The Smart B2B Referral Program

The Advertising Agency B2B Referral Program – Is That Enough For Growth?

B2B refferalIs it just enough to “hope” that your B2B referral program will work? The answer… no.

I just got off the phone with an advertising agency leader in London. I asked, “Where have you been getting business?” he answered, as do most advertising agencies, “from our B2B referral program.”

Ah, the Holy Grail of the B2B client and customer to a friend to agency advertising agency referral. The idea is that if the agency does a good job, a client will tell their friends about the agency. Well, at least for this London agency the good news is that they have an actual, active referral program. Most advertising agencies just hope that their clients will make the nice, sweet B2B referral via fate. I am not a fan of “fate.” You shouldn’t be either.

The B2B Referral – Good News

Don’t get me wrong. I love referrals. The right referral will result in getting the right client with little initial business development effort on the part of the agency. Win-Win. It’s like a great blind-date. Does anyone remember the blind-date? As in, you didn’t meet (as in see and scope out) the referred person until he sat across from you at the Starbucks table? Very 1980’s. OK, back to now.

The B2B Referral – Really Bad News

For the vast majority of advertising, digital and on agencies is that counting on referrals is bad news.

Two simple and compelling problems:

  1. Referrals are not predictable. Never. This isn’t good for any sort of business planning.
  2. Referrals are not scalable. Never. This isn’t good for any sort of business planning.

Counting on referrals is a fool’s game.

I’ve counseled agencies on how to actually plan and manage a referral program — !!! As a part of their overall business development plan. Here are links to a couple of earlier blog posts about the advertising agency referral program.

Three –  I will admit it – smart, effective and easy to activate B2B referral strategies from prior business development posts just for you.

Six Business Development Referral Strategies

A key to having a robust referral strategy is to make sure that your current clients are aware that you actually want referrals. Referrals from happy customers are one of best ways that B2B companies generate new business. OK, this isn’t a huge surprise. However, what is surprising how few companies have a dedicated strategy for fostering these valuable personal hand-offs.

Read More »

An Advertising Agency Survival Guide

My Advertising Agency Survival Guide. 2020 Version.

Tough question. Will your advertising agency survive? Here is my educated take on which advertising agencies will survive and how they will make it happen. It is my advertising agency survival guide.

Having gone through the 2007 – 2008 recession as an agency owner, I saw approximately one-third of advertising agencies fail or shrivel. My current survival advice is based on watching that storm as well as recent deep conversations with small and medium-sized agencies. I did not choose to rush out my thoughts. I actually thought about my thoughts. LOL.

Plus, this is not short and sweet. You will actually have to read all of it. OK, it is sweet.

Quickie… I am giving away my 30 years of huge and small agency experience, guidance and coaching for free – for awhile – the right thing to do. If you want smart advice, go here. It will open a new window for this offer.

Two Quick & Very Important Points.

How long will the shit-storm last?

Like you, I have no clue when any semblance of normality will return. I have to assume it will. Plan accordingly.

Chamath Palihapitiya is one of my most respected “advisors”. He has said that companies should be able to adjust and make new plans to survive 36 months. 36! Yes.

He says, think like this is another depression. Whoa. Are you ready?

This is what I do know… If you want to be in the top 1/3, you can’t lose all or even some marketing energy or brand awareness. Why make your voyage back too uphill?

You will get my marketing recommendations below. But first, the big question.

Will Your Advertising Agency Fail?

Here is what an advertising agency principle should be doing right now. I admit that this is generalized given the diversity of the types of advertising agencies. But generalized does not mean its not an effective how-to for virtually any agency.

Two Definitions

  1. “Advertising Agency”: This is my universal term for most types of communications marketing firms.
  2. “Client”: A client is a company that has consistently used any form of advertising or digital marketing. In your case, it is a client that meets your target criteria (you have that, right) and you think would want to hire you. Sorry, Nike and Adidas do not want to hire you.

OK, Advertising Agency… What Are You Going To Do About it?

I am going to be tough here. At least 30% of advertising agencies will fail in the next twelve to eighteen months.

This post provides my take on how to survive, my advertising agency survival guide. For the winners, how to set yourself up for growth.

6 Advertising Agency Pain Points – I Know You Know This. But, It Is Worth Restating.

  1. Your current and future clients are freaked out.
  2. Some current clients have already reduced or canceled advertising and project spend.
  3. Agency profitability sucks.
  4. You will be too slow to manage your costs.
  5. Agencies, too many, are already poorly positioned, and, worse, are unbelievably ignorable.
  6. Prospective clients “probably” do not want to hear from you.

Advertising Agency Survival Strategies

I know what I am talking about. I’ve won and lost. My advertising agency survived the 2007-2008 recession. My $30 million VC funded digital business did not survive the 2001 dot-com bust. Don’t feel bad for me, Microsoft eventually bought our technology.

