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Do you talk to your employees?

I’m guessing when you read that headline, you snorted, rolled your eyes, or made a “duh” expression. I know you converse with your employees but do you actually have meaningful conversations? Here’s what I observe in most agencies. You greet employees as you see them during the day You have “as you run by them in the hallway” conversations which are 50% social and 50% functional in which you drop little bombs (updates, facts, commentary) on work in progress You have info passing email conversations But most of you are not setting aside time to actually dig in. Here’s what can and should happen on a regular basis: You’re teaching as you explain decisions and reactions to client requests, changes, strategies You’re learning where they’d like to invest their time in terms of learning something new and adding more value You’re giving them an opportunity to give you a heads up on potential client and team issues You’re coaching them through new challenges they’re facing You’re celebrating their growth, their wins, and their best attempts All of this can be accomplished in a 20 minute one-on-one meeting with your direct reports. Every employee should have one at least twice a month, if not more often. This is a meeting that the employee owns. There are huge benefits to you, the owner or leader of the agency as well. Fewer interruptions throughout the week (they’ll learn to save it for their one-on-one) Employees that are fired up to keep learning and understand that it’s part of their job An early warning when trouble is brewing Better employee retention (they want more of your time and attention) A much more accurate sense of what’s going on in [...]

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Algorithm?

Creative provides the largest opportunity for marketers today.  But with limitless creative decisions... How can you be sure you’re nailing every choice you make?  The rules for digital marketing can sometimes feel too fast-paced. Our world is full of ever-changing targeting and privacy restrictions, especially due to the updates ushered in by iOS14 and Google’s phasing out of third party cookies. Investing in creativity is the ultimate way to serve your customers, no matter what changes we encounter in the future.  Embracing creative thinkers and optimizing their work with machine learning is the ultimate way to ensure your customers’ campaigns provide the impact they need.  How Can Marketers Keep Up?  When trying to learn how to create the best content, we often research best practices. Facebook itself has a slew of best practices, tips, and creative standards to follow in order to get brands their biggest reach. Still though, both Facebook and consumers want creative diversity. Following best practices can take you places, but it won’t get you as far as one novel, well-executed idea.  In a study of Pattern89’s 11 years of historic digital marketing data, we found that top performing creative goes stale after just 10.4 days. In practice though, creative life cycles are much longer, sometimes lasting months. The most feasible way to update all your creative in a timely manner is to tap into new technologies. For example, machine learning can make optimizations and predict what content adjustments will perform for your audiences and goals.  Let’s take a look at how machine learning can offer the perfect support for creative teams. Understanding the Algorithm  Obviously, the greatest creative accomplishments came from people. Only human minds-- such as William Shakespeare, Frida Khalo [...]

Want Your Clients to Win at Content? Do These 5 Things

Content creation is hard. It’s a vital part of modern marketing, it feeds SEO, and nearly every customer I talk to—SMB, digital agency, publisher, you name it, they all struggle. For digital agencies especially, multiply “this is hard” by a list of demanding clients and flakey freelancers, and you’ve got a recipe for something not delicious.  My company, Verblio, creates content for 500 agencies every month.  As a result, I talk to a lot of digital agencies and I hear the same complaints over and over: good writers are hard to find. Quality content is expensive and difficult to produce. Did you know that only 25% of digital agencies consider their content programs “successful?” We surveyed 115 agencies and compiled the results and takeaways in Verblio’s 2020 Digital Agency Survey. The 5 biggest content trends should not surprise you—most savvy agencies are doing this stuff. What may surprise you is how hard it is to execute these strategies at scale and to price for success.  Trend #1: Content is getting longer The data says: 57 percent of agencies are producing longer content than they were two years ago. Longer content = better results.  29% of agencies said their content length hasn’t changed in 2 years Only 14% of respondents said their content is getting shorter.  43% of agencies said their average blog post today is longer than 1,000 words For any agency steeped in SEO, those numbers are no surprise. The average length of a top-ten Google search result has now topped 2,000 words. Search engines prioritize in-depth pieces that provide significant value to audiences, especially when they also happen to naturally cover related keywords and phrases. Agencies looking to provide tangible SEO value to [...]

