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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 [...]

By |September 24th, 2012|

How many hours should ad agency employees work?

How do you track billable time in an agency, and how many hours should ad agency employees work? This is a question that comes up all the time in my work with agencies.  The expectation in terms of a work week ranges from 37.5 hours a week to 50 hours a week although most agencies will say 40 in terms of hours worked in a week.  So that gives us a range from 1950 hours a year to 2600 hours a year with most people citing the 2080 hours a year number (40 hours/week).  But given an average of 3 weeks of time off (vacation and sick) and 10 work holidays (which translates to 5 weeks off) that gets you down to 1762.50 (37.5) to 2,350 as a range with 1880 hours a year being the 40 hour work week average. So when you think about how you're going to track billable time, the rule of thumb is that no employee can be billable 100%.  So here’s the best practices expectations by job function: Project Managers/Production Managers — 80% which is 1,504 hours at the 1880 hours in a year model Sr. Account Staff who have more admin/new business responsibilities — 70% which is 1,316 at the 1,880 hours in a year model Account Executives (jr and mid range)  -- 80% which is 1,504 at the 1,880 hours in a year model Creatives (writers and art directors) -- 75% which is 1,410 at the 1,880 hours in a  year model Media — 90% which is 1,692 at the 1,880 hours in a year model   And then you have your admin folks, who if you can get 25% billable time from — that’s great. The [...]

By |September 6th, 2012|

Dear Agency Owner – no one reads your agency blog because it sucks

There have been a lot of articles, blog posts, tweets and speeches of late that are all lamenting that many agencies are closing their blogs because no one reads them.  Most tiptoe around the "why" suggesting that people are getting more visual (so have a Pinterest board or have your agency get active on Instagram) or we don't read content online etc.  But what no one is saying is the actual truth: No one reads your blog because it sucks. Agencies are out there selling social media strategies to clients and embarrassing themselves back on their own website with blogs that are: Updated once or twice a month Usually about some award or client they won Breaking all of the blogging rules (no visuals, too long, badly written) Only using your own work as examples (again...beating your own drum) I think a lot of agencies jumped on the social media bandwagon (started a Twitter account, FB fan page, blog, etc.) just because it was expected but just like many of their clients -- because the barriers to entry were so low, they didn't bother to think it through or create a strategy.  And now, their Facebook page, blog or Twitter feed is like a ghost town. Here's why your agency blog isn't working: You have no strategy - you just write when you have time on whatever topic is top of mind You haven't allotted resources (time, money, staff) to sustain it You haven't built a community that will share your content You aren't looking at your blog as an opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader/expert You don't actually believe it can be a valuable asset to your business The sad thing is [...]

By |September 4th, 2012|

Where do you get your intelligence?

One of the biggest challenges for agency leaders today is stay on top of the trends, shifts and ever-shifting landscape so they can help their clients stay plugged in.  It's tough to find reliable sources that aren't either so well known they don't provide an edge or are so far out there that they're too speculative. For many agencies, Ad-ology's Marketing Forecast is a key source that provides that edge.  If you're not familiar with them...check out this month's Marketing Forecast. [youtube]http://youtu.be/vQtCNZRGgkw   If you find that useful -- check out their YouTube channel with over 100 videos.

By |August 20th, 2012|

Managing Your Agency in a Renewing Market (part one)

Don't get carried away with your enthusiasm about the increase in business activity. We are recovering from the Great Recession. You've survived it and have earned the right to celebrate.  A little. But now is not the time to take your eye off the prize.  In this recovery period, agency management can be tricky, because we're a little tired of fighting the fight and are looking forward to backing off a little. Don't do it. We've developed 25 helpful agency management steps you need to consider in managing the agency during this recovery period.  Here are the first half.... (and here's the 2nd half!) Make sure your strategic plan is in place, and that it focuses on some specialization with diversification. Now is the time to grow the agency, and within the context of your existing operations. New business programming is critical, but isn't the only source of profitability. Your managers and account staff need to understand what others do and why certain reporting requirements are needed to manage the agency effectively. Be a sponge. Get all the input you can from peers and suppliers about competition and how they are handling the recovery. Get into a network group to discuss operating techniques. If the network is an advertising agency network, that's better than a "business" network with people from other businesses. Always keep an eye on your profits. Don't assume that the bigger clients are the more profitable clients. They may pump in a lot of bucks, but they may be sucking the life out of the agency because they aren't profitable. Watch them all and know where your profits are coming from. Take another look at your fees and retainers. They should all be [...]

By |August 14th, 2012|

Digital only agencies aren’t making the grade

According to the Q2 Pearlfinders Index, which is digital marketing research based on interviews with more than 4,000 marketing executives across all industries --  digital and social media services have become more sought-after disciplines, while consumer PR, though still popular, is becoming less of a consideration. However, agencies that only offer digital services are not getting the nod. Despite shifting their budgets towards digital and social media, 3 in 4 marketers aren’t using exclusively digital agencies for their social or digital needs, and the majority of those don’t foresee using them in the near future, according to June 2012 survey results from RSW/US. In fact, only about 2 in 5 think such agencies can survive, with the remainder believing that digital agencies need to offer more traditional services to maintain their relevancy. In Q2, among the times that marketing decision-makers advised that they were considering a particular service category, digital made up 19% of these demands, up from 13% a year earlier. Similarly, social media was mentioned 17.1% of the time, up from 14.1% in Q2 2011. Consumer PR, at 14%, was the third most-desirable discipline, though it fell from 18.6% a year earlier. Advertising and corporate PR rounded out the top 5 desirable agency disciplines for Q2 according to this digital marketing research, though both fell substantially from the previous quarter. Customer Acquisition the Dominant Marketing Objective In Q2 2012, companies’ primary customer marketing objective was acquisition (93.8%), compared to just 5% focusing on retention and 3.8% on development. A year earlier, 71.3% had focused on acquisition, with retention (17.1%) and development (11.6%) figuring more prominently into the equation. Other Findings: NPD/innovation was the strongest source of opportunity for agencies, accounting for 35% of new business opportunities [...]

