Episode 200

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During the spring gatherings of AGI owner peer network members, I walk them through a presentation on trends that I’m seeing in the industry. Then I devote two solocast episodes to these findings later in the summer.

In episode 195, I covered what’s happening with agency money and finance, along with some trends in ownership, decision-making, and how you and your peers are managing the pace of change in this industry.

In this episode, I talk about employees, clients, and some tactics with which agencies are having great success in terms of winning clients and serving them well.
If the topic of employees gives you a queasy feeling, you are not alone. It’s a big source of concern for many agency owners. I discuss trends I’m seeing in why retention is such a challenge and what you can do to make your agency the best option for employees you don’t want to lose.

What’s happening on the client-side? There are some really interesting findings. I discuss creative ways in which agencies are gaining more clients and more billables from existing clients.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why freelance work is becoming more common and more of a draw to your current employees
  • How to increase diversity in your agency
  • What employees are looking for in agency culture
  • How to set up an attractive incentive program
  • What agencies are doing to counteract clients doing more work in-house
  • The most in-demand work with which agencies are engaging clients and for which they are being well-compensated
  • The four traits that will get you on a client’s radar
  • How agencies can help clients take a stand on the issues that are important to them and their customers

The Golden Nuggets:

“What are your company values, and how are they lived out in the company culture? Your employees are watching and want to know.” – @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Diversity matters from both a recruiting perspective and a client retention perspective. A lack of diversity will be noticed.” – @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “One area that employees care about, and that agencies need to get a better handle on, is how to articulate and live out a shared set of values as an organization.” – @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Do not hire a breathing body just because you need a body. You know what that costs you and your agency. Resist the temptation.” – @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Clients want agencies to get faster in managing their systems and processes so projects get turned around more quickly.” – @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

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Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for joining me. And this is a special episode for me. This is episode number 200 and in podcast land, that’s a lot of podcast episodes. We started this in 2015 and we have been going strong ever since. And so I want to just pause for a second and sort of go, holy crap, this has been awesome. I am so grateful that you have been here every week, that you have stuck around, that you keep coming back for more, that you have been generous with your feedback and your encouragement. I am also incredibly grateful that so many of you have reached out and connected with me on LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Twitter, or all of the above, Instagram. It’s just really great to connect with you out in those social circles and see what you’re up to, learn a little bit about you and your agency.

So if you haven’t done that yet, I highly encourage and invite you to do that. I would love to connect with you there. I’m also so grateful that we have attracted amazing guests. I mean, our guests show up and they are ready to go. They’re ready to share. They are generous with what they know. They are candid with their mistakes. They are humble. And I learn so much from them with every conversation. So I hope that I always embody the questions and the topics that you would love to dig more into as I talk to them. I really do have my agency owner hat on which as you know, I’ve been wearing for a really long time. I really do put that hat on in these conversations. And I really come with the innocence of I want to know and anticipate what you want to know in asking those questions.

So thanks for being here. Thanks for going on this journey with us. And on the one hand, 200 episodes seems like a lot, but I also feel like we’re just scratching the surface. There are so many other people that I want to talk to. There are so many other people that I want to bring to your radar screen and to give you access to what they know and what they’ve learned. So we are just getting started. So I hope that you continue to find every episode valuable. I hope that you continue to stay connected and reach out and that you just keep coming back for more. And thank you so much for your support and your loyal listenership. I’m so grateful and it’s awesome to meet you at conferences and events. And I just feel blessed that I get to do this. And I’m really grateful that you find it useful because that’s why we’re doing it.

So thank you so much for that. Thanks for sticking around. As you might imagine with me blathering on, episode 200 is a solo cast, so for those of you that are newer to the podcast, who are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about in terms of blah, blah, blah, 200. If you’re relatively new to Build a Better Agency, every fifth episode is a solo cast. So in that instance, I don’t have a guest with me. I’m just talking to you about something that has come up a lot when I’ve been hanging out with agency owners or it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot that I want you to be thinking about, or it’s something that I’ve been teaching in a workshop that I think would be valuable for you. And so that’s what this is.

