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How agencies should use content to attract prospects

Content marketing is all the rage but most of it is just packaging. Frankly -- agencies have been using content marketing for decades for their clients.  It's not new.  But what I think is new is the idea that agencies should use content to attract prospects for themselves. This type of content management strategy was the focus of an article I wrote for The Agency Post before the holidays. Agencies are, by their very nature, superb story tellers.  And they have an incredible depth of knowledge when it comes to marketing strategy, their own agency's niches, etc.  I get the whole "we're too busy doing it for our clients to do it for ourselves excuse" but honestly -- that needs to stop. In theory, agencies should be perfectly structured to create content so intriguing that people never want to leave the conversation. But the reality is most agencies practice a conservative approach with their content management strategy because they are paranoid about sharing anything of genuine value. They fear their competition might see it or that they might turn away potential clients because of what is posted. They’re also afraid that if they give knowledge away for free, the reader might never become a client. This is why most agencies are still just curating content or talking about their business, which of course means they’re not inspiring anyone. They are simply restating their company slogan or biography to exhaustion. If what you have to offer is high quality and helpful to the client, he or she will come back. Today, the model for professional services new business efforts is -- you give first.  Share something of value.  Demonstrate your expertise.  Show me you know your [...]

Do your AEs bristle at the word sales?

Be honest agency owner, you know that your account executive team is great. But sometimes they struggle when it comes to actual sales. Enter our account executive sales training workshop. 67% of an agency's new business revenue comes from existing clients (on average).  The people who are (or sadly -- are not) going to bring in those additional dollars are your account executive team.  They interact with their clients every day.  They propose new work, they know when the client has hit a barrier (and maybe needs some marketing help to leap over it) and they drive that client's activity. Sounds like sales to me.  But if your AEs think and behave more like relationship managers, you're not alone.  When surveyed, agency owners had these frustrations about the people on their account team: Sometimes they behave like they work for the client, not the agency They don't know how to listen for problems we can help solve They don't understand the business of owning or running a business They don't think new business or sales within our existing clients They let the client lead too much Sound familiar?  That's why we developed our Account Service Advanced Training workshop.  We spend two days teaching GOOD account service people how to really help grow their agency's AGI, reputation, new business (both from existing clients and brand new) and their network.  We talk numbers.  We talk strategy.  And we talk sales. When the participants leave the executive sales training workshop, sales is no longer a dirty or scary word.  They come back fired up and excited to stretch their wings. But don't take our word for it.  Here's what some past participants have had to say: “My AE [...]

Advertising agency non-compete agreements

A non-compete agreement form is like fire insurance. It's a sickening feeling to see the smoldering ruins of your just-burned house, and wish you'd bought the insurance policy. The time to create your non-compete agreement is before you get burned. There's a widespread belief among the advertising agencies that we meet in our workshops and consulting that non-compete agreements are not enforceable. We do all we can to dispel that belief. We're not attorneys so we won't attempt to give you legal advice, other than say a properly written non-compete agreement form required by the agency and signed by the employee is binding upon both parties. Doing so could even save you a fortune on legal fees. Non-compete agreements do not fall under Federal jurisdiction. The covenants are governed by State law. With fifty states there are fifty sets of rules. This means you need to talk to your legal eagles and have them put one together for you that can be upheld in your state courts. You need to have ALL current and new employees sign the non-compete agreement form you and your attorneys have fashioned. Your attorney will tell you that you will probably have to compensate each employee in some way to sign the new agreement.  In my agency, we paid them all $1 -- which we literally handed to them. You may find that it may be simple to include a "section" on non-compete in the employment agreement. But the key is getting signatures on the document -- no matter which document you choose to include your non-compete language. While it's true that you can't prevent someone from making a living, you can prevent them from making a living at your [...]

Commandments For Running An Advertising Agency

Several years ago I ran across a little ditty by Joe Adams that I've kept around just to re-read and remind myself of what business I'm in. Joe called it his Commandments for Running An Advertising Agency. It's a good reminder to all of us  that it takes is a little common sense, enthusiasm and guts. So, here they are: Thou shalt market from the top down. (Call on the best fit prospects first.) Don't work for bastards - and don't be one. (Pick people you want to work for. Take on ones with great potential. You must like your clients.) Thou shalt learn to speak in numbers. (How much, what will it cost - that is what clients want to hear.) Thou shalt be creative. (Creativity can be learned.  Being creative is believing you are creative.) Eat bran flakes and hire competitive people who like to win for your agency and your clients. Be conspicuous. (You must make your agency stand out. Don't copy your competitors.)  Thou shalt think business. (Clients have business problems. These problems are our opportunities.) Thou shalt be emotional. (Most advertising is boring. They are afraid to be emotional. People don't buy because of facts; they buy for emotional reasons.) Learn to say "No!" Hire people that are smarter than you are. Thou shalt have fun! (Do everything possible to enjoy work. Quit your job if necessary.) These commandments are 20+ years old.  How do you think they hold up in today's world?  I modified two of them.  Can you guess which ones?

