Advice For Advertising Agencies That Want to Win
A chunk of my book on how to win more advertising agency pitches included interviews with industry playas. These folks were agency owners, 4A’s execs, search and pitch consultants, procurement decision makers and legal experts. Many readers found these interviews to be invaluable in helping to craft pitches that did not make any of the big mistakes that lead to coming in “second.” By the way, have you ever noticed that all of the not-chosen come in “second”?
More advice. I just came across the 4A’s “One Piece of Advice” for Agencies. Agency Search Consultants Advice for Agencies. (January 2018.) Since this advice is, in many cases similar to the advice in my book (and includes some of the same interviewees), I am forwarding the long PDF to you as continuing confirmation that some agencies do things right and, according to the consultants, many are still getting it wrong.
A link to the full document is below. There is so much truth here that I’ve highlighted one major point from each consultant’s advice.
Agency Search Consultants Advice for Agencies
“One Piece of Advice” for Agencies January 2018
4A’s asked industry leading agency search consultants to provide “One Piece of Advice” that the association could share with members as they begin thinking about their 2018 new business plans.
The 4A’s consultant request noted, “Based on your knowledge of client marketer needs/wants and industry dynamics, what is the one thing that you would recommend that an agency either do or not do that can help the effectiveness of their new business efforts? We welcome your advice in any area of the agency search and selection process (prospecting, RFI/RFP submissions, creds, chemistry, presentations, etc.)”
Joanne Davis Consulting: “It’s not about you; it’s never been about you; it’s never going to be about you. It’s about the client.”
Do you really need to hear this again? It is always about the client and her goals, opportunities and issues.
Mercer Island Group: “Something the consultants understand better than most agencies is that you can’t offer a prospect relevant value until you have identified the prospect’s true business needs. The basic idea of the elevator speech is inherently flawed — as are most agency pitches; if you’re talking about things the prospect has no interest in, they will stop listening.”
Why do you think that pitch consulatants keep saying… that it is always about the client’s goals and issues?
Drexler/Fajen & Partners: “Agencies could spend more time really understanding as much as possible about the prospect’s business and their people and be prepared to demonstrate that in a natural way.”
Study big time: the client, its industry and the macro and micro business opportunities.
Agency Positioning & Credentials
External View Consulting Group: “Today, many agencies identify themselves as ‘integrated marketing agencies.’ After reading extensive capabilities lists and looking at disparate work samples, I often wonder if these agencies do anything particularly well — or if they are simply a jack-of-all trades. ‘Integrated marketing agency’ is a generic positioning that requires additional distinction.”
Please specialize in something other than we do everything. In 2018, it is very difficult for anyone to do everything… right.
Roth Ryan Hayes: “With so many new and evolving competitors; standing out in the field for something is more important than being a ‘good’ generalist.”
Please., please specialize and have a distictive brand positioning. Channel Steve Jobs: Think Different.
Pile & Company: “Be focused and honest. Focus on what the agency does well and what clients will be the right fit for the agency. Be honest about what the agency doesn’t do well and what clients aren’t right for the agency.”
Be focussed versus rambling.
Mzyme Marketing: “Be transparent, honest and straightforward. Provide clarity with credible examples of what you do well and be honest and direct about those capabilities that you do not do or do not do well.”
People dig honesty. The days of Mad Men whisky-enhanced bullshit are over.
Mercer Island Partners: “Many agencies realize that a finely tuned new business development program is key to new business efforts. However, agencies often forget to factor their online presence into their new business development program. Key information for prospects is often difficult to find.”
Your website, Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook presence need to be on point. And, all about selling. The people part of your agency is rather important.
Rojek Consulting: “Agencies will benefit and elevate their profile by making sure their digital presence, particularly in LinkedIn, works to their advantage. Our clients evaluate agencies on a total company-wide level; they also love to vet individual agency team members online.”
People buy people. Sell your people. Do a social media personal branding audit of key personnel. Consider video – but, sparingly.
Ark Advisors “Don’t be afraid to disagree with a prospective client in a pitch or to challenge their fundamental thinking.”
Yes Men are over. But, be polite. Dissing the client is generally a positive action.
The Bedford Group “Through the pitch process, demonstrate your ability to think about the whole business, not just the corner of it that’s included in your scope.”
Most clients are looking for business partners. Agencies that understand business and ROI… not just pixels.
Mercer Island Group: “In an increasingly competitive agency environment, clients and prospective clients are looking for something different — to energize their business and increase the return on their marketing dollars.”
Think Different Redux. In fact, act different.
Bajkowski + Partners: “When selecting your case studies, make sure they are relevant to the client’s situation in some way — client’s business challenges and goals, core target audience, etc. — don’t just pick your agency’s favorites or ones that you already have on hand.”
Clients want to know how you are going to help THEM – specifically. If you only have pet food cases, then figure out the common thread that relates to the client.
Mercer Island Group “When pitching, the most successful agencies are the ones that find ways to bond over a prospect’s business, not their own services or experience.”
Remember, pitches are about them. It is a date.
AAR: “It’s not just the pitch meetings that count; it’s what you do/offer between meetings that give you an edge.”
Think holistically and 24/7. Act interested but not obnoxious.
Mercer Island Group: “The best interactions are always the most conversational.”
People buy people. I had Sir Maurice Saatchi to bring to a meeting. Who’s your best presenter asset? try to leave the duds home.
Bajkowski + Partners: “If you’re going to completely change direction from a pre-pitch strategy or tissue session, you must spend time during the pitch explaining what data and insights led you to the new strategy/direction.”
Insights rule. show up smart.
JLB+Partners: “Make sure you have the unglamorous discussion about what are in-scope versus out-of-scope deliverables for your agreed upon compensation during final negotiations and prior to engagement. Your clients will respect your transparency.”
No bullshit, please. And, learn how to negotiate. Most agencies have no clue.
The Burnett Collective: “Keep it simple! It’s not new or groundbreaking advice, but over-complicating and over-building things is something that we see ruin new business meetings and client presentations time and time again.”
Keep It Simple Stupid.
JLB+Partners: “But, with all of this in mind, an agency’s best new business strategy might be recommitting to your current clients.”
Love the one you are with.
Juel Consulting: “Think through how you will operate as “co-creators”. Will you resist the change or will you embrace it in a collaborative way?”
While clients are looking for expertise, they are looking for partners – well, maybe not partners. But, good buddies that are willing to co-create.
Bob Wolf Partners/TPG: “This kind of initial Client/Agency performance audit may lay the groundwork for improved future results with the incumbent agency…or, at the very least, provide the foundation for a new review and a successful long-term relationship with the winning agency. The Performance Audit also is useful as the basis for agency compensation negotiation/renegotiation.”
I am a big fan of the annual review. Isolate any problems early.
Select Resources, Inc.: “We are experiencing tremendous change in our business. So much so clients are asking us to evaluate taking certain work streams traditionally managed by agency partners in-house. This speaks to a fundamental miss on the part of shops to either innovate or be the trustworthy transparent business partners clients are seeking.”
Consder letting go of ‘commodities’ like content development and concentrate on what the clients do not have – BIG Ideas and BHAG’S (look it up.)
Ark Advisors: “So don’t hesitate to speak with the consultants frequently — ask questions, share your thinking.”
Talk, listen and act very interested. Often. help the pitch consultant to love you.
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