I recently keynoted a conference on UX and before and after taking the stage I made a point of asking as many of your clients the same very specific questions about how they hire agencies. Two newer trends quickly became apparent, and it would be good to keep these in mind.
Most of you would like a prospect--in the early stages--to assume that working with you will be a fit. Then you want the opportunity to move them along during the sales process until the check clears. You don't want them making any early decisions on their own, deciding that it's not a good fit, possibly, and looking for a different firm to work with.
We know this is true by looking at your website, which is welcoming, friendly, and sometimes full of those faux tests that help a prospect determine the fit. "Here, take this four question test and see if we should work together: First, do you want a true partnership. Second, do you want good value for your money. Third, do you want quick results. Fourth, do you want lasting results." And then, after a drum roll, they learn that it's a good fit! Surprise, surprise.
Your website should help a prospect make an honest decision about whether it's a good fit to work with you, and they should do this on their own, before they ever talk to you, for these two reasons...
There's nothing quite like an empty pipeline to get your attention, right? In those times, panic overcomes inertia and you find the time to do the marketing. But what about the long periods between those bouts of panic when you push your marketing to the back burner and joke about the cobbler's son who never has any decent shoes? What's a realistic amount of time to spend on your own marketing? Here are seven ideas to get more with less of your time:
I love it when an agency tells me about their sophisticated clients. They make an agency better primarily for four reasons:
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:
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: