Episode 250:

In my 250th (man, how times flies!) episode of Build a Better Agency, we look at the next set of client and employee-focused trends from the 2020 Agency Trends Report, picking up where I left off in episode #245, which was me walking you through the first half of the trends. The back half of the report covers everything from employee retention and happiness to the changing needs of your clients as they respond to current events. I am hoping these trends will give you a better idea of what we can do to adapt to this complex economic climate while protecting the health of our agencies.

Every summer, I consolidate the trends that I see every day in the 250+ small to mid-sized agencies we serve and distill them down for you so you can plan for these evolutions in our industry.

With everything going on right now, it is hard to dedicate the necessary time and mental space to focus on running your agency. But, paying close attention to the health of your agency and the trends that will impact its health, is more important than ever before. We have to carve out of the time to protect our businesses and I am hoping that taking a look at these trends will help you do that.

The State of the Agency 2020 will provide tons of insights to push through these difficult times and help your clients do the same.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

Agency Leaders

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why agency leaders had to make concessions due to employment shortages and how that trend is shifting
  • How to regain control of your agency while maintaining employee retention and happiness
  • How to take advantage of the expanded talent pool created by the pandemic
  • Why our clients are looking to get a bigger share of wallet from their existing customers
  • How agencies can capitalize on the need for cause and social marketing
  • How agencies are stepping over the line and diving into sales strategies with clients
  • Why clients are seeking out brand activation
  • Best practices for embedded employees
  • How we can help our clients create and manage private communities that are loyal to their brand
  • New areas where agencies are making great money
“Nothing has a greater impact on your agency than your employees.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Even if you aren’t ready to hire right now—now is a great time to start planning, cultivating relationships, and putting a timeline together so you are financially prepared.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “All our clients care about right now is sales. If you’re not willing to cross that line, your budget is probably going to get cut.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “5-10% of agencies have an embedded employee to serve a client in-house, and it’s working extremely well.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “We need to find clients that are willing to speak out and take a stand. By doing that, they are aligning their brand with how their employees and customers feel. When you get all of that right, it can be super powerful.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “In 2019, the greatest barrier to an agency’s growth was the talent pool. COVID has solved that problem.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency 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 over 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 several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) 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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Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run. Traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR. Whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable. And if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 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. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for being a part of the podcast. Particularly today, as we celebrate episode number 250. That is staggering to me. Five years ago, we launched this. And honestly, I had no idea if anybody would listen. I didn’t know if I would be able to find enough interesting guests. I certainly wasn’t confident that I would have enough to say in the solo cast to go for five years. But amazingly in a blink it seems like, we are at episode 250. So I am grateful for you. I am grateful that you listen week after week. I appreciate the ratings and reviews you leave. I appreciate the comments that you send me by email. I love when I’m at an event whether I’m speaking or it’s one of the AMI workshops, and you walk up and tell me that this is how you first got introduced to AMI. So I am grateful for the show and I am super grateful for all of you. And of course, a huge shout out and thanks to our guests. Without them, this would be a tough thing to do every week. And also a huge shout out and thanks to our supporting sponsor, our presenting sponsor White Label IQ. I’m super grateful for everybody that has a hand in this.

Also big shout out to my friends at Predictive ROI. They have produced this podcasts from the very beginning. And there are many times when I’m sure I drive them insane with, “I don’t want to have that guest on. I want to slide this episode in at the last minute.” But they are always gracious. They’re always keeping me up to speed on new technology that we can be using and new ways to make the show even better for you. So thanks to everybody who plays a role in this. Most of all though, honestly, thanks to you. This would stink to do this and have no one listen. So I am grateful that you’re out there and that you keep listening.

All right. So enough about that. Let me tell you a little bit about our episode. As many of you know, in my last solo cast. So about a month ago, five weeks ago, I gave you the first half of the 2020 trends report. Just like I do every summer. I try and break that trends report into two solo casts because it’s just too to do in one fell swoop. So this episode will be the back half of the trends report that I give to AMI agencies in the spring when they’re in their peer group meetings.

Before I get into the trends though, want to do a couple of quick things. So number one, I want to tell you that for the first time. And honestly, I hope for the last time, we will be doing our AE Bootcamps virtually. So the city of Chicago is not quite ready to host us yet. And our conference center where we normally have our live workshops, not quite ready for people to be there. So we are going to be doing both the advanced AE Bootcamp and the regular AE Bootcamp virtually. So it will be live. It’ll be me teaching just like I normally would. But instead of being in a classroom or a conference room setting together, we’ll be on Zoom like we’ve all been a million times since COVID hit.

