Episode 456

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The glamor of working for an agency has worn off somewhat since the 80s and 90s. Markets are more saturated, salaries have stagnated, and recruiting top talent has become more difficult — especially since Covid.

As agency owners, that means we have to adjust our process to find and hire top talent to meet our clients’ needs. To help us understand all the changes we’re facing today, I sat down to talk with Michael Palma, an agency recruiting and business development expert.

With decades of experience in the industry, he’s seen all the shifts and changes that have occurred in the hiring process for both agency owners and employees. In this episode, he shares what agency owners often get wrong about finding top talent and why finding top talent is so hard nowadays. He also helps us understand how agencies can find right-fit clients and right-fit employees to match our clients’ needs.

Michael is essentially an expert agency matchmaker who has his finger on the pulse of the most pressing issues agency owners face, and helps us navigate them all with a “humble swagger.”

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.

recruiting top talent

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What it means to “walk with a humble swagger”
  • What agency owners often get wrong about recruiting top talent
  • The downhill trend in finding right-fit agency employees
  • How to find be confident without arrogance
  • What’s making it difficult for recruiters and agency owners to find top talent
  • Challenges in salaries in equity for agency employees
  • Knowing what you want in a candidate before you write a job description
  • How Covid has changed new business for agencies
  • Strategies that win over a client
  • Where agencies should be investing in their own biz dev and growth

“What we get wrong is the unrealistic expectation of hiring somebody and then thinking new business will follow.” - Michael Palma Share on X
“We've lost the best and the brightest to consulting companies, and we've lost the best entry-level people to the consulting firms.” - Michael Palma Share on X
“Not only is it harder to get a good job in advertising, there are fewer great candidates out there than there ever was.” - Michael Palma Share on X
“As an industry, we've recognized that we need to solve business challenges for our clients instead of making them cool or trying to do the funniest ad.” - Michael Palma Share on X
“It comes down to which agency showed that client the most love.” - Michael Palma Share on X

Ways to contact Michael:


Hey, everybody. Drew here. You know, we are always looking for more ways to be helpful and meet you wherever you’re at to help you grow your agency. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve produced this podcast for so long, and I’m super grateful that you listen as often as you do. However, there are some topics that are better suited for quick hyper-focused answers in under 10 minutes. That’s where our YouTube channel really comes in. For quick doses of inspiration, best practices, tips and tricks, head over to youtube.com/the at sign Agency Management institute. Again, that’s youtube.com/the at sign or symbol.

And then Agency Management Institute, all one word. Subscribe and search the existing video database for all sorts of actionable topics that you can implement in your shop today. Alright, let’s get to the show.

Running an agency can be a lonely proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. We can learn how to be better faster if we learn together. 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 with 25 plus years of experience. As both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Welcome back if you are a regular listener. If this is new to you, we are glad to have you. Every week we try and talk about different ways that you can build a stronger, more sustainable, more scalable, and if you want to a more sellable agency down the road, focus on the back of the house stuff. Your role is an owner or leader, the team biz dev processes and systems money. Those are the kind of things we talk about every day. And so have a great guest for you today around a couple of those topics, actually. But before I introduce him to you and before we welcome him to this show, I just wanna remind you, if you’re listening to this real time, it’s just, we’re coming up on the 4th of July here in the us.

Well, I guess it’s the 4th of July, everywhere in the world. But we celebrate the 4th of July, and you’re probably thinking about summer vacation and all good things, sunscreen and beaches and boating, and all kinds of good things like that, which I hope you get plenty of time to do. But before you know it, labor Day’s gonna be here, and we’re gonna be into the fall and pushing towards the end of 2024, believe it or not. So I just wanna remind you, we have a couple really great workshops coming up in September. They’re both hosted here in Denver where Danielle and I live. The Advanced AE Bootcamp is September 17th and 18th, and Money Matters. Probably our most popular workshop for agency owners is September 19th and 20th.

Again, both in Denver, you can learn more about them, you can register for them by heading over to the Agency Management Institute website. And under the How We Help tab, you’ll find workshops, and you’ll see both the Advanced AE Bootcamp and Money Matters. And of course, the regular AE Bootcamp for entry level folks is in October. So if you’re looking for something for somebody a little younger in their career, you might wanna wait until October, but advanced a bootcamp for folks four or five years into their account service role. And money matters for agency owners and agency money people, so accounting folks as well. So talk about nothing but money, pricing, KPIs, financial strategies, taxes, all kinds of things like that for two days.

