gRantvertising

March 7, 2011

Defrag Your Personal Hard Drive

Filed under: Career Advice,Creativity,Staying Fresh — Joe & Lisa @ 6:32 pm

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So…deep in your heart you’re a little concerned you’re working too hard, that your outlook and style is coarsening, and achieving meaning from your work gets more elusive every year.

You’re not alone. When we coach executive talent avoiding burnout comes up a lot, with both emerging leaders and 50+-somethings pushing for legacy and worth.

After many years as a business therapist, I’m convinced what keeps people creative and helps them prevent getting stale is scheduling plenty of personal time to focus on “un-business” and recharge. Yes, it can – it must – be done, even in our crazy business.

Let’s go for a low-hanging analogy. We’re bipedal computers getting sticky and slow trying to handle too many open programs. Our hard drives sluggishly strain to jump from sector to sector, churning away valiantly but always behind the curve.

Or how about high performance athletes? They know that to be competitive they must rest between heats and meets. But us, well, we treat ourselves like machines revving our engines at high speed for weeks, months, and sometimes years with little down time. Until something breaks.

Perhaps you know someone who brags about not having been on a vacation for several years. Well. . . that’s just dumb. It’s not that you “deserve” it, it’s that you need time away. Otherwise you’ll soon resent your work, your company, and what it’s all slowly doing to your health and your family relationships. Not to mention your sanity.

The truth is the longer you’re in our business with its unrelenting deadlines and sudden zigs and zags, the more you’ve got to make time to catch your breath.

Creative people know this. The reason so many good ideas come while singing in the shower or commuting in is that those are “down times” when your brain is not racing quite so fast to process multiple inputs. Good ideas bubbling to the top are easier to see when the surface is not roiled.

If you examine the lives of people who made great contributions, especially in their later years, you’ll see they understood that full speed ahead was not when they had breakthrough moments. It was when they lay quietly at anchor – remember Archimedes in his bath?

And here’s an irony. You know the line about give the busy man the work and he’ll get it done? It’s true. The more you do the more you can do, but there’s a twist you may not realize.

You’ll get more satisfaction out of your job if you tackle something challenging and stimulating outside your job. Something meaty. Especially if it’s a long-buried desire to realize a wish you first had in childhood.

Some examples: maybe you always wanted to play the piano, learn to fly, make outstanding pasta sauces, speed read, paint, restore an old car, build something out of wood that wouldn’t fall down when you leaned against it…I don’t know. What’s important is that it’s something you’ve always wanted to do and it challenges you.

You know people like this, right? Folks who run demanding companies but still make time to indulge themselves in things they enjoy and grow from. Effective people know that parallel challenges make them better in all dimensions and they’re not afraid to stretch for things which may at first appear slightly beyond their reach.

We take ourselves and “success” entirely too seriously. To stay engaged and vigorous, learn to take a breather and challenge yourself with something that has deeper personal meaning than just speeding up your personal assembly line to get more widgets out the door.

Remember, you have more than just “high” and “off” on that switch of yours. Try some different settings.

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February 21, 2011

Apologies

Filed under: About — Joe & Lisa @ 2:16 pm

Folks, I’m aware that some of you may have received duplicate copies of previously published posts.

This weekend I spent considerable time trying to track down the cause of this annoyance and wish I could report that it’s been fixed. But from the research it appears to be (1) a random/occasional Feedburner issue with RSS subscriptions that’s received many comments on the net and (2) there’s no apparent solution.

Hard to believe, I know. My blog, like others who’ve had the same problem, has not been updated, edited or altered in any way to trigger a new feed. At least by me. . .

We’ll keep looking into it, but I wanted you to know I’m aware of it and appreciate your understanding and patience.

