Episode 227:

We get hired because our clients want to surround themselves with expertise and a depth of knowledge that they don’t have in-house. They know we have to stay current on the trends shaping our business and theirs if we want to remain relevant. But in a rapidly evolving marketplace, it’s challenging to stay ahead of the curve. Rohit Bhargava and his Non-obvious book series has been a go-to resource ever since the first book appears in 2013.

Back in Episode #33, Rohit walked us through his process of curating and tracking trends as a part of his Non-Obvious book series. In this week’s episode, he comes back on the show to tell us which trends from his new book, Non-Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future, of particular importance to agencies and their clients.

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/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The biggest trends agency owners and leaders face in 2020
  • Rohit’s journey through the agency realm
  • What makes Rohit’s new book, Non-Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future a little different from the rest
  • Critical trends agency owners and leaders should be paying attention to in 2020

The Golden Nugget:

“When you decide to be an entrepreneur and go out on your own, everything becomes your decision.” @rohitbhargava Click To Tweet “Whatever type of agency we’re talking about, we have to find a way to make our clients worthy of attention.” @rohitbhargava Click To Tweet “If we can relay the passion for our personal interests, it will shine through in our work.” @rohitbhargava Click To Tweet “The lines that used to exist between very distinct industries no longer exist.” @rohitbhargava Click To Tweet “We need to think about what we’re being told by key metrics; we need to be smarter about what we’re tracking.” @rohitbhargava Click To Tweet

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Ways to Contact Rohit Bhargava:

Speaker 1:

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

Drew McLellan:

Hi there, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. I apologize in advance if my voice sounds a little scratchy. I’m coming off of two weeks of workshop teaching. And somehow in the middle of that I got a cold and got this froggy thing going on. So, if I sound a little less like myself, that’s why. Just a little too much strain on the vocal cords, I think. And we were at Disney so on occasion there was yelling and shouting and hooping.

So, I’m super excited about today’s topic. So, one of the challenges for all of us is that we want our clients to look at us as subject matter experts. We want them to invite us into the C-suite, to invite us to sit at the strategy table. We want to be an idea generator for them. We long to be insightful about their business and about business in general. And a lot of that gets more and more challenging in this world that we live in today because everything changes so dang fast. So keeping track of the trends and what really is a trend and what’s a fad. And all of that gets to be really part of our job.

Back in episode 33, I had my friend Rohit Bhargava on the show, and we talked about how he curates and tracks trends for the book series he’s done since 2015 called Non-Obvious. So, he did one in 2015. And then he did a new look at the trends every year through 2019. And then he just came out with the last edition of the book, which is called Non-Obvious Megatrends: How To See What Others Miss and Predict the Future. This book not only looks at the trends that are facing us today, but also goes into a little bit of the teaching, which he did, like I said in episode 33 of how he tracks and curates and connects the dots between trends. So, in a minute, we’re going to chat about his new book, some of the trends that he thinks are super critical for us to be thinking about as agency owners and leaders. And also what he’s got going on in his professional life as he pivots once again. He’s had an interesting career, and so we’re going to talk about that, and we’re going to talk about some of those pivot points.

But a couple reminders before we get to that. Number one, I want to thank all of you for showing up, for listening to the podcast. Remember, we have lots of resources for you. So hopefully, you’re taking advantage of the website. We’ve got webinars on the website that you can watch on demand. We’ve got ebooks there for you. So, please, if you have not been to the website for a while, come check it out and avail yourself of those free resources. Also, want to remind you that every week we give away something from one of our guests. So our guests are often authors or they have courses or they have some other tool or trick or tip or something for you to take advantage of. And many of them are very generous after they’ve been on the show. We ask them if they would like to send us some of their wares, some of their books or whatever it may be, so that we can give them away.

All you have to do to get in the drawing for that is go over to the Agency Management Institute website. So it’s agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcast giveaway. Sorry, you heard Heather in the background. She’s barking at a dog outside. So, welcome to podcast reality right there. So, just go to the giveaway page. Give us your name and your email address. And if you’ve already done it, you don’t need to do it again. You will stay in the drawing until you win one of the giveaways. So don’t miss out on that opportunity. All right, so I don’t want to waste any more time. I know that we are going to end up talking longer than we should because Rohit always has amazing insights that I want to make sure I dive into for you and with you. So without further ado, let’s get into it. So welcome back to the podcast. Glad to have you back.

Rohit Bhargava:

Thank you. I’m thrilled to be chatting with you again. It’s always a good time.

Drew McLellan:

So, I think one of the things that’s interesting about your trajectory is I think a lot of people know you for the books and the trend tracking and all of that. But I think a lot of people don’t know your background in terms of your agency pedigree and stuff. So can you walk folks through, go back to your agency life and then where you pivoted and how you got to where you’re at today?

Rohit Bhargava:

Sure, yeah. My agency life started when I decided that I wanted to head off on an adventure after college and move to Australia without having a job or knowing anyone.