So we would love to see you in Denver in September. It’s a lovely time to be here. So come see us and come gear yourself up for a strong finish in 2024. Okay, so our guest today is a gentleman named Michael Palmer. And Michael actually started as a basketball player and then a basketball college, basketball coach and recruiter. And then he shifted his role to agency recruiting. And, hi, I’m gonna ask him to tell us that story. But his business, the Palmer Group, spends their time focusing on three things. They focus on recruiting talent, they focus on biz dev help on the agency side, and they also help brands find the right agency.

So that agency matchmaking that we’ve talked about before. So he just wrote a brand new book called walk with a humble swagger. It’s coming out in about a month, so probably by the time this airs, you will be able to pre-order it on Amazon if you would like to do that. walk with a humble swagger, lessons from the recruiting trail and basketball and advertising. So with no further ado, let’s welcome Michael to the podcast and start picking his brain. Michael, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for inviting me. It’s a thrill to be here, drew.

So for folks who are not familiar with you, give everybody a little sense of your background over the last 35 years in our industry. What, where have you spent your time?

The our core business is head hunting, recruiting top talent. I left college basketball coaching 35 years ago. I was fortunate to work for some great recruiters, and I was, before that, I was a player. I was fortunate to be recruited by some of the greatest recruiters in the history of basketball. And we talk about that a lot. In my upcoming book. I made the Move to Advertising Head Hunting in 1989. And over the past 35 years, we’ve, I’ve placed 1500 people, which might make us the most prolific recruiting firm in the history of advertising.

I’m not sure who keeps those statistics,


I think it

Used to be the Guinness Book of World Records, but I don’t know if they exist anymore.

Maybe just because the sheer length of time we’ve done it right. ipl, I’ve placed creative directors in five consecutive decades now, and I’m not sure if that’s a testament to how good I am or just how, how stubborn I am, but it’s been a great run. And we’re, we’re still rocking, so we’re hitting on all cylinders actually.

What made you decide to specialize in the advertising industry when you decided to leave basketball and go into recruiting? Yeah,

That’s great. I was fortunate to go to college with a guy named Paul Capelli, who sadly is no longer with us. He died in Italy during Covid, but I pulled a bank, we went to college together, and he went on to the advertising industry. I went into college basketball coaching, and our league was based in New York City. And whenever I, we would play in New York, I would recruit a player in New York, or I would scout Fordham or Manhattan, or I was at Holy Cross in Worcester, mass. At the time, I’d visit with Paul

Sure. And

We were writers together in college, and he worked his way up the ladder, Fromm and Gargano to BBDL, where he worked on Pepsi to McCann Erickson, where he did the Max Headroom stuff. And Paul encouraged me, he said, you’re a great recruiter. We always need writers and art directors. Why don’t you leave college basketball coaching and recruiting and get into advertising? So I have Paul to thank for that.

Mm. So talk a little bit about the book. What prompted you to write, walk with a humble swagger?

Thank you. You know, I feel like I’m on M-S-N-B-C. Everybody on there is is plugging a book. Yeah. And I am, I’m plugging my book because it, it took me 15 years, it actually took me 50 years to write it, but in, in earnest, I began at the typewriter at the keyboard 15 years ago, 2009. And I was newly divorced, and I had a lot of free time on my hands. So I decided I would write and provide free content to my clients, and I would talk to my core and invite others to listen in.

And I posted once a week, Mike palmer.com, helping agencies grow. And we wound up with a hundred something posts. I got Ripples Media recently had a lot of faith in that content, but we only had half the story. So in the last year, I’ve made the connection between my time coaching and college basketball to, and being recruited and make that an allegory of coming the Bates story of buildings, Roman going from the cocoon of a college basketball coach into an agency, advertising agency recruiter.

And that content went nuts. Ego drove me to write the book. I never set out to write a book. I set out to write a blog. And every week I would get an overwhelming response. Boy, your stuff’s great. It’s really helped us build a better agency. It’s really helped us grow our agency. It’s helped us make better decisions. It’s helped us recruit better people, and we’ve grown as a result. And that all came from my ego wanting to share what I knew. And I think one of the allegories in the book of the coming of AIDS story, and it’s where the, the title comes from a blog post.

