Six Agency Search Questions Clients Ask…How You Answer Will Determine Your Success!

February 25, 2010

These six questions consistently come up in most agency search RFI’s. Your answers to them play a critical role in the decision as to whether you move forward in the process or are eliminated at this early stage. Take the time now to develop considered points of view rather than a rushed “in the moment” response.

 

What are the exclusive or unique services and capabilities that give your agency a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

 While the actual wording may differ, the question is almost always included in most agency RFI’s. Clients want to know exactly what it is that makes your agency different. What value does your agency bring to the relationship and how will what you offer help them compete more effectively and win. It’s not about a laundry list of capabilities – as every agency claims to have every capability. My suggestion is that you take the time to ask yourselves not only what you do well, but also what it is about what you do that makes you measurably better than the competition. Remember that you cannot be all things to everyone.

Describe the top three trends in the industry as you see it and how is your agency leading and reacting to these trends?

 Clients want to know that the agency they select is a leader and not a follower. They want to make sure that it is at least constantly keeping abreast of current trends if not predicting what the next one will be. In addition, clients are interested in knowing how you are leveraging them to give your clients competitive advantage. Depending on the RFP and your type of agency, the question can vary from broader consumer trends to specific category or vertical developments. 

Why do you provide better thought leadership than your competitors? 

This is just another question aimed at helping the client determine whether your agency is a leader or a follower. This question probes areas like strategic thinking, use of technology, innovative media and communications planning and data analytics etc. Once again they are trying determine what your value proposition is and how do you keep current.

How do you help your clients manage their brand and the total consumer experience in the digital space?

The buzz surrounding brand and customer experience continues to grow exponentially. Lead by Forrester Research, there has recently been a plethora of articles on “customer engagement agencies”. In fact, Forrester was even planning to publish a wave focused on  “customer engagement agencies” in the first quarter of 2010, however I am led to believe that this has been put on hold due to a lack of agencies who meet the basic selection criteria. You can be certain that this question is going to become ubiquitous in the near future so I would suggest that your agency develops not only a point of view, but also a track record of delivering it on behalf of your clients.

How have you used social media to generate business results? How did you measure ROI?

I would be very surprised if your agency has not already had this question thrown at you. Currently this seems to be the question that is on the tip of every clients tongue. It’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. I am certain that there are more agencies than not who cannot truly answer this question based on their own experience. I recommend that if you fall into this category that you at least develop a POV and approach that you can share. This will demonstrate to the client that you have given it serious thought and have a strategic approach to answering the million-dollar question.

Explain how you test, measure and optimize results for your clients?

This question is top of mind for most if not every client out there. There has never been in the history of marketing and advertising, a stronger focus on effectiveness, tracking, measurement and ultimately results. ROI is the subject d’ jour with many clients even asking agencies for some type of guarantee or at minimum shared risk participation. Some of the larger companies have moved all of their agency compensation models to a pay for performance model. Take the time to document your philosophy, approach, process, tools and tracking capabilities.

Advertisements

Rx For Agencies Suffering From Digital, Direct, PR and Social Media Confusion Or Disorientation

January 25, 2010

Reduction in the role of channel specialists. Today, interactive marketers want agencies to keep them ahead of the curve. But for most agencies, this means little more than just providing executional help in digital channels.

“As marketers seek interactivity, agencies that subsist will forgo their role as channel specialists and dedicate themselves instead to determining how to change the relationship marketers have with their end customers”.    Source: Shar Van Boskirk, Forrester Research, Jan 12, 2010

The opportunity is clear. Forget about continuing to structure your agency in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. If you can integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to share their personal networks with you, you will have created a powerful channel for your brand in the marketplace.

Click on the link below to view or download the full presentation.

View more presentations from Clive Maclean.

This IS The Age Of Mobile Marketing …Is Your Agency Standing On The Sidelines?

December 29, 2009

According to a recent article published by eMarketer, mobile commerce’s time has arrived. Aided by a flurry of acquisition activity, an influx of venture capital funding and growing brand adoption in the latter half of 2009, the year ahead will see mobile continue its shift toward the marketing mainstream.

 It is eye-catching when a consultancy revises a market forecast upward in the midst of an economic downturn. That is exactly what ABI Research did with its forecast of mobile sales of physical goods in North America. In January 2009 it projected m-commerce sales would reach $544 million this year, up 57% over 2008—impressive in its own right. But in late October, ABI upped its forecast, saying sales would top $750 million in 2009, a whopping 117% annual growth rate. M-commerce’s time has arrived, and it is an easy bet that sales in 2010 will pass the $1 billion mark.

