Social Media Needs Personality

No Personality = Boring Social Media

09352fdbe35a23ea367800dbbb95df42-439x285Here is an article worth reading about the power of personality to driveB2B  social media readership.

I read CBInsights newsletter every day. In addition to its making me smarter, it is fun to read.

Is Your Content Boring?

You can be informative and boring. Or, you can be informative and entertaining. I’ll take the later.

Some words about CBInsights’ non-boring approach from Tearsheets “Anand Sanwal is bringing love to finance data”.

Every evening at around 6 p.m., over 300,000 people get a love letter in their inbox. After some charts, random news bits and some snark, it ends with an over familiar (and some might say downright creepy) sign off: “I Love You.”

That’s the trademark of Anand Sanwal, the 43-year-old CEO and co-founder of a B2B data company, CB Insights, and self-proclaimed introvert.

“The newsletter affords me the ability to be a little bit outlandish,” he said. “In person, I prefer to be anonymous. In the little geek circle we play in, it’s become tougher to be that way.”

Sanwal did, and the newsletter exploded. With the right tone, humor and a hint of irreverence, Sanwal and his team have made data fun and developed character that connects with its readership. The newsletters highlight terrible charts on the Internet, pick through troves of CB Insights data and data visualization and even include hate letters from readers.

The Plan

Sign up to get CBInsights. Read it for two weeks. Decide that interesting is better than boring. Take a hard look at your thought leadership content and decide for yourself…

Should We Be Boring Or Interesting?

The Best Advertising Agency Website

The Best Advertising Agency Website… Sells

SIMPLEI’ve been talking to an increasing number of advertising agencies about how to rebuild their agency website to be a more effective sales tool. The operative word here is – sales. It is critical that agencies think very hard about how to funnel a visitor from ‘just visiting’ to making direct contact.

Your website is most likely the first time a prospective client will spend the time to get to know your advertising, design, PR or digital agency. It could also be the last time they see you, and worse, you might never know that they even took a look.

Getting your website right is critical to growing your business. Not setting it up to sell could be one of your worst business development mistakes.

Here are some general thoughts about how to turn agency websites into sales tools. I know that this is timely because most agencies, even ones that just launched a new website last week, are always thinking about their next website. I’d bet that you are too.

The Optimal Agency Website

8 Seconds…

Prospective clients give an agency website about 8 seconds to hook ‘em. That means 8 seconds to describe the agency and give the prospect a good reason to read on. 8 seconds! You know what I’m talking about… you probably give most sites you visit just 8 seconds to tell you why you should stick around.

Once you’ve hopefully sparked interest, clients look hard at agency websites for a clear understanding of what you can do for them (your skills); who you have worked for (proof); past work (more proof), agency thinking (brains); who runs the shop and agency personality (chemistry).

Once you’ve satisfied a potential client’s information needs, you will need to corral them into making contact. After looking at hundreds of advertising agency websites over the years, I can tell you (no surprise) that the great majority do not employ the basics of site visitor conversion. Most agency websites do little more than offer a very basic contact page to, hopefully, help the client make contact.

Sorry, it isn’t that simple.

Some Website Food for Thought

You have limited time to capture the attention and interest of a visitor. How do you do that? Here are some ideas.

Simple Works Hard

I am a fan of simple, fast read design. It’s hard to argue with the power of simplicity. As support, here are some words from the master of keep things simple.

“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Here is an example of an agency that not only preached simplicity; it used super clean and direct design to support its very own brand proposition.

m&c sattchiSee how M&C Saatchi tells (well, once told) prospects what they will get from the agency as soon as the visitor hits the home page. M&C Saatchi delivers its message in about 1.5 seconds. Given the main message, could you imagine the agency having a complicated design to express this thought?

Maurice called the delivery of simplicity: One-Word Equity. This was their pitch from a few years ago. And, there can be no argument that his direct statement still works in today’s over-stimulated ADHD world.


OK, One More Uber Simple Website…

 playgroundJust to hammer the KISS point, I am including the home page of Playground. It took me 1 second to know what Playground is.

While I am not sure that saying “We are a digital creative agency” is a standout agency pitch, it is, without question, direct and therefore stronger than the front door of most agency websites.

What I Like: Website Elements

Once you have stopped the website visitor with your direct home page message (something compelling via copy or a video), you’ll have the time to tell them your agency story and supply key information.


Read More »

4A’s On Advertising Agency Pitching

Some Sage Words From The 4A’s On Advertising Agency Pitching

download 4a'sHere is an interview on advertising agency pitching I did with Tom Finneran, EVP, Agency Management Services at the 4A’s. It’s one of many expert interviews in my book on advertising agency pitching. It comes from the perspective of the 4A’s, its work with hundreds of agencies and with the ANA – the Association of National Advertisers.