We should be better communicators

I’m betting you have said on more than one occasion, “isn’t it funny, given what we do for a living, that we aren’t better communicators?” And you’re right it is funny in an ironic, funny way. But definitely not in a laugh all the way to the bank sort of way. In my work with agency owners and leadership teams, there is almost always a broken line of communication. It can come in many shapes and sizes. It can be a situation where Bob said something 10 years ago and Babette is still clinging to it like it’s gospel even though Bob has long since changed his thinking on the issue. Or Babette made a big announcement at a state of the agency meeting three months ago and is surprised that no one accurately remembers the details. Or Bob made a statement and no one asked any clarifying questions so all kinds of assumptions were made and held for way too long. You know, from your work with clients, that this is not an issue that in unique to agencies. It’s a challenge in every organization. But in small to mid-sized agencies, it can be a killer. It can cause people to shut down, quit, or make a mistake that costs you serious money. How do we solve it? We don’t shortcut the messaging — we may have been thinking about some aspect of the business for awhile, but our team has not had the benefit of walking that path with us. We need to give them the back story and all of the supporting information so they can fully understand the core idea. We can model asking clarifying questions — you know that it [...]

How stressed are you?

We manage our people, we manage client expectations and we manage our finances.  And then there’s email management, biz dev management and a host of other things that are under our watch.  But all of that focus on making sure that everything is running like clockwork can also jack up our stress.  That stress shows up in a lot of little ways:   We are short tempered with our team, family and friends We feel like we can never let up or wind down We miss deadlines (internal or external) We fall behind, putting incredible pressure on our teams to cover our rear ends We are distracted when we’re with our family and friends We  feel our jaw clenching, our head pounding, or our back knotting up   Our “normal” work day is to run around and put out fires all day.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have ever had a work day that played out exactly how I thought it was going to when I woke up that morning.  We have chosen to live in chaos.  And sometimes, we even like it.  But like it or not — it’s our reality.   And that’s before you add in our personal life and the challenges that sometimes come from that side of the equation.   The truth is — we can’t escape stress.  They say, in moderate doses, it’s actually good for us.  But left unchecked, it can diminish our effectiveness and we bring a less than ideal version of ourselves to work and home.   And we all know — there are some serious physical/health consequences to boot.   To survive that reality, we need coping mechanisms.  Yes, I [...]

Not Finding Your Ideal Clients? Maybe You’re Looking for the Wrong Things.

At the beginning of most of my engagements, I start by sending the client team a questionnaire that helps me establish a baseline understanding of how the agency approaches business development—strengths, weaknesses, skills, and areas of resistance. In it, I ask them to describe their ideal client. Here’s a sampling of what I hear more often than not: “Open-minded, seek out expert advice, and take it, challenge us with problems they can’t solve, value our time and expertise.” “Really smart, and motivated to get things done.” “Collaborators who recognize the importance of strategic planning and thoughtful execution.” “They provide us with direct access to key decision-makers. They’re collaborative, value our opinions and input, and have a healthy balance of practical and aspirational thinking for their brand.” “They’re ‘brand collaborators’—marketing-led companies looking for a long-term, transparent partner to challenge the status quo and collaborate on integrated solutions.” “They trust us, respect us, and like spending time with us. Discussion is always thoughtful, relaxed, and challenging. It never feels like we’re not on the same team even when we disagree.” “They are appreciative of the work we do and pleasant to work with.” These are pretty idyllic descriptions. And not necessarily unrealistic. Every agency deserves to work with clients like these. The problem is, these descriptions are limited in their ability to help you find ideal clients. I began to consider why agencies default to describing ideal clients in this way. What I realized is agencies tend to frame the question as "who are we best served by?" when the question I’m really asking is “whom do you serve best?” Understanding the distinction between the two has big implications for the effectiveness of your new business outreach. Who is [...]

