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What’s your new business model?

Every advertising agency says they have a new business program.  Most, I've discovered... have the "oh crap, billings are slow, we need to work the phones, networking events and call some dormant clients" model of prospecting.  Over the next month, we're going to delve into advertising and marketing agency new business efforts in a much deeper way.  But on this Friday afternoon, I just want to share with you this infographic created by the folks at The List. Do you recognize your agency in one of these seven new business models?  If so -- is it the model you think is most effective for your agency or is it just the model you've fallen into our of habit, lack of planning/time etc. Bottom line -- take a look at your pipeline right now.  Is it filled with the right prospects?  Enough of them?  (click here to download PDF of infographic)

By |June 15th, 2012|

Do you have gold medal employees?

Let's be honest -- employees are both the best and the worst part of owning an agency.  It's tough to find the right ones.  It's a challenge to train them well.  It's a bear to encourage each of them in the way they want to be encouraged.  And even when you know it's the right thing to do, it's miserable to fire one. I always marveled at Jack Welch's philosophy that you should fire the bottom 10% of your work force.  I have to admit, there were years when I fantasized about it.  And other years when I truly didn't have a bottom 10% because everyone was gold medal worthy. Top employees are like athletes - motivated, well trained people who are willing to make personal sacrifices for the team. Certainly a competitive nature is important, but it doesn't work well for your company unless it's accompanied by a deep sense of loyalty and responsibility. As I thought about what makes a gold medal employee (and I acknowledge that it starts with having a gold medal employer, which I try very hard to be...and hit about 50% of the time.) I came up with this list. Gold medal employees go above and beyond expectations. They don't stop when they meet the minimum goals for their jobs - they strive to set new records. Gold medal employees offer solutions, not problems. They don't just say to the boss, "You have a problem." Instead, you hear, "We have a problem - let’s see if I can figure a way to solve it." Gold medal employees bounce back. When they fail, they don't let it get them down. They admit the mistake and find ways to fix it. [...]

By |June 10th, 2012|

Agencies need to walk their social media talk

I had the good fortune of being a guest on a RockStar Radio Network show a couple weeks ago to talk about a topic I believe in strongly -- agencies need to walk their social media talk.  My good friend Steve Olenski was guest hosting for Carol McManus, the LinkedIn Lady and he asked me to be his guest. The topic Steve wanted to talk about is one I have been passionately talking about for some time.  Agencies who sell social but don't do social for themselves are going to be unmasked as the naked Emperors in the near future. Right now, most clients are still mystified by digital/social and they look at the agencies who guide them as magicians.  But pretty soon, everyone is going to understand that social is just a channel and it's really a reflection of our society fundamentally changing how we connect and communicate. At that point -- clients are going to point to the agencies who are charging them a pretty penny for creating and executing their digital strategy and say "hey, if you think this stuff is so revolutionary and important and worth the investment we've been making -- why aren't you doing it for your own agency?" Busted!  You've been exposed as a poser. Most agencies are doing an abysmal job with their own digital strategy.  They're either on auto pilot or they're jumping in and out, depending on how busy they are.  Worse... are the agencies who think their blog is where they should talk about themselves, their awards, their clients, their work.  Ugh. Steve and I dig into all of that during the show.  I'd love to hear what you think after you have a chance to listen [...]

By |June 7th, 2012|

Should my advertising agency take on debt?

All debt is not bad debt -- the question you need to ask yourself is 'should my advertising agency take on debt?" Every business faces the issues surrounding cash flow and keeping the money moving in and back out the door.  Advertising agencies are no exception. Until I actually owned my own agency, I didn't really wrap my head around the differences between how much income a business generated and the daily cash flow issues. As many of you have experienced -- you can have incredible billings but that doesn't mean you have enough money to make payroll. Sooner or later an agency owner is going to be faced with the question -- should I borrow some money? Here are some reasons NOT to borrow money: Work is slow and you're over staffed.  Billings won't cover payroll but you don't want to lay anyone off. Your computers are a few years old and the creatives are starting to complain. You've had to toe the line for the past couples years and not bonus yourself.  Your husband is making not so subtle hints about Hawaii. In other words -- don't borrow to avoid tough decisions, to keep staff the business does not warrant, to pay for disposable items (sadly computers now fall into that category) or to line your own pockets.  Those are emotional, short term feel good decisions that you will regret.  Over and over. On the flip side, there are times when borrowing makes sense.  None of these are absolutes of course. To buy a building that will house your agency for years and appreciate in value over time. (Do it as a separate LLC) To invest in an opportunity that could pay off [...]