So five episodes ago, episode 195, I gave the first half of my 2019 trends report presentation. So I put together that trends report right after the start of the year and I presented live to all of my AMI owner peer groups. So when I’m hanging out with agency owners and in their peer groups, I am presenting to them this trends report. And then every summer after I’ve presented it to all of the members, I present it to all of you. And it’s too long to do in one episode. So that’s why I break it up. So in episode 195, I covered trends around money and finance and I covered some trends around owners and some of the things I’m noticing in them and decisions they’re making and choices and that sort of thing.

And in this episode, I am going to talk about employees and clients and some tactics that agencies are having great success with in terms of selling those to clients, using them to help clients achieve their goals and some of the things that clients are specifically asking us for. So thanks for being here, thanks for celebrating episode number 200 with me. And hopefully I will see you next week and all the weeks after that and we’ll celebrate 250 and 300 and 350 with each other, and we’re just getting started. All right, with that, let’s get into the trends. So the first category of trends that I want to talk about in this solo cast is employees. And I will tell you that if I said employees and you made a pained expression on your face, you are not alone. This is a pain point for many agencies right now, is the idea of finding and keeping good employees.

And honestly, I think part of that is because one of the trends that I’m seeing is self-employment is getting a lot easier and a lot sexier. So when I started my first agency job, I don’t think it even occurred to me that I could quit my job and do the same thing I was doing for my agency, but on my own and that my agency that I just left, would become my first client. But that’s one of the things that’s happening quite a bit. So not only are your employees coming to you and saying that they’re going to hang up a shingle and freelance, especially if they have a skillset that’s hard to find. So think SEO, PPC, maybe write, content writing.

You make it easier for them to go out on their own because you are so tied to their skillset and their deliverables that you agree to be their first client. So self-employment is getting easier and sexier. We’re making it easier because we’re buying a block of hours that bankrolls their departure. But I also think the freelance business in general is getting very organized. Are all kinds of tools out there today, whether it’s accounting software for freelancers or tax preparation knowledge or selling tools or communities where they can share documents and contracts. They’re getting organized and when they get organized, it means it’s easier for everyone. The other thing that’s happening in the freelance business that we need to be very aware of is another way they’re organizing is much like glass door, where employees or disgruntled former employees can review agencies.

There are now starting to crop up versions of that for freelancers to evaluate their agencies. So the biggest one right now is over in the UK and it’s called The Freelance Circle. And basically if you go to The Freelance Circle, you can search for agencies, you can leave reviews for agencies based on, “Did they give me good input? Did they pay on time?” All kinds of things like that. So in general, the creative class freelance population is organizing and getting smarter and it’s getting easier. So that’s one of the many ways that we are competing for employees. Not only are we being poached by the corporate side of our world, not only are we being poached by our own clients, poached by bigger agencies, other agencies, but in many cases, our employees are actually leaving to hang up their own shingle and it’s getting easier and easier for them to do that.

So I don’t see the challenge around finding and retaining good employees getting any easier through the rest of this year. So I think we are at least another six, 12, maybe even 18 months before the pendulum swings the other way and it’s actually a buyer’s market again. Right now it is absolutely a sellers market. And the employees have a lot of power and control over all kinds of things that are related to their work. And so I think it’s really important for us to understand what matters to those employees, the employees we have today, and also what matters in terms of what is attractive about us when we’re trying to find employees.

So one of the topics, one of the key topics that employees and we’ll talk about clients in a little bit, but that employees are noticing and asking us to care about is the idea of diversity inside our agency. For the most part at least in North America, the agency business is relatively homogenous still. And so in many agencies there is not a lot of diversity inside the agency. And when I say diversity, I mean gender which I think we do have a balance of male and female, sexual orientation. And I think our industry has always been a leader in being comfortable with people of all sexual orientations being out and open and comfortable in the workplace.

