Uncategorized

How We Won a Seven-Figure Agency Dream Client In Less Than Five Months: An Unconventional Case Study.

Want to learn how to win your top ten dream clients in just a few easy steps? Then you’re in the wrong place. One of the biggest problems with most case studies and sales tactics is that they attempt to make hard problems seem easy to solve.  What nobody wants to admit is that convincing marketing leaders at mid-to-large companies to jump into bed with your agency is HARD. It takes time and effort, especially if going beyond referrals and your personal network is new for your agency. This is where we come in.   But going out to the big cold world to win business is a worthwhile mission, like joining the Navy Seals or landing first chair in The National Orchestra. And what’s the alternative?   If you want to grow your agency, or simply by choosier about your clients, you will have to develop a repeatable sales process to win over prospects who are problem-aware but not yet necessarily solution-aware.   By the end of this unconventional case study, the journey from cold to closed business will feel a lot less murky. The agency’s situation Our client is a San Francisco-based full-service branding and creative services firm specializing in naming, audience engagement, and video storytelling. The agency’s target buyers include enterprise technology firms, e-commerce, manufacturing, and B2B technology, with a focus on companies going through mergers and acquisitions.   Common to most of our clients, this agency experienced an over-reliance on referrals, overwhelm and lack of bandwidth, and not enough opportunities to sustain their growth goals. The less-than-tiny text: our client’s strengths Here’s what our client had going for them: Experience. Decades in business, 40+ marquee clients (mostly Fortune 500) prominently listed on their homepage.  Positioning.  [...]

By |January 21st, 2020|

Money mistakes are so easy to make and so costly

I live in the Midwest and as a result, I am fascinated by farmers. They can do everything right and in the blink of an eye — a hail storm, too much rain or on the flip side, a drought can wipe out all of their efforts. It seems like the riskiest and most frustrating business model in the world. But I can’t deny that our world of agency life has some similarities. Agency owners and leaders work their tails off to chase down new clients, to keep the clients they have, to attract and grow the right team members. But then we make mistakes that either erode or completely eliminate all of the effort and the potential profits from those efforts. I identified some of these money mistakes in an article for Hubspot Mistakes that Will Bankrupt Your Agency. Check it out and put a plan in place to eliminate those mistakes from your agency’s SOP before you pay too great a price. If you know that your agency could use a tune-up (right structure, operating systems, staffing, actually making a double-digit profit, etc.) why not spend two days with us talking about these topics? Our workshop, Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity) is designed for agency owners and we will pepper you with best practices, practical tips, and hacks that will help you make more and keep more of what you make.

By |January 20th, 2020|

Business development happens in inches

I have had several phone conversations lately with agency owners who have sales pipelines that have dried up. They’re frustrated and scared about business development. I get it. We’ve all been there. But when I asked them about their new business activity, they all admitted that they’d taken their foot off the pedal. Sure — they all had great reasons why they didn’t do the follow-up or initiate the new tactic. You know what I’m going to say because you’ve said it to yourself. There will always be another reason/excuse. There’s always a fire to put out or something to be done internally. You have to carve out the time to work your new business plan and protect it like it’s your favorite kid’s birthday. It’s too easy to slide backward and once you lose the momentum, it’s back to the starting gate. Like exercise, it’s a lot easier if you work the muscle on a regular basis. By the way, this is never going to happen by accident or wishing. If you don’t calendar it out, your day is never going to suddenly free up. This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.

By |January 13th, 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|

Do you have traction?

I’m a big fan of the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s a business parable that outlines a systematic way (EOS or the Entrepreneurial Operating System) of running any business. It’s incredibly well suited for agencies, because it forces a discipline onto a leadership team that is often plagued with wearing too many hats, running from fire to fire every day, and a tendency to get distracted by squirrels and shiny objects. The result of the hats, fires, squirrels and shiny objects is that many internal projects (how long did it take you to deploy your agency’s last website) get delayed or never get done. At AMI, we weave a lot of Traction’s elements into our coaching and when our clients look back over the previous twelve months, they are astonished at how much they accomplished. The EOS methodology leverages the power of focus and shared accountability and man, does it work! If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’ve had internal projects (revising processes, an employee handbook, updating your website, improving your agency’s marketing or business development efforts, etc.) that are dragging on and on. We'll be talking about some of the Traction principles at our Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity!) workshop and how they intersect with you making more money every month/year. It’s designed for agency owners and we will pepper you with two full days of learning the tricks and tips on how to operate your agency for maximum profit using the right structure, operating systems, and staffing to make it all possible. This was originally published in the AMI weekly newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |December 30th, 2019|