But the journey is, is how, how, how, how do you be successful with an ego and how do you temper that ego? Yeah, right. You know, walk with a, you know, the real journey going on in the book is not some kid who was a basketball player who became a recruiter, but how does an ego and an ID temper itself on its journey to success? So that’s probably a longer answer than you wanted, but that, that’s how I started out to do this book.

So when you were done with the book and you looked back at it as an entirety, what do, what story do you think it tells about our industry? If somebody wasn’t familiar with our industry and they read the book, what would they think or know about us as a profession?

That’s a great question, and I’m just going to answer off the seat of my pants. I think there are a lot of people who consider what we do as glamorous. You know, I think a lot of people, no doubt, maybe because of Mad Men or whatever, you know, like if we go to a Super Bowl party, we’re under the impression that people care about what we think of the commercials, you know? Right,


You know, the book is for agency leaders, agency owners, agency HR people and agency, new business people. But there is a fifth market that you just alluded to, and those are the curious outsiders to our industry. And I think, you know, you see a pretty irreverent peek behind the tent. And it’s not a tell all book, but it’s stories, it’s storytelling, and the stories are, are about our industry and what makes us different and special and perceptibly glamorous.

I, you know, lot of people think, they think what we do is glamorous, and that’s fine, fine. But it’s a nice peek behind the tent. There is a fifth audience there.

What do you think agency owners don’t understand about recruiting and retaining top talent? What do we, what do we get? What do we get wrong?

Good. Great question. You know, how do the one blog post, how to attract and retain top talent within 24 hours garnered us over 10,000 new subscribers to the blog one. And I’m not sure if they even read it, but they subscribed and what don’t they get? Everyone wants what they can’t have. I think everybody, I think what you get wrong is the unrealistic expectations of just hiring somebody and their new business is gonna follow.

Maybe being seduced by work that’s not relevant to your clients. What they do. A little too aspirational.

Yeah. Isn’t that, isn’t that funny? We get frustrated when clients get seduced by pretty pictures and great headlines that have nothing to do with growing their business, and yet we fall prey into the exact same thing.

Yeah. I mean, water sinks its own level. I think a lot of times agency owners, they, they have a false expectation. They don’t look at what will match our culture best. Yeah. Not get seduced by awards. And I, I believe in awards. I mean, I think awards are, pan is coming up. I think award-winning work is exponentially more effective, but not just the cultural fit in internally, but the cultural fit externally with your clients. Right. I just talked to an agency the other day and they hired a new creative director not through us, and they said they needed a new one.

And I asked, you just hired this guy. And they said, yeah, he was all about Revolution. He wanted revolution. And our clients just wanna evolve their business. Right. They don’t wanna, you know, they wanna evolution. And I think we all got, especially the last few years, we all got caught up in maybe hiring aspirationally, if you know what I mean? Yeah. Hiring maybe what we wanna be instead of what we are. So, you know, we all make mistakes.

Of course. Of course.

And I’d say one out of 10 of our placements don’t fly. Sure. But also, we’ve had folks stay at agencies 30 years, you know? Yeah. Partners and owners. So I’m very leery of absolutism, you know? For sure. So always, never. Yeah.

You know,

I think every case is its own case, but very leery of, you know, absolutism. You know, I think every agency is its own incubator. You know, every agency’s different. And I think what’s at the top of every agency filters down, and that’s why

Yeah. I, I agree. The agency certainly takes on the personality and values of, of the owner for sure. How do you think recruits have changed over the last few years? What are, what are you seeing that’s different about candidates today and how does that change your work?

Yeah, I’d like to say, you know, I’m the old man yelling at the clouds. My son is a creative director. He is 37 years old at a great agency. He’s won all the awards, can won show pencils. So I don’t want to come off as like criticizing a gen an entire generation.

Sure, yeah. Creative

People. I think they’re whiny, you know, I mean, we’ve always had a degree of win in our business, and without it, we wouldn’t have had, we wouldn’t have a, our company wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t win and Right. You know, per, per creative people. But the win has been, it’s gone from a whisper to a scream. And, you know, LinkedIn has almost become an unbearable place, you know, with the whining. It’s either whining or bragging, you know?