We’ve always been a safe place for that. And obviously ethnic diversity, religious diversity, all of that. Particularly ethnic and religious diversity, I think it’s less common in our industry to have that kind of diversity. So it’s getting noticed in a couple of ways. Number one, prospective employees and employees are saying, “I want a diverse workforce. I want to surround myself with people from lots of different cultures and points of view,” but even more interesting is that clients are starting to notice. And we’ve had several agencies and I’ve heard plenty of other stories where agencies didn’t win a new business pitch because as the prospective client said, “You walked into this room with a bunch of white men and that reflects no diversity. And we want to work with an agency that is more diverse than that.” So diversity matters both from a recruiting and retaining employees and also from a client perspective.

And it really is getting noticed. And so one of the things that I think we have to acknowledge is that I’m not sure our industry and I’m not laying blame anywhere, but I don’t know that we’ve attracted a lot of diversity. I don’t know that we have actively gone out to seek diversity in our industry. And so I think part of it is because we are hiring the candidates that are presented to us, and we’re not seeing a lot of diversity even in that population. So it’s hard to hire for diversity when you don’t have any diversity amongst your options. Now, many agencies are actively putting programs in place to increase the diversity inside the agency itself. So they are working on internships with colleges, or even in some cases, high schools, where there is a diverse population so they can try and get more of a cross section of students to have an interest in the industry and to attract them to the agency.

Other agencies are actively seeking out internship programs and other things like that, where they are offering scholarships. They’re doing all kinds of different things to try and create a more diverse workforce. So look around your office and note how diverse you are or are not and then ask yourself, “What is possible in my market? What’s possible in my part of the country. And then what am I doing to actually actively try and become more diverse and is my culture welcoming to diversity?” So lots of discussions I can get inside your agency around this diversity topic. So one of the big things that when a prospect and when I’m speaking prospect, in this case I’m talking about a prospective employee. When they’re looking at our agency, one of the things they always ask us is, “What’s the culture like?”

And when we spoke to agency employees, we asked them, “What does that mean? When you say culture, what are you actually asking us for? What do you care about?” And here’s what they’re thinking when they say culture, number one, the very first thing that they say and the thing that they rated as most important was educational opportunities. “Is this a place where I can grow? Is this a place that will invest in me so that I can grow? Will they give me time to grow? Will they give me a mentor? Will they send me to training? How will I keep honing my craft and getting better so that I can grow professionally?” That was number one.

The next one was, “What are the incentives? If the agency does well, what happens to me? So is there a bonus program? Is there some sort of a spiff involved? Some agencies if they hit certain financial metrics take everyone in the company on a trip. Whatever it may be, I want to know what is my personal incentive for helping the agency achieve its goals?” The third thing that they really want to know, and I think this is a place where we don’t do a great job. Some of you do, but many of you really do not. And that is what is the agency’s values and how are those values woven into the culture, the behavior, the rituals of this agency? So, first of all, what are the values? Do we have any? And many of you do, but they sit inside an employee handbook or something else, and they’re not really dusted off for much more than that.

And then in other cases, some of you are great at embracing your values and they’re up on the walls. And you have peer recognition programs where your employees are calling each other out for leaving one of the values and maybe there’s awards, employee of the month, employee the quarter, whatever it is tied to the values, but they want to know what the agency’s values are and how those values inform the agency’s decision-making policies, procedures, relationships inside the agency. So if you’ve got core values and you really don’t use them for much, maybe it’s time to dust them off, make sure they’re still accurate, and then start using them as part of the conversation that you have with employees every week about how we treat each other, how we treat clients, how we treat vendors, all of that.

