Peter Levitan builds successful brands, digital technologies, publishing and advertising environments, and highly effective marketing programs for Fortune 500 companies. He has 30 years of experience running Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide, his own Portland Agency, and as the CEO of two Internet start-ups.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- The major mistakes agencies make in regards to bringing on new business
- How to create distinction using your website and the reason most agency websites aren’t attractive to clients
- The ways agencies are doing sales wrong and what can be done about it
- Specialization vs. generalization: how to specialize and still have fun
- The kind of research Peter’s agency does that helps them look better than their competition
- Why you should stop using the term “full-service” if you want to position your agency against your competition
- They ways many agencies and agency owners are failing when it comes to their content
The Golden Nugget:“Using the term ‘full-service’ doesn't allow you to be competitive.” – @PeterLevitan Click To Tweet
Click to tweet: Peter Levitan shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!
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Recommended books and resources:
Websites (not his):
Books (not his):
- Seth Godin’s books
- Poke the Box
- All Marketers Are Liars
- We Are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal
- Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Ways to Contact Peter:
We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Before we jump into the episode you are about to listen to, I wanted to make sure that you knew that we are doing open mic webinars and they are available to anyone in the world, just head over to the Agency Management Institute.com/ask drew, and you will see the dates and times for this month and next month. And we’ll talk about anything you want to talk about – agency operations, COVID, whatever it is that is on your mind. I’m happy to answer your questions and everyone else on the call shares as well as asks questions. So it’s really a round-robin of learning for everybody. All right. I’d love to have you there. All you have to do is register. You can attend live, or just get the replay after we record it. Okay. Now here’s that music that you know and love.
Speaker 2 (00:51):
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Speaker 1 (01:24):
Hey everybody. Thanks for checking out this episode of Build A Better Agency, Drew McLellan here, and I am really excited about the topic today. This is a topic that I love to talk about, agency owners are obsessed and talking about and our guest today is a huge expert in the area of new business and pitching and positioning your agency. So we’re going to dig into all of that. Build A Better Agency is all about helping agency owners, just like you do it a little bit better, so you can make a little more and worry a little less. And so with that, I want to introduce today’s guest, Peter Levitan. Peter is a builder of successful brands, digital technologies publishing and advertising environments, and highly effective marketing programs for Fortune 500 clients, ad agencies, tech, companies, and publishers. He spent 16 years at Saatchi and Saatchi advertising, running their business development and some major accounts. He owned his own agency, I believe up in Portland, and was CEO and founder of two internet startups. Many of you are familiar with the Levitan pitch by this book, Win More P’hG<itches, which was a great read. And we’re going to really dig into Peter’s expertise around how agencies can grow their business. So Peter, welcome to the podcast.
Speaker 3 (02:31):
Well, thank you very much. Thanks for the introduction. One thing you didn’t say was that I did all of that in two years, so,
Speaker 1 (02:36):
and you’re only 29, right?
Speaker 3 (02:38):
I’m actually 26.
Speaker 1 (02:40):
Sorry. Didn’t mean to overshoot. So, uh, Peter, give us a little more background or how, how have you always been in the agency business, for the most part, is that the lion’s share of your professional career?
Speaker 3 (02:52):
Well, it’s interesting. I was thinking the other day, what, what is the string? What ties sort of my having left college to where I am today. And I realize that to a certain extent I could call it creative selling. I started as a photographer in San Francisco. I had a commercial photography studio. Then I moved back to New York City where I grew up and went into advertising. Then I had two internet companies and then my own advertising agency and my own business today, which is helping agencies develop better smarter business development programs. And across that entire lifespan, I realized that I have been selling. So whether I’m selling to agents, selling my photography to agencies, or today selling my consulting practice to agencies, it’s all about selling. So I think I’ve really come down to the conclusion that I know how to sell stuff.
Speaker 1 (03:47):
Well, and when you think about it, isn’t that what the agency’s job is too is to help clients sell their stuff. So it makes sense that you’ve hung out in that space for as long as you have them.
Speaker 3 (03:56):
Right. Well, it certainly, it certainly helps.