Virtual Events Good Business For You and Your Clients

As an agency owner that serves the travel, tourism and hospitality industry exclusively, I have been tracking the data on when face-to-face group meetings and conventions will return. My clients depend on it! The good news is face-to-face events will return. The better news is innovation is happening at a rapid pace in the meetings industry and you will see many virtual features that have become popular during the shutdowns stick around as new hybrid formats are created. If you or your clients have been resisting the investment in virtual events, now is the time to get serious about adding them into your marketing mix.  Here are some data points that we have been tracking that tell us this makes good business sense. First, the sentiment of the American Traveler is telling us it will be a slow rebuild for face-to-face events to be at the level they were pre-pandemic. A few highlights from Destinations Analysts Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Report from December 15, 2020: 74% of American Travelers say they will not attend an in-person group meeting or convention until the Coronavirus situation is resolved.  Only 24% of American Travelers say they have plans for in-person group meetings and conventions in 2021 53% of American Travelers say they will not feel comfortable going to an in-person group meeting or convention until sometime after September 2021  If you or your clients are counting on adding events back into the mix in 2021, be prepared for fewer event options and lower attendance. Many projections are targeting 2024 and 2025 for a full return, if live events and meetings are an important part of your marketing mix waiting four years is likely not the best option. Benefits [...]

Demystifying Business Systemization: Figure out which systems will create the biggest impact in 20 minutes or less.

If you've been in the business world long enough, you know of systems. Perhaps you've read The E-Myth, Traction or another book and are fired up about them. But HOW? Where should you start? You're busy and so enmeshed in everything your business does that even thinking about which processes to systemise first is overwhelming.  Through my work helping hundreds of business owners free themselves from daily operations, I realised that systemising doesn't have to be stressful or overwhelming. In fact, in just 20 minutes, any small business owner in any industry can identify the 10-15 systems that make the biggest impact. In this article, I'll walk you through this — well, system — mapping out your Critical Client Flow (CCF) step-by-step.  The following is an excerpt from chapter one of my book, SYSTEMology. There, I share the method that has transformed hundreds of small businesses from owner-dependent, zero-systems businesses to finely tuned assets. Step-by-step, I show you how to create the systems you identify here (without you) and how to get your employees excited about systems, too. The Critical Client Flow (CCF) is the first step in the SYSTEMology method, a breakthrough system for creating systems. All you need is a pen and paper. You can also go to systemology.com/resources to print out a plug-and-play CCF worksheet. We'll fill it out together.  It looks like this:  How to Create Your Critical Client Flow (CCF) In the CCF, you'll map out the core of how your business works.  You'll identify the minimum viable systems required to consistently bring in new business, convert those leads to clients and then deliver your product/service.  You’ll also see the 'holes' within your business, and it will help you develop [...]

The Hands, Head and Heart Model

Our goal as leaders is to help steer our team, motivate them when times get tough, and achieve the objectives and goals we’ve identified for the term. To do this well we consult with our clients on how to create Clarity, Alignment, and Purpose.  Clarity of the vision.  Alignment to make sure we’re all on the same page.  And Purpose to understand how what we do matters.  Purpose tends to be the missing link for a great many organizations and leaders. (Especially during a particularly challenging period of time. Our purpose gets lost in the stress.) Yet, when employees understand the purpose behind their work -- as in, why what they do matters -- you can unlock another level of effort, effectiveness, and efficiency that wasn’t there before.  The difference between hands, head and heart.  When you have someone’s hands, they’re willing to do the work and will achieve some level of productivity. Companies that have built great processes into their work can achieve their goals with just their employee’s hands. The challenge is, they may not be putting their “all” into the work they do and they’re definitely not thinking about how to make the process better.  When you have someone’s head, they’re not only doing the work well, but they’re thinking about how they could do it better. An employee who is engaged at the “head” level will put more mental energy into the work they do and find different, better and more efficient ways of working. You’ll achieve productivity and profitability with a group of employees that use their heads, but there’s another level you can strive to achieve.  At the ‘heart’ level, you’ve engaged an employee in such a way that [...]