Is Your Ad Agency Being Held Back?

Is Your Ad Agency Stuck?

stopsignI talk with a lot of advertising agency owners and managers. Their business vibrations range from very happy (usually a smart digital agency or a locally focussed one that owns a market) to agencies down in their luck (they lost one or more of their largest clients or their ‘full-service’ positioning’ isn’t very distinctive) to psyched newbies that are working on honing their sales proposition and developing efficient processes.

As someone who has seen agencies come, go big and then fade over the years, it is instructive to be able to look under the hoods of a lot of ad and digital agencies. The up close examination is interesting / often exciting / occasionally sad but always thought provoking as advertising people are very articulate when it comes to discussing the honest state of their business. Well, to me. Maybe, not to the other owner down the street.

Some Ad Agency Issues

I hear about a few universal issues that many agencies have to deal with and I try to help my agency clients navigate these issues and leverage industry trends (that means: what clients want from an agency) to help agency owners and managers build smarter agency sales propositions, business development systems (that they will actually maintain) and tactical uses of inbound and outbound marketing.

Here are some of the more general (decelerating) issues we discuss.

Agency Positioning: Yes, that one. I have been writing about agency brand positioning for a while and you might be interested in my in-depth article “How To Position An Ad Agency”. The primary issues I see are generally concerned with the fact that most agencies do not clearly express what they are today or… haven’t done the deep thinking, homework and client need market research to create a competitive positioning that will attract the clients they want. Agency ‘sameness’ is a big problem. Many agency owners cannot seem to get past the fear of having a narrow positioning that will actually set them apart. They want to be ready to handle every possible account and project.  This everything-for-every-client approach dilutes having a distinctive sales proposition.

Agency Messaging: Once an agency has a competitive positioning they need to build a messaging system to deliver it. Most agencies (see these numbers as proof) do not have a systematic approach to how the craft messaging that supports their brand position. They also seem to fear being to bold and don’t subscribe to the use of chutzpah. Need an example? Look at how London Advertising supports their very clear and benefit-oriented brand positioning with a video and a unique way to express their strategy via their case histories. Here is their ‘One Idea’ proposition (note that they were named Agency of The Year by The Drum.)

LONDON is an international advertising agency built for today. We create One Brilliant Idea that can work in any media, anywhere in the world. This has been proven to deliver the highest possible return
on investment.

The Agency Website: Since most agencies are always in the mode of wanting to redesign their website, isolating the issue of agency websites that don’t SELL is easy. There are many reasons that agency websites do not work as hard as they should. Here are just a couple. The website does not tell the visitor what that agency does and can deliver in its allotted six seconds (that is usually all the time you’ll get to capture the attention of a busy client prospect); the website does not sell agency thinking or even the work via smart cases or well-crafted thought leadership that prove that the agency can get the job done for today’s skittish clients; and, the agency does not deliver any compelling sense of who they are… that means that the website does not build any interpersonal chemistry between the agency and the visitor. This is critical: try some video instead of lots of copy. Speaking of video, have you tried Wistia yet? From their website: “Wistia provides professional video hosting with amazing viewer analytics, HD video delivery, and marketing tools to help understand your visitors.”

Outbound Marketing: Failures in outbound marketing include not having created a list of potential clients (or even client categories); no CRM system to keep the program moving forward; no scheduled outreach; and… a fear of cold calling. Note, I agree with fear of cold calling. That’s why I promote the use of ‘Warm Calling’. That means, give the clients the ideas and insights they need and want to warm them up and then make the call.

Inbound Marketing: This is a head scratcher for me.  The great majority of agencies do not seem to know how to do inbound marketing. Many agency blogs look like the agency didn’t write a creative brief that clearly states their blog’s objectives including an understanding of what clients they want to reach — or in the case of all inbound programs, the agency wants to have find the agency via smart SEO and guest posting, etc. I could go on to the fact that agencies do not seem to use simple  marketing  calendars to mange their content programs but I will stop here. Frankly, in many cases, there simply too many missed opportunities. I think a  key reason for this missed opportunity is that some agency CEO’s don’t actually understand inbound marketing and the art of content creation. it works. After all, you found me.

One more big issue:

No Business Development Plan: I’ve saved the best for last. An agency cannot solve any of these issues without having a master business development plan that details objectives and strategies. Even a two-pager would help.

Need help getting unbound? Vito can help.

I know that I can help you solve the problems that might be holding your agency back. Give me a call and take me up on my Corleone offer.


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