Speaker 1 (03:58):
Yeah. Yeah. So, I know one of the things that a lot of our listeners are thinking is, Oh, Saatchi and Saatchi, and he did big brand big new business. So help them understand maybe a little bit about your own agency after you left Saatchi and just how some of this translates everything we’re going to talk about today. You know, if I’m a 10 person agency in a second-tier or third-tier city, how do I, how do I scale this stuff down?
Speaker 3 (04:25):
Well, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s really about fundamentals. And, as I say that word, I’m thinking about the start of the NFL football season, to a certain extent, while the NFL is different from high school football, essentially, they’re trying to get the ball from wherever they start into the goal. And to a certain extent, that’s all that agencies do when it’s consistent. Whether you’re a thousand-person agency or a 10 person agency, and what really, what it comes down to is understanding what your goal line is, understanding what your objectives are. And I don’t think frankly, that that’s any different in my conversations with major agencies down to small shops of 10 people. It’s really understanding what the objective is and then focusing on it. And I think that that’s in particular critical for small agencies that are time-stressed or management is stressed. It’s really all about focusing on and understanding what the objectives are and being realistic.
Speaker 1 (05:27):
Yeah. If anything, smaller agencies are trying to do the same job, they just have fewer resources to do it with. Right.
Speaker 3 (05:32):
Exactly. It’s interesting the Saatchi bit, I haven’t worked there in about 20 years, but it becomes the way people position me. So I’m positioned as a Saatchi guy, and I certainly use those words because frankly let’s face it that, you know, it helps me position myself. But the reality is I probably learned more running two internet companies and running my very own agency, which fluctuated between about 25 and 35 people over the course of seven years. So I learned more running an agency than I ever did actually working at Saatchi. And this is in respect to business development.
Speaker 1 (06:11):
So give us an example of something that you eluded you when you were at Saatchi, but you learned, you know, you got punched with it square in the forehead at either your own shop or one of the startups.
Speaker 3 (06:22):
Well, I had an interesting point in time near the end of my career at Saatchi, I was running business development in Europe and we were at the same time, we were a very successful London agency but we were having trouble in our New York office. In fact, things were kind of falling apart. It was the last year that Morris and Charles actually owned and ran the agency and New York itself was having problems. So I moved from London back to New York to run business development. And I started to ask around to see what the plan looked like, P L A N. And people said, well, we don’t have a business development plan. And I realized something, well, two things. One, you need a plan. And when I started to talk to management about having a marketing plan for the agency, they couldn’t wrap their head around that. I think that they were so used to doing things the old way that the idea of actually having a plan with objectives and strategies and target audiences was something that was alien, strangely enough, to an advertising agency. So that was my big lesson. It’s important to have a plan.
Speaker 1 (07:23):
Yeah, absolutely. And yet, most agencies that are listening to this podcast and most agencies that you and I interact with on a regular basis, don’t have a plan. So, you know, when I talk to agencies and I say, well, tell me about your new business plan. I get the, Oh, well, first I get the cobbler’s children excuse. And then I get the most of our businesses is word of mouth or referral and so in essence, I translate that to, we sit around and wait for opportunity.
Speaker 3 (07:50):
Uh, well, I agree completely. I think the problem with the word referral, unfortunately, is, on one hand, it works. There were a couple of agencies in Portland that have been around 30 years and they are very well known and they get incoming calls. That’s nice. The other problem with referral, which is really a problem is it becomes the default. So if you don’t do anything else and I ask an agency, how do you win business? And they don’t do anything. They say, well, referrals. Well, of course, it’s referrals. I mean, you know, but if you were to sort of turn it into a dating situation, it’s like sitting by the phone, waiting for the phone to ring. It’s not a particularly robust technique in terms of growing your agency. So referrals, I think are good. It’s nice to be referred because I think your reputation is the most important thing you have. On the other hand, you’ve lost control of the process at that point.
Speaker 1 (08:45):
Well, my perception of that is, you don’t have the volume that you need and they’re choosing you versus you choosing who you should be working for. So you’re sort of taking whatever comes through the door, as opposed to saying here’s who we should or shouldn’t work for.
