Does Your Agency Have An Effective “Elevator Speech”?

March 23, 2010

Most agencies do not have a succinct “Elevator Speech” that effectively communicates both what they do and their unique value proposition. In fact, if you asked ten different people within the same agency, you are likely to get ten different answers! So how can we expect prospective clients to understand clearly who and what we are?

 

If you do not believe me, I challenge you to take a walk around your agency tomorrow and ask ten different staff members to explain in a simple statement what it is you do and what your value proposition is. I have done this recently on several different occasions and the result has been consistent. Complete inconsistency!

What has been consistent is the gratuitous use of super superlatives that just add to the noise and clutter and make our industry seem naive and commoditized. Common place are words and phrases like:

  • Full service integrated agency
  • Proprietary planning methodology/tool
  • Highly insightful creative
  • Award winning creative agency
  • Channel agnostic
  • Outside of the box thinkers
  • The industry’s leading….
  • Widely known throughout the industry for our…
  • Nationally recognized experts in …

The bottom line is that clients have heard all of these claims before many times. They also tell me that in their experience, no agency to date has ever delivered against their claims and the therefore their BS Meters are tuned way up. I recently heard a well known Search Consultant describe the situation as “Embarrassing”!

My advice is before you do any more new business prospecting that you sit down with your team and take a deep and considered look at how you position your agency. Try not to “drink the cool aid” as you do so. Be honest and ask yourselves the hard questions, such as:

  • What do we as agency really do well?
  • What is it about the way we do it that helps us do it well?
  • Is there anything unique about what or how we do it and what’s our value proposition from a client perspective? Why us and not any one of the 5000 other agencies out there claiming to do the same thing?
  • What proof do we have to support our claims versus just rhetoric?
  • What are the characteristics of our ideal target client? ( Partner vs. vendor etc)
  • What categories are we relevant to? (Not which do we aspire to)

These are just a few of the questions that every agency should answer in order to be successful at differentiating itself from the competition and winning new business. Every day I continue to be amazed at how many agencies out there have not taken the time to do so.

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Successful Agencies Don’t Just Excel In One Particular Channel

March 15, 2010

According to Forrester Research…“There will be a reduction in the role of channel specialists. 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

 

Today’s successful marketers have realized that it isn’t good enough just to excel in one particular channel. Multichannel marketing companies absolutely need to spend as much time on their “old” channels as they do with their “new” ones. The biggest problem these marketers face, is finding agency partners that think the same way.

While the entire buzz right now is centered on subjects like making iPhone apps, Twitter strategies, Facebook and search marketing, the reality is, if the rest of your channel marketing sucks, then an iPhone app isn’t going to make a big difference. Likewise, if your in-store (or branch) experience is disappointing, that won’t make up for a lackluster online experience. The key to success is to spend some quality time looking not only at each of the channels individually, but more importantly, at how they intersect with each other to deliver the overall brand experience.

To help understand the philosophy, I would like to share a quote from Jack Aaronson from ClickZ.

“I’ll use a folklore tale of an architect. According to the story, an architect was hired to design a college campus. He put up the buildings but created no sidewalks. When the head of the school asked him where the sidewalks were, he replied, “The students will create the sidewalks.” Sure enough, a year later the architect visited the school and built paved sidewalks where the students had created well-worn paths in the grass”.

This implies a truly customer-centric (needs-based) design approach and we can all learn from this story as we create a methodology for modeling multichannel behavior. You’re most likely aware of how consumers act within a specific channel. You may know how to create the best brick-and-mortar experience, catalog, Web site, kiosk, call center, sales office, Web 2.0 widget, and the like. In the story of the architect, these channels are the buildings. They run fairly well on their own. But how do users move between them? What paths do they create? And, most important, how can we analyze the paths’ success and value?

The first step is to understand the paths people are taking between your buildings and why. Once you create the sidewalks that let them do this easily, everything else will follow suit. The technology exists to track these sidewalks, attribute value to them, and credit the channels appropriately.

Agencies that truly understand this philosophy and embrace it will become leaders at delivering the consummate “Customer Engagement Experience” and assume their rightful place at the head of the client’s agency roster.


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.


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.

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Effective Ad Agency New Business Prospecting In A Conversation Economy

November 10, 2009

 

conversation economy images

The new era of social networking has created what has been described as a “conversation economy”. Agency new business professionals need to change from trying to sell agency capabilities and start marketing conversations. To do this effectively your agency needs a conversation strategy.

Marketers are starved for time and already engaged in many and varied conversations. With over 200,000,000 blogs out there, jump-starting new and meaningful conversations with targeted prospective clients is the big challenge for agencies today. Just building a website, writing a blog, being on Twitter or posting videos on YouTube, doesn’t mean sufficient prospects will find you organically, much less take the time and energy to converse with you.

Having the right conversation strategy addresses two key issues: What meaningful content will attract sufficient conversations with the right people? And, how will you jump-start conversations and keep them alive?