But I’ve done several of these before, different workshops, different peer groups. And I have to say, I’m kind of surprised how well they work. People get a lot out of the contents. There’s still a lot of interaction. So if you have ever thought about sending your team to the workshop but maybe didn’t want to get involved in the travel and all of that, now would be a great time for you to head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com. Go under the How We Help, find the workshop calendar, and sign up for either of the AE Bootcamps. So the advanced AE Bootcamp, mostly for people who’ve been in the agency business for four years or more. And then the regular AE Bootcamp for anybody who has less than four or five years of experience. So we’d love to see you there. We’d love to have you join us for this once in a lifetime COVID created opportunity of the course being taught live, but virtually. All right. So again, let’s jump into the trends. And let me tell you what I’m seeing, not only over the last six months or so, but what I see around the bend for the rest of 2020 and going into 2021.

So the next set of trends that I want to talk to you about that this part of my presentation butts right up against the front half that you’ve already had exposure to. This next group of trends is around employees. So you know there’s probably no other single element inside an agency that impacts the agency as much as the employees do. And for the last several years, agency owners have really, really been in a tough position. There have been not enough qualified candidates to fill positions. So many agencies have gone months, and months, and months not being able to find someone to fill an open position. Internally, employees have been more demanding in terms of wanting not just salary increases and bonuses, but perks and privileges. There’s been a lot of talk around flexible work time, and remote work, and all kinds of things.

And honestly, for the last couple of years, agency owners have had to really bend over backwards to keep the employees happy far beyond … I think all agency owners want their employees to be happy. But I think some of the things that agency owners have had to do to keep the employees happy, they were basically being held hostage. Agency owners felt like they couldn’t say no, because there were so many jobs out there that their best employees, even their mediocre employees could go and find another job. So this has really been a challenging time for agency owners and leaders, department heads to try and staff up appropriately with a good quality team. And to keep that team intact.

Because it reminds me of when a baseball player has a great season. And all of a sudden, he wants a couple of million dollars more to play the exact same game he played last year. Sometimes the teams pay it, and sometimes they say, “Forget it, you’re a free agent.” Agencies were not in a position to be able to say, “Forget it, you’re a free agent.” So they really were paying through the nose, not just financially, but in terms of flexibility and all of those things, just to keep the employees they had.

And for many agency owners, this was really frustrating. It was hampering agencies’ growth. I had agency owners saying to me, “I’ve got RFPs on my desk that I can’t respond to because I don’t know how in the world I would staff if we got that piece of business. You can’t find enough good people and keep enough good people.” And agencies were being poached left and right. Clients were hiring employees, bigger agencies were hiring our employees, universities were hiring our employees and offering their kids free education. We just couldn’t compete.

So what I noticed in 2019 was that at a certain point in time, whatever the last straw that broke the camel’s back had been delivered. And agency owners had had enough. And what I think they were realizing is that even when they did concede to everything, people still left. So they were giving away all of the profitability of the agency. They were not letting the agency be run the way they wanted it to be run. So the inmates were sort of running the prison if you will, or the asylum. I know that’s not a great analogy. But basically, the owner of the business was not able to actually run their business anymore. So at some point, I would say in the fall of 2019, the final straw hit. And agency [inaudible 00:08:58] really universally were like, “Enough is enough.”

And so the analogy I use is we had been really well-trained by the employees to do whatever we wanted. If they wanted a foot massage at 10:00 AM, we showed up at their desk and rubbed their feet at 10:00 AM. If they wanted chair massages, or to close early on certain days, whatever they wanted, we were giving to them. And what was happening is it was impacting the way we could do work. It didn’t feel equitable. The employees that weren’t complaining or asking for stuff were starting to be resentful. And at the end of the day, it didn’t actually change whether somebody stayed or not. So what happened is the dog is starting to bite back. So agency owners had had enough. They said, “You know what, this is my business. I’m going to run it the way that I want to.” And all of these crazy requests, there’s got to be an end to this. So it’s not that I want this not to be a great workplace. Not that I don’t want to be flexible. It’s not that I don’t want to help you balance your home life and your work life. It’s not that I don’t want to pay you well. But I can’t say yes to everything that everybody asks.

So it was just getting so absurd. And for a while, agency owners went along with how absurd it was. And then finally, they realized it was just not sustainable. So they sort of put their foot down and said enough is enough. And realized that that meant they may lose an employee or two. But they were not willing to take the risk anymore, and they weren’t willing to pay the price anymore.

