Business

Ad Agency Principals: Tired of being treated like a vendor?

<A guest post by Rosemary Breehl> Smart Ad Agency principals are getting a seat at the CEO’s table and they’re doing it by building client relationships. It’s a new day out there for all of us. Competition is tougher. There are now “ten marketing dogs chasing that one corporate car.” CEO’s today are under terrible pressure to deliver revenues, so the last thing they want is another marketing firm trying to ‘sell’ them something. In their mind, marketing is an expense and the ad agency/marketing firm is just another vendor. Agency principals have been trying to change that perception for years. Interestingly enough, now is the perfect time to do it … with a new client or even better yet, with an existing one. When times are tough, CEO’s are looking for ‘game changers’. So they are more willing to listen. In a recent interview Jim Perdue, CEO of Perdue Farms said his expectations of marketing were: “First and foremost, marketing is the keeper of the brand’s health” … he goes on to say that “the health of the brand is critical to the success of the company and … marketing expenditures are not viewed simply as an expense but rather as an investment requiring a measurable rate of return.” And yet, you’re still doing brochures for your client. You need to up your game and start thinking strategically when building client relationships. You need to become a strategic partner and trusted advisor to your client … and not an expense. As long as you are still only delivering tactics, you don’t have a chance. You must act and sound different than your competitors. So, how do you get out of that rut and position yourself [...]

How to make time to work on the business

Every agency owner knows that they need to devote more time and attention to their business but they're so busy helping clients with THEIR business, it's tough to carve out the time to take care of your own.  Any time I chat with an agency owner, they admit they struggle with the same issue --  how to make time to work on the business. Agency owners need strategic planning tips in order to make time to work on their businesses. Every agency owner knows the way to more profits, more success and ultimately, more satisfaction is to invest the time to not only serve your clients but to work ON your business.  To think strategically about how to improve what's already working, fix what's not and plan for the next zig or zag you need to make. But, as I meet with agency owners from all over North America -- I find that most of them really struggle with this.  Are you wondering how to make time to work on your business? Here are five strategic planning tips that will get you focused on YOUR business and not everyone else’s. Re-think your relationship with email: Email is like crack cocaine for most agency owners.  Between their laptops, tablets and smart phones, they are checking email several times an hour, feeling this burning sense of urgency to answer within seconds of receiving the latest.  If you want to find time to work on the business, you'll need to tame your email addiction. Here's the reality.  If a client or staff members needs you, they will probably send an email first.  But if they don't get a quick reply -- what do you think they'll do next?  Right [...]

Managing Your Agency in a Renewing Market (part one)

Don't get carried away with your enthusiasm about the increase in business activity. We are recovering from the Great Recession. You've survived it and have earned the right to celebrate.  A little. But now is not the time to take your eye off the prize.  In this recovery period, agency management can be tricky, because we're a little tired of fighting the fight and are looking forward to backing off a little. Don't do it. We've developed 25 helpful agency management steps you need to consider in managing the agency during this recovery period.  Here are the first half.... (and here's the 2nd half!) Make sure your strategic plan is in place, and that it focuses on some specialization with diversification. Now is the time to grow the agency, and within the context of your existing operations. New business programming is critical, but isn't the only source of profitability. Your managers and account staff need to understand what others do and why certain reporting requirements are needed to manage the agency effectively. Be a sponge. Get all the input you can from peers and suppliers about competition and how they are handling the recovery. Get into a network group to discuss operating techniques. If the network is an advertising agency network, that's better than a "business" network with people from other businesses. Always keep an eye on your profits. Don't assume that the bigger clients are the more profitable clients. They may pump in a lot of bucks, but they may be sucking the life out of the agency because they aren't profitable. Watch them all and know where your profits are coming from. Take another look at your fees and retainers. They should all be [...]