Speaker 3 (09:01):
Exactly. I don’t understand. I’m sure, even though you said it, I’m sure you’re tired of the analogy of the cobbler’s children. It’s absurd. It doesn’t make sense. And frankly, if I was a client looking at agencies, one of the things I would look at, and I’m not everybody, is how do they promote themselves? So I’ll go to the website. The first thing many clients look at is an agency website, and it’s mind-blowing to me how similar they are. And they’ve gotten even more similar as a lot of agencies use similar WordPress themes. It’s just bizarre. I don’t understand it, but it’s such an easy fix.
Speaker 1 (09:44):
Well, and even worse than the themes are the language they use to describe themselves. I was poking around on your website and your blog, and you had a great blog post where you basically showed how different agencies refer to themselves? And, it seems like you use the same 10 words to describe themselves.
Speaker 3 (10:03):
Well, it’s, I’ll be kind to agencies. It’s very difficult to find new words to express what you do when, what you do is very, very similar to the guy down the street. I’ll point your audience to two websites that I think are interesting. A friend of mine in London has an agency, great name for the agency, London Advertising. It’s essentially a one-page scrolling website. They have a video, which is something I always recommend to agencies to do. Just figure out a way to get a short video on your website to introduce yourself. So I suggest people look at London because these are very strategic guys. And I found a website the other day that I thought was, just the way it was drawn, and actually drawn, as in illustrated, it’s a website for a public relations agency, an international agency called Frank PR. And right off the bat, you’ll see that these do not look like all other agencies. And, you don’t have to build a website that is wacky. You just have to have to find an angle. And both of these companies have done that.
Speaker 1 (11:13):
So I think we’re in agreement that a lot of agencies struggle with new business and where they struggle is they don’t apply the resource to it in a thoughtful sort of planned way. I’m curious about your take on how that comes to be. When, when I look at the situation, I think every agency owner will tell you without hesitation that new business and cash flow and having enough work to keep their good people busy is the heart of what makes their agency thrive. So in theory, they’re saying it’s their oxygen, and yet they don’t do anything to make sure they get more oxygen. So from your perspective, what gets in the way of agencies having a robust new business plan or marketing plan, and actually doing all of the things that they tell their clients to do to help grow their business?
Speaker 3 (12:03):
Well, I think one of the issues, and believe me, there are many, so it’s hard to completely generalize, but I think one of the issues is that many agencies actually do not understand sales. And I often find it sort of laugh at the idea that we call sales in the agency business, business development, and it becomes a euphemism. The bottom line is, it’s sales. I just don’t think a lot of agency CEOs or leaders actually understand the sales process. Frankly, I think that they should read sales books. And I know, and I have to say, I know many of them do that but they need to read them. They need to look at videos online. They need to go to conferences where people are talking about sales to both be conscious and be stimulated to do it.
Speaker 3 (12:56):
So I’m going to say that since easily 60 to 70% of agencies don’t have business development plans as in even a one-pager, frankly, guys, you know, one page. They also don’t really understand sales. I invented three words today, I’m sure they are somewhere out there, but smart sales pressure. I thought, gee, okay, that’s really what it’s about. It’s being very smart about who your potential customer is or in this case, your client and what their needs are, how you’ve positioned your agency to meet those needs. And then you got to apply a little pressure to it. And it’s not cold calls. It’s more like warm calls. And it’s very much about thought leadership, something that you’ve just mentioned. It’s not that hard, but I just don’t think a lot of people just because your own an agency, you actually understand how to sell.
Speaker 1 (13:47):
And again, if, if the way you’ve built your agency in sort of the friends and family model, which turns into the referral model, you haven’t had to sell aggressively. Certainly, because you’ve had opportunities present themselves and often cases, in that situation, there is no shootout or pitch or whatever. It’s yours to lose if anything at all.
