Wednesday, April 29, 2009
This creates a significant opportunity to redefine and expand the role agencies can play with their clients. Clients want new ideas to grow their business, but clients are not just saying to their agencies "how can you help us make ads or design a new web site?" They are also saying "how much do you understand about our business in order to help us build a bridge between our brand and our customers?"
Building bridges means understanding the category, the target audience and the company, but it also means understanding how to evaluate and use some of the new marketing tools that are available today. A key role that agencies can play is not only how to use these tools, but, more importantly, how they will impact a prospect's business.
For example, social media marketing is the number one topic in today's marketing press. But agencies should caution clients and prospects to think carefully before they jump in just because everyone else is doing it. Social media is a process, not an event. Agencies can help clients by focusing on how it can impact their business, not just on how to start a conversation using Facebook or Twitter.
The shift from traditional media to online and other new media alternatives is accelerating. But many marketers presume that the rise in on-demand media consumption and lower entry costs make it s better option. Agencies can help clients by looking for new and better ways to analyze their ROI.
E-mail marketing continues to grow in importance, but many experts predict that consumer fatigue from mailboxes overloaded with too many unsolicited and irrelevant offers will force consumer shutdown and rejection. Agencies can help clients by showing how to take advantage of behavioral targeting and other analytic tools to deliver e-mail that is triggered by consumer actions, not their own promotion activity.
Word-of-mouth marketing has become more intentional as a primary marketing tool rather than just as a happenstance event. Agencies should be looking for recommended efforts to generate beneficial consumer conversations through viral marketing and other buzz marketing tactics. At the same time, agencies must caution marketers to be transparent and honest in their efforts, or they will face the wrath of a growing blogosphere.
There is no question that clients need help in understanding how their business can take advantage of new media alternatives. But the ultimate need is not just how to effectively use email, blogs, podcasts, mobile marketing, viral marketing, pay-per-click, user-generated content, Twitter, etc., but how to mix them with traditional media to create the most impact.
Clients need help in understanding how their target audience attitudes, needs and motivations are changing as they adapt to new economic and social conditions. The Internet doesn't just change how we communicate with each other. It is having a profound impact on our shopping and buying habits, as well as our understanding of the world around us and how we relate to each other. The more real insight and information you can provide the prospect for his unique business situation and needs, the better your chances to secure a new client assignment.
There are many other new marketing tools, but when all is said and done, you can't win new business on a regular basis without really smart strategic thinking. Agencies are in the business of selling ideas, first and foremost. And that's how you win new business.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
For many agencies, case studies are simply a device to show off their creativity or versatility. They might have a few words about the client or business situation, but their primary goal has been to present the agency's creative credentials in a specific medium or business category. Today, however, the case study needs to be much more than a creative show-and-tell.
Don't get me wrong. The power of a strong creative story in new business can never be discounted or eliminated. Creativity is the most exciting aspect of our business, and a well conceived idea that is presented in a unique and memorable way will always gather praise and admiration from clients. But the most desirable characteristic an agency can offer to a prospect today is return on investment, so agencies need to build an ROI story into every case study.
In today's 24/7, on-demand, fragmented media environment, marketers are desperately seeking ways to break through the clutter to reach new customers and sustain the attention of profitable customers. They not only need creative messages, they need messages that succeed. Agencies that demonstrate an understanding and a process for how to meet the client's business goals more effectively will have a much higher success rate than agencies who continue to market themselves just as creative experts.
Today, a good case study should articulate the business problem and the strategic as well as the creative solution. But it must also feature the results as definitively as possible. If your client can’t or won’t offer specifics of a program, be general. But you must give the client prospect some indication of the success of the program for them to transfer its credibility to their specific need.
One tool that is often overlooked is a client testimonial statement touting the effectiveness and/or quality of the agency’s effort for their brand. A prominently placed affirmation from the client can lend credibility and power to your case study.
Marketing analytics are not the cure-all for marketers’ woes, but they are the next big thing for agency new business prospecting. Are you taking advantage of that fact in your case studies?
Friday, April 17, 2009
Clients need help in understanding how their business can take advantage of new media alternatives. But the question is not just how to effectively use email, blogs, podcasts, mobile marketing, viral marketing, pay-per-click, user-generated content, Twitter, etc., but how to mix them with traditional media to create the most impact.
Clients need help in understanding how their target audience attitudes, needs and motivations are changing as they adapt to new economic and social conditions. The Internet doesn't just change how we communicate with each other. It is having a profound impact on our shopping and buying habits, as well as our understanding of the world around us and how we relate to each other.
The more real insight and information you can provide the prospect for his unique business situation and needs, the better your chances to secure a new client assignment. The key words here are "insight" and "unique". Clients don't just need to know how to start writing and maintaining a blog; they need to know if a blog can really have an impact in building preference and advocacy for their specific products and services. To win their trust, and their business, agencies need to take their general sales materials and customize them to speak specifically and directly to one prospect at a time.
