Episode 164

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

In last week’s encore interview with Robin Boehler — we talked about the biz dev practices that she and the team at Mercer Island Group see when they’re sitting on the client’s side of the room. If you listened to that episode — you heard me say that if you implement the best practices Robin shared, you’re going to see the difference in your win rate.

And because I want you to be as prepared as possible as you step into 2019 — I invited Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil, also from Mercer Island Group, to join me for this week’s episode. Think of this as a new biz one-two punch!

There is nobody more in the fray of seeing why agencies win, lose, or how the pitch process plays out than Steve, Lindsay, and their team. And nobody is more generous in sharing what they observe.

This episode will give you the inside look at how agencies present themselves (accidentally and on purpose) and the influence each nuance has on our prospects as they weigh one agency against the others.

We talked about the prep work agencies need to be doing so they’re ready to make a successful pitch. My guests dove into the details like researching a prospect, building out a business profile, preparing your PowerPoint so it stands out, some best practices around rehearsing, and even how your agency should ask for a client’s business at the end. Because making the “ask” really matters.

Steve and Lindsay also shared examples of case studies from agencies that won a pitch because their teams showcased the client as the hero in the work, as opposed to putting the spotlight on themselves.

Whether you’re pitching a new prospect — or you’re strategically merchandising the work you did for an existing client during the last year — the case study process we discuss is worth the listen alone!

I’m excited for you to listen to these two (this one and episode #163 with Robin) interviews because I know Robin, Steve, and Lindsay will help you put your best foot forward in 2019.

And if you found the episodes helpful – you can get even more by spending 2-4 days learning from Robin and Steve Boehler at AMI’s Win More Business workshops this January. Learn more here.

 

 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • How to build a detailed dossier for your prospective client in about two hours
  • Why learning how a prospective client talks about themselves is a valuable piece of information to uncover in your research process
  • How to ask the right questions that uncover a prospect’s business issues while instilling confidence that you understand them and their industry
  • Why preparing brilliant case studies like those of FIG Agency makes your client the hero — not your work
  • How to make your client a celebrity as McCANN WORLDGROUP did for its client, State Street Advisors with “Fearless Girl
  • Why less is more when it comes to the written proposal and what are the key elements that must be included — and most agencies miss
  • How to front-load your proposal and presentation so that you focus on the client and not your agency
  • How and why you should invite your prospective client to your agency for a visit
  • How to build and document your business issue success experience so it is at the ready for your next presentation
  • How to let a client know at the end of the presentation that your agency wants their business without sounding schmaltzy

The Golden Nuggets:

“If you're still talking in a language that doesn't speak to the client, then you've missed a step in terms of doing your homework.” — @MIG_Steve Share on X “Every single time — if an agency didn't ask for the business, somebody from the client says, “Well, I don't know if they really want our business.” — @MIG_Steve Share on X “There are three things that a great case study needs to accomplish. And the first is to instill confidence that the agency can solve the client’s problems.” — @MIG_Steve Share on X “The questions you ask build confidence in the prospect and show you know their business. And that makes you different.” — @MIG_Steve Share on X “If you're talking about them from the start, you've got them interested. If you're talking about yourself, it's really easy to tune you out” — @MIG_Steve Share on X

 

Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!

Itunes Logo          Stitcher button

Ways to Contact Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil:

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, now on our third year of bringing you insights on how small to mid-sized agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. We’ll show you how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for coming back if you are a repeat listener, and if this is your first podcast you picked a great one to jump into. Today we are going to talk to Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil from Mercer Island Group and we are going to talk about some of the prep work that we need to be doing to really ready ourselves for a successful business development effort, and also some topics around the theatrics of what we do and sort of how the look and feel of how we present ourselves really has a huge influence on the prospect when they are sort of weighing us against all of the other prospects. I have no doubt we’re going to get into a lot of other conversations because they are always sort of bursting with information to share with us, which I am always grateful for.