 Whereas consumers once limited their mobile phone purchases to downloadable ringtones and games, today they are using their devices to buy books, apparel and other items associated with online shopping on a PC.

 As I have often commented before, this increased growth will ultimately create a need for better creative. Up until now, marketers and their agencies have done a tremendous job of recycling and repurposing creative assets from other media and channels, in an attempt to make sure that as much of the budget as possible goes into working media.

This is an opportunity for agencies to step up to the plate and deliver a better quality product while demanding more fully funded mobile production budgets.  While most creative types currently believe that mobile environments have significant creative limitations, the reality is that this is indeed not the case. The problem is that most creatives are not aware of the technologies currently available and hence what is actually possible.

 While there are currently some notable agencies out there leading the charge and creating excellent work, most seem to be overlooking the opportunity.

Share


The Two People Most Critical To Agency New Business Success!

December 17, 2009

 

Is getting in the door and developing the new business lead important? “Absolutely!” However, if your follow through is lacking, all that development work and investment just goes down the drain accompanied by increasing agency new business strain. Critical to achieving new business success is a great pitch strategy, a pitch czar, a well articulated deck and a well rehearsed team! Without all of these, it does not matter how creative your agency is!

The agency pitch environment is incredibly frenetic, fraught with individual agendas and distracted by the pressures of ongoing client responsibilities and work. It is not unusual for an agency to assign pitch leadership responsibility to a senior account person, who by the way is already inundated with existing client work.

 As you have probably found out already through experience, this simply does not work. If you are serious about new business and the need to win, you have to allocate the right resources. It goes without saying that you need the “team to win” versus “the team available, however without the following two people, your chances of success are slim.

 

 The Pitch Czar:

It is imperative that you appoint a pitch leader that has both the responsibility and authority to lead the pitch. This person is responsible for:

  • Making all the hard decisions, their word is the last word on everything.
  • The pitch strategy.
  • Making sure that the pitch work addresses the brief.
  • Introducing as required external resources and partners.
  • Keeping in touch with the client/consultant, and constantly building the pre pitch relationship.
  • Keeping the team on track, on budget and on time.
  • Orchestrating the final presentation format, pitch logistics, leave behinds etc.
  • Post pitch follow up.

 

Internal New Business Coordinator:

The Pitch Czar cannot achieve success on his/her own. They need the support of an internal new business coordinator. This individual is internally focused and ultimately responsible for the day to day management of the pitch and budget management. Their responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Development and control of the pitch deck, including the quality of the final output.
  • Keeping the pitch team on budget and delivering each step on time.
  • Implementing the agreed pitch process and ensuring everyone adheres to it.
  • Coordinating deliverables from outside resources, if any. (research etc)
  • Food and drink for pitch team during late night sessions.
  • Production of any leave behinds.
  • Researching the pitch venue and layout and determining what is possible or needed from a presentation perspective.
  • Equipment and technology required for the pitch.
  • Back-up plan for a possible technology failure.

 

The simple truth is that assigning senior account people who are already overloaded with existing client work is not going to deliver the results you need. In fact it will only serve to distress your pitch closing ratio and ultimately demoralize the agency. In my consulting practice I see the same mistakes being made every day. On the other hand, I also see the benefits when it is done correctly.


Brand Engagement…The Foundation for Agency New Business Success

December 9, 2009

The power of online brand interaction is not to be denied: A solid majority of connected consumers have had their opinion of a brand swayed, either positively or negatively, by an online experience. The same principle applies to ad agencies and the universe of marketers out there!

As we move deeper into this “conversation economy” true band engagement is becoming more and more important. Agencies must create ongoing and relevant dialogs with marketers if they are to have any hope whatsoever of becoming part of the consideration set going forward.

Agencies are consistently telling clients that they should be doing this as an integral part of their marketing communications strategy, yet many of those same agencies are not practicing what they preach. The key to success is developing enough “engagement” between your brand and your prospect to be able to make their consideration list.

Effect of "Friending" a Brand on Facebook or MySpace According to US Internet Users, August 2009 (% of respondents)

In a recent survey conducted by Razorfish (FEED 2009), an impressive 64% of connected consumers told Razorfish they had made their first purchase from a brand because of a digital experience. And friending, following and content creation spurred upticks across the marketing funnel—from raising awareness to consideration, purchase and recommendations to friends.

