I know there are agency consultants who will tell you that timesheets aren’t necessary. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. I totally get it. No one likes doing them. But they are an important management tool for you as you run your agency. It has nothing to do with how you bill clients or if you’re still billing by the hour (which I hope most of you are not doing) or project versus retainer billing. It’s about resource management. Your agency may be profitable and everything seems to be running smoothly but the truth is — you don’t know. You don’t know if a few superstars are carrying the weight of a handful of slackers. You don’t know if someone is putting 50% more billable time on jobs than the estimate calls for. You don’t know if you’re over-servicing clients or if one of your employees is struggling with some aspect of their job. You are in the dark. Timesheets illuminate what’s really going on in your business. Marketing Agency Insider asked me to write an article about timesheets, how to get your squad to do them and how important they are to the success of your agency. I don’t want hate mail but I would love to hear your thoughts. Be gentle — remember, I am just the messenger! If you’d like a healthier, heartier bottom line — timesheets are not optional.
If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it 1,000 times — it’s tough to be a generalist out there. In simple terms, it means your competition is everyone from the 16-year-old kid who builds websites, to every freelancer, to 99 designs, to every other agency within your prospect’s knowledge base. I am a firm believer in positioning your agency (see solocast #190 — positioning your agency) and then leaning heavily into those niches. When you have a depth of knowledge in a particular space (industry vertical, audience or problem you solve, or in rare cases — a specialty offering like crisis communications) you can begin to build an authority position. Key to claiming that position of authority is creating content that demonstrates your expertise by teaching your audience what you know. (More on all of that in later newsletters! -- You can subscribe here) But who should be that voice of authority? Many agency owners see that ask as “do I really have to be the one who writes all of the blog posts and finds all of the podcast guests?" or whatever your creation demand is based on the channels you want to build out. That’s not what I’m talking about. Who should be the voice/face of your authority position is not the same question as who should create all the content. But let’s put a pin in that for now. If you are like some agency owners, the idea of being in the spotlight (literally or metaphorically) is pretty unappealing. And you’d like to have one or all of your employees step up into that role. Not an awesome idea. Why? Because like the Coca-Cola logo or PMS red [...]
I totally get it. You’re busy putting out fires, delivering high-level strategy for your clients and trying to mentor and grow your team. Who has time for new business? This is one of those head versus heart things in agency ownership. You know you need to devote more time to new business but somehow something always pushes those best intentions aside. I’m here to tell you — you cannot afford to let your biz dev efforts ebb and flow. The only way it works is if you keep your foot on the pedal every day. MediaPost asked me to talk a little about this issue and how agency owners can overcome the lure of “I’ll do it tomorrow.” As always, I’d welcome your feedback. In January, we had one of the best live workshops we’ve ever had — and it was two days of talking about nothing but new business strategies with two agency search consultants who see agencies at their best and their worst. They were so generous with this knowledge and insights that everyone walked away raving about the content. In fact, it was so awesome that we’re doing it again next January. It’s going to sell out for sure — so if you want to do a deep dive on biz dev, check out the workshop and get your spot before they’re gone. However you fire yourself up and inspire yourself — let 2020 be the year that you finally embrace your role as Chief Prospect Hunter!
While print advertising will likely never die and niche magazines continue to make a comeback, the reality is that most of today’s agencies lean heavily on some aspect of digital marketing. Whether you’re a digital native who now manages a digital agency or, like me, you’ve run a traditional agency for 25 years, your organization must learn from and adapt to digital skill sets. When it comes to your agency, how do you determine the best digital route for your business? In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com, I’ll give you a crash course on, what I consider to be, the best ways to integrate digital marketing into your business structure. As always, I’m eager to hear your feedback on the topic and how digital marketing has been of benefit to you.
There’s a talent shortage in the agency business. I can’t remember a time in recent years when agencies were hiring as much as they are today and having as much trouble finding the right fit employees. You’ve heard the adages about the costs of a bad hire and, if anything, they underreport the costs. But today, those costs are even greater because not only does the bad employee do incredible damage to your shop — they also leave a gaping hole that’s tough to fill. Unfortunately, in most cases, our bad hires are our own fault. We’re horrible interviewers. We talk way too much and we spend more time trying to convince the candidate that our agency is a wonderful place to work than we do discerning if this candidate will serve us, our team and our clients. We also don’t test the candidates well. iMedia asked me to expand on that idea in an article about how to get interview tests right. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts. If our hiring practices could use some work, our onboarding could absolutely use an overhaul! Once you get a team member who is dedicated, committed to your team and clients and is hungry to keep getting better — don’t just bury them in work. Our research talking to over 950+ agency employees showed us that the #1 factor your employees consider as they decide whether or not to stay with you is if you’ve offered them educational opportunities. At AMI, we’re always looking for ways to help you build the team you already have. Our Advanced AE bootcamp gets rave reviews so if you want to enhance the skills of your AE crew — it’s [...]
You’ve built a successful agency with great people and award-winning work. Your awesome clients love you and have been loyal for years. You’ve received "best place to work" awards every year. You’ve got a team of superstars who keep the agency running and the clients happy. Great work. Great people. Great results. Why isn’t that enough to get new clients in the door? The simple answer is that those qualities are the outcome of great agency-client relationships and not the benefits that initially attract new clients. Marketers expect those qualities in any agency they choose. It’s table stakes. They will judge the chemistry and fit further down the process. You can’t sell those characteristics even though many agencies try. You can’t claim those qualities you have to demonstrate them if you get the chance. Marketers hire agencies to solve their problems; declining sales, competitive threats, low awareness. When they look for a new agency, they are searching for one that they believe will advance the ball and do so fast whether on a project, a specialty, or a full-service relationship. The real reason why new clients aren’t walking through the door is that they don’t know what’s behind that door and how it will benefit them. What they do know is that changing agencies is costly, time-consuming, full of spin and hyperbole, confusing claims, inconsistent results – lies, damn lies, and statistics. It all sounds so futile. What is a great agency to do? In the most simplistic terms, agencies have to reach as many marketers as they can with a viable solution to their problems. It’s not enough to say we get results, or our work works. It has to be industry-specific, audience specific, [...]