So interestingly, what happened is the people that were going to leave left. And the people that weren’t ever going to leave because they didn’t get a foot massage didn’t leave. And in fact, I think what we learned is really what kept employees through that season, which obviously has changed because of COVID. And we’ll talk about that in a minute. But what really changed was that the people who wanted to stay loved the agency environment, they loved the kind of work they were doing. But they also, what kept them in place despite getting other offers, what kept them in place was the relationship they had with the agency owner and/or their direct supervisor. What every agency employee wants more than foot massages, more than flexible schedules, is they want the ability to learn and get better.

We did some research a few years ago, Susan Baier and I in our Agency Edge Research Series, where we interviewed almost 1,000 agency employees. And the number one reason they gave them, and the number one reason that they would still give today. And this is proof based on what I’m talking about, is the number one reason why they stayed at an agency, a specific agency is because the have the opportunity to learn and grow. They want to better themselves. They want to get better at their craft. So if you’re doing one-on-one meetings, if you are doing some mentorship with your key employees, that’s what’s going to get them to stay. And we’ve seen that now as this trend has evolved.

Now certainly, COVID has changed all of this. And now all of a sudden, and we had said all along for the last two years, I’ve been saying right now, the employees are in the driver’s seat. When there is an economic correction and people start laying people off, in-house marketing departments get decimated, ad agencies start laying off some of their extra people. And all of a sudden, there’s a flood of employees on the street. Now all of a sudden, the course gets changed. And now all of a sudden today, the power is sitting on the employer’s side, where there are fewer jobs than there are people out there looking for jobs. So all of a sudden, this need to capitulate to every demand has been wiped out by COVID. But, I’m hoping what we learned is that … because the pendulum’s going to swing again. So yes. Right now, just like after 9/11 and just like after The Great Recession, it’s easy to find good qualified employees at reasonable prices because they’re just eager to have a job. We’re in that position right now. But the pendulum is going to swing back to the other side, just like it always does.

So what I’m hoping is that agency owners and leadership teams have recognized that giving away the farm doesn’t actually keep anyone from leaving if they’re going to leave. And that it’s better to define the value of being an employee. Whether it’s salary and bonuses, or perks, learning opportunities, mentorship. And really honoring those through good times and bad. Meaning whether there’s a glut of employees or you’re having a hard time finding employees. But really to stay true to those things. The things that define what’s awesome about working at your agency. Whether that’s a flexible work schedule or whatever it may be. And really sticking to those and not giving into every ridiculous demand that gets put in front of you. I’m hoping that that is a lesson that sticks for us. Because at the end of the day, it didn’t really save us. And it just cost us a ton of money. And it created a bunch of resentment, and it wasn’t healthy for the agency. So what’s best for the agency is for you to be a great place to work, but based on your terms, right?

So again, remember. I started giving these trend reports in February prior to COVID hitting. So what I was saying in February was at that point still the greatest barrier to an agency’s growth right now was the talent pool. That many of you were struggling to try and find enough talent. And it was literally keeping you from chasing opportunities. COVID absolutely has solved this for most agencies. Now some of you are still hiring. But hiring today is very different than hiring in January or February of 2020, or in late 2019. Hiring today is a much easier situation because there are a lot of candidates out there on the street, good candidates on the street. So again, as the agency gets stronger, as you build up your financial foundation so that you are in good financial shape, one of the things I’m hoping for many of you is that you can augment your team with some superstars at reasonable prices so that you can really fuel the growth of your agency by having a strong team.

And now is a great time for you to start thinking about, even if you’re not ready to hire right now, now is a great time for you to be thinking about what is your next hire. And how do you start to cultivate relationships? And how do you put a timeline together so that you are financially ready to hire that next position that you need? It would be great to have a plan in place, and to get executing against that plan as quickly as possible.

So on the client side of trends, this is always a place where for many of us, we want to focus a lot of our attention, our clients behaving. What are they asking for? That sort of thing. So on the client side of the trends, clients have self-identified based on both data, research data. But also what I was seeing clients actually buying from agencies. So here’s some things that clients were identifying that they wanted to buy more of. And again I’ll remind you, this was originally put together pre-COVID, but I’m here to tell you that only one of these went away because of COVID. So the rest of these are holding very solid and steady. And if anything, have been more exaggerated in the demand since COVID.

So the first one was bigger share of wallet. So one of the things that clients seem to realize in 2019 coming into 2020 was while it was great for them to be pursuing new clients or customers, it was foolish of them that they didn’t really have a program in place to try and cultivate more purchases from existing clients. That they weren’t really building up loyalty and an insider’s club. And they weren’t giving their customers enough opportunity to buy more. So they were really starting to hire agencies to help them get a bigger share of wallet.

