It’s Time for Agencies to Stop Being Cobbler’s Children


I’ve heard it time and time again, from many agency principals across the country on how they are the Cobbler’s Children.

First, I am truly amazed that many of these agency principals impress me with their knowledge and their smarts, yet they acknowledge dumping themselves down with a shrug of acceptance.

The irony is that these same agency principals set a very high bar for their work and their personal achievements, yet they compromise on marketing their agencies.

Why do they lag?

Funny how many agency principals will pay for a personal trainer, yoga lessons, pay for an outrageous meal, lease beautiful cars, but won’t use outside expertise in marketing their business. Yet, all day long they preach to prospects that they need an outside perspective and you can’t do it with your own vision.

So here are some thoughts on getting some shoes for your children.

First change your process. Reverse your priorities.

Most agencies start their Monday mornings with a review of the client’s status list. Change that.

I think most agency people already know on Sunday night, what work is facing them on Monday without a status meeting. That’s why they don’t want to go to work on Monday.

Start your Monday morning meetings early with a review of your agency’s status list of projects to market your agency and not your client. Follow that meeting with your New Business Meeting. Those are the two most important things you can do on a Monday morning because they are the only two things you can control in your life. Can you control your client?

Review your client’s project list first thing on Tuesdays. Many of the urgent projects will have been addressed on Monday without the status meeting. Trust me on that.

Then it is time for agency principals to leave the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays unless there was a great networking event on Tuesday. Get out of your office because you are the face behind the brand. Attend networking meetings, visit your client’s stores, do store checks, have lunch with your clients, be outside. Be the first agency principal in your market who regularly attends AAF, PRSA, AMA, IABC chapter meetings in your town. Your time investment will be amplified through word of mouth. You will be core.

On Friday mornings, bring in breakfast for all of your employees from a restaurant that is not part of a national chain. Have a different employee each week bring in their favorite music and play it at breakfast on your sound system. On Fridays, ban internal emails. If your employees need to get something done internally, insist that they meet with that person face to face especially if you are a larger agency.

Insist that all agency principals on Friday have lunch individually with a different employee, supplier, alliance partner or a person they have met while networking that week that is 10 to 20 years younger than them.

Can’t do that? Then have a lunch and learn every Friday.

From 2 to 5 pm on Friday’s, it’s should be totally agency time. Write blogs, update your website, tweet, get smarter by networking, and connect with people on LinkedIn. There are many things to do.

You need to be focus on being core and committed.

“But Hank, this would take so much time!” Yes and no. The question you should ask is, “Will this make my agency grow and, is this the way I would love to live my agency life?

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Watch: How to Rise Above the Crowd


20 thoughts on “It’s Time for Agencies to Stop Being Cobbler’s Children

  1. Jason Newmark


    I’m a long-time, in-house professional who has recently ventured out on my own to start New Insight Marketing. Your blog post is directed at larger agencies, but it really hit me as well. Great post and great advice!

    Jason Newmark

  2. Hello Hank,
    Your article spoke directly to me.

    For a long time, my firm has been a cobbler’s child. My website has been outdated, and didn’t feature any of my recent work. I was constantly apologizing for it (which wasn’t good, since we sell websites!) After a year of “I’ll get to it,” I finally decided to spend a few weeks focusing on my business. I’m happy to say that we launched our new site two weeks ago (, and it feels just great. I’m going to make a habit of putting more focus on marketing my business from now on.

  3. Hank – thank you for this long overdue article! My business has suffered the same fate and while we do great things for others, you would be hard pressed to see that with our own presence on the web. We have a “to do” list of things we would like to accomplish for ourselves but our customers come first so they often get pushed to the back burner.

    Although some of your recommendations tow a hard line, there are some really good suggestions that I’m going to try with my staff starting tomorrow. Time to stand up for our own cobbler’s child!

  4. Hank,

    Astute observations. Many agencies remain firmly embedded in their ivory towers rather than following the advice they give clients. Its always struck me as ironic.

    What I particularly liked about these tips is that they are (largely) inexpensive ways to remain current, insightful and, for Business Development, visible and relevant. Those who decry the high cost of attending conferences or doing in-house training would do well to implement some of these points.

    In a complementary fashion, I wrote a similar blog post recently on the same topic;


  5. Couldn’t agree with you more Hank – in fact its one of the things we are trying to do with – to encourage challenger thinking in the field of agency new business. Intelligent, strategic, marketing experts should not be laughing off their inability to market their own business. Clients comment frequently that “why would I trust an agency to market my business if they can’t even market themselves?”. Would love you to guest blog for us sometime.

  6. Agencies have been making it hard for clients to buy from them for years. As Sarah says it’s an up hill battle but fun to work with and frankly plugging that time and skills gap gives new business experts a living so I’m not complaining…

  7. Hank, love that this post is 2+ years old, but most agencies haven’t changed their approach. We have great conversations with agency principals about creating a dedicated strategy and ensuring the agency brand is given adequate resources to grow. But as long as it is non billable time, it is given little time. And just re-designing a web site will not attract the right prospects. As you recommend, go out and network, create thought leadership and distribute it, spend time TW/LI and converse. When you invest in your brand, and put an actionable/accountable strategy behind it, you grow… that’s what we tell our Linkergy clients.

    • Thanks for this. Yes some agency principals that I talk to know is a on going process of relationship building. Other agencies think that New Business comes immediately and it doesn’t work that way.

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