marcom agencies

The Agency Owner’s Job Description

Here’s the ad agency structure kernel of truth you’ve been denying for too long. You can’t own/run a successful, scaleable agency and still be in the weeds of client work. You just can’t do it. I work with 200+ agencies a year and whehter they’re small (1-15 people) or large independently owned agencies (100+ people) — if the owner is still servicing clients, they’re not servicing the agency. If you being hit by a bus or abducted by aliens would dramatically change your agency’s monthly AGI, then congratulations — you just created company so you could be a day laborer. You simply traded one job/boss for another job/boss. And I’m betting your current boss makes you work worse hours for worse pay. What a jerk, right? Actually you're right. You shouldn’t tolerate that life any more. Not only is it a lousy job for lousy pay but you can’t grow your business because you’re the bottleneck. The sticking point. The black hole where ideas/innovation goes to die because you don’t really have the time to think them through or execute on them. If you are working in the business, you aren’t working on the business. Which means your agency will not scale/grow and no one will want to buy it because you’re too integrally involved.  And if all of that's true -- why in the world would you take the risk, the pressure, the heart burn and the worry?  Just go get a job. So what should you be doing with your time? Here’s how a strong agency owner should be spending his/her time (roughly) every week. This is your agency owner's job description. Granted this is ideal….but it gives you something to shoot for [...]

Ten Ways To Motivate Agency Employees

Here are some questions you should be asking yourself when wondering how to motivate your employees: Can you name ten ways in which you motivate your agency employees?  Can you name one? Or are you too busy putting out fires to consciously think about keeping your team fired up and working at a peak performance level? It’s all too easy to complain about an employee’s perceived lack of performance on the job. Sometimes, performance can be dramatically improved just by paying a little attention to all your employees. Too often we end up taking good performers and the ones we like for granted and grumble about the ones that need to improve. Having a strategy to motivate, grow and retain your biggest and most expensive asset is just good business. It’s part of working ON the business, and not just IN it! Here’s a list of my top ten tips when you are wondering how to motivate your employees: Consciously try to say “hello” or “good morning” or “good night” or “good job” to everyone, every day. Notice them and acknowledge them.  It sounds simple but how many days do you walk through the office and just walk right by people because you're on your phone or deep in thought? Personally thank employees for doing a good job - face to face, in writing, and in front of others. Do it often and sincerely.  You cannot be too grateful. Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees - as much as they need or want. Provide employees specific and frequent feedback about their performance. Support them in improving performance.  Ask for their opinion too. Recognize, reward and promote high performers; deal [...]

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 [...]

Advertising agency non-compete agreements

A non-compete agreement form is like fire insurance. It's a sickening feeling to see the smoldering ruins of your just-burned house, and wish you'd bought the insurance policy. The time to create your non-compete agreement is before you get burned. There's a widespread belief among the advertising agencies that we meet in our workshops and consulting that non-compete agreements are not enforceable. We do all we can to dispel that belief. We're not attorneys so we won't attempt to give you legal advice, other than say a properly written non-compete agreement form required by the agency and signed by the employee is binding upon both parties. Doing so could even save you a fortune on legal fees. Non-compete agreements do not fall under Federal jurisdiction. The covenants are governed by State law. With fifty states there are fifty sets of rules. This means you need to talk to your legal eagles and have them put one together for you that can be upheld in your state courts. You need to have ALL current and new employees sign the non-compete agreement form you and your attorneys have fashioned. Your attorney will tell you that you will probably have to compensate each employee in some way to sign the new agreement.  In my agency, we paid them all $1 -- which we literally handed to them. You may find that it may be simple to include a "section" on non-compete in the employment agreement. But the key is getting signatures on the document -- no matter which document you choose to include your non-compete language. While it's true that you can't prevent someone from making a living, you can prevent them from making a living at your [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]