Speaker 3 (14:09):
Well, I did some math recently and I used it in a presentation I give on, pitching. I try to find an average agency, 10 RFPs a year, six pitches a year plus business development can cost an agency, $500,000 right now. Somebody might say, well, how is that possible? Well, how much does it cost to do 10 RFPs? How much to do six pitches and either you’re paying yourself or you’re paying a business development director some money. It’s not that hard to get to $500,000 though. Some of that might be soft costs but it’s imperative that agencies figure this out. As a side note, another agency I point people to is an agency that just got purchased called G5. So the letter G, the numeral five based in Bend Oregon, which was one of the two cities I had my agency in Oregon. And, they’re worth looking at simply because they picked a niche and they stayed with it. And it’s a niche that has not only a business development plan but more importantly, a business model that will make money. So it can be done, but it requires a great deal of focus and an understanding that this is an expensive business and you better get it right. I think it’s about staying hungry, frankly.
Speaker 1 (15:25):
Yeah. Well, I think it’s about recognizing that you’ve got to keep the pipeline full because at any moment, you’re at huge risk of the big one walking away. And, you know, I think when we went through the recession and talent was cheap, it was easy, easier to let people go and hire new people and all of that. I don’t think it was easier emotionally, but it was easier just from a supply and demand point of view. But as agencies are facing a real crunch in finding and keeping great employees, the ebb and flow of business that requires agencies to lay off and hire, lay off and hire gets to be a very expensive proposition.
Speaker 3 (16:03):
Yes. I live in Portland, Oregon, where it’s famously known as a city where the young move to retire. And one of the reasons we say that is that people come here looking for jobs. And even in a city, which is very desirable and it has a relatively low cost of living, the agencies here are really hungry for talent. And a key reason for that, unfortunately, is the somewhat lower margins in the agency business. So it’s not only incumbent that you are active in seeking the right, seeking clients, but it’s certainly seeking the right clients. It’s really understanding what kind of clients you should have. What are the ones that are higher margin? And again, I mean, it’s just really all about focus.
Speaker 1 (16:47):
I have so many more questions that I want to ask you, but before we get into those, let’s take a quick pause and we’ll come right back. I get this. Sometimes you just can’t get on a plane and spend a couple of days in a live workshop. And so hopefully our online courses are a solution to that lots of video hours and hours of video, a very dense, detailed participants guide, and all kinds of help along the way to make sure that you get the learning that you need and apply it immediately to your agency. Right now, we’ve got two courses that are available. We have the Agency New Business Blueprint, and we have the AE Bootcamp. So feel free to check those [email protected]/ondemandcourses. Okay, let’s get back to the show. So a lot of experts out there talking about agency new business, and some believe that a good strategy for small to midsize agencies is to, as you described the agency in Bend, to sort of, uh, niche themselves in a category or an industry and ride that industry or category and others suggest that it’s dangerous to just pick one niche and that you should have multiple legs on the stool if you will.
Speaker 1 (18:06):
So I’m curious, what’s, what’s your take on that?
Speaker 3 (18:08):
Well, you know, we’re in the agency business for different reasons. So one is to make a good living and another is to have fun. So when I point to G5 sometimes, and they look at them and they go, well, wait a minute. They’ve really only concentrated on four or five categories, one of which, for example, is storage units, another apartment rentals. And they said, well, that just doesn’t look like a lot of fun. Well, okay, I get that. So it is a balance between fun and making money, but the bottom line is you gotta make money first. So I think that it’s imperative for agencies to figure out what is it they want. Let me give you an example. I talked to a lot of agencies and I said, well, what’s your, what do you specialize in?
Speaker 3 (18:50):
And I would say, half of them say healthcare. Now, why healthcare? One, it’s obviously, it’s a huge industry. It’s very local. It works for smaller agencies. And I asked them, well, how are you getting healthcare business? And the great majority have not employed a very smart thought leadership process to sounding and looking different and looking like an expert in that category. So, I think that you have to specialize a bit and categories, it doesn’t necessarily, you have to be a healthcare only agency, but if you’re going to say, I want a healthcare account, you better walk the talk.
Speaker 1 (19:24):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think oftentimes too, they jump into a broad category like healthcare, as opposed to sort of carving that down, even deeper and saying, you know what, we’re in the pharma side of healthcare. One of the agencies and one of my networks, they work with small and regional hospitals. So, they’ve narrowed their niche to a more definable sort of category that allows them to have deep expertise in that.
Speaker 3 (19:52):
Well, you have to look desirable. I mean, it’s kind of like going out to the bar. I’m assuming most people still go to the bar and they don’t just use Tinder to find dates these days, but you, you know, you have to look good. I’m just not sure that, just saying I’m a healthcare agency’s enough these days. There’s too much competition out there. How do you look and act differently? One of the things my agency did, and this is a few years ago, and actually, it’s still a relevant strategy was we studied the major healthcare brands in our region and nationally on the basis of how they were doing in social media. And we created a thought leadership program that was very compelling to marketing directors. They wanted to see not only how larger organizations were using social media, this was very quantitative, but how their competitors were. And we wound up winning two fairly major accounts based on that alone because we look like experts and we were giving them exactly the kind of information they wanted. Did it cost us a lot of money? No, but it costs some time, but it was very focused. So there are lots of interesting ways to get this job done. One of them isn’t just saying we’re a healthcare agency.
Speaker 1 (21:04):
Yeah. So, in that example, how did you package that data? Did you hold an event? Did you create a white paper? Did you do a webinar? How did you let them know you had the data and then B how did you deliver it?
Speaker 3 (21:16):
We did two things. We created a digital document and we created a physical document that we sent. So we knew who the, let’s say the top 20 marketing directors we wanted to talk to. If people go on SlideShare, look up my name, Peter Levitan on SlideShare, there that document exists. So at this point, it might even be seven or eight years ago, but you’ll see how we took some charts, created some charts, created a very compelling look at a category. Now, let me tell you that we borrowed that idea from a company in New York called L2, which did the same thing for the luxury market. So, I urge your audience again, to take a look at L2 in New York and see how they did it. And really what it’s about is educating your market. And by educating them, they realize that you’re smart. And of course, you have to follow it up, frankly, with some phone calls. I mean, you still have to nudge them, as we all know, marketers don’t necessarily put two and two together and then make the call. You’ve got to call them, but you’ve warmed them up at that point. You actually have to try and sell. You have to sell correct smart sales pressure.
Speaker 1 (22:31):
I like it. You better, you better patent that right away and get a trademark on it. Right.
Warm calling. I should’ve patented that one too.
Hey, uh, what about the idea of every agency that presents itself, refers to itself as a full-service agency, regardless of if they have three employees or 300 employees, what’s your take on that?
Speaker 3 (22:49):
Well, you know, there are a few things going on now. Most agencies were full service once upon a time. Then we started to see a move into direct marketing, which has been happening for years, but I’d say about 10 or 15 years ago, direct marketing started to look really attractive as digital marketing started to happen because of analytics. All of a sudden we could really track everything. So there was a move into that. In fact, at one point I renamed my agency Ralston 360 from Ralston Group, the 360 moniker, which I think became overused, was really about understanding the full spectrum of marketing. The problem, unfortunately, today with full service, while most clients need it, it just doesn’t provide enough of a niche basis for them to be able to position you differently than the other guys. The reality today is most of the digital agencies I know are being asked to do full-service work, but they’re at least being able to position themselves in a niche. I like full service, the problem, unfortunately as well, the clients probably want that. What they don’t get out of that is any differentiation between you and the next guy. So I don’t, I don’t like those words full service.
Speaker 1 (24:03):
Well, you know, uh, we, we go into the field and do some research with CMOs and sort of different attitudes. They have about agencies and how they work with agencies and everything every year. And last year, we sort of explored the idea of the words full service. And what we heard from the folks who were, who participated in the research was they don’t believe it when they, when they look at an agency of 20 people and they know how complicated marketing has gotten, especially on the digital side, they sort of say, ah, I don’t think so.
Speaker 3 (24:33):
Yeah. I mean, that’s to an intelligent marketer that I agree completely. I mean, really nobody’s figured out mobile marketing yet. So how could you conceivably say that you’re, you understand the full spectrum because there are elements that are changing so fast today. There are very few agencies that actually lay claim. Now that said, I’ve seen agencies that just say, we’re a mobile agency and they’re doing very, very well. So I avoid the full service. There might be other ways to express that. The thing going from full service is that clients are a little bit concerned about having too many agencies. So there are a lot of factors here. It’s just really understanding where your internal skill set fits into the spectrum.