Drew McLellan:

Sure, sure.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, as you do. And I got a job eventually with Leo Burnett in Australia. And that’s where my ad agency time started. And at that time, we were just at Leo’s we were starting a group called iLeo, which was someone’s bright idea to stick all the digital people together with all the direct marketing people and make that one group because they figured emails have open rates and conversions, and direct mail has that too. So, they’re probably okay together.

And so, as you can imagine, I mean, we had some culture shock there, and all the growing pains, but it gave me a great introduction to this new world of the digital group within an ad agency, which was pretty new back in ’99 or 2000 when I started doing it. And so, I stayed with them for several years. I stayed in Australia for five years. And then eventually I moved back to the US. When I moved back to the US, I ended up landing a job at Ogilvy. And it was part of a new group that was called Digital Influence that we basically started at Ogilvy, which in 2004 was doing social media. And if you think about social media in 2004, there was no Twitter, there was no Facebook. So, it was basically just trying to get bloggers to write about you. That was social media.

Drew McLellan:

Wow. It’s so odd to think that was 15 years ago.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah. I mean, crazy, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, yeah.

Rohit Bhargava:

Totally crazy. And so, we had this group, and we were focused on bloggers, and not very many of us knew anything about bloggers. And so, we thought, “Well, we should probably become bloggers ourselves.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. I think that’s when you and I first met.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, probably. We were all early in that blogging world. And it was a pretty small world, so we all knew each other. We had a couple of events that were happening every year, and everybody would go to the same events. And so, we saw each other in person. We had this great community. It was pretty old school, and I really took the blogging because I’ve always been a writer. I’ve been a screenwriter and done those sorts of things in the past. And so, my blog started taking off, and it took about four years of blogging before I landed my first book deal at McGraw Hill, and I was still at Ogilvy. And then I did my second book in 2012, and I was still at Ogilvy at that point. And then after eight years, I finally ended up saying, “I like doing all this speaking stuff. I’ve built a profile for myself. I could probably branch out and leave and do my own thing.” And so that’s what I did in 2014.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And so, what was the impetus to the first trends book?

Rohit Bhargava:

So, this trends book actually turned into a book from a report. So I started doing this report that was just the most non obvious trends of the year for the future, for the coming year, basically. So I’d release it in December, and it’d be for the next year. And I did it for the first time in 2010 for 2011.

Drew McLellan:

So, again, this was off of your blog, and-

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, it was off of the blog, and it really started as a PowerPoint. When I did it, and posted it online, it took off. I mean, it got, I think, two, 300,000 views. And so the following year I’m like, “Well, that worked last year. I should probably just do that again with new trends.” And so, I did the second year. And then in the third year I did it again, and I released an ebook on Amazon only no print. And that took off and became a number one Amazon bestseller. And then I did that again the fourth year, and then the fifth year finally people were asking, “Well, how do we do this for ourselves? How do we start to see these what you call non-obvious ideas, trends? And so, in 2015, I wrote a full length book for the first time and that hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and that really propelled me to be off on my own.

Actually, I started a… Because at that point, I’d done my first two books with big publishers, and I wasn’t thrilled with the results of that I actually started my own publishing company to publish that book. And that publishing company now turned into a pretty big venture on its own. And I run that with my wife, and we’ve got 34 books that we’ve done from other authors now so far. And that’s called Idea Press, and that’s been taking off. That’s been a second business for me.

Drew McLellan:

So, when you built the first PowerPoint, and you were starting to talk about trends, already, you were doing some speaking and things like that, right?

Rohit Bhargava:

Not that much. I was doing some though because at that point I had had a book that came out. And it’s been two years since the book came out. And so, the book really is the thing that got me out on stages. But I mean, remember, I was still working full-time at Ogilvy at that point. So when I was “speaking” basically what that meant was I was being invited to panels. And Ogilvy would let me go because they’re like, “Well, our clients will probably see you there, and they’ll come-”

Drew McLellan:

Sure. It’s biz dev.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, it’s biz dev, totally.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah.

Rohit Bhargava:

And eventually, these events started giving me higher profile stages. And eventually, I started getting keynotes, and at that point they said, “Well, how much do you charge?” And I said I don’t know. How much do you have? That’s where I started realizing being a paid speaker is a thing.

Drew McLellan:

So, for you because now the book that just came out is your what? Fifth version?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, it’s the fifth time it’s been in print, but it’s actually the 10th year of the overall series, and it’s actually the last one as well.

Drew McLellan:

So, how do you define a… First, I want to go back to the last one, but how do you define a non-obvious trend? So, what makes something as opposed to just the trend reports we’re seeing everybody write about? For you, what makes something non-obvious?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, so my definition of a non-obvious trend is that it’s a unique curated observation of the accelerating presence. And I spend a lot of time talking about curation. This idea of pulling all these different pieces together, and finding the meaning from the noise. And I spend a lot of time talking about the accelerating present. Because really when I write about the future, and what I look for is an example, a story, a case, a company, a behavior that I think is going to accelerate over time. And the prediction is, “Hey, this is happening in this small little pocket over here, and it’s going to matter more over time, and you better start paying attention to it.” So, I’m not guessing about flying cars that may or may not happen right now. I’m looking at what’s happening right now, and I’m predicting that it’s going to matter more.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. In your first appearance on this podcast, we talked a lot about your curation process, and all of that. So, let’s go back to the comment you made, which is, and this will be the last because I think that will surprise a lot of people. What made you decide to wrap up the series? Why is this the last book, do you think?

