Building New Ad Agency Capabilities Quickly and Inexpensively

July 22, 2009


Are you looking to add new capabilities to your agency roster? Are you are finding that it is proving to be too costly to build or buy a separate dedicated group with a specific new capability? The answer to your problem may well be a…Virtual Special Team (VST)!

The groups of eclectic individuals, who make up an agency team, normally possess a broad and diverse set of individual skills and experiences. Quite often when they are hired, it is for a particular skill or for a particular client position.  For example an outstanding client service director who has years of experience in the wireless category, may be hired to work on financial client primarily because of their client service skills. In this case, certainly not because of their wireless category experience.

This can result in an agency actually having significant experience in a certain category/segment when you consider the combined capability of all the staff. The reality however, is that it is currently dissipated across the agency and all the other client accounts. This is where the VST approach can be very useful.

The fundamental structure of a Virtual Special Team is as follows:

  • A group of individuals who have a common set of expertise. Whether by category, target segment, or channel/technology etc.
  • One or maximum two individuals within the agency with leadership responsibility for the VST.
  •  The agency leverages both current client experience/work in the category, as well as the past experience of the special team members. The focus is on the collective brains trust that exists by bringing together this group.
  • The team members continue in their current roles, and come together as needed when the VST is assembled. Current client responsibilities of VST members are temporarily shared or supported by freelance help.
  • The team is supported by specific PR, speaking engagements, whitepapers, capabilities materials, micro site within agency website etc.

An excellent example of this approach made its appearance a few years ago. Leo Burnett launched a VST called “KidLeo”. (I think I have the spelling right). According to reports from both inside and outside the company, this approach turned out to be very successful.

Whether its retail marketing, automotive, marketing to over 50’s, or marketing to women, you can often launch your agency capability and get some traction for a very small investment. Think about the possibility of using a Virtual Special Teams approach.


Ad Agencies…Increase Your Profit By 25-85%!

July 13, 2009

customer loyaltyI am certain that all of us know that loyal client relationships commonly deliver more profitable margins, last longer and often lead to referrals to other clients. According to “Service Profit Chain 2007,” a 5% increase in customer loyalty can produce a profit improvement ranging from 25% to 85%.

The basic premise is very simple. Strong existing client relationships are based on trust, confidence, integrity, professionalism and shared values. The client expects the agency, acting as a trusted advisor to continually and proactively identify problems or opportunities and suggest innovative solutions to address them. According to Millward Brown’s ‘What Matters Survey, 2007’ the reality is that clients believe that agencies are only effective at helping them meet their biggest challenges 56% of the time!

To me this signals a significant opportunity for all agencies. Take the next twelve months and focus on developing a “High Performance Organic Growth Strategy” for your agency. This approach will not only drive incremental organic client growth, but will also help you reduce your client churn ratio.

Here is my suggested approach:

  • Make your client service leaders accountable for growth. Yes, we have all heard the response, “I did not sign up to be the sales person”. But that’s not true. Outstanding client service professionals are good at nurturing the relationship, delivering on a day to day basis, and looking for new growth opportunities.
  • Develop key client growth plans. Mutually agree on what the growth goals are, jointly develop key account plans for your top 5 clients. Document what actions are to be taken over what time period of time, and who is directly responsible.
  • Give them the support they need. Senior management support and most importantly, encouragement is a critical component. Not only does the client team need to know that this is a priority, the whole agency should be aware of it and supportive of it
  • Provide them with tools that may help them to succeed. There are a number of useful tools that you can use to generate discussions with the client. Avoid the temptation to go in and sell the agency, rather focus on them and their business and use diagnostic based discussions to identify opportunities. Some suggestions are;
    • Scheduling quarterly client/agency review meetings. At each meeting take the opportunity to share a new idea.
    • Brand Audit Update. Scheduled every six months or so to assess progress. This is an opportunity to include more senior clients who are not involved on a day to day basis.
    • Agency CMO summit. Invite the CMO’s from all your top clients to a joint meeting hosted by your agency.
    • Client of the Month. Each month the agency chooses a client. Then everyone in the agency is challenged to proactively come up with new ideas etc for that client. The best of the ideas is then presented to the client in a two hour meeting, followed by lunch with the people responsible for the ideas.

So, as an alternative to spending time reading the latest industry survey, telling you that clients have again cut their budgets, spend that time developing your own “High Performance Organic Growth Strategy”.