You are very smart people, and so I can make some bullet-point observations without much explanation and still be helpful to you. Read these and see if they ring true to you:
I consult with one new agency every week through our TBR, and a question that comes up regularly is how to transition a new client from the sales team to the account team. Here's how to do it well.
As a student of positioning, I've grudgingly noted that many very poorly positioned firms are doing well. The common thread is that they are confident, which prospective clients sense and are drawn to. If you lack that confidence, consider the two ways normally available to fix it.
The first is your Mommy telling you how great you are. A parent's job is to believe in their kid in spite of any lack of evidence to support that. My parents believed that I could do anything, and we still believe that our kids could do anything. But that matters more when you're young. And besides, I often believe in my clients' ability more than they do, but it doesn't matter. They don't believe me because I'm not their Mommy. (tweet this)
So in your case, we have to default to the only other reliable method of confidence-building, and that....
You have something your client needs--how do you deliver that effectively? Here are the six best avenues to deliver your expertise to an agency prospect or client:
The mandate for working together, agency and client, is effectiveness. How do you work together and separately for that to happen? What does each side bring to the table? How can you be an expert but still require the client in order to create this magic?
How you handle this interplay determines your impact, your compensation, and how much they appreciate you. Here is how the best agencies do it:
Late last year, Creative Mornings (Atlanta) asked me to present some thoughts on this subject to 400 creatives. They were kind enough to capture and edit the video, which I think might be worth watching. If I may, consider watching this with some of your staff--it's about 25 mins long.
In essence, I posit that you start with competence, then move to cross over to something else, and that's when you then create. How do you change your world? It's not through your work, likely. The safest prediction is that you'll impact the people around you…by just being competent. By doing your job, raising their game, and explaining humanity through your actions. To do this, you tame the genetic A.D.D, relax a moment, and realize that it's not death to simply do your job for a few years.
After you've done that, you must leave things behind—strengths, even—to form the next level of competence. Your ongoing impact comes from abandoning those strengths. In the process, life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself. And the process of creating yourself often means leaving part of yourself behind, rather than finding yourself, like the process of new growth in the world around you. It's using an opportunity from a position of strength.
Where are you in the process of creating yourself? How much do you really know? What is it that you contribute? Do you wonder about the worthiness of the entire marketing industry? How do you place yourself in an industry where most of what you do is bullshit?
I think it's an interesting presentation, and there were some good questions at the end.
You can download a PDF of the presentation and watch the video.
Sometimes it's helpful to step back from all of the positioning and service offering differentiation we play around with and get back to a basic question: what is it that clients are really buying from your agency? It's two things.
The websites that marketing agencies are building for themselves are better than they ever have been, but only 20% have stellar sites and another 55% aren't embarrassing. When talking with an agency principal on the phone, I'm surprised, too, at how often I hear this: "Yes, I know that's what our website says, but...." So if you see a revision in the works in early 2015, here are the 10 most impactful features of your new website.
I really like the notion of setting specific criteria for determining who your best clients are, and I think you should use that list in two ways. First, go through the checklist on the phone, before you ever have a meeting, to see if you'll be using everybody's time and money smartly. "What agency are you working with now?" You don't really care who it is--you just want to know if you'll be their first agency. Having a checklist to prod you will not only help promote thoroughness, but it will remind you of some good ways to ask those questions. Second, make the language a little more friendly and let prospects self-select themselves out of the running before you get a chance to talk yourself into the fit. When agencies are eager for work, they may not be as objective about the fit as the prospect!
But very few prospects will satisfy all of the criteria on your list, right? That doesn't mean you don't proceed, necessarily, but it does call for some degree of caution. For example, you'd always want a prospect to be forthright about their budget. The best prospects say: "I think we can scrape together $260,000 for this initiative. What's the most that you think we could do with that?" Other prospects say: "We're pretty sure that we're going to need these things. What's that going to cost us? Sharpen your pencil, please." I wouldn't rule out a prospect who isn't forthright about their budget, though. You'll miss too much opportunity.
Of the eight or nine critical things you should ask, I'd never compromise on two of them, though. These are the red flags that are really red, and...
That sounds angry and I'm not, really. Just so disappointed that the very firms that are in the business of positioning their clients do such a lame job of doing it for themselves. Yesterday I came across one more, and I'm going to include it below because it's quite typical of firms in the marketing space:
[Pittsburgh firm] is a creative marketing communications firm that delivers fresh ideas and authentic solutions that drive measurable business results.
For more than 20 years we have put our ideas to work for corporate and non-profit clients–large and small, global and local, established and emerging–including some of the best and biggest brands in the world. Ideas: for a change.
Using this as an illustration, let me pose some questions you can use to evaluate your own positioning:
It's been a busy month, including a sold-out conference with agencies from seven countries and consulting engagements in Toronto, Chicago, Denver, New York City, Guatemala, Washington DC, and Austin. I'm always grateful for new opportunities, but my biggest regret in busyness is that it crowds out writing, and I'm drawn to writing like a moth to a flame. Why do I miss it? What is it about writing that feeds my soul?
I write because I breathe. I am a deep introvert and this is how I address my world. Tomorrow I speak to a huge crowd at Inbound and I enjoy that immensely, but after I am done I'd rather go write or walk or take pictures. Talking with fifty people after I'm done speaking is more work than speaking. If socializing is acting (to me), then writing is breathing.
I write because it's how I get smart. If you wait for clarity before you write, you'll wait far too long. Clarity comes in the articulation and not after it....
I've been offering business insight to help experts achieve higher financial performance, manage people better, staff appropriately, and provide services that their clients value. In the last 20+ years of doing this, I've observed a few practices that contradict expertise. Here are some things that I notice experts doing that seem to contradict how they want us to see them.