January 10, 2011

8 Ways to Fortify Your Accounts

Filed under: Client/Agency Relations,New Business,Staying Fresh — Joe & Lisa @ 6:00 pm

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oddanimals160 1. Internal account reviews – unless you commit to a measurable process for ongoing improvement, account teams will default to nothing more than enclaves of apathy. Account by account, herd everyone who works on the business into a room and walk through financial performance, market dynamics, client internal politics, growth opportunities, and agency soft spots, (see How Quarterly Reviews Make a Difference). Craft a 90-day action plan then do it all over again 3 months later. Accounts left unmanaged – “un-led” describes it better – eventually disappear.

2. What’s the plan? – seat-of-the-pants clients who hurl last minute projects at you which they’ve known about for months need to be roped into a plan before everybody goes nuts. Your mission: hold an annual planning retreat with every major client (or maybe do it every 6 months). Go offsite and spend a day planning TOGETHER what you’ll do and how you’ll work for the rest of the year. By the way, you pick up the tab – it’s the cheapest way we know to keep an account for at least another year.

3. Capabilities presentations – a lot has changed since this time last year – the client’s people and yours, market dynamics, competition, your competencies. Host a meeting to get your client current on your new capabilities – talented new staffers, new services and departments, enhanced capacity – and you’ll reinforce their decision to hire (and keep) you. Remember, it’s entirely possible that at this very moment your competitors are prepping a similar song-and-dance to woo your very clients to greener grass. The first rule of client retention is Never, ever take an account for granted.

4. Know your clients better – Plan now to attend some trade shows, visit outlying factories or stores in other markets, or put people through a client’s instruction program (“Put ‘em behind the grill,” we used to say in the fast food business). Do it on your nickel; it will be a statement. Clients don’t expect you to know everything about their business, but they want you to know more.

5. Reset the bar – Proactivity is at least 50% of keeping a client. Challenge the account and creative folks to generate one big spanking fresh idea for each client every quarter. All that high priced talent you’re warehousing ought to be able to come up with four sparkling ideas a year the client wasn’t anticipating. I’m talking big stuff here. It’s what they expect – unsolicited solutions and opportunities.

6. Fix the inside stuff – straighten out the sloppy or ineffective things in your own house that hinder your ability to deliver timely and flawless execution. If a recalcitrant internal department is road-blocking or you’re burdened with balky infrastructure, fix it. Because should the gods smile and you land all that projected new business, those internal snafus will really gum up the works when your agency machine gets larger.

7. Switch creative teams – people get stale working on the same stuff. Stir things up by assigning creative Team A to do a project for Team B’s clients. Sure, they won’t know all the peculiar little never-dos, but that’s exactly what you want – fresh thinking. You’ll reinvigorate the creative gang, give the account people practice in delivering lucid strategic briefs to an unfamiliar audience, and generate something fresh for your clients.

8. Revisit promises – when you pitched your brains out getting Client X, you made commitments and promises, written and unwritten. Ah, romance! But like any romance, promises uttered in the heat of the moment often fade. Dig out and revisit the presentation. Recommit to deliver the things you said you’d do – sort of like renewing marriage vows. Promises left unfulfilled undermine trust.

Now get out there and try some of these. They work, guys.

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November 1, 2010

Don’t Be a Firefighter

Filed under: Leadership,Operations — Joe & Lisa @ 3:30 pm

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clip-art-fireservice-firefighter-attackWe call it firefighter management – dashing from one flare-up to another trying to make sure everything doesn’t go up in flames.

You scramble to flush out new business leads, hit client deadlines just under the wire, do things yourself because it’s quicker than showing someone how to do them your way. You know the drill.

And so one year slides into the next leaving that disquieting feeling that you’re just not getting where you want to go. Tell the truth now: have you accomplished all you wanted this year as we’re into Q4?

The solution is simple but not easy. You need a timeout and I don’t mean just a few days off around the holidays. You need to step back, take a breath, get some perspective. And then come up with a way that’s going to work to achieve your goals.

Here’s how to do it.

First, lead a directed conversation with your best thinkers for a day or two (off-site is best) that starts with a snapshot of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; define your agency’s key success factors; establish no more than five or six strategic imperatives; craft an ironclad action plan anchored by individual accountability and deadlines covering people issues, operations, marketing plans, financial milestones, and personal growth goals; set immutable dates for regular progress reviews; and – this is important – establish and enforce inviolable consequences for meeting or missing objectives.

That in a nutshell, folks, is a strategic planning action agenda with teeth (the consequences part). So why can’t more agencies do it?

Couple of reasons. First, it’s a little like a doctor performing self-surgery – the knowledge is there but operating on yourself is usually painful and always messy. Lots of agencies hold “planning meetings” which net little more than confusion, increased frustration, and more same-old same-old.

Another reason is a phenomenon called “goal distraction.” Example: you chase after a fat piece of business for months (“If we get this new account it will fix everything!”) but in the process take your eye off the ball running and growing the accounts already in-house. You will pay a price for that inattention later on, believe me.

Here’s another common goal distraction. You spend thousands trying to find that one extraordinary staffer, maybe shell out a stiff headhunter’s fee, but meantime completely ignore essential skill development which would have enormous positive effect (account leadership training, presentation skills, strategic thinking) because “we don’t have the budget for that.” You’ve fixated on hitting a particular target but ignored the essential ingredients of success.

Besides goal obsession, there’s yet another reason that homemade strategic planning often fails. Many agency leaders try too hard to be all things to all people, including acting as doting father figures to their staff “children” because their need to be liked is greater than their need to succeed, no matter their protests to the contrary. But that’s a subject for another blog.

The downside is a few months after you meet to put your plan together it begins to fall apart and it’s back to business as usual – flailing at the flare-ups, and trying not to hear the little voice in your head chanting Thoreau’s chilling admonition, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…”

Let’s be clear. If you launch into next year merely hoping for better results without a new way to get the important things done, come Q4 2011 you’ll be right where you are now. Something has to change.

A consequence-laced strategic plan is almost as magical as punching a destination into the GPS and following turn-by-turn directions. You’ll get where you want to go.

Put a plan together and stick with it. You’ll spend less time carrying around those damn fire hoses.

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September 23, 2010

Cork the Whine

Filed under: Career Advice,Client/Agency Relations,Leadership,Staying Fresh — Joe & Lisa @ 12:01 pm

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speak-no-evil_new

It’s 1:30 and you breeze out the agency door bellowing, “I’m off to see those dumbass s.o.b.s again.”

Ah, the much anticipated client meeting! When you arrive a half hour later to do business with them, what do you think happens to all that bad karma?

Our business is simple: agencies have relationships with clients to help them sell stuff. If you have a bad attitude about your clients, things just aren’t going to go smoothly.

But they’re jerks, you say? Well, OK. Here’s some straight-ahead advice.

First of all, clients are your customers, for crisakes! Didn’t you once beg these guys to become a client, promising them your first-born and swearing you’d practically live at their place? Just think about that for a moment. It’s really all you need to know. Clients are your customers.

But if you harbor dark thoughts about what scoundrels these clients be you’ll not only infect your colleagues and extinguish their passion for working on this account, you’ll also plant an adverse message in your own subconscious mind, telling it you just don’t care. When you don’t care – even though you swear you’re a pro – you dam the ability to generate good ideas, deplete your energy, and imperceptibly arrest your skyward career. Not good.

Now if you’re an agency principal you have bigger issues. I’ve seen presidents bad mouth clients, post ridiculing emails and cartoons, and get up in front of Monday morning status meetings to publicly (but of course behind their backs) insult and drag down the very people they’d present a multimillion dollar campaign to that afternoon. Does this make sense? It certainly isn’t what anyone would call professional.

Look, clients are rarely bad people. They’re just ordinary folks much like you who find themselves having to work for a living and probably doing all they can to survive capricious management and pay their bills. They’re your clients, your customers. Don’t let your attitude cripple your ability to do business with them.