Yeah, yeah. You know,

It’s either one, it’s a humble brag, gee, I’m really, you know, humbled and honored. And whenever I see that, I write the person say, I’m humbled and honored to, to know you, you know, to be connected with you. You know? So, but I think they’re not as mentally tough, and I hate to sound like an old guy, but there’s, there was always win this, there’s, there’s never, if you just go to LinkedIn, you just see all the whiny. Oh yeah. It’s either the old guys like me saying, oh, back in the old days.


It’s the young people saying, you know, life is unfair, you know? Yeah. Guess what? Life is unfair. Advertising is the most unfair industry in the history of industries. Yeah.


It’s not accounting.

Do you think, I mean, back to the title of the book, do you think that’s just reality of age and experience that you, you haven’t, you have to live in the business and live some life to learn how to walk with the humble swagger that, that, to find that balance of confidence without arrogance?

I’m, I know when I was a young guy, I was an insufferable egomaniac. Yeah. You know, I mean, but I was never whiny, you know, I always took it on the chin, but I’m sure I was like, like impossible to be around. Yeah. And I learned, yeah, you learn that it never helps being a douche bag, you know? Right. It just, it doesn’t help. But, but there’s a difference between ego manism and win this. A big difference. And, you know, I’m seeing a lot of entitlement out there too, you know, not that there always wasn’t that, but candidates need to get real about the world.

And that’s part of the journey of growing up too. You know? I mean

Yep. For sure.

Like I said, I have my own son, you know, when I first started I was pretty brutal on candidates ’cause they don’t pay us. And I’ve become more empathetic just making believe I’m talking to my son now when I’m recruiting somebody. Right,


I think when you’re a coach, you, you don’t really understand who you’re coaching until you coach your own kid.


You know, you, you don’t realize that that kid is somebody else’s kid. And Yeah. You

Know, for sure. Yeah.

That’s a big part of growing up, I think, too. And I’m almost there. I’m almost grown up, even at my age. I’m, I’m close.

Yeah. That’s probably a, again, it’s probably not a revolution, but it’s an evolution. Right? Yeah.

Yeah. That’s a great line. I’m glad that guy said that. I’m gonna start, I just heard it the other day, so I’m gonna start using it

More. Yep. So I wanna take a quick break, but when we get back, I’m wondering if, you know, when I started in the business and when you started in the business, it was hard to get a job at an advertising agency. I mean, it was hard. And, and so as a candidate, and certainly as a young professional man, you worked your tail off and you didn’t leave till the boss’s car was outta the parking lot. And, you know, you knew you had to pay your dues for a period of time before you were gonna get the plum assignment or the great opportunity. And what I’m wondering is, is with the prolific, with the prolific number of agencies today is part of the entitlement and the whis and all of that is part of that, that it’s just not that hard to get a job at an agency anymore.

Yeah. Certain agencies. So let’s take a break and then I wanna come back and ask you that question. So, we’ll, we’ll be right back, everybody. I promise I’m only gonna keep you a minute before we get back to the show. But I wanna remind you that the Build a Better Agency Summit, the annual conference where we bring 350 agency owners and leaders together is coming up May 21st and 22nd. May 20th is a AMI family day or member day. But whether you are a member or not, we would love to have you with us May 21st and 22nd to read more about the conference, see who the speakers are, or register head over to agency management institute.com. And the very first button on the nav is BABA summit.

Click on that and all the information is right there. And we would love to see you in Denver in May. All right. Let’s get back to the show. All right. We are back with Michael Palma and we’re talking about his book and his almost 40 years of experience inside our agency as a recruiter of talent. So I asked before the break, do you think part of the shift in the candidate’s attitude about getting a job at an agency is that it’s easier to get a job at an agency today because there are so many of them. I mean, shoot, all you need is a computer and a kitchen table, and you can start an agency today. So has, has that changed do you think?

The candidates? I, I can remember wanting to work at an agency so badly that I was ready to do anything, take any job with any title for any pay, just to get in the door. And, and in fact, my, one of my very first jobs, I, I was the only guy that worked in this small outshoot of y and r and they told me later that the reason they hired me was ’cause I could lift the water bottle into the cooler. Huh. So that was my big claim to fame to, to get my first break in the business.