Rohit Bhargava:

Well, I think everybody who’s listening is a marketing person to some degree, or at least both understands the value of that in a brand. And to me, the biggest reason I wanted it to be the last is because I have bigger plans for the brand of Non-Obvious than just this one book. And so, I didn’t want the brand to be defined by this trend book any longer. It’s expanded out to many other elements. So we have a whole guidebook series that we’ve already launched with multiple authors writing guides that are similar to dummies guides. We’ve got an educational series that we’re putting out. I’m going to be having a podcast, which is not an interview podcast. It’s a very different type of podcast that’s coming out later this year. We’ve got a book awards program.

So, we’ve got all of these different legs under this brand of Non-Obvious, and I want to make it something bigger because I feel like there’s a bigger perspective here of the world, which is that I think we need more non-obvious thinkers in the world. I mean, we need people to think for ourselves. We need them to see the unusual. We need them to look at people who don’t agree with them and not just dismiss them in a stupid, and that’s what this brand is really all about.

Drew McLellan:

So, one of the things that I think is interesting about your professional life is multiple times you had a pretty good thing going, and you decided to stop and pivot and do something different. I’m sure Ogilvy was a good gig. I mean, several times you’ve had things where people go, “I wonder why he walked away from that.” And I’m sure people are listening thinking, “Wow, you hit the bestsellers list every year. You’ve got this great speaking career.” So how do you know when it’s time to stop doing something that’s working to do something different or new?

Rohit Bhargava:

It’s not, I don’t know that I have the perfect strategic formula for it. What I do know is that I can feel when I myself am losing passion for something. And ever since I’ve been a kid I have had the same behavioral pattern, which is when I’m passionate about something I do really well. And when I am not, then I basically shut down and I say, “Well, it’s not worth it.” I know that about myself, and I feel like when I try and do something for too long, or when I try and push it too far, then it doesn’t really pay off.

Drew McLellan:

Interesting.

Rohit Bhargava:

And so, I think I’ve maybe just started reacting to that a little bit, and benefited from the fact that when you eventually become an entrepreneur, and when you go out on your own, it becomes your decision. You don’t have to ask anybody. And so, you no longer need to ask someone, and you no longer need permission. I think that’s instead of being a negative thing for me in the sense of, “Oh, my God, I’m off on my own. I don’t know what to…” and be paralyzed by that. I find that actually very empowering.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, you’re right. I think sometimes as agency owners we get so caught up in all the obligations and all the commitments that we forget that we do have that choice.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah. I mean, I know the agency world well enough that when I did leave Ogilvy, one of the first things I knew for myself was that I wasn’t going to go off and start my own agency. It wasn’t because I don’t love the agency business. I really do, and I believe in agencies. And I think that some of the most amazing, talented, beautiful people in the soul sense, not in the physical sense that I know work in agencies and still do. I believe deeply in it. But I also knew that I didn’t want to try and do that sort of hustle. I wanted to do a different sort of hustle.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, all right. Let’s talk a little bit about the trends that you think in this book, in this version of the book, this edition, that you think are particularly relevant for agency folks to pay attention to?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, I think there’s many. I mean, one of them, which I think will speak directly to perhaps the reason why many of our clients hire agencies in the first place is a trend that I wrote about called attention wealth. And attention wealth is just all about this idea that it is harder to capture attention, which we all know. That’s not a new idea. But the thing that’s been happening, which I’ve really been tracking is this sense of if we are in an information economy, if we’re going to use that phrase to describe where we are, then our attention should be considered wealth, like as an individual. And what that means is I can choose to spend my wealth, and I can choose to give my wealth to those places that deserve it.

And because of that, I think marketing, advertising, PR, digital, whatever form of agency we’re talking about, we have to find a way to help our clients be worthy of the attention instead of trying to just capture it any way we can. And there are many themes that I think this idea of being worthy of the attention reflects. I mean, the growth of content marketing is one, for example. The rise of influencer marketing certainly is another one. I mean, there’s lots of tactical things that have come out of this desire to be worthy of attention. But that’s really what I wanted to try and write about it in this trend, which is what does it take to do that?

Drew McLellan:

And when you think about it, I mean, it’s probably always been true. But now there are so many places for me to spend my attention, that I think you’re right, it’s getting tougher, and tougher. I think brands are finding this, agencies are finding this. So, from your perspective, what are some of the things that have to happen to get someone to spend their attention wealth with a brand, or with us, or one of our clients?