Digital only agencies aren’t making the grade

According to the Q2 Pearlfinders Index, which is digital marketing research based on interviews with more than 4,000 marketing executives across all industries --  digital and social media services have become more sought-after disciplines, while consumer PR, though still popular, is becoming less of a consideration. However, agencies that only offer digital services are not getting the nod. Despite shifting their budgets towards digital and social media, 3 in 4 marketers aren’t using exclusively digital agencies for their social or digital needs, and the majority of those don’t foresee using them in the near future, according to June 2012 survey results from RSW/US. In fact, only about 2 in 5 think such agencies can survive, with the remainder believing that digital agencies need to offer more traditional services to maintain their relevancy. In Q2, among the times that marketing decision-makers advised that they were considering a particular service category, digital made up 19% of these demands, up from 13% a year earlier. Similarly, social media was mentioned 17.1% of the time, up from 14.1% in Q2 2011. Consumer PR, at 14%, was the third most-desirable discipline, though it fell from 18.6% a year earlier. Advertising and corporate PR rounded out the top 5 desirable agency disciplines for Q2 according to this digital marketing research, though both fell substantially from the previous quarter. Customer Acquisition the Dominant Marketing Objective In Q2 2012, companies’ primary customer marketing objective was acquisition (93.8%), compared to just 5% focusing on retention and 3.8% on development. A year earlier, 71.3% had focused on acquisition, with retention (17.1%) and development (11.6%) figuring more prominently into the equation. Other Findings: NPD/innovation was the strongest source of opportunity for agencies, accounting for 35% of new business opportunities [...]

Commandments For Running An Advertising Agency

Several years ago I ran across a little ditty by Joe Adams that I've kept around just to re-read and remind myself of what business I'm in. Joe called it his Commandments for Running An Advertising Agency. It's a good reminder to all of us  that it takes is a little common sense, enthusiasm and guts. So, here they are: Thou shalt market from the top down. (Call on the best fit prospects first.) Don't work for bastards - and don't be one. (Pick people you want to work for. Take on ones with great potential. You must like your clients.) Thou shalt learn to speak in numbers. (How much, what will it cost - that is what clients want to hear.) Thou shalt be creative. (Creativity can be learned.  Being creative is believing you are creative.) Eat bran flakes and hire competitive people who like to win for your agency and your clients. Be conspicuous. (You must make your agency stand out. Don't copy your competitors.)  Thou shalt think business. (Clients have business problems. These problems are our opportunities.) Thou shalt be emotional. (Most advertising is boring. They are afraid to be emotional. People don't buy because of facts; they buy for emotional reasons.) Learn to say "No!" Hire people that are smarter than you are. Thou shalt have fun! (Do everything possible to enjoy work. Quit your job if necessary.) These commandments are 20+ years old.  How do you think they hold up in today's world?  I modified two of them.  Can you guess which ones?

How do you get your agency employees to do their time sheets?

What do you do about late (or non-existent) time sheets? Did I hear an echo? It seems that this question is asked again and again, year after year.  The only modification in the conversation is whether or not you should do time sheets at all.  (Watch for that discussion later this week.) The attitude of agency management (you) towards the problem is the solution, or non-solution. If you set and enforce a policy of completing time sheets on time, the question is moot. If you tolerate tardy time sheets, that's what you get. Your attitude is reflected by your employees. It boils down to rewarding the behavior you want. Remember, the greatest management principal? If your agency has the tardy-time-sheet illness, it is because you've rewarded the tardy time-keepers by not making a stink about it. I tend to run a relatively easy going shop. But many years ago, I realized I had to take a stand on time sheets if we were going to be able to accurately track our work, our profitability and our workload. I had a choice -- the carrot or the stick. Most bosses would go for the carrot like JWT Casa did.  They created a direct correlation between filling out and getting something you desperately need at the end of the workweek: a fridge full of beer. Guess what? Everyone filled out their time sheets. On time. Suddenly, time sheets weren't a problem anymore. I went the way of the stick. I told my employees that I would fine anyone who did not complete their time sheet before they left the office for the day. I'm not sure they believed me. It was an unusually strict response from me. Until about [...]