When you’ve got challenging clients, here’s a simple trick for getting beyond yourself by doing something for yourself. Yes, that’s a tortuous sentence but stick with me here.

Give them a gift, if you will, of a little something extra – something they weren’t expecting or didn’t ask for. But do it without any expectation of being appreciated. Maybe they will thank you; then again maybe they won’t. Thanks is beside the point here. You don’t give a gift to get thanks – you do it because it’s a good unselfish thing to do.

You might ask, why do something nice for someone who won’t appreciate it? Simple answer (and herein lies the magic): because it’s YOUR opportunity to behave one notch up on the scale of human beingness. You do it because it’s a small act of polishing your own self. In a way, I suppose, that makes it selfish but a good kind of selfish.

Clients have good and bad days; some clients are more difficult to deal with than others. Your job is to maintain yourself on a personal high road, not to get drawn to their level. The really successful account people we know seamlessly maintain their professional mien.

In the end it’s about the choices you make. You can choose to snarl and moan about what a lousy client they are, come home at night and kick the dog, take comfort in an extra scotch or two…

Or you can simply say it is what it is. And then concentrate on bringing your best game no matter the circumstances.

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July 29, 2010

Leading Leaders

Filed under: Career Advice,Leadership — Joe & Lisa @ 4:03 pm

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monkeys

Delegation. It sounds so simple – you just tell people what to do, right? – but it can trip you up and freeze promising careers.

What’s so tough about it? Well for one thing, your own success makes it difficult to delegate.

You got where you are because you’re the one who makes things happen and keeps clients and bosses happy. So when it’s time to delegate, you naturally expect things to be done your way – the way you know works – and rationalize that’s how everyone on your team will avoid disaster.

See the problem between the lines?

Your way becomes the gold standard because it’s always worked and besides, it’s unconscionable to allow screw ups. And though you claim your approach guarantees everyone has opportunity to learn and grow, how would you explain to a client that a project tanked because you WANTED your people to make mistakes so they’d learn?

Let’s go a little deeper. At the heart of misguided delegation is a very real fear of failure. Yup, many high achievers are bad delegators because they can’t stomach something going wrong. In coaching senior agency executives over many years it’s obvious that delegation is directly related to risk tolerance and personal (job) security. As one agency CEO told us, “Of course I delegate and they can do it however they want. But there’s their way and the right way.” Translated, that means “the way least likely to embarrass me and screw up my career.”

Another reason delegation is problematic is that a lot of times it’s not delegation at all. It’s passing the buck. A friend who counsels agency owners for a living recently explained.

Too often, he writes, senior agency managers relegate the implementation of a good idea to juniors without the necessary resources, knowledge or authority to make it sing. It could be the execution of an advertising idea or some new internal procedure. The difference between “delegating” and “passing the buck” is the degree to which the delegator understands and envisions the implementation process. If he understands it and what it requires, it’s delegating. If he cannot envision the basic tactics that will be undertaken to get the thing done, he’s just passing the buck.

Just saying “Do this” is not delegating.

You’ve got to be explicit about what you want the outcome to be; unexpressed expectations are planned resentments. You’ve got to accompany assigned responsibilities with appropriate authority. You’ve got to make sure they know HOW to do it. You’ve got to restrain yourself while you watch learning take place in its rawest form, i.e. with occasional near misses and sometimes breathtaking foul-ups. Can you sit there calmly anticipating that your folks will create startling new solutions and better than anticipated results when things don’t go “your way”?

Sure, you can avoid all this heartburn if you do the important things yourself. When the big stuff comes along and you say “there isn’t time to delegate,” what it really means is there’s no one you trust to do it your way. If you have to do everything yourself because your folks can’t, well, it signals you’re making bad hiring decisions and then compounding things by failing to guide and grow your staff. Not a good way to operate if you’re in charge. That kind of thinking is frankly both short-sighted and an injustice.

