Painful Truth for Many Agency Owners

I have a brilliant idea that I know could net me billions (with a b) of dollars. I should recruit/hire and train new business people for agencies. I could charge a premium for these sales superstars who not only understand the agency business but can have a deep discussion around any business issue and can also sell an agency’s abilities with passion and conviction. Sadly, the only humans who possess those unique qualities are you — agency owners. Yes — every once in a while, an agency spots and recruits the rare unicorn who can sell as well as an agency owner but for every success story I hear, I hear 99 tales of woe. The folks at Agency Post asked me to explore the idea of the mythical, magical new business guy and what agency owners should do instead and if you really want to dig into building a sustainable new business program for your agency — check out our online, on-demand course, Agency New Business Blueprint.

By |February 18th, 2019|

Challenges and Opportunities: 3 Ways to Build a “Riches and Niches” Business Model

Every company has a niche—even those that serve other companies. Marketers need to understand that opportunity is not limited—value is. Most agencies offer a wide variety of services, but only a few can claim to be the go-to experts in specific fields. An expert agency in one field is far more marketable than a jack-of-all-trades agency in no area If you’re searching to identify your agency’s specific spark, Marketo blog recently asked me to create a resource for their readers with tips to identify and dominate their businesses’ own niche in the agency world. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what niche your agency capitalizes on.

By |February 16th, 2019|

End your New Biz Cycle of Feast or Famine

Everyone, even agency owners, makes mistakes now and then. However, the issue becomes more serious when the core of those mistakes (especially if they are repeated) is the agency's overarching business development strategy. If that is flawed, then the business is at risk. One of these common biz dev issues is what I call the “feast or famine” mentality. You recognize the cycle. You hunt down as much new business as you can find, then get so busy servicing clients that you stop chasing new business. All resources go to urgent matters like hitting deadlines, and meanwhile, blog posts don't get written and your monthly newsletter becomes a quarterly one. That can cost you a great deal…but it’s also 100% fixable. Hubspot asked me to write a series on new business challenges for agencies and the first piece covers this particular flaw in most agencies’ systems. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. If you really want to dig into building a sustainable new business program for your agency — consider our online, on-demand course Agency New Business Blueprint.

By |February 11th, 2019|

4 Tips for Standing Out in a Crowded Industry Space

Squeezing into a tight industry space requires knowing your customers and showing how you're different. Business leaders should learn who their customers are — even before marketing. You’ll never attract an audience if you don’t know who your target is (or what their needs are). You’ll need to show customers you’re different — but not so different that you’re a shock to the system. If you’re subtle enough with your moves, customers will find delight in your ability to meet their needs where legacy companies missed out. If you’re a startup eager to stand out, recently asked me to create a resource to provide their readers with tips of the trade to differentiate you in our crowded industry space. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think.

By |February 9th, 2019|


We preach to our clients that they need a marketing plan and budget.  We ask about their goals so that our efforts help them cross the right finish line. We understand that it's pretty difficult to get to a destination when we have no idea what that destination is. And yet most agency owners do a lousy job of planning for their own agency. We might set a gross billings or AGI goal but beyond that, we don't: Have a plan with SMART goals Share out plan with our leadership team Prioritize our goals so we can tackle then, one by one Build an action plan to hold ourselves accountable Allocate resources (time and/or money) to get it done Or...a few (very few) of you go in the opposite direction.  Your business plan is a 3-ring binder that is laborious to complete and then it sits on a bookshelf because it's so overwhelming. I think there's a better way and I am hoping you will approach the coming new year by giving it a try. That's why I want to give you these agency annual planning templates. First -- it needs to start with the agency owner's life plan.  You own your own business because it's part of a bigger purpose/plan.  I want to make sure that your agency is actually serving you, your family and your life goals. Agency Owner Life Plan -- complete this plan every year.  Odds are much of it is pretty evergreen but you will notice subtle shifts over time.  And sometimes, a life event (birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.) will cause it to shift pretty dramatically.  Do this first to make sure the agency you are building helps get [...]

By |December 9th, 2018|

Best books for marketers (client and agency side)

I was recently asked by CEO Library to share my thoughts about reading, specific books and how being a reader has changed the trajectory of my career.  Which, no doubt it has.  I've always loved to read and can't imagine not doing it consistently. How about you?  Are you a reader? Has how you consume books changed? (My habits sure have!) Here's a peek at what I was asked and my answers:  1. What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible. Favorite business book — Radical Leap by Steve Farber Favorite non-business book that I would argue can teach you a ton about business leadership — The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling 2. Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it? I’ve always been a voracious reader.  I read to learn.  I read to relax.  I read to cleanse my palette so I can be creative.  I read to find perspective. I read to entertain myself.  I loved reading to my daughter when she was little and as she got older -- reading the same book together. So books have helped me do everything from learn about my mom’s dementia, to keep current with trends that impact my clients, to cope with loss, to raise a daughter to find some balance in my life and by helping me fall in love with characters, places and ideas. 3. What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path. I would argue that my favorite books (which I re-read every year or so) in question #1 have had the biggest [...]