If you’re not familiar with Mercer Island Group, they are an agency consultancy and search firm, so they often are hired by brands to matchmake brands with agencies, and they also do some consulting work with agencies to help them get better prepared to win more of the biz dev opportunities that are presented to them. If you have been around AMI for a while you’re probably familiar with them and the good work they do and how valuable they are to agency owners, but if you’re not familiar with them you may not know that for the last several years we’ve done workshops with the Mercer Island Group folks, and we’ve got another one coming up.

So, if you’re listening to this live, so it is around Thanksgiving time 2018, you have a unique opportunity that if you’re listening to this a year from now unfortunately may have passed. We are going to be doing two workshops, so four days of learning from the Mercer Island Group folks in January of 2019. The first workshop is January 15th and 16th, and the second set of dates is the 17th and 18th. The topics are different, so you can attend one workshop or you can buy bundle pricing and then stay for all four days and really learn about both how to present ourselves better in a written format, proposal, RFP response, anything along those lines, but also how to present ourselves better in person, whether we are just having a one-on-one conversation with someone at a cocktail party or if you’re in a formal pitch and you’re standing up in front of a room full of decision makers.

So, the content is going to be amazing. Always is. If you’ve been to one of their workshops before I promise you that this is fresh content. There might probably be a little bit of review, but review that we all need, and just to set up the new content. So, again, highly recommend these workshops. Not only is the content going to be awesome, but it’s January, which for many of us means it’s cold weather at home, and these workshops are held in Orlando, Florida on Disney property at the amazing Grand Floridian Resort. So, there is nothing bad about that. The timing is perfect. It’s a great time for you to be thinking about your business development efforts as you go into 2019, so I highly recommend that you head over to the website and check out those offerings.

If you are not listening to this live, the good news is we’re probably doing this with Mercer Island Group in January of whatever year that you’re listening to this recording, so head over to the website anyway because they are in such demand that we constantly get a request to do more workshops with them, and I see no reason that we would not keep doing that. But whether you attend the workshop or not, this next hour is going to be packed with actionable ideas that I want you to really be thinking about, and I want you to take back to your team, and I want you to prioritize some of these things because this is the real deal. This is what actually helps agencies win or costs them business opportunities, and there is nobody who is more in the fray of seeing how this plays out than Mercer Island Group, and nobody more generous in sharing what they observe than these folks. Super excited to bring Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil to you in this conversation, so let’s not waste anymore time. Let’s get to it.

Okay, so let’s get to it. Steve and Lindsay, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming back, and Lindsay, thanks for joining us.

Lindsay O’Neil:

Thank you for having me.

Steve Boehler:

Me too.

Drew McLellan:

All right. So, you guys are immersed every day in the dance that is biz dev for agencies, and I know you see it from two perspectives, that you often are sitting in a room with the client reviewing the agencies and what the agencies did and didn’t do well to help them sort of matchmake, but that you also spend a fair amount of your time coaching and consulting with agencies about how to sort of put their best foot forward. I know one of the things that you really talk a lot about is this idea of the business profile and building out your knowledge base about the prospect, so tell me a little bit about your philosophy around that and what we need to do better around that as agencies.

Lindsay O’Neil:

Well, I would say that when we talk about business profiles what we’re suggesting is that agencies should do a lot of research before they sit down with the client, or prospective client I should say, and while many agencies do research those prospective clients, they’re really only scratching the surface when it comes to getting down to the nitty gritty of what will help them better relate to this prospective client. So, I think a lot of agencies look into the basics of a prospective client, but really finding out more about their culture, the way they talk about themselves, their online presence, their headcount, their number of locations. I mean, the more you know, the better you can have a conversation that is going to lead potentially to a great business relationship.

Drew McLellan:

So, where do I go to find all of that? How do I do that? I think everybody goes and looks on Google. I think everybody probably tries to download an annual report or poke around on their website. So, beyond that, where should I be going to put together this more detailed dossier of the prospect?

