There are real dangers in embedding your project management team throughout the agency. Let’s get in the weeds and explore why. I’ll start by clarifying some important points:
With that background, here are the three reasons why embedded project management fails:
I think we all get why they shouldn’t be too short. It usually means that your client didn’t see an equitable exchange of value or you missed something in the prospect vetting stage and had to correct it by just letting the client quickly slide off the roster after the ol’ college try.
But just because client relationships shouldn’t be too short doesn’t mean that they should last forever, either, because long term relationships carry clues to some things that I’d like to get you thinking about.
First, though, how long is too long? The larger context for that question is something that I’m sure you’ve seen across the entire marketing/creative field, and that’s the infrequency of AOR (agency of record) relationships. For just under fifteen years, your client relationships have more closely resembled a string of successive projects. You should have a specific number of those project-based relationships going on concurrently. You also want a steady stream of opportunity, with a roughly equal mix of organic leads from your own marketing efforts and passive referrals from delighted clients.
With that background, you would aim for client relationships (of continuously successive projects) that last 3–6 years. Shorter than that and you may not be screening them carefully enough. Longer than that and....
I am no longer the President of Ryder Communications Group. I no longer have to make payroll every 14 days. I no longer cut my prices to bring in work. I no longer wait 120 days to get paid. I no longer give my expertise away for free. I no longer work with clients I’ve kept for far too long. I no longer get my six-figure salary or my fancy car paid for, or any of the other perks that come with being the owner of a small design firm.
I let it all go. After more years than I’d care to count, the fire in my belly to keep it going faded. And as hard as I tried to stoke the fire, it became clearer each day that something else was calling my name....
This is the third and final installment on tests of your positioning: five tests before you make a decision and four tests to see if you need to adjust it later, after you've been implementing it in the marketplace.
The first article was an extensive look at the first test. The second article added four more tests to bring the total to five:
The idea is then to live with your positioning for 18–24 months and then do a quick glance at the results to see if you need to adjust it. Even the best positioning decisions should be examined every 3–5 years, but those adjustments are usually to tighten it up. This examination nearer to the original decision is more drastic than that: you’re asking if you got it wrong, either from insufficient data or insufficient courage.
The better your early decision, the less likely any significant adjustments are necessary. This back-testing is critical, though, because you pause from the everyday flurry of client activity and enjoy that rich experience of thinking about your own business. This always happens better offsite, free of most of the typical distractions and framed in a new locale where your thinking is fresh. Do this early in the morning and then take the afternoon off.
Here are the four questions you ask yourself when you back-test your positioning.
How Smart Are You Getting
The distinction in the wording is intentional, and you don’t ask yourself if you are getting widely smarter quickly. Getting widely smarter is what happens when you take one client engagement after another and have to quickly get up to speed about the issue that this client is facing, and often on their dime. Most of that early learning is spent familiarizing yourself with the “drop and give me 20” insight that you’d be able to apply to similar situations later, if this client engagement flowed from your expertise.
I heard Blair Enns illustrate this once at....