One of the other things that was really hot coming into COVID was experiential. That of course unfortunately has completely gone away as we have been social distancing, and not going to trade shows. And there’s no man intercept on the streets, things happening right now. But I fully expect as we inch our way back to normal throughout the globe, probably slower in the U.S. than anywhere else based on our numbers. But for the rest of the world as they get back to business as usual quickly, experiential will come back. That’s been a trend for the last couple of years, and I don’t anticipate it going away anytime soon. So I would think of this as a temporary pause in people wanting to create experiential opportunities for prospects and customers, or even their own employees. But it’ll come back.

Another thing that clients are buying a lot of is community building. So this I think ties back to that first trend I mentioned, which was the bigger share of wallet. So clients again are recognizing that they have not really engaged with their customers in a way that makes them feel like they belong to something, like they’re connected to the brand. And they really haven’t done anything to try and really create an amazing referral opportunity by having customers gather together. And what they have in common is the product or service that they use that your clients sell. So we’ll talk a little more about community building in a bit. But know that that’s a big one.

Cause in social marketing. What we’re seeing over, and over, and over again is that consumers are saying they want to understand what a brand stands for. They want to understand what a brand supports and doesn’t support. So a lot of brands don’t know how to do this. A lot of brands sort of default to the give a little bit of money to everybody, and they have their logo on a tee-shirt or something like that. But they don’t really know how to build a cause marketing program with marketing dollars and marketing outcomes and goals. So I think this is a huge opportunity for us as agencies to really dig deeper into this and to help clients actually figure out one, what do they care about? What do they want to stand for? And two, how do they do that in a way that not only influences the cause? Because they obviously want to do that. But invites their customers to participate in whatever they’re doing. And, attracts to them customers who also share the love of that cause.

I always think of Avon and the amazing work they’ve done around breast cancer, which makes perfect sense. So they’ve picked a single cause that mattered lot to them. It mattered a lot to their customer base, which was 99.9% women. And probably of a certain age that breast cancer concerns were top of mind. And they invited their customers in a lot of ways. Breast cancer walks, all kinds of things. Not only did they invite their employees or their consultants, I guess they’re mostly 1099s, but whatever. They invited their employees and their salespeople, as well as their customers to participate in supporting this cause and fighting for more breast cancer research and all the other things they were doing. So I think there’s an opportunity like that for many of our clients.

Certainly right now, so I’m recording this in early July. You’re going to listen to it sometime in the month of July, probably. Certainly right now, the Black Lives Matter movement is getting a lot of our clients’ attention. And again, helping them do something meaningful rather than something that’s on the surface that they’re going to be criticized for later because they didn’t actually change anything. They just jumped on the bandwagon, I think is a huge opportunity for agencies.

Another thing that clients were asking agencies to do. It’s interesting, agencies have always been a little hesitant to step over onto the sales side of the equation. In many companies, certainly before The Great Recession and in some cases after the recession, many companies sales and marketing were separate departments. And they had separate goals and separate budgets. And in agencies, we mostly aligned with the marketing department. So we worked with them. But we didn’t really dabble too much into the sales side. And in fact, in a lot of companies, it seemed like the marketing department and the sales department rather than being very collegial and working together, they actually often seemed to be throwing each other under the bus.

So I think agencies, and especially if you’ve been in the agency business for more than a decade, I think we sort of got trained not to get in the middle of that internal fight. So we just sort of stayed on our side of the fence with the marketing people. And we probably shot dirty looks over the fence at the salespeople. We didn’t really dabble in the sales stuff. Well, all of that’s changed. More and more companies are blending marketing and sales departments together. Marketing departments, whether they are also the sales department or not, are being held to sales goals and numbers for the first time. And we can’t stay out of that fray. We can’t draw a dotted line in the sand and say, “Yeah, I’m not going to step over into sales.”

And in fact, one of the things that clients are hiring agencies for more and more is on the sales side of the equation. So many of you have probably been asked by your clients, a lot of your clients have said, “We have to stop marketing because we’re putting a ton of leads into the top of the sales funnel, but we don’t know how to process them. We don’t know how to facilitate those conversations. Our salespeople can’t keep up. We don’t know how to score the leads.” So what a lot of agencies have said is rather than stopping, let’s not stop the filming of the pipeline. Let’s instead build out the pipeline and help you figure out how to score those leads, how to create some sales enablement programs, how to get your salespeople ready to engage with more people. Let’s think about more one to many kind of initial sales communications, if that makes sense.