Shortsighted since you’ll limit your own growth and wind up marching in place because you haven’t taught your people to think for themselves. Unjust because you’ll subtly stunt the growth of potential successors whom you should be preparing for greater authority. How are you going to move up or out otherwise? Capping off talented people before they achieve their potential is not only a dumb thing to do, it’s unfair to the people in your thrall.

You know, there’s a word that describes good delegators: leaders. You can’t be a leader if you’re not leading the next batch of leaders by delegating well.

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July 1, 2010

Weepers, Creepers & Leapers

Filed under: Leadership — Joe & Lisa @ 3:42 pm

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ist2_184793_wise_monkeys

Agency management teams take on the personality of their dominant constituents. Think for a moment about your team of senior executives. At your agency it might be called the management group, the executive committee, or “department heads.”

Does it fit into one of these categories?

Weepers. You can spot these guys with your eyes closed because you hear them before you see them. They’re the ones crying that things in the ad business just aren’t the way they used to be, bleating a constant litany of complaints about their fellow managers, the staff and clients. They moan and whine, grumble and gripe, like a pen of ululating (new Thesaurus) animals. Their special talent in agency management meetings is the uncanny ability to look out the rearview mirror while the group is trying to drive forward.

Creepers. These seem to be the most ubiquitous — most of the agencies in the country are probably staffed with more of these than anything else. Creepers are content to float along day to day hoping not too much happens out of the ordinary. They live for lulls. Agencies managed by these types may be the salt of the earth, but these are the people largely responsible for clients leading agencies and agencies playing catch up. Creepers are more than satisfied with the status quo, happy to see the agency grow just a little larger year after year. They sleep soundly knowing the government calculates COLA increases.

Leapers. We don’t have enough of them in the agency business. Leapers call the tune, promise the impossible, and impel change. They’re more challenging, demanding and disturbing to work with than either weepers or creepers because (1) their energy must be channeled and (2) if they don’t encounter constant personal challenge and see measurable change they will, well, leap. Usually to your competition.

OK, what does all this mean to an agency CEO struggling to keep a management team focused and effective?

It’s simple. All you have to do is make sure you don’t let any one of these types dictate the group’s philosophical and operating standards. But — and this is important — you need a little of all of them. You need the weepers, creepers, and leapers each to assert their peculiar talents at just the right time.

You see, on occasion the weepers will provide essential historical perspective (“…we tried that before and all we did was lose money”). For all their deprecations, weepers are good at pointing out recurring potholes. Listen attentively to their smoldering discontents like you would to the little boy who cried wolf. Every once in a while there is a wolf.

Creepers bring to mind that old saw about the futility of teaching a pig to sing. The pig gets aggravated and all you’ll get is frustrated. So instead of trying to change how they think and perform, use creepers to row your boat. These are the guys who get the routine assignments done. In truth, good management teams in particular need dependable foot soldiers.

Ah, the leapers. The do-the-undoable doers. At your next executive meeting watch how the leapers go over, under, around or through obstacles to make things happen. These blue sky thinkers can take your agency to new places, as long as you have the wisdom to distinguish between the zany and the breakthrough. Pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you.

What I love most about advertising is we have so many variations of these types. What a business!

All you have to do is provide the proper atmosphere in your management group so they’re comfortable enough to demonstrate their specific talents, don’t kill each other, and don’t drive you nuts.

Good luck!

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June 1, 2010

The Focus of Success

Filed under: 1 — Joe & Lisa @ 2:38 pm

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Some say success in our business has a lot to do with luck. Or hard work. Or both.

Well here’s my little aphorism for success based on years of seeing ad agencies run by many well-meaning and ambitious types. It’s not a catchy cliché but you’ll find it easy to remember: You get what you focus on.

The agencies we’d call successful — steady growth, an ever-enlarging list of 1st-class clients, a talented and respected staff, moving into better quarters every few years — get that way because they concentrate relentlessly on where they want to go.

They have an unruffled new business push — consistent, strong, and frequent. They believe in ongoing searches for exceptional talent and have a prescient staffing plan to discover stars long before they’re needed. They pour money into training because they understand hiring without a plan to improve performance is an unconscious commitment to the status quo. Their senior team leads — and doesn’t merely press for self-serving departmental agendas. And successful agencies recognize that a lofty vision statement is hollow without ruthless attention to constant improvement.

They focus on where they want to go, not just on today’s emergency client requests. Agency owners who think effective leadership is just managing a punch list of exigencies so the crisis du jour can be resolved by 6 pm are doomed to run at the rear of the pack.

On the other hand, the smart guys understand that targeting significant stuff yields multiple results. Concentrate the management corps on just a handful of essential strategies (handful is dead-on; 5 is exactly the right number of major initiatives to commit to accomplishing in a year) and you’ll arrive at your vision destination on time.

If, that is, you accept no excuses for lack of execution.

Ah, execution. It’s the getting-it-done part that takes persistence and guts. Over the years many agency owners have bent my ear complaining about how inept or intractable their key lieutenants are at accomplishing the important things… and yet they’re unwilling to hold these highly paid subordinates’ feet to the fire. Dumb.

And while I’m preaching here, chew on this for a moment: You’ll get the behavior in your company that you yourself (a) exhibit and (b) tolerate.

By the way, saying “I’m too busy” is just an excuse for perpetuating mediocrity. That’s for people unwilling to commit to what they want.

Sorry, but this always bothers me. I believe a good part of life is about pursuing happiness — dreaming your dreams then making them happen. It’s a big tell when you hear someone say, “If I just had more time.” No, it’s if you had more focus.

Exceptional people running exceptional agencies achieve their goals because, like an annoying puppy chewing on a bone, they persist in getting what they want. It’s tenacity, resolve. And focus.

Sounds a little too simple, huh. That’s exactly the point – it is simple: You get what you focus on.

What could be easier?

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May 3, 2010

Changing Creative Directors

Filed under: 1 — Joe & Lisa @ 2:30 pm

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ImageA New Yorker cartoon shows several mourners gathered around a casket. The caption: “He tried to change horses in mid-stream.”

Changing creative directors can be like that. At the very least it’s disquieting – current clients might become unglued, the work-in-progress load is always heavy, and how do you know the new CD will be a step up?

Nothing has the potential to change your agency more than changing your CD. Your internal culture will change, your product will change, your prospects will change, and perhaps even your clients will change. Strong creative directors affect the success and profitability of both your clients and your agency which is exactly what you want.

But should you change CDs? Yes, we say, if any of these conditions exist:

Your CD is stale. Many get musty after 5 – 7 years at the same place grinding on the same kind of accounts; 10 years of sterling work at one place is rare indeed. Maybe a CD’s tenure should be measured in dog years.

Creative misses the mark. Not just once in a while but time after time. If your clients say your creative product isn’t edgy enough, is too wooly, or you’re swallowing lots of rewrite and re-design costs then perhaps it’s time for a new creative mount.

You miss your share of new business wins. Nobody homers every swing but if you keep striking out, maybe the creative product is flat. The cliche still applies: good account service keeps an account but great creative wins it.

Your CD’s a prima donna. The big clue here is consistent disregard for others’ feelings, input, or wants. A pigheaded CD can be destructive to the whole agency culture. Watch out for pronoun-itis (“my ad,” “mycreative idea,” “my account”). If a CD runs Creative like a personal kingdom or rides roughshod over complementary departments like Account Service, you’ve got an agency seriously out of balance. Deal-breaker: “I don’t care what the client wants!”

Look, there are too many good people out there (and life’s too short) to be held hostage by a jerk. If you’ve got a problem in Creative, fix it. Some suggestions:

> There’s nothing wrong or immoral about rustling good talent from your competition – sports teams and big corporations do it all the time. Who’s the best nearby and what would it take to get them to join your team?

> If you run ads in the trades or do a web search, remember you’ll likely be hiring the unemployed or disgruntled. Relying on serendipity is a poor way to build a championship agency.

> Headhunters make sense at this level – they’ll weed out pedestrian candidates and job-hoppers and the best searchers present only good potential matches. A search firm should help you avoid hiring a misfit.

What’s a good CD worth? If you haven’t hired one in a while prepare for sticker shock, but remember the good ones get paid well because they have enormous impact on agency profitability. You want a CD who’s doing well where he or she is now so they’ll do equally well at your place. Hey, you tell your clients you’re
worth your fees because you do great work – a good CD will help you deliver on that promise.

Yes, making a change at the top of your Creative Department is a big decision. Get it wrong and you throw your agency into a tailspin, but get it right and it’s like stepping on an escalator going up.

Fact is there’s never a “good” time to change creative horses…because we’re always midstream in this business. But the good news is unlike that New Yorker cartoon, only rarely does anyone die when you switch out a CD.

————————————————————————-

P.S. We provide confidential and seasoned counsel to agency principals on a variety of management matters including highly sensitive issues like stalled partnerships and ineffective executives. Get in touch to find out more at joe@joegrantconsulting.com.

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April 5, 2010

How to Keep Accounts Fresh

Filed under: Career Advice,Client/Agency Relations,New Business,Staying Fresh — Joe & Lisa @ 1:53 pm

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ImagePretty exciting when you begin to pursue a new client, isn’t it. The thrill of the chase! You lie awake rhapsodizing about how great it will be, you woo them with dinners and surprises, no effort is too much to show your commitment. Ah, romance!

But as in any romance, things can easily get boring. The agency morphs into “account waiters” dozing by the phone for the client to call in an order. This year’s media plan is a duplicate of last year’s; the creative is tired. Your best people somehow migrate to the more exciting businesses which only compounds the problem. What happened to all those stimulating initial meetings? Not to mention the promises made in the pitch.

It’s not unusual. Every account of every size at every agency goes through similar troughs. But smart agencies do all they can to rejuvenate waning accounts. Such as:

Capabilities Presentations – A lot has probably changed since you started working together. So at least once a year invite the client over to remind them of your abilities and competence. Include a summary of the work you’ve done and critique it. Perhaps you have new people, or they do, or new services to offer. Ask the client for a little song and dance about themselves, too – including market trends, new products in the pipeline, and organizational changes. Just getting ready for this meeting will be energizing and everyone will be pumped in the afterglow.

Freshening Exercises – Get some different points of view by asking staffers who don’t work on the account to review it. Have them each write a 1-page suggestion plan to improve things. Or hold a brainstorm session, again with people not normally assigned to the business, to solve problems and look for opportunities. Ours is a creative business and good ideas about a client’s business aren’t just the province of the daily team. Open it up so you generate contributions from everyone.

Switch Teams – Why not? Nowhere is it written that you can’t occasionally change personnel on an account, though you’ve got to make sure there’s continuity and the client doesn’t feel like s/he’s starting from scratch. Big agencies do this all the time to keep things fresh. After all, for the client it’s like getting a new agency without the added aggravation and cost. And you get to keep the client.

Sound Retreat – Go offsite with your client and refocus on the important things. Maybe you host a strategic planning session for the coming year or just take time away from the office to take stock; you can make this part of your review protocol. Craft a collaborative mission statement for you and the client, tackle issues there never seems to be time for during the daily crunch, and perhaps make time to just relax and bond – an occasion to have fun again. And that’s why you got into this business in the first place, right? To have fun, damnit.

Put your head to it and you’ll think of lots of way to bring the romance back to your accounts. Do the unexpected, the little things, the pleasant surprises (good ones, of course).

In our work helping agencies reach their potential, time and again the same handful of issues holds agencies back from what they might become, or worse, sinks them all together.

Here’s a powerful question to ask: What would you want if you were the client?

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