Does Your Ad Agency Get Its Marketing Right?

Getting It Right 

Here’s a look at some agencies that get their business development marketing right care of a request from Todd Foutz of Virgina’s NDP agency.He asked me if I could point to advertising agencies that looked like they had their business development act together. This post attempts to answer Todd’s question via some smart examples and asks you “Does your ad agency get its marketing right?”

I told Todd that I could take a good look at and report on what is visible to the world, but could not comment on marketing that is not visible – read that as being 1:1 agency to client prospect direct marketing.

A quick bit of biz dev history.

When I returned from Saatchi & Saatchi London to New York, I was tasked with running business development across our North American offices. Early on, I happened to meet with Jon Bond of the hot agency Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. KB had some small accounts like BMW, Citi and Victoria’s Secret. I asked him what the agency did for new business marketing. He said, “I never know what works so, we do everything.” I got it. But, that was in 1994 before time chewing digital marketing and its tracking capabilities. Today’s advertising agency cannot do everything. There is simply too much everything. So, I’ll lead with one point: focus. Work on doing just one or two marketing programs right. If they don’t work (after you’ve given them time), adjust or move on.

Not Visible

As you might expect, I cannot see agency to client direct communications (except for what my clients do and I’ll keep that confidential). It is unfortunate that I can’t see what everyone is doing since direct contact should be a key element of any agency’s outbound marketing and it would be very cool to be able to have a look.

That said, this is what I do know:

I’ve discussed that there are three primary ways that agencies drive leads. These include the all-mighty referral (an unmanaged default for way too many agencies), inbound searches (i.e. SEO and content marketing) and via direct outbound.

Outbound, which used to be called sales (OK, still is), has been revved up in recent years via the “new” idea of Account-Based Marketing. This means that an agency utilizes a very strategic managed approach to capture the attention of a prospective client.

Most agencies do direct outreach (possibly too much, too often or much worse, very poorly done). As I am sure you know, there is a great deal of client marketing research that supports the fact that all sorts of agencies hammer prospective clients all day long. It is a barrage that makes it difficult for most agencies to get noticed. To this point,  Atlanta’s digital agency Cardinal has a very smart / strategic video on their website where they show one of their clients talking about how many times they get hit up by Cardinal’s competitive agencies – and are not interested in switching.

So, to hammer my point… outbound marketing is critical to agency success. However, poorly delivered outbound does not work, full stop. Super compelling well-targeted insights will break through the clutter to get the attention of the clients you want.

Good news for agencies: most of their agency competitors do not have a clue about how to look and sound trully attractive.

Bad news: these unattractive agencies that hammer clients without any productive, interesting sales pitch or all-important relevant insights help ruin communications for the agencies that actually have their marketing shit together.

Some Agency Biz Dev Research Read More »

So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Advertising Agency

Want To Be A Rock Star? (I Hope)

So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star is a 1967 song by California’s The Byrds. Never heard it? You should. But more to the point, it could act as an anthem for you becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star advertising agency.

By the way, you are an advertising agency even if you are a digital or experiential agency because “advertising agency” remains the number one search term that clients use even if they want a content agency. Just see what Google Trends says.

OK, back to Rock.

Below are some thoughts on how you can channel the Byrd’s song’s opening lyrics:

“So you want to be a rock and roll star? Then listen now to what I say. Just get an electric guitar. Then take some time and learn how to play.”

Some Rock ‘n’ Roll Agency Thoughts for 2018

I had specific goals for my agency Citrus. We met these with clients like Nike, LegalZoom, Harrah’s and the Montana Lottery.

Our Big Goal: Make us money. Grow every agency employee’s income.

How we got there. We wanted to work with clients that met at least three of these criteria: They wanted great marketing (as in respected what the agency could do for their business); do great work; be famous (working with famous clients gets the attention of other clients); be long-term (screw short low-income projects that ate up our time and talent unless the work would clearly lead to more business) and of course, back to profitability. OK, one more… we wanted to work with clients that were nice people.