But basically, agencies have now been for the last several months, last year, really stepping over that line into the sales side. And it’s very lucrative. It’s very measurable. It’s hard for you to get fired if you’re actually delivering more sales. So this has been a very good thing for agencies. And certainly post-COVID for agencies, our clients, all they care about right now is sales. So if you’re not willing to step over that line, odds are your budget’s getting cut because they’re putting more money on the sales side of the equation. So jump in there, and help them sell more stuff.

Another thing that clients are asking for is brand activation. And what I mean by that is not so much the, “Help me create our brand.” What clients are saying is, “We have a brand we think.” And maybe they do, or maybe they don’t. “But we have a logo, and we have a tagline, and maybe we have some values. We just don’t know how to actually engage our customers, and understanding what those are, and what they mean for them. So the fact that we have XYZ value, why would a customer care about that? And how do we connect those dots for them so that they can see what our brand is all about, who we are, and to attract people who are the right fit for our brand?” So it’s more in the trenches work than it is conceptual brand work. But a lot of agencies are making great money at it. And again, having huge impact on their clients. So that’s some of the things that clients are asking for.

And again, the only one on that entire list that sort of went away, and I will tell you again, I think that it went away as a temporary COVID consequence that I think will be eroded as we get back to normal, is the experiential. But the rest of it absolutely is still valid. And if anything, clients are asking for it even more because of COVID than they were asking for it leading into COVID.

So another trend that we talked about a little bit last year that growing is this idea of embedding an employee inside a client’s office. So what I had told many of you in 2019 was that I was seeing this emerging trend where some of you had clients. In some cases, it was because the client was in another state or in another place. But in most cases, it wasn’t about geography. It was just that the client’s needs were significant enough that it made sense to put one of your agency employees, typically an AE, into the client’s office, and for them to office out of the client. And it was really an emerging trend in 2019. And it really grew throughout 2019 and now in 2020. I would say a good 5 to 10% of agencies have at least one embedded employee.

So it’s working very well. I have no agencies reporting that it’s not working well. Every agency is reporting that they’re getting more opportunity because they have a person embedded. That some of those opportunities are coming from departments that they didn’t normally interact with. So typically, we interact with the marketing department. And they become the gatekeeper that either does or doesn’t introduce us to all of the other departments that have budgets where we might be able to help. R&D, HR, sales, whatever it may be. Internal communications.

But when you have an embedded employee inside your client’s company, naturally that employee meets all of those people and starts to engage them in conversation. So what agencies are reporting, agencies that have an embedded employee, what they’re reporting is client loyalty increase, client budget increased. Departments in which we do work. So outside of the marketing department, increased. So there’s no downside of this in terms of how well it works to increase AGI, to add even more value to your clients, and to serve more departments within your client.

The risky part of this is if you put the wrong person inside your client. So a couple of sort of best practices around this. Number one, I don’t think it’s ideal for your employee to be embedded five days a week. So even if your client is in a different state, so your employee wouldn’t be in your office, whether they were embedded or not. Because they would be living in that other state. Even if they are in another state, they should work from home a day or two a week. And on those home days, they should be connecting more and more with the agency folks and making sure that they stay connected to the mothership. Because one of the things you want to be careful of is that your employee doesn’t forget who they work for. So it’s easy when you are inside an organization five days a week to start to align with that organization and actually to put their best interests ahead of the agency’s best interest.

So A, you want to embed an employee who’s super loyal to the agency. You want to have a very strong, “You cannot hire my employee,” language in your agreement with the client so that they cannot say, “We love having [inaudible 00:29:59] at the office five days a week, but we don’t love paying $175 an hour, $150 an hour for [inaudible 00:30:06]. So you know what? We’re just going to make [inaudible 00:30:09] employee.” You want to have really clear language that says, “Yeah, we’re not allowed to recruit employees of our client to come work at the agency. So we can’t have a mole inside the client and be cherry picking talent to come work at the agency. And, you can’t hire our employee to work for you. Or if you do, there’s a fee just like we were a placement agency.”

Because here’s the reality. You can put that in the contract. But if the client really wants to hire that employee and you want to keep the client, are you going to enforce that? So if you have language around where we get a 25% of their first-year salary a finder’s fee, at least that gives you some money to recruit a new employee to embed if you get the opportunity to do that. So best practices, don’t have them work five days a week in the office. Make sure they’re an agency loyalist and that they stay connected. Even if they’re in another state. And again, in most cases, that is not the case. But you want them in the office, your office on a regular basis. So if they are working in another state, at least once a month, you want to fly them in for a couple of days. And if they are in the same city as the rest of your agency is, then at least a day or two a week, you want them to come back and work out of the agency.

