You Must Treat Your Agency Like A Client To Truly Define It

In a saturated market of lookalikes, potential clients don’t want to hire the same agency everyone else is hiring; they want something different. To stand out and provide that experience to its clientele, an agency's leaders must identify what makes their point of view special and then use that differentiator to win new business. When our agency first began this process, we looked back to past experiences with clients and the common threads of those interactions. We discovered that we often helped clients optimize their marketing spend and focus on a different target audience than they thought they needed. The more we realized how effective this approach had become, the more we learned to match our clients’ return on investment to it. Eventually, that unique point of view led to our new tagline, "Create a love affair with your customer," which tells clients exactly how we can help in ways no one else can. Dare to be different. Agencies might provide similar services, but no two agencies are interchangeable. Consider this: If your agency exchanged logos with another, would anyone notice the difference? If not, you probably haven’t established the right point of view, which could be costing your new business clients -- as well as preventing your agency from owning its niche. None of us want to compete on price alone, however. “The cheap agency” is not a differentiator anyone covets. To provide the best service for a fair price, agencies must take a stand on what they do well and what they believe in. Sometimes, that means placing clients’ needs ahead of yours. No agency can serve every client equally well. By developing a standout point of view, agencies will naturally put off [...]

How To Level Up Your Agency And Gear Up For Growth

Doubling your agency’s size from roughly 35 employees to 65 employees serves as the leveling-up stage where you take on bigger and better clients (and often better employees to serve them). As an owner, you’re no longer in the weeds like you might have been with 12 to 35 employees. Instead, your main focuses are business development and finance. In my experience, business development is about making the C-level connections that drive business. It might occasionally require “roughing it” on the golf course or riding waves with an eclectic client, but keep an eye on the big picture: According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses created two-thirds of the jobs added in the last five years. You’re doing important work out there on the ninth hole. Sharing The Leadership Load When your agency reaches the 35-to-65-person stage, owners must be OK with being removed from the day-to-day decision-making loop. Your former department heads will probably become vice presidents to make room for more skilled and senior employees underneath them. While client satisfaction and retention remain important, a variety of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) will move into the spotlight. A team with diverse backgrounds and expertise will be especially driven by numbers, and you’ll often see incentive pay (likely in the form of a bonus program) directly tied to KPIs. Along with more rigid compensation structures, scaling up to the 35-to-65 stage requires structured responsibilities, and the agency becomes almost like a factory in terms of how jobs are brought in and where they’re assigned to from there. This doesn’t mean saying goodbye to creativity; it means, instead, that onboarding work and accomplishing it on time (and on budget) must now become [...]

How to Find Top-Level Freelancers to Help You Grow Your Business with Nathan Hirsch

One of the most common challenges agencies of all sizes are facing right now is finding the right people to add to the team, especially as it relates to learning how to find freelancers who are capable of doing the great work that agencies require. Client budgets and programs are growing, agency new business is getting a little easier and so everything should be rosy. But when you don’t have the right team to get the work done – it’s frustrating and frightening.   Ten to fifteen years ago, the prevailing attitude was that agencies needed everyone under one roof. After all, the work is so collaborative. But when the recession hit and people had to reduce fixed expenses to survive, many agencies who swore they would never try to manage a network of freelancers or hire someone virtual crossed over and did just that. Not only did they survive it – but it opened up many opportunities to serve clients in new ways.  Fast forward to today – whether you are in a big market with lots of talent (and lots of competitors for that talent) or in a smaller market that just doesn’t have enough qualified bodies – finding and keeping the right team is a serious struggle. Most AMI agencies have a pretty robust freelance pool and are versed in knowing how to find freelancers. 75% have some sort of flex hours where people either come in early/leave early, come in late/leave late or have some sort of non-traditional work week, be it fewer than five days a week or a full work week but they work from home one or more days. In terms of remote employees, I would say that [...]

Agencies: Stop Thinking Like a Vendor and Act Like a Partner

In the formerly monogamous advertising world, polygamy now reigns. The modern version of the client-agency relationship leaves many agencies longing for the "Mad Men" era of sole partnerships, 9-to-5 schedules and heavy drinking by 3 p.m. -- but those days are long over. Today, firms seeking integrated solutions will often hire several agencies at once, each acting as more of a vendor that delivers a specialized service rather than as a partner that fulfills all the company's marketing needs. Companies do still seek partnerships with agencies, however. Unilever's been working with Lowe & Partners since 1899. And GM has a long-standing relationship with Campbell-Ewald that dates back to 1919. Other household companies -- Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Kraft Foods and General Mills -- also boast established, lasting agency affairs. Does that mean these companies won't step out on their partners from time to time? Not on your life. And when that happens, agencies find their egos bruised by this transgression. To renew the partnership dynamic, they must start behaving more like holistic consultants and remember that customers choose vendors but consultants accept clients. To position your agency as an actual partner, stop thinking like a vendor. Focus on these six strategic measures to change how a client views you and your team's capabilities: 1. Know the client's business. Partners know more than one side of a client's business. Instead of focusing only on the marketing end, approach the business as if you're running it. Get to know the distribution challenges. Look for ways to improve the sales system. Even simply walking the production floor asking questions demonstrates your interest. Getting your hands dirty alongside the client and sharing your thoughts on the business as [...]

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