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


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