Results from the small and medium advertising agency survey on salaries and benefits

For the past 12 years, Agency Management Roundtable has conducted an annual salary and benefits survey looking at the trends in small and medium sized agencies.  The survey results report allow agency owners to compare their salaries by position with how the rest of the country's salaries.  The results are also presented by agency size and region. For the first time in several years, salaries seem to be on the rise, albeit a modest one. We’d seen flat or declining salaries over the past several surveys.  This and several other indicators in the report seem to suggest that the recession’s toll on agencies is beginning to recede. A new trend appeared in this edition of the AMR Salary Survey as well.  More agencies (18%) do not have an in-house copywriter.  As freelancing and contract labor options become easier and more plentiful, it will be interesting to see how this trend evolves.  It seems to fly in the face of all the Content Marketing push that is being driven by social networks and the rush to digital marketing spaces. Agencies, like all small businesses, are clearly struggling to offer their employees healthcare coverage.  Over 90% of agencies surveyed offered their employees some form of health insurance and contribute to the costs at some level The 2012 AMR Salary & Benefits Survey Report is available for purchase at $99 The 2012 survey of advertising agencies’ employee compensation was conducted by the consulting firm, Agency Management Roundtable (AMR). The firm is the only consulting group that focuses on marketing communication agencies employing fewer than 50 people. Over the past twenty years, AMR has worked with several hundred advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic design companies and new interactive [...]

Project Management Tools for Advertising & Marcom/PR Agencies

Looking for ad agency project management software? You're not alone. I don't think there is an agency on the planet that doesn't struggle with managing dozens if not hundreds of projects on a given day.  So many details, so many cooks in the kitchen and so many consequences if a single detail gets lost, misunderstood or forgotten. There's good news and not so good news and downright bad news on the project management software front. The good news is -- there are lots of excellent software choices out there at all price points. The not so good news is -- no one software is the magic bullet and does it all.  You're going to have to make some compromises. The bad news is -- the garbage in, garbage out rule is as true today as it was 20 years ago.  These project management software systems could be great for your agency, but if you and your team don't use them regularly, well and with discipline -- you will end up walking away frustrated. While I am sure this list is not exhaustive, here's a good sampling of the most commonly used project management tools for agencies.  Click on any of the names to check out their website. Some on the list are specifically for project management.  Others will let you do time sheets and there are even some that are project management and full-on accounting altogether. One of the newer entries, Zerys is mostly a custom content management system but also includes project management functionality.  So there's a little something for everyone. 10,000 Feet Advantage AgileZen Basecamp BizPad Copper CurrentTrack  FunctionFox Function Point  Intervals Paprika Project Manager Robohead  eSilent Partner  Traffic Vertabase Workamajig WorkZone Zerys   [...]

Your agency’s biggest fraud risk

Should you be concerned about possible fraud in your business?  You bet. Here are some things to pay attention to when it comes to business fraud prevention. You may think that because your agency is a small business that you aren’t susceptible to employee theft and fraud. In our work with agencies, the biggest problem is the lack of owner understanding about financial process and how reports and statements are constructed. If you don’t have a good understanding you are a prime candidate for being bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars. At the low end. For smaller businesses especially, the burden of fraud can be very costly. Statistics show that the median loss for a small business is well over $200,000. Making business fraud prevention a priority will help ensure that you do not become a victim. With a little bit of effort, you can effectively reduce the likelihood of fraud in your business. Sadly, we could tell you too many stories  of hard working owners being defrauded by very clever thieves. And those thieves are usually employees.  The worst case I was involved in finally discovered the bookkeeper had slipped more than $400,000 out of the company coffers over a five-year period. He had a wonderful home and all the trimmings, paid for by the agency. The bad news: local authorities are hardly interested in business fraud cases that are not in the millions. It is difficult to prosecute the thief, and he goes on to his next victim.  Often, the only way to collect is to report the thief to the IRS for non-payment of back taxes on the money that was stolen. The FBI tells us that the funds are often [...]

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