Results from the small and medium advertising agency survey on salaries and benefits

For the past 12 years, Agency Management Roundtable has conducted an annual salary and benefits survey looking at the trends in small and medium sized agencies.  The survey results report allow agency owners to compare their salaries by position with how the rest of the country's salaries.  The results are also presented by agency size and region. For the first time in several years, salaries seem to be on the rise, albeit a modest one. We’d seen flat or declining salaries over the past several surveys.  This and several other indicators in the report seem to suggest that the recession’s toll on agencies is beginning to recede. A new trend appeared in this edition of the AMR Salary Survey as well.  More agencies (18%) do not have an in-house copywriter.  As freelancing and contract labor options become easier and more plentiful, it will be interesting to see how this trend evolves.  It seems to fly in the face of all the Content Marketing push that is being driven by social networks and the rush to digital marketing spaces. Agencies, like all small businesses, are clearly struggling to offer their employees healthcare coverage.  Over 90% of agencies surveyed offered their employees some form of health insurance and contribute to the costs at some level The 2012 AMR Salary & Benefits Survey Report is available for purchase at $99 The 2012 survey of advertising agencies’ employee compensation was conducted by the consulting firm, Agency Management Roundtable (AMR). The firm is the only consulting group that focuses on marketing communication agencies employing fewer than 50 people. Over the past twenty years, AMR has worked with several hundred advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic design companies and new interactive [...]

Letters To The Editor That Pull In Business

Awhile ago, we received a call from an agency in upstate New York. "I was looking through a back issues of Money Magazine," he said, "and I saw your letter to the editor mentioning that one of the things you do is work as an advertising agency consultant. You might be the kind of person I'm looking for to help me with my agency." So far AMR has helped him on several occasions. An unsolicited qualified prospect called us at the cost of one stamp on the letter to the magazine. (Today, it would be the cost of a mouse click!) If you think that letters to the editor only provide a place to sound-off on some issue of public issue you're wrong. They can also provide opportunities to spread the word about your services to an enormous audience. But for this strategy to pay off, you have to remain alert to opportunities during your regular reading, carefully construct an effectively subtle letter and promptly send it off. First, stay on the lookout for articles to relate advertising or marketing  issues. Then consider how you can agree, disagree or add to what was reported in the article. Start your letter with a reference to the name and date of the article you are responding to. Then present your comment using this formula: "As the principal of an advertising agency, I have found/feel/think ____." For instance: "As the owner of an advertising agency that specializes in the mining industries, I feel ... " "As the owner of a graphic design company that deals with high tech companies, I've found ..." For some excellent examples, take a look at the letters column in Entrepreneur Magazine. Almost every [...]

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)

Exit interviews – don’t miss this opportunity

I know I'm not telling you anything you haven't already figured out.  An agency's employees are so much more than the life blood.  They are the walking, talking embodiment of your company.  And when they leave -- you can learn a great deal, if you conduct exit interviews. I've been really fortunate.  In the almost 20 years of owning my agency, I've had (and have) some incredible employees.  They've gone on to do amazing things like start their own agency, work for Dow Jones, opt to stay home and raise three wonderful boys, work for Meredith Publishing, BBDO and many other fine companies. Of course, there's the other side of the coin too.  Some self-destructed, others...I mis managed or put into the wrong position and set them up to fail.  Some of them are still friends.  Others curse my name, I'm sure.  Honestly, that's one of the most painful elements of owning an agency for me.  I know I preach that we should have have thick skins, but I can't say I have that mastered. But no matter how/why someone leaves your agency, don't miss the opportunity to to conduct an exit interview.  You probably won't like everything you hear, but you will learn from it.  Every time. Exit interviews can deliver important inside information. The way departing employees view your organization might be the way things really are.  You can do this in a few different ways. If the employee is leaving on good terms, as the agency owner, you might be able to sit down and have a frank conversation.  But if there's still a final paycheck pending or they don't want to burn any bridges, you might find them less than truthful. [...]