Reflections and refractions

I’ve always been drawn to water, especially the ocean.  I find the reflections and refractions mesmerizing. I also find them illuminating.  A solitary walk along the ocean or just standing in the water and feeling the waves lapping against my legs helps me find a clarity that the hustle and bustle of a normal day can obscure.  I know that I need a few of those ocean front days a year just to keep myself on track.   There are times of the year that also invite that same sort of introspection and if the end of last year doesn’t call us to be a little more thoughtful, I’m not sure what would.  Let me give you a few questions to get you started, if you have been too busy to start down this path on your own. Reflections: What was the biggest goal you had for 2021 and how did that turn out?  Did it matter in the end? What did you have to remind yourself more than once in 2021 and how can you avoid that same pattern in 2020? What’s the most painful thing that could happen in 2022 and how do you protect yourself from it now? Who came to your rescue in 2021 and helped in some way — profound or not? What are you most proud of, when you look back on the last year? What is your biggest regret of 2021? How do you avoid it in 2022? Refractions: Who surprised you this past year and what does it mean for the coming year? What worry never came to pass or turned out differently than you expected in 2021? What’s the lesson there? What did you pursue in 2021 [...]

Is Gratitude A Noun Or A Verb?

Many years ago, I created a “mantra” for myself  - three words that I try to live by every day.  Gratitude • Grace • Give.   I had a wooden sign made and it hangs in my home — to serve as both a celebration and a reminder of that personal goal. I don’t alway honor that promise as fully as I could, but I sure try.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to say to you in this week’s article, I decided to actually look up the definition of gratitude.  I know this will make me sound like I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box but I was reminded/surprised that gratitude is a noun.   For me, gratitude is a verb.  It’s an action word.  I absolutely feel it, but more than that — I try to walk it out in all that I do.  It’s why we produce so much free content like the podcast, blog, webinars, etc.  It’s our way of supporting agency owners out there and being very clear about whose side we’re on. I know how many resources you have out there and I am grateful that you choose to lean on AMI to help you build an agency that is more sustainable, scalable and if you want to down the road — sellable.  Since I can’t talk to/hug/help all of you individually, it’s my group hug, I guess. I am very aware of my good fortune.  I get to serve people I genuinely love.  The agency owners and leaders in my world are important to me, far beyond the work we do together and I understand how rare and special that is.   Thank you. Whether you are [...]

Are your clients thankful for you?

In a previous newsletter I told you about a business partner that was making it tough to love them because we were paying the price for their growth through mistakes, lack of attention to detail, and dropped balls. That triggered a series of emails from some of our other partners who asked, “was that about us?”  The answer in all cases was no because I had forewarned the partner who inspired the article so they already knew.  But the fact that so many had to ask got me thinking. A few thoughts…  If you aren’t 100% positive that your clients are happy, you should ask.  Ideally, through a third-party who can get past the “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” stage but even if you ask them yourself — don’t wait until you get some hint of trouble like a purposefully vague newsletter article. When you hear “everything is okay” the translation is everything is actually not okay.  It means there’s room for improvement. You’re at risk if you are okay.  Dig deeper into any “okay” or “fine” responses you get. You want an ecstatic response, not a lukewarm one.  Okay is lukewarm at best. As Maya Angelou said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Man, does that matter.  You can do everything well or right and if your client doesn’t believe you genuinely care about them and their business, it isn’t enough.  On the flip side — when your client does know how much you care, you earn a lot of grace for when things do not go according to plan. Does your [...]

Creating Systems That Your Team Will Actually Use

If you're a busy agency owner like myself, you know that systems are so important, but likely the last thing on the never-ending to-do list.  My secret sauce? Standard Operating Procedures (living, breathing documents) so that at any point in time, your team can hand over the SOP to someone else on the team and they can jump into the role no problem. But, where to start?  Here are some of my top tips to get started on building systems your team will love, and actually use:  Sharpen up your client onboarding system. How do you hand over a new client from sales to client manager? If you're shaking your head, I'd recommend peeking at what your workflow looks like. Of course, there will be clients that need to have specialized onboarding, but for most, it's the same! What are the assets you need? The briefing docs? The email templates? Workflow that into your systems so it's not stressful to onboard a new client. And bonus— it'll allow your team to scale quicker because you have your team confident and waiting on the other side of that sales call. Get a copy of our Client Onboarding Checklist here. Who's responsible for what? This is a super important element to any agency, and it's really important in understanding the roles within your team! This is key to getting buy-in from your team so they’ll actually want to use these systems! Who's responsible for sending the client onboarding package? Who's sending reports? The definition of each team members' role should be identified in an org chart or job description so it's super clear.  Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Documents. When you create these documents, share them with each [...]

Should Your Agency Offer Programmatic Advertising Services? Here are Key Reasons Why

If you’ve found this article, you probably already know that programmatic advertising is growing—fast. In a few short years, the share of digital ads run programmatically has skyrocketed from zero to 85%, and it continues to climb year over year, particularly as COVID-19 has hastened the shift toward all things digital.  Without offering programmatic as a service, your agency may be missing out on what has become a massive slice of the $172 billion digital advertising pie. That said, the implementation of new and complex programmatic technology coupled with the emergence of new media channels like CTV/OTT, digital audio, and digital out-of-home is a challenge most advertising agencies don’t have the resources to tackle on their own just yet. Still, clients are increasingly expecting the option as digital advertising becomes increasingly synonymous with programmatic. In this post we’ll explain why most clients already expect their agencies to offer programmatic, what adding this service to your own agency’s repertoire entails, and how agencies can most easily add programmatic advertising to grow their revenue in 2021 and beyond. The Digital Transformation of Client Expectations In many cases, the traditional advertising methods agencies have relied on for decades are becoming less effective by the day as the world shifts to digital. Post-2020, U.S. consumers are spending more time online per day than ever before. Programmatic advertising allows your clients to get more bang from their digital media budget through robust ad targeting and data sets that work together to avoid wasted ad spend. Because of its improvements to campaign efficiency and scale, the vast majority of digital ads are already run using programmatic advertising technology.  The programmatic industry has its own unique challenges to address as it grows, [...]