Here You Go

  • Trump, whether you dislike or like him, just handed lots of cash to American companies care of his large corporate tax break. Since many of these companies also compete internationally, I think that advertising budgets could move higher this year. Economic optimism breeds larger budgets – across the globe.
  • Finding a unique, differentiating, clear agency positioning, remains the biggest hurdle for most agencies. As I have written many times… figure out what you do well, what clients want and then go sell it in a nicely designed package.
  • Make business development a priority. Have a process, have a budget and be consistent.
  • Study up on Agile Marketing and think about employing its tenets for your sales program. Here’s a definition: “Agile marketing is an organizational effectiveness strategy that drives growth through focusing team efforts on those that deliver value to the end-customer.“ While you are at it, use a bit of start-up thinking and energy to drive growth.
  • Use the right KPI’s (key performance indicators) to hone your sales program. The right KPI’s are not the number of emails sent; your average open rate; clicks and shares; or even conversion rates. (Jargon coming) … You need to understand the difference between MQL (marketing qualified leads) and SQL (sales qualified leads or, better, actual vetted prospects that want to hire you.) Clicks on your blog are meaningless unless they convert to high-profit sales.
  • Emotion sells. Do you have agency stories to help sell who you are? Not just facts (all agencies have facts) but real stories?
  • Personalize your agency. I cannot believe how many agency websites are human-free zones. People buy people and who you are, how you look, how you sound, could be a major agency differentiator.
  • Use video to sell. But, do not be boring. Note: short, interesting videos. Sell me by being entertaining. This is a bit on the crazy side. A few years ago when my Portland agency wanted to get way noticed in San Francisco, we did a VLOG about San Franciscans. Here is an interview with a pimp. Yup, a bit, um, edgy. Here are the video, awareness strategy and my very honest assessment of the MosaicSF program. Hey, we tried to stand out.
  • Be cool. Since my first day in the advertising business, clients told me that they dig cool. You are cooler than them. Make your brilliance fun… too.
  • Content and thought leadership is a good thing – it is how I grow my business. Prospective clients want pertinent information. Business-building information and insights that the clients you want cannot ignore. Cannot ignore is the critical element. Read some agency blogs. Too many are not well-positioned and are just downright boring. Maybe its time to kill your blog.
  • Pick your battles. Unless you are large, it is very difficult to run a blog, write white papers, broadcast a weekly podcast, produce videos, Tweet 5 times a day, hammer LinkedIn. Do one or two things correctly.
  • Study up on and commit to running Account Based Marketing. Figure out what categories to target, specific clients and build programs that dazzle over time (and can’t be ignored.)
  • Know what, make being Unignorable a critical agency goal. Me-too sucks and if you just act me-too, you will not succeed. If a client thinks you are me-too, they will think that you will do me-too work – for them.
  • Look smart. Write a book or create a zine. Try something different that proves you are really smart. My friends Beau Fraser (Death to All Sacred Cows: How Successful Business People Put the Old Rules Out to Pasture) and Russ Stoddard (Rise Up: How to Build a Socially Conscious Business) did it. They look and sound smart and different. I did it too. You can.
  • Win awards. Clients need third-party help. London Advertising and San Diego’s Basic (like 17 Webby’s) do this every year. Winning isn’t an accident. In addition to deciding to do only standout work, these agencies have awards strategies.
  • Spend a few minutes on your end game. Want to sell someday? Well, you better build an agency that someone else will want to buy. This exercise is also a smart way to build an agency that clients will want to work with.
  • Have a smart referrals strategy. Your friends want to help you. Be active.


Be Bold.

Passive agencies lose. Ask for the order. OK, here you go… last year I worked with advertising, experiential, digital, PR agencies on five continents. Want to fill your new client pipeline? Go here.

The Byrds Lyrics

So you want to be a rock and roll star?
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time and learn how to play

And with your hair swung right
And your pants too tight, it’s gonna be all right
Then it’s time to go downtown
Where the agent man won’t let you down

Sell your soul to the company
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware
And in a week or two if you make the charts
The girls’ll tear you apart

The price you paid for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game? You’re a little insane
The money, the fame, and the public acclaim
Don’t forget who you are, you’re a rock and roll star

Songwriters: Chris Hillman / Roger Mc Guinn


Smart Marketing

Smart Marketing Is A Good Thing

Our Goal = Run Smart Marketing.