And if you don’t have them, maybe it’s time to think about developing them and how they can play a role inside your agency. Some of the other culture things that are important to our employees are growth opportunities. So especially if you’re a small shop, they look at your 10, 12, 20 people, and they think, “How high can I grow? If somebody doesn’t leave or die or retire, how do I keep advancing in my career?” So helping them understand that they can grow in responsibility, in pay, in opportunity. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a title growth or a department head growth, but it certainly can be growth within their own core competency. And then again, they want to know about diversity and they as always want to know how does the agency play?

So what do you do that balances the hard work and the deadline pressure and all of that. Which honestly the play part, you’re all pretty good at for the most part, unless you get super busy and then sometimes you take your eye off that ball. But for the most part, agencies are fun places, they’re high energy places. So you’ve got the play part down, but some of the other things, maybe places where you want to invest a little bit of discussion and maybe a little bit of elbow grease.

So for most agencies, the number one issue is finding and keeping the right people at the right price inside the shop. So it is absolutely the challenge of recruitment and retention of employees. And for most of you, it is your biggest barrier for growth. So I’ve talked to a lot of agency owners who’ve said, “I have proposals sitting on my desk, or I am getting phone calls. Or we have RFPs that we should be answering that right now we’re not answering because I have no idea how we would actually get the work done if we won the business. I can’t staff up for that size project. And so I’m having to let it fly by me, which kills me, but I just don’t know how we would get the work done.”

So if you are feeling that, if you are feeling the crunch… By the way, many of you are experiencing it anywhere from 25% to 35% turnover inside your shop. So if you’re experiencing all of that and you are feeling stuck, that you can’t really grow the business or chase after the prospects that you want to, know that you are not alone, know that this is a season and this is a pendulum that swings back and forth. And right now unfortunately, the pendulum is all the way to one side. I know it’s going to come back and get more normal again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next six, maybe even 12 months. So hang in there, create a culture that is sticky. Take good care of the people that you have and start recruiting far before you need someone, because it’s going to take you longer to find that employee that is the great fit.

And do not hire a breathing body just because you need a body. You know what a big mistake that is, you know what that costs you and your agency, so resist the temptation to do it. All right, next trend I want to talk to you about is clients, but first we’re going to take a quick break. Thanks for tuning in to Build a Better Agency. I just wanted to take a quick second and remind you that throughout the year, AMI offers workshops for agency owners, agency leaders, and account executives. So if you head over to the AMI website and you check out under the training tab, you’re going to find a calendar of all of the workshops we offer throughout the year.

We cover quite a wide variety of topics, everything from biz dev to creating a content machine for your agency, to making sure that you are running your business based on the best financial metrics and dashboards that you can. We also have a workshop on agency owner management hacks, all the best practices that agency owners are using to run their businesses well and profitably. And of course, you’re always going to find our account executive bootcamp and our advanced AE bootcamp. So go ahead and check it out on the website. And hopefully one of those will meet a need for you and your agency and we’ll see you soon. Let’s get back to the episode.

All right, we are back. I am in the middle of walking you through some of the trends that we have been tracking on behalf of agencies in 2018 and the first half of 2019. And this next category of trends I want to talk about are clients. So one of the more interesting things that I’m seeing is as big clients for agencies are starting to either ask about threatened or actually are pulling more work in-house, one of the trends that I’m seeing that has really been interesting is that agencies are getting a little more creative and what they are doing is they’re suiting up one of their account executives. So I’m talking suit and tie, corporate attire, and they are placing that account exec inside the client’s office. So what they’re doing is they’re embedding the account person into the client corporate setting and letting that person work there one day a week, two days a week, three days a week.

In some cases when the agency is not in the same market as the client, it’s literally five days a week. And what’s fascinating to me about that is that… Remember clients are saying to us, “The reason why I bring…” So remember we did that research in 2018. We asked clients why are they taking work in-house? And if you haven’t seen the data from that research, if you go to agencymanagementinstitute.com, you go under resources, look for the agency edge research series, and then you’ll find the synopsis, the executive summary of the 2018 research, which was how and why do clients decide to bring work in-house or to assign work to an agency? So that’s on the side, go check out the research.

