Are Agencies And Clients Competitors?


In the New Normal, absolutely true.

The sand boxes changed long ago.

Somebody sent me an article recently from the Harvard Business Review.

It was called six reasons why marketing is moving in-house.

It contained the usual suspects.

Agencies are slow.

Agencies are stuck on advertising.

Then the bullet to the heart. Are agencies attracting the best digital marketing talent?

In the New Normal, clients and digital agencies are often doing the same thing on opposite sides of the street.

Managing websites, SEO, PPC, Social Media, E Commerce, etc. etc. etc. Continue reading


Are Agencies Arrogant?


I had lunch the other day with a new client friend. Somebody who worked for a company whose logo would appear in every agency’s New Business deck or lobby wall if they had their business.

Look who we work for it would imply. We must be smart because successful companies work with us.

But sometimes agencies miss the chance to add those logos and show their smarts.

I was giving my client friend some advice on an agency search that she was conducting internally.

I would have loved to help her but that is how it goes some time.

She shared that she found some agencies very arrogant during her outreach to them. Continue reading

How To Conduct An Agency Review.


I have conducted agency reviews for a number of great companies.

I have read that 80% of clients conduct their own agency reviews and don’t use a consultant.  Most agencies think that the process is flawed.  Most clients don’t get that because they aren’t pitching New Business all the time and they have never responded to an RFP. It’s Showtime.

So here is some advice on how to conduct an agency review or search. Continue reading

What Kind of Client are You?


I was having an early morning coffee with a client the other day. Today clients often have very early morning Starbucks because they have a lot to do with fewer resources to accomplish them.

He was sharing with me a story about one of his clients. Yes clients have clients if they have channels of distribution and they want to sell their products. He described a meeting he recently had. He said the room was full of people who could not approve anything but everyone could veto everything. Been there?  I have.

Welcome to the New Normal. Consensus decision making and often consensus indecision.

I had an early morning coffee with an agency friend the other day. He shared his story of working on a large multinational client. We all know their name and have all purchased their products. Because they are large they have numerous agencies for various specialties. Too many for one client to handle or even get to know if you are a marketer that works at a company that rotates you every 15 to 18 months. They had an ideation session that I am sure that every agency jumped to attention to attend. All present and accounted for Sir!  At the end of the day there were 50 plus ideas on the whiteboard.

How did the client decide which one was best? Let’s have a vote. Very democratic but not exactly fact based decision making that was drilled into my brain.

Are marketers still stewards of their brands? What is a client’s top priority today?  Managing the brand or managing their careers?

I do know that many clients that I meet today are looking for their next job. Riding the wave of their company, their title to the next big break. Many are not happy at work.

I hear from another type of client from time to time. They reach out to me when their things go awry at work and they may feel a little threatened. They want to want to have a Starbucks with Hank Blank because they know I am very connected. Then things settle down for them and all is good again at work. No more networking needed. When I reach out to them because I may have some opportunity to present to them many respond with silence. Silence is golden but my eyes still see.

I was checking in with a client that I think is very compassionate about her people especially when she has to let them go because she is told to do so.  I can feel her heart.  She shared that everything was extremely hectic in her world.  Lots of trade shows, a new acquisition, a challenging CEO.  She wished me calm in my life.

As a consultant who has to create a job for himself each and every day there is little calm in my life but I somehow offered the promise of that island. I wish I was there.

I had a chance to be a client once.  When I was 30 I was offered a job as the VP of Marketing for a major QSR chain in Canada. I agonized over it. I did a Robert Frost on it but I didn’t take it.  Was I wrong?  What do I know?  I am just writing this blog and watching the way the wind blows. In the end I know we are all clients.

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Watch: Why It’s Time to Change the RFP Process.

Read: Graduation Time.

Should Marketers Conduct their Own Agency Searches?

Peeling the Onion of Agency New Business.


I am lucky to have a unique perspective about New Business as I began my career working on New Business at major agencies in Canada and the U.S. I have also conducted agency reviews for a number of companies including Jenny Craig, Jacuzzi, and Raley’s Supermarkets. I have seen countless presentations and see what clients react to favorably.

I have never been in a review where they clients didn’t welcome the pitching agencies perspectives and observations on the client’s business.

No matter what the brief says, if you talk about the client’s business you never get marked down.

No client ever hired me to do a review for them that didn’t have pain and need new answers. Continue reading

How Many Agencies are Submitting?


I think I have a unique perspective on New Business Development as I have been a new business hunter and have conducted agency searches for companies such as Jenny Craig, Raley’s Supermarkets and  Jacuzzi North America.

When I conduct a review many agencies immediately ask me “How Many Agencies Are Submitting?”

When I say it doesn’t matter they don’t believe me.  This is what I have seen from the other side.

The number of agencies on the long list doesn’t really matter because all agencies aren’t created equally.

You see agencies set the table and first impressions count.

If I look at their submission and say “Wow I couldn’t do that.” I know they will go far.  If I look at their submission and think my daughter submitted a better presentation in college I know their presentation will be quickly dismissed.

When one agency sends their RFP response in a customized box or container that is cleverly designed specifically for this client and another agency sends in a standard bound response, it is not difficult to see who has the advantage and increased their odds of being selected to go to the next round.

If one agency submits a superficial assessment of the client’s web presence and another agency a thorough analysis the choice is clear.

If one agency submits a brand video that they think summarizes the essence of the brand and another agency submits no perspectives on the client’s business the choice is clear.

If one creates a dedicated micro site as part of their submission and the other agencies don’t then the choice is clear.

What also surprises me almost in every review is the agencies that I perceive have the most resources often send a response that is so under resourced that it I am almost embarrassed for them. I am so disappointed.  They may have just been going through motions which they perceive has a limited downside.  They are wrong.  They have made a negative impression among a number of marketers and consultant that does not create positive word of mouth in the future.

The amount of effort that an agency takes in preparing their presentation is very easy to see when compared to agencies whose philosophy is let’s just send them something and see what happens.  Nothing will happen with that approach.  It is an old adage but cream does really rise to the top.

I have seen that it really doesn’t matter how many agencies are on the long list or what order you present in.

You see an agency review is a major milestone in the life of a brand and the career experience of the clients involved.  They may never do another one or another one for years.  It is a special occasion.  It is not an everyday process but a special occasion.  If you treat your submission like that you will beat the odds.  If you treat New Business like advertising you will fade away.

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Watch his video on When Is It Time to Fire to Agency.