So those are best practices, but I will tell you that I have not had one agency say this was a bad idea. So if you’re thinking about it, or you have a client that this might make sense for, I’m highly recommending that you consider doing this. This has been very fruitful for every agency that’s done it. As long as you avoid the pitfalls, you should be in good shape.

Another trend on the client side, all of a sudden private communities are like an in thing. Whether it’s a Facebook group, a closed Facebook group, or clients are bringing their customers together for customer only event. Again, pre-COVID and hopefully post-COVID. But this idea of bringing your customers together so they can learn from each other, so they can share best practices or secrets around what did they do. So odds are for all of your clients, their customers are knitted together by whatever it is they buy from your client.

So whether it’s … Inbound started ironically as a user group conference for HubSpot. So whether it’s a software, or it’s a service, or it’s a product, Fiskars the scissor people, they bring crafters together who use their products and create these communities.

So whatever it is, whether it’s an in-person or it’s a digital community, these are now becoming a thing. And agencies are being hired to create and manage these private communities. So a big opportunity for you if your clients are not thinking about this yet, but you think it makes sense for them, is to suggest to them that they consider building out one of these private communities. And however you think makes the most sense for them. But anyway, this is something clients are asking for and agencies are making good money at doing.

I talked a little bit about cause marketing. So a great example of this is actually an AMI agency who works with the company WeatherTech. And so many of you probably saw the 2020 Super Bowl commercial of WeatherTech, which didn’t talk about their products at all. It talked about the fact that the guy who owns WeatherTech has this dog that he loves, and the dog got cancer. And the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine saved his dog’s life. And so the commercial was all about this school and raising money for this school.

What was brilliant about this cause marketing effort was a couple things. Number one, got more views of the commercial than any, this was I think their fifth or sixth Super Bowl commercial. Got more views, and reaction, and media coverage for this Super Bowl commercial than their other five combined, which were product related. Also got WeatherTech partnered with some other big companies like Petco and Blue Buffalo all jumping on board to donate money to this veterinary school, and partnered with WeatherTech. Why does this matter to WeatherTech’s business? If you’re not familiar with WeatherTech, what most of us think about them as a company is that they create custom cut liners, floor liners for cars and trucks. So basically, they keep the weather from crashing your vehicle.

But what a lot of people don’t know is over the last couple of years, they’ve launched a pet line of products. So they believe that a lot of the especially food bowls that we buy for our pets actually leaches off bad things. So they’ve got a whole line of pet products. So it does tie back to their products, although they never mentioned it in the Super Bowl commercial. But now all of a sudden, WeatherTech has these relationships with these other big pet brands that they can leverage and take full advantage of to sell more of their products.

So my point in this is the cause in social marketing is going to keep getting bigger. It’s big now, but it’s going to keep getting bigger. And our clients don’t know how to do this well. And this is pure AGI work for you. This is that thinking, that strategic thinking and insight work. This is about putting together a really great plan and building partnerships. So this isn’t about selling widgets for four hours at X number of dollars an hour. This is really about being strategic with your client and really providing guidance. This is absolutely going to get you to talk to the C-suite rather than the middle managers that you may be dealing with. Because this is about the brand of the company. So this is going to escalate up to a C-suite decision. So lots of opportunity I think for us here.

I think the danger is that we think too small. That we come up with these very small programs that aren’t really going to move the needle for the client, probably aren’t really going to move the needle for the charity or the cause. And we need to think bigger and bolder when it comes to this. And then we need to find clients who are really brave enough to step out, and speak up, and take a stand. And to recognize that by doing that, they are aligning their brand, how their employees feel, and how their customers feel. When you get all of that right, it can be super powerful. And I think it’s good business for the agency. It’s good, high visibility work for us. And we are also obviously getting to be a part of something bigger than the client or us, and we’re getting to impact the world. And in some way, that is significant. So I think it’s a win-win all around, and we need to do more if we can.

Good news. Clients are growing weary of managing multiple agencies. So do I think that means you’re going to be the only agency of record? No, I don’t think so. Do I think that means that maybe instead of seven agencies inside your client, maybe it’ll get down to three? Yes.

Now I’ve had agencies win and lose because of this. I’ve had agencies get a ton more work because their clients cut down their agency roster. And I’ve had agencies that were on the losing end of that and lost their opportunity with that client because they weren’t one of the three or four that got to stay. So be mindful that this is happening. And be ready to take advantage of it. But also be ready to be asked by your current clients to re-pitch the business, because they’re skinnying down the number of agencies that are doing work.