By |July 7th, 2018|

Your agency owner wants you to be successful

I got an email from an AE who had attended one of my workshops.  She was frustrated because her client called her boss (the agency owner) directly about an issue.  She felt like the owner undermined her role with the client by taking the call and not including the AE in either the conversation or the solution. Here’s what I said: This is a great example of something you should talk to your boss about.  Explain to him that you want to be your clients’ go to resource and ask him for his advice on how to make that happen.  Also — ask him to help you establish your credibility with the clients by either suggesting they speak to you or at least saying “let me dial <AE’s name> in on this call so we’re all on the same page” or something like that.  But it sounds like you have some work to do, in terms of really earning your client’s trust and confidence. It takes time — you don’t get it automatically and it’s easy to lose.  Here are some ways you can accelerate the process: Over-communicate proactively (have a regular rhythm of updates etc. so they can count on them) Anticipate future issues, challenges and opportunities and talk to the client about them (ideally on a weekly or bi-weekly call) in a heads up fashion rather than a “this is screaming down on us” thing Spend more time with the client/on site if you can.  Nothing is better than face time Get smarter about the industry and share that knowledge Be über responsive.  Their emergency is your emergency.  They want to feel like your only client, even though it’s not your reality Get [...]

By |November 27th, 2017|

The Dos and Don’ts of Agency New Business with Lisa Colantuono

"It all begins and ends on chemistry. Everything else in between is absolutely vital, there's no doubt about it, but it begins and ends on chemistry.” My podcast guest, Lisa Colantuono isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. Chemistry is key to winning any new business opportunity. But how do you influence that chemistry? And how do you come out on the winning side?  Lisa and her team at AAR Partners have figured out a way to research and land those right fit clients so you can count on more new business with every search. Their prospecting tool will put a prospective sweet spot client on your doorstep every time.   Let Lisa and I walk you through what you need to know when it comes to figuring out your agency’s chemistry with: The simple mistakes agencies make in the new business search process Why complacency is a big problem for agencies The importance of continuing to court your current clients Why chemistry is so vital in an agency-client relationship The dos and don’ts of agency new business Prospecting smarter with Lisa’s Four T’s Building relationships by teaching Why you need to know what your agency is -- and isn’t -- good at What to do when executives change (both on client and agency sides) Finding project work for your agency (and growing that into a larger relationship) The danger of coming off as desperate to leads Why you need at least one person whose job is new business The importance of an integrated new business plan Not only does Lisa believe in enduring partnerships that matter, but she actively participates in creating them. Having consulted on and managed agency reviews including Lee Jeans, [...]

By |July 20th, 2017|

Are Stale Employees Dragging Your Business Down?

Almost every business owner has dealt with stale employees who refuse to change with the times. These employees have decided that they've learned everything they need to, and now coast by on their tenure without contributing their share to the success of the company. Unfortunately for you, the boss, these employees probably used to be exceptional in their positions. You probably have a great relationship, and they're likely your most highly paid employees. But if these members of your team don't change, you may have to choose between maintaining longstanding relationships or ensuring the success of your business. Can Stale Employees Be Saved? As an agency consultant, I have years of experience coaching business owners on handling these situations. While some stale employees can be saved, old habits are difficult to change. I had a client on the East Coast who owns an agency of about 25 employees. The owner was loyal to an account representative who had been with him for 15 years. Unfortunately, this employee had chosen not to embrace the digital revolution in his industry, and his skills had become irrelevant over the years. The owner felt so attached that he didn't realize what a burden the stale employee had become on his other employees until his star account executive quit, citing his frustration over covering for the stale employee as his reason for leaving. As a result, this agency's biggest client also left, and the owner had to lay off some of his workforce. That finally got his attention. Had he taken action earlier, people would have kept their jobs. He sat down with this employee and gave him a generous amount of time to change and specific progress goals to [...]

By |July 7th, 2017|

Hey agency owner — are you protecting your partnership?

Are you protecting your partnership? No one buys homeowners insurance because they actually expect to have a fire at their house.  But they know if they want until there’s a fire, it’s too late.  So, on the very first day they buy their house — they buy the insurance as well, hoping they never have to use it. For some reason, agency owners don’t always apply this same logic to their business.  If you have any sort of partner (minority, silent, 50/50, etc.) you need to have insurance in case that partnership goes south.  Hopefully it will never happen but an illness, a divorce, a midlife crisis or a myriad of other things could put your business in harm’s way.  Without the proper partnership documents that outline how you handle any threat to the agency — you can be left holding the bag. Your partnership agreement should cover these aspects of partnership: Decision making: As a business owner, you made many decisions every day. What are the rules around that? How will you and your partner make decisions, especially in those cases when it's an important topic and you don’t agree? Be sure to specifically deal with: Contracts: Does each partner have the authority to sign contracts on behalf of the business? If so, those contracts will bind all partners. Debt: Is the business going to have a credit card, credit line, a loan?  Keep in mind here that, depending on the business structure that you choose, each partner may be personally liable for this. Spending: Does a partner have the ability to make purchases without consulting the other partners?  Generally, there is a limit that is set in the agreement above which point the [...]

By |May 8th, 2017|

How should an agency owner spend their time?