Rohit Bhargava:

One of the things is that we need an identifiable human. Those days when you could talk about the company did this and the company did that without having a hero’s journey, without having some level of story that relates to a person doesn’t work without the person. This is basic storytelling. And many agencies and the storytellers within those agencies, I mean, they know that very well. But it’s easy to forget because we’re always launching new products. We’re always talking about the product features. We’re always getting pushed by the clients to say, “Yeah, but you didn’t talk about that one feature that I really think is going to sell the thing.” And it’s hard to push back on that. Look, I get it. I’ve been in those meetings. I know that it’s hard to push back on that. But when we lose that piece, it becomes less worthy of attention because we’re just not interested.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s critical. You’re right. When we talk about when… At AMI when we talk about how agencies sell we talk about that when you take an authority position, or you are a subject matter expert, then you attract people because you’re helping them, you’re teaching them, you’re helping them be better at their job today rather than selling. But that all comes from a human being. It can’t come from an agency. It has to be the… I don’t know of a company that is an expert in something. It’s always a person.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, it is. I think that what happened for us, I mean, especially if you think back to the early days of what we were doing with digital, with blogging. We started doing blogger relations. That was one of the things we were doing. And the most effective method that we found there was when we had Lipton tea, for example, and you’re trying to get bloggers to write about Lipton tea. If you had a food blogger on your team, they knew all the food bloggers because they were all friends. And they could say to them, “Hey, I’m working on this thing for Lipton. It’s kind of cool, and here’s why it’s cool. And that level of being part of the community that you’re then introducing something to didn’t used to be sneaky. Now, it’s become and some times it’s a little sneaky. It’s like, “Hey, we’re just going to pay for the Instagram post because we want you to slap the post up there, and that’s it.”

But there’s a level of authenticity that I think you can get to when you do have someone who is actually part of the community whose working on that project. And so, what what ended up happening then, and I think still happens today is these things that we’re personally interested in as agency people. If we’re passionate about food, if we’re passionate about travel, if we’re passionate about luggage. I love luggage. It’s a personal thing. And if I can relay that in the work that I’m doing, that belief and passion really come through because I’m part of the community, and now I’m no longer just trying to create a great pitch, or something. I’m actually saying, “This is great because I know it’s great because this is what I love.”

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Completely an aside, what do you believe is the best luggage?

Rohit Bhargava:

My favorite is Briggs & Riley. That’s the best, yeah. I’ve never been able to get a sponsorship from them. I’m still working on it. So, I don’t monetize that one yet, but that’s the luggage I like.

Drew McLellan:

I did not have a great experience with them. But I know I’m in the vast minority, but I had one that broke three times, and I had to keep sending it back. Well, it costs $100 to ship it back every time. So yes, they’ll fix it for free. But it wasn’t free to fix it. I know lots of people love it.

Rohit Bhargava:

That depends on where you live because around me there’s just a place where I can take it and drop it off.

Drew McLellan:

That’s it. We live in the Midwest. We don’t have that.

Rohit Bhargava:

[crosstalk 00:22:29].

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Back to the trend. But I mean, here’s a great example, though, of you’ve become an advocate for the brand because it’s your thing. And you’re right. I think the most powerful influencers are the ones who even if they’re getting paid, they only actually take the gigs where they can be legitimately excited about whatever they’re promoting.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah. And the thing is, and look I learned this. This was really interesting, by the way. One of the first things I did. I would probably not do it again. But one of the first things I did when I left Ogilvy is I took a short term project from a restaurant brand that was looking for their next agency and needed someone to run the pitch. I basically became a pitch consultant, and I helped them narrow down the agencies, find who they should be working with, and then basically created a criteria to help them evaluate all the agency pitches. And having done lots of pitches on the other side as an agency guy I’ve probably done more than 100 pitches, and I was leading them at the point when I left Ogilvy. I knew a lot about pitching from the agency side, not that much on the flip side.

And so, one of the first things I learned when I did that is how is that initial agency list developed in the first place? How do you figure out which agencies to even go for? And in this restaurant’s case, I mean, part of it was geographically because they had certain places where they had restaurants and they wanted an agency that was in one of those places. But ironically, they ended up picking an agency that was in a place where they only had one or two restaurants instead of a place where they had 20 because they liked that agency and the way that they approached the work better.

But when I was developing that initial list of agencies, a lot of it was based on what’s the profile of the agency out there? Are they putting out content that demonstrates the way that they think? Do they have employees who are actually talking about this stuff personally, and are personally interesting, right? These were the sorts of things that we were looking at even from the vetting process. So, a lot of these agencies say, “Well, focus on your job. Focus on making the clients happy.” This thought leadership stuff, it’s nice to have. But we’ve got a blog, and we haven’t updated it in two months, and whatever. And yet, when someone who doesn’t know your agency is now coming and looking at who am I even going to approach to say, “Hey, you should come and pitch for this business. What do we have to look at?”