Less than good news, I think. You may think it’s good news. Is that a majority of the clients who are managing large budgets, a million dollars or more, are now 40 years or younger. So if you’ve been in the business for a while like I have, I think thinking about someone, so I’m in my mid fifties. Thinking about someone 15 years younger than me managing a million dollar budget, the tables have now turned. When I was younger in my career, it was mostly old men, older men running those budgets. And then more women got into the leadership roles and the marketing sides of clients. But for a long time, I was the kid in the room and they were older. And now for many of us, it’s flipped. So now what we’re seeing is more and more client side directors of marketing, VPs of marketing, whatever the title is. In our eyes, they’re getting younger and younger. So they’re 40 or younger. So we have to be mindful of things like who do we pair them with, in terms of account service? How do we communicate with them? How is their perspective different than maybe some of our more senior people who are older than them?

So this is probably a trend that has been happening in our industry forever. That as people in the agency side of the business stick around, get more senior. Sooner or later, their clients get younger than them. So different I suppose than our doctors maybe getting younger than us. But the point is this is a different dynamic and we have to communicate differently because our clients are getting younger. And particularly, clients who are managing the budgets we covet, those larger budgets are younger. We have to be super mindful of how we’re communicating with them. One of the things that they hate is when we talk to them like they’re kids. And even if you look at them and they say, “Well, they are my kids’ age, or they are kids to me.” It doesn’t matter. They want to be taken seriously. They have a little chip on their shoulder in many cases because they haven’t been taken seriously. So we’ve got to understand that. And we have to be respectful of that if we want to be able to have a relationship with them and to be a good partner to them. So be mindful of that.

All right. So let’s talk a little bit about tactics. This is the last section of the trends report. And this is really what agencies are selling where they’re making great money. So again, some of these have been a little impacted by COVID, most of them not. But I just want you to know so you’re thinking about, “We don’t do a lot of that,” or, “We could do a lot more of that.” I just want to remind you that these are places where agencies are making great money right now.

So the first one is, and again, this has been a little impacted by COVID, but this idea of multisensory experiences. So prior to COVID, I was seeing some really remarkable work. Where, and this ties to sort of the experiential work, where it was very immersive. where the sounds that you heard, or even the things that you smell like scents and odors, complemented what you were seeing or what you might be able to touch. But it was very immersive. I’m not talking about a virtual reality immersive, that’s a whole different thing. I’m talking about physically, you were walking into something and having an experience.

And they always reminded me a little bit of some of the cool museums where they put you in a moment in time. You kind of experience it as if you were there. A lot of these marketing tactics, whether they were street intercepts or they were at trade shows, were really doing an amazing job of really tapping into people’s senses. So that’s one that was trending. And now obviously, as we’re not interacting in that way right now, not so much, but I think will come back.

One of the other trends where people are making great money is what is old as new again, direct mail. So a lot of agencies are really killing it with direct mail right now. It sure is direct mail 2.0. In some cases, it’s physical mail. But lumpy mail, in some cases it’s flat mail. But as our inboxes get more full and our mailboxes get less full, a lot of agencies have done some really innovative, interesting things with direct mail that’s really delivering results for clients, and delivering profits for agencies.

Along the same lines of what old is new is again, prior to COVID, what agencies were doing in trade show booths was unbelievable. Just some really remarkable thinking in terms of building a booth setting. The six foot table with the backdrop is gone. It was really about how to invite people in and get them to stick around for awhile. Have conversations, have them interact with something. And just some really smart thinking around that. And again, hopefully once COVID passes, we’ll see more of that. But if you’re in that space or you have clients in that space, know that everybody’s stepping it up. So you want to be ready to do that as well.

Another place where agencies are making great money are shoppable posts. This was a huge trend prior to COVID, and is even moreso a trend post-COVID. So whether it’s on Instagram or wherever it may be, me being able to see a picture of a product. Click on a link right on that picture, and to be taken right to a shopping cart where I can buy it. A lot of agencies are really doing a lot of work there. They’re also doing a lot of work in Amazon marketplaces. So all of this idea of you see it, you can buy it. A lot of agencies are really making great money and driving a lot of product sales for clients right now with that kind of a tactic.

The other thing agencies are spending a lot of time thinking about, studying, trying to perfect is this idea of the position zero. So we used to call it the featured snippet. I don’t remember if it’s still called that. But basically, the days of being on page one of the search engine. While that’s still nice, what everybody wants is to be that featured snippet or that position zero, the search engine position zero. So a lot of agencies have spent a lot of resource to get good at getting their clients into that position for key search terms or phrases. And obviously, they’re being paid a premium to do that.