But anyway, more and more clients are taking work in-house and agencies are getting more creative around trying to stop that. So agencies are embedding their employees inside the client, and without exception what is doing is it stopping the erosion of work. And in fact, in every case that I can think of, is actually increasing the amount of work that the agency gets from the client because the agency is always there. You’re getting pulled into meetings, you’re passing people in the hallway, you’re having casual conversations and all of that leads to new opportunity. Another thing that is doing is it’s introducing the agency to departments that maybe the marketing department was shielding you from. So HR, sales, R&D, all of those people, A, have budgets and B, have communications needs.

And so many agencies are actually reporting that when they place an employee, when they embed that employee inside the agency’s office, they’re actually seeing a pretty good increase in adjusted gross income and AGI from that client. So rather than the work going away and being pulled in-house, it’s actually increasing the engagement. Couple points of warning, a lot of this depends on the AE that you place inside the client. It is easy for them to lose track of where their allegiance should be. That if they are embedded, especially if they’re embedded five days a week, it’s easy for them to feel like they work more for the client than the agency. And all of a sudden you’re going to feel them pushing on you around pricing or turnaround time.

And all of a sudden they’re advocating not in a healthy way for the client, but in almost, “I’m the client,” sort of way. So make sure you choose carefully who you embed. And ideally that embedded employee would only be over there two or three days a week because you want them to come back to the agency to maintain their relationships with their team and to be reminded that that’s actually their employer as the agency. So it’s a great tactic. It’s a great way to grow existing business, but you just have to choose the right person to do it.

I’m seeing it more and more. It’s becoming very common. So don’t be surprised actually if your client asks about it, but also don’t wait. If you think that’s a good strategy for you, if you feel work slipping away from you, have a conversation internally and maybe raise the issue with your client. Oh, and by the way, people are charging a premium for this person. So you’re not charging their normal billable rate. You’re giving up a premium price for this person being embedded and being available to go to internal meetings and all of that sort of stuff. So it is definitely worth considering. Another trend on the client side that I’m seeing is a demand for digital products studios. So in many cases, these are agencies that started out as web dev shops or app shops. But now what they’re doing is they’re stepping into the process earlier.

So when a client has an idea and they say, “I think we want…” I’m just making this up, but, “I think we want an app that serves our sales people, or I think we want a tool that integrates sales force with our proprietary software, or I think that we want to have a user experience on the web that mimics some aspect of our product.” They’re going to these companies, these digital products studios and saying, “We have this idea. Help us think through the idea, how we would execute it, what tools we would use, what channel, is it an app? Is it something else? And then develop that tool for us, give us a prototype. Help us test the prototype and beta test it. And then based on the results of the test, tweak the product and help us take it to market.”

So these are agencies really with a lot of programmers and digital chops, that again, may have started out as a web dev shop or something else. They’re now going deeper and deeper into their client organizations, much more at the ideation stage and helping the clients think through whatever it is they’re trying to solve and what tool they could build. Typically, again, it’s a digital tool. What tool they could build that would solve this problem. And then going through the testing, an evolution stage until they take it to market. And these guys are killing it. They’re charging an incredible rate per hour. It’s a super long engagement because of all the phases and clients are clamoring for these.

Agencies that are doing this work are so busy. They can barely catch a breath. So this is definitely a trend worth tracking. And if you’ve got that kind of talent on your team, maybe it’s time you start talking about yourself in this way, or talking to some of your clients about how you can engage with them earlier in the process as they have ideas about these digital products that they want to bring to market. When we talked to clients, we said to them, “What does an agency have to do to get on your radar screen and to be an agency that’s attractive to you?” And they identified four traits that were must haves for them. The first one is they want us to get faster. That sometimes our systems and our processes are so quagmired in steps and processes and all of that, then it takes too long for them to get something done, especially something that they believe should be able to be done in a day or two.