You know what, he can, he can load the water cooler Yeah. Without getting a hernia. That’s

Right. That’s right. He gets the job. That’s right.


Do you think it’s changed

A few comments, like I said earlier? Yeah, it was, it was a real glamorous industry then. Yeah.


When we entered it and we’ve lost the best and the brightest to consulting companies, McKinzie, Accenture, e and y, Ernst and Young, we’ve lost the best entry level people to the consulting firms. Used to be, if you were the best and the brightest, you’d start in what was called the executive training program at, at and what was that? That was the mail room. Yeah. You worked in the mail room and we’ve lost that. I mean, I think we’ve lost the prestige of attracting Yale and Harvard folk.

I mean, not that we don’t have a few still, but Yeah. I mean, anybody and, and they do you with a computer and a kitchen table can start an agency and they do. I just think it’s, you’re right there. There are 40 haves and 4,000 have nots. Everyone wants to work for the 40 best agencies in America. We know who they are. And the others, it’s lost its luster. I mean, they’re, it’s not as, I mean, I was just at Bucky’s and like their entry level manager pays more, you know, like, yeah, Costco, you can go to Costco and make more money than advertising.

Why would you work in advertising when you can go to Costco and make more money coming out of school or three years down the road? And you might think that’s a bad example. But I think we’ve, we’ve eaten our young too, you know, I mean, think about what’s happened in terms of the cannibalism of our industry. You know, we had the oh 8, 0 9 credit crisis. Yeah. We hired nobody for three years. Well now people looking for 10 year vets or 15 year vets, they’re not as many around.

Yeah, you’re right.

Then we had Covid Covid. No one hired, in fact, half the world got furloughed. Right. Right. It’s not laid off. Right. We didn’t hire anybody. Now we get calls from agencies, Hey, do you have anybody with four or five years experience? Guess what, there are about a third of what there used to be because we didn’t hire them. Yeah. We didn’t hire them. And we were laying people off. So not only is it, not only is it harder to get a job, a good job in advertising, there are fewer great candidates out there than there ever was.

Yeah. So talk about the salary and equity, because I do think that’s a challenge for agencies, especially smaller agencies. They struggle to, to, to your point, to to pay an entry level salary that is sort of commensurate with what the kids are being offered in other, in other industries. Where, where is the, where is the core of that problem do you think?

Well, I hate to be the bearer bad news, but Aries haven’t changed much in my, in my 35 years in head.


You know, a little bit on the bottom end. But not mu I mean just, I mean cost of living has gone up, what, 80, 70% since 1989. Yeah. And salaries have gone up maybe 15%. And we just don’t, it’s a commodity. There’s so many freelance creative people on LinkedIn and they wanna know why they can’t get a job. And the reason why is there’s too many, we’ve saturated the market. I blame this, I don’t blame. It’s because of the schools portfolio center created Circus School of Visual Arts.

They flooded the, the stream with trap.

Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. It’s an interesting time for businesses. And so I’m, I’m sure when you get hired to recruit talent, you end up spending a fair amount of time with the agency owner. If, if you could give an agency owner who is like, you know what, I am 45 to 55. I wanna do this for another 5, 10, 15 years. As you looked down the pike of the future of the business and you, if you owned an agency today, where would you be focusing

Ta You know, it’s cliche because I try to get the best talent I could that fits into my culture and my client’s culture.

How, if I’m an agency owner and I say to you, how do I know if a candidate’s a good fit? What would you say to me?

Well, I’d say what we tell our clients is that we need to, before we do a job description, we need to do two other things. First of all, you need a fit profile for your agency. What works best and what has worked best. You have a sample size and what doesn’t work, you have a fit profile and then you set up a criteria grid. ’cause you’re not gonna get everything you want one person.

Right. Right.

But what is most important to you on that criteria grid? And we’ve done that for forever. I mean, that’s what we do. But I, I wanna like jump in here real quick. I mean, you, you asked first, you know, our core business, we founded our company on recruiting head hunting. Yeah. Since then and since the blog especially, we do two other things. So I’d say 50% of what of our revenue is head hunting. And about 25% is new business consulting. Because back in 2001 when the towers got hit, no one wanted anybody.