By the way, go ahead and buy the book (you can do so easily at the top of this page) and… I guarantee you will win more advertising agency pitches.

I thought I’d add this interview to my blog for a few reasons. Some to help you and one big one for me.

  • Your agency’s pitch batting average will increase if you have a solid, smart, consistent pitch system.
  • You will win more pitches if you put yourself in the client’s shoes.
  • You should be aware of the 4A’s and ANA agency search guidelines. If fact, share this with the clients you pitch. Here’s a link to an Ad Age article on the guidelines.
  • You’ll help me because I want you to buy the book. It’s not because I make a lot of bucks from sales (although sales are robust and it is nice to get money from Amazon.) No, I want you to buy the book because many agencies that read the book, see that I actually know what I am talking about, and turn into my consultancy’s business development clients. Duh coming: Books help make people and even agencies look and sound like experts.

On To The 4A’s Interview That Will Help You Win More Pitches

Warning. This is a long interview. Long as in over 3,000 words. Read it if you want to win more new business.

Tom Finneran: EVP, Agency Management Services – The 4A’s

Tom Finneran leads the 4A’s Agency Management Services team, which provides industry guidance, member consultation, and benchmark information in the areas of new business, agency compensation, agency management, and operations.

Tom’s career includes extensive ad agency and advertiser financial management experience. He was executive Vice president/CFO at Jordan McGrath Case & Partners and Arnold McGrath Worldwide, a unit of Havas. He was also Executive Vice President/COO at Grey’s promotional unit, J. Brown/LMC.

PL: While there’s no one-size-fits-all pitch process, do you think that clients are running more professional pitches today than in the past?

Tom: What we consistently hear is that reviews have become less professional and efficient than in the past. This is important because, to a degree clients have taken in-house some of the review practices that have traditionally been managed by industry consultants who were more adept at running professional pitches.

In terms of the efficiency of reviews, some of the things that are less efficient than they should be are cattle calls. You’ll have clients who are not experienced at doing reviews, and they’ll send information requests to far more agencies than should be included in the initial list.

Some of the other inefficient processes are what I would refer to as RFPs from hell. Here is one example. About a year and a half ago, one of our members called irate about an RFP that had 300 questions. And I said, “You’ve got to be exaggerating. It couldn’t possibly have been 300 questions.” So the person said, “Wait a minute. Let me look at this.” Then she commented, “Okay. You got me, I exaggerated. It’s 293 questions.” So this was an RFP that a client-sourcing group used. The RFP was geared to soliciting responses from ingredient suppliers, research and development firms, and contractors of all types. And woven into the 293 questions were a few marketing-related questions that were kind of like packed in there.

PL: So are you seeing these kinds of issues primarily with larger clients or also medium-sized to smaller clients?

Tom: These tended to be from marketers who did not have dedicated, knowledgeable marketing procurement folks. They were taking people who could source corrugated materials and chemical components and things of that nature.

PL: Is there an agency size factor? Is it affecting your large and small 4A’s members?

Tom: It affects members both small and large.

PL: Is that what you currently see as the biggest efficiency problem?

Tom: No. I have a list of efficiency problems I’d like to go through.
 One is cattle calls.
 Two is RFPs from hell.
 Three is the sub-optimal use of RFIs. Too many clients start a review with requests for detailed proposals when, in point of fact, they should be using a streamlined RFI to vet the long list. Get it down to a manageable few. And then start the deeper dive, including an RFP. Going out with an RFP to 10, 12, 15, or God knows how

One is cattle calls.
 Two is RFPs from hell.
 Three is the suboptimal use of RFIs.

Two is RFPs from hell.
 Three is the suboptimal use of RFIs.

Three is the suboptimal use of RFIs.

Too many clients start a review with requests for detailed proposals when, in point of fact, they should be using a streamlined RFI to vet the long list. Get it down to a manageable few. And then start the deeper dive, including an RFP. Going out with an RFP to 10, 12, 15, or God knows how many more is just not an efficient process. So we recommend starting that long list phase with an RFI.

PL: Do you think clients are doing this out of, let’s call it naiveté, or are they sometimes fishing for ideas?

Tom: There are certainly instances of clients conducting a review and fishing for ideas. There’s no question about that.

PL: You and the ANA put together a fairly extensive pitch guidelines document. How are you getting that document into the hands of clients so that hopefully they’ll run better pitches in the future?