Speaker 1 (25:17):
So when you work with the agencies, I believe where you start is sort of, Hey, what do you want, what do you want to get out of this? What are your objectives? And then how do we position you to help you achieve those objectives? Yes?
Speaker 3 (25:31):
Yes. Well, it’s very much about positioning, but I’ll even take it to the next step. It’s not enough to have a good position/positioning. It’s how you express it. And I’ve been sort of moving into an interesting, world, and it’s very much back from my Saatchi and Saatchi days. I ask agencies if they want to be famous. And what does that mean? Do you want to be well known and then what do you want to be well known for? And so, I suggest that, yes, let’s get to a positioning that makes sense, that’s based on a business plan, which means if you get those kinds of clients, you’ll be making a very good living. But part of having a positioning and the most important part, I think, cause you can have a positioning that no one hears, is to make sure that you get the word out. So how do you express it in your inbound and outbound marketing is probably the most critical element. Yes, you need an objective, then a positioning, but then how do you get the word out? And I think, unfortunately, that’s how many, many agencies fail is they just have not figured out again, back to the sales point, unfortunately, you know, how do we enunciate the positioning? How do we get those words into people’s heads?
Speaker 1 (26:37):
So I know one of the things you do a lot of work with agencies around is the whole idea of how to pitch different and better. So what are two or three mistakes that most agents make in their pitching activity?
Speaker 3 (26:50):
Well, yeah, it’s funny. I knew this was coming. I have to admit it. So I put up a poster I made from the 12 cartoons on my website, which are the 12 mistakes that agencies make. So I’m not gonna say all the 12 mistakes, but it’s a pretty funny cartoon. I mean, a couple of examples. One is load the room with agency staff. It’s that disproportionate, we’re going to have six agency people to three clients. You can’t. It doesn’t work in dating, you know, and it doesn’t work in a pitch. Another certainly is agencies are actually afraid of being distinctive. Oh my God, I’m too different. The bottom line is clients need that. And another is that agencies don’t really think very hard about how to build chemistry with the clients.
Speaker 3 (27:41):
And I’ll say based on the range of agency consultants that have provided input into my book, it, in many cases, it comes down to two things. One, agencies are not listening. They’re talking about themselves, which also creates the problem of agencies are not building chemistry. Most accounts are won on a chemistry basis. Yes, sometimes if it doesn’t work, there’s not much you can do about it, but I suggest to agencies that they really have to manage the chemistry process, which by the way, starts with the first time the guy goes and looks at your website.
Speaker 1 (28:17):
So what are some ways that an agency can focus on and improve the odds on the chemistry side? What are some things they can do to try and up their game in that arena?
Speaker 3 (28:29):
I think it’s critical that you understand the personas of the people that are going to be in the room with you. I used actually an interesting angle, which I found by accident. One day I was, you know, we all go to LinkedIn and reread the profile. We read the recommendations of other people. So you go to my profile on LinkedIn and you can read what other people said about me. What I realized one day was I would learn more about someone if I read what they wrote about someone else. I have a really good example in the book of a CMO who, when he recommended his ex-employees said, talked about the things that he appreciated about those people. So now it’s his voice telling me what he values and I, you know, I’m not a genius, but somehow I stumbled into that and I thought, wow, that’s a very interesting way of understanding the person I’m pitching to, because now I’m hearing him talk about what he likes.
Speaker 1 (29:32):
In his own words, he’s describing what he values. That’s great. Another thought about chemistry?
Speaker 3 (29:39):
Well, it’s an interesting problem. First of all, let me say that agencies, I know it’s really any smart business meeting, you should do some rehearsal. In a pitch, you should do a lot of rehearsal, but here’s a potential problem.
Speaker 1 (29:52):
Wait a second. So you mean rehearsing in the car on the way to the pitch is not enough?
