3 Steps to Stop Inflicting Help On Your Agency Team

The aroma of vegetable soup wafted up the stairs to my office. Moments later, my wife called, “Dinner’s ready!” “Mmmmm … I love homemade soup,” I thought. Rushing down the stairs and past the pantry, I spied a tube of crackers, grabbed them, and headed for the dining room. My wife sat at the table, waiting for me, smiling. Her smile vanished as she saw the tube of crackers. “Oh, this isn’t good enough? I really tried to get everything you like. I even brought out the oyster crackers …” Confused, I looked at her. Then, I looked at the table. She had arranged a beautiful spread of crackers, sliced cheese, chips & dips, salsa, veggies and grilled sandwiches to go with our soup. And there I stood, tube of crackers in hand, inflicting help. Acting Without Asking Inflicting help occurs when the helper acts in a way they feel as helpful but the recipient does not. It often stems from the helper not asking if, how or when someone would like to be helped. Instead, the helper jumps in and acts without asking. “But, I was only trying to help!” I was trying to comfort her. “I didn’t know you had all this out. I smelled the soup, saw the crackers, and grabbed them to be helpful.” We quickly sorted things out and went on to have a great meal together. Looking back, it was an interesting interaction, and it holds some lessons for agency managers. Because too often, well-meaning agency owners or managers inflict help on their teams. And when we realize what we’ve done, we might exclaim, “But, I was only trying to help!” Step One — Stop and Look Inflicting help is almost [...]

Hey agency owner — it’s time you got clear with your expectations

I know you think you’re a good communicator but I’d bet you $100 that, when it comes to setting employee expectations, you aren’t as clear as you think you are. No matter how good you are -- you could be better. It’s not entirely your fault.  You have several strikes against you. Agencies tend to attract very strong willed, opinionated people. They’re tough to manage. You probably grew up in the agency world and you miss being “one of the gang” so there’s a part of you that manages in a way that at least you’re a popular boss. You are wearing a lot of hats and since the employee issues are rarely on fire like the client ones are — it’s an easy bullet to dodge But here’s the problem. When people don’t know exactly what is expected of them… The great ones leave because they want to be part of a team that is very clear about where it’s going and they want to contribute somewhere Or — the great ones stay but over time, lose their drive and become mediocre The mediocre ones will never rise to the occasion and become great The crappy ones stay because you never ask too much of them How’s that for team building? Worst of all — you deal with it in a very passive aggressive way.  You give vague directions and then you’re angry that they don’t behave in the way that you want.  Or an employee steps out of your perception of how your employees should behave but you don’t give them the feedback.  You just get angry about it. See if these sound familiar.  “I handing him a book and said ‘it’s a [...]

Hey agency owner – want some fun company Christmas party ideas?

Are you ready for some fresh company Christmas party ideas?  Most agency owners feel kind of blah about their agency's annual holiday party.  They spend a lot of money on it but don't really feel like their employees really appreciate or look forward to it. Of course, when I ask them what they do, they sheepishly say "well, we have a nice dinner." Come on people -- you own an agency.  Surely you can get more creative than that!  Here are some company Christmas party ideas that Agency Management Institute's agencies have implemented over the years.  All of these could be augmented with food and drinks, if you want. Remember -- just because you love a fancy meal doesn't mean it's the only or best way to celebrate the season.   If you have a lot of millennials on your team -- they might like something with a charitable bent or something more casual. Why not mix things up with one of these Christmas party ideas? Give all of your employees $200 and take them to a local or specialty mall. Give them 2 hours to buy themselves something that they think Santa won't put under the tree.  Then, gather for lunch/dinner and everyone has to show what they bought (You can add a secret santa or charity twist too) Touring a winery/doing a tasting Adopting a family together and then delivering all the food/gifts together (and then usually going out to dinner afterwards) Having a party at one of those pottery/do it yourself art studios and everyone gets a set amt to choose an item to paint/fire etc. Renting a Hummer limo and doing a light tour (with snacks/champagne/hot chocolate in the limo or dinner afterwards) Ringing [...]

Hey agency owner — Should PR be part of your mix?

I work with over 200 agencies a year and the ones who are really crushing their AGI goals are the ones who have blended digital and PR into their shops. The addition of PR into a traditional ad shop (even one who has made the leap to digital) brings all kinds of new revenue opportunities to your agency. Traditional PR and media placements, media training etc. Digital PR -- everything from guest blogging to securing back links Content marketing -- creating content, curating content, thought leadership Crisis communications planning and prep Reputation management I get it -- you’ve established yourself as an advertising agency. You have a list of devoted clients. Your work has earned you numerous industry awards and the respect and admiration of your peers. So why should you consider branching out into PR? I asked Nancy Marshall -- Maine's PR Maven, who is co-leading AMI's Build a PR Department Inside Your Agency workshop this November 6th and 7th to share her thoughts on how adding PR to your shop would add value.  Here's what she said. Here are five ways PR will improve your entire agency: You will be able to generate a bigger and better ROI for your clients. Let’s face it, advertising and PR work best when used together, reaching for the same goal. It will create an additional revenue stream for your agency. You will now be able to pitch prospects seeking PR services exclusively, representing an entirely new pool of potential clients for your agency. You can also upsell PR services to your existing clients. PR will add value to your client relationships. Current and prospective clients will like the fact that they can work with one agency to meet [...]

