Advertising Agencies

Building An Internal Content Strategy for the Long Haul

You have to tell a story — a great story — to get people to listen. You need to create a narrative that grabs and holds their attention. This isn’t easy, and there are many misguided attempts to master “storytelling” as a marketing tool, especially with how popular and buzzworthy this phrase has become of late. So why do so many agencies fail at creating compelling stories? Here are a few points to pass on the road map to successful conversation building. Create Useful Content Creating and utilizing content is deceivingly simple to describe but incredibly difficult to do well. When you create content that speaks to your clients’ needs, you’ll capture their interest. If you go out of your way to be helpful and relevant, they’ll want to talk to you about the content. If your content helps them get more of what they want, like sales, or less of what they don’t want, like wasted time, you’ll be perceived as credible. Stories to Start Conversations Credibility is established by the value of what you share. It’s no different from having a regular conversation with someone. We all want to keep talking to people who are interesting to us, as well as people whose words are relevant to our own lives and experiences. If we’re introduced to someone who just talks about themselves or about topics we don't care about, we’re much less likely to stay engaged in the conversation. As an agency, you have to make the conversation about your clients, their needs and what they care about. Don’t tell them how great your business is; show them how much your business could help them. Create client-centered conversations. They should walk away intrigued [...]

Why Your Agency (Not Your Clients) Should Come First

Anyone who’s ever worked in an agency knows how demanding clients can be. If you keep your clients happy, you’ll keep your agency happy, right? Wrong. As an agency owner, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the day-to-day tasks of client service. It actually much better for your agency when you do exactly the opposite. Spend the bulk of your time developing your agency’s processes, people, and future, rather than talking with clients. You'll see these benefits for your agency when you step out of the weeds and into big-picture planning. Maintain forward momentum. Employees throughout the agency see you as the visionary who sets the course. If you’re not tracking trends, keeping tabs on industry shifts, and anticipating new business needs and opportunities, no one else will. It’s your job to push the agency to evolve and to take your clients with you. Attract -- and retain -- great talent. Employees want to work somewhere with a purpose. As the owner, it’s important to identify and retain people seeking more than paychecks. The more you’re able to get out of the weeds, the more opportunities you provide for your best people to grow. Set the right precedents. Clients need to trust everyone on your team. If you’re too deep in day-to-day tasks, you’re communicating to clients that you don’t trust your people enough to let them handle things. Plus, it makes it hard for you to escape the office. Owners who operate at too granular a level can’t take real vacations, turn off their phones, or disconnect from work. It’s not healthy. Your 5 Most Important Daily Agency Tasks Rather than spending your time answering clients’ day-to-day questions, devote your time to things only you can do. These are the five most important tasks you, as an agency owner, should do on a daily basis: [...]

Hey Agency Owner – How’s Your Thought Leadership Strategy?

We work hard to help our agency clients embrace thought leadership as a way to position themselves as a premiere choice among their competitors. Which means we need to walk our talk, eat our own dog food or whatever cliché you'd like to use to prove that it works. We're very grateful that many other publications seek us out to comment on various aspects of the agency business and we're always excited about sharing what we've learned and try to teach. Rather than making you hop all over the web looking for Agency Management Institute's examples of thought leadership -- we thought we'd give you this handy list. As always -- we'd love to hear your thoughts on any of the topics below. Digital Marketer -- 4 Ways to Build a Better Agency with Smarter Hires The Agency Post -- How to Stop Your Client From Shopping Around B2B Marketing -- 5 Ways to Avoid the Last Minute New Business Crunch Washington Post -- Overstaffing Can Break Your Small Business iMedia Connection -- Why You Need to Stop Billing By the Hour Smart Insights -- How Can Agency Account Managers Build Better Client Relationships Marketing Agency Insider -- 10 Ways to Establish Order in Your Advertising Agency HR.com -- When You Should Hire Full Time Staff Digiday -- Time to Retire the Digital Jedi The Agency Post -- Use Content to Tell Your Agency's Story The Agency Post -- Building An Internal Content Strategy for the Long Haul Score.org -- How to Transition from Corporate Thinking to Small Business Thinking CEO.com -- 4 Ways to Compete With the Big Guys Steamfeed -- One Page: The Short, Simple Way to Plan Your Agency's Future Linked2Leadership -- On Leadership, Workshops and Organizational Health Under 30 CEO -- Why Good Writing Matters and 4 Ways to Teach It to Your Team LinkedIn -- Marketers -- Take Digital Out of Your Vocabulary Washington [...]

An agency’s biggest new business waste of time

Here is a sales prospecting tip for you, agency owner: Don’t waste your time chasing after every person interacting with your content, you’ll drive yourself crazy and it’s not worth the time. Here’s why: Agencies are finally embracing the idea of being content creators.  That's the good news.  But, they're also falling into the trap of an agency's biggest new business waste of time - chasing after everyone and everything. That's the bad news. The agency's content efforts are beginning to generate some activity in the form of: Opt in lists for downloads or e-subscriptions Blog subscribers Commenters on their blogs and for some reason, many of you are drowning yourself in this data, trying to create elaborate ways to track these people down and move the conversation to the next level.  The truth is -- they just wanted your content.  That's it.  They haven't given you any indication that they're a potential buyer of your agency's services or that they have any interest in your shop at all. Could they be a prospect?  Sure.  But they could also be a college kid who downloaded your white paper on email marketing so they could plagiarize it for your Advertising 101 class.  Or anyone in between. Don't spend a ton of time with your sales prospecting at this stage.  The way you figure out if they're a prospect is to keep producing good content and always include an invitation to reach out and actually talk to you by email or phone.  But until they take that step -- they are a COLD lead at best.  They barely know who you are. Can you include some baby steps in your content?  Sure.  That might include something like: [...]

