Tag teaming with prospects

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.

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 [...]

Are you having the tough conversations?

No one is excited to have a difficult conversation with a key team member. But you choosing to avoid that conversation (I initially wrote your inability to have that conversation but we know it’s not really inability) because it’s uncomfortable can cost your agency so much. In today’s super snug employee recruitment/retention environment — you think you’re tiptoeing around that challenging situation or employee, but the truth is, you’re afraid. Giving in to that fear can cost you some of your best employees, your reputation as an honest (remember those values you preach or have hanging in the agency’s conference room) leader and clients. Leaders who fail to address bad behavior tacitly endorse such behavior to other workers. If one person gets away with late starts or low-key insubordination, your team will emulate the behavior (or think less of the manager who allows it). This is a skill that every agency owner needs to embrace and improve. Entrepreneur Magazine asked me to write about the risks of not being good at the difficult conversations and I did a solocast on the topic with what I hope are some helpful tips. If this is an area of growth for you, please check out the article and the solocast. But beyond that — commit to making this a focus for you in the coming months. This should also be a high priority skill for anyone in your shop who manages other employees. You all have to get better at this. The risks are too great to ignore the consequences of letting this slide.   This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Why can’t I find a successful salesperson for my agency?

Almost every agency owner I know wishes they didn’t have to do sales and wants to hire it out to an employee. I hear this every day because what we do is hard to sell.  99 out of 100 salespeople that an agency hires will not sell more than their initial salary and are usually fired within the first year.  To be a successful agency salesperson, you have to understand not the WHAT of our work but the WHY of our work.  How do we really add value, increase sales etc.  You also need to have super high level business conversations and most people can’t do that unless they have been a CMO, business owner, etc.  If you don’t have the real life experience, it’s tough to know how to start or carry the conversation. People default to the “what keeps you up at night” BS because they can’t actually dig in and talk the talk. That level of business acumen is not easy to come by.  The few successful salespeople inside agencies have at least 2-3 of these factors: The agency is a wonder bread factory (they have a very narrow focus of deliverables AND clientele so it’s easy to learn the nuances, because there aren’t that many) The agency has a narrow niche/niches so the sales person does not have to understand too many industries or verticals The agency is truly creating thought leadership content on a consistent basis so they can claim an authority position on their niche/niches. The sales person has already sold a high ticket ($25K and above) item/services to the same industry (has contacts and context) The sales person was a very successful account executive within your agency who [...]

Why Keeping Top Talent Should Be Your Top Priority in 2021

Employees want to feel appreciated and like they belong -- show your employees that you care about them and that you're invested in their development. In this article I recently published to Entrepreneur.com, I discuss how to show your top performers that they are at the top of your list and why you should invest in the employees who make up the foundations of your team.

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