Economists predict that a new recession will strike by 2021. Marketing agencies and departments suffer greatly during tough times, and if this next recession is anything like the last, marketers could be in for a rough couple of years. Fortunately, marketing leaders have plenty of time to prepare themselves—and their teams. As the possibility of recession draws nearer, keep these three marketing employment trends in mind: Employees have more options than ever. Some people assume the war for top talent is only being waged within the tech industry, but smart marketing execs know better. Today’s most talented marketers have plenty of employment options to choose from—freelancing included — which means businesses and agencies must make a compelling case to attract the best and brightest. Agencies have become one of the biggest talent pipelines for in-house teams. Clients who love their agencies often poach talent to cut costs. Some agency owners feel frustrated by their part-time roles as talent trainers, but unfortunately, that trend will continue until the recession arrives in earnest. To combat this, agency leaders must proactively recruit their own top talent. That translates to raises, promotions, and consistent praise and recognition for top performers. Great employees deserve to operate in environments where they feel valued, and if agency owners don’t provide that environment, in-house teams will. Whether you lead an in-house team or an agency, prioritize employee satisfaction to keep your best team members happy. Push them too far (or fail to recognize their value), and another talent-hungry organization will be happy to provide what you didn’t. Employees want to work asynchronously and remotely. Today’s employees think differently about the nature of work. The agency owners and executives of yesteryear wanted all their [...]
When an agency shows a profit, one of the first inclinations of the agency owner is to pay a bonus to the staff. I applaud that instinct. But I don’t think you should do it simply because you have a little extra money. I believe you should have a bonus program that serves your agency every single day, whether you pay out any money or not. I think there are several elements of a successful bonus program: They should not be an end of the year thing. They should influence the employees to behave in ways that serve the agency year-round It needs to be simple and explained over and over (every month/quarter) It should be used to teach employees to think like agency owners (focused on the same metrics you do) It should be based on one or two metrics that accurately measure the financial health of the agency The metrics should be measured/achieved or not every month The metrics should be set in a way that your team hits the goal more often than misses (should be a stretch but a reasonable stretch...ideally they’d hit the metrics at least 7 or 8 months of the year) Bonuses should be paid quarterly (with most of the $ accumulated for an end of the year payout) to keep everyone motivated/focused The owners should hold an all agency meeting every month to report on financials/success on bonus program for the month/YTD At AMI, we have a specific bonus program that we teach in our workshops, owner peer networks etc. It’s based on two metrics. The big number in our opinion in terms of an agency’s health is AGI (Adjusted gross income — Look here for more [...]
In the marketing services industry, CMOs struggle to cross the marketing talent gap and, as a result, turn to performance-driven agency partners. But those partners are struggling to meet the needs of the market. Agencies are expected to be immersed in marketing technology and well-versed in core disciplines like content marketing, SEO, paid search, social media monitoring and analytics. But many fail to attract, close and service business opportunities because they struggle to hire adequate talent, integrate new technology and address evolving client needs profitably. The result? Companies are taking marketing in-house, reports Mark Schaefer in Harvard Business Review, because agencies fail to evolve their services and skills fast enough to create value. It’s a huge problem for agencies, and one that artificial intelligence can help them address. Artificial intelligence presents a way for agencies to create more value faster, as well as automate, augment and accelerate their operations—improving results for clients and the bottom line. Automate Consider how much time your team spends on repetitive and administrative tasks, such as drafting social media updates, writing data-driven blog posts, personalizing emails and website copy, managing paid media spend, conducting keyword research and more. Even with the use of marketing automation software, most of these tasks require significant human involvement, distracting agencies from high-value strategic activities that drive lasting value for clients and the bottom line. But what if we told you every one of these tasks, and many more, could be done more efficiently using artificial intelligence technology today? Tools like Automated Insights and Narrative Science can write stories at scale from data, vastly reducing the time it takes to write internal reports or external-facing content. A solution like Albert by Adgorithms optimizes paid [...]
Imagine an organization with a name recognized in every country in the world, whose every move was watched by hundreds of millions of people, and whose successes fulfilled the dreams of a nation and inspired awe and admiration around the world. This was NASA in the 1960s. I was five years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the Moon during the flight of Apollo 11. Like many people, I watched the event on a black and white television, and then went outside to look up at the Moon, knowing people were there. For the millions of children across the globe who were inspired by that occurrence, this was a defining brand moment for NASA. The Apollo program set a new and dramatic benchmark for our abilities as a nation. If we can go to the Moon, then what other feats long considered impossible could we accomplish? While President Kennedy’s 1961 announcement to send humans to the Moon was primarily political, it became a driver for imagination, scientific discovery, and engineering. The research and development underpinning the Apollo program presented many challenges that called for new solutions. These solutions influenced the growth of high-technology industries and ultimately thousands of products were spun-off into new commercial markets, such as semiconductors and computers, microwave ovens, batteries, cordless power tools, kidney dialysis machines, MRI and CAT scans used in healthcare, solar panels, fire-retardant fabrics, polarized sunglasses, water purification, advances in food preservation, improved satellites, and more. Studies indicate a societal return on investment as high as 14 dollars for every dollar spent, causing the returns on most other forms of investment to pale in comparison. Despite Gallup’s research showing that over [...]