Drew McLellan:

Well, and again, most clients don’t know agencies, and especially if they’re not a huge brand, so they’re not going to the 10 agencies that people could rattle off just because they’ve heard of them. You’re right. They’re going to Google and they’re searching. And so, what are they searching for? And what do they find? And if you’re not relevant, and you’re not findable, you’re never getting on that list?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And, by the way, if your whoever’s taking that initial call, or those initial emails. If they’re a humongous asshole, you’re definitely not getting any further as well because people don’t… I mean, that might work for some situations. But when it comes to plotting your agency, I mean, you don’t win if your agency is full of assholes.

Drew McLellan:

Right. That’s probably true for most businesses, but certainly for agencies. When they’re looking for someone who’s to be their advocate and their help, for sure. Yeah.

Rohit Bhargava:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, what’s another trend that you think we need to be paying a lot of attention to?

Rohit Bhargava:

So, another one that I think is really interesting was what I called flux commerce. And flux commerce was describing this world where the lines that used to exist between very distinct industries no longer exist. So, Apple’s created a credit card. Capital One has coffee shops. Crayola is making makeup. West Elm, a furniture brand, has a hotel. Red Bull, obviously, it’s not an energy drink. It’s a media platform now. These are all examples of this flux around what industry are you actually in? And I think that it’s a huge opportunity for agencies because so much of what we’ve done in the agency world has been to verticalize ourselves. We deal with retail clients. We deal with financial services clients. Here’s our expert on healthcare. And we create these boundaries because that’s what we think the clients want.

The agency that comes in and says, “Look, you might be in healthcare, but our retail experience is going to be useful for this can sometimes be a tough pitch.” Because look, I get it, I’ve sat in front of the healthcare clients who are like, “If you don’t have healthcare don’t even talk to me because we’re so specialized, and you don’t understand us.” But at the same time, they’re hiring you for creative innovation, and ideas. And sometimes those ideas come from mixing these industries together. So, one of the big elements of this trend was how do we start to think about these lessons we get from other industries to be able to move ourselves a little bit more towards the future, and not be so stuck in the industry we think we should be in.

Drew McLellan:

Well, another way to think about that, too, is how do we help our clients innovate and look at what they do every day? And is there a tangential pivot that they could make that would open up a new revenue stream for them, and a new category?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah. And sometimes it’s blurring the lines between industry. Sometimes the other element of this trend is just what you said is the business model shift. It’s the idea that you can now subscribe to a car, and have different cars in different months depending on what you want. It’s the business model… And sometimes it’s a super creative business model shift like in how we pay for stuff. Like there was a theater in Barcelona a couple years ago that put iPad screens on the back of every seat that had facial tracking, and they tracked your face. And they promised that you would pay based on how frequently you laughed, and they’d watch your face, and it was a pay per laugh model for this comedy show. They guaranteed their show was funny because if you didn’t laugh, you didn’t pay up to a certain amount.

And then a couple years later, they took that idea to the next level, and they said, “Okay, now we’re going to have singles night, and we’re going to track what you laugh at. And based on what you laugh at, we’re going to match you up with somebody else who’s single who found the same jokes you found funny because you probably have the same sense of humor, so you might get along.” These are all-

Drew McLellan:

Very interesting.

Rohit Bhargava:

I mean, nobody [crosstalk 00:29:09] the business model around that. But you can imagine the media attention they got for that idea. So, sometimes it might be a little bit more stunty to be able to take this trend and rethink it. But at the end of the day, that started filling the seats, and they had a broader cultural context for this. I mean, Spain at the time, had put a new tax on theater seats, and so they changed the model to be able to get around it. So, it was a whole cultural story behind it. But at the end of the day, they just changed the business model for how you buy a ticket to the theater.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, fascinating. All right. I want to get one more trend out of you. But first, let’s take a quick break. I hate to take you away from this week’s content. But I just want to put a little bug in your ear. We have some amazing workshops coming up in the first quarter of 2020, and I want to make sure they’re on your radar screen. So there are two in January. There’s the Build & Nurture Your Agency’s Sales Funnel, which is January 23, and 24th in Orlando, Florida. We are literally going to not only show you how to build a sales funnel, but we’re going to actually walk you through the exercise of doing it so that you leave with a completed or near complete sales funnel. So, that’s a Thursday, Friday.

And then on Monday, Tuesday, our good friends at Mercer Island group are going to join us and they’re going to talk to us about the prospects buying journey. So they’ve been working with brands and helping them pick agencies for years now. And one of the things they’ve been studying is what do prospects or what do brands do as they are beginning the early, early stages of shopping for an agency? Long before they’re on our radar screen what are they doing? And how do we win each of those milestones even when we don’t know they’re out there. And so, it’s going to be a great workshop. It’s brand new content from Mercer Island group. If you have not been to one of their workshops, they do not disappoint. They get rave reviews every time that they take the stage. And so, they’re going to be with us on January 27th and 28th also in Orlando, Florida. The beautiful thing about that is right in the middle is a weekend. And why wouldn’t you spend a weekend in sunny, warm Florida, on Disney property in January. So, hopefully you can join us for those.