Speaker 3 (29:58):
Uh, no. And I’m willing to say that I’ve probably done that myself. I will say in the days that I worked at Saatchi London, where we thought we were really hot shit, we didn’t rehearse very well. And in fact, in the book is a story. I call it the worst pitch ever, where we did no rehearsal and lost the opportunity to win the Adidas global business. So, yeah, I’ve got a good story about that. Here’s the downside of rehearsing and it happens in agencies where not everybody is super glib and the great presenter, is people get so locked into what they rehearsed that they can’t break out. They’re not listening to the client in the meeting and they can’t ad-lib and I’ve seen that happen, unfortunately. So, you know, in one sense you need to rehearse. And the other is you need some ability, if the client says something that’s not in the script, you need to be able to get off-script in a hurry. And this is not easy stuff. Cause you know, I think we’ve all had our, I’ll just pick on one person, the creative director who completely goes off track and talks for 20 minutes about some shoot he did in Brazil.
Speaker 1 (31:00):
Right. Or the person who’s rehearsed so badly that they forget their line in essence and freeze. So, when you think about agency new business, how has it changed over the years? What’s different today than say back when you were with Saatchi or early in your career? What do the agencies need to be thinking about today? Cause a lot of agency owners have been doing this for a long time and I suspect whatever new business activity they have, whether it’s they belong to their local chamber or they sit on a trade show committee for the industry that they serve, they’re doing it the way they’ve done it for the last 20 or 25 years. So, what’s different?
Speaker 3 (31:42):
Well, without question, the biggest difference is inbound marketing. It used to be reputation. Gee, you work at Saatchi and Saatchi, we’re going to give you a phone call. Or it was outreach where I knew the people I wanted to work with. It’s certainly an issue at big agencies and small, frankly, is you get into the conflict problem. What are the categories left that I can go pitch? Right? So you better be going after the clients in those categories. But the biggest difference today is the world of inbound marketing, whether it’s, search engine optimization or understanding how to use LinkedIn and Twitter, and other tools. It’s imperative. And I think it’s an opportunity, a missed opportunity for too many agencies. They just don’t understand it. They don’t know how to create lots of content. They don’t know how to create the right content, and when I say right content, a lot of agency blogs talk about things that other agencies talk about. They’re not talking about things that are of great relevance to the kind of client that they want to attract. So I think there’s a slight failure there while agencies better understand inbound marketing for their clients, they’re not using it intelligently for themselves.
Speaker 1 (33:01):
Do you think that’s because again, back to the, our cobbler’s children example, do you think that’s because they don’t invest enough time in it or that they don’t give it enough thought or that they’re not willing to narrow the focus and discourage somebody with a buck in their pocket from calling?
Speaker 3 (33:19):
Uh, well, I’m going to say it’s all of the above. I think the biggest issue is time. I’m a good inbound marketer. I’m good at search engine optimization. I’m a writer. Now those to a certain extent are my personal traits and not every agency owner is going to have those personal traits, but I think that they have to think like a manager and figure out how to be able to attract. And it’s an attraction strategy. How are we going to attract the kind of clients that we want? And it’s not just, I don’t think you can just live on attraction strategy alone. You know, there’s, there’s this concept of winning without pitching. The bottom line is you’re going to have to pitch and you’re going to have to do outbound marketing, but there are ways to tie all of that together. There’s no reason that inbound marketing and outbound marketing, aren’t the same thing. I talked about my healthcare analysis. Well, that was both inbound – people found it and it was outbound – we sent it out. But I think the key difference today is, and this is unfortunate, some prospects will go to your website, figure you out, and choose never to call you up on the phone. And that’s the big difference today versus, pick a number, 15, 20 years ago. A lot of decisions are made outside of your control.
Speaker 1 (34:32):
Yeah. Before you even know they’re there. You don’t even know they showed up. You don’t know you’re on their radar screen. One of the things we were chatting about before we started the podcast was this idea of thought leadership. Where do you stand on all of that for agencies and how could agencies do it better than they’re doing it now?