Lindsay O’Neil:

Well, I think there are a lot of places that you can do this research. I think the first place that you should be jumping on is their website and looking at every little nook and cranny of that website, what they do, how they talk about themselves, their latest news, what news are they proud to share with the world, because that gives you a really great insight, and then you can dive further into industry in-house reports and Google Glassdoor to see how current employees talk about how they like working at this place. I mean, the list could go on forever, but I think first and foremost it’s their website, because if you know how they talk about themselves then when you have a conversation with them you can use that same language.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So, how am I going to use that? Once I’ve built up this dossier of information, are we talking 100 pages of information? Are we talking an outline? How in-depth, given that we have a finite amount of time probably to prep to get to whatever the RFP, the RFI, the presentation, whatever it is? How detailed are we talking about?

Steve Boehler:

Well, if I could jump in for a second, Lindsay. I think that it’s sort of fit to purpose. If this is a quick turn you’re going to find out what you can. A good business profile can be created in two hours by somebody that’s done it before with going to Google, doing online research, going to the website. It’s great to have a public library account, as funny as that sounds, because public libraries have immense online resources that you have access to for free just by having the account.

Drew McLellan:

And a lot of times they’ll do the work for you, the librarians.

Steve Boehler:

That’s right. Well, I actually hadn’t even thought of that, so that’s a fantastic suggestion. I think you have to be fit to purpose though. So, if this is a small opportunity in a field where you have pretty good working knowledge, you work with a lot of retailers, it’s a small, little local retailer that probably doesn’t have a huge budget, you can probably quickly check and see what’s going on relative to what’s happening in the press or on their website, their news announcement. It’s just to have a sense of what’s going on with their business because you already know the retail industry and you have a sense of what’s going on.

If it’s some ginormous opportunity, this is like you’re a nice, small agency and Walmart calls, somebody with huge budgets, you’re probably going to want to invest the few hours putting together a pretty rich profile so that it prepares you to ask the right questions. You’ll know how many new store openings they have. You’ll know where they may be having trouble with their business. You’ll know what the challenges are versus Amazon. Et cetera. Et cetera. And that helps guide the conversation when you do have the conversation.

Drew McLellan:

So, I think this is one of those things, because I’ve heard you guys talk about this before, and I think agencies believe they do a good job at this, so where are they dropping the ball? Where are they maybe not digging deep enough? What are they missing? Because if I pulled 100 agencies and I said, “Do you do your homework before you do a pitch?” They will all say, “Absolutely, we do.” But it sounds to me like what you’re saying is when they show up it’s clear that they haven’t done their homework, so what parts of that are they missing?

Lindsay O’Neil:

Well, I personally can’t stress enough the idea of really understanding the business and the way they talk about themselves. For instance, PetSmart doesn’t refer to pet owners as pet owners. It refers to pet owners as pet parents, and we had an agency pitch to PetSmart and work in the room and refer to pet owners as pet owners. That’s clearly an agency that had done a lot of research and work leading up to this pitch, but if you’re still talking in a language that doesn’t speak to the client then you’ve missed a step in terms of doing your homework. I would also say that it’s not just enough to know the basics. You need to know more so that you can provide insight, so that if you can understand possible problems that this client may be looking to solve, then you’ve done an extra set of homework.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Steve Boehler:

Yeah, and if I was to build on that, Drew, I think Lindsay made a really important point there, that is that an important part of the business development process is developing the needs of your prospect, and you can’t do that very well if you’re not facile in what’s going on with their business. You have to understand. You have to be able to ask the right questions. You have to be able to ask questions that get out what might be on their mind even if it’s not the thing that they immediately wanted to talk about. And all of that conversation builds confidence in the prospect that you know their business, and that makes you different.

Most agencies get into a meeting like this and they want to talk about themselves and how great their creative is or how great their data is or how great their digital is. It’s not about you. It’s about them. It’s always about them, and so the more you can tailor your conversation to them… And by the way, just going through this process of having a several page long business profile like Lindsay was talking about puts you in the mindset that that’s what you’re supposed to be talking about.

Drew McLellan:

And it gives you more to talk about.

