As agency owners and leaders — we live in a pressure cooker. There’s always an endless list of To Dos. Deadlines constantly loom. Someone is always in our doorway, needing five minutes that quickly turns to twenty. Clients call with emergencies, employees have personal issues and we seem to be the focal point where all of these demands gather. Truth be told, most of us like the controlled chaos. We thrive on the challenge, the pace, and energy that comes from our daily demands. Until we don’t. I’m a high energy person as a general rule. I juggle multiple companies, work long hours, produce a significant amount of new content, and am constantly working to create something new and valuable — be it a course, writing a book, launching a conference or guiding a client through a thorny issue. So when the holidays wrapped up, I planned on jumping right back into the fray, going at 110 mph and getting back into my usual routine. But I couldn’t. This past fall and early winter were packed with some colossal challenges and demands in both my personal and professional life. The specifics don’t matter but suffice it to say, I have not been stretched that thin in many years. I was emotionally, physically and mentally spent. I went on a trip that I had been looking forward to all year. I thought that it was what I needed to re-charge my battery. But instead, it just exasperated the issue. I am not an apathetic person. In fact, I am sort of the opposite. I care about everything. But, when we got back from our trip, I was pretty much apathetic about everything. I didn’t care about [...]
Do you remember the movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. You do watch any movie that takes place inside an advertising agency, don’t you? Anyway —the premise of the movie is that Mel Gibson is an arrogant, sexist ad guy who receives the “gift” of being able to hear what women are thinking all around him. As you might imagine, it was a shock to Mel’s ego to see himself through the eyes of the women in his life. If you haven’t seen it — check it out. It’s definitely worth a Netflix night. The movie popped into my head because I’ve had some interesting conversations with agency employees over the past few weeks and my conversation with Craig in a previous podcast also touched on how our employees see the agency and us as the agency leader. I wish you could hear their unedited thoughts because I think we unintentionally miss the mark sometimes because of our assumptions. Like poor Mel — sometimes the listening would not be easy to hear. But given what we do for a living — we know how important perspective is and as you might imagine, the Mel at the end of the movie is a different guy than the Mel we meet initially. I wonder if that would be true for you too. Here are some of the biggest refrains that are running through agency employees’ brains that I believe are worthy of your time and attention: “I’m relieved that she got a new car. It means the agency is stable financially and I don’t have to worry about my job.” “He has no idea how much harder it is to do my job [...]
This is a tough time to be an agency on a growth path. Ironically, not because the clients aren’t out there and ready to spend money. Agencies are reporting better biz dev opportunities than I’ve seen in awhile. But those same agencies are saying to me, “Drew, I can’t go after it. I just don’t have the people to service it if we win it.” That’s painful. But if you’re struggling to field a full roster, know you’re not alone. In the last 18 months, many agencies are experiencing turnover like they have never seen before. Some of our agencies are weathering a staggering 35%+ turnover rate. I don’t care if you are 5 people or 555 people — that hurts. Your people are being poached left and right. Or they’re coming to you with ridiculously high salary demands to stay. How are agencies combatting this trend (which I hate to tell you, shows no signs of easing up until the economic correction hits)? Invest your time in your best people: One thing I hear over and over again in the AE bootcamps or some of the speciality summits (AMI member benefit only) when I hang out with agency employees is how much they crave your time and attention. They want to learn from you. They want you to invest in them, and they want you to help them grow. Use salary surveys specific to our industry to level set expectations: Whether it’s ours, (broken up into both size and geography categories) Creative Group’s (remember they are a recruiting firm so theirs is going to be high to their own benefit). Second Wind’s (2018 looks like their most current) or 4A’s (have to be [...]
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 [...]
Early in my life as an agency owner, I was convinced I could do it all. And I was equally convinced that the fewer people we paid to do things, the better. I was handling clients during the day and doing my owner work at night. Oh yeah, and I was doing all of the accounting and billing. Which meant, as you can imagine, that our invoices went out late (which killed cash flow) and had errors galore. I’m sure we lost clients because I was too stubborn and ignorant to realize that I needed help. I made a lot of changes. I joined the AMI, we hired a bookkeeper (the best decision I’d ever made in my professional career at that point in time) and realized I wasn’t omnipotent. And you know how this story ends. When I got out of my own way and put aside my stubbornness — I could actually do the work that I was supposed to be doing as an owner. If you can’t ever get to your To Do list, check to make sure you’re not making the same mistake I did. No matter how amazing you are — you can’t do it alone. Crack open the wallet and delegate the work that you’re mediocre at so you have room to be brilliant! This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
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 [...]
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, [...]
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 [...]
Like it or not, our clients expect us to be ahead of the curve. They’re counting on us to keep learning and evolving our services to keep up with the constant motion that our industry (and culture) is experiencing. How are you and your agency doing that? An interesting way to assess if your agency is staying current is to evaluate your offerings. Ask yourself these questions: What product/package or service are we offering clients today that we didn’t offer a year ago? How have we refined/improved some of the products/packages and services that we did offer a year ago? Have we evaluated them to make sure they’re still on point? Where has our knowledge base increased in terms of audience, sales, technology, or marketing trends? If we got called to provide a speaker for a conference called “Where marketing is going” who would we send and what would they say? Who in our shop is learning something new and how are they transferring that knowledge to the rest of the team? What’s next in terms of my own learning (topic, method of learning, etc.) I’m hoping your answers pleased you. If you struggled to answer some of these questions or don’t like the answers, then maybe it’s time to examine your agency’s commitment to lifelong learning. How are you communicating to your team that you expect them to keep growing and learning? How are you supporting that effort, not just financially, but also in terms of setting the example, teaching what you know/learn, celebrating people’s growth, etc. One of the aspects of our business that I love the most is that we get to keep learning. We need to know so much about our [...]
We all know it’s easier to sell to someone who knows and trusts us. In fact, it’s essential. We can either try to create that sense of connection and trust during the sales process or it can already exist long before the sales dance begins. I have seen many agencies build their entire biz dev strategy around the latter — creating opportunities for getting to know and collaborate with prospects and then initiating the sales conversation once that collaboration has build the foundation of the relationship. One of the methods for creating this pre-sales bond is by inviting your prospects to co-create content with you. Whether it is being a guest on your podcast, featuring them in an article you are writing, interviewing them for a book or some other way of putting the spotlight on them — it works. Forbes asked me to write about some best practices when it comes to collaborative content and I’m hoping you find it useful if you are thinking about deploying this strategy. By the way — this is also a brilliant strategy to help clients adopt as well. Practice on yourself, demonstrate how it works, and then create a program for them using the same methodology. It’s a very sustainable way to generate fees for the agency and new relationships/sales for your client! This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.