Who should be driving agency new business efforts?

Looking for the silver bullet for agency new business efforts? I could sell a great new business person to agency owners all day long. They don't just want one -- they hunger for one. In fact, they're so hungry for that killer salesperson that they'll gladly pay a premium salary and perks to 8-10 losers before they find someone who can even cover their own salary. And that's just for the privilege of breaking even. Hardly a home run in the agency new business efforts World Series. In a recent new Agency-Marketer Business Report from RSW/US, 80 percent of agency respondents said the tenure of their new business director was two years or less. And (my editorial, not the study's) it was a very frustrating and expensive 2 years at that. Adweek covered the story and concurred with the study's findings. They had quotes from some of the bog box agencies and even a client or two who said agency new business people didn't get their business issues. I know it's a different world when you're JWT or Saatchi, but in the world of most privately owned agencies -- agency owners have two choices: You can gamble on finding/hiring someone who has incredible sales skills AND can talk marketing/business problems with prospects You can get over yourself and accept what you know but don't want to hear.  The best new business person in your agency is you. I can't tell you how many times I have been in a conversation with a new business agency owner who said "for XYZ reason, I had to step into the new business role and we are killing it! We've got 5 proposals out and we've already increased AGI 20% over last year." The reality [...]

The perfect new business specialist for your agency

I work with hundreds of agency owners a year.  We spend a lot of time talking about what's working and what's not working.  If there's one common frustration among agency owners it's the hunt for the perfect new business specialist for your agency. I hate to tell you but your hunt for the new business guy or business development guru is a little like chasing the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot.  They don't exist.  In fairness, I will say that I know of one or two.  But that's it.  There are some exceptions to the rule but for the most part -- those hired specifically to sell an agency fall short and usually are fired (or leave for a better paying gig when your commission structure leaves them wanting) within 18 months. But have no fear -- there is the perfect new business specialist for your agency out there.  It's you. No one else can talk about your client's successes like you can.  No one else can ask the questions that get the prospect to say "hmm, no one has ever asked me that before."  No one else can look at their current marketing efforts and spot the places that need shoring up or could be so much better than it is now.  You can uncover their pain points because you've been in the trenches with your clients. Only a person who has grown up in the agency business and sweated it out with clients can have those kinds of conversations. This is why you - agency owner - are the perfect new business specialist for your agency. Can you arm a salesperson with a set of door opening questions?  Yes.  Can you teach [...]

Ad Agency Principals: Tired of being treated like a vendor?

<A guest post by Rosemary Breehl> Smart Ad Agency principals are getting a seat at the CEO’s table and they’re doing it by building client relationships. It’s a new day out there for all of us. Competition is tougher. There are now “ten marketing dogs chasing that one corporate car.” CEO’s today are under terrible pressure to deliver revenues, so the last thing they want is another marketing firm trying to ‘sell’ them something. In their mind, marketing is an expense and the ad agency/marketing firm is just another vendor. Agency principals have been trying to change that perception for years. Interestingly enough, now is the perfect time to do it … with a new client or even better yet, with an existing one. When times are tough, CEO’s are looking for ‘game changers’. So they are more willing to listen. In a recent interview Jim Perdue, CEO of Perdue Farms said his expectations of marketing were: “First and foremost, marketing is the keeper of the brand’s health” … he goes on to say that “the health of the brand is critical to the success of the company and … marketing expenditures are not viewed simply as an expense but rather as an investment requiring a measurable rate of return.” And yet, you’re still doing brochures for your client. You need to up your game and start thinking strategically when building client relationships. You need to become a strategic partner and trusted advisor to your client … and not an expense. As long as you are still only delivering tactics, you don’t have a chance. You must act and sound different than your competitors. So, how do you get out of that rut and position yourself [...]

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 [...]

One page business plan template for agencies

Every good agency is big on planning for their clients. They facilitate strategic plans, they build marketing plans and they guide clients through the process of developing a digital strategy that can be woven into their overall communications plan. But agencies stink at planning for themselves.  Which is why I created a one page business plan template for agencies.  Everyone can fill out a single page, right? I'm not going to preach the reasons why planning matters.  You know why.  You preach it every day. Instead, let me tell you a little bit about the plan template and how you can use it to grow your agency in 2013.  I designed the template to accomplish a few goals. You need to grow your agency holistically -- rather than focusing on just one or two problem areas. You need to do more than just identify some goals.  I want you to flesh out the first few steps of actually getting started. Every goal has obstacles.  This template will help you identify those right up front. You shouldn't forget the less sexy aspects of the business like systems as you do your planning. You can either work through this planning on your own, with your leadership team or depending on the size of your agency, with your entire team.  While the end goal is to have a map for the upcoming year, one of the big benefits of putting together a plan is the process itself.  These are the kinds of conversations you don't have very often.  Listen carefully and closely to what your employees have to say.  You might gain much more than you bargained for when you use this one page business plan template for [...]

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 [...]

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