Jellyfish and agency new business tend not to come up in the same conversation. Unless, of course, you’re talking to Bureau of Digital's Carl Smith. He and I spoke right after one of the Bureau’s signature events, Owner Summit. We had a far-ranging talk that included:
· What happens when digital agencies are run by “accidental entrepreneurs”
· The current tug-of-war between craftsmanship and ambitious new business goals
· The “jellyfish model” of agency growth – what it is, how it works, and when to use it.
· Why digital agencies today are like the Hollywood studio system of the 1920s.
· Why 2018 is the year when big marketers start start hiring external agencies again.
Watch the video.
Going after new business puts you in a vulnerable position. There’s always a risk that you’ll be unable to persuade the other party to buy what you’re selling.
We don’t like feeling vulnerable or being rejected. In fact, it’s deeper than dislike. It’s straight-up fear. To avoid the fear, we might convince ourselves to stay in our safe place and keep doing whatever it is we’ve been doing (or not doing), no matter how unsatisfying or unproductive it is.
The devil you know…
Until a crisis shakes us out of complacency and forces us to act. And then we scramble to fix the crisis, dipping back into our network or lowering our price because we need a win.
What would change for your agency if you could take fear out of the equation?
Your agency deserves to be noticed!
But you need to do your part too. You’re responsible for making it as easy as possible for your best customers to find you. A strong strategic positioning is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself.
Landing on the right positioning for your agency can be emotional, soul-searching work, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
What if you had a way to remove emotion from the equation? What if you had an equation to lead you to a clear articulation of your value?
Is 2018 the year you regain control over your agency’s new business destiny?
Have you ever said to yourself in the final weeks of December, “Wow, the advertising business got a whole lot easier this year!”?
I didn’t think so.
We often see the mounting complexity, shrinking budgets, and unexpected competitors more clearly than we see the opportunities.
But the opportunities are always there. Sometimes they’re more evident when we stop reacting for a moment and observe what’s around us. And this is a great time of year to do just that.
As we slide down the back end of December, here’s what I think did the most to shape the agency new business in 2017 and where opportunities may lie in 2018.
Earlier this week, someone told me she liked my approach because, “you’re not just about presentation skills.”
I think what she was getting at is that I tend to be prescriptive and offer solutions that get to the root of the disease, not just treat the symptoms.
But the comment got me thinking about what it takes to be an effective presenter—specifically one that can persuade an audience to buy what she’s selling.
You know the aphorism: no amount of marketing can fix a bad product.
It’s the same with presentation skills – all the training in the world won’t turn you into a strong presenter if don’t solve some underlying problems first.
Here's a simple set of three quality control factors you can apply to your slide decks before writing a big check to a presentation coach.
A couple of weeks ago I got to speak at The Drum’s Pitch Perfect conference, a one-day event devoted to helping ad agencies sharpen their new business skills.
There was some great content presented, and one of the best sessions featured four client-side marketers who graciously agreed to expose their underbellies to us. It’s always a lucky opportunity when we agency folk can ask clients candid questions about what we’re doing right and what we could do better.
In this case, I learned some new things, but mostly I was struck by how little things seem to change. Clients are trying just as hard as we are to stay on top of the constantly-shifting sands of marketing, not to mention the demands of their jobs.
Agencies are perfectly positioned to be a source of a help. So why do they often end up being more of a hindrance?
When I was on staff leading new business teams at ad agencies, I spent many an August working late nights and weekends in overly air-conditioned offices instead of enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer.
I attributed this spike in new business activity to summer vacations – not mine but the client’s. I imagined the client realizing somewhere in July that the agency search she’d planned to do that year hadn’t started yet. But if she could rally and send that RFP before her vacation started, the agencies that received it would have a couple of weeks to respond while she enjoyed the beaches of Nantucket.
Maybe you spent your summer pitching a lot of business and not resting too much – and I hope that most of those pitches ended successful—but as we move into Q4, you should be focused on two priorities. Read more.
The other day I got a phone call that made my week.
One of my clients, the CEO of a small ad agency, called to tell me that the agency’s positioning strategy, a strategy that I first suggested more than three years ago and have encouraged (and sometimes cajoled) him to embrace ever since, just won him a major piece of business.
It was gratifying to me, of course, because it validated my business! But I was happier for him.
Committing to that positioning strategy had been a psychological hurdle. It fit like a Savile Row suit, but it required him to put a stake in the ground, and that meant potentially saying “no” to revenue if it meant working with the wrong kinds of clients.
It’s a very emotional decision for some agency owners, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
But what if you had a way to test your positioning that puts emotion to the side? Read more.
Stories are engaging, memorable and repeatable—and this has big implications for winning over new clients. Wrapping your sales message in a story not only makes it easy for your prospects to understand your value, they’re also more likely to remember your message and repeat to others what they liked about you and why they want to hire you.
See the video.
Effective salespeople know that a good story is the fastest route between them and winning new business.
This is especially true for ad agencies. Advertising is a craft that relies on abstract thought processes that lead to inspirational ideas like “Just do it.” The problem is, abstract ideas are difficult to describe and even more difficult to value. That’s why it’s so easy to succumb to meaningless, anemic phrases like “fully integrated,” “digital-first” and “consumer at the core” when trying to describe what you do to a prospective client.
Stories, on the other hand, make the intangible tangible. Discover how this technique, as old as humanity itself, is one of the easiest ways to win new business.
See the video
Thanks to Publicis Groupe’s CEO, Arthur Sadoun, it was an especially headlined-filled week at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Sadoun’s announced that Publicis Groupe would take a one-year hiatus from awards shows and other industry events to focus on building out a network-wide, AI-enabled platform called Marcel. It sparked surprise and skepticism (among other things) from both marketers and agencies (some of them Publicis executives who were as surprised by the announcement as everyone else, apparently).
It got anyone with an opinion about creative awards coming out of the woodwork to express it–including me.
For most of my career, I’ve had mixed feelings about awards shows. Do awards materially affect the ability to win new business? And is it commensurate with the massive investment of time and money that competing for them requires?
I don’t think it is for most agencies. In my latest post, I’ll tell you why and offer a few suggestions for other, more efficient ways to redirect that budget.
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.