Business development happens in inches

I have had several phone conversations recently with agency owners who have sales pipelines that have dried up. They’re frustrated and scared. I get it. We’ve all been there. But when I asked them about their business development activity, they all admitted that they’d taken their foot off the pedal. Sure — they all had great reasons why they didn’t do the follow-up or initiate the new tactic. You know what I’m going to say because you’ve said it to yourself. There will always be another reason/excuse. There’s always a fire to put out or something to be done internally. You have to carve out the time to work your new business plan and protect it like it’s your favorite kid’s birthday. It’s too easy to slide backward and once you lose the momentum, it’s back to the starting gate. Like exercise, it’s a lot easier if you work the muscle on a regular basis. By the way, this is never going to happen by accident or wishing. If you don’t calendar it out, your day is never going to suddenly free up. In our Best Practices of Agency Owner’s workshop, Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity!)  in March, we’re going to show you some strategies for actually controlling your days so new business happens on a consistent basis. We’re also going to walk you through how to construct a business development plan that is actually sustainable and successful. Be sure to grab a seat if you think it would be helpful! This was originally published in the AMI weekly newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |December 23rd, 2019|

What do you ask next?

Given the amount of competition out there, the challenges of landing a new client and the struggles with keeping the clients you have – I totally get the hunger to have the right answers. After all, that’s what they’re paying us for, right? Our expertise. Our years of experience. Our guidance. I want to suggest that while all of that is true – our expertise, experience, and guidance should show up in a different way. It’s not about the answers we provide, it’s about the questions we ask. When we are meeting with a prospective new client, the sentence I love to hear more than any other is “I’ve never been asked that before.” That means I am adding value. I am taking them in a direction they haven’t been before or coming at their issue from a different perspective. And odds are, the closer I am getting to the best answers. Many agency owners are frustrated that they’re the only ones who can do strategy inside their shop. I believe that’s because they’re the only ones who know how to ask questions that go beyond the surface or the expected. If you recognize your shop in that description, it’s time to teach your employees how to ask better questions. It helps if they’re naturally curious. Is their brain wired to wonder? That’s a critical trait when you hire. But if you have some team members who aren’t, then you need to help them exercise that muscle/develop that habit. Here are some tips you can offer as you’re coaching them. Keep it open-ended: Try to keep the conversation going by asking questions that require a longer response than a yes or no. Certain words trigger [...]

By |December 16th, 2019|

3 Ways to Start Outsourcing Tasks Off Your Plate

Running a successful agency is no easy feat. Outsourcing tasks is often the best way to keep things under control. With a ton of work and clients to deal with, one can easily get overwhelmed without help and an effective system in place.  When you’re an agency business owner, time is always of the essence. You want to cover all your responsibilities to build and maintain a great reputation. Unfortunately, there isn’t always enough time. As much as you want to grow your business and get more clients, minor tasks can keep you from doing it. Tasks such as scheduling client calls or responding to emails can take a lot of time. Though they are considered significant to your business, there are more valuable tasks that require your attention. You can make better use of your time growing the business and doing your “CEO” responsibilities. One of the more effective ways of doing this is to start outsourcing tasks that you don't need to do yourself. While business owners tend to want to make everything perfect, you need to be smarter than that. You need to start taking minor tasks off your plate so you can focus on the more important ones.   That being said, below are three ways you can use the power of delegation by outsourcing tasks so you can become a more efficient leader.  Getting leads through social media There’s no question that social media has become a very powerful tool. Gone are the days when social media was merely about “reconnecting with old friends.” Instead, it has now become a marketing powerhouse, allowing businesses to reach more people and connect with them as no other medium has done before. It’s not [...]

By |December 16th, 2019|

Who are your inside confidants?

I’ve never met an agency owner who doesn’t find the job a bit lonely sometimes. Most of us grew up in the agency business and we’re used to having at least a portion of our social life stem from our co-workers. As our careers advanced, we were probably in the inner circle but it was definitely a circle so you had people to talk to, confide in, and bounce ideas off of when the &^%# hits the fan. But now that you own the joint, it’s not quite the same. You know and think about things that really shouldn’t be shared with anyone (or too many someones) and who your confidants are can have huge consequences — good or bad. In our work with agencies, we sit around the table with a lot of leadership teams. Here are some of the skills/traits that I think are mandatory if you’re going to give someone the privilege/responsibility of one of those seats: They can keep their mouth shut (you’d think this was a given but we all know better) They can step outside their departmental or day-to-day role to care about the agency as a whole They have mastered the ability to be “kind but clearly candid” with you, the boss and don’t pull punches They’re comfortable not knowing or with uncertainty (if they are fretters — you have trouble) They’re hungry to keep learning Naturally, there are more but those are some biggies. Miss one or more of them and, next thing you know, you’re confiding in the wrong people. By the way — hopefully, it goes without saying that age, title or years in the business don’t always guarantee that those traits are present. I [...]

By |December 9th, 2019|

What’s the plan?

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. [...]

By |December 2nd, 2019|