In old cartoons and action movies, the idea of self-destruction usually involved a giant red “self-destruct” button, just waiting to be pushed to trigger an explosion of impending doom. When pressed, it initiated a countdown, and the characters scrambled to get away before they were engulfed in flames. In agency life, self-destruction sneaks up on agencies struggling to maintain their own new business pipelines while serving their clients. But, if left unattended, it can have equally catastrophic results. Client Work Comes First Typically, agencies are brilliant at creating strong brands, grabbing an audience’s attention, and generating leads for the clients they serve. On a daily basis, they help these clients convert leads into customers and turn those customers into loyal, frequent buyers. Sadly, when agencies spend the day helping their clients build their businesses, they tend to neglect their own lead gen and new business needs. Agency Needs Aren’t Met With Urgency Agency life is driven by deadlines and client needs. Employees spend their days putting out fires: shifted deadlines, PR crises, and customer complaints over social media. Unfortunately, this same sense of urgency isn’t present when it comes to doing work on their agency’s behalf. Client deadlines (and billable hours) often win out over a few hours spent focusing on internal growth. The Vicious Stop-and-Start of Business Development This cycle of self-neglect often continues until an agency loses a big account or some other crisis strikes. Suddenly, it doesn’t have enough business to sustain itself and faces layoffs or other drastic measures. Only then do agencies typically gear up the new business machine, using the tactics they preach to their clients every day. But as soon as they get busy with client work again, these [...]
As a lawyer who advises ad and marketing professionals, I’m regularly reminded by clients that excessive legal fees are not a fun way to spend marketing dollars. This is understandable, and to me it’s also a somewhat welcome point of view. If that sounds like an unusual perspective coming from “legal,” hear me out: it is always less costly in the long run to have a proactive approach to the legal matters that regularly arise in the business of marketing. Making a smart investment up-front in some solid legal infrastructure saves your agency the important commodities of time and money later. So, what are some of these “smart investments” that allow agencies to save on pricey legal fees? Have a Model Agency-Client Contract in Place – Note the use of the term “model,” which is a deliberate choice over the more popular term “form.” This is because while I am decidedly “anti-form,” your agency likely has (I last I hope it has) some consistent business practices that apply to every client, such as intellectual property ownership, payment milestones, and liability limitation. Your clients are not commodities, and neither is the work you do for them, so I advise against approaching your dealings with them with a fill-in-the-blanks form. Instead, save time by having model contract terms and conditions developed one time, and modify or customize them client-by-client, or by project, as you have the need. It’s also my experience that the absence of model contract language makes it more likely that the agency will just skip the step altogether and start the work with no contract – one of the easiest ways an agency can cost itself extra money on excessive legal fees if the [...]
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?