“Digital experiences not only build a brand, they can also make or break it. For those brand marketers still neglecting (or underestimating) digital, it’s as if they’ve shown up to a cocktail party in sweatpants,” according to the report. “Invariably, consumers will choose to converse with a savvier—and hopefully more stylish—partner.”

Remember, marketers are consumers too, and they behave the same way when it comes to decisions that affect their brands and the companies they choose to partner with.

How effective is your agency’s current brand/customer engagement strategy?



Already missed your Q1, 2010 new business targets?

December 1, 2009

 

 

If you did not start your 2010 new business preparation and prospecting activity back in at least September of this year, you have probably already missed your Q1 new business numbers for next year!

 Back in July of this year I published a blog post entitled “Ad agencies…2009 is over. Focus now on 2010”. I know it seemed far too early to be thinking about next year, when most of you were still stuck in the trenches fighting to deliver on current year targets. The reality is however that it was not too early at all.

This time of the year is normally characterized by missed new business targets, disappointed management and the start of the usual end of year agency new business professional musical chairs.

 If you are indeed just starting your 2010 new business planning and prospecting activity now, your efforts will probably have little to no impact on the first quarter of next year. The prospecting work undertaken during the last 3-6 months of this year will determine your success (or not) in the first part of the New Year.

 If you find yourself in this position here are my suggestions as to what you might do:

  • Do not delay any further, start your planning immediately.
  • Communicate with your agency management team and let them know that you may well be behind the eight ball. (It’s better to be upfront than wait for the surprises and the resultant disappointments).
  • Review your Q1 targets for 2010 against your current pipeline and activity. Be honest with yourself and realistic.
  • If necessary adjust your Q1 targets accordingly. (DO NOT just push numbers around. That means don’t just move the dollars to later in the year, keeping the same overall target. You may just be arranging a stay of execution.
  • Execute against your plan, track your progress and keep lines of communication with your management team open.

 

 

Share


Agencies Slow to Harness Social Media For New Business Prospecting

November 23, 2009

According to a recent article written by Andrew McMains of Adweek, most agencies have a presence on social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but infrequently use them to market themselves or pursue client prospects, notwithstanding the fact that the more traditional approaches are not working.

A recent survey from RSW/US and Second Wind, found that nearly three-quarters of the 212 agency leaders polled in the online survey are connected to LinkedIn, 66 percent to Facebook and 56 percent to Twitter. But when asked how frequently they use each, the majority said no more than once a month. For example, 47 percent conceded that they never tweet, 7 percent said they tweet less than once a month and 4 percent tweet just once monthly.

The findings were similar for blogs, with 56 percent of the respondents saying that their agencies have blogs, but only 6 percent use them daily. A whopping 66 percent indicated that they blog no more than once a month.
And while 58 percent of the agency leaders pointed to LinkedIn as the social media tool they employ most often in account prospecting, only 4 percent use any type of social media “often” in this context, compared to 22 percent who “never” do.

The survey, which was conducted last month, provides yet another illustration of agencies not practicing what they preach to clients for the marketing of their brands.  This  “cobbler’s son” syndrome is also evident in everything from Flash-heavy, information-poor agency Web sites to shops neglecting to buy sponsored links to their names on Google.

Interesatingly, these findings are consistent with the online survey I conducted in July of this year.

Nearly two thirds of agencies said that they do not have a documented and active social media strategy. This confirmed just how poorly prepared agencies are from a digital perspective.  While most are actively out in the market trying to convince clients that they are indeed social media experts, they themselves have not embraced it as a critical component of their own marketing communications mix. Notwithstanding the fact that the more traditional approaches are not working.

On a side note, even more surprising was the fact that of the agencies who responded, well over half admitted to not having a documented and active SEO/M strategy. A receipe for disaster when you consider that in a recent survey of C-Suite executives, 74% of the respondents rated the internet as a very important source of business information and the fact that 100% of clients researched online 100% of the agencies that it intended to invite to a pitch.  Search engine marketing is a fundamental component of internet marketing and even today, still garners the bulk of a clients interactive marketing dollars. Many ad agencies are missing a critical part of the communications puzzle in this instance.  

It has never been more important for agencies to introduce innovation into their agency marketing initiatives. Building a following, creating dialog and listening to customers through social media techniques, are crucial to ongoing agency success.

Share