Tom: The 4A’s and the ANA have actually collaborated on two documents, and I would view them as two chapters of the same book. A couple of years ago we authored guidelines for agency search. About a year or so after those guidelines were released, we wanted to understand if people were adhering to the guidelines. Are they making a difference, and what are the challenges that are still out there?

The challenges we heard back were sub-optimal use of RFIs, RFPs from hell, and inadequate briefings. So based on that, we again collaborated with the ANA and released just late last year, an agency selection briefing guide that advocates the broader use of RFIs. It describes when an RFI should be used and the advantages of using it. And it talks about the necessity of having a thorough briefing for every submission for review.

One point we have not yet addressed is the importance of having a client management decision-maker involved throughout the process.

Another is that we’re seeing more and more project reviews. So instead of a review for a major AOR or retainer relationship, these are reviews just for a short-term project and clearly the industry needs to do some work on streamlining processes and procedures for project reviews.

I wanted to get back to your specific question of “What are we doing to get the word out?” We introduced the second set of guidance during Advertising Week 2013. We have been communicating through ANA to their members using everything from bulletins, to a member webinar, and at the ANA Finance and Procurement Conference.

PL: Are you finding that your member agencies are disseminating this document to their prospective clients as well?

Tom: We are. And it’s to that fact we urge members to proactively utilize these guidelines. So as soon as they hear about a potential review, we are urging our members to send to the marketer these guidelines and to use the document as a trigger to discuss with the marketer how they’re going to conduct their reviews, what they’re really looking for, what the elements of the process will be. Some agencies are better than others at directly asking the marketer to provide any examples of where their process might appear to be varied from the industry guidelines.

By the way, the feedback that the proactive agencies have gotten has been universally positive. It’s because the proactive nature of the agency talking about, “Well how are you going do this?” rather than just saying, “Oh great, there’s going be a review, can I get in?” is viewed as more professional, thoughtful and diligent.

PL: Well I think that’s a great insight. I always thought that ultimately the client is not in the business of torture. The key point I heard in your answer is that savvy agencies recognize that they look more professional when they can help the client be more efficient with their search process. Read More »

Interpersonal Chemistry and Body Language

Interpersonal Chemistry and Body Language and Sales

Body-Language-ChartMany pitches are won not because you are brilliant, but because the client simply likes you. I’ve sat on both sides of the advertising agency and client sales table and I can safely say, from my client side, that interpersonal chemistry is a critical factor in agency selection decision making.

Given the similarities of agency A to B to C to D (especially by the time an agency has made a client’s short list), interpersonal chemistry — the… “Hey, I like these guys” vibration will be the “all agencies sound the same” deal breaker. Actually, based on many of the interviews in my book on pitching (see above), chemistry is THE decision maker. If we agree that interpersonal chemistry is a critical component in agency selection, then we better get out our test tubes.

I believe that interpersonal chemistry can be managed. Your agency simply (OK, nothing is that simple), should think hard about a few elements of creating love. Here are some:

  • Study the client’s brand history and, especially, its and its category’s, marketing pain points. In the best of all possible worlds, you already did this to get into the meeting in the first place.
  • Get to learn who the individual clients are. You have a world of tools to ID and learn about each decision making client. This research on work and personal history, education, social media posts, etc. forms the back bone of your account based marketing program. I tell all of my clients that there is no such thing as a blind-date in 2017.
  • Ask for a pre pitch chemistry meeting. And, make this critical meeting work for you.
  • Back to the dating metaphor: remember the meeting is about them, not you. This may be one of the biggest mistakes an agency makes. The client needs to know how you will address their issues. Not, list ad nauseam the elements of your unrelated really cool Instagram program.

Body Language Is Critical

One experiment that you don’t want to run in the face-to-face meeting is how to manage, use, and read body language. This isn’t new territory for most agency people as we spend a fair amount of time trying to decipher our current client’s body language in strategy and creative meetings. It really is amazing to see the difference between a client that leans in and one that folds their arms, crosses their legs, and leans back.

Albert Mehrabian, the Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA is well known for his study of verbal and non-verbal communication. According to Mehrabian’s 3 V’s of Communication, visual cues rule. Here’s his take on the relative value of three elements in face-to-face communication:

  • Verbal – words, content – 7%
  • Vocal – tone, pitch, intonation – 38%
  • Visual – body language, facial expression, gestures – 55%
  • Wow, content only gets 7%!?

I was a bit dumbfounded when I first saw this verbal, vocal, and visual breakdown. Is it possible that non-verbal communication is the essential ingredient of a successful presentation? Well no. And, that isn’t what Mr. Mehrabian is saying. Here is how a sage Wikipedian reports on Mehrabian’s conclusions.