Advertising stopped, we would’ve went out of business. Right. But I made a conscious decision that we were gonna become our own supply chain. We were gonna get our clients new business, and then we were gonna fill the job. We were gonna be one stop shopping. And boy, that business has taken off in the last 20 years for us. We’ve helped our agencies get over 500 million in new business. Our best case study this decade, this century is probably Tom in Knoxville. They’ve tripled in size. And we do that through new business consulting and outreach.

The other 25% of our business. And it’s why everyone loves me, they wouldn’t like me if I didn’t do the third thing. And that is, we run agency reviews for clients, we’re headhunters for clients, and we help them get business. Coca-Cola, Arby’s, fender guitars, churches, chicken Yamaha with motorcycles. I mean, I could go on, but, and that came from the block. I got started getting calls from people from CMOs and they were saying, boy, you seem to know more about the agencies than our last consultant does.

Do you want to help us find an agency? So we did the RFP process. We, we got two going right now that are really cool both in retail. So I don’t wanna limit our discussion just to recruiting, because building a better agency, it’s a little naive to say, oh, if you just bring in great people,

No. You gotta have the right clients too. For sure. Yeah.

You gotta be able to attract them the right way. It’s, it’s its own art. It’s also recruiting. You are recruiting clients. Yeah,

For sure. Talent. Yep.

But I, I didn’t want to continue for however much time we have. I didn’t want to continue under the exclusivity of being just that recruiter. We do other things here.

So on the new business front, what’s changed since Covid from the client’s perspective? No,

That’s, that’s a great question. And I think what’s changed since Covid in all of our things in recruiting, we’re able to place people from Boulder, Colorado to Harrisburg, pa Yeah. ’cause it was remote.


You never would’ve been able to place somebody from Boulder, the nicest city in the world to Harrisburg, pa arguably the worst city in the world and make a great placement for a creative direct. What’s changed in new business? We’ve lost the chemistry part of chemistry checks.


With this, with what we’re doing. Right.

I was gonna say with on Zoom, because of Zoom,

We did zoom pitches for the, in fact, it’s rare still to do agency visits in a review, in an agency review. When I tell people I think we should go visit the agency, and they say, why? I said, don’t you wanna meet in person, the people you might be

Paying Yeah. That you’re gonna give millions of dollars to. You might

Be paying them a couple million. Don’t you wanna meet

Them? Yeah.

Oh, that’s the, what’s changed the most in their business. Yeah. And I think just the, remember when new business was all about sending stupid agency tricks to clients? I think we’ve become smarter, you know, in new business. And I, I think as an industry, we’ve recognized that we need to solve business challenges for our clients instead of making them cool or trying to do the most, you know, the funniest ad. Yeah. Or even, even worse, sending these braggy things like that’s not new business sending out, you know, self-promotional stuff that brags about your agency.

There you go. walk with a humble swagger. Works best in their business too.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. So when you are sitting in a room with a client doing an agency review, what, what makes you head palm the most? Like what, what are the, what’s the thing an agency does that you go, oh, you were so close and then that happened?

Well, I’ve learned that now we make it part of the criteria. I asked somebody on the client side to take a pen or a pencil and pad, and every time the agency says the word expert, you write a write a line down. And, you know, so what makes us go like that the most is unrealistic bragging case studies. That or overly heroic. And it all comes down to this idea that we’re experts in the world. I don’t like, we don’t like experts. The Palmer Group, we like specialists, we like students of the business.

We like hungry students in the business. I just said it, but experts, I’m really turned off by anybody who claims they’re an expert in anything. And it’s part of the walk with the humble swagger philosophy. We go like that all the time. They’re experts, you know, like just what we need is one more expert in the room. You know,

When a client chooses the agency after they’ve gone through the RFP process and the presentations and all of that, at the end of the day, is there something that it boils down to? Is there something where you just see this common thread of in your searches when this happens, or when the client recognizes or feels or thinks this, that’s, that’s the final check in the box?

I mean, you ask great question. I’ve done a lot of these podcasts. You, you, I can tell, you know, our business better and you really know how to do this. So that’s a great question. Let me go broad before we go finite. You know, what is the thing it comes down to love, you know, who shows the client the most love? Usually when you get down to final three or four, you can pull a name out of a hat and be You’re fine. Yeah.