Current Client Opportunities

Read More »

How To Position An Advertising Agency – Part I


But First: An Advertising Agency Survival Guide

Here is a comprehensive guide that will help your agency become a winner in today’s crazy advertising marketplace – The Advertising Agency Survival Guide.

Part I: The Advertising Agency Position – The Heart Of Your Agency And Reason For Being

An updated look at how to build a smart advertising agency position (for 2020)… Agencies are wondering how to position themselves in the current environment. Some thoughts before I get to the detail on how to position your agency.

  1. If you have really worked on and delivered on a smart advertising agency position in the past couple of years, do not toss it away because it might not be a perfect business development strategy for early 2020. For Example, if you ‘own’ the positioning / expertise in travel and hospitality do not totally back burner that hard fought for brand equity. Sure, this is a currently weak category! But, when it comes back, and it will, you want to be the leader.
  2. In the meantime, if you are an expert in a weak client category, you might / will need to find a, hopefully short-term, advertising agency position for the current coronavirus world. An example would be to become a very strategic thinker, insight-driven agency. Be the idea guys. Have ideas that relate to your current and future clients – meet the current needs. Do and deliver market research. Drive respect for your brains. use this to stay in touch. Valuable insights will not be viewed as ass being too ‘salesy’.

Need one simple but, believe me ahead of your compeitive agency curve… do some reasech and thinking abut the new Tik Tok advertising world. Here is a link.

One more, why don’t you get one of your folks to start a Tok Tok channel. but, please do not make it about your agency. i have a few ideas. need them?

Part 1

You’ve arrived at Part I of my three-part review of the art of advertising agency positioning. My perspective on this series is that you have to read all three parts to get the maximum benefit for your agency.

Read it all. As Enzo Ferrari would say: “Devi differenziare la tua agenzia. Per fare ciò, leggi tutte e tre le parti.”

Why start with Ferrari?

I think that Ferrari is a well-positioned brand (LOL, how’s that for an understatement!) Ferrari is known for its racing heritage, engineering, design and luxury. Everything they do supports their positioning and, importantly, sales.

At this point, you might be asking two questions.

  1. “What does Ferrari have to do with my advertising, digital or design agency?”

Well, your agency’s brand positioning needs to be as well designed and supported as Ferrari’s.

2. “Do I really need to hear yet another advertising agency business development consultant tell me that advertising agencies need to do a better job of positioning their agencies?”

Yes. Why? Because the great majority of marketing communications agencies look and sound too alike. Not sounding like the guy down the street will result in your driving a much more powerful agency

Before I get into the meat of the positioning issue, I’d like to help answer one of the most perplexing questions of our time:

 Is the term “Advertising Agency” still relevant?

Read More »

Why Did Adidas Steal Its Advertising Slogan

Adidas Impossible Is NothingClearly, Nothing Is Impossible For Adidas

Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising reported yesterday that they held an online all-hands London office meeting. They pointed to the now decades-old agency inspirational slogan: Nothing Is Impossible as proof that they get things done.

What most Saatchi people do not know is that Adidas outright stole the Saatchi slogan, flipped it and used it for 20 years.

A bit of history for Saatchi people (and anyone that will find this micro-story about client theft) a bit amazing.

Back in the 1990’s Maurice Saatchi and I pitched for the global Adidas account.

We lost, read about the sad yet very teachable moment here, The Worst Advertising Presentation – Ever. 

We Lost. But Adidas Stole The Saatchi Slogan.

After the pitch, Adidas quickly stole our Nothing Is Impossible slogan and flipped it to Impossible is Nothing.

Insane. Right?

I never got an answer to this simple question… Why Did Adidas Steal Its Advertising Slogan?? I did ask Adidas. Maybe I should have asked their agency, Leagas Delany.

What I Learned At Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising

What I Learned At Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising – It Is Relevant Today

I got educated at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. I applied my learning to a career that spanned GM of the Minneapolis office, to London and Europe, to two Internet startups, my own agency, and now my advertising agency consultancy.

I learned about the power of strategy, kick-ass creative, being ballsy and going for it. This is what an agency principal and her agency must use today.

First A Bit On Dancer Fitzgerald Sample

I started my advertising career at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample as an AAE on the large General Mills account. Dancer was known as DFS. It was New York’s largest advertising agency and lived in the glorious Chrysler Building. Its clients also included P&G, Toyota, HP, Wrangler, RJR, Nabisco and other biggies.

During my tenure, it was named Agency Of The Year and had a new business pitch winning streak that hit baseball Hall of Fame numbers… .900+. The agency was also known for delivering highly effective advertising including Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef?” and the advertising that launched Toyota and sustained its growth.

The agency spent a great deal of time and money nurturing its account executives with a weekly training program that pumped out the best AE’s in the industry. DFS taught me how to write brand-building strategies, run a profitable account and how to deliver exceptional account service. It also taught me how to work within an empowering, yet nurturing a culture where everyone loved their job. This last point was driven home every month when we celebrated employees who had worked at the agency for 10, 20 and even 30 years.

I was about to learn even more. Read More »