Secondly, they want us to be agile, that we can shift with them, that we have to understand that they are not… When they’re asking us to do something… In many cases we’re going to get a certain length of end of the project and then they’re going to go, “No, we need to pivot over here or no, I thought I wanted this, but really I wanted this over here.” And the agency that is agile enough to pivot with their client, was very important to them. The other thing that they told us is, “I don’t have time to meet with you all the time. I don’t want to hold your hand. I want you to know your job. And I want you to understand my industry so that you can be very self-directed in terms of how you work with us.”

And then the last thing that they identified is something we talked about in the previous solo cast, where I did the first half of the trends and that is transparency. They want us to be very transparent about when we’re taking markups or commissions, how we are taking those, what are the dollar amounts or the percentages. And they want that disclosed in a master services agreement, or a scope of work. They don’t want to have to ask us about it. They want us just to be forthright and tell them. In terms of the kind of work, what they foresee they want to hire agencies to do, digital marketing was the first thing that they all said and that in its broadest definition I’m sure.

The next one I think is interesting. They want platform implementers. They want people who can help them get their CRM to talk to something else, their accounting software or whatever. They want people to understand Salesforce or Infusionsoft, and how do they bring those things together. So for many of us, that is outside our skillset, and you’re going to need to find a partner who is good at that. If you have people who are digitally savvy enough to do that platform knitting together, that’s a huge point of difference for you and you should really leverage it. The next thing they wanted I just talked about, was they really do want agencies to help them be able to conceive and build products that they can take to market. So digital product studios.

No surprise they want customer insights and analytics. And then the last one is they’re starting to ask a lot more questions about how we can use artificial intelligence to be more efficient and effective. How can we use artificial intelligence to not only make their marketing more accurate and more efficient and more cost-effective, but also more intuitive, and that they can drill a little deeper into an audience or a category? And they’re looking for us to understand how AI works enough that we can be bringing them solutions. They don’t necessarily think we’re going to be able to do it, but they want us to be the one that says, “I think we can use AI here. We have a partner who can help with that.”

So another place where I think clients are looking to us, and this is a trend that I think can be a huge opportunity for agencies. I think clients are recognizing that consumers want to work with brands that take a stand. That consumers want to support brands that support causes that they care about. In the last year we’ve seen several brands either really be successful or stubbed their toe and they tried to step out on a social issue. And honestly, I think our clients are scared. And so in many cases, that timidness that they bring to this issue means that they’re not going to do it well, they’re going to do it half-assed or they’re going to do it with a bunch of weasel words.

So you can’t quite tell where they stand on the issue or they’re going to do it episodically, but not really weave it through their marketing messages. So I think the opportunity for us as agencies is to really encourage clients and help them find the courage that they need to connect with belief-driven consumers, to help them identify what is a social issue or a cause or a mission that aligns with our brand, that align with what we sell, our product or service. And that we as a company can feel really good about supporting whatever that is, whether it’s controversial or not. But if we’re going to take a stand, it should matter to us. It should relate to our product or service, and it should matter to our audience. And in all of those cases, they need courage to really embrace that and to do it at a level that it actually pays off for them in terms of marketing success.

So I think that’s a great opportunity for us. In terms of the tactics, that’s the next category I want to talk about. In terms of the tactics, the things that agencies are delivering for clients that are A, profitable for the agency and B, clients are really eating up. There are several of those. So the first one, it goes back to a trend we talked about last year, which was clients are much more interested in experiential marketing than they have been in the past. So that continues to grow. And these are massive experiences where I’m surrounded in a 360 degree way by some experience that has a brand at the heart of the experience, that is becoming, whether it’s a trade show or it’s a street corner intercept or whatever it may be.

