How do we figure out how badly we are writing time off? What is your billability, and what is your utilization? Billability is how many hours your employees are working doing billable tasks, tasks that can be billed directly to a client you already have. Utilization is “hours” you actually assign to an invoice to a client. You do not have to bill by the hour, but it still starts with figuring out how many hours a task will take and adjusting your flat fee you charge your clients accordingly. Billability should always be more than your utilization. Your goal should be 65% of all available hours are utilized, meaning your billability average should be 75%. Keep in mind you will almost always overservice your clients. Every billable hour will not actually be billed, and that is okay as long as you stick to the goals above. One problem could be that your agency has too many people and employees are taking more time than necessary to complete tasks. This is called Parkinson’s Law. Each task you assign with a due date or time will use the full amount of time available to complete it, even if it can be completed quicker. You might have too many people, and there is not enough work to keep each of them busy at a pace that is reasonable. Another problem is overservicing your clients. Be clear with your team about how many hours there is to work on a project. People go over because [...]
By: Steve Boehler & Matt Driscoll of Mercer Island Group “Every brand is now in the business of public service.” - Ed Cotton, Creative Strategist Many companies are adapting their products, services and communications to be helpful to their communities as we await sunnier days ahead. Some manufacturers have retooled to produce medical supplies, restaurants are offering free meals and delivery service, and banks are deferring loan payments. Agencies are getting into the act by sharing helpful content and advice with their clients and the broader community. These are thoughtful, appropriate responses to the Covid-19 crisis. At Mercer Island Group, our belief is straightforward: if brands and agencies want to live the notion of "we're all in this together", they should provide service that is helpful. Clients face difficult decisions and unique business needs right now. To be helpful, agencies should help clients and communities with their business needs in a manner that is thoughtful and considerate of their emotional needs. We have collected some good examples of agencies doing just that – helping their clients and communities with important business needs. These firms are providing help in a sensitive and respectful manner that is considerate of their audiences’ emotional needs. You will find examples of content that agencies have been sharing with their clients and the broader marketing community below. Feel free to use this advice yourselves, and with your clients as you see fit. We also suggest that you create your own advice and share it with your clients, communities and other agencies. 360i – The Only Constant Is Change 360i has assembled a guide for clients, helping ground their clients with facts regarding Covid-19’s impact. They reviewed a ton of data and [...]
There are days (and we love them) when price isn’t a barrier and that prospect gladly signs on the dotted line and off we go. But, we’ve all had the experience of being in front of a prospect who is excited to work with our agency until the conversation circled around to dollars and cents. The minute we went from helping them slay their dragons to how much it was going to cost — something happens to the energy in the room. Those kinds of conversations are what have driven a small number of agencies to try to come up with a different pricing model that eliminated the connection to selling time by the hour. We have some AMI agencies that have created a subscription model. Others have created a points system where they, in essence, created their own points system. If you’ve read the book The Marketing Agency Blueprint by Paul Roetzer, you may be familiar with this idea. Paul and his team at PR 20/20 have been using their point pricing model for a few years now and through their agency education arm, offer a free download, Sample GamePlan that show you how their point pricing model works. Here are couple different articles on the idea of point pricing, if you’re interested in learning more. PR 20/20 article on eliminating hours from agency pricing Articulate’s explanation This was originally published in the AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.