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 [...]

Your Biggest Roadblock

Last week’s newsletter about many agency owners needing a break and using the summer lull to replenish yourself so you’re ready to push seemed to strike a nerve.  I heard back from many of you that you’re pretty sure I am spying on you through the window or have bugged your office.  (I promise — neither!) Here’s the sad part of all of that.  Most of you won’t get away.  You believe you can’t leave or the sky will fall.  For every one of you that will book the flight, rent the cabin, or plan the spa day — there will be far more of you who just keep gutting it out and getting more worn down each day. The biggest roadblock that is preventing you from replenishing yourself is you. This isn’t about the money.  You don’t have to spend a dime to re-charge.  Take a week off and take your kids to the local pool, museums, and parks.  Sleep late, read a trashy novel and binge watch something.  Go visit your parents and let them spoil you rotten.  Whatever it takes — just give yourself a breather. I really want to challenge your belief that the agency cannot survive without you for a few days.  Your team will rise to the occasion. Your clients will understand that you can’t work 365 days a year.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finally convinced an agency owner to take some time away and after they return, they’re so proud of their crew and how they tackled whatever came their way.  Not only do you need the respite, but your employees need to know you have confidence in their abilities.  Hand them the [...]

How are agencies making money these days?

I get asked some variation of this question every single day. Successful, profitable agency owners ask it. Agency owners that are struggling with having their work commoditized ask it. What they’re really asking me is “what are agencies selling that is profitable” but of course the answer is much more complicated than that. The answer is some agencies are making money selling everything from print ads, brochures, Google Adwords, strategic planning, package design, branding, and everything in between. Other agencies are fighting to hold their head above water, selling the same list of services. It’s not as simple as knowing that clients are hungry to buy crisis communications plans (which they are, btw) and beating the streets with that offer. If your agency is bloated with too many people or your ability to accurately estimate and track a project’s profitability in real time is non-existent, it doesn’t matter what you sell. But, let’s assume you have the right people in the right seats and you have systems in place to make sure you get paid what the project is worth. (Both criteria are topics for another conversation down the road). Now — what’s the short answer to that complicated question? What agencies seem to be able to sell for a premium price these days (in no particular order): Amazon ads and product placement on Amazon Employee recruiting campaigns Direct mail campaigns with a digital overlay Video (ideation, creation, publishing) A paid social media strategy Research and all of the tactics that are borne from those new insights What I think agencies should be selling more of and earning a premium price: The creation and management of a true content strategy where the brand thinks of [...]

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