We also have a great workshop in March. So that workshop is in Chicago. We’re heading back north, March 24, and 25th. And that is the Run Your Agency For Growth & Profits. This is an agency owner workshop. If you are not an owner, but you are a leader, then ideally your owner would come with you because this we’re going to talk about owner stuff. So everything from operations, to biz dev to people, to profit, to financial metrics, all those sorts of things we’re going to cover. We’re going to cover all the big bases in terms of the internal back side of the business. How do you run the business of your business better? And again, that is March 24th and 25th in Chicago. All right. I hope I see you at one of those or more of those. But in the meantime, let’s get back to the podcast.

All right, we are back, and we are talking about non-obvious trends that have relevance to us as agency owners and leaders. So, can you think of another trend in the book that we should be paying particular attention to?

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, let’s go with data because I know it’s not the favorite topic for many of us who are more creatively inclined.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s an unavoidable topic today.

Rohit Bhargava:

Totally unavoidable, especially when it comes to marketing, right? I mean, we have to be trackable, we have to be scalable, all of those things. One of the things that I wrote about, and the trend that I wrote about in the book was what I called data abundance, which is exactly what it sounds like. I mean, we just have so much data. And in general abundant is kind of a good word in philosophy. We like things to be abundant. But when it comes to data, there’s some predictable downsides of that.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Rohit Bhargava:

And yeah, and one of the things that I wrote about was five types of data pollution. And I think those are really impactful to know about and to warn our clients about because if you’re the agency that brings them a informed perspective about data pollution, which is all of the bad data that they might be collecting, or that we might honestly be getting from the platforms that we’re placing ads on their behalf, we might be getting bad data from them. Then we can start to help them filter that out, rethink it, and get smarter about what they actually pay attention to instead of everything.

There’s just, I’ll tell you about a couple of them. There’s data overflow, which is just too much data, so you don’t know what to pay attention to. There’s data manipulation, which is looking at the results, but reading it in a biased way. So, 51% of people think whatever. Well, guess what, 49% of people think the opposite. So, how conclusive is that really? Data sabotage, which is you put the email form up and people fill it out with Bob.com because they just want the thing, but it’s obviously junk. Data contamination, which is old data with new data, everything’s mixed together. Some of it is relevant, some of it is not. You don’t know what’s good. It’s like, you can’t take the pee out of the swimming pool. The last one is just expired data. Data that we collected that is just not relevant anymore because people’s behaviors changed.

And so, one of the big things that I talk about here is we have to get smarter about figuring out, where is our data getting polluted? Because if we just look at it as, okay, we have all this data, and let’s just sort through all of it and create a magical dashboard for it. I mean, you can dashboard up something useless, and it looks like it’s useful in a dashboard. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually a value.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think, too, if you could eliminate the data that is actually either wrong or irrelevant. Now, all of a sudden, we would have a manageable amount that we would be able to actually use better.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, and just rethink what it actually means, too. I mean, I remember for a long time one of the biggest metrics on a website would be time on site. You’d look at a time on site, and you’d be like, “Okay, if they spent a minute on our homepage, that’s good news,” right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Rohit Bhargava:

But if you imagine like a restaurant homepage, and somebody goes to the homepage to figure out your phone number or your address, and they spend 10 seconds looking for it, and they don’t find it. And so, they go and find a different restaurant. I mean, your 10 seconds on site was an epic failure. You’d much rather they find your address or phone number in one second, click the button, call you and make a reservation. That’s a success. So we have to think about what we’re actually being told with these metrics, and whether more time on site or less time on site is better. I mean, let’s just be smarter about what we should be tracking.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I think data is an ongoing beast that agencies are really struggling with and clients, too. I think everybody knows vaguely that it’s important, but I think we’re all still trying to figure out what to do with it. And to your point, to your trend, what of it is actually valuable, what of it is junk.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah. And to me, I mean, this trend with data, the trend around attention. I mean, any of these trends, really the reason why they matter at all is because I think that paying attention to them and talking about them gives any agency a chance to offer a bit more of a non-obvious perspective on how the world is working to their client. Maybe a way that everyone else isn’t talking about. And look, I come from a world where I know I worked at big agencies, mostly, but because we had big clients every one of the clients that I ever worked with had multiple agencies. I mean, I can’t remember a single situation where we were the only agency.