The next trend that I think not only has to be on our radar screen, but has to be on our to-do list is artificial intelligence. So without a doubt, all of us are using artificial intelligence, whether we know it or not. But we’ve got to get a whole lot smarter about this. So clients are expecting us to be as efficient and effective as possibly. And certainly post-COVID, they’re going to be expecting us to be even more mindful of their budget.

But even moving forward, even after COVID is a painful but distant memory, I still think that we all have an obligation to learn about how AI can help us help clients. So a year ago, I attended MAICON. You guys, I guy Paul writes her on the show, the founder of PR 20/20, who also created the Marketing AI Institute, which hosted this conference last summer. I would have been at the conference this summer as well, but they had to cancel it. But I’ll sure be there next year.

But anyway, that conference really opened my eyes in terms of what’s already available for us to be using. So the Marketing AI Institute has just opened up the Marketing AI Academy. I wish any of that was easier to say. But the academy is this amazing learning environment. You can take I think it’s 20 or 30 what they call short courses, four or five different certifications. So if you and your agency are saying, “You know what? Yep, you’re right Drew. We need to know more about AI. We need to know what tools are out there for us to use today.” Because this is not about you putting a data scientist on your staff and building things. This is about using other people’s tools and technology to take advantage of what AI can do in terms of machine learning, and data crunching, and all the things that our brains can’t possibly do as well or as fast.

But anyway, the academy would be a great place for you to go and to learn more about it. To take some of those short courses, to see what kind of tools are available. I was astonished at the conference last year at how many of the tools are really affordable. So even a super small agency should be able to try some of these tools. And a lot of them have free trials or entry points that are less expensive for a period of time. So there’s really no excuse for us not to know more about how artificial intelligence can help us help clients. So go check out the academy, do some of your own homework, do some of your reading. But this is a trend that’s not going to go away.

By the way, if you are interested in the academy, they have a deal where you can buy a year-long access. And I’ve got a discount code. So if you’re interested in that, ping me, shoot me an email. And I will give you the discount code so that you can take advantage of that. All right?

That wraps up the trends. Hopefully this was super helpful for you. And here’s what I’d like you to do. I’d like you to take the last step episode I did, so the front half of the trends, and this one. I’m going to suggest that you invite your team to listen to those two podcasts, even if they don’t normally listen. These would be two episodes that would be very good for them to listen to so that you guys can talk about some of these trends. And you can decide which one of these have the most impact on your agency, which ones you want to take advantage of, and what plans you need to put into place to do that. So have a listen, invite your team to listen, and let this be a point of discussion and exploration for you. That is what I would hope. All right?

Before I let you go, just a couple of reminders. First, as always, thank you so much for those of you that leave a rating and review for the podcast. It makes a huge difference in how findable we are out there in the world. And as always, we’re happy to reward that. So as you all know by now, if you leave a rating and review, if you take a screenshot of it. For example, I got one from Broadway Girl the other day. So I need you to take a screenshot and send it to me so that I know who you are and what agency you work for or own. Because I can’t always tell by your username. But if you’ll do that, then we’ll put your name in a drawing. And every month, we give away one seat to one of our live or on-demand courses. So value of about $2,000, give away one a month on every solo cast. Happy to do that to thank you for doing that.

So this month’s winner is Kat [Arney 00:49:47]. So Kat, I will be reaching out to you to find out what of course you would like to take if you want to do one of the live courses or one of the on-demand courses. But for all of you, we’d be thrilled to hear that you like the podcast, that you’ve left it a rating and review. And if you send me a screenshot of it, would be delighted to yell your name out at a podcast and say that you’ve won a free seat at one of our events as well. So be happy to do that.

I will be back next week with another awesome guest to get you thinking a little differently about your business. In the meantime, please track me down. I’m at agencymanagementinstitute.com. You can email me from there. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook. Do not forget we’ve got the Build A Better Agency Facebook group. Starting to get more folks in it, so the conversations are getting a little more lively. Part of that is because I figured out by user error I wasn’t allowing people to post. So once I figured that out and got it fixed, all of a sudden there were lots of conversations in there. So we’d love to have you join us there. Open to answer any questions you might have about the business there. Please feel free to take advantage of that. Come enjoy the community, learn from each other, learn from us. And I’ll be back next week for episode 251. So here we go. We’re heading towards 500. That’s our goal. So I will talk to you next week. Thanks for listening.

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