You know, they’ll be able to do the work.

And what it usually comes down to is the clients usually say this to me. We’ve got taken them to three finalists. And they say, well, if I can just get that media guy and I can get the, the woman strategist over there and I can get the creative director. Yeah. Can I do that? No, no. There’s an integrated review. It comes down to love who, which agency showed that client the most love, because their credentials are all good. Their case studies at by that point are all relevant. And it comes down to who, who showed who did the store visits, who did the customer research, who spoke to the customers.

Yeah. And I would say one final thing that usually pulls a rabbit out of the hat, and that’s an unexpected insight. It’s like, wow, we never thought of that.


And I’ll give you one more too. I, I, I know in agencies, one, when they present an idea and the client says, we can do that now, I think what a lot of agencies do in a pitch is they get too long term.


And the client has now problems. They’re in the now business. We used to have five year marketing plans. When was the last time you heard of a five year? Yeah. It’s been 15, 20 years. Right. Since I’ve heard of a five year marketing plan. So unexpected insights. Wow. We never thought of that. Or we can do that now, now. Like I know they want when someone says, wow, you know, we, we can do that now.

Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah. I, I I think, well first of all, we know the tenure of A CMO is shorter and shorter, so they need to solve problems. Yeah. And, and make a splash and get, and get results for the c-suite pretty quickly.

I agree with you. Of course. But we tend to overlook that the turnover for CMOs, it’s 50% out, but it’s 50% up. I should get it up that way. Right. Like the reason why they’re tenure short is they took a better job and it’s because an agency helped them. Yeah. Get a better job. And that’s our job for our clients. We’re in the careers business.

Right. Not

Only our own people and hiring people, but we’re, it’s our job to improve our clients’ careers.


Not just grow brands or sell units or move skews. It’s like the, the great agencies create a tree of success. So there you go.

Yeah. I, I, we often advocate that agencies need to understand what would get their direct point of contact, a raise bonus or promotion. And it’s their job to get them those things because then that person, as they move through their career, takes you with them. And, you know, there’s nothing better as an agency to be brought along to a new opportunity with an old friend.

I’m waiting, I’m gonna give this away to your listeners and your viewers. Okay. Your, you’re subscriber. I’m gonna give away a great tip now. Okay. This will really help them. I’m waiting for an agency to do the logo slide. Well, here’s who we worked with and you see, you know, 15 logos. And then the next slide are the clients at those logos and what happened to them from, you know, I’m waiting for that slide.

Yeah. Right. And we, we started working with Bob Smith here. Now he’s here. We started working with Mary Jones here. Now she’s here. We started. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, you talk about, you

Know, what a

Talk about selling. Yeah.

You know what a client would say to that. They’d say, wow, I like they care about me. You know, a lot of agencies talk about, oh, we care about you. We care about you. We c show me, show me that you care about me. Yeah. What have you done for your people like me? You know, agencies, when you say you see their careers page on their website, it’s always some job, right? Yeah. How about saying we’re in the careers business. Everyone we work with, we’re trying to enhance their career. That’s really the solution we provide. I think.

Yeah, the trick The trick is you can say that to the client, but they have to sell you to everybody else who doesn’t really care if they move on. So you also have to give them all the other things, the case studies, the insights you that Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. But you’re right. Adding the, adding that additional factoid in would be an interesting conversation. Check the box. Yeah.

Check the boxes. But yeah, it’s the special stuff that wins. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. So we’re getting to the top of the hour and, and I know that I need to let you go, but I’m curious as we wrap up, what do you think the future of our business holds? What, like, if you had a crystal ball and you looked at, even though there is no such thing as a five-year marketing plan, if you looked at what agencies will look like in 2030. Yeah. Where, where do you think, where do you think we need to begin to invest our time and energy in our own growth, our own maturation, our own service offerings? What are, what are clients gonna need from us in the future? And is it different than what they need from us now?

I think clients will always need original ideas from us. And that will never change. Even with ai, clients will always need creative ideas that sell. What will the agency look like? That’s a scary thought. ’cause I think in five years we’ll be completely and totally remote. We’re back to hybrid now, and some agencies are back to the office. I don’t think it’ll, that’s sustainable. I believe in teams on site, but I think in five years, hey already, look what’s happened since we’ve been in the business.