I remember some of them, we had 12 different agencies who were all doing different things above the line, below the line, promo, digital. Just lots and lots of agencies. And so, we had a little bit of a Hunger Games situation going on with every client where you had to stand out to carve out your little piece of the pie for whatever it was, and you wanted to be respected among the rest of the agencies. Ideally, you’d want to be the lead agency. I mean, of course you would. And so, I remember what it took to try and be that agency, it wasn’t the ideas because everybody had good ideas. It came down to that relationship, usually, and the proactive ability for us to be an expert advisor who was thinking about that client’s business in a way that nobody else was, and not thinking about the next thing we could build them for.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, as you were talking I was thinking, again, back to your pitch story. How much of… I talk to a lot of folks who manage a lot of pitches, and what they say is, every agency sounds and looks the same. But if you were to adopt this idea of how do you look at these non-obvious trends, and how do you learn to spot them, which is the conversation we had in our first interview. Then all of a sudden you don’t sound the same. Your answers aren’t the same. Your end up background that you give as your setup is not the same. Your rationale for the ideas you’re presenting is not the same because you stand out. You’re different.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, look, I will tell you, I mean, every agency has a process, and no client cares about it. I mean, seriously, they’re all five steps. They’re always in some kind of circle. They always start with discovery, and then it’s activation, and then it’s validation or whatever. Their five steps are always the same. And maybe you have a sixth one, but who cares? No client has ever finished a pitch and said, “Oh, man, those are such great ideas. I just wish you talk more about your process. No one cares.

Drew McLellan:

I mean, they want to know you have a process, but they also know that what we do probably looks the same regardless of who’s doing it.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, and you know what, I mean, sure, they want to know you have a process, but when you walk in to buy a car, you want to know that the car has a steering wheel, but you don’t need the guy to sit there for five minutes telling you that they have a steering wheel. Obviously, it has one. I think that that most of these clients have been through enough agency pitches and enough consulting groups that they get it. What they’re looking for is a unique perspective. And what they’re looking for is, can we actually imagine ourselves every day working with these guys?

And so, the levers in a pitch situation are not sometimes what we think they are, and they take signals from the things that we often don’t spend any time practicing. I mean, I can’t tell you how many pitches I walked into where we flew in people from all around the world, and the first time that we all met was basically 10 minutes before the pitch.

Drew McLellan:

Right, on the way to the pitch.

Rohit Bhargava:

On the way to the pitch, yeah. And the client picks up on that. And what they see is a team that clearly doesn’t look like they’ve ever worked together before. And what they’re thinking is, “Wow, I have this whole global team and they don’t even know each other.” And we don’t spend any time getting to know each other or flying people in or having a beer ahead of time or any of those things because look, that’s not important. We just need everybody to know that they’re doing slides 222 to 225. We’re going to hand over this slide did that slide, and that we have little codes in the corner in case we forget whose slide is who’s that the client doesn’t know. So that we have these little tricks to make sure that nobody misses their slides. It’s so focused on only that, and not the things that the clients actually pick up on.

And so, we really tried to rethink that. When we did a lot of our pitch training internally, and we tried to get what do the younger members say? How do they introduce themselves? Because for the client, many of their junior to mid level people are going to be dealing with the agencies junior to mid level people. And so, they’re really looking at those people and saying, “Did that person even say anything during the pitch?” Because that’s the person that’s going to be sitting there dealing with on a day in day out basis.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, it’s a complicated thing. But I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if you talked about ideas that were so interesting, that were so thought provoking, that that became the conversation. Imagine how that pitch would feel different if you really ended up actually having… Most pitches are monologues. So, if you actually ended up having a conversation because the ideas you were talking about were triggering questions and comments rather than them just listening and checking their email.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, totally. And doing something a little unusual. I mean, take them outside. Bring in a guest who is not part of the agency who is relevant for their business in some way. The blogger who writes about them. The person who hated them. I mean, there are so many things that you can do to stand out. Because a lot of times also, I mean, if you’re in a bigger RFP situation, that client may have sat through two other pitches that same day. Three pitches the day before. And so, they totally blur together, and we have to find some way to make ourselves stand out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. It is a challenge. You know what, I think even if you’re not pitching in a big formal RFP process. You are sitting across from somebody having coffee, but you know they’re meeting with five other agency owners or three other agency owners over the course of a couple of weeks. The questions you ask, the things you talk about, are they going to be memorable? And quite honestly, that’s why we all got into the business anyway was so that we could think about things in a more interesting, different way. I think that’s one of the things that your books always do is that I think they trigger people to see the world a little differently, and give us different lenses to look at the realities that we’re all facing today.

So, I think your book does exactly that. And so, one of the things I want to talk about is because we’re wrapping up, you actually have an offer for agencies that I want to make sure we talk about in terms of the book. Because one of the things I’m thinking about as we’re talking is, this is the kind of book that a lot of more senior people will read. But I want everybody who works in my agency to read this book. I want them all to be thinking in this way. I want them to learn this craft of thinking and connecting dots where maybe it’s not as obvious. So, you’ve put together something that I think will help agencies do that.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, I mean, you and I were talking about this. And one of the things that I love, and to be honest I kind of miss is the chance to engage directly with agencies. And because I’m a solo guy and a professor of one class at Georgetown, and I go off and speak and do these things. I’m not trying to build a consulting business at all. I’m not doing any of the agency type of work. But I often get asked, “Who should some of these companies be working with?” More than that I’ve seen what works in a pitch situation, in terms of growing a business, but also in terms of just staffing, creating the right team, bringing everybody together.