Hey agency owner — fire someone today

Yes, you heard me right.  I am talking to you, the agency owner.  And I want you to fire someone today. In doing so, you'll improve employee morale. You're thinking I must be the Scrooge of agency life -- suggesting you fire someone during the holiday season. It will ruin their Thanksgiving and the rest of their year.  No one hires during the holidays. Relax -- I am not talking about one of your employees.  If they're doing a good job -- send them a note this week telling them how grateful you are that they're part of your team. It's great for their morale. If not -- then you're like most agency owners and you'll hang onto them for another six months before they drive you to the brink and you finally fire them. I'm actually talking about firing a client.  Yes...a revenue producing client. Every agency has at least one client that is: Tough on employee morale Demanding without being equally appreciative A bad planner which means their emergencies become yours Drags projects on and on, burning through any hope for profitability Always nitpicking every invoice or project authorization Keeping you from pursuing a better client in the same category or industry You keep them on for cash flow.  Or because they've been a client for a long time or maybe because they're a marquee name and you like the recognition.  Whatever your reason is -- it's not good enough.  Those kinds of clients are wearing.  They beat up your staff, teach them bad habits (like complaining about the clients), will drive your best employees away and are a huge boulder in the path of you getting a bigger, better client. Yes, it's [...]

What your agency employees want from their boss

Have you ever wondered what your agency employees want from their boss -- AKA you? I just spent two days with a room full of account executives, teaching them how to add more value to their agencies and their clients. As part of the conversation, we talked about improving employee relations and the difference between what they think their bosses want from them…and what you, agency owners, truly do want from them. It's an eye-opening experience for them to say the least.  But then I turn the tables and ask them what they want most from you -- their boss. What I always find fascinating is that "more money" is rarely mentioned. Here's a partial list of what your best AEs want from you: They want to learn from you, your past experiences and work They want to keep learning and for you to give them access to workshops, webinars, etc. They want to get smarter in terms of how business works, not just marketing They want to know you're running the business in a fiscally responsible way They want to work someplace that is vibrant and has a fun/cool factor They want the "this job isn't M-F, 9-5" to work both ways But the number one thing, time and time again that I hear they want most -- they want you to notice their work, their effort and express your appreciation for them going above and beyond.  They work hard and part of the reason they do it is because they want your trust and respect. We all know, as agency owners, that we get going so fast that sometimes we forget to say "thank you." This is a great place to start when [...]

Agencies need to behave like consultancies

At Agency Management Roundtable (AMR) we've been preaching this for years.  Agencies need to get out of the "making stuff" business and get into the business problem solving business. Agencies need to behave like consultancies. We need to shift from doing to thinking. Our clients expect us to help them hit their goals and dodge their challenges.  We don't do that by just making a brochure or video. We do it by sitting at the strategy table with them and digging into their business, asking smarter questions and helping them think bigger, better and faster. Business consultant Amber Naslund wrote an insightful blog post that outlines how to build a strong consulting practice.  Interestingly -- she could have been writing about how to build a successful agency in the 21st century.  Her points about not billing by the hour, value pricing, asking better questions etc. are right out of the AMR handbook! Read her post and heed her words.  Whether she knows it or not my agency owner friends -- she is talking to you.

How to make time to work on the business

Every agency owner knows that they need to devote more time and attention to their business but they're so busy helping clients with THEIR business, it's tough to carve out the time to take care of your own.  Any time I chat with an agency owner, they admit they struggle with the same issue --  how to make time to work on the business. Agency owners need strategic planning tips in order to make time to work on their businesses. Every agency owner knows the way to more profits, more success and ultimately, more satisfaction is to invest the time to not only serve your clients but to work ON your business.  To think strategically about how to improve what's already working, fix what's not and plan for the next zig or zag you need to make. But, as I meet with agency owners from all over North America -- I find that most of them really struggle with this.  Are you wondering how to make time to work on your business? Here are five strategic planning tips that will get you focused on YOUR business and not everyone else’s. Re-think your relationship with email: Email is like crack cocaine for most agency owners.  Between their laptops, tablets and smart phones, they are checking email several times an hour, feeling this burning sense of urgency to answer within seconds of receiving the latest.  If you want to find time to work on the business, you'll need to tame your email addiction. Here's the reality.  If a client or staff members needs you, they will probably send an email first.  But if they don't get a quick reply -- what do you think they'll do next?  Right [...]

Do you know your agency’s sales life cycle?

Every business has a sales life cycle and communications agencies (whether you're an ad agency, digital, PR, etc.) are no exception.  It used to be pretty straightforward -- you either chased after a prospect or met them at some networking event or got a referral but the face to face happened early on.  Today, an agency's sales cycle is 70+% done before the prospect ever reaches and even has an email interaction with the agency. Every agency needs to map out their sales funnel, understanding that the first three-quarters of it happens prior to contact.  The visual shown here is my agency's (MMG) sales funnel. (If you click here, you can see it full sized). The left side of our sales life cycle shows the prospect's relationship to the agency at the time.  It flows from I've never heard of you to I'm a customer.  The question is how do you move a potential client through the funnel when you don't even know they're out there? You use your content marketing, social media, SEO and active prospecting to capture their fleeting attention and then you begin to serve up content that demonstrates that your expertise could help them achieve their business goals. Once they're paying attention to your smarts, you also need to give them a chance to get to know your agency's culture, values and what it's like to do business with you. Now, they start to like you. That's usually when they actually initiate contact and you have a shot at actively pursuing their account. As you can see by the bottom of the diagram -- you shouldn't leave current clients out of the equation. You need to be re-earning their business every [...]