According to Marsha Lindsay, the CEO of Lindsay, Stone & Briggs:  “Even if people know there’s an opportunity to have a conversation with you on Twitter or your blog for instance, you can’t expect them to engage given all the other demands on their time. You’ll need a strategy that both gets them to know you exist and care so much that you exist, they’ll become intrigued about conversing with you. This requires a strategy that integrates search optimization, media, message and contributions of content from the marketers themselves”.

“The right strategy begins with the end in mind: What message can work across multiple platforms and be scaled so quickly and broadly it can drive sufficient interactions to support your business model?”

A multimedia mix framed to spark conversations requires a compelling message concept that can work across a multimedia platform. Its foundation has to be far more than a one-time new business outreach; it must be a message strategy that connects the agency’s brand meaning with search habits and accommodates ongoing contributions that can range from casual conversations to marketer-generated content.

This is a tall order, but not impossible. That’s because the solution can be found in the motivations of the conversationalists themselves. After all, conversation is mankind’s natural search engine.

The question then becomes – how do you keep the conversation going? You’ll constantly be competing with other conversations for your target’s time and attention. So, spark and fuel conversations with surveys, forums and invitations for contributions that pertain to the incremental value that your agency can bring to their brand/product. Keeping ongoing conversations fresh is where contextual research and newsletters, blogs, websites, videos and social media shine.

For those agencies who get their conversation strategy right, marketers will take over the conversation for you, making your new business development more efficient, and making you a genius in your new role as chief conversation officer.


Coca Cola’s Carol Kruse Shares Her Perspectives About Their Interactive Marketing Experiences.

October 27, 2009

Carol KruseCoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every marketer and agency alike are asking the same question right now. How effective are these new media channels and how can we measure that effectiveness and the associated ROI? Carol’s perspective is quite simply – “If you are going to shift money from one pot to the other, you certainly want to make sure it’s going to be equally effective.”

In a recently published interview with Carol Kruse on eMarketer Carol shared some great insights that can be effectively leveraged by agencies looking for new business opportunities:

“I think before you have ROI you have to really understand how social media is driving your business”

Traditional sales funnel types of companies find it easier to directly attribute incremental sales to each initiative. However, for companies like Coke, she suggests focusing on measuring the business value of the different types of media/channels. Coke considers aspects like brand health or brand love and its affect on overall purchase intent.

“Measurement around mobile is difficult right now, and social media measurement is even more difficult.”

There are currently lots of engagement metrics like how many participated, time spent etc. Coke is looking to take those metrics to the next level, which for them is all about driving brand value. It’s about bringing incremental increases in brand love, purchase intent and actual purchase. Carol pints out that there is not one pat answer of what they are looking to measure because it depends on the brand and the business objectives.

“You have to be careful how you go about the measurement because you might undo all the goodwill you have built.”

Carol points out that while measurement is important, for mobile and social media marketing you have to do it in a way that is acceptable to consumers. The last thing you want to do is disrupt the consumer experience, when your overall objective is to enhance it.

The final question posed to Carol was – “What do you see as the most pressing issue for digital marketing?” Her response was that search marketing is underutilized by both packaged goods and other brand companies, and that search should not be relegated to direct marketers.


Social CRM Is The New Driver For Ad Agency New Business!

October 22, 2009

Social CRM is the new currency in ad agency new business. Influential clients are forcing a convergence between CRM and PR, making tracking what is being said and by who a vital component of your new business strategy.

In a recent survey conducted by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, marketers were asked the question, “For what reason do you use social media”. While 82% of respondents said that brand building was there number one reason, 60% indicated that personal networking was the second most important reason, with customer service a distant third at 32%.

 Social graph

The very marketers that we agencies target are telling us that personal social networking is an extremely important activity for them. Why then do so many agencies ignore social networking when it comes to their own new business prospecting?

Ad agencies should be out there listening to marketers, using the available tools to track all relevant conversations, identifying who the influencers are and starting to build a dialog and ultimately a relationship development program. Many prospective and existing agency clients are active right now sharing their opinions with others through social networking channels. Some of the more enthusiastic individuals have become evangelists, establishing a significant sphere of influence in the market place. Barry Judge, the CMO of Best Buy would be a perfect example of such a marketer.

According to Susan Scrupski of ITSinsider, seeing results depends heavily on how you organize your business and equip the people who are part of it. As you enable the conversation between you and your prospective customers, you enter into collaborative design. Picking up information and passing it into an organization that knows what to do with it is the inflection point between social business strategy and actual business success. Taking the time to measure it in the fundamental currency of business — which as Susan says is “currency” — is the final step in putting all pieces in place to win in the marketplace.

This convergence between PrR and CRM makes tracking who is saying what and developing an ability to respond directly a must have skill. By efficiently organizing and strategizing your responses, you can use this information to guide your social web program and the evolution of your business itself.

That’s powerful!

 

 

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