When was the last time you sent flowers?

I read a statistic once about the frequency of floral deliveries in relation to the length of the relationship and as you might imagine, the longer the relationship had been around, the less often flowers got sent. It was an old article in Psychology Today and the point of the article was that in the mind of the sender, because he/she had been sending flowers for so long and because the relationship was stable — they viewed the flowers as less significant. Interestingly — from the recipient’s side of things, the exact opposite is true. The longer the relationship had been around and the less turbulent it was, the more the flowers meant because they were sent from the heart with no agenda other than to express the sender’s affection. The fact that they are frivolous and serve no functional purpose was part of the significance, from the receiver’s point of view. The article went on to talk about how during the courtship, gestures like sending flowers is almost expected. But once you’re an old married couple (I am paraphrasing) they’re more special because it’s not expected anymore. A few years ago, in one of our Agency Edge research projects, we identified that one of the triggers for a client to start being susceptible to another agency’s advances is because they feel like we don’t appreciate them anymore. We take the relationship for granted. When we were chasing after them — they got all of our time and attention. And we did it for free! But in many cases, they don’t feel our desire or love for them as much anymore. We don’t send flowers or write them love sonnets like we did in the [...]

Advertising’s Hybrid Future: Why Outsourcing Is Here to Stay

The pandemic wasn't the first time agency owners and advertising leaders "rented" talent. The 2008 recession forced many businesses to outsource advertising work. In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost.com I discuss how by leveraging the abilities of outsourced partners, agencies can cover skill gaps while making better use of full-time employees.

Is it really thought leadership?

In case you haven’t heard, you are supposed to be a thought leader and your clients are as well.  Thought leadership goes by many names — authority, expertise, having a niche, being an expert, etc. But at the end of the day it’s all about having a depth of expertise and sharing it so that others can learn and identify you as a subject matter expert. That’s, unfortunately, the part that many agencies miss the mark.  Our content is generic and impersonal.  Sure — we’re telling people why they should care about the latest Pantone color of the year or five ways to maximize something vital — but it’s not specifically about our unique expertise and it doesn’t give the reader a sense of who you are as a leader or a person. If I ask you to think of people that create content that you actually look forward to reading and find value in, my guess is that it’s most often going to be a person (as opposed to a company) and someone who has earned the right to be seen as an expert.  Good news — that’s you!  You have spent decades honing your craft and earning the right to be respected for what you know.  Your content should reflect that. I wrote an article for Spin Sucks on how marketers get thought leadership wrong and what we can do about it.  I absolutely know for a fact that this needs to be a significant strategy in your biz dev efforts.  I have seen it work many times for agencies big and small.  I’d love to see how you could increase genuine connection, open the door to new relationships, and carve out a [...]

Building Trust When Faced with Ambiguity

Navigating ambiguity is a primary concern for any leader. When the world is changing around us at an unprecedented rate, even the best leaders may struggle to set priorities, communicate clearly, and drive the vision. Nothing splinters clarity like the urgency of our recent global pandemic, and when ambiguity goes unchecked for many months, trust in leadership will crater. In this uncertain climate, it has never been more important for businesses to build trust.  Without a clear plan, employees get confused, lose productivity, and feel less committed to the company and to their morals. In the absence of clear expectations, trust between leaders and team members inevitably breaks down. Leadership teams that don’t achieve alignment may end up executing entirely disconnected visions. This leads to more ambiguity, loss of trust, and a never-ending downward spiral. Trust is the antidote to uncertainty. An explicit focus on building trust is the only way to successfully lead through ambiguity. Here are four ways to tackle ambiguity by actively building trust: Share “the Why”  So often on a demanding project, communication is the first thing on the chopping block, sacrificed to the demands of speed and deadlines. Urgency serves as justification for not taking time to communicate critical information. One of the first to go tends to be “the why.” In other words, why are you making one choice over another? Why are you taking one person off of the project and leaving the team to pick up slack, for example? When people don’t understand the rationale behind their leader’s actions, trust goes out the window.  In the absence of a clear explanation, people will always gravitate toward the most negative possible interpretation. Not only will trust go down, [...]

Are you tired?

We’re about to round second base on the year and kick off towards home plate. Does the idea of pushing yourself to accelerate and notching it up a gear seems daunting right now? Are you tired? You’ve been pushing hard since mid-January and my guess is that your tank is about out of gas. Before you round that bend, you might need to re-fuel. Not sure if you’re running on fumes? Look for these signs: It’s tougher to get excited about new work, email inquiries, or even awesome client results. Your attention span is shrinking. Every shiny object, squirrel, and Netflix series is calling your name. You’re not walking the agency as much (if you're back in the office) — when you get in, you isolate yourself and hunker down in your office. You’re having a hard time getting revved up to chase new opportunities. You aren’t as productive. Just getting through your must do list is a bit of a struggle. Many of you will misinterpret these signs as indicators of age, waning interest, or perhaps that it’s time to hang up your cleats. For 99% of you, that’s just not the case. It just means you’re tired and need to recharge. Agency owners are not so great at that, so you need to be intentional about it. Here’s how to get the energy you need to round the bend and finish strong. Plan a getaway to someplace that will fill you up. Based on budget, family responsibilities, health issues or other factors — this is going to be very unique to you. But every single one of you has the capacity to get away for a few days, unplug and reboot. Your agency [...]