What’s the Real Cost of Being a Generalist Ad Agency?

What’s the Real Cost of Being a Generalist Ad Agency?

Despite extolling the virtues of brand positioning to clients, many agencies fail to properly develop their own brands.

It’s a classic story of the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes—a tired proverb, to be sure, but perennially appropriate.

But, we never hear how those children turned out. Did they grow up plagued by chronic foot problems? Did they become adults whom you could dress up but never take out?

Or, is it possible they turned out OK?

I’ve met too many agency CEOs, especially of small to mid-sized agencies, who find specialization such a hurdle (mentally, emotionally and operationally) that they end up not doing anything at all.

Rather than let those agencies languish, I’ve started developing alternative methods to at least help them raise their profiles and pursue clients in a consistent, sustainable way. 

In this month’s post, I share some of those methods, and offer a way to determine if being a generalist is worth the investment for your agency.

Is Your Ad Agency’s Next Client Another Ad Agency?

Is Your Ad Agency’s Next Client Another Ad Agency?

Our complex marketing ecosystem has resulted in a Cheesecake Factory menu of specialist agencies filling every marketing niche imaginable.

As these specialist agencies seek new growth, they’re turning to other agencies.

For example, a social media agency (let’s call it the Selling Agency) might partner with a digital agency (the Customer Agency) to fill a gap in the Customer Agency’s services. The Customer Agency can offer its client what it needs, the Selling Agency gets exposure to more potential clients on the other agency’s roster, and both make money. Hooray!

But there’s a big downside. The Selling Agency will never have as much influence over the client relationship as the Customer Agency will.

That leads to all sorts of hazards. In this post, I’ll tell what those hazards are and give you strategies you can use throughout the sales cycle to hedge against them.

Four Common Negotiating Mistakes Ad Agencies Make During a Pitch

Four Common Negotiating Mistakes Ad Agencies Make During a Pitch

When it comes to pitching for new business, agencies are so accommodating!

They put in late nights and give up holiday weekends. They divert their best teams from paying clients to do spec work. They put up with terrible briefs and minimal information.

Are they too willing to play on the client’s terms for the chance to compete for
new business?

I’ve identified four points in the pitch process where agencies should set their own terms, both for the sake of the future client relationship and their ability to pursue new business from other clients.

 6 Seemingly Harmless Ways You're Sabotaging Your Proposals

6 Seemingly Harmless Ways You're Sabotaging Your Proposals

Whether truth or myth, the story goes that the famous architect Philip Johnson once answered an RFP with the shortest response possible.

His winning proposal simply said, "I'll do it." 

Too bad we all can't rely on this simple approach to writing proposals that win new business. But, you can do more to make your investment in time and effort pay off by turning your proposals into the strategic selling tools they're meant to be. 

What's the Secret to Winning More New Business? Know Thyself.

What's the Secret to Winning More New Business? Know Thyself.

It’s January, a time to stride forth into the new year and activate the plans you've made to grow your ad agency – dust off that prospecting list, revive the agency’s blog, hire a biz dev whiz to steer the efforts.

How’s that going so far?

We're as quick to break resolutions as we are to make them. Psychologists call this “false hope syndrome,” which means our resolutions are unrealistic and out of alignment with our internal view of ourselves.

What's the secret to counteracting this natural tendency? 

For a moment, put aside your ambitious plans for 2017 and take a critical look at your team (including yourself) and what it's best equipped to do. See if your agency matches one of these five types. It could unlock the secret to winning more new business this year.

5 Ways Ad Agency New Business Will Change in 2017

5 Ways Ad Agency New Business Will Change in 2017

Does the world really need another set of year-end predictions for 2017?

Sure it does! And I’m here to supply it.

My list, a modest but thoughtfully compiled set of five, is partially inspired by a recent conversation over coffee in Boulder, CO with a friend of mine who’s a partner at a small creative agency.

Our wide-ranging conversation touched on a number of influential events that I think are going to have an effect on how ad agencies go about business development in the year to come – from the continued usurpation of ad agency turf by management consultants to the increasing importance of the CEO in all matters related to marketing. 

Let me know what you're keeping your eye on with 2017 fast approaching over the horizon.