By |August 8th, 2012|

Your agency’s biggest fraud risk

Should you be concerned about possible fraud in your business?  You bet. Here are some things to pay attention to when it comes to business fraud prevention. You may think that because your agency is a small business that you aren’t susceptible to employee theft and fraud. In our work with agencies, the biggest problem is the lack of owner understanding about financial process and how reports and statements are constructed. If you don’t have a good understanding you are a prime candidate for being bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars. At the low end. For smaller businesses especially, the burden of fraud can be very costly. Statistics show that the median loss for a small business is well over $200,000. Making business fraud prevention a priority will help ensure that you do not become a victim. With a little bit of effort, you can effectively reduce the likelihood of fraud in your business. Sadly, we could tell you too many stories  of hard working owners being defrauded by very clever thieves. And those thieves are usually employees.  The worst case I was involved in finally discovered the bookkeeper had slipped more than $400,000 out of the company coffers over a five-year period. He had a wonderful home and all the trimmings, paid for by the agency. The bad news: local authorities are hardly interested in business fraud cases that are not in the millions. It is difficult to prosecute the thief, and he goes on to his next victim.  Often, the only way to collect is to report the thief to the IRS for non-payment of back taxes on the money that was stolen. The FBI tells us that the funds are often [...]

By |July 2nd, 2012|

How to Manage Payroll

An annual salary increase should be tied to profitability not the calendar. We don't recommend automatic annual salary increases. When learning how to manage payroll, we do wholeheartedly recommend is a salary plan that is fair and rewarding to all employees that inspires them to go above and beyond for the agency and its clients. You don't reward someone with an annual salary increase just for being on staff or holding down their position for another year. You reward them for their contributions and their added value.  Unfortunately, many employees feel entitled to a salary increase every year, and are very vocal when they don't get one. Somehow, salary has become an entitlement program. "The longer I stay, the more I should be paid." Sorry, I don't buy it. My concept of a good salary/compensation plan for advertising agencies  includes four basic elements: Profitability of the agency The responsibilities of the person's job and their contributions to the profitability Did they get better at their craft (are they adding new value) How long have they been a part of the team It boils down to rewarding the results you want. Rewarding the Results Profitability has to come first. You can't increase salaries if you aren't making a profit. The first responsibility of every employee should be to help the agency make a profit. I believe it is the agency's responsibility to keep employees even with the cost of living, and that employees should receive a piece of the profits the agency earns. The agency made the profit because of the combined efforts of the staff. Responsibilities vary with the position and with the person. It's obvious that a senior art director will make more than [...]

By |June 26th, 2012|

What’s your new business model?

Every advertising agency says they have a new business program.  Most, I've discovered... have the "oh crap, billings are slow, we need to work the phones, networking events and call some dormant clients" model of prospecting.  Over the next month, we're going to delve into advertising and marketing agency new business efforts in a much deeper way.  But on this Friday afternoon, I just want to share with you this infographic created by the folks at The List. Do you recognize your agency in one of these seven new business models?  If so -- is it the model you think is most effective for your agency or is it just the model you've fallen into our of habit, lack of planning/time etc. Bottom line -- take a look at your pipeline right now.  Is it filled with the right prospects?  Enough of them?  (click here to download PDF of infographic)

By |June 15th, 2012|

Agencies need to walk their social media talk

I had the good fortune of being a guest on a RockStar Radio Network show a couple weeks ago to talk about a topic I believe in strongly -- agencies need to walk their social media talk.  My good friend Steve Olenski was guest hosting for Carol McManus, the LinkedIn Lady and he asked me to be his guest. The topic Steve wanted to talk about is one I have been passionately talking about for some time.  Agencies who sell social but don't do social for themselves are going to be unmasked as the naked Emperors in the near future. Right now, most clients are still mystified by digital/social and they look at the agencies who guide them as magicians.  But pretty soon, everyone is going to understand that social is just a channel and it's really a reflection of our society fundamentally changing how we connect and communicate. At that point -- clients are going to point to the agencies who are charging them a pretty penny for creating and executing their digital strategy and say "hey, if you think this stuff is so revolutionary and important and worth the investment we've been making -- why aren't you doing it for your own agency?" Busted!  You've been exposed as a poser. Most agencies are doing an abysmal job with their own digital strategy.  They're either on auto pilot or they're jumping in and out, depending on how busy they are.  Worse... are the agencies who think their blog is where they should talk about themselves, their awards, their clients, their work.  Ugh. Steve and I dig into all of that during the show.  I'd love to hear what you think after you have a chance to listen [...]

By |June 7th, 2012|
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