Steve Boehler:

That’s exactly right.

Drew McLellan:

Because in a vacuum, we fill it by talking about ourselves, right?

Steve Boehler:

Right. I can talk about myself all day, which is why we have Lindsay on, because we want to hear intelligent people talk about things.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So, after I have the profile done, after I’ve gotten that sort of done, I know one of the other things that in most… Again, whether it’s a written RFP response or RFI or I’m going to be presenting live to a client or I’m even going to be chatting with somebody over coffee and then sending them a followup, one of the tools that most agencies believe, and I believe you agree with this, is that we have to have good case studies. But I see a wide variety of case study styles and content amongst agencies. What do you guys think are a best practices for case studies, and how should they be used?

Steve Boehler:

That’s a really important area for agencies to think about because we don’t see very many good case studies. I think the starting point is to make sure that we’re clear about what a great case study needs to accomplish, and we think there’s really three things. We think it needs to instill confidence that the agency can solve my problems. That makes it relevant. The second thing it needs to do, it needs to be told via the agency’s process so that I have confidence that there’s something repeatable going on at the agency, that they didn’t wake up one morning and solve my problem in the shower. It’s not that they have this one great strategist or creative. It’s that they have a machine, that they can do what they’ve done for their other five clients for me. The third is that there should be some kind of demonstration of how they work with clients so that I can sort of assess, “Are they my kind of people? Are they doing things in a way that I would like to work with them?” I think the best way to learn from case studies in many ways is to go and look at some great examples, and so if our listeners go to figagency.com-

Drew McLellan:

F-I-G.

Steve Boehler:

Agency.com.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Steve Boehler:

Now, FIG is recently renamed. It’s a small agency in New York. Probably 45 to 55 people. They recently won a search that we did for Seabourn Cruise Lines. So, go to the site and look at the Seabourn video case. They also have a written case online, and I can actually read the opening, and I should, to their case because it’s packed with learning. So, they open their case by saying that the challenges, that Seabourn is the jewel and carnival corporation support portfolio of cruise lines, the pioneer of small ship, ultra luxury cruising. They’ve won every major travel accolade and award in the last 20 years. The brand has a strong following of loyal guests, and has always maintained yields despite low capacity and high demand. However, with two new ships on the horizon effectively doubling their capacity, they had to fill the funnel with new voyagers, and to do so they would need to appeal to a new, younger audience of highly affluent travelers, many of which have never cruised before.

Okay, so they have perfectly set up what the business issue was. The case broadcasts to anybody that reads it that they get business, that they understood this business. This agency by the way had never worked on cruises. They were able to clearly communicate this story. So, the opening itself is brilliant. It summarizes the business challenge. If you actually go to the website and either see the video case, which is just absolutely beautiful, or read the written case… They’ve got a video case online. They actually have a written case. You’ll see on the written case that they walk you through that business challenge, they talk about the key insights they uncovered as part of their strategic work, they showcase how they turned those insights into just amazing and beautiful creative, and then they talk about the business results.

I mean, it is brilliant. It’s case study poetry, and having that prepared, that kind of work prepared just as you would for an ongoing client, a great presentation, a really important business meeting, to some extent the agencies are sort of like the shoemaker’s children. They don’t do this for themselves and they need to. They’re so focused on their clients, as they should be, but this is prime work to do to grind out these great case studies.

Drew McLellan:

Case study poetry right there.

Steve Boehler:

Case study poetry. I got to tell you, we’re very proud of this because we helped make the marriage, but there’s nothing preventing other agencies from having cases that sing like this.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Well, what prevents them is they don’t put in the time and the effort.

Steve Boehler:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

It’s their own prioritization. So, as you were talking about one of the things, and I’m taking us off on a bit of a tangent and I’ll come right back to the biz dev conversation, but as you were talking about this case study one of the things that I think agencies also don’t do with case studies is they don’t leverage them with the existing client that the case study is about. So, in your annual meeting where you’re asking for more money or you’re talking about new opportunities, we sort of