If you remember, an ad agency was a place you’d go to. There would always be rock and roll music going, you’d always smell marijuana in the hall. There would always be drinks and there would always be people screaming at each other in a loving way. Okay. Yeah. That was the business we entered. Okay. There was rock music. There were, there was great stuff. Now you walk into an agency and the white noise is deafening. Everybody’s got headphones on. They’re typing away. It’s the, we went from Animal House to Dead Poet Society or something.

I don’t know what

Happened. Yeah, yeah.

But it’s quiet. It’s sterile. It’s not fun. I, I don’t mean it’s not fun to do great work. I mean, it’s not, you know, we used to have fun. Yeah. And I’m not trying to be the old guy again, but in a revolutionary way. And now you go to, and I, I think it’s gonna get worse. It’s, the white noise will get louder. The retreat is, will get deeper. You know, people already don’t interact. I was talking to a credit director the other day. He said, there’s nothing worse than doing a creative brainstorm session on Zoom. It’s the absolute, but that’s what we’re gonna be left with.

So there’s my crystal ball, drew. I mean, you might, your people might like to hear it. They might not. But I remember when advertise, working at internet agency was a party. And I, we, we’ve kind of, maybe that’s why we’ve lost the best and the brightest. But it was National Lampoon and it’s become national review.

Yeah. I, I can remember early in my career talking to my mom on the phone and telling her stories of what happened at the day, during the day. And my mom would go, when do you work? Like, when, when, when do you actually get work done? Because you’re right. It was, I say

That all the time. Yeah.

It was fun. It was a party. It it was a lot of jocularity in the halls and goofing around. Yeah. And practical jokes. And

I mean people, you were allowed to get mad at somebody, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Now I don’t wanna sound like politically incorrect guy or whatever, but I mean, part of what makes great teams is struggle and, you know, strife and, you know,

Battle. Yeah. Pushing on each other’s ideas. Yeah. Finding

For creative ideas and Yep. And making each other better. I don’t think, I don’t know how you make someone better over zoom and being polite. It’s hard to be polite and make somebody better because it requires a certain amount of tough love, I think, you know? Yeah. To be a coach.

Yeah. Radical candor for sure. Radical candor for sure. Michael, this has been a great conversation. I am. I’m super grateful that we got to spend the hour together. If folks wanna find out more about how to subscribe to the blog, ’cause it sounds like that’s a treasure trove of information. If they need to get the book, they wanna learn more about your business, either on the new business side or the recruiting side, tell folks how to find you.

Our ecosystem is housed at the Palma group.com. T-H-E-P-A-L-M-A, Palma group, GROU p.com. And you can get to the blog, you can get to the book, the book won’t be out until mid August, later this summer. And that book is worked with A humble swagger by Michael Palmer. And it will be on Amazon. So

Can people pre-order it on Amazon now?

No. Where you can pre-order. Great question. You can pre-order it at humble swagger book.com.


Humble swagger book.com. Hey Drew, you are awesome. I’d love this. If you’re ever in Atlanta, come look me up. Please.

I, I promise I will do that. And if you come to Denver, you gimme a shout for sure.

Or Boulderer, I’ll call you for sure, man. Yes, please do. This is great. Yeah,

Thanks so much for being on the show. Appreciate it. Thanks

For having me, drew. You bet. Take care man.

Alright guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Lots of takeaways here, lots of conversations for you to have with your team. I think some good insights into really how we can think about the business a little differently in this new era that we’re, that we’re in together. So highly recommend that you chew on some of this. You know what, some of it sounded like bad news. Some of it sounded like tough love as Michael was referring earlier. But I think it’s also insights from somebody who’s been around for a long time and as can sort of look at the microcosm of our world and sort of see the changes and sort of the sea change that some of us are facing today.

As always, wanna give a huge shout out and thank you to our friends at White. Label IQ. As you know, they’re the presenting sponsor of this podcast and we’re super grateful for them. So head over to White Label IQ dot com slash aami to learn more about the work they do with agencies just like you every day and how they can help you. All right, I’ll be back next week with another guest. I hope you will join me. I’ll see you that, thanks for listening.

That’s all for this episode of AAMIs Build. a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agency management institute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-size agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.