“It is not the case that non-verbal elements in all senses convey the bulk of the message, even though this is how his conclusions are sometimes misinterpreted. For instance, when delivering a lecture or presentation, the textual content of the lecture is delivered entirely verbally, but the non-verbal cues are very important in conveying the speaker’s attitude towards what they are saying, notably their belief or conviction.”

Ah, the demonstration of “belief or conviction”.

This point is very important because we know that there can be an element of distrust in how some clients in the room might view an advertising agency presentation – “Oh, they will say anything to win the account; they are ad guys after all.”

I think that some of this client-think comes from the nature of our presenting the intangible magic of advertising (and, lately, the BS of digital marketing). A sense of disbelief is part of being on the buyer end of any somewhat subjective sales pitch. Therefore, we need to pay close attention to our non-verbal cues.

Playing to the intangibles of body language requires you to play two roles.

  1. The first is the role of observer. Is the client leaning in? Are they making eye contact or looking around the room or at their papers? How are they holding their arms (hopefully, not folded in front of them)? Are they fidgeting? Better, are they nodding in agreement, and are they taking notes?

Make sure that your team understands how to read the important positive and negative ‘tells’. Everyone should think like a poker player. If you need some extra stimulus on how to read the room, watch David Mamet’s great gambling movie House of Games.

2. Your other role is to be aware of your own body language, and make sure that your team is fully conscious of how they deliver their body language. Personally, I have always focused on my breathing, posture, and the position of my hands, head and eyes. I remind myself to go to an out-of-body view of how I might be perceived during the presentation. Self-awareness during the pitch is all-important.

We should want to look relaxed and stand straight. In this case, you also need to beware of looking too cool, or looking like the shifty poker players you see on TV who often want to demonstrate power by acting aloof. Rather, lean in like President Obama or Sean Hannity (hey, I am an equal opportunity viewer). Look like you believe in what you are saying and that you are confident.

Much of your conscious performance will be driven by your rehearsals which will make you familiar with your ideas, words, tone, pace, and body position. It is ok to critique your teammates during the rehearsal. Better that you point out a colleague’s wandering eye problem than have the client experience it later.


Be very uber conscious of your surroundings.

Make sure that you actively read the room. Pay attention to your audience, listen closely to their comments for clues, and note their posture. Be prepared to make subtle adjustments to your presentation based on what you are seeing. I have been in pitches where I know that my colleague is failing by watching the audience’s reaction. In a worse case scenario, the speaker isn’t paying attention to his audience — he is just trying to deliver his lines and get though his section. Bad move for him and for you. All of your presenters must be aware of how they are being received and make adjustments. Have a set of visual codes to alert your colleagues about any body language fails. You might want to have your impartial pitch critic (I discuss this in my pitch book) act disinterested in your rehearsal just for practice.

The Biggest Content Marketing Secret

And Ladies and Gentlemen…. The Biggest Content Marketing Secret

images secretReady, set, go. Shh… Here is the big content marketing secret to delivering brilliant insights, mucho content and a simple way of making you look real smart.

Creating relevant content every week is a bitch for small and medium sized advertising, digital, PR and whateva agencies. The hard part isn’t ‘relevant’, the hard part is doing it consistently.

The Secret

Interview the right, smart, eloquent people that can riff on tight subjets for 15 to 60 minutes. OK, 60 is too much cause you’ll have to edit it.

Do the interview on the telephone, via text-based questions or on Skype (or other Internet conversation platforms). Record the calls. Then, head over to Rev and have them transcribe the audio – overnight.

Easy, right? Yup!

I’ve done dozens of interviews for this blog, for my book (see above) and in guest posts.

Google loves SEO optimized content. Interviews rock.

Then… Amplify It

Every insight / AHA! blog or whatever post must be amplified via one or more of the following (I amplify everything.) I use the Rule of Five – amplify everything at least five ways. Here are some ideas.:

  • On your site in a very simple resources page or blog
  • To your current and past clients
  • To your lists as part of your email newsletter
  • In white papers
  • On LinkedIn to your ‘growing’ Followers
  • To your Facebook Followers
  • On Twitter (yes, it still works and can be used for targeting your competitor’s followers)
  • SlideShare (an underused platform)
  • Commenting (presence on LinkedIn Groups and big blogs)
  • Guest posting (seriously borrowed reach)
  • Your zine
  • And, on…

Need content (and who doesn’t?) Go forth and interview people.

Oh, I get interviewed too.

Here from Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels Of Separation (a master interview website /podcast):

SPOS #569 – The Relevance Of Marketing Agencies With Peter Levitan