Every agency and every agency owner give generously of their time and talent. But do you get the benefit of that generosity? Odds are — no. But you could.

For more information about Drew McLellan or Agency Management Institute – visit http://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com or check out the podcast – Build A Better Agency available at all the usual podcast host locations.

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week, I am coming to you from a little village outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand. What’s interesting about the resort we’re staying at is it’s not just a resort, it is also a refuge for elephants. So these are elephants that have been rescued from abusive situations, they may have been abandoned by a circus, they may have been a tiny baby elephant that was abandoned by its mother. But for some reason, these elephants were not able to fend for themselves or they had been mistreated by humans. And so this place becomes their home for the rest of their lives. So their goal is to care for and protect, feed, love these elephants for the rest of their lives in a safe environment where they are well-cared for, well-provided for and protected from predators, both human and non-human. So when we got here, the very first thing they did was they made sure that we had an interaction with the elephants. And what I mean by that is that the elephants, two or three of the elephants, were waiting for us when we got off the boat, off the river to come to the resort, and we got to walk with them to the resort. We were able to stand next to them, we were able to talk to them, we were able to pet them, if you will, and obviously, have our pictures taken with them. We got to feed them a little bit. And so immediately, we created a bond with these elephants, as well. And as we were walking up to the resort, they were telling us about the care that they provide for these elephants, and the situation, and the story of some of the elephants and how they came to be at this refuge. Well, you know what? Everything they do here, is about the elephants. All of the fees, part of the fees, go to the elephants, there are donation boxes all over for the elephants. Of course, the gift shop is filled with things about elephants. And it’s working. I’m happy to spend money here because I have already created a bond with these elephants, I love them and I want them to be safe. And so if the spa fee is a little higher, I don’t care. If the restaurant’s a little more expensive, I don’t care because I am feeling like I’m helping. Many agencies are getting better at helping their clients wrap their head around cause marketing. But I don’t see a lot of agencies doing it for themselves and I think that’s a mistake. Every research study, every survey, every time you talk to anyone out in the consumer space, they are telling us loud and clear, “I want to do business with a business that I share a social issue, cause, love of a charity, whatever it may be, I want to bond with them, I want to do work with someone who cares about something I care about.” And I think our clients are getting better about that  We’re certainly seeing a lot of consumer brands wrapping their arms around a charity, or a cause or a world ailment that needs fixing. But agencies have been a little slow to get to that and so I want to suggest that you start thinking about that. At my agency, about 15 years ago, we started a program called Adopt a Charity. And basically, the gist of that program is that every year we issue an RFP to all of the local charities throughout our states, and the local media, United Way, other charity, sort of coalitions, help us promote to all of the non-profits that the RFP is open. We also have it on the website and other places. Then what happens, is we get the RFPs in and we choose a charity and we adopt them for a year. And we promise them that we’re going to treat them just like a playing client. Now there are some caveats. They have to let us present to their board, once a quarter, they have to let us publicize what we’re doing with them, and there are a couple other rules around the work that we do, but basically, the winner gets about $100,000 worth of agency and related services. ‘Cause of course, we go to all our vendors and ask them to participate. We also invite our clients to participate, whether it’s going to that particular non-profit’s charity event or something else. So we try and make it within our agency community, we try and make it a community event for a year. We wrap our arms around this non-profit for a year. At the end of the year, kind of like a baby bird, we move them out of the nest and we’ve hopefully, set them up to be successful, to replicate some of the things that we’ve been doing for them for the past year. But what that does, is that has earned a position in the community of really being somebody who’s invested in our local community, who cares about the charities that serve our neighbors. And it also gives us a chance, not to be nickeled and dimed by a million charities, and everyone wants you to do a run logo or a this or a that, but we say, “As you know, we concentrate our efforts for one year, on one charity, but you’re welcome to participate in the RFP process next year.” So it solves a lot of problems for us but it also is great for employee morale, it’s great for community connection, it is also, I know, one of the reasons why some of our paying clients find us and come to us is because of our community spirit. So gain, it’s lubricating that wallet, just like this place is lubricating my wallet, all because we are showing our heart. Most of you serve charities in your community, I am positive of it. But you do it kind of quietly, you do it as kind of freebie off to the side. In fact, I have some agency owners say, “I don’t want people to know, because then everyone’s going to ask.” You need to find a way to make this part of your story. You need to find a way to invite your clients and your community to participate with you. And you need to own a cause or a community non-profit, that you can really align with and say, “This is how we serve back. “This is how we give back and we are aligned with this mission, cause, we care about this community need.” Because, A, it’s good internally, B, it’s good externally and C, I think it actually attracts clients to you. All right? I’m going to go hang out with some elephants. I’ll see ya next week.

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