You see them all the time in Times Square in New York, but they really are looking for something bigger and bolder. And that’s good news for us because there’s a lot of profit margin in that. And I also think it’s great for our team because we get to do something really creative and really big. So look for that opportunity with your clients. Another tactic which I think is really interesting is the fact that magazines are back. So there was over a 400% increase in spend, advertising spend in magazines, but these are not the same kind of magazines that we grew up with.

These are very much niche magazines that recognize a micro audience and go all in in serving that audience. And many of these niche magazines have a very robust digital presence as well. So don’t discount magazines yet and be looking for… If your client has a niche audience, don’t assume that there isn’t a magazine out there, especially a very narrow niche that is targeted just to that audience. And if there is, that may be a really great player for you and your client. Another trend we’re seeing is the whole issue of inclusivity. And so for many agencies the opportunity to go back to clients and talk about how inclusive is your website, how accessible is it in terms of folks with different disabilities? That’s the entry level, but also I will say that this is a double-edged sword.

If you do any web dev work or digital development, you need to make sure that in your documentation you’re talking to your client about the accessibility and offering them different layers or levels of accessibility, and obviously different price points to that accessibility depending on how much work is going to take you to do it. But make sure you document and make them sign off on the level of accessibility they want to pay for so that you aren’t held responsible if they get sued. So there’s been all of these vanity suits where people are out searching for websites that aren’t as accessible or apps that aren’t as accessible as they should be or could be.

And then a lawyer is out on behalf of a bunch of different people, filing suit or a law firm against all of these different sites. And it’s a nuisance suit, right? They know you’re probably going to settle. They’re going to get $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 out of you rather than going to court. But you can prevent this. At least protect yourself by making sure you have a paper trail that shows that your client was offered different levels of accessibility, and they actively chose whatever level they choose, so you are not responsible for the site being only at that level. Okay? Another tactic that is still super popular and agencies are making great money is the whole influencer marketing and this idea of the hyper or micro influencer.

So despite all of the hype around the fire festival and all of that, influencer marketing is still very robust and very effective. And clients are asking for it more and more. So if you’re not talking to clients about it, if your clients aren’t asking you about it, you need to get ready because in many cases if they’re not going to get it from you, they’re going to get it from someone else. So you need to start talking to them about it, and you need to start getting proficient at either delivering influencer marketing or finding a partner that can help you do that for your clients.

Another thing and I mentioned it earlier in what clients are asking for is this whole idea of artificial intelligence. And so the whole concept of using AI or machine learning to do tasks that we repeat on a regular basis, whether it’s analytics reporting or it could be some simple copywriting where you’re pulling facts from different things, that is now very much a reality in our world. And if you don’t know about it and you are not familiar with it, this is something you need to learn. And this is something that you need to be studying up on. There’s a great conference that is happening in July of 2019 called MAICON, which is the Marketing AI Conference. And so depending on when you’re listening to this, it might still be coming up or you might’ve just missed it, but you might want to search for MAICON and find that conference.

And if you can’t go this year, maybe target it for next year. It’s all about marketing artificial intelligence, and there’s an agency track. And I think you’re going to see more and more of this coming down the pike. So artificial intelligence is going to impact our business. Absolutely. Clients expect us to understand it. They expect us to harness the power of it. So if you are a novice at this, which many, many agencies are… Most agencies haven’t even put a toe in the water yet of an artificial intelligence. This is an area where you need to spend some time and study, because this is a trend that is coming and it’s coming fast and furious. So we’ve got to get caught up.

And the other trend that I’m still seeing a lot of people talking about, a lot of clients are asking about is voice. So whether that’s search voice. So again, they’re saying 50% of all searches will be done by voice by the end of 2020. So if you want to impact search engines in terms of the featured snippet or helping Google spider your sites better by having more pages that are dedicated to narrower topics so you show up stronger the search engines, podcast, device skills, whatever it is, all of those elements of voice are still a big trend in our industry and I think are just going to get bigger and bigger.

So again, this is an area where if you’re n