Recently, a client of mine asked me to help him evaluate a lead generation firm he was thinking about hiring. The lead gen firm had sent him an extensive questionnaire so it could gather enough information to create a set of persuasive sales messages. It included questions you’d expect: How do you describe your ideal client? What makes your agency different from competitors? Why do you do what you do?
My client asked me for my advice. Would I assess this firm and tell him what I thought of the questionnaire?
My feedback was that there was nothing wrong with the questionnaire. The question I had for him: Was he was happy with his answers? And, should the lead generator bring him quality leads, did he believe he was prepared to close the business?
I gave my client some advice on how to make sure his investment would pay off. If you’re considering outsourcing lead generation, then it might be good advice for you too. Read more
Earlier this month I was speaking to a group of agency owners and the topic of specialization came up, at least when it comes to business development. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They had tried this specialist strategy and it didn’t work. In fact, it had the opposite effect — they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that?
To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business, but it’s not without its risks, as this agency owner pointed out. This month, I offer some hedges against that risk.
Fear and boredom are not a good combination, especially when they’re the overriding emotions you feel every time you confront the reality that you could be doing more to win new business for your agency.
I used to extol the virtues of a well-rounded business development program until I realized I was never going to get agency leaders to do things they didn’t like to do. I’d just be continually fighting the impossible fight against fear and boredom.
Instead, I learned that defining a strategy and set of tactics that were aligned to their strengths was the shortest, most efficient way to fill their pipeline. I also discovered that most small agency owners fit into one of four different new business personality types.
Which one are you? The answer may change your feelings about business development from fear and boredom to confidence and enthusiasm. Read more.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
Last January, I started off the year with some thoughts on what’s required to hook a big client. In case you don’t have time to re-read the post, I’ll cut to the chase: winning big takes the courage and commitment to think big.
But details matter too. Sometimes they matter a lot. In extreme cases, neglecting the details derails the pitch, turning your big ambitions into a lot of wasted energy and frustration.
So this January, I thought I’d start off 2016 with five stupid and avoidable reasons for any ad agency to lose a new business pitch.
Think about the number of agencies you’re aware of (including your own) that have a truly differentiated work process.
If you’re being honest, the answer is easy: not many. Whether it’s three steps or twenty-three steps, most agency work processes look the same. In fact, sometimes I think they’re more of an afterthought, something to be written up for an RFP response but rarely put into action in real life.
But Park Howell, founder of agency Park&Co., channeled his fascination for the power of storytelling (a fascination I happen to share) into a work process he calls the Story Cycle that's become an integral part of all his client engagements.