Too many agencies try to develop a generic selling story that can be used for all prospects. They try to sell their process, without selling how their process works for a specific client. They assume that the client will automatically see the connection and appreciate its value for their own business. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen. Most clients don't have the time or the inclination to make that intuitive leap. We've got to make it for them.
This means that agencies need to research each prospect, search for some unique aspect of their business situation and give them some insight and direction on how they can grow their business by hiring your agency. If all you have to give them is a generic statement about your agency, you will have a tough time winning their trust and reduce the uncertainty every prospect faces when hiring a professional service.
In other words, kick the canned pitch if you want to win new business.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Clients are dealing with a laundry list of challenges – a struggling economy, new competition from all sides, a continued drive for lower costs, and a growing realization of the power that a connected consumer has over their business strategy and success. And many clients are simply overwhelmed by the new digital media options and how to use them to their advantage.
There is no question that social media and other digital marketing tools open opportunities to redefine and expand the role agencies can play with their clients. But when all is said and done, you can't win new business on a regular basis without really smart strategic thinking. Agencies are in the business of selling ideas, first and foremost. I will never forget my conversation with Stan Richards years ago, when he said that the secret to his new business success is that they always try to give the client some new insight, especially if it is an idea that was right under their nose yet they had missed it.
That thought has never been more relevant than today when clients are not saying to their agencies "how can you help us make ads or design a new web site?", they are saying "how much do you understand about our business in order to help us build a bridge between our brand and our customers?"
In recent conversations with marketing directors about how their businesses are faring in today's economic environment, I have been struck by the the fact that many seem more preoccupied with how to use Facebook or Twitter than in researching and understanding how changing customer attitudes are affecting their brand position in the marketplace. This is a great opportunity for an agency to step in and show a client how to find better answers.
In one recent new business meeting, I asked the prospective client if they had done any audience segmentation modeling for ROI and was met by a blank stare. The blank stare was quickly followed by a question "how do you think we should initiate that kind of analysis?" I created an opportunity for an extended conversation on how to segment their current customer base that will have a significant impact on their future marketing strategy. And on mine as well, since I gained a new client.
That conversation reinforced my belief that clients are hungry for ideas, and agencies can win new clients by providing those ideas. Yes, they need help with how to find the ideal marketing mix of creative, technology, new media, and traditional media, but the best media mix doesn't work without a strategy that differentiates the brand and speaks to a real customer need. When all is said and done, smart strategy still trumps everything else.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The IBM study asks us to imagine and consider the consequences to traditional agencies in an advertising world where:
- Interactive advertising surpasses traditional mass media vehicles as the preferred advertising format.
- Ad space is sold through auctions and exchanges.
- An advertiser can know who viewed and acted on an ad, and pay based on real impact rather than estimated "impressions."
- Consumers self-select which ads they watch and share preferred ads with peers.
- User-generated advertising is as prevalent (and appealing) as agency-created spots.
Last month, IBM issued a follow-up report based on their conclusion that major advertising trends identified in the previous study are happening at a faster rate than anticipated, while agencies, content owners and distributors have not responded sufficiently to these changes. This 2008 study, titled Beyond Advertising. Choosing a Strategic Path to the Digital Consumer, addresses these changes in more depth and from a very pragmatic perspective. Importantly, this report offers some practical advice to agencies on how to leverage their strengths in the creative area in the near term while they look for ways to adapt their business model and services offering to address the new environment.
Some of their suggested areas for immediate focus are:
- Look for ways to broaden capabilities that can be integrated with traditional services offered by the agency as a way to diversify revenue and build a stronger client relationship at the strategic level.
- Begin to proactively experiment with new tools and services that can deliver and automate ways to analyze ROI.
- Restructure the organization to promote more collaboration by breaking down self-created silos across disciplines.
- Consider partnerships to complement services and expertise that may be lacking today.
- Look for ways to operate more efficiently through workflow automation, automated creative development tools and alternative media buying scenarios or partnerships.
One of their more intriguing suggestions is to redefine the agency role to be that of an "insights broker" that can analyze and integrate cross-platform sets of data to generate actionable solutions that better profile, target and measure ad campaigns. This represents a dramatic change from the traditional mass-oriented approach to analysis and measurement based on reach and impressions-based measures like cost-per-thousand.
The overall conclusion of the study is that agencies will need to adapt to this new environment in order to survive. Even while we must navigate the current economic environment that suggests a limitation on investment, agencies must start to experiment with and build these new capabilities now. The future will not just be the "end of advertising as we know it", it will be the end of the advertising agency as we know it.
To read the complete IBM study, go to this link: