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:
If you could concentrate in a few different areas over the next eighteen months, here's what could happen at your firm:
That's not going to happen, though, unless you give up some things, because you just don't have the capacity. I'm not asking you to work harder--I'm asking you to work smarter. If you are ready for this, consider giving up some things, and giving them up in the right order:
Take just six minutes with me and think about the four different kinds of employees you have. You'll learn a lot more from this exercise if you participate and apply it to your firm as you read.
Start by answering two questions about each employee:
Draw your own guadrant, like the...
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.
As a leader, your job is to make decisions. There are other things, too, but that is your main job.
Warring against that, possibly, is your fear of making the wrong decision. Rest assured in knowing that there is greater long-term potential harm in not making decisions than there is in making wrong decisions.
So to be an effective leader, try to master the timing of your decisions rather than the criteria for your decisions.
Key Times to Make Decisions
So, when should you make a decision? Here are the four most important times to make a decision:
In the last blog, I covered the four advantages of vertical positioning. I want to finish that series by covering the four advantages of horizontal positioning.
As before, you can derive more value from this exercise by flipping each advantage around. For example, a primary advantage of vertical positioning is being able to locate your prospective clients. Flipping that around, a primary disadvantage of horizontal positioning is that it's hard to find your prospective clients because you usually can't purchase a list of them. Very few agencies who are positioned horizontally are also successful, but there are nevertheless many advantages and it is worth your consideration.
First, horizontal positioning brings more variety. This is in fact why eighty-five percent...
Read Beyond Reluctant Leadership on Medium, published by David C. Baker.
Positioning decisions probably last longer than most marriages, so let's get it right! Ignoring the dozens of nuances to consider, for a moment, let me help you think through the biggest issue: the pros and cons of positioning your firm vertically or horizontally. I'll start with vertical because the vast majority of firms who are positioned well have a vertical positioning. These are the four advantages of vertical positioning.
First, vertical positioning makes it so much easier to find your prospects. Whether you buy a list of prospects or not, think of it like this: can you buy a list. Conversely, if you cannot buy a list, you are likely going to struggle finding your prospects. That's because your targets don't share sufficient characteristics to be on the radar of the world trying to sell things to them, and from their point of view, their problems aren't so unique that they value working with an agency that specializes in solving them. If you can't buy a list, you are looking for a group of prospects that nobody else thinks is worth tracking.
Second, vertical positioning benefits from decision makers who...
Click here if you would rather listen to this blog entry (8:16).
Marketing firms have been understandably concerned about how digital they must be in order to remain sufficiently central to the marketing mix. We’ve lost something, though, by framing this discussion around whether we should actually develop digital properties instead of around the broader question of how we should learn from digital thinking. In other words, we might need to approach our work—digital or not—with a more digital mindset. I want to talk about that, but I also want to talk about how you might go about deciding the degree to which you do digital, too.
At the outset of this movement, there were so few firms developing digital properties that it was actually difficult to make a poor positioning decision. The tools were rudimentary, no one knew what good digital really was, and that world was there for the taking.
Developing digital properties, though, now shows more signs of being a mature market, meaning that there are few gaps to arbitrage. Strong tools are widespread, we have nearly twenty years of experience to inform our work, and suddenly kids in the garage don't seem to own this anymore. (They have gotten bored and moved on to social media.)
The last two decades have ushered in a new medium, but the true impact of digital is barely felt. Worst of all, even digital firms aren't thinking digitally. But—and this is so exciting to say—the promise of digital impact is at your doorstep. If you miss the promise of digital thinking, you'll suffer far more than missing digital itself. I'd like you to consider thinking digitally....
Click here if you would rather listen to this blog entry (7:39).
It’s too raw to talk much about yet, but I nearly lost my business in 2013. The entire year was largely an epic fail and only now--with the situation in the rearview mirror--can I see it with any sort of perspective. I’ll write a blog post about it shortly (or maybe a book), but one of the threads weaving through those events is this notion of remaining relevant, and for a long time. On the drive to the cabin yesterday, where I am now, thoughts began to flow about just that. I wanted to formulate a perspective about being relevant over several decades, and I was thinking of myself and of you as this began to take shape.