Speaker 3 (34:52):
Well, I think it’s critical. There are so many, it’s a very broad subject. Let me just pick one aspect, which I think a lot of agencies haven’t figured out, unfortunately, and that is, and I’ll use just two words, guest posting. There is such a need for content across all types of websites. I mean advertising websites, marketing websites, Huffington Post, Forbes., There is such a need for content. These sites are so voracious that there’s absolutely no reason that an agency leader cannot write for Forbes. I mean, if you [email protected], there are owners, there are consultants, lots of people. Business to community is another big site. I mean, the list goes on forever. So I think one of the things that people don’t realize is while your website is somewhat limited in terms of the amount of attraction it has, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t be writing for broader websites.
Speaker 1 (35:57):
Absolutely. That’s a strategy that I have employed for years and it serves me well. And, you know, it’s sticky. It serves you well for years and years and years.
Speaker 3 (36:06):
And you know, if no one in your agency is a great writer, then someone in your town is. Unfortunately, a lot of very good journalists are out of work.
Speaker 1 (36:15):
Yeah, absolutely. One of my goals with the podcast is to make sure that we give agency owners who are listening some next steps, some action items that they can take to advance the topic. So if someone’s been listening to us and we’ve touched on a lot of things. We’ve touched on positioning and pitching and thought leadership and niching yourself, all of those things. If an agency owner wants to take two or three steps on their own to begin to get better at any or all of that, what would you recommend that they do in the next, 24 hours, 48 hours to begin to improve the way they think about and create activity around the idea of new business?
Speaker 3 (37:02):
Well, this is, I mean, this is going to sound a little pat, but my suggestion is, go back in time. And, even if you can speed read, read two or three Seth Godin books. I mean, that maybe sounds simplistic.
Speaker 1 (37:19):
Well, he’s brilliant.
Speaker 3 (37:21):
Yeah. I mean, there are a few writers out there who I think nail it and I really suggest that just really getting inside his head. We’re very lucky in Portland. We have Pals Bookstore, which is an enormous store. I just go for an hour and sort of speed read business books. So that’s something I’ll suggest and the other is to really understand this concept of painpoint. Again, salespeople really understand it. What is the pain point that your prospective client has? Whether it’s his personal pain point, he’s got to save his job, or he’s got to sell a new product or a new service, or he’s up against some competition. Really, really figuring out what this means, this concept of painpoint, because pain points are what salespeople use to sell.
Speaker 1 (38:13):
Okay. Awesome. Any last thoughts for our listeners in terms of this topic in general?
Speaker 3 (38:19):
Well, it’s interesting. Advertising people can get, can be negative, right? Oh, woe is me. I think that there is so much confusion and change in the marketplace today in respect to digital marketing and its effect on the entire industry. I hate to say it that I have an application on my Chrome browser which, avoids advertising. It’s incredible. I think 30% of the population today has some ad-block on their machine and that freaks out advertisers. So, we have a tremendous opportunity. We’ve got very worried clients. Tap into their needs and tap into their fears because we’re the guys that actually can create the programs that will solve those problems and help them build sales. And that’s a great pitch.
Speaker 1 (39:14):
Amen. Amen. So Peter, if listeners want to find you, they want to track you down, they want to read some of your writing, obviously, they can find your book on Amazon. What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
Speaker 3 (39:25):
Well, the easiest, you know, it’s interesting. I chose a while back to brand myself. So, if you search Peter Levitan on Google, you’ll find me, my Twitter feed, my website, you name it. And if you want to talk, I have something I call a Corleone offer, which is an offer I assume most people can’t refuse. Let’s just talk and I’ll certainly give you at least one good idea.
Speaker 1 (39:50):
You’re right. How can I refuse that? So everybody, go check out Peter’s website. If you have not read his book, it’s a great read. I highly recommend it. Peter, I know you’re super busy working with agencies all over the globe. So really appreciate you taking out the time to do this and to share your insights with everybody. Thank you.
Speaker 3 (40:07):
Thank you and great luck with the podcast.
Speaker 1 (40:09):
That’s all for this episode of AMI’s, Build A Better Agency, brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit Agency Management Institute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.