Sales is Marketing and Marketing is Sales: Lessons from #INBOUND16

Sales is Marketing and Marketing is Sales: Lessons from #INBOUND16

This year I was both a first-time speaker and a first-time attendee at INBOUND, a
four-day extravaganza dedicated to inbound marketing in all its forms. Not that anyone was keeping score, but I'm pretty sure I absorbed way more information
than I imparted.

Thinking about the big themes that were communicated throughout the event, the one I heard most consistently was this: the line that used to separates sales and marketing no longer exists.

Why does that matter to your ad agency? Because it matters a lot to your clients and prospects - they want to work with agencies that not only understand their challenges but have a clue how to address them.

Start by taking a walk in another man's shoes - it might even put you in a position to win more new business yourself. 

How to Re-Engage Cold Prospects and Win More Business for Your Ad Agency

How to Re-Engage Cold Prospects and Win More Business for Your Ad Agency

I’m often surprised by how many ad agency executives ignore their own network of contacts. Somehow, between servicing current clients and chasing after new prospects, these valuable contacts get taken for granted.

Your network is one of the best sources of new business you have, but it needs care and feeding. One way to do this is through a re-engagement campaign.

“But that’s an email marketing tactic,” you might be saying to yourself. And you’d right. But, as I explain in my recent guest post on HubSpot’s marketing blog, you can adapt it to generate new business leads quickly and efficiently. After all, it’s easier converting someone who knows and likes you into a prospect than it is building a whole new relationship.

Ad Agency Credentials Presentations Don't Have to Suck

Ad Agency Credentials Presentations Don't Have to Suck

You know how it feels when you get so close to a topic that you begin to lose any sense of perspective? How many of you feel that way about your ad agency's credentials deck? How many hours have you spent debating with your team about whether the client slide should go before or after the awards slide?

Those are hours you will never get back my friends, because no one outside your agency cares about the answer. 

Last month, I extolled the virtues of Nancy Duarte’s Sparklines, a presentation method designed to draw an audience over to your side of an argument. This month, I tell you how to use this technique to transform the garden variety creds deck into a persuasive sales tool. 
 

What Does Persuasion Look Like?

What Does Persuasion Look Like?

Those of you who know me or have worked with me know that my mission is to help ad agencies and creative services firms communicate more persuasively. When I find a tool or technique that has the potential for changing that behavior, I pass it on. Nancy Duarte's Sparklines is one of those tools.  

Sparklines was developed after she asked herself "what does persuasion look like?" She’s certainly qualified to explore the question. Her company, Duarte, helps organizations like Google and Apple tell effective stories through presentation. To find the answer, she analyzed two extraordinary presentations: Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch in 2007.

Essentially, it’s is a method for drawing an audience over to your side of an argument by presenting a series of contrasts between what is and what could be. It's one of the most compelling presentation structures I've ever seen. Plus, it's not a technique that's difficult to learn. In fact, it has more to do with reframing your presentations than reinventing them.

Drop the “Sizzle” – the Dos and Don’ts of a Great Ad Agency Reel

Drop the “Sizzle” – the Dos and Don’ts of a Great Ad Agency Reel

Sizzle reel. I’ve always hated the term, redolent of steakhouse advertising.

The implication is the reel will dazzle prospective clients through a series of quick cuts and a thumping bass track – all without having to give the viewer any kind of context for what they’re seeing.

Ad agencies that fall into this trap are like Narcissus, gazing at his own reflection. (For those who’ve forgotten the myth, Narcissus was so fixated by his beauty that he lost his will to live and stared at his reflection until he died. A cautionary tale for our business if ever there was one.)

In my latest blog post, I'll give you my top four Dos and Don'ts for creating a great agency reel. Plus, I'll share with you what I think is one of the best agency reels out there (plus the reason why it's not quite as good as it used to be).

Bad Habits You Probably Made Writing Your Last Proposal

Bad Habits You Probably Made Writing Your Last Proposal

Imagine a couple of common scenarios - an important RFP has just landed in your in-box. Or, an important client has just asked you for a proposal that will significantly expand the amount work you do for them. Do you...
 
...tangle yourself in boilerplate language that you've recycled from a past proposal?
...jump in without a clear content strategy?
...suffocate your language with esoteric terms that the client can't relate to?
 
If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to check out my recent guest column on Agency Post. I've noticed that ad agencies get into some bad habits that, if broken, would make proposals not only easier to write but also more effective at what they’re meant to do - win you more business.