If you were an advertising agency client of mine in 2017, we would have sharpened your positioning; created a plan to deliver brand-building thinking via a content program and then wrapped all that in a marketing plan led by the critically important objective of being Unignorable.

A fine example of an advertising agency actually doing just that is BBH London and its BBH Labs care of their ‘white paper’ Most Marketing Is Bad Because It Ignores The Most Basic Data.

Here is a review of BBH’s thinking plus my thoughts on how to apply their 11 data-points to your business and its business development program.

BBH = Smart

BBH Labs is smart. In fact, being smart is precisely its positioning.

Being smart is a real good thing and clients want and need lots of smart in 2018. Today’s marketing world is simply too chaotic to not need smart, focused and experienced thinking. Plus, in a world of advertising services commoditization, being really smart about advertising is something most clients do not have or can get in-house or from your average freelancer.

  • More smart. BBH is not reporting on expensive proprietary research. They have taken research data that already exists from other sources and putting their own spin on it. Um, kinda like what I am doing here and you could do as well.
  • More smart. BBH has amplified this information on the web, via LinkedIn, on Twitter (where I first found it) and in a SlideShare which has garnered over 28,00 views as of this writing.
  • Really smart. BBH is being Unignorable. More on this later.

Here is some copy from BBH plus my take as it relates to your business development program. Read More »

On Being Smart

Smart Is A Good Thing (For 2018)

Hey, I like being smart. Yeah, I just said that.

I bet you like being smart too. In fact, as you know, being smart is an essential element in driving brilliant marketing. This includes being curious.

So, without further ado, here are a couple of smart places to help you get smarter before 2018. This MIT article and Stanford interview got my intellectual juices flowing and I’ll assume yours will flow too.

First, here is a hot list from MIT’s Technology Review. Its list of the 50 Smartest Companies 2017 offers a look at companies that have found the inflection point between innovative technology and a sound business model. Something I’d think a savvy 2018 advertising agency would like to find.

Second, is a video of the Stanford interview with Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder and CEO Social Capital, on Money as an Instrument of Change. I have listened to Chamath in YouTube videos this past week (the CNBC guest host is also worth your time) and find that he opens up my mind and, yup, makes me smarter.


Time To Kill Your Advertising Agency Blog?

Is It Time To Kill Your Advertising Agency Blog?

I think that this is a big question that should be reviewed every year: Should you kill your advertising agency blog? To help answer it, I am going to discuss the pros and cons of ad agency blogging. The kind of blogging that should be an integral element in an agency’s business development program.

I have been consistently blogging since the early 2000’s. I started blogging as the CEO of my Oregon agency Citrus (I covered both advertising issues and the late 2000 recession’s effect on marketing). The advertising agency business development blog you are currently reading has over 600 blog posts and acts as the core of my inbound marketing program. Good news for me, it fills my new client pipeline. Blogging has been very good to me.

OK, Back To You. Should You Maintain Your Advertising Agency Blog? Or, Get Real And Just Kill It.

I look at a lot of advertising agency websites and their blogs. Many of the blogs are informative and brand building. However, way too many are just me-too blogs that actually deliver very little benefit to the agency.

The benefits include the generation of incoming new client interest, showing that the agency Thinks Different (in a world of thousands of agency and advertising services options), helps sell the agency as being on top of the advertising market, reinforces current client perceptions, and demonstrates some personality and chutzpah. I call the chutzpah part… being Unignorable.

Start Here: Some Huge Blog Stats

The world really does not need another blog. As Steven Pressfield says in the title of his must-read book: Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It”.

To help put blogging in perspective, here are some numbers.

How many blogs are there? This appears to be an impossible stat to set – too many blogs come and go. However, a look at a few estimates suggests that the number is over 200 million. Here’s a reliable 6-year old stat worth noting – Nielsen estimated that by the end of 2011 there were 181 million blogs.

Statista reports: “In 2015, 28.3 million internet users updated a blog at least once per month. The number of bloggers in the United States is set to reach 31.7 million users in 2020.”

WordPress states that “Over 409 million people view more than 21.5 billion pages each month” and “Users produce about 84.9 million new posts and 45.2 million new comments each month.” And, that’s just on the WordPress platform.

Google delivered 18,700,000 results when I searched on “advertising agency blog.”

Read More »