And so, one of the things we were talking about is, well, could I offer value in a short period of time in an open ended way that would allow anybody who was an agency owner to say, “Look, let’s just have a coffee. Let’s just have a session together.” Now, I won’t always be in all of those places. But if we could do that virtually in an open ended way, yeah, I could do an hour long advice session. We could do a custom webinar conversation that you could share with clients as a biz dev thing. I mean, there’s a lot of different things that we could do. And so, the offer we basically put together was to get a certain number of signed books, and along with that get an hour of time to basically do whatever would be useful for your business.

So, if you want to talk about pitching to get more business to grow the business, we can talk about that. If you want to talk about your boilerplate stuff, and get some suggestions on how to make it more non-obvious, and change the way that you’re presenting the agency. If you want to do an audit of your website. If you want to talk about your current slate of clients, and what it takes to fire a client. I’ve done that before to get rid of that toxic client and open up your time for something else, grow your team. I mean, any of these things that I spent many, many years dealing with a lot of those different topics. And so, I felt like if I could leave this open ended enough, it would be a pretty interesting offer for anybody who’s in your network to just take advantage of.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, even just, and I know you’ve done this with some of my peer groups, even just an hour teaching the entire team how to start curating these ideas and start looking for the connective tissue between events or momentums. And see these trends the way you see them.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, one of the big things that, I mean, this is basically when I get called in to do a talk at some of these huge companies, whether it’s Coke or NASA, or any one of these groups that I’ve gone in to talk about. Usually I’m spending between an hour to three hours with them talking about what it takes to be a non-obvious thinker. What are these mega trends? And how do they leverage them and use them to grow what they’re trying to do? And that’s basically what I spent most of my time doing right now.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So, if folks are looking for that, we put together a URL specifically for that. So, if you guys, I will include it in the show notes for sure.

Rohit Bhargava:

Yeah, it’s nonobvious.com/ami.

Drew McLellan:

There you go.

Rohit Bhargava:

Super easy.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Super easy.

Rohit Bhargava:

Non-obvious, no dash, just one word, nonobvious.com/ami.

Drew McLellan:

So, if folks want to learn more about the guidebooks and the podcast and all the things that you’ve got going on because you’re right, 2020 is going to be a big year for you in terms of new twists to what you’ve been doing. What’s the best way for them to keep track of all of these initiatives?

Rohit Bhargava:

So, everything non-obvious, pretty simple, just nonobvious.com. Leave off the AMI, and you’ll get to the main site. And when it comes to me individually, and just all the speaking that I’m doing, videos, more kind of a personal content and things like that for me just my personal site, which is rohitbhargava.com. Just my full name. Again, no dashes or spaces or anything, just rohitbhargava.com.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. As always, I am always grateful when you show up on the show because you get us, ironically, and I guess it makes sense, you get us thinking a little differently. But I love that you share the agency background with all of us, and that you grew up professionally in the world that we all live in. Because I think that gives you a really unique way of looking at your work in relation to how it can help us with our work. So, thank you very much for taking the time to be on the show again, and sharing with us some of the trends that you think we should be tracking.

Rohit Bhargava:

Thank you. Yeah, I love the agency world is one that I come from. And so, I always look forward to chatting with you because I feel like we are among our people, which is great. So, thank you.

Drew McLellan:

We are indeed. All right, guys. This wraps up another episode. So lots for you to think about. And I will tell you, a lot of you have tried book clubs or other things. This is a book, and by the way, even though it may not be the most recent edition. If you’ve not read any of this series going back and reading the older editions, a lot of those trends are still in place today. You’re just going to see them more blown out. And I think it also helps you track the idea of how to curate these interesting connections. So, go grab the latest edition for sure. But do not stop there if you have not read the earlier editions because they are all great reads. They are great conversation starters in account service meetings, with your creative teams. This is the kind of brain food we should be feeding our people and ourselves on a regular basis. So, avail yourself of the book series and all of the other things that Rohit has going on.

So, thank you for listening. I will be back next week with another guest. Just a reminder, if you leave us a rating or review, so go to wherever you download the podcast, leave us a rating and review and then shoot me a screenshot of it because I can’t tell from the screen name who you are, and certainly I can’t get your email address from it. Shoot that over to me and you will go into a draw. And every month we give away a free seat at one of our workshops or one of our online workshops. So, it’s about a $2,000 value, and we give one away every single month to someone who’s left us a rating or review. So, go ahead and do that, and we will throw you into the drawing. If you’ve already done it don’t worry. You stay in the drawing until you win. So, that’s pretty cool.

Also, a big shout out to our friends at White Label IQ. I just had another agency owner call me and thank me for introducing them to each other because they save their bacon. So, if you’re looking for somebody who can white label PPC, web dev, or design for you, White Label IQ is your solution. Whitelabeliq.com/ami for a special offer for our podcast listeners. All right. If you’re looking for me, you can find me on the website or shoot me an email at [email protected] I will see you next week.

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