By |May 31st, 2012|

Do you see a vendor when you look in the mirror?

Earlier this week, we kicked off a conversation about why agencies find themselves relegated to vendor status. If you remember, we identified 3 causes. The economy -- workforce reductions, budget cuts and overall fear (out of your control) Agencies willingness to behave like a vendor just to get the project (within your control) Agencies hiring "nice" account executives who are order takers rather than smart business people (within your control) In this post, we're going to look at what you can do to change your mindset (and choices) so you don't look like a vendor to prospects and clients. None of us like the word "vendor." Vendors sell stuff. They sell umbrellas on the beach, hot dogs on Time Square and truckloads of parts. But the truth is -- many agencies behave like a vendor. They: Charge by the hour rather than use value pricing They set their prices based on the "stuff they make" like brochures and websites They talk tactics, rather than strategies If you recognize yourself, even a little bit, in that description -- here are some things to consider as you wrestle with getting away from the vendor label. Take business with your prospects and clients: Don't limit your interest or your conversations to marketing or advertising. Talk about their pricing strategies, how they go to market with their product/service, sales goals and even operations. Your job is to stick your nose into their business and help ferret out solutions that can change the game. You want to identify and talk about the metrics that matter to your prospect or client. Price like an advisor, not a vendor: Vendors price by the pound, the item and by the hour. Advisors price by the [...]

By |May 18th, 2012|

The economy is pushing agencies into vendor roles

Earlier this week, we kicked off a conversation about why agencies find themselves relegated to vendor status.  If you remember, we identified 3 causes. The economy -- workforce reductions, budget cuts and overall fear (out of your control) Agencies willingness to behave like a vendor just to get the project (within your control) Agencies hiring "nice" account executives who are order takers rather than smart business people (within your control) In this post, we're going to look at what you can do to work around the economy issue. In the current economic climate, ad and marketing managers on the client side are trying to keep their jobs and cut costs. They're seeing fellow employees being downsized are doing everything they can to make themselves look more indispensable to their bosses. One obvious way for them to do this is to bring a lot of the work they normally farmed out to agencies back  in house. Some marketing managers even go so far as to set up an in-house agency, not knowing or not heeding the fact that no in house agency has ever been proven to save money in the long run. (Don’t waste your time or your breath trying to argue them out of this dumb idea. It's one of those "you have to live it to believe it" deals.) It's tough to deal with someone who is operating from a place of fear but that's where a lot of our clients are right now.  They kept waiting for the economy to go back to normal and now they're realizing that this is the new normal.  Now, every dollar they spend is scrutinized and performance expectations are huge.  Human nature drives them to clutch [...]

By |May 16th, 2012|

Tired of being treated like a vendor? Stop acting like one.

Agency owners and staff alike have been complaining to us for several years about the growing number of clients – including existing clients – who insist on employing the agency as needed, rather than maintaining a long-term working relationship. In other words, using the agency as a temporary source of specified services, rather than as a valued advisor. If you're tired of jumping through purchasing department hoops or being one of many agencies at the table -- there's a way out.  This doesn’t have to happen to you.  But you need to be willing to make sue changes. It's time to start acting  like an advisor and resist being mistaken for a vendor. How many times have you heard that if you look like a duck, act like a duck, etc., people will treat you like a duck? Maybe it's time for us to stop walking around, quacking! There are three key reasons why agencies are being treated like vendors today – one largely beyond your control and the others totally within you control. What you can't control The reason that's largely beyond your control is what's happening in businesses today. Many of them are experiencing workforce reductions and cost cutting because of the economy's ongoing struggles.  Unless you have a magic bullet for the economy -- you're going to have to find work arounds for this challenge. What you can control The reasons totally within your control are the willingness of agencies eager for income to behave like transient vendors, rather than being and presenting themselves as valuable long term advisors. The second reason that your agency gets stuck in vendor mode is that agencies have been hiring “nice” account managers whose focus in [...]

By |May 14th, 2012|
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